Question about knees/ long distance riding

Hi All,

I recently started doing long distance riding again, with an 80 km ride from Vienna to Bratislava last weekend. It was a great day, but I had a bit of a crash after 70 km or so. When I finished the ride, I had pain in my knees when I walked up or down stairs. In the last couple of days, the pain has mostly subsided, but I am worried about what may have happened. I don’t know if the pain is more related to how I was riding or if it had more to do with falling and hitting my knees on the ground. Does anybody have any experience or advice about making knees as comfortable as possible on rides or avoiding repetitive injuries?

I have a 36" Coker with 115 cranks.

Thanks for the help!

I was a runner for many years, and ended up with problems in my right knee.
I stopped running and rested the knee, at the same time I started taking the supplement Glucosamine and Chondroitin.
Within a few months my knee was almost back to normal allowing me to resume cycling and hill walking.
That was many years ago, but I never stopped taking the supplement.
The following is a link to what I take (UK).

It is important to take this level of quality, as the cheapo ones are nothing like as effective. It protects against arthritis and helps repair existing damage.
Also, it takes a few months to take full effect.
If you stop taking it, the problems come back.

After years of riding and weight training my knees weren’t fantastic and taking the above supliments really helped. I used cheaper ones and found they worked well enough that pills 4 times as much could not be 4 times as good. Just my opinion mind :slight_smile:

That sounds like par for my course without a crash/knee impact during my ride. In my case it was just a matter of my muscles trying to catch up to my desire to unicycle. You may have tried too much too soon. Do you regularly go those distances and not experience similar pain?

Then again I have had terrible knees my whole life. Both sound like someone trying to eat gravel when I bend them, so I may be a standout in the knees hurt when descending stairs after a ride department. I had a meniscus tear when I was a kid and the legacy it left me with has been knee pain that occurs when descending stairs or a slope. It comes and goes.

I think it probably depends on how serious a problem one has.
For light wear and tear, I’m sure the cheaper ones are fine.
My knee was very bad as I couldn’t climb stairs hardly, so I progressed to the high strength one.

My knees hurt when I first started unicycling, but they don’t now. I also take a supplement, but have been taking it for years.

Oh, thanks for the suggestions! I guess I have to track down some supplement now…

I haven’t been doing long distance rides in a couple of years. Recently, the longest I have done has been about 15 km, and that didn’t cause any problems for me. Is this the sort of thing that my knees will adjust to if I go a lot, or will that just exacerbate the problem?

I think everybody gets knee problems… I just stopped riding when it hurt and slowly built the distances up :slight_smile:

I was diagnosed as suffering from erosion of the cartilage in both knees many years ago and was advised not to ride a bike at all. When I started unicycling my knees hurt. However, the more I rode the less it hurt. Today I can ride long distances without a problem. It’s probably because the leg muscles got stronger. I am not taking any supplements.

You may want to go check your knee if the pain persists. I would recommend going to a Physical therapist that works with athletes.

Not really.

You’ll have to figure out your own body; no one here can tell you what’s up with your knees. It may be that you just need to build up muscle by training. It may be that you’re lacking in cartilage, or have bone spurs, or some other degenerative condition. It may be that you strained something, or bruised something, or tore something.

The general rule is, if it hurts it’s probably not good, but if you’re doing physical things when you’re over 35, things are probably going to hurt, and you have to learn your own body to figure out what you can tolerate and what indicates a real injury.


I like Tholub’s response. Know your body and its limits. I normally ride a little less than half of the 80km that you ride on a 29" road unicycle. My knees feel a little sore sometimes after a ride. I’m ok with being a little sore; I do have 20+ years on you. I would imagine my knees would hurt more if I ride for 80km. If time allows I would like to get in a ride of that distance. It would be difficult for me to find the time to ride that distance with a wife, kids, and a job with 12 hour shifts.

I think the key to your pain is when you wrote:
“I recently started doing long distance riding again”

Any time you suddenly increase your mileage, your body is going to react, esp if you cause damage. As we age, the liklihood that our bodies will react to a sudden increase in demand is greater, in part because we have loss some of our elasticity, as well we have loss some muscle mass, cartilage has thinned, etc…

The older we get the more important it is to train, gradually increasing our mileage, that way you prevent injury syndromes. Hurting yourself by overtraining will often take longer to overcome than if you had trained correctly to start.

For an 80k ride you should have been doing long rides weekly of at least half that distance. Even if you did long rides like this in the past, you still need to build up your body to accomodate the demand, or you’ll get hurt. Your knees hurt because of overuse.

In terms of supplements, there is some anecdotal “data” in favor of them, but there is no supplement that will allow you to overcome poor training or that will prevent injuries from being out of shape for your chosen sport.

Develop a training plan, start back at what was your typical mileage before you hurt your knees, then start working up the mileage, don’t forget to vary the type of riding you do, have short and long days, allow rests, and taper your mileage down in advance of a big ride.

Take care of your knees, you’ll need them for a while longer :roll_eyes:

If you gradually increase the load on your knees, the cluster of muscles around the knees should get stronger (so long as there is no underlying problem) and will help protect the knees from damage.
This happened to me many years ago when I started road running. For about three months my knees were aching, but they gradually got to the point where they gave me no trouble no matter what I put them through.

What about those patella support straps you see all the pro athletes wear these days below their knees and elbows? I don’t see much talk about them but if these guys are wearing them it makes me wonder if they would help.