3 Hidden Stiff Areas That May Cause Your Knee Pain on the Bike

How do your knees feel on the bike?

Are you experiencing any knee pain or discomfort?

If so, have you ever taken the time to figure out why?

Interestingly, the onset of knee pain can often feel mysterious. One minute you're out of your seat powering up another hill and the next you're incapacitated by pain and dysfunction and having to re-evaluate your cycling mortality.

However despite how random the onset and persistence of knee pain can feel, there are some tangible reasons it exists. Reasons that go beyond cliche's like doing too much, age, and bad luck.

They're just hard to notice unless you know what to look for.

So the team here at Laguna Orthopedic Rehabilitation in Laguna Niguel would like to help.

We'd like to expose some of the hidden handbrakes potentially responsible for your knee pain on the bike. Because to understand the true cause your knee pain is to understand how to conquer it.

Here are three genuinely hidden mechanical factors that can set your knees up to become sore when riding your bike.


Your Ankles Are Stiff

The first hidden handbrake is a stiff ankle.

It may not seem like much but thanks to heeled shoes and flip flops our ankles can easily stiffen over time. The ankle is literally the next joint below the knee, so any restriction here can force the knee to compensate unnecessarily.

This can often be seen towards the top of your pedaling stroke.

When observing from the front your knees should stay in a similar plane for maximum efficiency. Ankle stiffness forces your knee to shunt inwards in an attempt to find a way around it.

This changes the way the entire knee (and leg) is loaded, setting structures like the Patella, Meniscus and ITB up for failure over time.

Raising the height of your seat will decrease the demands on your ankle mobility. If this helps reduce your knee pain strongly consider freeing up your ankles.

Exercise to rectify:

Banded ankle stretch.


Your Hips Are Stiff

As with the ankle, hip stiffness can also change the way you load the knee - setting it up for pain on the bike.

The modern world forces us to sit more than we should. As a result, the front of our hips can stiffen if stuck in the same shape for hours on end. Many of the tissue that cross the front of the hip and thigh directly communicate with the knee. The tighter these areas become the less available slack there is for the knee to play with.

This greater resting tension can challenge the Quadriceps and Patella tendons as well as the Patella itself leading to a multitude of issues if subjected to the repetitive nature of cycling.

Exercise to rectify:

The Couch stretch


Your Back Is Stiff

Another handbrake to consider is a stiff low back.

Our thirst for sitting can not only stiffen us up at the hips but the low back as well. The slouchy postures and poor positions we find ourselves in on the couch, in the car, at the computer etc can ask specific parts of our back to stiffen over time.

These stiffness areas can then de-activate our Gluteals and tighten our Quadriceps and Hamstrings - further effecting the function of the knee.

Exercise to rectify:

Foam roller stretch



So if you knees are giving you grief on the bike, you're hoping to avoid it in the future or just looking to improve your performance on the bike, make sure to look beyond the knee. By all means manage any specific areas of pain or local dysfunction, but go hunting for stiffness in rest of your lower half as well.

Remember, stiffness is hard to appreciate unless you specifically go looking for it.

When your knee first began to hurt on the bike, don’t think of it as the start of something new. Instead, look at is as the last straw. Consider it the moment your body stopped tolerating this covert dysfunction it's been buffering for a while beforehand.

By doing so, you may just uncover the true cause of you knee pain allowing you to work towards eliminating it for good.

After all you deserve to be able to ride your bike to fullest of your potential.

If this resonates with you - and you'd like some specialized help, why not come in and let the Physical Therapists at Laguna Orthopedic Rehabilitation in Laguna Niguel check you out!

Give us a call on (949) 443-5442 and let us help you improve your performance on the bike.

Good luck and happy riding!