This post is a note to beginners and a reminder to seasoned cyclists.
One of the things I notice that many cyclists do is get a generic fit from the bike shop where their bike was purchased. They then believe this is the setup they need and refuse to tweak the bike in.
This came to mind when my knees started to bug me some when I was riding. Once I noticed the problem, I tried to figure out where the pain was coming from. The front of my knee was aching, so the seat has to be too low on my bike. At first I did not realize the cause, but while doing a training ride one night, I discovered that it was rather painful to pedal out of the saddle. I also found out that it got worse as the miles piled up. I spent the rest of that ride seeing how things felt on the bike.
The first thing I noticed was I was applying a huge amount of pressure on my hands. Often when something is not quite right on our bikes, our body tries to redistribute the pressure without us even knowing it. It is only when we really focus inward, to the motions we are making and the tension spots in our body, that we finally discover things.
On my road bike I looked at my pedaling stroke to find that I was not getting full leg extension. So I pulled over, did a quick eying of how much I needed to adjust my saddle, and made the adjustment. The ride felt a little better. The following week, I found my knees were still bugging me. I checked my setup again to find my seat lowered itself some again. I adjusted it and torqued a bit more on the screw. I went about my ride and thought all would be fine. The next week I still had pain. Only when I watched myself pedal from the saddle did I discover something.
My pedaling stroke is quite different from “textbook”. You watch many pro riders and they have a flat foot throughout their pedal stroke. This is how the bike shop sets you up in the store. Foot parallel to the ground, front of the knee just over the ball of the foot when the pedal is forward, and good extension at the bottom of the stroke. What is the problem with this? Simple, the basic setup does not allow for stroke variations.
I ride with my toes slightly pointed downward. This started as I got faster and faster. This means that I remove some of my leg extension because I slightly point my toes. So when I set up my bike to get good extension, I was setting it up for flat foot pedaling stroke, not my stroke. Once I added about a solid 3/4 to 1-inch to my saddle height, only then did things feel right. I could really turn on the power without my knees bothering me. The change was almost instantaneous. I felt like I could push harder, my overall average speed increased, it just felt better. I have since changed all my saddle heights on all my bikes. I feel so much better on my roadie because of this. I did not notice it as much on my mountain bike because I spend quite a bit of time out of the saddle when I ride when compared to the roadie.
In the end, it never hurts to watch yourself pedal, to look for possible issues in your riding setup. A little change can make the biggest difference in the comfort level you experience on your bicycle. Imagine how big of a change 1-inch can make! Just a reminder to double check your fit on the bike. You do not need to spend cash on a pro fit if you can notice small details. Honestly, I was a stone throw away from paying for a pro fit. I am just glad I found out what was bothering me when I did.
Look at the image I use at the top of my blog. That is my bike on the right. You can even see how I point my feet while I pedal.
It is a great thing where you can ride your bike in comfort. Do not be stubborn. If something is bothering you on the bike, check out your fit, get a friend to watch you as you ride together, or go to a bike shop and see if they can notice what you are doing that could be the cause. Just do not do what I did and try to push through it. That could cause more harm than good.