Knee Pain and Cycling

Hey Everyone,

A few years back and a couple of years after my knee surgery (cartilage tear and ACL replacement) I went on a cross country bicycle trip.  It was about a 2700 mile trip and lasted about 2 months.  Many people I spoke with at the time said cycling was a really good thing to do coming back from a knee injury/surgery.  At that time, it was about 2 years after I had knee surgery and I was still struggling with all sorts of issues related to the knee.

  • The Knee would just sweat on its own (the rest of me would be dry)
  • The knee would still feel stiff
  • Tension in my hips, lower back, neck, and shoulders
  • Not to mention the knee pain I was still having

The reason why I was told cycling would be good exercise for my knee was due to the fact that it was a controlled range of motion and if I got “toe clips” or “clip less pedals.”  Toe clips (to a lesser degree) and clip less pedals (to a greater degree) keep your foot “tight” to the pedal allowing you to pull up with one leg while the other leg is pushing down creating a smooth circular motion with the pedals.  I would not only be working the knee in the front, I would also be working on strengthening the back of the knee as well which provides tremendous all around support for your knees.

So I bought a nice cross country bike (A Trek 520) and began riding.   Riding a bicycle with a full load (70 or so lbs.) is quite different from riding with no load on the bike.

Knee Exercises - cycling**This next point is the essence of the entire post and how you can benefit most from cycling to get over your knee pain or strengthening your knees.

It is crucial that you keep your revolutions per minute (RPM) up between 80 – 100 whether you are riding with a full load or not.  Why is this so important you might ask?

Well the reason is quite clear after you are riding long distances day after day.  I found out that I would get this terrible pain in the front of my knee below my knee cap.  The harder and heavier I pushed the more they hurt.

Think of it like shoveling dirt.  Every time you take a scoop you have to lift the weight.  If you took a full shovel load it would weight maybe 25 to 30 lbs, now shovel that over and over day in and day out.  The first few days are going to be very difficult and you might not even be able to make it.  However, it you now took only a 5 lb shovel full.  How long do you think you would be able to do that day after day?  Let me tell you it is a lot easier and you can keep it up for a much longer period of time.

The point is when you keep your RPMs up between 80 to 100 it is like you have only 5 lbs on your shovel.  You can ride for long distances and your knees will become stronger as a result with less fatigue and recovery time.

Knee Pain - CyclingKnowing your knees is important and the big thing here is not to over do it with your knees.  If they begin to hurt more while you are cycling it is time to back off and take some time to rest.  Knowing your knees is
essential and when to push them a little harder and when to back off.

So try a little bit of cycling and let me know how it goes.  Remember the more questions you ask the more you are going to understand about what is going on with your knees and the knee pain you are feeling.

Let me know if you have any questions by sending them to or just post a comment below.

Best regards,


(The Knee Pain Guru)

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I have zero pain in my knee until I cycle over about 15 miles, then I start noticing pain in on the side of my knee until in builds so much I can’t turn the pedals. Once I’m home and move around walking it starts disappearing again. Any ideas what it could be? My passion is cycling and I’m desperate to get back out on a long ride.
Many thanks


Hi Bill, Couple of years back I started doing Yoga and I developed pain in my left knee because of over stretching. After few days of ice massage and anti inflammatory medication it was Ok . I could feel very mild stiffness but no pain and it was ok . Now a month back i went for 15km snow walking and the knee pain got worsened. Infact , all my joints were aching. Then iam diagnosed with low vitamin d and low iron and also the cartilage in my left knee has been damaged. Iam taking supplements for vit-d and… Read more »



Francis Chapman

I also got involved in an accident while riding my Morpheus CONSPIRACY Standard Build. It took me a month or so to recover. I’m just glad that you too are improving.


Hi I just stumbled across this article and have a few questions. I have been having knee problems for a long time now, but my GP has narrowed it down to my weight issues (I am a little bit heavier than I should be but am making slow progress to a healthier lifestyle). This said, I am at the gym 4 – 5 times a week doing cardio and strength training, but my knees never seem to make the full duration of the workout. Most of the time I experience terrible pain in my right knee after squats & lunges… Read more »


Hi Bill,
After 5 knee ops i cannot cycle due to the fact the vmo does not engage when cycling, even after 3 mins cycling, over the following 48 hrs my glutes, bicep femoris, lateral quads and calf muscles all go extremly tight and its seems like my shin bone is being twisted externally… there any way to sort this out??? i really miss cycling. simple stretching and trigger point therapy don’t help.


YAY! Sounds like you are aldeary doing pretty well and I bet the ice/elevation is helping a LOT. Hopefully you'll just keep improving from here!!


Hi Bill Im a 57year old women and must go for a knee replacement. Sometime
the pain is very intense and other times quite bearable. Is their any way I can prevent the operation My problems are from an injury but also osteo arthritus
Thanks you so much
Beatrix Cape Town South Africa

Bernard Davis

Hi Bill
The problem with my knee it herts when i walk because of that i limp a little i don’t
know if you can help but if you can i would great full

Thank you

beryl johnson

Hi Bill,
My left knee is still painful to bend – I tried to cycle but my knee hurt above the knee cap when it bent and it still hurts when I am going down stairs. Walking up the stairs seems fine though!


Hi Bill,

Just read your article and noticed a similarity… I too have this pain in my knee, just below the knee cap. I have not been to the doctor’s yet but just want to know whether can this be cured quickly (a week or two) or do I have to lay off cycling for a while. I do mainly mountain biking, trails and some roads. In your experience, would appreciate to know whether this is not a ligament tear or so.



Hi Bill, thank you for your time. I have had knee problems from cycling for a number of seasons. Two years ago I had a snowmobile accident and had to have my knee tightened? I started cycling again this season and had no problems with pain. Now just today it started hurting again. When I had the surgery the Dr. said he fixed three things while he was in there. It was looking as though he had fixed my cycling problem too until today. The first time I hurt it was a cold day and many miles, too slow cadence… Read more »

John Dodd

Hello Bill, you talk about running as part of the advance exercises. But I was wondering whether running the stairs in my apartment block, (starting with walking) would be a good alternative. The reason is that at present I live and work in Moscow, Russia and the air quality is not that good and everyone parks their cars on the pavement anyway.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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