Got Knee Pain?

Are you experiencing knee pain in these spots?
knee pain1
Here’s what works for me. If I have pain in the front of my knee, that means my saddle is to low. I’m basically putting too much force on it to push my pedals. But if the pain is in the back of my knee, that means my joint is being hyper-extended. So what’s the solution? Adjust my saddle height!
knee pain 2
Basic rule of thumb that I follow for saddle height, if I’m sitting on my bike and one foot is on the 6 o’clock position, then my leg should be slightly bent at the knee. It really comes down to your personal preference. But you could get professionally fitted for your bike at some local bike shops. Call around to see if the shops in your area offer that service.


  1. BluesCat

    When I first started riding my recumbent, I started getting some pain in the front part of my knee. I consulted with some long time ‘bent riders and they told me the problem was related to the amount of pressure you can put on the ‘bent pedals.
    They said when you’re riding a conventional bike, the maximum amount of force you can put to the pedal is your weight when you’re standing in the pedals. On a recumbent your entire leg, from your butt to the bottom of your foot, is wedged between the seat back and the pedal. A person in just fair physical shape can put almost TWICE their weight in force to the pedal.
    I was told that was probably the reason for my knee pain, and that I should concentrate on learning how to pedal: use my quads and hamstrings to pedal with in a “lever action,” and just use my knee muscles to keep my leg movement straight.
    It certainly has worked for me. Not only do I not get any knee pain while on my ‘bent, but I can ride anything from a severe crank-forward bike to seated on a BMX and not experience ANY knee pain.

  2. Graham

    That’s really interesting, BluesCat. Can you describe the motion or muscle flexing? Is it like a leg press or squat?

    The reason that I ask is that I have a bad habit of mashing large gears and occasionally get knee pain as a result. If it is just a question of technique, then maybe I can learn to mash up the hills and avoid further damage to my already messed up (soccer) knees.

  3. BluesCat

    Graham – Yeah, my initial response to those directions was “How the heck does THAT happen?” Then one guy give me some instructions which helped a lot and I’ll pass them on here.
    Concentrate on the quadriceps action first. Stand up straight and lift one foot off the floor by raising your thigh up in front of you until it is parallel to floor; kind of like a full frontal version of the Captain Morgan Rum pose.
    Now, move your thigh up and down in a lever or “hammering” motion while keeping your knee totally loose. (Tip – you’ll be able to focus on the required action if you DON’T have to concentrate on keeping your balance: lean against the inside of a doorway in order to be able to accomplish that.)
    You’ll know you’ve got the action right when your foot kicks out in front of you on the down stroke and comes back in under your knee on the up stroke; all without you doing anything with your knee muscles.
    When you do have the action right, bring the hamstrings into play. Clasp your hands together on the underside of your raised thigh, so your interlocked fingers form a cradle you can rest your leg in. Keep your knee loose, and bring your leg up off your hands; then lower your leg back down into your hands and press down. The first thing you may notice is that your knee will automatically tense up and your foot will kick out further in front of you.
    THAT is the muscle action we’re trying to suppress. We’ll never be able to totally eliminate it from happening, of course, because that action is part and parcel of WALKING. We can, however, by practice somewhat limit the amount of force we put into that knee action.
    We do that by continuing this exercise of lifting the leg up off our clasped hands and then pressing it back down; trying to keep the knee as loose as possible.
    I found that after a while, as I practiced this exercise for a few minutes with both legs before I rode, when I got on the bike and pedaled I could sense the isolated muscle action between my knees and my thighs.

  4. Hermes

    This is a really good way to explain why saddle adjustment is so important.

    A lot of cyclists I know don’t know how to explain their knee pains, so they just stop riding for a while and then get back on.

  5. Ghost Rider

    I was plagued with knee pain for years, to the point of doctors telling me that I’d need knee replacements by the time I was 40 if I kept it up. I started studying saddle position and setback about 10 years ago until I found the ideal position. No more pain! And, that position is easy to duplicate if you reference your measurements off the center of the BB spindle (and if you use the same saddle)…works on every bike in my fleet.

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