My errand boy has a bum knee

Matthew has a couple of normal routes to/from work, that, with small detours, can easily include a stop at the library, a store on The Hill, or Local Harvest Grocery.  Since we’re rather heavy library users (we traded paying for Netflix for free DVDs from the library), having a branch conveniently located along his work commute is not only convenient, but rather essential for picking up holds and returning materials in a timely manner to avoid fines.

Part of Matthew’s motive in getting a road-ish bike (first the Surly, then the Salsa) was the hope that a different riding position/posture would address some ongoing knee pain he’s had since at least this time last year.  While the pain may just be an overuse thing, he’s been wondering if it’s related to the crash he had in the October 2012.  At the time, the severely sprained toe got all the attention, but it’s certainly possible he damaged his knee at the same time.

Anyway, after buying the Salsa, and then going through a series of bike fittings, adjustments, and part swaps (new handlebar stem, new saddle) to tweak his position on the bike, he hoped to resolve the problem, but the pain persists, and it seems that cycling is the one thing that aggravates it.

He has an appointment with a doctor, and he also decided to take a hiatus from biking to work.  This is a bummer on many levels: 1) instead of coming and going on his own schedule, he has to work around the bus schedule; 2) he’s not getting his usual physical activity; and 3) he can’t easily run the library and grocery errands.

For the time being, we’ve switched our library requests to the branch that is closer to our apartment (which is [usually] more convenient for me than the branch on his way to work).  The grocery errands end up being delayed until one or the other of us will be in the vicinity with the car (or until I will be in the vicinity on my bike), since I don’t usually have time to make a bike trip just to run that one errand.

For all of our sake’s (but mostly his), I hope we figure out the knee thing soon.  Biking is a great form of transportation, but while you certainly don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to commute by bike, it does depend on having a relatively healthy, able body.


  1. EcoCatLady says:

    Bum knee… that’s a bummer (yuk, yuk.) I blew my knee out in 2008 and it still gives me troubles now and then. Aside from just giving it time to heal (which took well over a year before I was even close to normal again), two things have helped on my bike.

    First was upgrading to clipless pedals (by which I mean the pedals that your feet clip into – isn’t it silly that the name doesn’t match the thing?) Anyhow, I was sort of concerned about switching to them at first because I’d heard that they can actually cause knee problems in some people since they don’t allow much lateral motion and keep your feet in a fixed position. But learning to use them properly – in other words to use the 360 degree pedaling motion instead of just putting all the force on the down stroke – made a world of difference for my knee.

    The other thing that helped was to train myself to stand up whenever I hit a steep hill instead of just trying to handle it by shifting down and pedaling harder. For some reason the standing thing puts much less pressure on my knee than trying to climb in a seated position and my knee is much happier that way.

    I sure hope the doctor can shed some light on the problem and that it can get resolved soon – because knee pain just totally sucks!

    1. Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

      I’ll mention both of your suggestions to him. The standing on hills would be very easy to try. We both used to use the [oddly-named] clipless pedals, and switched back to standard pedals (though he has “clips,” as in the straps that the front part of your foot slides into, on his pedals) for the greater freedom of wearing any kind of footwear.

      I think the clipless system is great if your main goal is being on the bike. If I’m riding somewhere and walking/standing a decent bit at my destination, I’d much rather be in Birks or tennis shoes (and not have to switch shoes and carry the bike shoes around with me). Matthew really dislikes wearing anything with a smaller toe box than Birkenstocks, and he hasn’t found a clipless bike shoe that comes close.

      1. EcoCatLady says:

        Yup… you’re totally right about bike shoes being only good while you’re actually on the bike. Have you tried the SPD mountain bike/touring style where the cleat is recessed into the shoe? CatMan has all kinds of foot and ankle problems leftover from a serious mountaineering accident, so he’s reluctant to try the standard road bike shoe with the “reverse high-heels” thing, but was thinking that maybe he could get away with using the recessed variety. Just wondering if you have any experience with those and if you found them walk-able or not.

        I don’t know if this is at all useful, but my bike shoes are Specialized brand – they were much wider than any other brand I tried, and I went with size 42 EEE (triple wide). They’re certainly not Birkenstocks, but they are wide enough so they don’t pinch my toes. I assume they make mountain bike or touring style shoes too, but I didn’t research it.

        Of course, there’s always the Birkenstock bike shoe option! 🙂

        I’m joking – that would totally defeat the purpose since the thing that helps my knee is to get power by pulling back and up rather than pushing down and forward, but I thought the picture was funny.

        One other thought here. CatMan has told me that before his accident & subsequent foot problems, he used the old style toe clips/cages but would clamp them down really tight so his foot wouldn’t pull out when pulling back and up. The trick was that you had to reach down and release them every time you needed to pull your foot out. Sounds kinda crazy and dangerous to me, but I figured I’d toss it out there as long as I’m suggesting ludicrous things! 🙂

        Anyhow, hope he finds a solution soon so you can get your errand boy back! 🙂

      2. Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

        Looks like both of our shoes are Shimano, and they do have the recessed cleats. Mine are Shimano M075, which look like an older version of this: And his are Shimano MT41, which look like an older version of this:

        Anyway, despite the claims, they are not ALL that comfortable for walking, and despite having a wider toe box than many cycling shoes, our toes are not impressed.

        Anyhow, Matthew saw a doctor this morning, who wants an MRI to confirm, but thinks there is probably some cartilage that needs to be removed :-/

      3. EcoCatLady says:

        Torn cartilage that needs to be removed actually sounds promising… like maybe it’s something that’s easily fixable without major surgery and a long recovery time.

        Thanks for the info on your shoes – it’s disappointing though not terribly surprising. Since a stiff sole is generally desirable in a bike shoe, and a soft sole for a walking shoe… well, I can imagine it would be difficult to craft one that would work for both. Hmmm…perhaps if one could crack this problem one could make a zillion dollars. Not holding my breath though!

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