With more and more cycle paths being built all over Auckland and the rest of the country, the demand for bikes has skyrocketed. Cycling is fun and a good form of exercise, and an environmentally friendly way to get from A to B. As an increasing number of people buy bikes and start riding, we’re meeting some of them at our Kingsland physio clinic. They come in seeking treatment for knee problems that haven’t been caused by falling off their bikes – but because they’ve been riding their bikes with the seat at the wrong height!
If your bike seat is too low, then you pedal in a squat-like position. When you do this, your knees will remain bent throughout the entire pedalling motion and this causes stress on your knees, specifically the kneecap. The extra pressure this puts on your knees will be most obvious when you’re seated on your bike and climbing a hill or pedalling with a large amount of resistance.
On the other hand, if your seat is too high and you over-extend your leg during the pedalling motion, you might experience pain along the back or outside of your knee. Plus, when you are reaching too far for the pedals, the hamstring tendons may also become sore.
As a rule of thumb for seat height, when you are sitting on your bike seat and one foot is at its lowest point, your knee should be mostly extended – but not fully extended. By doing this, you reduce compression on the knee when it is bent, and you increase the amount of power you have when pushing on the pedals. Be sure the leg is not completely straight at that lowest point; if it is, you’re over-stretching to reach the lowest point in the pedalling motion. So while your leg should definitely be more extended than bent, it should never be fully extended. That’s where knee problems can occur.
Something else to remember is how far forward you tilt your bike seat. If you ride with it too far forward, it can cause pain in the front of your knee. Many riders, especially serious ones, believe they get more power by leaning forward, but this can cause unnecessary stress on the patellar tendon. However, a seat that is too far back can cause pain in the back of the knee due to overextension.
Instead of taking random guesses about seat height and how it is tilted, follow this advice and you’ll find your riding will be much more enjoyable and pain-free. But if you do need treatment from any riding mishap, then the team at our Kingsland physiotherapy clinic will be only too happy to help.