The following is a question and answer forum I found on www.cyclingnews.com which interested me (and I am sure other cyclists) regarding knee tracking when pedalling:
I am a competitive 23-year-old category 2 cyclist with a history of IT band problems. I have been fit professionally several times and feel that my overall bike position is good. However, I have always had a tendency for my knees to track inward greatly while pedaling, with the right knee coming inward more so, in a knock kneed fashion.
I feel that this could be contributing to my IT band problems along with limiting my power output since I am pedaling at an angle instead of straight up and down. I currently ride speedplay pedals and have recently experimented with the lateral movement of the cleat to attempt to get my feet more under me and get my knees to track straight up and down better.
My questions are:
1) Could changes to my cleat position help alleviate this knock kneed pedaling style, or is it more likely a biomechanical issue?
2) Is there typically a significant power loss from such a pedaling style in comparison to the knees tracking straight up and down?
Steve Hogg says
The info you have provided is too scanty to give you a definitive answers but I’ll give you some general information that may help.
Knock kneed pedaling can be normal for some people. It depends on how your hips and lower back function. If it is causing pain, then there is a problem that needs to be resolved. Is you ITB pain more acute on one side or does it occur more or less evenly on both sides?
If is mainly on one side then there is some sort of functional asymmetrlcally at work. It may be that you a not sitting squarely on the seat; it may be that your seat is too high or too far back, causing you in turn to favour one side over the other. It could be that there is a leg length difference. It could be many other things but none of them should stop you from riding a bike more or less how you wish to.
You mention being fitted several times and feel that your bike position is good. My concern here is that if your bike position was complete, you wouldn’t be having these problems OR you would have been given advice about the nature of the problem and what you had to do off the bike to resolve it. Are you using wedges or corrective insoles of any kind with your cycling shoes?
If the answer is no, that is where I would start. My experience is that 99 percent of riders need some sort of correction at the foot. Get hold of some Speedplay compatible BikeFit Systems wedges and after reading the instructions, start experimenting. With a bit of care, they should make a substantial difference to that discomfort component of your perceived problem. The knock kneed pedaling technique may, or may not be a problem.
Owen then responded:
Thanks for replying to my email. I have been thinking about what you said during my riding and I have noticed that I do not sit equally on my sit bones. I tend to favor the left sit bone a lot and the pain is mostly coming from my right leg. Could my left side being tighter than my right cause this? You also asked about my lower back and I actually do have lower back issues in races but it is my entire lower back and not specifically one side or the other.
I ride with speedplay pedals and custom molded insoles. When I was fit recently to try to alleviate my it band problems the fitter suggested bringing the cleats all the way back and pushing them all the way in (toward the bike)so that my feet are farthest apart. Would you agree with this suggestion? Would the lateral position of the cleats affect knee tracking significantly?
Steve Hogg says
To answer your questions:
“I tend to favour the left sit bone a lot and the pain is mostly coming from my right leg. Could my left side being tighter than my right cause this?”
Yes. You are likely loading your left sit bone because either you have a short left leg that hasn’t been compensated for in form of a shim OR you have a functionally shorter right leg because you are, as you say, tighter on that side and this hasn’t been compensated for either. Either way, your right leg will have to reach further. Additionally, did your bike fitter use a goniometer; i.e, a joint angle measuring device, to determine the included angle of the knee at the bottom of the pedal stroke?
If so, beware, because many people who use these devices only focus on the included knee angle instead of focusing on what the pelvis is doing from where all the action starts. If you are loading your left sit bone preferentially, I will guarantee that you are dropping the left hip and resolving or moderating that tendency should be your bike fitters focus.
“When I was fit recently to try to alleviate my IT band problems the fitter suggested bringing the cleats all the way back and pushing them all the way in (towards the bike)so that my feet are farthest apart. Would you agree with this suggestion?
What was his/her rationale?
Your original query was about “knock kneed pedaling”. If that is how you pedal, then the centre of your instep should be more or less under the centre of the knee as it descends in most cases. I see no value in trying to force your knees outwards by moving your feet further apart.
Again, the focus of your fitter’s efforts should be on moderating the pelvic asymmetries of function that the info you have provided strongly implies you have. The ‘knock kneed’ pedaling may or may not be the problem. For many it isn’t. Originally you asked if the knock kneed pedaling technique contributed to your itb problems. The likely answer is that the structural issues that cause your itb problems contribute to you pedaling knees in, not the other way around.
Would the lateral position of the cleats affect knee tracking significantly?”
Potentially yes, but I reiterate, moving the feet outward in the hope that this will bring the knees with them, pain free, is a high risk approach. Have you tried any wedging yet as I suggested in my original reply?