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Thread: Knee Myth

  1. #1
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    Knee Myth

    I know this has been bandied about forever, but what have you all noticed about your knees?

    I've found that riding SS not only does NOT "bother" my knees, but actually has lessened any knee issues I previously had. My experience is that riding SS has actually strengthened them. Are there any studies out there to either prove the harm, or disprove the myth?

    I ask because, I recently was directed to the rules at NICA which disallows singlespeeds, by rule.

    NICA Rule #4.2 actually states:

    "Pushing big gears has been shown to be detrimental to the joints
    (specifically the knees) of young student-athletes. Bikes must have
    multiple gears including at least five cogs in the rear."

    It's "been shown". Really? I want to see this study.
    "And crawling on the planet's face, some insects called, The Human Race..."

  2. #2
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    I can see it causing some issues with the young ones since their muscles and joints are still growing and trying to work out their natural bio-mechanics. I think, but don't really know, but would assume (heh) if you "over strengthen" certain muscles too soon it can change direction of joint movement and put strain on soft tissues that would otherwise not take that path during natural development. But that's just my thought on to why they have such rules for youngsters. I have been SS for a long while but I didn't start till I was like 26 years old and it's true what you say that I find it helps to ride single speed my legs feel more strong but by the time I started my body had already worked out its most efficient paths of movement.

  3. #3
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    I don't think it's a myth, my knees usually don't bother me but I do have issues with them from time to time and when I do pushing bigger gears is definitely worse.

    It makes sense to me that young riders in the developmental stages or just new riders in general that haven't yet built up their muscles that support the knees and other joints would be more prone to damaging them by pushing bigger gears.
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  4. #4
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    I rode single speed bikes my entire childhood and never damaged my knees. Believe it or not, I rode the same park I ride today, way back when I was in the 4th grade. 20 inch tires, one gear. Somehow, I survived.

    Color me skeptical.

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  5. #5
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    i think knee pain on a bike generally comes from bad setup or grinding in too big a gear sitting down. i know many present former singlespeeders and none complain of knee issues.

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    Yeah different strokes for different folks, not everyone is built the same, or grow the same, or pedal the same, or talk the same. I think when you put it like that I think the nica rules kind of try to cover the masses in order to protect these kids who are learning to push their limits in competition. I rode the crap out of my little bmx bike growing up but I guess I never really tried to climb any mountains with it. It was mostly urban stuff and in and out of irrigation ditches.

  7. #7
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    HA! But the footballz is perfectly okay for the adolescents?

  8. #8
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    Never any pain on a single speed MTB but when I would ride a fixed road bike I did notice a bit of ache most likely from using the cranks to brake since I would ride without brakes. I've since sold the fixie.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oh My Sack! View Post
    HA! But the footballz is perfectly okay for the adolescents?
    Absolutely not but those types of sports were deeply ingrained into our culture before much understanding or cautions were taken to protect the kids development. Even still football and other like sports are way behind in Rules and safety equipment needed to protect the kids. Cycling sports are fairly new to our elementary, middle and high school sports programs and they already have a great understanding of what and what is not good for young athletes, or maybe you can call it a better safe than sorry approach?

  10. #10
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    Lots of long SS miles......lots of big ascent in those SS miles.....

    Only time my knees ever give me an issue is when I try to sit and grind away a climb on too big of a gear.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by max-a-mill View Post
    i think knee pain on a bike generally comes from bad setup or grinding in too big a gear sitting down. i know many present former singlespeeders and none complain of knee issues.
    That's my take as well. There's so much more at work here such that it seems pretty irresponsible for NICA to just put out a blanket statement without understanding the issues that factor into knee injuries.

    On the other hand, I suppose that if you're going to err, err to the side of caution.

    To me, if they really wanted their athletes to get stronger/fitter, I can think of almost no better way than to train and/or race SS.
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    The rule in the OP mentioned is relative to kids... that's what we are talking about right? if we are talking about grown ass adults than yeah I have never had any knee issues even when riding in the saddle pushing a big gear. But again I have been doing it only since the ripe young age of 26 I am 38 now and still no issues. I still don't think that rule should be discredited as a myth because its meant as a precautionary rule for kids who are still growing.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Train Wreck View Post
    Never any pain on a single speed MTB but when I would ride a fixed road bike I did notice a bit of ache most likely from using the cranks to brake since I would ride without brakes. I've since sold the fixie.
    I've got a fixed gear but it has brakes. I've always somehow felt that using the cranks to brake wasn't a good idea for my knees, though I'm really not sure about that. I don't know that single speeding is any worse for your knees than any other exercise that requires your legs pushing. I would think the impact of running would be worse (which I also do).
    Quote Originally Posted by Oh My Sack! View Post
    Remember, there's always quilting and knitting if pedalling becomes too tough.

  14. #14
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    Jrís have had gear restrictions for quite some time.

    Look into track racing, the cannot exceed 90 or 100 inch gears under 16 years old.

    Road racing up to certain age they arenít allowed to run the traditional 53/39 rings....they maxed out at 50t ring.
    Bicycles donít have motors or batteries.

    Ebikes are not bicycles

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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbikej View Post
    Jrís have had gear restrictions for quite some time.

    Look into track racing, the cannot exceed 90 or 100 inch gears under 16 years old.

    Road racing up to certain age they arenít allowed to run the traditional 53/39 rings....they maxed out at 50t ring.


    Part of the reason for that is to level the playing field, cyclists at that age can be at very different levels of development and without gearing restrictions some more mature riders could just motor away from everyone else.

    I think that knee pain from pushing big gears is a reality for some and no issue for others. Just because some have no problems with it does not make it a myth.
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbikej View Post
    Jrís have had gear restrictions for quite some time.

    Look into track racing, the cannot exceed 90 or 100 inch gears under 16 years old.

    Road racing up to certain age they arenít allowed to run the traditional 53/39 rings....they maxed out at 50t ring.
    I do understand for seated riding. Offroad (especially climbing) SS is so technique driven though that I think they're missing out on some awesome training opportunities (both mental and physical).
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Train Wreck View Post
    Never any pain on a single speed MTB but when I would ride a fixed road bike I did notice a bit of ache most likely from using the cranks to brake since I would ride without brakes. I've since sold the fixie.


    Riding a fixed gear around town for a few months messed up my knees pretty bad. Lots of people have no problem with it but for me a fixed gear bike is for velodromes only.
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  18. #18
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    Like many organizations NICA is imperfect. I might suggest in this case if we "read between the lines" this rule could be about things other than just knee health.

    One possibility that aligns with what I have seen on rare occasion is a kid participating in organized events on a clunky, junky, single speed department store bike. The subtle hint the rule provides is, there is a minimum level of equipment to prevent injury. If there is a rule in place against SS then the conversation about quality vs money vs bike shaped objects doesn't have to be all written out in a rule. The rule states we must find a way to get kids on at least a 5 speed bike, and that gets us past a bunch of hurdles.

    I've probably almost ridden the circumference of the earth on SS bikes by now and my knees are fine, and that includes many years on the crappy department store bikes I rode as a kid. It is a data point of one.

    Like others, I'd like to see the data on this "Pushing big gears has been shown to be detrimental to the joints (specifically the knees) of young student-athletes". I suspect its origins are just as anecdotal as my one data point. On the other hand I think the NICA rule is for the best. I don't see a rule that a young rider has to shift. They can use one speed all they want if they want to try that approach.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by adaycj View Post
    Like many organizations NICA is imperfect. I might suggest in this case if we "read between the lines" this rule could be about things other than just knee health.

    One possibility that aligns with what I have seen on rare occasion is a kid participating in organized events on a clunky, junky, single speed department store bike. The subtle hint the rule provides is, there is a minimum level of equipment to prevent injury. If there is a rule in place against SS then the conversation about quality vs money vs bike shaped objects doesn't have to be all written out in a rule. The rule states we must find a way to get kids on at least a 5 speed bike, and that gets us past a bunch of hurdles.

    I've probably almost ridden the circumference of the earth on SS bikes by now and my knees are fine, and that includes many years on the crappy department store bikes I rode as a kid. It is a data point of one.

    Like others, I'd like to see the data on this "Pushing big gears has been shown to be detrimental to the joints (specifically the knees) of young student-athletes". I suspect its origins are just as anecdotal as my one data point. On the other hand I think the NICA rule is for the best. I don't see a rule that a young rider has to shift. They can use one speed all they want if they want to try that approach.
    These are the things that make the most sense to me, as well. As I said earlier too, if you're going to make a mistake, let it be to the side of caution/safety.
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  20. #20
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    If you get off and walk when you're down at low walking speed, your knees are safe IMO.

    And I've been doing this a long long time...
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  21. #21
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    Anything can hurt the knees.

    I don't think SS is exempt.

    I think SS is good for the knees in more riding situations. A part of that is a mental attitude, and bigger part is physical readiness.

    Physical readiness comes from all past experiences and in particular veryrecent riding experience.

    I'm another way, it might be advanced that geared bikes are bad for the knees. One reason could be that a rider can pick ratios that may be harmful.

    What about women and SS?

    That's all for now.

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  22. #22
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    Yeah, I think its total bunk. My son has gears and NEVER shifts, ever. His knees never hurt from riding. I'm 51 and have ridden SS only for 17 years. I have no knee pain.

    I'd say that the people making the rules use gears and therefore have little to no experience regarding single speeds, but who knows. Ignorance is rampant in this industry and myths abound. I base that on 28 years of riding and reading the marketing that drives this industry. There's been incredible innovation and incredible ignorance pushed along the way so count me as a skeptic.

    I can tell you this. Gears absolutely wreck my back and cause me tons of pain. SS never has but I don't ever sit and try to grind a hill.

    YMMV.

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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Burns View Post
    I'm another way, it might be advanced that geared bikes are bad for the knees. One reason could be that a rider can pick ratios that may be harmful.

    That's all for now.
    Truth be told, I think you could have something there. An easier gear could mask a bad set up/fit and allow bad pedaling technique to create knee problems.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by hsakkire View Post
    I can tell you this. Gears absolutely wreck my back and cause me tons of pain. SS never has but I don't ever sit and try to grind a hill.

    YMMV.

    Gears have never wrecked my back or caused me tons of pain, therefore the notion that gears can cause back pain is a total myth and doesn't apply to anyone.

    See how that works?


    ymmv should be the main takaway of this thread.
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  25. #25
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    btw, I don't think single speeding is necessarily bad for knees, I just think that for some people with bum knees spinning easier gears up hills can be easier on them. Thankfully my knees are usually good.
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  26. #26
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    Aren't most kids bikes SS? Isn't that where we all started?

    I have a few friends that ride flat pedals and swear clipless pedals ruin your knees...

    There's so much bad information out there.

    Realistically people that develop knee pain when riding (that don't have some sort of medical problem or chronic knee issue) usually have a bad fit/saddle position/saddle height/knee angle/etc. from a seated position. When you stand up it eliminates all those variables. It's more natural.

    I've certainly never read any kind of "study" that showed conclusively that SS was bad for your knees. The only things I've heard are rumors and old wives tales. Evidence? None.
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  27. #27
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    I'd think pushing a big gear with poor fitness is the cause of most issues.
    I only ride bikes to fill the time when I'm not skiing.

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    People with bad knees ride fixed, big gears, etc. and then blame their knee pain on the gears. It's an absurd argument. Same about doing squats with the knee forward of the feet. If you have pre-existing mobility issues or a functional weakness, anything can and will expose it. It is also true that excessively repetitive motions can produce imbalances, tendon irritation and mobility issues, it doesn't matter what that exercise is. Good luck finding the study to prove the evils of single speed gearing, it doesn't exist.

  29. #29
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    100% myth; assuming you are riding a bike with appropriate frame geometry for your physical size that is setup properly (saddle height, reach, maybe crank arm length, etc.).

    I had ACL replacement surgery on my right knee more than a decade ago and have not experienced any knee pain (beyond on occasional bash here and there lol) riding stout-geared single speed or geared 29er's (anywhere from 1 - 100 miles in a day on all sorts of terrain) during the same timeframe.

    I run 36x18 on one single speed and 36x16 on the other (more for commute/urban/gravel).

    Both of them have a 3.0" front tire which I equate to one less tooth in the rear cog based on level of pedaling effort required (feels like I am riding 36x17 and 36x15 respectively). I swap in a 2.4" front tire on them occasionally to mix it up and make it a bit easier to churn the pedals.
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    There is a lot to this issue. It is a complex mix of biomechanics, rider weight, gear ratio, bike setup for a given rider, overall athleticism of rider, etc, etc. For some people, they have no issues with SS while others experience some degree of discomfort. Everyone who pushes their bodies as hard as they are capable of will be experience injuries and overall bodily degradation.

  31. #31
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    - when it comes to biking in general, it'a all about the ratio, ESPECIALLY a singlespeed.....my training partner started at 32 / 20 but has decided to make a change so that he is more comfortable climbing........he and I are both older riders and prefer smaller ratios to avoid back or knee problems that accompany grinding bigger gears.........
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  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by beastmaster View Post
    There is a lot to this issue. It is a complex mix of biomechanics, rider weight, gear ratio, bike setup for a given rider, overall athleticism of rider, etc, etc. For some people, they have no issues with SS while others experience some degree of discomfort. Everyone who pushes their bodies as hard as they are capable of will be experience injuries and overall bodily degradation.



    Exactly, anyone's individual experience is anecdotal.
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  33. #33
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    My career was in joint replacement sales. I've been in on over 5000 total knee and hip replacements. None were due to overuse from riding a bike. Of the active people in for a TKR, almost all played high school and college football. Then moto cross and skiing bumps along with Army guys jumping out of planes.

    My son was not allowed to play football as a teen which me and stepdick butted heads about. Their bone plates are still developing. No dirt bikes either.
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  34. #34
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    What wheel size? Twenty niners take more power to get up to speed and cause the meniscus to degrade.

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  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vader View Post
    My career was in joint replacement sales. I've been in on over 5000 total knee and hip replacements. None were due to overuse from riding a bike. Of the active people in for a TKR, almost all played high school and college football. Then moto cross and skiing bumps along with Army guys jumping out of planes.

    My son was not allowed to play football as a teen which me and stepdick butted heads about. Their bone plates are still developing. No dirt bikes either.
    I played 1 year of High School Football back in the late 70's. It just didn't click for me like I thought it would. I'm glad.

    The number of friends I have had throughout my life that have life long knee and leg injuries stemming way back to their high school glory days is absolutely ridiculous. Some of them still look back as those were the greatest of times and it's been sort of "down hill" ever since due to the injuries. There's a hell of a lot of life to be lived past high school. Seems like such a waste.

  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vader View Post
    Twenty niners take more power to get up to speed and cause the meniscus to degrade.
    Age, injury, disease, being overweight, muscle imbalance, lack of strength and mobility all contribute to meniscus degeneration. Bikes do not cause knee problems any more than walking or sitting at your desk. Do 29 inch wheels also cause aging and gray hair? I'm blaming my gray on the wheels, the fixed gear, the skiing and the football.

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by sapva View Post
    Age, injury, disease, being overweight, muscle imbalance, lack of strength and mobility all contribute to meniscus degeneration. Bikes do not cause knee problems any more than walking or sitting at your desk. Do 29 inch wheels also cause aging and gray hair? I'm blaming my gray on the wheels, the fixed gear, the skiing and the football.
    He was clearly joking, see?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vader View Post
    What wheel size? Twenty niners take more power to get up to speed and cause the meniscus to degrade.

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  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vader View Post
    me and stepdick butted heads about.
    Stepd!ck! Hah.....good one.
    Wait whuuut, who did he tell you that!?!?....

  39. #39
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    Well, I haven't been on SS for a couple years, but I rode two of them exclusively for a bit, and never noticed any issue. And I have pretty bad knees by most accounts. Not saying it can't be a negative, but I never experienced anything bad. I need to pull the derailleur off my bike...

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