Knee Pain During And After Cycling – What Causes it? UPDATED 2021
Knee pain during and after cycling is one of the most common injuries cyclists experience from riding a bike. While many people think it’s overuse, there can be many other causes of knee pain during and after cycling.
In this article, we look at what causes outside knee pain, inner knee pain, and top of knee pain when cycling. So hopefully you can prevent any soreness or discomfort during or after cycling.
What Causes Knee Pain After Cycling?
Generally, there are only two things that cause knee pain after cycling. And that is:
– Position on the bike
Your bike position is usually the biggest cause of knee pain after cycling. Having the wrong position can plan excess stress on the knee and also force misalignment during the pedal stroke. The most common causes of knee pain from position are:
– Incorrect fore-aft (saddle forward back)
– Incorrect saddle height
– Incorrect saddle tilt
– Incorrect cleat position
Generally, pain in certain areas of the knee can give you insight into what is causing the discomfort or misalignment.
When your position is incorrect there will be excess load on the knee, this often leads to direct pain from pressure or overuse syndrome. Which is felt after some weeks or months. People that experience overuse symptoms often overlook their position and think that they are riding too much. However, for most people, this is incorrect, as the overuse symptoms usually come from riding too much with an incorrect position set up.
What Causes Knee Pain During Cycling?
Just like knee pain after cycling, Position is largely the cause of knee pain during cycling. This is often felt directly when your position on the bike places excess stress on the knee. For example:
– Too high saddle height
– Cleats too far forward
– Incorrectly titled saddle
– Saddle to forward.
Most of the above cause pain on top of the knee generally when pressure is applied down during the pedal stroke. Which typically places excess stress on or around the patella.
Other causes of knee pain when cycling can be caused by cold conditions. Knees generally feel the most effect of cold temperatures than other parts of the leg. So if you experience pain in the knee during cold weather, try wearing full-length cycling tights or leg warmers. Generally, you should be covering your knees under temperatures of 10 degrees.
Outside Knee Pain When Cycling
If you are experiencing outside knee pain when cycling or after it is usually caused by either your saddle height, cleat alignment, or a tight iliotibial band (IT band).
If you have outside knee pain caused by cleat alignment, it will typically take some days to experience any discomfort on the outside of the knee. This is a repetitive injury caused by misalignment. However, if you are riding with a too-high saddle the knee pain can come on much faster. Typically within a few hours of riding.
Alternatively, if pain on the outside of the knee is caused by a tight iliotibial band (IT band) it will take much longer to appear. It will first appear as a dull pain. Then continuing to ride will increase the discomfort until it is impossible to ride.
Inner Knee Pain When Cycling
Inner knee pain when cycling is also a cleat issue, and sometimes a saddle height issue when you are seated too low. It can also be caused by a tight iliotibial band (IT band) and gluteal muscles.
Inner knee pain is seen much less than the outside. As more people generally are seated too high rather than too low. However, when a too high saddle is paired with misaligned cleats it can cause inner knee pain that can last days and sometimes weeks.
Top of Knee Pain When Cycling
Top of knee pain when cycling is the most common area of the knee cyclists experience discomfort. This is largely due to the fact many amateur riders feel that being too low and too far forward gives them more power. This is the feeling most people have, but unfortunately, all it ends up doing is placing more stress on the front and top of the knee.
Riders that also tilt their saddle aggressively down can also cause pain at the top of the knee. This effectively does the same thing by sliding the body forward. Making your saddle height effectively lower. Placing more stress on your knee as you move forward.
Thigh Muscle Pain After Cycling – Is it Related to Knee Pain?
Thigh muscle pain after cycling is often related to top of knee discomfort. When you are positioned too far forward and too low, you end up over utilizing your quadriceps. Causing thigh muscle pain after cycling can last for a few hours or even days.
Typically in most severe cases, you will feel tight and sore in and around your quadricep muscles and you may struggle to walk downstairs. However, for most people that experience thigh muscles pain, it generally passes within a day.
If this is something you experience after long rides. Make sure you aren’t:
– Tilting your saddle down aggressively
– Sitting too forward
– Sitting too low
For most people, bike position is the biggest cause of knee pain, rather than overuse. So if you are not sure about what is causing your knee problems, book in with a qualified bike fitter in your town. They can help you get your saddle height, fore-aft, and cleat position right. Preventing any pain in the future and also preventing any thigh muscle pain after cycling.
Alternatively, make some small adjustments yourself based on known causes. This will help you understand the cause of discomfort.