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  1. #1
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    Is there any "rule" regarding "knees in" when pedaling?

    Watching riders in the Tour and now the U.S.Pro Championships in Colorado....many have their knees angled in noticeably when pedaling, e.g., Andy Schleck.

    Is there any "cycling tip" or "rule" that's commonly known whereby you are supposed to keep your knees in toward the top tube? Or is that just a quirk that some riders have? Or are you supposed to just let your knees cycle comfortably per individual ?


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  2. #2
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    The official stance of my LBS is that proper fit on the bike involves riding with your knees as close as possible to the top tube. What I have noticed is that the more I weighed , the more difficult that became. Now that I have lost some weight the prospect is significantly easier. But yes, pro riders do ride this way.

    Unfortunately, newbies very often ride with their legs very far away from the top tube. Legs wide open, and they further show others just how new they are by the large distance between their knees and the top tube.
    With people like Peter P. around, I am done posting on this website. Mean people have driven me off after 9 plus years. Good luck newbies beware.

  3. #3
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    And also riding with your knees tucked in helps in minimizing the wind drag you're creating, thus making you more efficient because of your aerodynamic profile.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hooben View Post
    The official stance of my LBS is that proper fit on the bike involves riding with your knees as close as possible to the top tube. What I have noticed is that the more I weighed , the more difficult that became. Now that I have lost some weight the prospect is significantly easier. But yes, pro riders do ride this way.

    Unfortunately, newbies very often ride with their legs very far away from the top tube. Legs wide open, and they further show others just how new they are by the large distance between their knees and the top tube.
    I feel as if I have more power with my knees in.

    Nothing bugs me more when I see someone riding down the street bow-legged.

  5. #5
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    Yes, there is a rule. Keep your knees in.

  6. #6
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    Bow-legged often means their saddles are too low as well. I see that all the time when out riding solo, none with the regular group rides I do. I think as you progress in cycling, you refine your fit and pedaling technique.

  7. #7
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    You are also less likely to have problems with your knees, ankles and feet down the road if your form is correct earlier on. I started having shooting sensations in my arches because I favored pressing more on the outside of my very wide feet when out of the saddle. By focusing on keeping perfect up down alignment of knees and balls of my feet, this sensation is mitigated.

  8. #8
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    IMO, it's less of a "rule" and more of a product of proper fit and form. Plus, you use the correct muscle groups and have a more efficient cycle stroke. When I first started out, My knees flared a bit.

    In my case, I blew my Achilles tendon (brutal- not recommended) and turned into a Buddha. I picked up cycling a few years later to reactive what had become a sedentary lifestyle. As I rode and lost the gut, I tried to emulate experienced riders that blew by me. A few years later I also bought a trainer and then rollers to help improve my cycling stroke. Today, I have a pretty decent stroke. It'll take you some time, but if you focus on "knees in" and a more efficient stroke, after some work, you'll get there. Keep on, keepin' on.
    Last edited by calle_betis; 08-25-2011 at 05:53 AM.

  9. #9
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    I'm afraid these responses are woefully incorrect. There is absolutely no rule saying you need to pedal with knees in and in fact the typical knees-in style is more a function of bad fit than anything else. There is one caveat here: some people naturally have what is known as a valgus knee orientation - the classic knock-knees - and these riders will always manifest a narrow pedaling action, where the knee remains close to the top tube throughout the pedal rotation. Schleck is one of these, as is Garzelli most noticeably. Cancellara or Contador on the other hand have almost linear, straight up-and-down pedal actions where there is no narrowing of the knees.

    What modern bike fit aims for is a reduction in medial knee excursion - the common collapsing of the knee towards the centre-line of the bike on the power stroke as a result of the collapsing of the longitudinal arch of the foot. The quantum of excursion depends on a number of factors like hip width, knee orientation, favoured stance width, "lunch muscle", height of foot arch, ankle orientation, amount of tibial varum, also the time spent in the saddle and the bodies own self-correction mechanisms like over-recruitment of hip stabilizers (glute mede) and knee stabilizers (VMO, VML).

    What good pedal action involves is as straight a vertical tracking of the knee as the rider's physiology permits. It stands to reason that this action will put power directly down through the pedal. Contrast this with a pedal action where the knee starts out wide (for whatever reason) and then diverts inwards (as a result of an intentional narrowing of the knees) - typically the knee will deviate medially inward to a point where the tibia is angled outward towards the pedal below. This is splaying the power outwards on an inefficient vector relative to the pedal travel. Why do this? Why intentionally narrow the knees all the way throught the pedal stroke by over-recruiting stabilizers to track the knee on an un-relaxed plane? Rather the idea is to begin with a stance width that is comfortable and work to try and track the knee on as vertically linear a path as possible. This invariably involves longitudinal arch support and often also requires some form of varus wedge support either for the forefoot of for the foot as a whole. A suitably qualified fitter can do this.

    If you are watching the races on the TV, why not also look to see how many of the riders are functionally asymmetrical when putting down power. Head-on views are a great help in this - notably in the time trials where you get good front on or rear on views.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclequip View Post
    I'm afraid these responses are woefully incorrect. There is absolutely no rule saying you need to pedal with knees in and in fact the typical knees-in style is more a function of bad fit than anything else. There is one caveat here: some people naturally have what is known as a valgus knee orientation - the classic knock-knees - and these riders will always manifest a narrow pedaling action, where the knee remains close to the top tube throughout the pedal rotation. Schleck is one of these, as is Garzelli most noticeably. Cancellara or Contador on the other hand have almost linear, straight up-and-down pedal actions where there is no narrowing of the knees.

    What modern bike fit aims for is a reduction in medial knee excursion - the common collapsing of the knee towards the centre-line of the bike on the power stroke as a result of the collapsing of the longitudinal arch of the foot. The quantum of excursion depends on a number of factors like hip width, knee orientation, favoured stance width, "lunch muscle", height of foot arch, ankle orientation, amount of tibial varum, also the time spent in the saddle and the bodies own self-correction mechanisms like over-recruitment of hip stabilizers (glute mede) and knee stabilizers (VMO, VML).

    What good pedal action involves is as straight a vertical tracking of the knee as the rider's physiology permits. It stands to reason that this action will put power directly down through the pedal. Contrast this with a pedal action where the knee starts out wide (for whatever reason) and then diverts inwards (as a result of an intentional narrowing of the knees) - typically the knee will deviate medially inward to a point where the tibia is angled outward towards the pedal below. This is splaying the power outwards on an inefficient vector relative to the pedal travel. Why do this? Why intentionally narrow the knees all the way throught the pedal stroke by over-recruiting stabilizers to track the knee on an un-relaxed plane? Rather the idea is to begin with a stance width that is comfortable and work to try and track the knee on as vertically linear a path as possible. This invariably involves longitudinal arch support and often also requires some form of varus wedge support either for the forefoot of for the foot as a whole. A suitably qualified fitter can do this.

    If you are watching the races on the TV, why not also look to see how many of the riders are functionally asymmetrical when putting down power. Head-on views are a great help in this - notably in the time trials where you get good front on or rear on views.
    Thanks, Professor cyclequip. Well done! I learned something new today.

  11. #11
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    What cyclequip said. My fit helped me correct bringing my knees in and am thankful for it. My stroke is much more vertical now, at least until I get tired.

    Quote Originally Posted by cyclequip View Post
    stuff.

  12. #12
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    I have a good fitter set me up on my bikes, I ALWAYS try to pay attention to my form when cycling, and...over the winter for the last several years, I've done a lot of group spinning classes. I always try to sit at the front and observe myself in the mirror. I focus on form, with specific attention to minimization of head/torso sway, and any other aspect of my riding that results in some eccentricity of motion. I stare at my knees in the mirror - a lot.

    Putting a mirror in front of you on a trainer/rollers would always be helpful.

    I'm lucky, in the fact that I'm naturally pretty well balanced, but everyone has natural left/right variations at a minimum.

    My overall form is quite smooth, and if I've been riding consistently, I have absolutely no discomfort on the bike.

  13. #13
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    My theory is that it all comes from excess float of the pedal, which is why I like no pedal float at all so I don't have a choice of sloppy pedaling technique. Keeps my feet in line and therefore my knees in line.

  14. #14
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    I'm not a fitter, physiologist, or physician, so I'm talking out of my arse - but it seems to me it is all about your fit and setup on the bike, as others have said. I think your knees (legs) are going to naturally find the path that gives you the most power given your setup. That's why a bad setup can physically hurt or even damage your joints. And a good set up can give you pain free power. You shouldn't un-naturally bring your knees in on the assuption that it is the "right" leg action. Find a fit that you trust, and let you knees find their own path. Just pedal naturally. If that means your knees come in or out or straight, and it doesn't hurt you on a long ride, let it be what it is. I do think that if you naturally walk with your toes slightly out (duck toed) and then set up your pedals and cleats with feet straight ahead, you're going to get that knees in thing. Likewise if you set up your peddals and cleats such that you have a slight pidgen toed orientaton. Set up your feet slightly "duck toed" and you're going to get that knees out thing.
    Last edited by Gimme Shoulder; 08-25-2011 at 08:03 PM.
    It ain't rocket surgery. Buy everything on sale, pedal when you have too, coast when you can, and get home in one piece. Keep going forward - there is no reverse.

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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclequip View Post
    I'm afraid these responses are woefully incorrect. There is absolutely no rule saying you need to pedal with knees in and in fact the typical knees-in style is more a function of bad fit than anything else. There is one caveat here: some people naturally have what is known as a valgus knee orientation - the classic knock-knees - and these riders will always manifest a narrow pedaling action, where the knee remains close to the top tube throughout the pedal rotation. Schleck is one of these, as is Garzelli most noticeably. Cancellara or Contador on the other hand have almost linear, straight up-and-down pedal actions where there is no narrowing of the knees.

    What modern bike fit aims for is a reduction in medial knee excursion - the common collapsing of the knee towards the centre-line of the bike on the power stroke as a result of the collapsing of the longitudinal arch of the foot. The quantum of excursion depends on a number of factors like hip width, knee orientation, favoured stance width, "lunch muscle", height of foot arch, ankle orientation, amount of tibial varum, also the time spent in the saddle and the bodies own self-correction mechanisms like over-recruitment of hip stabilizers (glute mede) and knee stabilizers (VMO, VML).

    What good pedal action involves is as straight a vertical tracking of the knee as the rider's physiology permits. It stands to reason that this action will put power directly down through the pedal. Contrast this with a pedal action where the knee starts out wide (for whatever reason) and then diverts inwards (as a result of an intentional narrowing of the knees) - typically the knee will deviate medially inward to a point where the tibia is angled outward towards the pedal below. This is splaying the power outwards on an inefficient vector relative to the pedal travel. Why do this? Why intentionally narrow the knees all the way throught the pedal stroke by over-recruiting stabilizers to track the knee on an un-relaxed plane? Rather the idea is to begin with a stance width that is comfortable and work to try and track the knee on as vertically linear a path as possible. This invariably involves longitudinal arch support and often also requires some form of varus wedge support either for the forefoot of for the foot as a whole. A suitably qualified fitter can do this.

    If you are watching the races on the TV, why not also look to see how many of the riders are functionally asymmetrical when putting down power. Head-on views are a great help in this - notably in the time trials where you get good front on or rear on views.
    FTW - simple biomechanics

  16. #16
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    it would seem to me

    Quote Originally Posted by cyclequip View Post
    I'm afraid these responses are woefully incorrect. There is absolutely no rule saying you need to pedal with knees in and in fact the typical knees-in style is more a function of bad fit than anything else. There is one caveat here: some people naturally have what is known as a valgus knee orientation - the classic knock-knees - and these riders will always manifest a narrow pedaling action, where the knee remains close to the top tube throughout the pedal rotation. Schleck is one of these, as is Garzelli most noticeably. Cancellara or Contador on the other hand have almost linear, straight up-and-down pedal actions where there is no narrowing of the knees.

    What modern bike fit aims for is a reduction in medial knee excursion - the common collapsing of the knee towards the centre-line of the bike on the power stroke as a result of the collapsing of the longitudinal arch of the foot. The quantum of excursion depends on a number of factors like hip width, knee orientation, favoured stance width, "lunch muscle", height of foot arch, ankle orientation, amount of tibial varum, also the time spent in the saddle and the bodies own self-correction mechanisms like over-recruitment of hip stabilizers (glute mede) and knee stabilizers (VMO, VML).

    What good pedal action involves is as straight a vertical tracking of the knee as the rider's physiology permits. It stands to reason that this action will put power directly down through the pedal. Contrast this with a pedal action where the knee starts out wide (for whatever reason) and then diverts inwards (as a result of an intentional narrowing of the knees) - typically the knee will deviate medially inward to a point where the tibia is angled outward towards the pedal below. This is splaying the power outwards on an inefficient vector relative to the pedal travel. Why do this? Why intentionally narrow the knees all the way throught the pedal stroke by over-recruiting stabilizers to track the knee on an un-relaxed plane? Rather the idea is to begin with a stance width that is comfortable and work to try and track the knee on as vertically linear a path as possible. This invariably involves longitudinal arch support and often also requires some form of varus wedge support either for the forefoot of for the foot as a whole. A suitably qualified fitter can do this.

    If you are watching the races on the TV, why not also look to see how many of the riders are functionally asymmetrical when putting down power. Head-on views are a great help in this - notably in the time trials where you get good front on or rear on views.
    that what you should strive for is a natural pedal stroke. By that I mean your feet should just be a straight extension from your leg without turning in or out and your knee should just be at a natural position,

  17. #17
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    i notice at times when out on rides i see some guys ride with their knees COMPLETELY pointed outwards and I cant figure out for the life of me if that is comfortable for them or if it will develop into some future pain. But i guess your body will tend to do what is best.
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  18. #18
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    It would be convenient if we could just get a fit (usually saddle height/reach/cockpit) and off we go and let our knees find a nice, natural path suited to each individual fit or person. That would be simple biomechanics, LOL. But our limbs evolved to run or walk and the biomechanics required for that differ quite considerably from the biomechanics required to push a pedal down. In some respects our limbs, feet in particular, are woefully inadequate for the pedaling action and this translates into the knee instability I referred to earlier. While lots of time in the saddle and careful attention to development of stabilizer musculature can go quite some way to rectifying this, at some stage we all are at risk of repetitive stress injury or overuse damage. Fitters who have been dealing with this for a long time recognize this and so pay particular attention to leg tracking as a fundamental of proper fit. This has the added benefit of permitting significant improvements in pelvic stability and can be really beneficial in relieving lower back pain. But this invariably needs the assistance of biomechanical aids like footbeds and wedges to correct skeletal deficiencies and enabling the rider to focus maximum attention on developing the mobilizers required to push a pedal. Good fitters make a big difference here. Emphasis on the "good" bit.

    Guys like Steve Hogg, Andy Pruitt and Paul Swift have done great things to make cycling more enjoyable for most of us. We should respect their work and make as much use of their research and development as we can. It'll just make us all better riders and old fools like me who fit for a living can carry on being creative and getting a kick out of making cyclists smile.

  19. #19
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    Cyclequip I agree with all you have said

    My left leg knee generally rides closer to my top tube that my right, no doubt this is from the arch in my foot collapsing a little and in terms of power output I noticed when I jumped on a Watt Bike that my right leg which seems very correct is a about 4% more powerful that my left.

    Would you suggest maybe some arch support or shim in my left to correct?

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by duz10s View Post
    Cyclequip I agree with all you have said

    My left leg knee generally rides closer to my top tube that my right, no doubt this is from the arch in my foot collapsing a little and in terms of power output I noticed when I jumped on a Watt Bike that my right leg which seems very correct is a about 4% more powerful that my left.

    Would you suggest maybe some arch support or shim in my left to correct?
    The asymmetry you describe can be from a more active arch on one foot or it can be from a leg-length discrepancy (either skeletal or functional). I'd suggest getting assessed to find the cause before jumping in with arch support.
    However if getting assessed is not an option, get support on BOTH feet. Also don't get too hung up on power discrepancies between legs - this typically changes between legs over time and with effort as the body recruits different muscle fibres in response to load demand.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclequip View Post
    *snip* *snip*
    All of this ^^

    Quote Originally Posted by jsedlak View Post
    My stroke is much more vertical now, at least until I get tired.
    Quite.
    Laterally stiff yet vertically compliant.

  22. #22
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    Totally agree with Cyclequip!

  23. #23
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    FWIW, everyone needs to adapt for their own biomechanics... some of us will be more "gifted" than others in this respect. One of my ride partners has issues with both hips and has a distinctive riding style that can be identified literally from a quarter mile away, but it still gets him down the road!

  24. #24
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    as stated before, and with good backing, the neutral, vertical placement makes great sense. my thinking on the original thought of the thread is that even a vertical stance like that, will keep the knees rather close to the top tube, and look to the observer as if the knees are being held in purposefully, even if they are not being forced closer together than neutral.

    as to those saying, keep the knees in, my reading is that the intent is that they mean don't allow the knees to bow out, or accept a fit that creates this (low seat height), but rather keep them about vertical, which again, for those who aren't used to it, probably seems drastically inward.

    imagine taking your father-in-law (if you can stomach spending time with him) to an amateur race and the shock he would have at seeing a properly fit rider with neutral knees. He'd think the riders were squeezing their legs together with considerable effort, because he, (or a great number of other 'ordinaries' he represents) rides his trail cruiser hybrid 15 miles a year with his seat 5 inches too low and with his knees literally a foot apart from each other, and thinks that's how a bike is ridden. Seriously, the guy looks like a frog riding a bike.
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  25. #25
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    Can you tell that I ride with my knees in ... ?


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