Quick Fixes for Cyclists: Prevent Crippling Knee Pain

Broken spokes, dropped chains, soggy shoes - a lot can go wrong when you're on the road. Learn these simple tips and nothing can slow you down.

    Photo: Edw via Shutterstock

The situation: You’re halfway through a ride, but your knees are killing you.  You stop to stretch the sore joints, unsure you can make it home. Is there a way to relieve the pain?

The fix: Chances are your position is the culprit. If the seat’s too high, you lose power, compensate by tilting your pelvis, and stress one knee (typically your left one). Too low and you invite debilitating leg cramps.

Unfortunately, serious knee pain isn’t magically fixed on the side of the road with a multi-tool, so focus on easy-pedaling home, says Kreidl. But lowering your saddle can work in a pinch. Ask a buddy to spot you, and adjust the seat so your knees are comfortably bent when your foot is at the bottom of the stroke. 

When you get home, keep your shoes on and measure the distance from the floor to your greater trochanter (the bonny protrusion at the top of your leg). Take between 96 to 100 percent of that number and use it to set your seat height, measuring along the seat tube from the center of the bottom bracket to the lowest point of your saddle. Err on the low side of the equation for comfort and power.

While adjusting your seat height is part science (our formula comes from a 1997 study in the journal Sports Science), it’s also an art. Every fitter has her own formula, so be prepared to explore the entire range of heights until you find a position that feels best.

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