Biking: not only is it incredibly fun, it’s generally very safe and easy on the body as well. It offers the best of everything; it’s low impact and highly aerobic, so it gets your heart rate up but doesn’t wear down your body. Unlike sports such as running or football, you’re in no danger of running into another person, and your legs never uncomfortably bang into the ground. Instead, they’re moving in low stress, low impact circles.
But even the safest activities can have occasional risk, especially for less experienced athletes who may not be adhering to proper form. One complaint we’ve heard from some of our biking friends is that after a long ride, their knees hurt. This is because there are a few unfortunate mistakes that some riders make that ends up hurting their knees; but if you follow these six simple steps, you can knock out knee pain for good!
Keep Those Knees Straight
As you pedal, make sure you do so in perfectly concentric circles, keeping your knees straight. Any movement or wobbling to the side – either outwards or inwards – increases stress on your cartilage and knee cap as they rub together, which can lead to serious discomfort. This is especially important as knee cartilage can be easily inflamed in older bodies, especially some suffering from mild osteoarthritis. So keep on pedaling as straight and circular as possible.
Keep Your Speed Up as Much as Is Comfortable
It’s vital to keep up a decent speed as you ride, so you maintain a fluid motion as you pump your legs and knees. Experts say that pedaling under 60 revolutions per minute is potentially dangerous, and actually recommend you try to keep above 80 revolutions per minute.
While this may sound scary to an inexperienced rider, it’s actually very simple when you’re using your bike properly. The trick to maintaining this speed to your leg motion is to make sure you are in a proper gear (so as not to be going faster than is comfortable for you.) Or if you’re finding it hard to keep your pedaling at a recommended pace, consider the mechanical assistance of an electric bicycle.
Watch Your “Float”
This advice applies more to cyclists who use clip-in pedals, but it can make a huge difference: make sure the “float” of your foot position corresponds with the natural angle your feet and ankles tend towards. Angling your legs too sharply can radiate tension through your entire legs, and can sharply increase the pressure on your knees. For the best results, keep your float to under 4.5 degrees.
Keep Your Seat Back
Here’s one more thing that you might not think can impact your knees, but most certainly does: the position of your feet, and the position of your “seat.” If you sit too close to your handlebars, it can change the angles your knees have to be at, and that can lead to some serious discomfort. So move your bum further back, keep your feet planted properly on the pedals, and watch the pain glide away.
For Long Rides, Consider Kinesio Tape
If you’re planning a particularly long ride, or find that you have extra sensitive knees, we recommend looking into kinesio, also known as elastic therapeutic, tape. It clings to your joints and muscles, pushing your knees in proper alignment. Unlike the old-school athletic tape you may be more familiar with, it mimics your skin, allowing for a much greater degree of flexibility and movement, and is clinically shown to reduce pain.
Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard
This one comes down to your mentality: just don’t push yourself too hard! Some people, when feeling a bit of pain in a body part, think they can just “push through the pain.” That may work for something like a headache, but when it comes to something as important as your knees, it’s not worth the risk. Something that might just be a minor nuisance today could flare up into a serious tear or worse, if you keep riding on it. So if you’re feeling a serious ouch, take a little time off from riding, or consider switching your ebike to all-electric mode.