A Good Bike Fit
Many cyclists are forever tinkering with their position, looking for that elusive perfect position”. But what feels just right for a few pedal strokes around the block can end up feeling pretty wrong after 70 miles across the countryside.
A Good Bike Fit is essential for preventing most causes of knee pain.
7 Ways you’re hurting your knees
Pain in front: when your knee hurts right on the patella (Kneecap), it’s generally a product of your powerful quads. Your quad muscles attach to the shin via the patella, and when you’re really pumping, they might deliver too much shear force across the joint. Bike specific issues to check for include saddle height: saddle fore and aft, and / or crank length.
A saddle that is too low will cause your knee angle to be too tight at the top of the stroke, which increases the shear forces pulling the patella against the femur, which in turn increases the likelihood of tendonitis and stresses in the cartilage behind the kneecap.
Likewise, when the cranks are too long for your leg length, the knee joint is also too tight at the top of the stroke.
How low is too low for a saddle?: Quick reference is to have a seat and rest your heel on the pedal with the pedal in a 6 o’clock position. The knee of that leg should be straight. That equates to a 20 -25 degree knee bend when clipped in.
Riding with your saddle too far forward also can cause knee pain in the front. Your saddle should be positioned so the tibial tuberosity (bony bit below your patella) – is above the ball of the foot, which in turn should be above the pedal spindle.
Pain in the back: Pain behind the knee is less common than on in the front, and is generally easier to trace back to a culprit: over-extending the knee. Your saddle is too high or too far back. Try lowering the saddle a bit or moving it forward a bit in relation to the handlebars.
This pain is also more common among cyclists who spend a lot of time on a fixed gear bike. When you ride fixed, you use your hamstrings to decelerate pedal strokes which can put the bicep femoris (a hamstring muscle that runs down the back of your leg toward the outside of your knee) under too much load and irritates it.
Pain on the inside: When you feel pain on the inside of your knee, look down at your feet: Improper cleat placement if often the culprit. Your cleat position affects your Q-Factor which dictates how far apart your feet are laterally when pedalling. Ideally the spacing should be such that the loads from your knees to your pedals are travelling vertically without pushing the knee inward or outward, which stresses the collateral ligaments on either side of your knee and can lead to pain.
Cleats positioned too close to the insides of your shoes increase the distance between your feet, which can stress the inside collateral ligaments and cause medial (inside) knee pain.