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One of the most common complaints from cyclists is of sore knees.

Cycling, especially racing or touring can put enormous stress on the knee.

Usually knee pain 'creeps up' on you but sometimes seemingly out of nowhere, it can suddenly start for no apparent reason.

However, investigation will usually reveal some contributing factor...

Poor Pedalling Technique
The main cycling muscles in the thigh are very powerful and can 'overload' the knee.
Pedalling in too high (stiff) a gear is the most common cause of this.
The answer is to pedal a lower (easier) gear but pedal faster.

Look at Tour de France riders and you will see that their legs seem to whizz round.
The load on the knee is reduced by using this technique. Medical research has also shown that this higher speed 'spin' is also aerobically more efficient.

A Sudden Increase In Training Or Mileage
This is especially common at the beginning of the season and in Europe is sometime called 'Easter Knees' - often the first opportunity for overuse of the knee.

It can also happen after illness or other time away from cycling...
In our enthusiasm to get fit again we can do too much too soon.
Rest then try again - more gently.

Andy Pruitt's Complete Medical Guide for Cyclists

Dr Andy Pruitt is a two-time World Champion and the Director of the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine.

He is "the absolute authority on this topic..."

And this is his book...

A Sudden Increase In Climbing
When the route rises and you run out of gears sometimes the only thing you can do is sit (or stand) and push hard on the pedals.
If you are not used to this then the same overuse type of injury can occur.
If you are going to cycle in the hills get some practice before you go. Attack that hill on your ride to work!

Saddle Position
Having your saddle in the wrong position can also give you knee pain.
Too high and too low are both wrong. Too far forward or back is also a possibility.

Ask your friendly local bike shop for advice on getting the right saddle position or check out our Step by Step Guide to Setting your Saddle Position.

Pedal Setup
The advent of clipless (SPD etc) pedals has been great for cycling.
One major difference between clipless and traditional pedals is restriction of movement (float) allowed in the foot.
Your foot position naturally changes while pedalling. If the foot cannot move, this movement is transferred to the knees and the hips.

If you have knee or back problems or just a tendency to knee pain you may not get on well with clipless pedals.

If you have clipless pedals Set Them Up Right!
Old fashioned clips and straps still work fine - they are still used by World Champ track riders because they never release accidentally no matter how hard you pull!

Non-Cycling Related
Sometimes knee pain felt while cycling is brought on by some other activity;

  • A new sport.
  • A session at a badly set-up workstation.
  • A cramped journey in a car or bus.

    Misalignment Of The Knee
    The alignment of the knee and kneecap can be affected by many things. Any imbalance in the muscles of the thigh can pull the kneecap out of position. The action of pedalling can cause an imbalance in this muscle group.

    If your knee pain does not subside with rest, see your Doctor or a Sports Physio and get checked out.
    Check if your local Cycling Club can recommend a Sports Physio who understands the peculiarities and common problems of cycling.


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