How to reduce joint pain while cycling

Posted by tan xiao yan on

As we all know, cycling is a low-impact sport, meaning it’s very gentle on our joints. Because of that, more and more people give up sports like running and get on their bikes to save their ailing joints. However, its lack of impact doesn’t mean cyclists are immune to joint pain. If you have ever experienced the sharp pain in one or both of your knees, you are not alone. Researches show that there are 65% of cyclists experiencing it. In fact, knee pain is still one of the most common lower- body complaints among cyclists. Here is a look at the common causes of it and solutions to reduce your risk of joint to reduce knee pain

Common causes of knee pain

Incorrect saddle height
Incorrect saddle height can result in stress, pain, and injury. When your saddle height is too high, you will be likely to feel a pain at the back of the knee or along the outside of the knee because all the posterior structures are being overstretched. While when your saddle height is too low, you will be likely to feel a pain at the front of the knee because of compression forces of the patellofemoral joint.


When the seat height is too low, it will place more stress on the front of the knee. When the seat height is too high, it will cause you to reach for pedals and place more stress on the hamstring tendons behind the knee and the iliotibial band on the outside of the knee near its point of insertion. So what’s the quick reference to check is your saddle is the right height? “You should have a seat and rest your heel on the pedal with the pedal in the 6 o’clock position. The knee of that leg should be straight and that equates to a 20 to 25-degree knee bend when clipped it”, Says Sara Bresnick, the owner of pedal power training solutions in Medford, Massachusetts.


Overtraining means you are doing too much, too soon and too hard. Because cyclists are too ambitious with their training, they usually do too much, too soon and too hard. Riding longer, faster and harder suddenly is one of the common causes for cyclists to hurt their knee. When you are overtraining, your connective tissues can’t sustain the load you are outing on them, thus your joints are likely to get inflamed and pipe up. The symptoms can be pain around the knee cap, behind the knee, below the knee or on the outside of the knee.


Let your body recover properly or you are likely to develop chronic pain, debilitating injuries, and hefty medical bills. If you suffer knee pain, what you should do first is to stop the activity and then take a rest from cycling at least for a week or two to give your body time to repair the damage. Of course, it doesn’t mean an end of the riding. After that, you should avoid increasing mileage suddenly and try to build up slowly, by 20 to 25 percent each week.

Big gears
A common cause of cycling knee pain is over- stress because of using too high and too big a gear. Big gears can cause patellar tendinitis or patellofemoral pain syndrome and thus you will feel pain just below the knee or a generalized discomfort around your kneecap.


Riding in a big gear for long distance which causes you to rely on a low pedal cadence increase the undue stress on your knee joint. What you need to do is to adopt a slightly higher pedal cadence above 90 revolutions per minute. If it’s unfit for you current setup, try to switch to a compact crankset or a larger rear cassette. When pedaling at a lower cadence, if you generally feel more comfortable, you should work on your quadriceps strength to improve it.

Incorrect placement of shoe cleats
correct placement of cleat

Some cycling knee pain problems result from the incorrect placement of shoe cleat. All of us has a natural angle that our feet prefer to be at. When you use cleated shoes and matching pedals. You should adjust the cleat to permit your foot to be at its natural angle. If not, the resulting twist on your lower legs will certainly affect the alignment of your knee joint and thus cause serious knee pain.


What you are pedaling, you should use the ball of your foot, not the toes and the arch. The correct foot position can give you the most power and protect you from injuries to your knee. To ensure the correct placement of the shoe cleats, you should set he bike up in a trainer and engage and release the pedals for several times. During the course, you should feel comfortable and not change your body position on the bike. Then pedal to feel where the most pressure is on the bottom of your foot and it should be at the center of the ball of your foot. The ball f your foot slightly in front of the pedal’s axle is best. Reposition you cleat on the bottom of the shoe either forward, backward, left or right until you find the correct place and don’t feel any knee pain. It makes takes a couple of weeks before your cleat feel right because every time you just make a small change.

Knee pain cycling bonus tips

Warm up
Always give yourself a proper warm- up, so your muscles and connective tissues are warm and your synovial fluids are flowing before your riding.

Ice often
After long distance ride, you’d better ice. Try your best to decrease the risk of inflammation before it becomes a chronic problem. Following a cycle of 15 minutes of icing and 30 minutes off, 15 minutes of icing…… don’t ice more than 15 minutes or it will be counter- productive.

Stretch after every ride
It is of great importance to stretch on the days you don’t ride. In fact, a stretch is a good way to prevent cycling knee pain.

Adopt a more anti-inflammatory diet
Changing your nutrition to be more anti- inflammatory is a good way to help your body should always avoid trans fat, alcohol, excessive caffeine consumption and excessive refined carb consumption. You should eat more grass- fed and grass- finished meat and vegetables and fruits. If you are overweight, you should lower your body fat percentage. Live a healthier lifestyle will certainly help you a lot.

Listen to your body
Every one of us is different with distinct level. Listen to your body and learn to balance between overtraining and not training enough. Blindly sticking to other people’s program will not be always good for you. Ask for a qualified cycling coach and get professional advice according to your level is a smart way to help you.


Knee pain can be a demon if you don’t pay attention to it at the very beginning and the best way to prevent it is also to prevent it from the beginning. Always listen to your body and give your body a recovery to reduce the risk of a chronic problem. What you need to do is ease up on your training and seriously consider your bike fit, then you will be less likely to suffer from knee pain.