How to Fix Knee Pain with a Bike Fit
Cycling is generally considered a low-impact activity that is easier on the joints compared to high-impact exercises. However, cyclists can still experience knee pain due to various factors. Here are some steps you can take to address knee pain and determine if a professional bike fit is necessary:
Does Cycling Cause Knee Pain?
Cycling is generally a low-impact activity that is easier on the joints compared to high-impact exercises like running or playing tennis. However, pushing yourself too hard or having pre-existing injuries can still lead to aches and pains, including knee pain. Common areas where cyclists experience knee pain include the anterior (front), posterior (back), lateral (outside), and medial (inside) parts of the knee. The causes of knee pain in cyclists can vary, and even minor adjustments in bike setup can affect the knees.
How Your Bike Should Fit
Proper bike fit is crucial to prevent knee pain and ensure comfort while riding. While buying a bike from a local bike shop and seeking assistance from a store assistant is ideal, it may not always be possible. In such cases, you can perform a basic bike fit at home. This includes adjusting the handlebars, saddle, and cleats:
If your handlebars are too low or you have limited flexibility, it can lead to neck and upper back pain and affect your natural range of motion, leading to knee pain. Finding the optimum height of your handlebars depends on factors like the type and size of your bike, arm length, and personal comfort.
Proper adjustment of the seat height, angle, and position is essential to avoid knee pain and improve cycling efficiency. One common mistake is having the saddle too low, which can strain the knees. Ensuring that your leg is fully extended when the pedal is at the lowest point of the revolution, with a slight micro-bend in the knee, can help achieve the right seat height. The angle of the saddle can also be adjusted based on personal preference.
If you use cleats, it's important to align them correctly to avoid issues with the ankles, knees, and lower back. Determining the center point of your foot and aligning the pedal axle accordingly can help achieve proper cleat positioning. Ensuring that the ball of your foot is centered over each pedal axle is crucial, and adjustments can be made based on comfort and any discomfort felt in the ankles, knees, or hips.
When to Get a Professional Bike Fit
While a basic bike fit can address minor adjustments, a professional bike fit is recommended in certain situations:
- If you are new to cycling or have recently returned after a long break
- If you have pre-existing injuries
- If you want to improve performance
- If a DIY bike fit hasn't resolved the issue
- If you are experiencing persistent pain that affects your cycling
- If your body has undergone significant changes (e.g., weight loss, weight gain, pregnancy)
Exercises to Strengthen Your Knees
If you have undergone a professional bike fit but still experience knee pain while cycling, it's important to consider other factors and exercises to strengthen the knees. It could be that you have overexerted your body or have underlying issues. Here are some exercises that can help strengthen the knees:
- Squats (wall squats or weighted squats)
- Toe touches
- Quadriceps stretch
- Side leg raises
Remember to perform exercises within your comfort level, and if you experience sharp or shooting pain, consult with a physiotherapist or doctor before continuing.
It's important to prioritize your health and consult with professionals when needed to ensure a safe and enjoyable cycling experience.