Cycling – A low impact sport!
Protect your knees and ride for years longer!
Most riders get into cycling because it is a low impact sport and there is very little stress on the joints. Whether this is because of an injury from another sport, an age thing ( as we get older other sports put more stress on our joints) or a weight thing (cycling is also very good for you if you are carrying a few extra pounds)! However, the knees can suffer! On average your legs rotate 5000 times per hour and as you can imagine thats a lot of work for you knees to do. Knee pain or injury is the most common complaint us cyclists have but is also very easy to avoid.
Here are my top 5 ways of looking after your knees.
- Don’t mash the big ring. Riding in a big gear at a cadence of 50-60 rpm puts a massive load on your knees. Some coaches recommend that you ride like this for leg strength work but don’t over do it! Easy gears and spinning your legs is much better for your knees!
- Cleats. Make sure that your cleats are correctly positioned on your shoe. If they are slightly out of line then this will also put undue pressure on the knee as your leg will be slightly twisted to compensate for a bad cleat position which a 5000 revs per hour is a lot of extra/unnecessary stress/load through the knee.
- Bike Set Up. Poor bike set up can also reap havok with your knees. Saddle too low and the muscle above the knee cap will be over worked and cause knee pain. Saddle too high and the hips will be rocking when you pedal as you over extend your leg at the bottom of the pedal stroke and this usually gives you pain in the back of the knee. So roughly when you pedals are at 6 & 12 o’clock position place your heal on the pedal at 6 o’clock straighten your leg adjust saddle height so your heal is on the pedal and your bum on the saddle, then when you place the ball of your foot on the pedal you’ll have a natural bend in your leg which will protect your knee. Finally, when pedalling try to keep both knees equal distance from the top tube, roughly 2-3 finger widths, so that your legs, knees and feet are in line whilst pedalling. I see a lot of riders where one knee hangs out to the side. Again this puts undue force through the knee (& it’s not very aero either). Investing in a professinal bike fit could be money well spent and keep you riding for many more years!
- Avoid massive jumps in ride distance. If you usually ride 50km a ride don’t suddenly start riding 100km as this too will affect your knees. You need to gradually increase your ride distances, by 15-20k per week, so your knees and legs build in strength gradually to avoid excessive strain due to big jumps in ride distances.
- Unclip when stopped. Speaking from a bad habit I got into whilst guiding, I used to unclip with one foot and leave the other clipped in and then turn around to chat to the group. This twisted my knee and caused some mild irritation but it also broke the cleat within my MTB shoes as the twisting movement meant that over time the metal plate in the shoe that held the cleat on became loose until one day I couldn’t unclip and yes I fell off, smacking my knee in the process (double whammy). So unclip with both feet when you stop to chat!
Finally, good core strength will help keep your body in a good position whilst riding, especially as you increase your distance, and this will also help protect the knees.