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Hi all,

I'm reaching out for some ideas as to why I'm having issues with my knees.

My situation:
I'm 22yo and have only recently started road cycling 'seriously'. I try to ride ~30/40mi on Wednesdays and ~60/70 over the weekend, slowly building up on distances.

My issues:
After about 10mi, my right knee starts feeling a little strange. The only way I can describe it is as if it's being filled with jelly or something of a similar density. I think it swells a tiny bit but nothing that you can really notice.

If I sit down after some miles (e.g. for lunch after 35mi on Saturday) it feels fine UNTIL I stand up. I get a sharp pain mainly above my kneecap and a little below. Also, at work today after sitting down for 2hours, I stretched my leg and my knee kept cracking, 4 or 5 times until it stopped.

The right knee is worse than the left but I do sometimes get the same pain in my left. I'm stretching 3 times a day and eating well.

Has anyone had something like this before? Thoughts?

many thanks,

22 comments

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bashthebox [751 posts] 3 years ago
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Might well be related to your intercostal band - that's the muscle and tendon group that starts on the outside of your hip and goes down to your knees, down the outside of your leg.
This group can get very tight, which means your patella gets pulled about too much and causes knee pain.
The way to treat it at home is to get a foam roller and do lots of exercises on that. Hurts like a bastard when you start doing it, which is symptomatic of the tightness of the IC band. After a while it becomes easier, and this should also mean that you're stretching the muscle group properly.

As for the root cause - could be many things. Wrong saddle height, bad cleat position, bad saddle position, etc etc.

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andycoventry [110 posts] 3 years ago
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See a sports physio - I had a similar problem, 1 hour and £40 quid later they diagnosed a similar thing to mentioned above and some exercises - now good as new.

Also consider a bike fit - costly but worth it.

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VecchioJo [396 posts] 3 years ago
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see a sports physio - seconded, internet diagnoses and cures are worthless

it could be all manner of things, if you can see a physio that understands cyclists and can look at you on a bike that will help

i had a painful left knee that turned out to be nothing to do with the knee, some shoe inserts and some stretching sorted it

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cat1commuter [1421 posts] 3 years ago
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My knees used to hurt on a longer ride. Turned out that my saddle was too low.

Using cleats/pedals which allow your foot to pivot slightly from side to side (often called "float") can help reduce knee pain if your current setup is holding your foot at the wrong angle.

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crash144019 [45 posts] 3 years ago
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Are you riding on clipless or flat pedals? Incorrect set up of cleats is a common cause of knee proplems. Stand normally and just look at the angle your feet are at compared to your knees. Once you clip in should be roughly the Same self floating cleats also help. Try a few stretching exercises before riding too. Most of all don't give up and a visit to a physio may well be worth while. A good one will probably give you advice on shoe and pedal set up too

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lball9 [10 posts] 3 years ago
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Thanks for this. I am just doing some research now on the intercostal band to learn a bit more. I have just started using a foam roller yesterday, actually, so hopefully that will start to help

I'm using clipless pedals. I am just going to check this tonight as I'm pretty sure on my bike, my feet are very nearly straight instead of slightly outwards when I am standing. There is quite a lot of float on my pedals though, probably 20 degrees (I still have Shimano mtb peds and shoes for convenience)

I'm going to try all suggestions and then if it's still a problem I'll head the way of a physio

thanks all!  1

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arrieredupeleton [576 posts] 3 years ago
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I think Bashthebox might mean iliotibial (IT) band.

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bashthebox [751 posts] 3 years ago
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D'oh. I do. What's the IC band then? Have I made something up?

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pirnie [199 posts] 3 years ago
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Intercostal muscles are the muscles between your ribs if I remember my A level Biology right

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wwfcb [85 posts] 3 years ago
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pirnie wrote:

Intercostal muscles are the muscles between your ribs if I remember my A level Biology right

Yep, they are situated around the ribs.

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davebinks [149 posts] 3 years ago
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Before you scare yourself silly about medical words and conditions, make sure the two items below are done.

The most common cause of knee problems is
a) saddle too low - this is very common. It's nothing to do with being able to touch the ground, you are cycling, not scooting the bike.
b) cleats set wrong.

For a) get someone who is an experienced cyclist to help you. If you don't know anyone, set the saddle so that when your shoe heel is on the pedal, your leg is fully straight. That is a reasonable quick starting point.

For b) take the cleats off, ride a few miles in the shoes and then see where the pedal has marked the underside of the shoe. Fix the cleats so that they line up with the marks and go for another ride with the tool in your pocket and stop and make adjustments until they feel OK. Take the tool with you for the next few rides and don't be afraid to make more adjustments.

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pirnie [199 posts] 3 years ago
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For what it's worth, I've also had knee pain from having the saddle too high. The rule of thumb of heel on the pedal is a little too high for me apparently. This manifested itself when I was doing extra mileage on a training camp in Spain and started getting knee pain. Dropped the saddle about 5 mm on the recommendation of one of the guys I was riding with and it solved it the next day

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Al'76 [110 posts] 3 years ago
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I had similar problems when I started out....read loads of articles, but to no avail.

There is a simple solution, the only drawback is that you need to lay out some cash.

I had a Specialized BG Fit done; it cost £120 but considered pretty much all aspects of my position on the bike and what was right for me. The initial fit took a good couple of hours and there were a couple of follow up sessions included to fine tune the fit. I also switched to Speedplay Zero pedals.

The combination of the fit and pedals made riding a pain free experience....expensive, but worth it  4

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dunnoh [198 posts] 3 years ago
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I wore SPD's on my road bike and had all manner of problems with them as well as seat height issues. When I started out the seat was quite low. As I got fitter the seat height increased and like a nit I thought I would put it really high - a whole extra cm!. Took nearly 6 weeks of limping and a sports physio to sort that mistake out. I also got road cleats and shoes and they are far easier to adjust and get just right.

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zzgavin [193 posts] 3 years ago
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Also consider strengthening the VMO muscle group on the inside above the knee. They rarely get properly extended when cycling, so end up weaker than the ones on the outside.
Try this: lie back on bed or floor, stretch legs out and support top of thigh with hands (initially) point one top and trace out a, b, c, d to z with your toe in the air with leg straight. That helped to balance out my knees, along with sorting out cleat position. Works your core too  3

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lball9 [10 posts] 3 years ago
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Thank you for the continued help. Just one thing, why would my seat being too low cause knee pain? I understand if it's too high is would overstretch the knee but too low would just use normal range of motion, no?

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andycoventry [110 posts] 3 years ago
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Places stress on patellar and quadriceps tendons (apparently) - I googled it...

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big mick [183 posts] 3 years ago
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davebinks wrote:

Before you scare yourself silly about medical words and conditions, make sure the two items below are done.

The most common cause of knee problems is
a) saddle too low - this is very common. It's nothing to do with being able to touch the ground, you are cycling, not scooting the bike.
b) cleats set wrong.

For a) get someone who is an experienced cyclist to help you. If you don't know anyone, set the saddle so that when your shoe heel is on the pedal, your leg is fully straight. That is a reasonable quick starting point.

For b) take the cleats off, ride a few miles in the shoes and then see where the pedal has marked the underside of the shoe. Fix the cleats so that they line up with the marks and go for another ride with the tool in your pocket and stop and make adjustments until they feel OK. Take the tool with you for the next few rides and don't be afraid to make more adjustments.

Binky your right on the money with your advice.I would also add that tall people always look too high in the saddle but it's an optical illusion.Short people always look too low watch a cycle race it's strange but true  39

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davebinks [149 posts] 3 years ago
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lball9 wrote:

Thank you for the continued help. Just one thing, why would my seat being too low cause knee pain? I understand if it's too high is would overstretch the knee but too low would just use normal range of motion, no?

I'm sure someone will tell you the technical names etc, but I think of it as walking with your knees bent.
It means you are doing much of the work with your thigh and not allowing your calf muscles to help out.

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big mick [183 posts] 3 years ago
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davebinks wrote:
lball9 wrote:

Thank you for the continued help. Just one thing, why would my seat being too low cause knee pain? I understand if it's too high is would overstretch the knee but too low would just use normal range of motion, no?

I'm sure someone will tell you the technical names etc, but I think of it as walking with your knees bent.
It means you are doing much of the work with your thigh and not allowing your calf muscles to help out.

Again spot on.I took my bike to Spain in March and while transporting it had to take the seatpin out.Spent half a week finding the correct height/sweat spot.1mm out and my knees hurt too low, ham stings hurt too high it is important to get the height perfect.If your too high your hips will rock but only lower the seat until your hips are not rocking.That i find is the sweat spot

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lball9 [10 posts] 3 years ago
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crash144019 wrote:

Are you riding on clipless or flat pedals? Incorrect set up of cleats is a common cause of knee proplems. Stand normally and just look at the angle your feet are at compared to your knees. Once you clip in should be roughly the Same self floating cleats also help.

I think you have nailed it!  1 I went out today normally and got the same pain after about 10mi. I stopped and adjusted my cleats so that my feet were pointing slightly outward (they were completely straight before) and there was no pain from my knees. I could still feel a little discomfort but I think this was from the first 10mi. And so simple! I'll be out this weekend testing the new position from the start of my ride.

Thanks so much!  1 1 1 4 4 4

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pcb24 [3 posts] 3 years ago
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I am a physio and it could be any number of structures around the knee: patella tendon, fat pad, plica, the patella itself or it could be the femoral nerve. If it persists then follow the advice of those above that have said to see a physio. Don't google fix it!!