Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > Road Cycling
Reload this Page >

Conflicting Information About Saddle Height / Knee Pain

Notices
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

Conflicting Information About Saddle Height / Knee Pain

Old 06-14-06, 07:57 AM
  #1  
teetopkram
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Tampa
Posts: 518

Bikes: Schwinn Paramount, Trek MTB

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Conflicting Information About Saddle Height / Knee Pain

Greetings everyone:

The vast majority of everything i have read indicates that pain on the front of the knee can be attributed to a saddle height that is too low, whereas pain in the posterior is caused by a saddle too high.

To make a long story short, for the past few months I have suffered from right knee tendinitis, for which I have been doing therapy and it's slowly getting better. Over the past few days I have swapped out my 175mm cranks for 170mm at the recommendation of the LBS where I just got fitted. When doing so, my bike tech (who doesn't work at the same shop), actually LOWERED my saddle height to get to the point where there is a 26-degree bend in my knee at full extension. He said that my original saddle hieght with the 175mm cranks was way too high using this method. I now feel much more compact and don't get near the leg extension I am used to. I guess when I first started riding back in the early 90's the preferred method was almost a full leg extension at the bottom of the downstroke.

Doubting this, I went to another bike fitter who came recommended, who seconded this method and actually lowered my seat further to get to a 30 degree extension.

Now, this contradicted everything I was trying to achieve by going to lower cranks (i.e., less knee bend), everything I had read about combatting anterior knee pain (i.e., raise the saddle), and my inner voice (i.e., I was always comfortable with a higher position). Plus, this does result in a more compact position compared to the Guillard and other methods that suggest almost a full knee extension.

So, after my first 1 hour easy, endurance zone ride (part of my therapy) with this new position, my right knee is now more sore than ever (after it had been progressing over time) and slight swelling has returned. I am bummed.

My questions are: (1) is the overall method of the 25-30 degree knee extension right, and maybe I just lowered the saddle too much too soon, OR (2) is this a debunk method? I will note that in watching riders in recent years, they do seem more compact on the bike, so maybe the trend is in this direction, but clearly my knee has issues with it.

Any advice?

Mark
teetopkram is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 08:10 AM
  #2  
'nother
semifreddo amartuerer
 
'nother's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Northern CA
Posts: 4,599

Bikes: several

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
People like to pretend that fitting is an exact science but it's not. There may be some principles that are generally true, but there are few hard and fast rules that are generally accepted by everyone who does fitting. Your own fore-aft position on the saddle can have a huge effect on other fit parameters, throwing the whole thing into a tizzy.

If you're still having pain, this method is obviously bunk for you. Go see someone else.
'nother is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 08:19 AM
  #3  
shokhead
05 Roubaix Comp Double
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: So Cal
Posts: 4,665

Bikes: 2012 Trek Madone 6.2

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
When you feel right is when the bike is fit right for you.
shokhead is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 08:21 AM
  #4  
pigmode
works for truffles
 
pigmode's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Posts: 2,038
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
I've been battling tendonitus in both knees for a long time and for me, saddle adjustments (both height and fore/aft) have no effect on whether or not there is pain.
pigmode is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 08:23 AM
  #5  
Brillig
Bananaed
 
Brillig's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Philly-ish
Posts: 6,426

Bikes: 2001 Lemond Nevada City (only the frame remains)

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
There is a certain pain in the front of the knee that comes from having your saddle too low and a certain pain in the back that comes from having it too high.

That does NOT mean that all pains in the knee are covered by this rule of thumb. For example, if you had a shattered patella, that pain might not be alleviated by lowering the seat. Likewise, tendonitis is a totally different animal then the generalities associated with seat height.
__________________
If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination.
- Thomas De Quincey
Brillig is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 09:18 AM
  #6  
biker7
Senior Member
 
biker7's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 2,850
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
All the above. Seems like the modern racers on OLN for example are running more flexion at the bottom of their pedal stroke...about 30 deg. or so as a general rule compared to the old std. of almost full leg extension at the bottom of the stroke so perhaps there has been a bit of a paradym shift in terms of a so called "new norm". But as adroitly mentioned above, this is of little consequence to you. Honestly, if I were you, I would listen to my own body and make your own adjustments. You know your body the best and can play with your set up to find the position that works best for performance and the least amount of physical assault. I have read all about the tradeoffs like yourself..some of which you touched upon and honestly use them only as reference. Through exhaustive experimentation, I set up my bike to what feels best during and after a ride. Believe you will come to this conclusion eventually. Also there is a pretty good disparity throughout cycling as to how riders set up their bikes. Lance is a noteable example. He is an elite racer who sets his bike up with a pretty pedestrian drop from saddle to handlebars.
HTH,
George

Last edited by biker7; 06-14-06 at 09:24 AM.
biker7 is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 09:29 AM
  #7  
fmw
Hoosier Pedaler
 
fmw's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 2,432
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
George, did you get that tire mounted?
__________________
Fred
A tour of my stable of bicycles
fmw is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 09:33 AM
  #8  
Naidu
Clever Title Here...
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: New Joisey
Posts: 134

Bikes: Trek 420, Habanero Custom Team Issue

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
To add to the conflicting info: Also consider cleat angle.

I'm no bike fit expert (even on the Internet), but in the past I've had tendinitis in the knee when the cleats (SPD) were aligned straight (inline with the length of the shoe). After considering the natural angle of my feet, I changed the cleat alignment (each foot was different to get comfortable). No more pain in the knees. It was easy for me to narrow down since the only change I'd made before the knee pain started was get new clipless pedals and cleats.

If you use a pedal system with a large amount (>10 degrees) float, this is unlikely to be the cause of your pain. Just another data point to consider.
Naidu is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 09:36 AM
  #9  
ac29593
Senior Member
 
ac29593's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 363
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 2 Times in 2 Posts
From my experience, fit is a personal thing. What feels comfortable for one person might not feel right for another. Set the bike up however you feel it fits best. That being said, I think that this has nothing to do with the tendinitis. I had some tendinitis at the beginning of last season, and it was a result of me trying to push bigger gears than I could handle. It only got better after a while of pushing very small gears. "Easy" rides do not necessarily mean "slow" rides. Going 7mph in a 53-11 is not going to help your knee. I would suggest staying out of the big ring until your knee feels better. It might take a few weeks, but ride with a very small amount of resistance when you pedal. Not sure if you are already doing this, but I wanted to make the suggestion based on my experience from the knee pain I had last year.
ac29593 is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 10:19 AM
  #10  
biker7
Senior Member
 
biker7's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 2,850
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Originally Posted by fmw
George, did you get that tire mounted?
Hi Fred,
No...but will have another go this weekend. My fingers are feeling better today :-)
I think based upon the good suggestions made in my plea for help, I will be able to get it together.
Meanwhile, I have remounted my Ventos to keep riding and enjoying this good weather in Michigan.
I will apply those lessons learned and will report back.
Thanks for asking,
George
biker7 is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 11:21 AM
  #11  
johnny99
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Northern California
Posts: 10,871
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 102 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 2 Times in 2 Posts
Originally Posted by teetopkram
My questions are: (1) is the overall method of the 25-30 degree knee extension right, and maybe I just lowered the saddle too much too soon, OR (2) is this a debunk method? I will note that in watching riders in recent years, they do seem more compact on the bike, so maybe the trend is in this direction, but clearly my knee has issues with it.
I think the 30 degree method is a lot better than all the old formulas based on leg length. The 30 degree method works best for people with a very smooth pedalling technique. If you're more of an up-and-down pedaller, then a higher saddle position may work better for you.

Note that a lot of knee pain issues are caused by twisting in your pedal stroke. This is usually caused by bad cleat positioning, not bad saddle height. Did your fitter work with your cleats at all? Did the fitter watch you ride and study your pedalling technique. A bad cleat fit is often causes very obvious wobbles in your pedalling motion.
johnny99 is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 12:47 PM
  #12  
Machka 
In Real Life
 
Machka's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Down under down under
Posts: 51,531

Bikes: Lots

Mentioned: 134 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2936 Post(s)
Liked 124 Times in 83 Posts
Here ... have a look over this article ... maybe it will help: http://www.cptips.com/knee.htm
Machka is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 01:03 PM
  #13  
frogge
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 35
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Knees

Hey,
My two cents. Glucosamine is total bunk. Even the supposed mechanism makes no sense since it would be degraded by stomach acid and nobody takes it IV. Seat heat is only one varialble. I used to run with my seat much higher and at much lower cadence. This translates to pushing a higher gear. Lowering your seat helps you spin and encourages using a lower gear and higher cadence. When you have to push a high gear you get out of the saddle. One of the key words you used in your original post was tendonitis. Remember tendonitis is an overuse type injury and is the devil to clear up if you don't get sufficient rest. Atheletes often get it from over training or poor fit,but then compound the problem by not resting the affected tendon. This can transform the process into a more chronic and difficult to treat entity(calcific tendonitis). Dithering with your seat may not solve the problem. Cross training and staying off the bike for a bit may. I know this will be very unpopular advice since I wouldn't want to do it myself. Alternatively, there is value in pain. Reach into your suitcase of courage and ride. Toodles,Frogge.
frogge is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 01:13 PM
  #14  
Monoborracho
Senior Member
 
Monoborracho's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Deep In The Heart
Posts: 2,665

Bikes: Seven Ti Tandem, Blue T12 tri bike, 92 Paramount, 93 Schwinn Mesa MTB, Soma Saga

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 114 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
I am 54. I have had 6 knee surgeries, five on the right and one on the left. One was an ACL reconstruction. I have osteoarthritis on the bottom of the femur in my right knee and periodically take cortisone shots.

All said, I have no knee pain due to riding, and I've done almost 1300 miles as of yesterday. I adjust my seat till I extend my legs as far as possible, including even ankles bent downward a little at the bottom of the stroke.

Remember, according to Archimedes Principle when you shortened the crank you also decreased the bending moment, meaning you have to pedal harder (i.e., pain in the bottom of the patella, probably) in the same gears for the same speed. Think of the force required if the cranks were only a couple of inches long. You have shortened the circle, but it takes more force on the cranks for the same gears to achieve the same speed.

My advise...do what feels good for you.
Monoborracho is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 02:37 PM
  #15  
Psimet2001 
I eat carbide.
 
Psimet2001's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Elgin, IL
Posts: 20,614

Bikes: Lots. Van Dessel and Squid Dealer

Mentioned: 21 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 612 Post(s)
Liked 50 Times in 28 Posts
I run lower than I used to in the late 80's and 90's. I also run the saddle further forward that I used to. All of these changes were in response to knee pain. Turns ou though that it was because the higher/further back position allowed me a lot of leverage and I tended to grind super high gears at lower cadence. The constant strain is what killed me...not the biomechanics....

I agree a lot with what has been said. Ride what feels right. Be willing to give new positions a try, but in the end ride what feels right. Fitting "sciences" are really just rules of thumb for a reason...someone can always demonstrate the opposite working well for them.

People are People (so why should it be)
__________________
PSIMET Wheels, PSIMET Racing, PSIMET Neutral Race Support, and 11 Jackson Coffee
Podcast - YouTube Channel
Video about PSIMET Wheels

Psimet2001 is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 02:55 PM
  #16  
johnny99
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Northern California
Posts: 10,871
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 102 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 2 Times in 2 Posts
Originally Posted by Monoborracho
Remember, according to Archimedes Principle when you shortened the crank you also decreased the bending moment, meaning you have to pedal harder (i.e., pain in the bottom of the patella, probably) in the same gears for the same speed. Think of the force required if the cranks were only a couple of inches long. You have shortened the circle, but it takes more force on the cranks for the same gears to achieve the same speed.
That's why people with shorter cranks usually pedal faster in lower gears: less force for the same speed.
johnny99 is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 03:03 PM
  #17  
Psimet2001 
I eat carbide.
 
Psimet2001's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Elgin, IL
Posts: 20,614

Bikes: Lots. Van Dessel and Squid Dealer

Mentioned: 21 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 612 Post(s)
Liked 50 Times in 28 Posts
Originally Posted by johnny99
That's why people with shorter cranks usually pedal faster in lower gears: less force for the same speed.
???

Maybe I'm missing something about what you wrote, but a shorter crank (lever) means a higher force is required for the same loading. Physics.

..."give me a lever long enough and I can move the world"....
__________________
PSIMET Wheels, PSIMET Racing, PSIMET Neutral Race Support, and 11 Jackson Coffee
Podcast - YouTube Channel
Video about PSIMET Wheels

Psimet2001 is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 03:21 PM
  #18  
grahny
hobo
 
grahny's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: CO
Posts: 3,784
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
I have issues with my right knee as well, and found that slight adjustments in saddle height until it was comfortable for me (no fitting technique) worked well, but using a knee brace took care of it for good... specifically a brace that only wraps around the lower part of your knee to put pressure on the knee... specifically this:

http://www.cvs.com/CVSApp/cvs/gatewa...1&subcatid=177

I have absolutely zero knee issues when I wear the brace nice and tight... it feels weird at first to walk with it on, but you get used to it.
grahny is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 03:40 PM
  #19  
johnny99
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Northern California
Posts: 10,871
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 102 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 2 Times in 2 Posts
Originally Posted by Psimet2001
Maybe I'm missing something about what you wrote, but a shorter crank (lever) means a higher force is required for the same loading. Physics.
There are more variables than just lever arms. Use a lower gear and pedal faster to get the same speed with less force. Worked pretty well for that Lance guy.
johnny99 is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 04:40 PM
  #20  
Slowlegs
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 11
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Seat height makes sense, too high and the knee hyper extends, therefore pain behind the knee. Tendinitis is caused mainly when the muscles surrounding the affected area are too weak to sustain the activity being done. Try some strength training concentrating on the quads, hamstrings and inner thighs. Also, if you eat a powerbar or anything before your rides, take 1 or 2 Advil when washing the powerbar down. Advil not only relieves inflammation pain to the joints, but when taken before the ride, it can prevent the inflammation from happening in the first place. My doctor tells me that generic ibuprofen does not work preventing the inflammation as well as Advil.
Slowlegs is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 04:43 PM
  #21  
Zoltar
Your wish is granted
 
Zoltar's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 4
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
I just resolved this exact same problem after a long frustrating year. It took many things to resolve this issue for me. I had 2 fits, one set me up high, the other set me at 30 degrees, neither fixed the problem. My solution: Changed cranks to 170, stayed in lower gears and worked on spinning instead of mashing, seat height at 1 cm over 30 degrees, lemond wedges on cleats, changed to speedplay zeros. Also, I needed to take 2 months off riding but during those 2 months I stretched twice a day, performed knee exercises from a book called "treat your own knees" and iced each knee for 15 minutes after riding or exercising. When I started riding again I avoided hills for the first month or so. I am now finally riding pain free and I thought I was going to have to quit! Take a good look at your cleat adjustment and see if you have a foot varus problem. I did and I think the lemond wedges were a big part of resolving this problem.
Zoltar is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 05:07 PM
  #22  
Psimet2001 
I eat carbide.
 
Psimet2001's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Elgin, IL
Posts: 20,614

Bikes: Lots. Van Dessel and Squid Dealer

Mentioned: 21 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 612 Post(s)
Liked 50 Times in 28 Posts
Originally Posted by johnny99
There are more variables than just lever arms. Use a lower gear and pedal faster to get the same speed with less force. Worked pretty well for that Lance guy.
Your Previous post...

Originally Posted by johnny99
That's why people with shorter cranks usually pedal faster in lower gears: less force for the same speed.
Seems to imply that shorter crank arms mean less force required for same speed. From you additional post I can see that you are thinking about changing the gearing and cadences as well to achieve the same speed. That's 3 variables.

For the purposes of the discussion concerning the OP if the OP changes the crank length and rides the same cadences in the same gearing as he has before then he will be required to produce more force at the pedal. Shorter lever - same load = higher force.

If your telling him to up his cadence, riding different gearing to achieve the same speeds as before to lighten the loading on his knee, that's one thing. That advice is independent of crank length. As a matter of fact telling the OP to up his cadence in lower gearing with the LONGER cranks would lighten the loading on his knee even further. Many people feel that shorter cranks help them pedal in faster "smaller" circles enabling them to more easily achieve a higher cadence...but they are still going to have to deal with a larger force/load required due to the shortened lever arm.

Telling him a shorter crank arm will result in a lower load, is incorrect.
__________________
PSIMET Wheels, PSIMET Racing, PSIMET Neutral Race Support, and 11 Jackson Coffee
Podcast - YouTube Channel
Video about PSIMET Wheels

Psimet2001 is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 08:18 PM
  #23  
johnny99
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Northern California
Posts: 10,871
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 102 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 2 Times in 2 Posts
Originally Posted by Psimet2001
If your telling him to up his cadence, riding different gearing to achieve the same speeds as before to lighten the loading on his knee, that's one thing. That advice is independent of crank length.
That is exactly what I said the first time. I'm suprised that you are confused. Most people find spinning easier with shorter crank arms.
johnny99 is offline  
Old 06-14-06, 09:41 PM
  #24  
Psimet2001 
I eat carbide.
 
Psimet2001's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Elgin, IL
Posts: 20,614

Bikes: Lots. Van Dessel and Squid Dealer

Mentioned: 21 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 612 Post(s)
Liked 50 Times in 28 Posts
Originally Posted by johnny99
That is exactly what I said the first time. I'm suprised that you are confused. Most people find spinning easier with shorter crank arms.
Oh, no confusion here...thanks. Shorter cranks = more force needed for same speed, not less as you posted.
__________________
PSIMET Wheels, PSIMET Racing, PSIMET Neutral Race Support, and 11 Jackson Coffee
Podcast - YouTube Channel
Video about PSIMET Wheels

Psimet2001 is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Thread Starter
Forum
Replies
Last Post
tommy2000
Bicycle Mechanics
0
06-26-17 12:33 PM
chris.....
Foo
0
07-14-12 05:08 PM
bcoppola
Classic & Vintage
10
06-18-09 08:26 AM
Sincitycycler
Road Cycling
7
02-28-06 10:56 AM
Mayonnaise
Singlespeed & Fixed Gear
4
09-22-04 02:42 PM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service

Copyright © 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.