Jacob Tipper, cycling coach with On the Rivet Coaching explains what might be going wrong when your knee starts to hurt after a couple of hours on your bike, and offers some exercises that might help.
Many knee injuries tend to be overuse ones due to the repetitive nature of the pedal stroke. With an average of 5,400 pedal strokes per hour it’s easy to see how any biomechanical issues can be easily magnified to become a problem.
The factors affecting overuse injuries can vary from; an incorrect position, sudden increase in mileage and intensity, or even a change in terrain such as an increase in climbing. There are potential ways to reduce the risk of these injuries, a professional bike fit is a good way to start. The bike fitter fits you in the correct position by adjusting saddle-height and set back, so the knee is at the correct angle throughout the full dynamic of the pedal stroke.
The use of varus/valgus wedges or orthotics in the shoe may also be used to correct any biomechanical problems allowing for straight tracking of the knee.
Stretching after training rides is also beneficial for injury prevention, for example, stretching of the quadriceps and hip flexors can reduce the pressure of the tendon pulling on the patella (knee cap) which can create irritation causing inflammation of the joint.
Muscle imbalances can also be a cause of problems, if certain muscles are too dominant they may be pulling your patella out of alignment causing inflammation or other complications, to combat this there are various body weight exercise you can do such a lunges, step ups, and squats with single or double leg actions.
If you still encounter problems it’s worth you finding a sports specific physio to make sure there are no other underlying issues.