Not being 22 any more (the age I was in 1988 when I took my first loaded bicycle tour), I decided I’d better get in shape before our upcoming cycling trip. So around the beginning of the summer, I started cycling more, and I’m very glad I did it — I wanted to enjoy the bicycling on our trip, and I think I’m in good enough shape now that I will.
But one thing I ran into was some knee pain, especially on our shakedown cruise (where we carried/towed gear comparable to what we’ll have with us on the trip). I’ve had on-and-off knee issues since high school, and I do about 30 minutes of stretches and exercises every day (well, most days) for my knees and back, and generally both my knees and my back do fine these days. So I was a bit dismayed to have this knee pain crop up, and I had to make some adjustments to myself and my bicycle:
- I got some special bolts that go between the pedal and the crank (see photo below), so that my feet are wider apart than they would be otherwise, as recommended on several on-line forums and by Dale down at the Angle Lake bike shop (the best place to go locally for recumbent bicycles) as a possible solution.
- I adjusted the seat to move it back. But I find that on the recumbent bicycle, even if the seat is adjusted to as far back as I can put it (so my knees are pretty much straight at the far end of the pedal stroke), my knee is still bent over 90 degrees at the near end of the pedal stroke. Pushing on a very bent knee is what puts strain on the knee.
- I considered getting a smaller crank arm. If you get shorter crank arms, the difference between how bent your knee is when extended vs. at the near end of the stroke is less, so you can in theory reduce the strain on the knee. However, it also reduces your leverage on the chain, so you will have to pedal harder… Also the bike has a non-standard crank (it has an easy-remove bolt), so it’s hard to find a crank to replace it with. Crank shorteners are one possible solution (these are devices that attach to the crank arm and give you options for attaching pedals), but I decided not to go that route either for now.
- Mental adjustment… This has I think made the largest difference. I have adjusted my pedaling cadence, so that I am spinning fast rather than pushing hard on the pedals. Especially when starting out from a stop: instead of shifting down a gear or two, I am now shifting down by about four gears. The idea is to avoid pushing hard on the pedals. I am probably also going slower, so my slogan for the trip will probably be “I’m not fast, but I’m determined!” Anyway, we don’t have to go at a particular speed or cover a particular number of miles — the objective is to enjoy the trip, and see places we haven’t been before, not to set records.
So my bike looks even a bit stranger than it did, but my knees are doing pretty well, and I’m looking forward to LEAVING NEXT WEDNESDAY! Yippee!!!