Don’t let your sorrow come higher than your knees.

As we go into 2015 I’ve been out on my bike every day so far. Had a horrible feeling that my plan to ride more regularly would be scuppered right from the start. I’ve experienced a lot of knee pain. The front mainly but then the inside as well.

It was during a three-day escapade in November totting up just over 400 miles and 16,000 feet of climbing  that the latest episode came on. It was not so bad but did slow me down. I took a couple of weeks off the bike and things got better. That was until the Kings, Castles, Priests & Churches 200 km audax  on the 8th December. It was the first proper cold day of the year. Pretty much from the off I knew something was up. As you do though I just kept going and did my best to ignore it. By the time I finished it was getting pretty horrible and impossible to ignore. Something was not right. I put it down to the weather. My knees have always been a bit vulnerable to the cold and damp.

Took pretty much the rest of December off. It was about ten days before the pain and discomfort subsided to a level where I thought I was mended. Still I stayed off my bike thinking that I needed something more to keep the knees warm. Santa heard me and gifted me a pair of Defeet Woollen Kneekers for Christmas. Excellent. I was back out riding on Boxing day.

To my dismay though the pain albeit less intense had come back. OK I thought maybe it’s not the cold. Should have looked at this sooner. I’ve had it for ages –


 A reason I’d not fiddled around with saddle or cleats was because they were in the same set up as they had always been. A set up that had  not caused these problems before. Given that the Kneekers never solved the problem I though I’d push the saddle back and see how that goes. Back it went about a centimetre and a half and I went out for a spin. The difference was immediate. The pain at the front of my knee was certainly less severe. Not gone but definitely now more a legacy of what was rather than a problem being made worse. I figured with time it would disappear completely which it pretty much has. Still getting it a bit when I climb hills or crank the big gears but otherwise things seem fine.

The same though could not be said for the pain on the inside of my knee which was actually getting worse. Time to adjust and reset the cleats. I followed this guide

  1. Start with cleats removed from the shoe.
  2. In your normal cycling socks, put your shoe on, and tighten as normal.
  3. Sit down, but with both feet on the ground.
  4. Feel, by pressing with your thumb or finger, along the inside edge of the shoe to locate the ball of your foot. This should be fairly easy to locate, as it is the bony knuckle protruding sideways at the bottom of your big toe.
  5. Mark the side of the shoe at the centre point of the ball as accurately as possible. Get someone else to help find it if necessary.
  6. Do the same for the other foot.
  7. Take the shoes off, and place them on a flat, level surface.
  8. Hold a straight edge against the mark on the shoe, and transfer the line straight down to the same point on the sole.
  9. Turn the shoe over and make sure that your mark is visible on the sole.
  10. Fit cleat, loosely, aligning your mark with the point on the cleat where the centre of the pedal axle will be, once you are clipped in. Most cleats provide a marker on the side, by way of a notch or line to indicate the centre of the pedal axle, so it is just a case of lining up your mark with theirs.

After doing that I fine tuned them with reference to this advice and the following suggestions –

cleats and pain1 cleats and pain2

All done and out for a ride to test the new set up. I wanted to give it a proper go so did my regular 23 mile loop. I got the right side pretty much spot on first time. The left side took a couple more goes. I tried the adjustments suggested for medial pain 1 & 2  as shown above. I was careful to only make one adjustment at a time and to test that before making any others so I knew what made the difference.

I think I have things all set up correctly now. I rode 23 miles yesterday and 44 miles this morning. Feels the best it has been since before those three days in November. Just a gentle dull ache in both knee caps when climbing – 2,352 feet this morning according to Strava. This I think might be a left over from whatever strain I have put on them due to the poor set up I have ridden on.

Having worked through all of this it has occurred to me something significant had changed and which coincided with the onset of my problems. Directly before I did the rides in November I swapped out the traditional bottom bracket and cranks to a hollow tech variety. The external bearings placed the cranks out a bit hence a change in the set up which I had completely overlooked. I’ll know next time!

So now the challenge is to avoid any further injury. I think some strengthening exercises would be sensible. Following the tips from bike radar and knee pain explained will I hope sort me out for the year. We shall see.

Following the sage wisdom of the Japanese proverb – consult anyone, even your knees. If you have any experiences to share or learning to impart please go ahead and leave a comment.

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