We have all been told of the many benefits of cycling: cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, stress relief (as long as you keep the bike upright), fat loss, coordination and improved balance among others. Many of us come from a running background where the jarring of the joints simply got to be too much for our aging bodies to handle. But is cycling really the end all to sports injuries? While our beloved hobby/passion has so many benefits, we should keep in mind that we are still susceptible to maladies of various kinds.
Today we are going to focus on the all-important knee joint and some common afflictions that plague some of us as we cycle our way to good health.
One of the main causes for knee pain is due to doing too much too soon. While it is difficult to hold back when we discover something we love to do, we have to exercise self-control when it comes to training. Perhaps you have to take a week off and you feel pressure to make it up. Whatever the reason, at times it is easy to simply over do it. Pain manifests itself in different places based on the injured site: in the front, inside, outside of the knee or underneath the knee cap. Click here to learn more about common cycling injuries to the knee.
Improper Bike Fit or Biomechanics
Many knee issues can be traced back to something as simple as a poor fit with the equipment you have. Perhaps it’s not the bike but the shoes or cleats. Could it be that the placement of your femur (thigh bone) in your hip joint causes undue stress on your knees? If you log many miles on your bike each week (100 or more) the repetition of a 90 rpm pedal stroke can translate to over 32,000 times your knees flex in riding for just one week . That certainly adds up! Over time cartilage wears down and causes bone on bone scraping can be a great source of discomfort. Once tendons get inflamed a cessation of activity is required for the inflammation to be reduced. It only gets worse if one stubbornly continues to ride so listen to your body when it begins to talk to you.
OK – let’s be honest here: some people like to boast that they are “big ring riders” as if it is a badge of courage or medal of honor! If I got paid a dollar for each time I overheard (mostly) men brag about this I would have my house paid for (well, almost.) Seriously, most women don’t gloat about this. So why is it a topic that garners attention? Because it takes strength and power to ride in the big ring (and sometimes a lack of common sense.) It is more difficult to push a big gear; without the proper muscular strength it can cause injury to the knee joint. If the amount of torque exceeds the stength of the tendons or ligaments guess who the loser is? Microtears occur over time due to age and stress. Being in the wrong gear (either in climbing or from a sudden stop) can cause injury so be careful and use your mind – not your ego – as you choose your gears.
In a nutshell, it is really up to us to care for the longevity of our knees. If we want to continue riding pain-free we must pay attention to our training schedules, the technique with which we ride and what gears we utilize as we ride. We must be kind to our knees – we kneed them for a long time!