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.

 

Stretching
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 slowtwitch.com 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

Three Tips for Spring Bike Ride

April 21, 2016 / no comments

Three Tips for Spring Bike Ride

IMG_2364Three Tips for Spring Biking

SPRING BIKE RIDE PREP

The weather gods have smiled this year rushing in spring and waking people from the great hibernation. A craving to be outdoors and active has ignited and soon millions of people will be outside again.

If you have been active this winter and maintained a decent cardio and muscle tone, you’ll still likely need to prep your body to be outdoor bike ready. Here are three areas to focus on which to help minimize aches and pains within your first few rides.

1. Quads- Squats are one of the most comprehensive exercise to tone your legs into shape. We mentioned this last month as a great exercise to help with hip loosen muscles as well. Start without weights doing 3 sets of 10 squats. Add some weight about ½ your body mass then increase each week as you feel your strength improve.

2. Hamstrings- If you are like me, hamstring flexibility is similar to bending steel. Flexibility can take many months of stretching and strengthening working at it daily. Stretching muscles multiple times a day, like a morning shower or while at work using a chair or stool to prop each leg. Keep your legs straight with a light stretch holding for 30 seconds. There are countless websites and blogs on hamstring stretches so spend a couple minutes to find one you feel comfortable with.

3. Neck/Shoulders- This is an area that tends to catch cyclists off guard during the first few rides. Take the time to loosen your neck and shoulders with a few basic stretches. A great way to stretch and increase strength in this area is a few sets of shoulder shrugs. Keep your arms loose down by your side and rotate your shoulders forward 10x then backwards 10x. If you sit at a desk all day hammering away on a computer, then this drill is good even when not riding.

For those of you who were on a major hiatus this winter, I suggest starting with a short ride at 60-80% of your normal effort. It’s important to allow your body time to re-acclimate to sitting in the saddle and muscles firing as intended. Find a day the weather is cooperative for your first outdoor outing. If you tune up your bike through a local shop or do the basic yourself, make sure your ride is ready to go for performance and safety.

Cycling Fact of the Day

Exactly 48 years ago this spring, iconic Chicago brand Schwinn launched a line of bikes called the “Krates”. In 1968 Schwinn launched the Orange Krate, Lemon Peeler, and Apple Krate.

The bikes were equipped with front and rear suspension, front disk brakes, and a “banana” seat. This style bike came with a smaller front wheel creating a craze of chopper style bikes which were incredibly fun to ride offering an aggressive and appealing visual design.

Additional versions followed in 1969 with the Pea Picker, 1970 introduced the Cotton Picker, and 1971 followed with the Grey Ghost. The bikes sold for about $90, an astronomical price for many families then, and now valued well over $1000.

 

Nikola Innovation’s First Interbike Experience

September 30, 2014 / no comments

Nikola Innovation’s First Interbike Experience

For those who may not be familiar with the name Interbike, it’s the largest trade show for the biking industry held in Las Vegas. There are over 20,000 attendees with several thousand people working the booths and at the trade show. For a first time exhibitor you go through so many thoughts from excitement, intimidation, and some confusion. Do I have enough flyers? Will anyone walk by our booth? Will we have enough people working the booth, and where is our booth?!

 

I am a visual person so in my office were several large 2’x3’ post-it notes scribbled with to-dos of items we needed to achieve each week counting down to show time. Each item completed was joyously checked off when accomplished providing small victories in our preparedness for the event. I kept these sheets as memento that gave me an opportunity to chuckle at myself in the many things I worried about and often unnecessarily. There is a fun Julia Child’s quote“…pleasures of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry; and one of the lessons is to grin and bear it if it cannot be fixed” which I apply myself many times in the pedal business.

 

It’s safe to say of course, it’s good to have a plan and be ready when things don’t go according to plan, like the actual booth and materials arriving 2 days late and 2 hours after the start of Interbike! What you need to be prepared for is how the audience responds to your product or service. This was our first chance to present our product in an open environment. We had a good inkling based upon our local riders’ feedback, however, we were now in front of people we did not know and who would give us their unfiltered comments. Will they like it? What are they going to say? Will they even try riding the pedals?

 

We estimate 200 people did a test ride on a bike set up in our booth. Realizing the best sales material, sales pitch, or information was second fiddle to riding the pedals, we quit talking and let the customers experience for themselves the benefits of our design. Seeing the visceral reaction was truly priceless to all of us working the booth. Doubters and skeptics were transformed in front of us. Unbridled smiles formed on their faces. “Wow, I never would have guessed this to be such a natural feeling” was the common phrase of the show. “This is so cool, how did you guys ever think of this?” You can’t script this any better. Such powerful feedback is what any company aspires for to grow and build great innovative products and brand awareness in their industry.

 

My goal many years ago was just to see if this idea works and could we make a few to install on few bikes. Reflecting on those many years while standing in our first booth was surreal. Attending a conference, promoting an idea literally sketched out in a notebook and achieving our first sales is beyond words. We couldn’t be more pleased with our launch and look forward to seeing more and more people enjoying our products and brand.

 

See you at Interbike 2015 or sooner!