Knee Problems Overstated?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Knee Problems Overstated?

    I've noticed a pattern among many of my gearie riding buddies when discussing SS. At some point, they almost always state "I don't know if my knees could handle it!". I'm new to SSing myself, but so far I haven't felt so much as a twinge in my knees. Granted, I run a pretty easy gear (32 x 20 on a 29er), but I don't see/hear about an inordinate amount of knee problems from other SSers I know (those who don't have preexisting issues, that is).

    So what is it? Is SSing truly hard on the knees and I've just been lucky (or the inevitable blowout hasn't happened yet ), or is it just a myth?

  2. #2
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    Knees

    I've been riding SS for several years and have never had any trouble with my knees, even when pushing what I consider a "big" gear (32-16 - not on a 29er). I think the SS riding has strengthened my leg muscles and probably protects my knees. Or, maybe I'm just lucky.

  3. #3
    surlysoul
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    knee pain

    I have always thought that fear was overstated usually by people who do not single speed regularly. I think any knee problems are caused by overgearing, improper setup, improper technique. Riding ss is a little different like standing on the climbs.

  4. #4
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    I just got into SS'ing almost three months ago. My biking friends also talked about how my knees would suffer. I haven't had any issues yet, either. One problem I had initially was my lower back getting extremely tired on my first few mtn. biking rides. I've been pleased at how fast my lower back has been getting stronger, though. It's way stronger after just a few weeks of riding the SS.

    The other problem I've had is my wife constantly asking me if I'm going to sell my geared bikes since I only ride the SS now...

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boris Batenov

    The other problem I've had is my wife constantly asking me if I'm going to sell my geared bikes since I only ride the SS now...

    I am in the same boat... but not only is the wife asking about the geared bike... I'm starting to ask myself about why I still have it.

  6. #6
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    Well I have been riding a singlespeed / fixie for almost 10years now and yes I did get knee problems....that turned out to be a problem with my flat feet causing my knee to trace a figure-of-8! I think the fun of a singlespeed / lack of workshop time caused me to rack up more miles than I used to on my geared bike!

    With Spesh BG shoes and special insoles I am able to ride 120m + fixie, sure the rest of me hurt really bad but the knees are fine!

    Alex
    "Put any one on one of these singlespeed bikes and they could not help but have fun"
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drewdane
    I've noticed a pattern among many of my gearie riding buddies when discussing SS. At some point, they almost always state "I don't know if my knees could handle it!". I'm new to SSing myself, but so far I haven't felt so much as a twinge in my knees. Granted, I run a pretty easy gear (32 x 20 on a 29er), but I don't see/hear about an inordinate amount of knee problems from other SSers I know (those who don't have preexisting issues, that is).

    So what is it? Is SSing truly hard on the knees and I've just been lucky (or the inevitable blowout hasn't happened yet ), or is it just a myth?
    How often do your gear buddies stand up to crank?

    I think knee problems occur when someone tries too hard while sitting, especially when trying to "push" the crank over the top of the stroke. As long as you're standing the body is in a natural position, it has to adapt to force but not any weird alignment.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by pacman
    How often do your gear buddies stand up to crank?

    I think knee problems occur when someone tries too hard while sitting, especially when trying to "push" the crank over the top of the stroke. As long as you're standing the body is in a natural position, it has to adapt to force but not any weird alignment.
    Good point, and they usually don't stand up at all - that's what derailleurs are for!

  9. #9
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    I, too, have been repeatedly warned about "ruining" my knees from riding exclusively fixed gear and singlespeed bikes; always by people who have never ridden either. If anything, it has made my knees stronger. And look at Marty Nothstein or any of the stars of the velodrome. I don't recall any of them having ruined their knees due to a lack of derailleurs.
    "America is the greatest country in the world, but that's a lot like being the prettiest waitress at Denny's."

  10. #10
    ali'i hua
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    my knees have never been healthier, and that's even with a past issue of tenenitis from swimming.

    agree on the geared bike comment: why is it even still in the garage? hmm ebays looking good!

  11. #11
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    I have knee problems from before the SS

    I have knee problems that I inherited from my FS. At the end of last year I pushed too hard -- sitting down on the geary bike. My left knee has had continuous problems for the last 6 or 8 months! Doctor's don't have much sympathy (perhaps I haven't found the right doctor yet, but it's hard to find bike-specific doctors here in the Portland, OR area.)

    I just started SS-ing 2 weeks ago (yeah!), and I continue to have problems, but I've found they only occur when I get on and off the bike. (twisting of the knee is what hurts me)

    I think you guys are right: the perception is because knees hurt on geared bikes 'cause people sit down too much.

    I was told once that one of the best exercises to strengthen your knees was to stand up and pedal, so there you go.
    The Lee-Man

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  12. #12
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    I am new to SS. I started about 1-2 months ago. I have a bad knee, although it gets along pretty good with all the MTB I do. I usually try to rest 2 days between rides. I find that when I ride more often than that, I start to get my standard bad knee over useage injury and pain. I had ACL reconstrutive surgery, with meniscus removal in 1988.

    In the short time I have had my SS, I have ridden it much more than my geary. My typical mileage of late is an 11 to 12 mile ride with 2 off days between rides. The new SS does not seem to be irritating my bad knee. In fact my mileage is already starting to increase some over last season when it was 10 to 11 miles per ride.

    Its still early, so I hope that this trend continues and my knee doesn't start to bother me. I'll give an update later.

  13. #13
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    Agree with others

    I've been riding SS exclusively for about two years now and my knees haven't felt better. Like many others here, I have the common overuse syndrome...chondrolamaycia (sp)?. It seems to me that strengthening of the supporting tendons, by standing and cranking, has only helped. Just my .02

  14. #14
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    SSing for 2 years - no knee problem.

    Decided to road ride to train earlier this year - lots of high volume high cadence stuff - totally messed up my knee for a couple of months. Back on the SS now with limited geared riding and knee is fabuloso.

    That's my story.
    Love, Impy

  15. #15
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    People who don't ride SS obsess about low cadence climbing. They don't usually take into account the high speed spinning or extra coasting an SS gets, nor the frequent changes from sitting to standing, nor the many more revs it takes to sit there and granny gear up a hill.

    Riding SS my knees see frequent changes in pedaling technique and get plenty of rest. Sounds healthier to me than non-stop, narrow, repetitive motion.

    Like anything, if you don't pay attention to what you are doing or overdo things, you can injure yourself.

  16. #16
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    I got new shoes and got a knee problem... put the cleat in the wrong place.Mainly noticed the probem on my SS because the pedals have less float (cheapo spd's vs expensive spd's).

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Impy
    SSing for 2 years - no knee problem.

    Decided to road ride to train earlier this year - lots of high volume high cadence stuff - totally messed up my knee for a couple of months. Back on the SS now with limited geared riding and knee is fabuloso.

    That's my story.
    That's good news, Let's ride!

  18. #18
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    knees no, back yes

    SS riding has been a salvation for me knees, not a problem. but...i did blow out a lower back disk (major rupture leading to sciatica, incredible leg pain, numb foot, in a wheel chair) a few years ago, and to be honest, i think SS contributed to this injury and may have been the major cause. SS riding can really torque your lower back. my only advise would be monitor your back pain and back off a little when needed.

  19. #19
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    50 single and lovin' it!

    my only advise would be monitor your back pain and back off a little when needed.

    AMEN!

  20. #20
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    My knees are fine but my arms are getting totally worked from pulling up on the bars on all the steep climbs around here.
    Buy a bell, help the trails....

    http://www.corbamtb.com/store/store.shtml

    where are we eating?

  21. #21
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    switched to SS because of my knees

    My knees where hurting after a long fast trip on a geared bike. Now i am riding SS and i know that i cann't shift and use to high gears, and thats why i am more relaxed on my bike. I just started on 42-23, this is low in the region of The Netherlands where i live (it is really flat)

    Look kid - if you want to win, you got to spin

    I also agree that next to higher cadance you need tot position yourself on your bike, a human is build to walk and not to fit on a bike. Thats why you have to adjust your bike instead of your knees!
    a example of a approach: knee over pedal The problem is that every person is different and every bike is sort of the same. So you have to make compromises! The knee is a fragile part of a (fragile)body, so be careful with it!
    ---------------------------
    Gijs, from the mountain

  22. #22
    singletrack bound
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    Quote Originally Posted by endo verendo
    My knees are fine but my arms are getting totally worked from pulling up on the bars on all the steep climbs around here.
    The upper body has been getting a workout. Neck, shoulder arms and torso. My 17 yr old son has been pumping iron so I have been doing a few bench presses every night for the last two weeks and I notice a big difference in my out of saddle climbing strength.
    ss gives a total body workout!

  23. #23
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    Drew, IMO if knees are going to hurt

    Quote Originally Posted by Drewdane
    I've noticed a pattern among many of my gearie riding buddies when discussing SS. At some point, they almost always state "I don't know if my knees could handle it!". I'm new to SSing myself, but so far I haven't felt so much as a twinge in my knees. Granted, I run a pretty easy gear (32 x 20 on a 29er), but I don't see/hear about an inordinate amount of knee problems from other SSers I know (those who don't have preexisting issues, that is).

    So what is it? Is SSing truly hard on the knees and I've just been lucky (or the inevitable blowout hasn't happened yet ), or is it just a myth?
    on a single speed they are going to hurt on a geared bike,

    Also in my unscientific study I find standing and grinding whether geared or SS put the knee at a better mechanical advantage (more lined up angle) than sitting and grinding up a hill.

  24. #24
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    i've been riding fixed almost exclusively for around three years, including an 800 mile fixed tour from minneapolis to ohio.

    i wouldn't say that i have perfectly healthy knees, but they feel worlds better after a day of riding than they do after a day of standing and wrenching at work.

  25. #25
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    Singlespeed Pain

    I have been singlespeeding for 2 years, 1 of those year exclusively on a singlespeed, and I ride 2 or 3 times a week. I have never noticed any knee issues. In fact, I feel like my knees have gotten stronger. I took a nasty fall the other day and twisted my knee pretty good. I am guessing that if the muscles around my knee weren't as strong as they are I would have torn ligaments and such. Mark one in the pro-singlespeed collumn.

    That said, singlespeed can do a number on your lower back if you are not careful. For a while I was having terrible back pain the next morning after a ride. Then I realized what I was doing wrong. When climbing steep hills and really mashing, your instinct will be to stand up and push from your lower back. That is where the pain comes from. When I feel myself doing that, I take a breath and start concentrating on using my quads to power the pedals. Focus well enough and all the power will start coming from your legs. Remember what they say, lift with your knees, not your back. The same principle works here. I have found that once I got used to this method of climbing that my back didn't hurt and I was actually able to climb steeper and longer hills.

    Just my two cents.

    SpK

  26. #26
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    I haven't worked my way down to running one gear due to having some mild to moderate knee problems that benefit from having a few more gears but do have a few triples that run relatively high gearing.

    I love my old English three speeds just as much as my other bikes and climbing hills on these takes serious leg strength as even the lowest gear on your typical English triple works out to 48 gear inches.

    I rarely sit and spin my way to the top of anything (no matter what I ride) and prefer to stand up and power my way to the top as this is much better for my knees and body and I usually make it to the top faster than my buddies who sit and spin.

    It really does build some decent upper body strength and my shoulders and arms are getting pretty ripped from my obsessive need to climb hills.

    I am presently building and testing a new triple speed road / commuter that's using an SA hub (20 tooth) mated with a 40 tooth up front. This gives me a gear range of 40, 52, and 80 gear inches (if my math is correct) and this seems perfect to handle the terrain here.

    It should be an even cooler ride once I build a new wheel (Alex double walled rim) around that SA hub as the beta version is till running a nice and relatively light Rigida wheel (steel).

    from having a few more gears
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  27. #27
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    I think it all depends on where you ride and the effort you make to clean climbs. Of course, some people have good, strong knees and no amount of abuse ever gets to them.

    I ride (and race) what most consider a relatively easy gear ratio (32:20). But I ride the very same terrain where I ride my geared FS and some sections are incredibly difficult to manage. I find myself sometimes making huge efforts to clean some climbs and the impact on the knees and back is very real. On top of that I ride rigid SS, which has an additional impact on the body.

    There is no way I could do rigid SS exclusively. I would probably drive myself into the ground in no time and even develop knee or back problems. I am convinced that I don't have any knee/back problems (so far) because I am careful about rest and recuperation. I always follow SS rides with geared FS rides where the gears and suspension let me enjoy the ride with much less impact.
    My rides:
    Lynskey Ti Pro29 SS
    RM Suzi Q 90 RSL
    KHS Team 29
    S-Works Roubaix
    KHS CX 550 cyclocross

  28. #28
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    Unsolicited tip: Riding, and especially racing, it is usually faster and more energy efficient to jump off and run up any grade that would require a back and knee straining effort to pedal.

  29. #29
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    I've been SS for about 6 months and have found that my knees are actually better than ever. I used to have knee problems, I even went to physical therapy for them. They really hurt when hiking, especially on the down hills, but since I've been riding regularly, no more pain! I love the SS!!

    Labrat73

  30. #30
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    Old and feeble

    I was born with out ACL's and my MCL and LCL on both knees are in pretty bad shape... I've been SS'ing for about 12 to 14 years without knee pain (at least, not while SS'ing). I get more pain spinning a roadie... My knees are a lot more stable with the strength from SS'ing through the years. Stable enough to start trail running 2 years ago and run a couple of mountain half marathons last year....

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpecialK
    That said, singlespeed can do a number on your lower back if you are not careful. For a while I was having terrible back pain the next morning after a ride. Then I realized what I was doing wrong. When climbing steep hills and really mashing, your instinct will be to stand up and push from your lower back. That is where the pain comes from. When I feel myself doing that, I take a breath and start concentrating on using my quads to power the pedals. Focus well enough and all the power will start coming from your legs. Remember what they say, lift with your knees, not your back. The same principle works here. I have found that once I got used to this method of climbing that my back didn't hurt and I was actually able to climb steeper and longer hills.

    Just my two cents.

    SpK
    That's what I'm dealing with. Still figuring out the magic climbing position. My lower back is causing some occiational issues and I know it has to do with how I'm standing and pulling on the bars during hard climbs.

    Back on topic... no issues with my knees. I've been on SS for about 7 months now. I had reservation on whether my problematic knees would handle it but I think, as others too, that my knees have gotten stronger because of standing more vs the "sit in an a crouched postiion while climbing" technique on the squshy geared bike.

    Now, can someone tell me how to deal with the lungs/heart and legs complaining.... <img src="images/smilies/smilewinkgrin.gif">
    Don't harsh my mello

  32. #32
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    I ride a rigid ss exclusively, regular rides and races. My knees are great, better than ever in fact. I think improper bike fit and bad shoes/cleats (position of cleats, float, etc.) will potentially have a more detrimental impact on knees than ss'ing. I like the suggestion some people make that standing up and the variety of positions you end up in while ss'ing actually may prevent knee problems.

    For the folks with back issues from ss'ing, I have mentioned this on other threads so I may be a broken record for some but think "strong core". I do core exercises religiously, twice a week for about 45 mins. and I think it makes a huge difference. You gotta get those little stabilizer muscles, your abs (including obliques), your hip area and your back in good shape. SS'ing can use much more of your upper body than regular geared riding and the transfer of power from upper body to the legs is vital. If you rely on your lower back only or you have poor posture due to weakness in the core area you will overstress the back.

    Use a balance ball, do pull-ups, do planks and side situps, crunches, use dumbbells for shoulder and arm work (try kneeling on a balance ball and do shoulder presses with dumbbells), do push-ups (try doing push-ups balanced between two fit balls, toes on one, hands on the other), do those superman things laying face down on the floor and raising your arms and legs. There are a whole lot of really good core workouts to do and they help, I swear!

    Of course always monitor your own body, pace yourself, rest and always consult with your doctor before doing anything some stranger on the internet tells you to do.

    Bottom line, I think the knee problem from ss'ing thing is a myth.

    Ed E

  33. #33
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    PBB: Unsolicited tip: Riding, and especially racing, it is usually faster and more energy efficient to jump off and run up any grade that would require a back and knee straining effort to pedal.

    Good tip!

    For normal riding, staying on the bike through any section is my ultimate goal (just like on my geared bike), but when racing all bets are off. No doubt that running up certain sections is way faster AND more efficient.
    My rides:
    Lynskey Ti Pro29 SS
    RM Suzi Q 90 RSL
    KHS Team 29
    S-Works Roubaix
    KHS CX 550 cyclocross

  34. #34
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    ..

    My knee has been screwed up since a B-Ball game about 8 years ago.

    It hurts walking up a normal flight of stairs.

    But I can ride SS all day and never feel a thing. (in my knees)


    Later
    Jim

  35. #35
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    I am probably one of the oldest singlespeeders on the forum, have also a lot of running miles, and weighing on the long side of 90kg. I think there are two kinds of folks. One camp cycling bothers their knees, and the other has no problems with their knees.
    I have some back issues with ss riding ss, especially long distance and racing, but my knees are more healthy when I just ride any style than to run a little bit.
    I have 40 years of fixie,road,mtb and now ss racing under my belt and have no knee issues at all. There is a lot of correctness in the gearies don't know what they are talking about when they mention the knees. My wife rides my older BOSS ss and dosn't even own a geary bike and she is 53. She also rides fixed pretty well for an older woman. Don't know what all the 30 year old guys are yapping about bad knees.
    My advice is if it bothers you don't do it, but if you have never done it, don't state random baseless opinions about what is good or bad for you. G

  36. #36
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    I wouldn't expect most SS riders to have knee trouble. Very few are silly enough to push gears way to high for them. My brother does push gears that were too high for him. He used to have knee trouble and was actually unable to ride for a short while because of it. He has since improved his strength and muscle balance and doesn't appear to be having troubles anymore.

  37. #37
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    Good job! SS'ing..

    I have abused my knees for many years doing different sports.

    However, singlespeeding has helped to strengthen my old knees to the point where I am able to ride every day without any knee problems at all.

    Not only has singlespeed riding strengthened my knees, but it has also made my whole body stronger and fitter.

    I stand up on the pedals most of the time when I ride off road, stand and grind up the hills getting a whole body workout which has helped to keep me fighting fit and free from the usual problems many of my old friends are experiencing.

    I never believed that singlespeeding is bad for the knees. What is bad for them is sitting down and trying to push too big a gear ratio up hills. This is when the bad damage occurs.

    I honestly believe that SS'ing is one of the BEST things that you can do for your whole body.


    R.
    It is inevitable ...

  38. #38
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    This is my 1st year riding SS and have had no problems until yesterday. I rode with a set of the new LX cranks for the first time. Knees started to hurt after about an hour. I assume this has to do with my knees being further apart than what I'm used to. Been using some square taper Race Face turbines with a 110mm bb.

    Anyone else have a similar problem?

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by pacman
    How often do your gear buddies stand up to crank?

    I think knee problems occur when someone tries too hard while sitting, especially when trying to "push" the crank over the top of the stroke. As long as you're standing the body is in a natural position, it has to adapt to force but not any weird alignment.
    Pacman has stated my thoughts exactly.
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  40. #40
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    I am one of the gearies with the perception that SS *can* be bad for the knees. I had a pretty severe case of tendinitis from overuse, mostly related to backcountry teli skiing. My doctor recommended switching to randinee (sp?) and to not push too high a gear or have too high a cadence on the bike. That advice is one of the reasons I've avoided SS. That is, until now. I did switch to randinee and that really helped the tendinitis. That, and the fact that (unfortunately) I'm not riding as much has pretty much resulted in the tendinitis disappearing with some small, occasional flair ups. I started riding a SS (34x20) about a month ago a couple of days a week and have had no noticable affects on my knees.

    That being said, I was riding my geared bike this weekend and pushing too high a gear while seated and definitely stressed one of my knees (although in the muscle above the knee - not the familiar tendinitis). So, the moral of the long post? Like others have said, the key is to avoid pushing too high of a gear when either on the SS or geared bike. I agree with previous posts on standing while climbing - that is prob why I have not noticed any pain while on the SS.

    Now, if I can just get in shape for sustained SS rides!

  41. #41
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    Yes...

    Quote Originally Posted by Drewdane
    I've noticed a pattern among many of my gearie riding buddies when discussing SS. At some point, they almost always state "I don't know if my knees could handle it!". I'm new to SSing myself, but so far I haven't felt so much as a twinge in my knees. Granted, I run a pretty easy gear (32 x 20 on a 29er), but I don't see/hear about an inordinate amount of knee problems from other SSers I know (those who don't have preexisting issues, that is).

    So what is it? Is SSing truly hard on the knees and I've just been lucky (or the inevitable blowout hasn't happened yet ), or is it just a myth?

    I'd say SSing is better than gearie for a healthy knee. My theory...

    Repetetive movement where the body is locked into a relatively fixed position often leads to injury. Riding a gearie creates this situation. On a SS you are up and pedaling over a lot of different positions when compared to a gearie.

    Most SS bikes are hardtails. Jarring forces, ie. impacts, help stimulate bone growth in terms of increased bone density. Throw a rigid fork on a single speed and you really get a full body workout from all angles. Folks have looked into the affect of long distance road biking and loss of bone density. Some of the numbers look a bit scary. I'm hoping the rough-and-tumble of riding fully rigid SS might be relatively more anabolic in terms of bone density. These are just thoughts, not well controlled studies.

    Personally, I get knee pain from less forceful spinning on a gearie. Knee pain is non-existent on my SS. Along the same lines, heavy squats and deadlifts make my knees feel better.

    Mike

  42. #42
    my knees hurt
    Reputation: singlespeedsycip's Avatar
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    I've been riding ss exclusively for over 7 years now...the last 2 years full rigid. About a month ago I started to get some knee pain, both knees inner side just above knee caps. I've never had knee problems before, they just started bothering me on a longer ride (40+ miles). I run 32 x 19 on my 29er...and my rides are usually 25-40 miles. I'm going to take it easy on the bike for a little bit and hopefully they will get better.....
    BELIEVE
    Imagine what you could achieve if you knew you would not fail.

  43. #43
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    Reputation: GlowBoy's Avatar
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    I have "bad" knees, and can't even hike downhill 500' of elevation without pain. But I've been singlespeeding for several years now, and still no knee pain.

    The old adage about cranking hard in too-low of a gear only applies when you're seated and bending your knees at a sharp angle. When you're standing out of the saddle, you're not bending your knees as far and there's much less strain.

    The statement about running uphill being more effective is total BS. On my (geared, 3-speed) commute to work today, I stood out of the saddle while climbing a hill in my middle gear, rather than downshift to Low and spin up it. Oh, this was on the road and at 12 MPH, not a speed I could have achieved while running. Even top-level roadies will often stand out of the saddle for brief bursts rather than downshift. It's less "efficient" but gives much higher power output for short durations. Besides, if maximizing pedaling efficiency was the supreme goal, we'd all be riding geared bikes!
    "People like GloyBoy are deaf. They are partisan, intellectually lazy & usually very angry." -Jaybo

  44. #44
    Wheel building addict.
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    I think as long as you choose the proper gearing, you should be fine. I've been riding fixed gear for about a year, and coastie for a year and a half. I don't really run anything over 81 gear inches on the road. Off road I stick to 2:1. I'm happy spinning, and not mashing. Know your limits. I do believe that you can blow out if you push too hard.

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