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Something I've noticed recently, is that I only seem to get sore knees when wearing full length tights, and seemingly not when wearing shorts.

I had a bit of knee pain last year, which I got sorted as the summer progressed with various changes to cleat position. Since then I've made no adjustments to my position on the bike.

My knees got a little sore when I picked up the riding again more seriously after Christmas, originally I thought this was just a fitness thing as I was ramping up the mileage. I tend to be wearing full length tights over the winter, as we've hit April I've been able to switch to shorts and have done numerous 70+ mile rides with no pain in my knees at all - which I figured was my fitness coming back, all good.

I did a fairly cold/wet Sportive on Sunday, 80 miles long which I wore full length tights for. After 40ish miles I started feeling my right knee a little, not debilitating - but enough to know it wasn't quite right. I'd done 75 miles of much of the same course the weekend before with no problem, so I was a little surprised and it got me thinking:

- Is it just the fact that my knees are covered (one assumes movement is more restricted), that is causing some knee pain?
- Is it a weather thing (sounding like an old man), my joints are just happier in glorious sunshine than on a cold/wet/miserable day?
- Does the pad/shorts make an appreciable difference (other than comfort on your nether regions) for things like knee tracking.

Thoughts?

21 comments

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CXR94Di2 [1695 posts] 2 years ago
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Odd, maybe trying a couple different pairs of tights to see if its still a problem. sometimes the smallest adjustment can cause an issue.

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sergius [438 posts] 2 years ago
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CXR94Di2 wrote:

Odd, maybe trying a couple different pairs of tights to see if its still a problem. sometimes the smallest adjustment can cause an issue.

That's actually one of the reasons I ask. Up until last weekend my full-length tights have been a fairly cheap pair of DHB ones that I bought last winter. My normal bib shorts are a pair of Castelli ones which were much more expensive and are theoretically of higher quality.

I actually picked up some high-end Castelli tights in the Wiggle warehouse sale, pondering whether the pad/fit in the DHBs was the problem. Last weekend I wore the Castelli tights for the first time - lovely and warm/windproof etc - but I did have the knee discomfort in them just like the DHBs.

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Yorkshie Whippet [605 posts] 2 years ago
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March Knee!
I get a pain in my knees when it's cool and shorts are on. Someone explained it as the cold air rushing to the back of the knee and tighening the ligaments. As result unless it's 12 deg or above the shorts stay inside.There is an element of different clothing as some pads are thicker than others, especially a set of well worn ones. This may alter your saddle height by only a few millimetre but it could enough if you are already on the upper "limit".

Other than that it's a multitude of possible sins.
Best advice I've found is Steve Hoggs way of raising and lowering the saddle by 3mm. Well worth checking his website. Gearing, some of us using compact chainsets tend to spin a little too small a gear, some using 53/39 may tend to grind too high a gear slowly. Either way can lead to over use of the knee and subsequent pain. Find out if your right leg is the same length as the left, apparently most people have one leg longer than another. If so try extender plates on the soles to even out.

Another thing could be the float on cleats. "Normal" pedals like Shimano, Look etc play hell with my knees, so I switched to Speedplay and will not go back. Some people are able to maintain a static postion, other of us move around alot on the pedals.

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DaveE128 [885 posts] 2 years ago
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I think the most likely explanation is that you wear tights when it's cold, and your knees hurt when it's cold. Try warmer tights perhaps?

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OnTheRopes [175 posts] 2 years ago
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Try leg warmers/knee warmers with the shorts you prefer.
Maybe Castelli Nanolight leg warmers for example

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Rich_O [9 posts] 2 years ago
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Good advice - except the OP's problem is the other way around. His knees hurt when he wears full length tights and not when he wears shorts. Strange, but that is the problem.

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Al__S [1227 posts] 2 years ago
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it would be interesting if the OP has tried riding in "tights" conditions (by his reckoning, which is all that counts) in his shorts? tights shouldn't (unless sold as compression wear) be tight enough to be causing any restriction

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sergius [438 posts] 2 years ago
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I tend to err on the side of caution weather-wise, I'd rather be hot than cold. I'll try sticking to the shorts for the foreseeable future, to try and see if I've a "weather" issue or a "tights" issue.

It's also useful to know that this isn't a common thing and I may be seeing a correlation where there isn't one.

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kookenhaken [15 posts] 2 years ago
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I have a bad knee and noticed whilst doing the festive 500 that if I pulled the tights away from the painful area it would immediately go away. As if it was bruised and the tights were applying too much pressure.

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OnTheRopes [175 posts] 2 years ago
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Are you wearing tights over your shorts? This could be raising your position higher than is good for your knee. Or if your tights pads are thicker than your shorts pad, then the same effect is possible

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Rod Marton [87 posts] 2 years ago
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I have the weather issue in one knee, and this is can be worse with the knees covered. The reason for this is that the knees get wetter as the tights hold water (or sweat) in contact with them. However if you had this problem you would probably have noticed off the bike already.

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jiberjaber [29 posts] 2 years ago
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I have this issue too, no pain when in shorts and sometimes pain when in longs. It's as though the material is compressing the knee cap and it feels like it is bruised, but lifting the material off is instant relief!
Someone suggested to me it was perhaps linked to hydration, which does seem to have some truth in it as I have noticed less "yellow straw" coloured when suffering.

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sergius [438 posts] 2 years ago
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jiberjaber wrote:

I have this issue too, no pain when in shorts and sometimes pain when in longs. It's as though the material is compressing the knee cap and it feels like it is bruised, but lifting the material off is instant relief!
Someone suggested to me it was perhaps linked to hydration, which does seem to have some truth in it as I have noticed less "yellow straw" coloured when suffering.

That's a good way of describing it, though I've not noticed any correlation between hydration and any knee discomfort - only the leggings (and by implication temperature).

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JonD [468 posts] 2 years ago
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The compression bit's curious, but as a matter of elimination could you beg/steal/borrow some windproof tights to try out ? I never have a problem with roubaix longs on an upright, even in snow + ice, but on a recumbent I seem to get a lot more windchill and achy kneecaps. On one particularly cold march Friday-Night-Ride-To-The-Coast, London to Southend, I just couldn't get any warmth into them, took a day or two to stop aching. Solution seems to be gore windstopper-fronted longs.

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sergius [438 posts] 2 years ago
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Funnily enough the new Castelli leggings I wore for the first time last weekend have the windproof/waterproof gore front, so I don't think it's that - my legs certainly never felt cold last weekend.

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ianm [2 posts] 2 years ago
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Sounds like it may be the compressive force of the tights putting pressure into your patella. This in turn may cause undue friction on the articular surface of the patella and femur causing discomfort and pain. Much the same as if you had tight quads.

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macrophotofly [260 posts] 2 years ago
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Agree with last comment - seems like it is coming from the knee cap being pushed onto the joint behind. Is your pain coming from behind the kneecap?

One solution may be to try cycling trousers rather than tights. You can get some fairly good ones from manufacturers like Pearl Izumi, which allow bib shorts underneath, have a longer backside, are stretchy, and remain fairly narrow in the leg while not being compressive

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sergius [438 posts] 2 years ago
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Thanks folks, some interesting info there.

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PRH [1 post] 1 month ago
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Yes I agree that your conclusion is correct, I have had the same issues and come to the same conclusion.  Wearing looser tights or cycling pants, or just shorts, no knee pain, but with tight fitting tights, after 20-30+ km the discomfort will start.  So I've stopped wearing classic cycling tights.  If you notice orthopedic knee braces have a round cutout in the middle where the kneecap is.  Just hope that there hasn't been any permanent damage.  I ride year round and so was in tights 6-8 months of the year.  Probably not many people notice the phenomenon as most people, even professionals, don't ride much in cooler where you're going to be in tights all the time.

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Hazzaman [3 posts] 1 month ago
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As some others have said maybe try warmer tights.  I suffer a lot of knee pain, i wear Castelli I find them pretty good.  If it's bothering you, maybe get your Knees checked out in case there is a underlying problem.

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mrseasons [1 post] 1 month ago
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worth speaking to a phyiso about this? its really unsual to have such pain as a 'warm' muscle