I have been riding about 12 miles a day weather permitting for about 2000 miles/year for the last couple of years on a 36er on mostly flat terrain. I would do an occasional 25 miles some days. My knees feel like they are wearing out and I find that after unicycling some days I can barely walk. If I give my self a few days rest they feel better. I try stretching before and during my ride. I have began shortening my ride to 8-9 miles a day and that seems to help a little. If I attempted a ride greater than 50 miles, I probably wouldn’t be able to walk for a week (I did ride 100 miles in 4 days in 2013).
Type of terrain? (road, flat, some hills, Lots of hills)
Not sure what else might play in. Lots of sports in your youth (I get the impression you're not a teenager) that may have also done knee wear & tear? Average speed range?
Oh, is your seat at a good height? For road riding you generally want only a small bend in your knee with the pedal at the bottom.
If you ride 12 miles consistently, your knees should be used to that. If they get sore after those daily rides, something is going on. You might want to have a sports-oriented doctor have a look and see if you need to make some changes in food, lifestyle, etc.
All of those are possible factors. Looking at Google Maps, Mendon, NY looks mostly flat. Actually I’ve been in the area. I’ve been to Honeoye Falls, and passed through Livonia (I grew up in Livonia, Michigan).
That happened to me, I was (and still am) young and healthy but developed muscle imbalances from riding too much. Basically my muscles were pulling my kneecap out of alignment when I rode, and eventually even when I was just walking. It got pretty bad.
When I finally found a doctor that knew what he was talking about he told me to sit in a chair and just straighten my legs one at a time doing 3 reps of 10 each side 3 times a day.
Once I started doing that my knees quickly improved and I still do it every once in a while when I feel like it’s starting to come back.
My post problably wont help, but I 'll express it anyway.
I am on the opposite end. I haven’t ridden in over a week due to my busy work schedule this couple of weeks. I can feel some achy soreness these couple of days, also is my legs muscles, and my back. I know that when I start riding again, those aches will go away, assuming that I dont over do it, too fast.
So all these years that I’ve been working, Ive always had nagging aches, then came unicycling, and it had helped temendously. But if I know if completely stop, I know my body will be miserably achy again…
Had some knee soreness a few years back. Because I stretched the trained muscles of my thigh not enough, they became shorter and shorter the more I trained them. The result was that the shortened muscles put too much pressure on my kneecap. So all I had to do was stretching theese muscles regularily, especially after training.
Another point could be wear. Joints are like gearboxes. Too much stress with too little lubrication and they wear. But the lubricating joint fluid is only produced when you move the joint. A good exercise to let your knees produce more joint fluid is to sit on a high chair or on a table and just let your lower legs dangle for a few minutes every day.
For me knee pain is often associated with control forces rather than locomotion. Especially after a long ride when you are tired. I swap wheel sizes on a regular basis in between rides. This helps a lot. On the smaller wheels the rotation is faster and other things hurt than on the larger wheels where rotation is typically slower. Also changing seat hight, seat angle and crank length and tire pressure will change things a bit preventing stress at the same location as the latest ride.
I’d ease up, riding once every second day and reduce your distance until things get better.
I do something similar to Sask’s knee raising exercises whenever I have any sign of knee problems. ( I’m a bit paranoid about my knees)
As a way out suggestion how about getting a 20" and playing with that on your off days? I got one last December and within a month had raised the seat on my 29 by a cm. I had had it at the “as high as I can have it and mount the thing” height too!
My knees were getting so bad that I was having trouble even during the off season. So what did I do? I found that my careless dismounts were the cause of my sore knees.
First I found that I need to slow down, not hop off while going 10-12 mph. Takes about two revs on my 36, when not using brakes.
Second, crawl off and touch down as softly as possible.
On a typical ride of 10-12 miles I would hop off 50 to 100 times to retrieve juggling clubs which I would inevitably drop. Many times I would have to hurry to get them out of the road before oncoming traffic got to them, so many of my dismounts were intense. The act of riding the unicycle did not have any negative effect on my knees. Over the last year and a half, since I have corrected my harsh dismounts, my knees have improved and are practically back to normal.
So a warning to all unicyclists…protect your knees by going easy on dismounts.
Yes I noticed that too when practicing with the 36". It is quite high to hop off of all the time or with all my failed mounts hopping off the front, because I couldn’t find the balance right away. Now I ride 32" which is much easier to mount and I always slow down to step off backwards to save my knees.
I recently solved a decade-long knee problem. In the process, I learned a lot.
General advice for knee problems
If rest and coming back slowly doesn’t work…
Rest, then more rest. Really take a break. Then come back SLOW and consider some attention to the below areas.
Massage your knee(s). Go easy. I learned this from sports massage, go easy. Just explore and gently rub the various little muscles/tendons you find.
A really good place to start for knee issues is any yoga stretch for the hips. These are good:
Massage/stretch the anterior tibialis muscle. It runs just outside your shin bone.
I/T band stretches. Go gently, it’s a really strong tendon and tendons don’t really stretch. But they hit the three muscles that make up your butt muscles and you want those loose and strong. To more directly hit those muscles you can look up stretches for the gluteus maximus, medius, minimus.
To make them strong, glute activation. Hip thrusts, planks, and clamshells are good for that. Glute activation improvement can make someone a stronger rider in general
It never hurts to stretch hip flexors - they get short and tight from cycling (and sitting in general).
Don’t overlook adjusting seat height. Even a 1/4" can make a difference.
I solved my knee problem by lowering my seat a lot! But my situation was unique.
I put these at the end on purpose. Footbeds can be tried.
I’ve not had any problems with my knees since I learned to pistol squat all the way to the ground and back, my favourite bodyweight exercise
Strength over the full range of motion is probably something to work on, clearly flexibility has a large part to play. This also helps you avoid/absorb shock.
I cringe when my wife walks down the stairs without bending her knees (a holdover from protecting a weak knee after a previous injury).