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  • Knee Pain

    I've been unicycling for 6 months now and have strugged with intermittent knee pain. I came into unicycling with problematic knees. At first I couldn't ride more than a few miles before my knees flared up, but that stopped being a problem once I built leg strength. Then I started doing muni without a brake, and going miles downhill was too hard on my knees. But again I built up leg strength some more and the knee problem went away.

    However I overdid it last week. I went 20 miles over the weekend, including over 10 miles of muni and 6 of unicycling my dog. My dog pulls, which translates to stress on my knees. That really messed my knees up and I couldn't unicycle the week after.

    This week I've been trying to get lightly back into it by riding around on my little 20" unicycle. The tiny cranks don't cause a problem for my knees unless I go up or down something steep. I also noticed that my 29" which has 114mm cranks also doesn't stress my knees out, as long as I stay away from the hills (which normally are no problem, but again, my knees are recovering).

    I should mention that besides my small 20" and 29" with 114mm cranks, my muni is a 26" Torker LX with I think 175mm cranks; they're very long.

    Are long cranks and/or riding muni without a brake associated with knee pain? If it weren't for my dang knees I would be doing muni every day. It sucks, they're my weakest link.

  • #2
    My knee pains disappear with my cranks set at 150mm.
    I do have intermitten knee pain now with my cranks at 127mm.

    Unless it's straight up the mountain, I never use my 150 setting anymore because of the smooth ride I get everywhere else with the 127 holes. 150 just seems so clunky.

    So for me, shorter cranks cause knee pain.
    My knees are in bad shape already from years of hard play so strength exercises are a regular routine for them also.

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    • #3
      Your cranks are probably less than 175mm unless you put them on yourself, but in any case, the longer they are, the more your knees get flexed with every turn of the wheel. This can be a good thing when you need to get up steep stuff or over big bumps, but the rest of the time, it's more wear & tear on the joints.

      If your trails aren't steep, you can definitely try something shorter. I've recently had some great riding after switching to the 127 holes (instead of 150) on the KH cranks on my 26" Muni. It feels great going faster, and I can still ride up (and down) quite a bit. Looks like Canoehead is having the same experience!

      Also consider adding a brake. If your trails are flattish, maybe not on that uni but on the one your dog pulls you on. Brakes will take a lot of load off your knees once you get used to applying them. I'm still learning that for trail riding; I've only had a brake on my Muni a little over a year.

      Wait a minute, I thought Saratoga was up the Napa Valley (must have got it mixed up with Calistoga). You're right down the street from SilvaCycles if you need help adding a brake. And I guess you have easy access to as much steep as you want, if you so choose...
      Last edited by johnfoss; 2017-12-22, 06:38 AM.
      John Foss
      www.unicycling.com

      "Who is going to argue with a mom who can ride a unicycle?" -- Forums member "HiMo"

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      • #4
        I've been riding for 2.5 years now and 2 months ago I rode 10km on my trials unicycle. It like how easy it is to mount and it just all went so smoothly. Of course it doesn't go fast, but I had all the time in the world. I mostly rode on asphalt, but with hills and parts with lots of potholes and bumps. Ever since that trip my knees have been hurting.
        Because I'm too addicted to unicycling, I can't just stop a week and let it heal. I've also been focusing a lot on hopping. this might not be the smartest thing to do with such a knee, but I actually think, my legs have become stronger.

        I was just wondering that now that I don't really balance with my torso anymore, but mostly with my hips, that I might still, like a beginner, also use my legs for balance. It is the knee on my dominant side that complains. It is not very bad and on a normal size uni I can ride as far as I like, but the light pressure in the knee is there all the time.

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        • #5
          Another thing worth looking into is: are you fully sitting into the saddle with hardly any weight on the pedals?
          From personal experience, it took me a while to realize that I was riding with always some weight on the pedals. But having perfected it to an amazing degree, I thought I was doing the right thing. But long rides would always end up with knee pain as flexing the legs under tension makes the joints rub harder. Grind is the word.

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          • #6
            Hi there

            I would say Unicycling can be quite hard on your knees if you go uphill, do Muni, Trials etc.. Especially if you have only been riding for 6 months.

            When I fist started Unicycling I would also get sore knees often if I was trying hard to learn skills/tricks like iddling, or trying Muni/long distance etc..

            I have been Unicycling now for at least 4 years and I still get sore knees here and there if I do too much of it (Muni, Trials, etc..) in one weekend! I think to get at least some pain your knees after over doing it is probably quite normal. I also get back/neck pain here and there (due to a bad fall a couple of years ago).

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            • #7
              Originally posted by pierrox View Post
              Another thing worth looking into is: are you fully sitting into the saddle with hardly any weight on the pedals?
              that's the thing...weight on the saddle helps a lot...when i muni, I have to sometimes remind myself to keep my butt on the saddle and keep legs turning freely when on flatter grounds...steeper grades differ...in the beginning, I had a bit of knee pain pain plus would get muscle cramps quicker, but since then can ride longer without...

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              • #8
                Originally posted by johnfoss View Post

                Also consider adding a brake. If your trails are flattish, maybe not on that uni but on the one your dog pulls you on. Brakes will take a lot of load off your knees once you get used to applying them. I'm still learning that for trail riding; I've only had a brake on my Muni a little over a year.
                I know that you are one of the legends who has been unicycling for a long time, probably at a very high level.

                Does this mean that you have only used a brake on your unicycles for a year?

                I ask this because I am thinking of going brakeless when I upgrade from a Trials uni as a learner likely to a 24" Muni, but I might go bigger.

                Wish the KH line was available with the high end build as option without brakes. I was also thinking the the QU-AX Q-Axle is more advanced, and it would be cheaper to buy their brakeless 24" Muni and if necessary replace the steel frame with a KH frame and seatpost than to buy the KH and remove the brake. I think that the wheelset would fit right in.

                Is this a bad idea? Am I just asking for knee pain if I go brakeless?


                Human gyroscope in training.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Up Rite View Post
                  I ask this because I am thinking of going brakeless when I upgrade from a Trials uni as a learner likely to a 24" Muni, but I might go bigger.
                  I have a brake on my 26" Oracle with 165mm cranks. The brake has been very useful for my riding conditions. Recently, I put together a new uni, a lightweight 24" with 150mm cranks. Strangely, I feel the brake is less important on the 24". I am able to go down many of the same steep hills without a brake, and without any pain in my knees.

                  A 24" muni may be a candidate for no brake. Once you get to 26" or greater, having a brake gets more important, at least for me and my setup.

                  The OP said he's been riding for 6 months and rides a 29" with 114mm cranks. My knees hurt just thinking about that setup. On the other side of the issue, I can understand how turning longer cranks, with the greater range of motion, could be associated with knee pain.

                  When I was able to get both hands on the bar ends for the majority of my riding, I think this helped my knees. Holding onto the seat handle allowed my hips to rise fall more during the cycle of the pedal stroke. This meant I could use the same long cranks without having to bend my knees so much. Perhaps it decreased the amount of work my knees were doing, as well.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Up Rite View Post
                    I know that you are one of the legends who has been unicycling for a long time, probably at a very high level.

                    Does this mean that you have only used a brake on your unicycles for a year?

                    I ask this because I am thinking of going brakeless when I upgrade from a Trials uni as a learner likely to a 24" Muni, but I might go bigger.

                    Wish the KH line was available with the high end build as option without brakes. I was also thinking the the QU-AX Q-Axle is more advanced, and it would be cheaper to buy their brakeless 24" Muni and if necessary replace the steel frame with a KH frame and seatpost than to buy the KH and remove the brake. I think that the wheelset would fit right in.

                    Is this a bad idea? Am I just asking for knee pain if I go brakeless?
                    Hi Up Rite I thought you were after a strong Unicycle. Nothing wrong with a steel frame (are they not really strong?). I don't think you need an aluminium KH frame to build a good Unicycle. My Quax 26 Steel frame Muni was cheap and came without a brake, also it has a 48 spokes/holes hub (rather than 36). It is built like tank and it rides really well. It is the only unicycle which I haven't had to either true the wheel or replace a broken spoke since I bought it. I had to replace many broken spokes in my KH Unicycles!

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Moslki View Post
                      I had to replace many broken spokes in my KH Unicycles!
                      How do you break the spokes? By UPD'ing in a bad way or jumping down heights? I don't do real technical rides, mostly cross country and am learning hopping with my trials. In the 2.5 years of uni-ing, I've only had a prob with the KH 26 muni where a piece of the hub flange had broken off, so I needed a new hub.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Moslki View Post
                        Hi Up Rite I thought you were after a strong Unicycle. Nothing wrong with a steel frame (are they not really strong?). I don't think you need an aluminium KH frame to build a good Unicycle. My Quax 26 Steel frame Muni was cheap and came without a brake, also it has a 48 spokes/holes hub (rather than 36). It is built like tank and it rides really well. It is the only unicycle which I haven't had to either true the wheel or replace a broken spoke since I bought it. I had to replace many broken spokes in my KH Unicycles!
                        Thanks for the heads up!

                        Unfortunately QUAX only has the 48 spoke ISIS setup in their Trials uni. The diskless steel framed Muni is now a 36 spoke Q-Axle. I have read that previous verions were 48 spoke ISIS. However, it is a symmetrical hub that will not take a disk brake so it should be stronger than an offset axle. I am guessing that QUAX wanted to feature that it is lighter than an ISIS axle, so they went with 36 spokes instead of 48 to keep the specs lighter.

                        I would rather go a little heavier and have a trouble free tough wheel than a lighter one that results in broken spokes and a wheel needing adjustments more often. Same with the rest of my equipment. This is part of the reason why I think having drilled holes in a rim is insane, and the main reason people go with it is that it looks cool, the weight savings are probably minimal and is more likely to break or bend etc. I have seen videos and pictures of unicycles with offset 36 spoke wheels, offset wheels from inside disks, and drilled rims and spokes breaking. I can't recall seeing any double walled 48 spoke wheeled setups failing. They are probably out there, but I think they hold up much better. Your personal experience seems to back up my assumptions

                        As I am a big too heavy person, losing weight and getting smaller, but a long way to go, I would be very dissapointed to spend top dollar on something only to have durability and breakage issues. For this reason I am avoiding the steel framed Nimbus because of it's offset disk ready hub. Very disspointed to read the KH is having alignment and broken spoke issues where the QUAX holds up without problems.

                        It looks like no one is making a 48 spoke wheelset in anything other than 19" QUAX anymore. I have to look into if the parts are available to build such a wheelset, if necessary. I hope I won't need to do that.

                        Hopefully, the diskless Q-Axle holds up well if I go with that one. I wonder if they will make it available in 48 spokes again, hopefully soon.

                        Anyone know how well the 36 spoke Q-Axle holds up compared to the previous 48 spoke Q-Axle?

                        I try to pay close attention to strength and durabilty of products. From past experience I have found buying the wrong stuff can result in trouble with equipment can be very annoying, expensive, and time consuming.

                        Buy Nice, or buy Twice.


                        Human gyroscope in training.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by elpuebloUNIdo View Post

                          The OP said he's been riding for 6 months and rides a 29" with 114mm cranks. My knees hurt just thinking about that setup.
                          Ouchy ouch ouch...


                          Human gyroscope in training.

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                          • #14
                            Sore knees

                            I wrote about having sore knees a year or so ago. What I discovered to be most helpful was that when I went to dismount, I would stop the unicycles forward movement and very lightly step off to the ground minimizing any impact to my knees. I ride a 36 inch and it takes me about two full revolutions to come to a complete stop. If I jump off prior to coming to a full stop, I was impacting the ground with a greater velocity which was hurting my knees.
                            My situation may be slightly different because I would typically dismount 50-100 times on a 10-12 mile ride. Usng a brake while descending down hills will also relieve stress to the knees. Everytime I dismount, I try to think about how that impact affects my knees. When I was younger, it was never an issue.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Up Rite View Post
                              Ouchy ouch ouch...
                              Sorry for not explaining my point about the OP and 114mm cranks on a 29er. Corrections, at least for a beginner, on that setup, might involve frequent, small strenuous motions against the pedals. That might not be good for the knees. The problem might be worse for a heavier rider. I weight over 200 lbs.

                              Longer cranks, on the other hand, might cause knee pain, because as the unicycle pivots from left to right, the pedals get shifted. This happens faster than the entire body can pivot, and that causes some twisting at the knees. The offset of the pedal when the cranks are longer...is greater (for example, when the pedals are at the 3/9 position, longer cranks move farther to the left and right when the unicycle pivots). This problem can be addressed by stabilizing the uni with the hands on the bar ends. Bicyclists don't have this problem, because the feet are not aligned with the turning wheel. Bicyclists are able to maintain good alignment between their hips and knees.

                              I had a problem with the dished wheel of my Oracle 26". It started during the point in my development where I was not skilled enough to roll certain conditions, but after I'd learned corrective hopping. I was also practicing mounting on steep hills, mounting sideways, then hopping myself into position pointing up the hill. Anyway, one day I noticed the tire wasn't centered in the frame anymore. Spokes started breaking. After having a few individual spokes replaced, I finally had the wheel rebuilt. I'm a better rider now, and I'm not so hard on my setup. I don't expect any more problems with the Oracle wheel. You might avoid these problems in the first place...by getting a non-dished setup.

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