Cycling knee pain explained. Here are tips on how to prevent it

What’s not to love about cycling? The freedom to get up and go anytime; being able to discover hidden delights off the beaten path; a more cost-effective and stress-free commute; getting to enjoy fresh air while working out; and doing your part for the environment – there's so many reasons to enjoy riding!

It’s that time of the year when people love cycling outdoors and soaking up some vitamin D! Done right, it can be fun and rewarding. However, if done wrong, you might suffer from knee pain. Ouch! Find out what might be causing knee pain and what steps you can take to prevent an uncomfortable ride in this article.

DISCLAIMER: If knee pain persists, visit an orthopedic doctor or a physician as soon as possible. This article is not medical advice.

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Types of knee pain after biking

Though cycling is considered a low-impact activity, there’s still plenty of room for mistakes. Let’s first pinpoint where pain is coming from and then find out what we can do about it. There are five types of discomfort and knee pain after biking:

  1. Posterior knee pain (back of the knee)
  2. Anterior knee pain (in front of the knee)
  3. Lateral and medial knee pain (outer side of the knee and inside)
  4. Spring knee pain (just above the front of the knee)
  5. Weak core pain (usually associated with back pain)

These issues can be caused by many factors. The saddle can be too high or too low; the pedals may be positioned too wide or too narrow; or sometimes, we’re simply pushing ourselves too hard. So what can you do?

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Tip 1: Warm up before biking

No matter where you're off to, you should always do some warm-up exercises before jumping on your bike. All it takes is just 15 to 20 minutes! Warm-ups don’t just wake up your body, they also improve  your range of motion, give you better stability when you cycle and help prevent muscle injury. This is especially important if you’re riding in the morning when it's cooler outside. It’s like cooking a meal – you have to warm up the pan before you can begin channeling your inner chef!

Ready to start? We recommend trying out dynamic stretches that mimic your cycling movements. Morning yoga is another great option (and our personal fave!) - choose from tons of videos on YouTube for tips from the pros.  Even a power walk around your house or the block will get your blood pumping and warm you up – the point is, just warm up your muscles!

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Tip 2: Go slow and steady

When people train for marathons, they don’t just run the entire distance on the first day! And, it can take up to 20 weeks to master a new sport - the same goes for cycling. It’s always smart to start slowly and not overdo it. Here’s why.

There are many factors that can cause discomfort. It could be that you’re sitting and pedaling in the wrong position. It could be that you’re overexerting yourself, or that you didn’t warm up properly. Cycling more than you’re used to can cause anterior or spring knee pain (in front and above the knee), the most common types of cycling knee pain. This is largely because of how our knees are structured and how the repetitive motion of bending our knees and not aligning properly can cause things inside to rub in the wrong way. So don’t rush and enjoy the ride!

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Tip 3: Watch your posture!

Exerting pressure when your legs aren’t in their natural alignment is a surefire way to cause discomfort. The same goes for when we’re on our bike. Cycling for long periods in an uncomfortable or unnatural position can lead to lateral and medial knee pain (outer side and inside the knee). But there’s a simple way to check your positioning to avoid this: start by sitting on the edge of a chair or bench, with your knees at 90 degrees, and observe how your legs naturally bend. Then follow this natural form when you’re sitting on your bike.

And if that’s not working, sometimes it’s not the way we’re positioning our legs but where our feet are placed. Don’t be shy to ask a professional for help in adjusting your pedal cleats (the pedal area) so that your legs are well aligned.

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Tip 4: Fine-tune your bike

For every person out there, there’s a bike that’s just right for them - and their lifestyle. If you love stylish and comfortable electric bikes like us, our Ultimate Buyer’s Guide will help you choose your perfect bike.

After you’ve found your chosen bike and customized the components to your needs, give the bike a whirl for a week and see if you feel uncomfortable during and after. If you’re feeling pain in front and above the knee, try adjusting the height and distance of your saddle. That can make all the difference! You want to make sure your leg is never fully extended (approx. 80-90%) when your foot reaches the bottom of each pedal stroke. Your bike should be fitted in a way that enables you to use the power of your bum, thighs, and calves.

Remember, the less pressure on your knees, the better!

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Always take care of No. 1 and 2 – you and your bike!

Learn to listen to your body and you can usually prevent any knee and back pain. Don’t wait too long to consult a medical professional if the pain isn’t going away. We only get one body, so take care of it! Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun along the way!