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Why do my knees hurt?

Cycling is commonly seen as a sport that is very gentle on your joints … but this is not always the case.

Knee pain is a very common lower-body problem for cyclists and more than 50% of regular riders will complain about sore knees sometime during their cycling life.

Most knee pain comes from overuse when you ride longer and harder than what your body is conditioned to do, but this is usually just highlighting another problem, incorrect equipment and fit.

Many cyclists are always adjusting their position to find that perfect position and in doing so it can affect your knees. If your saddle is uncomfortable for example, changing the position can have a dramatic effect of the load on your knees.

  • Pain in the front, right on the kneecap or patella: Your quad muscles are attach to the shin via the patella, and when you’re are really pushing, they might deliver too much force across the front of the joint. A saddle that is too low will result in a very tight knee angle at the top of the pedal stroke which increase the force pulling the patella against the femur, increasing the likelihood of tendonitis and problems behind the kneecap. This will also happen when your cranks are to long for your legs or if your saddle is to far forward compared to the cranks. Another possible reason for the knee pain is if you are pushing too big a gear. If you are not conditioned for this it can cause very high stress over the front of the knee.
  • Pain behind the knee: Pain behind the knee is less common than that in the front, and is generally easier to solve. Your saddle is either too high or too far back. This is also a more common problem with people riding fixed-gear bikes as they use your hamstrings to slow down.
  • Pain on the inside of the knee: When you feel pain on the insides of your knees and assuming the saddle is the correct height, your cleat position under your shoes are most probably incorrect. Your cleat position affect your Q-factor, which dictates how far apart your feet are when pedaling. Ideally your knees to your pedals should travel vertically without pushing the knee inward or outward as this can stress the ligaments on either side of your knee causing pain. Too much or too little float in your pedals can also cause knee pain. A little float—about 4.5 degrees—is all you need to be comfortable and keep your knees from getting stressed.
  • Pain on the outside of the knee: Pain on the outside of the knee is often caused by iliotibial (IT) band syndrome (a fibrous connective tissue band that runs from the hip along the thigh to the tibia). Incorrect cleat setup that cause the foot to be excessively toed in can cause this, or cleats that are too far on the outside of the shoe resulting in to narrow a Q-factor.

The points discussed above are general reasons for knee pain, but in some cases, there are medical reasons that won’t be solved by a quick bike fit, like different leg lengths, previous knee operations, etc.

If you have a concern, please get hold of us so that we can schedule a proper bike fit for you. It will be one of the best investments of your life.

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