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  1. #1
    country city-girl i wish's Avatar
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    First tour, knee hurts, advice?

    I took a short tour over the weekend, riding 40 to 50 miles each day. I rode two days, rested one, then rode two more.
    I don't have shoes that clip into my pedals, I just have straps that aren't that tight...
    After the first two days my knees were pretty stiff and painful...on the kneecap.
    Now, (I just got home today) my right knee is extremely stiff and painful. My left one is fine, at least I dont notice any pain in it.
    My dad thinks it could be that I am holding my foot in a bad position while pedaling...

    Any advice or suggestions?
    I have a longer tour coming up soon, through mountains...and I really don't want to postpone it....
    Last edited by i wish; 04-25-11 at 07:28 PM. Reason: touch-ups

  2. #2
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Saddle is Too Low.
    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGukLuXzH1E

    Set F1re To The Ra1n ( NY Night Rain Ride)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7jfcWEkSrI

  3. #3
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    ^ seconded. keep raising it slight amounts until you feel it in the backs of your knees and you know you've gone a little too far. back it down the slightest bit from there and you're golden.

    also try to spin a little more in easier gears instead of mashing big gear ratios and consider shedding some touring gear weight. an ultralight tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad makes a big difference.

  4. #4
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    When you've done 40-50 mile rides in preparation for this tour, have you noticed this problem? What about these 40-50 mile rides were different from your usual ones?

    Have you checked the fit of your bicycle in general?

    Also, read over this article about knee pain: http://www.cptips.com/knee.htm

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    Get a professional bike fit. Could be all kinds of things, can't really say just from one pain data point. Don't ignore it, though - that way lies injury.
    ...

  6. #6
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    ^+1!

    If you're crow footed or pidgeon toed, remove the toe clips... my uneducated analysis.

    Brad

  7. #7
    Senior Member simplygib's Avatar
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    I'll tell you what my experience was with knee trouble, but I am not suggesting that this is your situation. Besides the bike fit you really should have it looked at to determine exactly what the problem is.

    On my first tour I took on too many hills too fast, was riding with platform pedals and no toe clips, wasn't doing any stretching of the quads, and after 5 days in the saddle screwed up my knees so bad that I couldn't ride for 6 months. Sounds the same as yours - sharp pain right across the top of the kneecaps. Tendonitis was the diagnosis. After seeing a physical therapist and following his recommendations (repeated icing of the kneecaps, stretching of the quads, 10 days of ibuprofen), I was finally able to ride again - short distances at first, but eventually (over several months) back to my normal 30-miles per day.

    I'm not suggesting you follow that advice as it is not clear that you have the same issue I did. Get it looked at. One thing I will say for certain - don't continue to ride with that pain, as you might end up like I did - 6 months out of the saddle.

  8. #8
    country city-girl i wish's Avatar
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    thanks so much everyone!
    I guess I probably have patellar tendonitis....
    I'm going to start icing it right away and stay off the bike for a few days.
    We will also carefully adjust my saddle height...and make sure it is correct.
    I sure hope this doesn't destroy my plans for the summer...

  9. #9
    afoot and lighthearted Boondock's Avatar
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    hello i wish... I tend to agree with the "bike fit" idea. Saddle too low and/or a "fore and aft" adjustment will most likely cure your knee problem. I'm almost 9 months into a perimeter tour around the US, and I still tinker with saddle height.

    And I checked out your blog. I LOVE your panniers and set-up. I'm now following you and I put a link to your blog on my blog. I'm also going to give you a shout-out and link, on my youtube channel. More people need to see your work Safe Travels!

  10. #10
    ghost on a machine Bike Hermit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    Get a professional bike fit. Could be all kinds of things, can't really say just from one pain data point. Don't ignore it, though - that way lies injury.
    I agree that you shouldn't ignore it. And those types of injuries take a long time to heal.....off the bike. If these were your first days of riding these distances then maybe start off by doing shorter rides without loads and working up from there. Just get the legs accustomed to going around.

    I don't necessarily agree with getting a professional fit however. Most of those snake oil salesmen will take your money and tell you you need the same fit as a pro road racer. I have attempted to outline the basics of bike fit for touring. You can take it for what it's worth, but it might provide some good starting points.
    Bike Touring News
    Empowering The Bicycle Traveler

  11. #11
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I've had some knee issues too, however, not enough to stop me from taking long tours and climbing long mountain passes. For me, the worst experience was when I was on my old touring bike, climbing the North Cascades Highway, while pulling a Bob trailer. As I was climbing the pass my knee started hurting, getting worse and worse. I took it easy the next day, only riding 20 miles or so, pretty flat or downhill (the other side of the pass.) The next day I had to climb Loup-Loup. Miy knee started barking again. I stopped at a friend's in Omak. There were too more passes coming up - Wauconda and Sherman. I decided to abort the trip.

    On that bike I had a 7-speed cassette - the one that came on it when I purchased it (from Nashbar) in 1992. As I was climbing the North Cascades I kept wanting to shift into a lower gear, but there wasn't one.

    When I bought my LHT I wanted a really low low. I replaced the 26-tooth granny with a 24. That's the lowest that would fit on my Sugino crank. If I could have fit a 22 I think I would. On the back I got the widest range cassette I could - the Cyclotouriste 13 from Harris Cyclery. With that rig I've taken several tours and done some good climbs (including Old Winchester Grade and Lolo Pass on the Lewis and Clark route) and have been very satisfied. I've felt like the low was low enough.

    If I was you I'd do a bunch of things. I'd make sure the saddle was high enough. Imagine you had a friend on your back and had to do a deep knee bend. Imagine you only had to raise your friend 8 inches. Would you rather start in a full squat with your knees bent as much as possible, or would your rather start only 8 inches below fully upright? I try and raise my saddle as high as possible, while stil having a slight bend with the pedal all the way down.

    I'd make sure I had a very low low gear. You can change out cassettes, cranksets, or change a gear on your crankset. Derailleurs usually have a guidline for the widest range of gears they can handle, but I think they're pretty conservative. I've read lots of posts by people saying, Can I run such-and-such a combination? My derailleurs say they can only handle X range. Then lots of people write back saying they've got a similar setup and it works fine.

    I'd focus on upping my pedaling cadence to the point of diminishing returns. I used to pride myself on hammering a high gear, thinking I was making my legs stronger, and priding myself on my toughness. (I was young.) It really changed when I read an article on riding with a high cadence and I tried it. I watched my bike computer as I tried different gears on roads I had ridden a hundred times, and I discovered my speed actually increased when I spun a little faster. I also discovered that my knees hurt less.

    A little ibuprofen is also a good idea, in my opinion. Lots of athletes use a little for soreness. In moderation, I think it's acceptable. I often use it on bike tours, not so much for my kness, but because my chronic back pain flares up when I sleep on a backpacking mattress.

    A rest day now and then is also a good idea, or an easy day, but if you let your knee pain get too bad, one day off isn't going to fix it. Start taking it easy when the pain first starts.

  12. #12
    Senior Member simplygib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by i wish View Post
    thanks so much everyone!
    I guess I probably have patellar tendonitis....
    I'm going to start icing it right away and stay off the bike for a few days.
    We will also carefully adjust my saddle height...and make sure it is correct.
    I sure hope this doesn't destroy my plans for the summer...
    Highly recommend stretching your quads as well. Grab your foot and pull it up to your butt, slowly pushing your knee back behind you as far as is comfortable, then hold it for a minute. Do not "bounce" it, just hold it steady. Repeat with the other leg. I do that before and after riding, and usually once or twice during breaks, especially if I'm touring with a load. Would also recommend that you do that now, while you're off the bike and trying to recover. I did it three or four times a day in addition to icing and ibuprofen while I was trying to recover from that first tour.

    Also stay off the bike for awhile. A few days will likely not be long enough. What I did was go out for a very short ride in the immediate vicinity of my home. If I had any knee pain, any at all, I would walk the bike home and continue the icing and stretching for another week, then try again. When I was finally able to ride pain free, I started out very short and easy, and created a schedule where I would increase my distance by about 10% per week.

    That experience taught me not to take my knees for granted if I wanted to continue riding and touring. Follow the advice everyone is giving you here - the saddle height, working up to your riding distances and difficulty levels, making sure your bike is geared low enough, riding with a high enough cadence, stretching quads, keeping hydrated, etc. Since I started paying attention to those things my knee problems have been manageable. Sometimes I will still get a twinge or two, but when that happens I immediately stop and stretch, pop a couple of ibuprofen, and all is well, even on long, strenuous, heavily-loaded tours.

    A note on the ibuprofen: As you may already know, it causes stomach problems in some people. I don't have that issue, so my Dr. advised me to take 2400 milligrams per day for ten days to help stem the inflammation during that initial recovery period (three 200-milligram pills at a time, four times per day). It helped immensely. But that's a heavy dose, and may not be good for others. Talk to your doctor.
    Last edited by simplygib; 04-26-11 at 10:53 AM.

  13. #13
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Maybe too high a gear, stay 'on top' of the ratio, not pushing too hard.
    and cut back on ambitious milage goals ,[ You hundred mile a day folks,
    not the OP with 50 per day.. ]
    slow down and enjoy the trip.
    shorten the day/ time in the saddle with breaks.


    Ice the knee, at the end of the day, to reduce swelling..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 04-28-11 at 11:29 AM.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by i wish View Post
    thanks so much everyone!
    I guess I probably have patellar tendonitis....
    I'm going to start icing it right away and stay off the bike for a few days.
    We will also carefully adjust my saddle height...and make sure it is correct.
    I sure hope this doesn't destroy my plans for the summer...
    1. you are pushing way too hard for your condition and have injured yourself.
    2. recover on or off the bike
    3. start over. Make absolutely sure your seat is at the right height and your foot is positioned correctly on the pedal. If you don't know, ask, bike shop, books, magazines. whatever but START there.
    4. You can develop all kinds of over-use injuries WITH your seat and feet at the right position by simply pedaling too hard and too long. The solution is simple. Pedal easier and rest more often. Learn to spin and sit. If you're stomping on your pedals at low rpm and high torque you can re-injure yourself and begin other problems in the knee joint and not just at connective tissue.

    I injured my patellar tendon and bursa in a ski accident when I was 23 then went on a wonderful long trip in the summer. I simply made sure to go easy and rest. A year later I got into racing but I had to make sure my left knee was warmed up or I couldn't put in a long ride.

  15. #15
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    Patellar tendonitis is tough. Believe it or not, ice really is the key. I have two ice wraps that I keep in the freezer. As soon as I walk in the door, I wrap my knees for about 30 minutes. It really helps, but it doesn't seem to go away completely.

    I would still make sure your bike is fit properly. I can't stress that enough.

  16. #16
    country city-girl i wish's Avatar
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    My knee is still pretty stiff today, but seems to be improving...
    I've been icing it, and hoping with all my might it will be healed in a week.
    I am very encouraged by those of you that do fine by just taking it easy and not avoiding the bike altogether.
    I really don't want to have to stay off it for too long...I just started riding long distances!
    I also don't want to permanently injure myself...so I will be careful!
    Thanks for all the info and advice!

  17. #17
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    Climbing hills in too high a gear, or riding with bare knees in temps below 60-65 deg F can both damage your knees. Poor bike fit is another potential source of trouble.

    I started riding with supportive insoles (http://www.superfeet.com/ ) in my shoes years ago, and I won't ride (or hike, or cross country ski, or run, or...) without them. I found a definite reduction in knee pain and overall leg fatigue with them. REI sells them, if you're interested. Custom insoles are very seldom necessary or worthwhile, I learned that after making 3 or 4 brands of custom insoles in ski shops.

  18. #18
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    I've had some knee strain from time to time but usually milder ie a bit of soreness & stiffness, usually after a hard ride after a period of undertraining. But also I find that bike shoes w/clipless pedals help a lot. Since it's near impossible for me to find bike shoes that fit I used to ride in sandals, non-cleated "touring shoes", running shoes etc--both with toe clips/straps & without. But a couple of years ago I found a pair of Sidi MTB shoes that fit pretty well & combined with the Crank Bros clipless pedals it's far more comfortable. Those shoes/pedals enabled me to finally do some real touring (even mountains) without fearing knees blowing up in the middle of a tour. The cleats keep the feet in position nicely & I feel (like your dad perhaps) that that might help fix the problem. Clipless pedals allow some flexibility re lateral angle of the foot on the pedal which is a big plus over the old cleats + toe-clips.

    Back when I rode street shoes with toe-clips I found that it was often impossible to maintain the correct fore-aft foot position since toe-clips aren't adjustable & different shoes give different positions. Other posters mention the bike-fit, something to look at for sure but OTOH I'd definitely recommend trying out bike shoes w/clipless pedals. Pro racers ride more than anybody & they all use that. BTW I once read about a pro racer (back before clipless) who had knee pain--an old pro told him to adjust the cleats so as to move the foot forward a bit--& it worked. I've seen that many street shoes (or even the non-cleat touring shoes I had) have a bulky toe-box making it impossible to place the foot forward enough under the toe clip.

  19. #19
    Senior Member garethzbarker's Avatar
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    Hey all this advice is great but go see a doctor if the crap keeps hurting you. Seriously.
    -Good luck

  20. #20
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    I've never had knee problems (4 decades of riding, lots of tours) - on a mountain bike tour that was mostly off-road, a friend developed serious knee pain, necessitating moving as much luggage from his bike onto mine. We were both on quality bikes with good fits. The only substantive difference between us was that he literally never stood up when climbing some seriously long hills. I on the other hand would be up and down like a yo-yo, out of the saddle until my legs got tired and then sit again until I got tired.

    Maybe it is just me - but when I stand, it feels like I am using a totally different set of muscles. Alternating between sitting and standing seemed to get me up the hills with far greater ease than my friend.

    So, I have to ask :
    - did your tour involve long hills (with luggage) that your training did not include?
    - do you ride out-of-the-saddle when climbing hills?

    I would be grateful to hear from any qualified Physiologists about the effect of muscle development on the knee cap (which floats) and whether weight-training (the thigh muscles not specifically used during cycling) can be beneficial for the knee.
    LOL The End is Nigh (for 80% of middle class North Americans) - I sneer in their general direction.

  21. #21
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    I'm not a qualified physiologist, but it is well known that the imbalance between the muscles at the front and rear of the thigh can have an inflluence on knee pain.

    Without knowing exactly where the pain is located, it really is impossible to give any sort of opinion. "On the kneecap" is really undefined, and could be patella tendonitis, or, more likely with a load and climbing, pain in the muscle above the kneecap.

    RICE -- rest, ice, compression and elevation -- is the standard for treatment of these sorts of things. Spinning in a lower gear up hills with a load, and paying attention to seat height might help on the bike.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  22. #22
    country city-girl i wish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HoustonB View Post

    So, I have to ask :
    - did your tour involve long hills (with luggage) that your training did not include?
    - do you ride out-of-the-saddle when climbing hills?
    My tour was flat. No hills, just a couple ramps up to roads from the path along the canal.
    One problem is that my training was....basically non-existent.
    I did ride some, but nowhere near the distances or carrying the weight I would be on tour.

    One problem with riding out-of-saddle on hills is the twisting that would put the frame through with the heavy packs...I will try to spin up hills as much as I can. Unfortunately I cannot practice on hills, since there are none in my area. On my next tour I will definitely take it easy, and rest if my knee starts acting up. I also won't be carrying the gear for three people ...that should make a difference!

  23. #23
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by i wish View Post
    One problem is that my training was....basically non-existent.
    I did ride some, but nowhere near the distances or carrying the weight I would be on tour.
    Thought so.

    We do advise getting out there and riding regularly year round for a reason.

    1. Ensure your bicycle fits you properly. Go to a bicycle shop and convince them to help you if you cannot do this yourself. Here is some information which might get you started.

    2. Where exactly is the knee pain? Is it directly under or ever-so-slightly below the kneecap? Or is it above the kneecap?

    3. Next week, start incorporating a variety of exercise in your routine ... walk, lift light weights (upper and lower body), and cycle ... but spin when you cycle. Count your cadence ... it should be above 80 rpm. Don't over do it, build up your distance gradually but regularly. If you figure you're going to be cycling 5 days a week on your tour, build up to cycling 5 days a week over the next few weeks.

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