Is Cycling Good Or Bad For Your Knees?
If you are looking for the above answer you are in the right place.
A common concern in the cycling community is the high risk that many cyclists face in developing common ailments such as lower back pain, numb hands and wrists, and most popularly, knee pain that can become osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis in the knee describes a condition where the cartilage slowly disintegrates, causing pain as the bones rub together.
This notion gives the popular perception that cycling causes chronic knee pain, but this is not necessarily true. There are a number of factors to examine before being able to determine whether or not cycling is the root cause of your knee pain and osteoarthritis.
The truth is that most cyclists, despite their experience have a strong possibility of suffering from some soreness or knee pain eventually.
In a recent study of 116 professional cyclists, a shocking 23% reported that they were suffering from knee pain, and though professional cyclists tend to train harder and go faster, they also do have a team and coach that helps to keep them safe and prevent injuries.
This shows that knee pain is a common issue, and it will be for many cyclists, more so if they are professionals, but adjusting a couple small factors could make a difference between a couple days of soreness and a full diagnosis of osteoarthritis in the knees.
Few Reasons Affecting Your Knees While Biking
Cycling can be bad for your knees. While the act of cycling itself is not the cause of knee related injuries, common factors related to doing this exercise can cause issues to develop if they are overlooked. Three of these major factors are:
1) Improper Biking Gear & Fit
Many cyclists do not get professionally fitted, and this can result in improper measurements and discomfort while riding.
Ensure that the saddle height and saddle setback, the length of the cranks and the cleat positions are all suited for your body type and height, as any alteration can cause both knee and lower back pains.
In more specific terms, proper seating will leave your knee at a 45 degree angle topping your stroke, and with a small bend in your knee at the bottom of your stroke.
If you head to a bike shop, they can adjust your biking gear for you and provide some practical advice, but if not, you should ensure that your pedals are also adjusted. Ideally, you should be able to place your feet at the centre of your cleats without becoming uncomfortable, so ensure your pedals are neither too far nor too close from the bike frame.
2) Hereditary & Intrinsic Causes
Genetics may significantly increase your risk for developing knee pains and more detrimental joint issues such as osteoarthritis of the knees, according to an article written by the US National Library of Medicine.
The article states that specific types of osteoarthritis can be directly connected to genetics. Taking a look at your parents and grandparents can give you a bit of insight into whether or not you’re prone to this congenital defect, and combining this with excessive cycling can help the condition to develop even quicker.
Practising safe cycling, and reducing the amount of time spent and the level of pressure you put on the knees however can help to reverse the condition, and get rid of these joint pains once and for all.
Cycling will not directly induce any major joint issues, but combining your genetic disposition with an overindulgence in the sport can cause rapid degradation that will be very hard to recover from.
Other physical issues including leg length can increase issues in one leg more than the other, and cause more severe injuries than you may imagine, so it’s very clear that knee pains are not just caused by the way you cycle, but also your stature and body type.
3) Sudden Changes in Cycling Habits
One of the major issues causing injury in the cycling community is that cyclists tend to go from one range to another in a matter of weeks.
Doubling your riding time in a matter of days is a very easy way to cause knee injuries and other health issues.
Instead, try to slowly increase your rate daily, by riding 5 minutes longer and harder. Attempt to go 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then gradually increase your time and endurance on each individual ride.
If you are training for a specific event however, it’s best to start months before the actual date, in order to give yourself time to safely and gradually improve your cycling.
By gradually increasing your cycling as you go, be sure to also take into consideration things you may need to add or work on such as intervals and hills.
Ease yourself into the training process, and if possible, get a cycling buddy to help you on the way. Don’t forget to warm up before starting, to allow your muscles to be ready to work.
A How To Guide : Getting rid of Knee Pains While Biking
Though the problem is prevalent and almost inevitable due to improper cycling habits and ignorance, it can be solved by implementing three major practices and passing them on to beginner cyclists. These are:
1) Slow down & gradually increase your limits
Naturally, the more you cycle, the faster you’re going to want to go. Resist the temptation of racing with professional cyclists as a beginner, or of doubling your time and distance in a day or two, to save your knees.
Simply pacing yourself, understanding your limits and working progressively and gradually to improve your craft will not only prevent knee pains but also cause you to become a better cyclist in the long run.
2) Warm Ups & Stretching before a ride
All professional athletes have to warm up and stretch before jumping into whatever sport they’re doing, and cycling/biking is no exception.
Whether you’re training for an event or just enjoying a short ride by yourself, cycling is still a form of exercise, and to do any exercise you need to warm up.
You can do this by simply starting at a slower pace, and gradually working yourself up to your normal pace.
or let’s say, 30 push up before biking would do the job for you too.
3) Paying attention to your core when working out
Now this may sound like a long shot, but your core has a lot more to do with preventing cycling injuries than you think, especially injuries of the knee.
Your core is your base from which you actually start pedalling, so the weaker your core, the more pressure you place on your feet to go at a specific pace.
This pressure can cause more stress to be placed on the knee joints, causing knee pains over time. Your core also gives you stability in the saddle, which keeps your body operating at all the right angles to prevent any injury, but a weak core places more pressure on all the other parts of the body to perform.
Here is one explainer video for you :
Final Verdict : My thoughts
So, to answer the question, is cycling really bad for your knees? It can be if all the preventative measures are not put in place and cyclists aren’t informed about their proper form and structure, not to mention biking gear.
But cycling is also good for the knees, and if done slowly and gradually, can be used to get rid of knee pains and other joint issues.
There’s no major health issue with Biking, as long as you can make an informed decision based on what your body needs. You can read more about the health benefits of cycling here.