Avoid knee pain when cycling this spring

August 28, 2018 3 min read

Avoid knee pain when cycling this spring

Ready to ramp up your training regime now that the weather is getting better? 

It’s tempting to jump on the bike and go for a ‘real’ ride once the days get longer and the sun has a little more warmth in it and while it’s good for your psychology to get back into the saddle with a show of force, it’s possibly not the best practice for your knees.

Overusing the knee joint and overloading your knees when you return to riding suddenly after a break can lead to knee issues, and actually, it’s so common for this to happen to cyclists returning to riding after a winter break they even have a term for it, “Spring Knee.” 

Usually you notice other side effects from taking a little pause over winter, maybe some extra weight from warming foods and less activity, and that’s really where the problem starts, wanting to get back into form quickly, shed the pouch and feel fit in your lycra again. 

That means you are more likely to be using big gears early and go speeding up hills, shocking your metabolism and your knees at the same time. 

Before you get back into a hard training ride, rethink your long-term goals. Do you want to get fit and back into riding on a regular basis, or hit it hard and end up spending more time on the physio’s table than you would like?

If you want to spend quality time on the bike and get back to full fitness, then plan some flat rides and stay off that outer chain ring when you first get back into it.

That way you can have some nice long rides, enjoying the sun and gentle spring breezes while you get used to the motion of spinning your pedals and putting pressure on your knee joints.

Pay attention to your body as you ride. Knee pain is not a regular part of getting back into riding, so if you experience any pain in your knees take action, it means something is wrong.

Notice knee pain?

You are best to make some adjustments to your ride, your pace and your load in order to minimise impact on your knee joints until you are ready to go harder.

High cadence, low resistance is the key to knee health.

And you will be ready, you can do those climbs quickly again, just with a little warm up, use the pain level to gauge how you are doing, if you can go a little harder and not feel any impact, then you know you are on the right path to recovery and summer fitness. The moment you feel any resistance in your knee joints, bring it down and go for a lighter gear and stay off the climbs.

You can increase your training ride to gradually include more resistance as you go along, it will probably only take a couple of weeks. It’s so essential that you ease back into your ride slowly, especially if you have a history of knee injury or pain in the knee joints.

There are different types of knee pain that are linked to different causes. Knowing what you are dealing with will get you taking the right action quickly.

As always if the pain you are feeling isn’t going away with a reduced ride load or adjusted settings, see a professional health specialist who can take a closer look and stop significant damage before it takes hold. You can do long term damage to your knees if you don’t do anything about it!

If your bike is set up the same (and you are taking the same position) as before your break then you can be pretty certain your knee pain is due to Spring Knee.

Otherwise, check your seat height, pedals and positioning, which might be out if you did a full clean or dismantled your bike over the winter break.

If you do need to make adjustments to your bike, test the new setup slowly and in a restricted way so you are not stuck on the road with joint pain when you are far from home.

If you feel pain on your ride, especially if your knee becomes hot and swollen, cut your ride short, head home gently and take the load off. Elevate your leg and apply an ice pack (on and off using a towel or cloth sleeve to reduce the shock of the chill). If the pain persists do use a compression bandage and seek professional advice.

Your aim is to be on the road for longer so take it easy out there and be safe.

Cycling without any knew pain? That’s freedom!