I Have Knee Problems – What Type of Bike Should I Buy?
If you’re considering cycling as a long-term pain management solution, make sure you know your limits. Biking is a much more low-impact sport than running or other comparable fitness activities, but it has its own risks and people considering taking up cycling need to make sure to understand those risks before jumping in.
However, that being said, cycling is a great way to stay in shape and minimize impact on your joints. You will need to make sure to get a bike that fits and then adjust it to your body, and of course you will need to make sure you get the right type of bike for your needs.
Whether you are familiar with every kind of bike from beach cruiser to time trial bike or this is the first time you have heard of anything besides a mountain bike, this short guide will get you on the road and on the way to leaving your knee problems in the dust!
Types of Bicycles for Knee Problems
There are plenty of options when it comes to bike types. There are aggressively designed road bikes designed for speed at the cost of comfort, and plush cruiser bikes geared for meandering jaunts instead of competition. So, what type of bike is best to soothe your knee pains?
Cruisers are the best bikes for people looking to pick up cycling as a casual hobby. They are characterized by heavy frames, soft and wide saddles, and wide curved handlebars for maximum control. Though not made for speed, they are perfect bikes for those looking to take casual rides and just enjoy being outside.
The best part about cruiser bikes for folks with knee problems is that the seat height and pedal position allow you to sit in an ergonomic, upright position, and do not require you to fully flex or extend your knees while riding. Some other models require hunching over the handlebars to generate power, but not so with a cruiser. This is far and away the best choice for a cyclist with knee problems, but don’t expect to win any races…
A hybrid bike combines the sturdiness and control of a mountain bike with the weight and speed of a road bike. Especially for riders who plan to spend a lot of time riding in the city, hybrid bikes are the best option for reducing knee pain while still maintaining speed.
The advantage of a hybrid bike is that it does not force you into the compacted position that a road bike requires, but the narrow tires and lightweight frame can still give you the speed needed for a commuter or exercise bike.
A mountain bike is a great choice for cyclists with knee problems because of the shock-absorbing suspension systems and comfortable saddles. However, if you plan on spending a lot of time cycling in town, a mountain bike may not be the best option for you as the tires will wear quickly and the heavy frame can be a hindrance to speed without giving any real advantage over a hybrid bike.
So, while a mountain bike may be better for knee pain than a hybrid bike, you are probably better sticking with a cruiser or hybrid unless you plan on cycling mostly offroad.
A road bike is a poor choice for cyclists with knee problems. These models are characterized by drop handlebars and very narrow tires. They have no mechanism for absorbing shock, and also force the ride to hunch over the handlebars, which creates a painful situation for your knees.
Unless you can manage your knee pain in some other way, a road bike is likely completely off the table. Even though cycling on a road bike is a step up from running, it is still not an ideal long-term exercise plan for people with knee problems.
Self-Propelled or Assisted
Perhaps the easiest way to reduce knee pain while still getting some fitness benefits from cycling is to invest in an assisted bike. Most bicycles are self-propelled, meaning the rider is completely responsible for powering the bike. However, with the rise of electric bicycles, cyclists now have the option of motor-assisted bikes.
An assisted bike can be great for folks with knee problems because they allow you to bike for as long as is comfortable under your own power, but when your knees start to complain, you don’t have to pack it in. Rather, you can simply switch on the electric motor and continue your ride.
The drawback to assisted bikes is that they take away from your opportunity to exercise. However, it is better to be able to get in a short ride and then cruise on battery power than to only be able to ride for a short time before having to head in.
Getting the Right Bike
Once you have decided on the type of bike, your journey to buying one still is not over. Your next step is to ensure the bike fits and that you have it adjusted properly. If not, then even the comfiest cruiser will compound your knee pain.
Start by determining what size frame you need. This can easily be determined from your height or inseam length. The next thing is to consider other measurements of the bike. For instance, if you have shorter arms, you will need a bike with a shorter “reach” measurement to ensure you do not have to hunch over the pedals, which will still cause knee pain even on the best bike.
Once you have your bike, be sure to adjust the seat post so you are in a comfortable riding position. A seat that is too high or too low can contribute to your knee pain and may also cause new pain in your back.