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Still cannot figure out why indoor trainer wrecks my knees...HELP!

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Still cannot figure out why indoor trainer wrecks my knees...HELP!

Old 04-28-15, 01:24 PM
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Smokehouse
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Still cannot figure out why indoor trainer wrecks my knees...HELP!

I'm beginning my 4th year of being a "roadie"...beginning last year, my indoor trainer has simply wrecked my knees. So bad, in fact, that this winter, I gave up on it. Sadly, this has had disastrous results and no I find myself starting over in my riding progress having lost so much. I got on the trainer last week for the firs time since Nov '14 and just two sessions in, I am right back in the pain that took months to subside when I quit riding in November.

I'll tell the facts and problems and hopefully anyone here can lend some advice because I just figure it out.

setup:
2012 Specialized Tarmac 5700 105 52/39 front gearing, 11-28 rear.
Kurt Kinetic "rock n roll" trainer
Kurt leveling ring, bike left in level position, no tilt.
designated trainer tire/wheel
SPD SL pedals, Sidi Wire shoes.
professional fit jan 2014.

Pain:
Only after trainer use, same setup on the road and I am perfectly fine. After a few trainer sessions the pain in my knees becomes severe. Sharp pain behind the bottom area of the knee cap, dead center. Especially bad when walking up stairs.

Sessions:
Very mild. 80rpm @ 15.5 mph for the duration. Occasional one click shift to a 80rpm @ 17 mph but that is 60 second intervals a few times during the session. 40 min sessions tops, no out of saddle or hard grinding.

I just don't get it. The effort I put out is easy compared to road riding. I can go do a 1, 2, 3+ hr ride and have no ill effects. 40 min on that trainer and I am screwed for weeks (like I a now...rode the trainer on Sat...still in pain). I wear the same shoes, the same shorts...sit in the same position and even though my effort is much less than on the road, it kills the knees.

In the past few years, I've been very successful at diagnosing and correcting my issues but this one still stumps me no matter what I do.

Any advice would be superb, this is really driving me nuts...

Last edited by Smokehouse; 04-28-15 at 01:36 PM.
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Old 04-28-15, 01:33 PM
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try moving cleats backwards on the shoe.
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Old 04-28-15, 01:33 PM
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Are you using a front block or are you riding "downhill" the whole time? If not put some phonebooks under the front wheel and see if it makes a difference.

Originally Posted by bt View Post
try moving cleats backwards on the shoe.
This, too. Did your fitting include fitting with those cleats? Something with the trainer has your positioning off a bit and if the cleat positioning is borderline it might just be enough.
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Old 04-28-15, 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by kc0bbq View Post
Are you using a front block or are you riding "downhill" the whole time? If not put some phonebooks under the front wheel and see if it makes a difference.
Whoops...I use a leveling bock (also Kurt). I keep the bike in the level position. Sorry about that.
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Old 04-28-15, 01:40 PM
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Because the motion on a trainer is far more repetitive than outdoor riding, fixed position on the saddle, no side to side motion, no coasting/resting, so knee problems can be exaserbated. A bike fit would be a good idea with a focus on your cleat and foot position...
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Old 04-28-15, 01:54 PM
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Just thoughts from personal experience, and no guarantee of applicability:

1. I find it very easy to have crappy form on the trainer, meaning rounded back and sitting more upright. This can have the effect of pulling you forward in the saddle, changing the fit relationship from saddle to cranks. There is a great deal of argument over whether KOPS means anything to anyone, but I personally suffer knee pain if I get my knee in front of the pedal spindle.

2. There is no road impact, so it is harder to tell (at least for me) if I am sitting in my normal riding spot on the saddle. On the road, you know instantly if you are in the wrong spot, on the trainer not so much.

3. If you are pedalling lightly on the trainer, you might be going heel up or heel down differently than you do on the road. Take a video of yourself from the side, and see if you are using different ankle motions. Changing your ankle position from the norm changes your effective leg length and knee position.

4. Don't look down when you ride. Look ahead, like you would on the road. This flattens your back, and lengthens out your torso, reach, and pushes back seat position.

Just opinions, and they may all be off base. Disregard at your leisure.

Edit: I also stand alot more on the road, and have to remind myself to do it on the trainer, just to keep loads similar.
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Old 04-28-15, 01:56 PM
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Maybe try easier gearing and higher cadence on your trainer workouts. See if that helps.
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Old 04-28-15, 02:01 PM
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+1 on the repetitive nature of trainers. They fix you to basically a very narrow range of variable movements so, for example, you don't get the out of saddle experience (unless you have the Rock N Roll), you don't have the natural movement on the saddle for various situations (potholes, bumps, etc). On the road I suspect that a rider will make subconscious minute adjustments to accommodate minor twinges etc.

Although this is basically a wild guess it sounds like your saddle may be low. Knee pain under knee cap to me means the knee cap is always pushing into the leg. Knee pain behind the knee usually means the tendons are being pulled, i.e. saddle too high. I find that for myself I need the saddle a bit higher than perhaps some fitters might recommend. However my knees tell me that it's a good height.

Finally you may want to play around with cadence. 80 rpm is fine but try mixing it up. 100 rpm, even 110 rpm. By increasing rpm you reduce the peak forces on your knee, sort of like lifting 80 lbs 3 times or 60 lbs 4 times or 40 pounds 6 times. If in my super simple example 80 lbs at a time is too stressful it may be that you can get away with 60 lbs or 40 lbs, if you will.
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Old 04-28-15, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Smokehouse View Post
Pain:
Only after trainer use, same setup on the road and I am perfectly fine.
I get the same thing -- though perhaps not as severe. Most trainers have much less crank inertial load than riding on the road. What this means is that trainers change speed much quicker (both spinning up and slowing down) than on the road. Some people (me, and possibly you) are more sensitive to changes in crank inertial load than others, and it changes the way they pedal. In order to get the same inertial loading I experience on the road I tend to pull back and up a bit more on the trainer -- at least, I think I do. Anyway, my knees often feel a bit more tender after a trainer workout even if my overall power was less and the workout was shorter than on the road.

[Edited to add:] BTW, there is one situation on the road where you experience low inertial load as you do on a trainer: when you're in a very low gear climbing a moderately steep hill. So does that bother your knees, even when you're going slow and at low power (the speeds you're riding at on your trainer indicate that the power is low)? If so, that's a clue that your pedaling may be sensitive to low crank inertial load.

Last edited by RChung; 04-28-15 at 03:16 PM.
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Old 04-28-15, 03:16 PM
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Originally Posted by RChung View Post
I get the same thing -- though perhaps not as severe. Most trainers have much less crank inertial load than riding on the road. What this means is that trainers change speed much quicker (both spinning up and slowing down) than on the road. Some people (me, and possibly you) are more sensitive to changes in crank inertial load than others, and it changes the way they pedal. In order to get the same inertial loading I experience on the road I tend to pull back and up a bit more on the trainer -- at least, I think I do. Anyway, my knees often feel a bit more tender after a trainer workout even if my overall power was less and the workout was shorter than on the road.
I run the extra flywheel weight on my KK trainer. It spins up much slower when accelerating but it's easier to maintain a steady speed and trainer decelerations are also much slower.
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Old 04-28-15, 03:31 PM
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Yeah, the extra flywheel will help, but it's not quite large enough to mimic what you get on the road -- the flywheel would need to be 2x or 3x larger.

For me, the worst is riding rollers. The inertial load on most trainers is low because the flywheels are usually small, but most rollers don't have flywheels at all so the inertial load is even smaller. I can spin way, way faster on rollers than on the road but even though the load is low my knees can hurt afterward.
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Old 04-28-15, 04:53 PM
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riding on a trainer and riding on the road, even on the same bike, are not equivalent. back off on duration and intensity when riding the trainer, regardless of what you think the statistics indicate. that's what i would do.
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Old 04-28-15, 05:08 PM
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The ONLY knee pain I have EVER had from cycling was just recently, a 20 minute FTP test, trainerroad, Sportcrafters Resistance Rollers.

I think the static position comment is probably dead on.....I really do not have any "climbs" here so probably never stick in one exact position for a full 20 minutes of sustained effort on the road.

Bill
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Old 04-28-15, 06:37 PM
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I haven't got my bike trainer set up for my road bike (long story), but my knees don't do well on the special spin bikes at the gym.
I do not have a smooth pedaling motion and I get out of synch with the smooth flywheel action.
Either I don't have enough resistance to get a decent workout; or it feels like the flywheel will rip my leg in two at the knee when I'm at a dead spot in my pedaling.

The few times I've been on a trainer for a real bike, the flywheel was different and not as tough on my knees; but I didn't spend much time on it to tell if it would be a problem.

So, I wonder if a flywheel is contributing to OPs problems.

On the road, my uneven pedaling just makes me go relatively slower than others on chipseal and when climbing.
My knees don't hurt on the road unless there is a weather change or humidity is high; or when wrestling the bike up a hill cadence < 40.
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Old 04-28-15, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by nkfrench View Post
I haven't got my bike trainer set up for my road bike (long story), but my knees don't do well on the special spin bikes at the gym.
I do not have a smooth pedaling motion and I get out of synch with the smooth flywheel action.
Either I don't have enough resistance to get a decent workout; or it feels like the flywheel will rip my leg in two at the knee when I'm at a dead spot in my pedaling.

The few times I've been on a trainer for a real bike, the flywheel was different and not as tough on my knees; but I didn't spend much time on it to tell if it would be a problem.

So, I wonder if a flywheel is contributing to OPs problems.

On the road, my uneven pedaling just makes me go relatively slower than others on chipseal and when climbing.
My knees don't hurt on the road unless there is a weather change or humidity is high; or when wrestling the bike up a hill cadence < 40.
That one little go around with knee pain from the rollers makes me so very grateful my knees do not hurt on the road :-). It might sound, I dunno childish but the feeling that I had injured myself in a way that would stop me from riding really sucked :-(. Was really great to go for a ride today and not even think about that til I had 18 mi in. Normal "ramping up the miles" body adjustments but no toothache in the knee pain.
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Old 04-29-15, 05:31 PM
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In my experience it comes down to the over simplified fact that you don't coast on a trainer. Constant resistance.

This magnifies anything slightly off, so as suggested above, I'd cut down on time and resistance. Don't compare "trainer distance" to "road distance". Do use the trainer for intervals, on legged pedaling or a way to exercise through a web meeting. Do think of the trainer as a different type of riding.

The under patella pain is common for people riding outside when they ratchet up hills early in the season with lower cadence. Which makes me think the trainer is acting like a low grinding hill for you with the constant resistance.
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