Biking With Bad Knees

As a locksmith, I spent a lot of time on my knees and today I pay the price. Many times, but particularly in the winter, I have knee pain when I climb stairs or sometimes when I walk. Yet I participate in an annual bicycling event to raise funds and awareness for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in which I bike for almost 200 miles. To train for the event, I bike around 1,000 miles in three months. How do I do it?

Dr. Weil, on his web site (see link below) recommends glucosamine and exercise as a treatment for joint pain. I have concentrated on exercise. To combat joint pain of any kind, strengthen the muscles around the joint so that you can ease the pressure with strength. To ease the stress on my knees from cycling and from daily life, I adopted strategies through observation and experiment.

First I observed the positions of the different parts of my leg and foot when I experienced pain. By avoiding those foot and leg relative positions, I was able to avoid pain. I observed that if I climbed stairs with my foot slightly pointed, climbing stairs was not painful. To keep my feet in that position, it is necessary for me to pretty much run up the stairs. Therefore in order for this strategy to work for me, I needed to be in pretty good shape.

To apply this idea to cycling, I observed where in the rotation of the pedal my knee or knees would hurt me. I found that if I kept my ankles loose instead of rigid when accelerating that my ankles absorbed a lot of the pressure for my knees. Pedaling with a relaxed ankle strengthened muscles in my legs that enabled me to ride long distances with little or no pain. Riding long distances, in turn, increased my general fitness making it easier for me to avoid knee pain in daily life.

The key for me to avoiding knee pain was learning to relax. I learned that the more tension I had in my body, the more likely it was that my knees would hurt. For me, the keys to relative freedom from knee pain were observation, stategizing, exercise and relaxation.

Keep Your Knees Inside

To avoid damaging your knees while cycling, try to remain seated as much as you can and keep your knees inside. That is, when each knee rises to the top of the rotation of the crank, it should almost brush the top tube. If your knees are tilting outward you are placing possibly harmful lateral stress on the joint.

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Comments 15 comments

cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

Maybe you should try a skateboard instead, could be better on your knees!


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

175 miles on a skateboard. That can be done?


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Several people I know have had replacement knees, including a cycling friend who competes. Mine are fairly shot but I am reluctant to go that far. I wear a knee brace and that works for me. Good luck,Tom thanks for the hints.


Jmell 7 years ago

Don't give in Tom.....my hubby has knee pain and he overcomes it with exercise also. He's in better physical shape at 59 than many younger men.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

One of the riders in my fundraising team, the Polar-Type Bears, had both hips replaced a few months before last year's ride, Gypsy. Still, I'd prefer not to have surgery, too.

Ya, Jmell, I think staying in shape is really where it's at as we get older!


Candie V profile image

Candie V 7 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

The crazy thing is, there's a guy who does the STP - Seattle to Portland (200+ miles) ride on a unicycle.. I know knee pain and biking.. i have to cantilever my shoes a little and adj the seat height to change muscle positions..and better shoe inserts.. crap it sucks getting old!


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

It does, too! No unicycles for me, thanks.


Dink96 profile image

Dink96 7 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

Admirable work, Tom. Keep those wheels turning for that fundraising. Ever heard of the Austin to Shiner bike ride?


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

I can't say as I have, Dink, but I will look it up!


Candie V profile image

Candie V 7 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

Maybe a unicycling Turkey? More for a T'giving day parade than a fundraiser, perhaps, love your heart for this cause!!


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

Go get em Tom! Exercise does it even for my badly damaged knee. I had one knee smashed up pretty bad, but exercise alone has kept it going for another twenty years so far. Congratulations on doing this fundraising ride.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Ha ha unicycling turkey! I love it, Candie.

That's great news, Earnest! I don't think one can over-estimate the benefits of hard exercise.


lxxy profile image

lxxy 7 years ago from Beneath, Between, Beyond

Thanks for the tips Tom!

Unfortuantely, Cali is way too much for hills for my taste in utilizing a non-motorized conveyance beyond my two feet.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Lance has no trouble with California, but I might, Ixxy!


wanderingpops profile image

wanderingpops 7 years ago

I destroyed my left knee playing ball in high school, 33 years ago, and bike a lot. Associated joint muscle exercises have helped me more than anything. Like you, climbing stairs works better for me if I point my feet as I progress. Having a weak knee for so many years has of course caused undue strain on the other knee. I am just trying to get them to last 10 more years. I'm afraid if I have one or both replaced at too young age I will only have to have it redone.

Good hub. Thanks.

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