Tackling long climbs/steep hills at low cadence, and knee health.

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  • Tackling long climbs/steep hills at low cadence, and knee health.
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    cruzcampo
    Member

    Afternoon guys, i’ve been getting knee pain the last few rides, and after lots of reading think it may be due to low cadence on long climbs/steep hills. I’ll stay on the bike for as long as possible, even if it means cadence of around 50 in granny to make the climb!

    Recently my rides have been getting longer with higher ascents, when even granny gear isn’t enough to maintain a cadence of 75 and i’m struggling forward pedal stroke by pedal stroke, should I get off an push for the sake of my knees? I’m aware of the pressure its putting on them doing this.

    What do you guys do when good cadence is no longer viable when climbing? be it due to fitness/stamina/lethargy/steepness

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    Fit a smaller granny ring (assuming that you’ve already got the biggest sprocket possible out back). Personally I’ll take the lowest gear I can get when things get steep as I like my knees and plan to keep using them for a while. Other than that it’s just a case of riding lots.

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    50 isn’t that slow…
    Why are you trying to maintain a cadence of 75?
    Is this on a road bike (assuming it is) if you want a higher cadence you need a lower gear or stronger legs, you could try fitting a bigger cassette on the back if your chain rings don’t go lower. Also look at how your legs are moving, are they in good alignment and how are you putting the power through?

    mrlebowski
    Member

    50 isn’t that slow..

    I’d say 50 was definitely too low, when I was getting coaching from Torq I was advised that anything lower than 60-65 was potentially problematic.

    lightman
    Member

    Your saddle is probably to low.

    bellefied
    Member

    lightman – Member

    Your saddle is probably to low.
    ^ this was my first thought too

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    bellefied wrote:

    lightman – Member
    Your saddle is probably to low.
    ^ this was my first thought too

    Shouldn’t be an issue as at that low a cadence on a steep hill you should be out of the saddle pushing on!

    Premier Icon Rusty Spanner
    Subscriber

    A cassette so big it grounds on right handers and just keep spinning.
    Works for me.

    bellefied
    Member

    mikewsmith – Member

    bellefied » lightman – Member
    Your saddle is probably to low.
    ^ this was my first thought too

    Shouldn’t be an issue as at that low a cadence on a steep hill you should be out of the saddle pushing on!

    except the OP says he stays in his seat

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    Did he, I re read it again and can’t see that – unless my eyes are going again. Perhaps the answer might be to stand up then…

    Premier Icon mattjg
    Subscriber

    singlespeed, then you’re obliged to walk

    glupton1976
    Member

    Whats the problem with a cadence of 50? And how would it have a detrimental effect on your knees?

    bellefied
    Member

    mikewsmith – Member

    Did he, I re read it again and can’t see that – unless my eyes are going again. Perhaps the answer might be to stand up then…
    you are right – maybe I read it wrong, but I could have sworn it said stay in the seat when I replied – maybe I assumed “stay on the bike” meant “stay on the saddle”?

    spazzolino
    Member

    Cadence of 50 is certainly too low unless you want to seriously f*** your knees up. I read that training should be abandoned if you cannot keep above 55. Check your seat height and then look at the ratios on the front and back.

    50 too low. Oh! Singlespeeders climb at ~30rpm, no?

    thomthumb
    Member
    boxfish
    Member

    Um, I’ve been mashing gears at a low cadence for 25 years and my knees haven’t yet exploded. I’d best give up riding then, just in case.

    Premier Icon mattjg
    Subscriber

    50 too low. Oh! Singlespeeders climb at ~30rpm, no?

    Whatever we can get away yet. Been doing SS a year, my sensitive middle aged knees, that I can’t run on, are doing fine.

    mattsccm
    Member

    50 is not always too slow and I would suggest that anyone really dogmatic about this is missing something. I find that twiddling really kills my knees and is really hard work to keep up. I have 1 knackered knee and that’s the good one. The other is not far off a replacement. Fast pedalling for too long, say 30 seconds plus, hurts. Grinding along in the hardest gear I can shift doesn’t.
    Not say gears are not the problem but it could be other things eg cleat angles, float, saddle height or for and aft position etc.

    Premier Icon garage-dweller
    Subscriber

    It’s surely not the cadence that does the damage but the force being driven through the knees. If I granny ring it up a gentle incline at 50rpm I cause no strain BUT it takes me a week to hit the top. If however I turn 53-11 up that same incline at 50rpm I arrive in time for extra cake portions at the top but I need new knees!

    You are either straining your knees or you are not. That is a product of the efforts put in.

    I suspect a lot of the training advice assumes a certain speed over ground/intensity of riding.

    Premier Icon garage-dweller
    Subscriber

    OP it sounds like you need to look at your gearing and/or position on the bike too.

    Incidentally, what is regarded as a good bar point for higher revving road bike riding? Saddle back or forward and relatively high or low? (sorry for minor hijack but may help op too)

    mangatank
    Member

    A shimano 10 speed triple set up as Shimano intended should be plenty to get you to the top of anything. After that it’s down to your fitness. If you aren’t getting to the top in one go then get off and push and try again in a couple of days, but make sure you’re spinning at close to 70 rpm+. Don’t be tempted to honk or strain on the cranks. You’ll tear cartilage in no time and that’ll be you for the next couple of years. Another tip is to run shorter cranks. Dropping 5mm makes a difference.

    Shorter cranks? Surely the opposite is true?

    cruzcampo
    Member

    Thanks for replies so far guys, great advice! 😀

    I never stand up and mash, but always stay seated on climbs, I guess its down to my fitness not being able to high cadence up a long climb. The climbs I struggle on show as “4” on Strava.

    Each successive ride i’m able to get further up the same climb with good cadence, so my fitness is improving, BUT once I hit the wall, that point where my legs give in, I gradually move up to the easiest gear and potter up at a superslow speed.

    This is probably better for my stamina and muscles as i’m pushing myself to the limit, but not great for knee’s, so is it better for me to hop off and push as soon as good cadence isn’t on tap any longer, i’ll do that until i’m fit enough to make it all the way if thats the case?

    Ps. seat height is currently set by the 109% method.

    Premier Icon teamhurtmore
    Subscriber

    I was puzzled why knees hurt occassionally on MTB but not a road bike. Reckoned it was largely because I used to run my MTB saddle far too low. Demo days taught me a lot…..now wasn’t there some talk about bikefiiting and injuries a little while back!!! 😉

    sounds like you need a bike fit…..

    Premier Icon teamhurtmore
    Subscriber

    Beat you to it DTF!!! Great minds and all that!!!

    the 109% method will probably set your saddle too low.

    try dropping your heels a bit when your cadence slows

    my left knee hurts if i dont use wedges under my cleat

    mangatank
    Member

    Each successive ride i’m able to get further up the same climb with good cadence, so my fitness is improving, BUT once I hit the wall, that point where my legs give in, I gradually move up to the easiest gear and potter up at a superslow speed.

    That was more or less my technique when I developed knee pain 10 years ago. Another trick I used was a cadence sensor with an alarm. It would sound whenever I dropped below 70rpm. Off road it was bleeping all the time, but it really helped develop good habits. Just keep hitting the hill at a high rpm and after a month or two you’ll be a gradient-eating monster. You’ll carry that high rpm across the entire ride too. Ideally you should be maintaining the same rpm on the flat as on the climb. Ideally… 😉

    honestly, I think you should ignore the rpm’s. You should be able to grind a hard gear without pains in your knees. It’s something else tyhat’s wrong with your setup./

    nikk
    Member

    How do singlespeeders do it then?

    Mate has dodgy knees but took up singlespeeding, and he climbs no problem, and no knee problems.

    Think there is more to it than cadence. I suspect things like smooth pedal stroke, relaxing, lifting up as well as pushing down, and getting out the saddle as well, all help.

    nick1962
    Member

    Does spinning at the same cadence on a lower incline or on the flat give you knee pain? If not then it’s something else surely?

    JCL
    Member

    You should try and learn to spin over 80rpm anyway as it’s far more efficient so you probably need to run lower gears. 22/36 on a 26″ should get you up anything. If it isn’t try a course of growth hormone.

    spooky_b329
    Member

    Singlespeeders ‘do it’ standing up…my knees feel better now I’ve been riding a singlespeed off and on over the past couple of years as its taught me to stand rather than try and complete the climb sitting. Its influenced my geared bike climbing the same way.

    What does do my knees in though, is spinning at much over 90rpm with little effort (i.e. road sections on mtb ss)

    glupton1976
    Member

    Obvious troll is obvious.

    tinribz
    Member

    Moving the seat forward solved my knee issues via an inline seat post. Also cleats further back or flats.

    What are your gears front and back?

    Premier Icon rickmeister
    Subscriber

    ANother one here for a bike fit. Not only the saddle height but saddle poition in regard to length of your femur and knee position over the pedal when cranks placed horizontally,

    Noo ne mentioned pedal float too though this would be an issue all the time…

    Andy Pruitts medical guide for cyclists is all you need. Road and MTB bike fitting tips and how to change things if bits of you are hurting..

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