Biking and knee health

November 14, 2017 / no comments

How does cycling impact your knees?

A big advantage of cycling is that it’s a low impact sport. This means it is easy on your joints attracting people of all ages. Repetitively spinning your leg over and over again takes its toll. Knee pain is the most frequent injuries in cycling, from professionals all the way to amateurs. So, how does low impact exercise cause this? In this article we explore some of the main causes of bad knees, and ways to fix them to keep you cycling.


Too far too quickly
Trying to do too much, too quickly can cause knee pain. The knee is supported by connective tissue. If you push yourself too much, by rapidly increasing your distance, speed or climbing, then you are putting added pressure on your knees. They will not be acclimatised to dealing with the added load. The result is inflammation of the knee, triggering pain. Just like building up muscles, you need to gradually let your knee joints get acclimate to the added load; only increase ride lengths or times by 20% when you first start cycling. Furthermore, always warm up which gets the connective tissue in your knees ready for load bearing; start out with each ride with gentle cycle at high cadence to get the blood flowing to your joints and muscles.


Poor fitting saddle
Having a bad fitting bike can cause all sorts of misgivings. Too long of a stem is bad for your back, however, for knee pain, the biggest culprit is saddle fitting. If the front of your knee is the problem, try raising the saddle a bit or moving it back in relation to the handlebars. If the back of your knee hurts, try lowering the saddle a bit or moving it forward a bit in relation to the handlebars. Imagine pedal motion is the arm of a clock; you can check positioning by placing your pedals in the 6-o’clock and 12-o’clock positions and rest your heel on the lower pedal. Your leg should be straight, which equates to a 20- to 25-degree knee bend when clipped in. When both feet are positioned parallel to the floor (3 o’clock and 9 o’clock), the forward knee should be over the ball of your foot.

If you find pain persists, we recommend getting a professional bicycle fitting. This will ensure you have a bicycle set up which puts you in the best position to eliminate pain.


Over Training
Cycling works specific muscle group, primarily quadriceps. If cycling is your main exercise, it is likely you have overdeveloped quadriceps and underdeveloped glutes and hamstrings. This imbalance can put pressure on your knees, which require an equal balance for support. Cyclists should rectify this imbalance; strengthen all muscles groups, by doing resistance-training exercises for all muscles in your legs, core and back. There are cyclist’s specific routines, and also tailored to specific goals, such as longer endurance or more powerful sprinting. British Cycling and Training Peaks are good resources to find a routine to support your needs.




Too high gear
A common mistake by cyclists, particularly those starting out, is to cycle in too high a gear. It often seems that a higher gear is faster. However a faster cadence in a lower gear is now considered better. ‘Mashing’ gears with cadence below 70rpm puts a lot of strain on the knee joint. The school thought is that higher cadence gives you better endurance as you rely more on the aerobic system, which can recover faster than the muscular system. A cadence sensor may be a useful training aid to help you understand correct cycling gears. This fits ether on the crank or wheel, with a computer display in the handlebar. This displays live cadence data during the ride, so you know if to change gear, and also post ride data to analyse your pedal habits.


Weak core
Core is not just about strong abs; your core, is actually group of muscles including abs, hip and glutes. These help stabilise and support body movements. The core supports riders in the saddle providing a platform to push off and balance. Over a long ride, just as leg muscles fatigue, so do core muscles. A weakened core results in less support and cyclist legs becoming lazy and moving side to side while pedalling.

It is important to train your core off the bike. You can find specific training exercises for cyclists, aimed at core strength. You should train your core at least once a week, and ideally when you have time away from the saddle to allow sufficient recovery.


Throughout the pedalling rotation, leg muscles remain slightly contracted, and not at full stretch. Over time, this shortens the muscles and connective tissue, causing reduced flexibility. If you have poor range of motion, your pedalling may end up causing pain as your kneecap is unable to track in a healthy fashion. You can minimise this by doing a warm down stretch after every cycle. Additionally, foam rolling all leg muscles can keep legs feeling flexible. If you have long standing pain, getting a sports massage can help break any knots or tensions areas in your legs.


Pedal position
Where you put your feet on your pedals has a big effect on your knees. Cleats should be positioned so the ball of your foot is directly over or even a bit behind the pedal axle. Your cleat angles should be aligned with the natural angle of your heels, since unnaturally toeing in or out can stress your knees. Road cleats can also have float adjusted. This is the amount the shoe can move before unclipping; too little and the knee can be forced into painful positions too much float allows the knees to toggle all over the place which not only wastes watts, but stresses your joints. Nikola Innovation Pedals have taken this a step further with revolutionary ZIVO technology by allowing your legs and knees move in their intended position.

Feel free to give us a call or drop a note if you have additional questions or comments on your knee health.


Professional Bike fit – Is it for you?

May 25, 2016 / no comments

Professional Bike fit – Is it for you?

Bike Fit

When I was an exuberant 15-year old out seeking to expand my neighborhood reach, I saved up to buy the bike of my dreams. I scrutinized bike catalogs for a year trying to decide which model I wanted as well as could afford. Once I was certain what and were to buy, I dashed into the store loaded with cash and rolls of change saved from the many grass cuts and odd-end jobs. I recall the “fitting process” was simply me standing over a couple of bikes to determine what looked best with a couple tweaks to the handlebars. It wasn’t until I began researching the bike industry a few years ago as an entrepreneur before I really understood the role of a professional bike fitter.

I see the fitter role like a cross between a physical therapist and a mechanical engineer. The main focus is a balance of your body’s fit to the bike by making mechanical adjustments ensuring a comfortable ride. A professional fitter will go through a series of classes to obtain certification. They study how to interpret your riding style, goals, and ailments while taking into account bike geometry types like triathlon, mountain, or road. Most riders have never used a professional fitter likely due to the lack of understanding the benefits. An inexperienced cyclist may assume an ache or pain that is occurring as “must be something with my body” which could be accurate but not the full story.

A friend shared a story about his father while in physical therapy rehabbing from a leg injury by using a stair climber. A stair riser that was seven inches tall was no problem for him to climb, but a 7.5” stair riser was a height beyond his legs ability making it impossible for him to scale. Small adjustments even at ½” increments whether a stair height or a bike seat can be very significant so before making further self-diagnoses, consider a professional bike-fitting session.

Fitters can be found through various channels. Many are staff members within a local bike shop working on customers who purchase new equipment at that store. Fitters can also be independent professionals with private fit studios engaging with a variety of clients. A quick source to locate fitters is a site offering a map of their location with correlating customer satisfaction rating. Your local fitter can speak with you and share a sense of their fit session methodology, time commitment, and cost.
The natural motion pedal

Tips for Cycling Hips

March 2, 2016 / no comments

Tips for Cycling Hips

Each year over 100 million bicycles are sold to cyclists with a wide range of skill levels and conditioning. The number of riders grows for many reasons, including good health practices, affordability, and just for the pure fun of riding.

The increase in the cycling population also brings a range of injuries. Among the most common are:
Stiffness in hip rotator muscles
Repetitive stress injury (RSI) affecting the Iliotibial Band
Strains of the quadriceps and hamstrings muscles due to over-training

The image below, courtesy of Stephen Lardson (USA Cycling Coach), diagrams the muscles used and when they are activated in the pedal cycle. It’s not surprising that your hips can be sore or injured while cycling given the extensive use of muscle power.

Cycling Pedal Stroke & Muscles Used

Three quick stretching and strengthening exercises I do almost daily help my hips tremendously and are easy to do at work or at home.

Walk backwards- This simple yet effective activity strengthens muscles like tibialis anterior and gastro Achilles, benefiting your knees and hips. It takes a bit of getting used to in terms of coordination and awareness, but it feels great after a few days. Additional benefits for walking backwards may be found at this site.
Stretch your hips- My left hip hurts most often, likely a result of my love of golf. Swinging a club brings tremendous torque on your hips. For right- hand golfers your left hip is prone to soreness; the opposite for lefties.

I stretch my hips by sitting upright in a chair without supporting my back with both feet flat on the ground. I raise and place place one leg crossed over the other so my ankle is resting on my other knee. Gently I bend at my waist, slowly moving forward, stretching the piriformis muscle in my hip. Perform 5 or 6 times and repeat for the other leg.

Step Exercises- A variety of ways to accomplish step aerobics like using a simple plastic step block found at most gyms:
Taking stairs instead of elevators wherever possible Most smart phones have the ability to track your stair activity. Track your stair climbing for a week and see how your legs and backside feel.
Squats are another great method of strengthening muscle groups in and around the hips. Starting with no weights, begin practicing the motion. Once comfortable with the motion and balance, add a small amount of weight increasing each week and you’ll gradually see and feel the benefits.

Developing a Bike Pedal Into a Business

November 30, 2015 / no comments

Developing a Bike Pedal Into a Business

The question, “what if?” is likely the foundation of many new products, software ideas, life-saving pharmaceuticals, as well as the start of ground breaking companies.   Seeing something you value and benefit from, but wonder if it could do more or be applied differently and result in a whole new product. Thousands of ideas and companies are developed through a combination process to help expand the benefits of the original design.


Here are some historic combinations of totally unrelated items either intentionally or accidently combined into one producing outstanding products:


  1. Copper + Zinc = Brass
  2. A convex glass with a concave glass created Galileo’s telescope
  3. Motors and carriages made Henry Ford wealthy
  4. Wheels added to a suitcase created the rolling suitcase
  5. MP3 players, cameras, and phones created the ubiquitous smart phone
  6. Rubber bracelets and accelerometers produce a fitness tracker
  7. Light adhesive added to small paper squares made post-it-notes


This methodology is exactly how our road bike pedal technology was developed. Years ago while roller-blading and cycling around the same time, I found when skating my legs had a different muscular sensation then bike riding. My quads burned when I biked, but not when roller-blading. Oppositely, my calf muscle and adductors burned after roller-blading but not while biking.


Great ideas are often simple concepts taken one step further. The obvious is not always visible thus needing a creative push to blossom. Apple is well known for their mantra of product designing at the intersection of technology and humanities, which they clearly have the creative team to develop at that crossroad.


Nikola Innovation’s focus is at the intersection of comfort and performance. Specifically looking at the human body touch points on the bike starting with pedals. Over 100 parts make up a bike but only 3 points where your body unites with the bike. This is not to suggest we are an Apple comparative business in our first year of operations, however we are comfortable of following a similar mantra. By keeping our focus clear, amazing products will continue to develop keeping you comfortable and improving your cycling experience.


Product development is balance of deliberate thinking with trial and error. Attentive to avoid over-searching for the perfect design or burning cash on a thousand failed prototypes. Fail fast truly is sage advice one should observe if you feel you have a killer idea ripe for market. Learn from the results both good and bad and adjust quickly applying the discoveries. Many a-ha moments happen when you see the wreckage you produced. After the disappointment can come great relief and joy when the light goes on.


I had to understand what looks like simple dynamics of a bike pedal integrating the lateral forces of skating. Amazing the amount research and development occurred for this simple idea. The point here is be prepared for a long journey. Maybe your learning curve is shorter or have the ability to fund additional resources to develop. You’ll know it when you get into it. Good news is sometimes there are unintended benefits that occur in your development. In our case we were designing for speed and power and found we produced a product great for knees and hips. Do not dismiss these as “oh-well” moments but view them as new opportunities.


There are many benefits and risks you will encounter with people. One of our most accomplished employees was a young intern with great vision and drive to learn. Allowing him to try and discover was a tremendous benefit to our business. Occasionally you’ll encounter a person who truly believes they can figure out a solution to your problem and turns out they are really just great sales people and believe they can but fail to deliver. A term our controller uses when he sees this “All flash and no cash”.


Many ways to success and equally many ways to fail. I view our evolution in four phases of evolution. This chart below is one way of bringing your tangible idea to market should be adjusted according to your timeline and resources. I purposely left of date ranges in the timeline since I prolonged the development by only working evenings and weekends moonlighting.



Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3 Phase 4


Customer feedback Branding



Funding Customer feedback/ Focus session

Customer feedback

Research and Development

Legal- patent search, company structure… Funding


Product Testing

Legal patent, NDA…


Research and Development




Product Testing


Trial and error


Product Testing

Trial and error

Product design refinement



Product design refinement Trial and error


It’s safe to assume rarely things go according to plan. Back of a napkin math suggests double the amount of time you think you need and double the amount of funds needed. On the product cost of goods sold we came close to our targets, which were well vetted in phase 2 studying the market we were competing in.


Helpful Discoveries:


  1. If you need more than a minute to describe your product, it better be really awesome.
  2. Patents can be a strategy in development as much as protection. When to file, where, and what to claim is worth your focus and attention in the long run.
  3. Product must sell itself – Steve Jobs obsessed over the style of screws used in his products both visible to the consumer and concealed inside rarely if ever to be seen.
  4. Do not underestimate your marketing needs. Creating awareness in a worldwide market is a huge undertaking. 22 million hits in a Google search using “bike pedal,” when your goal is to be listed on page 1.
  5. Things happen. When I am asked how things are going, I struggle to respond since there are so many things happening both tremendously awesome and ominously awful and I don’t know where to start. When engaging an entrepreneur, instead of “How’s it going? Ask something like “What is the biggest challenge you are currently focusing on?”
  6. Everyone has an opinion and advice with good intentions. It’s your job to figure out which path to choose and don’t look back once you make the move. This does not mean you won’t change course, just don’t regret a move.
  7. There is value to your gut feeling. Our engineer sometimes states his spider senses are tingling when something feels awry and he is usually right when that happens. When stuck at a crossroad, use what you know and what you sense as the best path to take.
  8. The Law of Whack-A-Mole. You have an issue that you or your team formulates a sound solution only to discover it caused a new issue. Don’t fret as taking what you learned and adding one or two more steps moving forward usually resolve these.
  9. Keep moving. Never a day passes without me working or thinking about the idea. I don’t necessarily like the compulsive focus, however I know time is limited and need to move forward before someone else tries to step in. I try not to track hours spent, as that does not necessarily equate to productivity. I look at daily and weekly achievements as a better way to measure milestones.


It is amazing how much I have discovered in this new business and myself in the past few years. Stretching past comfort zones, learning new skills, networking in an entire new market and encouraging others to take the first step toward their passion and ideas. We have plenty of road ahead of us and much to learn moving forward. I hope this provides you with the motivation to try your idea and step beyond your comfort zone.