Cycling uses muscles that aren’t used regularly in daily life. Unfortunately injury is part of the cycling sport and one of the main reasons it’s so challenging. Tightness and soreness in muscles and surrounding tissues increases with age as elasticity is lost. Knee pain is the most common lower-body problem cyclists experience and should never be ignored. It can be felt in the front, back, inside or outside the joint and symptoms may include pain, swelling and stiffness. Generally we find two major causes of knee pain—a bike that doesn’t fit properly and overdoing it.
The Bike Fix
If you’re experiencing front knee pain check saddle height with this quick test. Sit on the bike with the pedal in the six o’clock position. Knees should be straight.
Pain in the back of the knee is most often caused by a saddle being too high or far back. Lower it slightly and move it closer to the handlebars. Many fixed-gear cyclists complain of back knee pain. Give yourself a break and spend some time freewheeling. Your hamstrings will thank you.
Improper cleat placement is generally the cause of pain running up the inside or outside the knees. Some cyclists need to align each foot differently to match their natural walking pattern. Make sure the widest part of the foot is over the pedal axle when setting cleats.
The Body Fix
Managing muscle soreness over the long term is straightforward. Gradually increase strength and endurance. Don’t go overboard on any ride or you’ll pay for it. Stretch and warm up prior to cycling. Stretch hamstrings, quads and calves. Make sure to incorporate a cool down regime when the ride is over. This’ll flush the legs and allow your heart rate and metabolism to return to normal, promoting a good sleep. After your ride, use ice on your knees. It’ll feel good and reduce the chance of inflammation setting in.
Adapting an anti-inflammatory diet will also help your body heal. Reduce foods that are high in sugar, fat and sodium.
Listen to your body and give yourself the time you need to recover from a knee injury. Take one or two weeks out of the saddle. You don’t want any injury to turn into a chronic problem. You’ll be back out there, without pain, in no time.