Knee problems...


I do not really want to spoil the fun for everyone with a fixed gear bike although I want to read what others think about brakeless/knee problems on a fixed wheel bike.

I have a beautiful titanium 26’ fixed wheel bike without brakes and I am starting to worry about my knees.

I have read a bit about this topic and everyone seems to think that brakeless is very bad for you.

I love riding without brakes, I feel very ‘at-one’ with myself and my bike and would love to ride like this forever although after 34 years maybe my body is not as durable as I would like it to be?

I ride a 45-18 gear which seems to be ok although sometimes I do feel a bit of pressure on my knees during the day at work (I work as a bicycle mechanic).

I hope that this thread becomes an honest and informative resource for all people who may have similar concerns.



put on a 19 or 20 sprocket and see if it goes away. or fit a brake.

on the other hand, it might not be your bike. assuming you’re a busy bike mechanic - standing most of the day on a hard workshop floor, maybe hunched over whatever you’re working on, won’t be doing your back/hips/knees/ankles/feet any favours.



Good point…

I did not have any knee problems until I started using the fixed gear bike.



Mate I’ve been having knee problems for the last couple of months.
I have seen a specialist and the problem is that my knee caps have been pulled out of postion.
Basically the huge outer thigh muscles that we build from riding one gear become much stronger than the inner muscles and pull the knee out of position.
Also a bike mechanic, I have been in alot of pain over the last couple of months and I have also been chewing bearings on my RH pedals.
The soloution for me is rehab on the muscles and stop riding sinlgespeed/fixed (i’ve had a good 13 year run, so it ain’t that bad). I also have to strap my knees every morning to assist with the tracking of the knee cap.
The best thing I did was get advice from a specialist and will continue to have physio for the next couple of months, until back to norm.
It’s been only a few days since I have started treatment and strapping the knees, and to be honest I can’t remember my knees ever feeling this good.
Get it looked at before you cause too much damage!



Thanks for your story.

I pretty much agree with you.

I have been riding SS for years and now that I have gone to the fixed wheel my knees have basically said “fu?k that” which is fair enough.

I will give it some time and see what happens.

It is interesting that no seemingly young people have responded to this thread yet…



hey. Well I am in my late teens and have constantly had knees problems. Only started riding fixed around two months ago and Although I did have brakes fitted, I tended not to use them, thus, essentially this was putting more pressure on my legs. After 3-4 weeks of riding like that I don’t think me knees could take it. What I did was start utlizing my brakes alot more and it seemed to help. I also concur with the above post about having them check out before they become a lifetime of pain and problems.



google I.T. band syndrome. common thing for cyclists and it could be what you have,
its the shortening of the outter muscle in the thigh and the pain is from where the muscle is rubbing on the bone in the knee.
riding only uses the legs straight up and down doesnt force this muscle to stretch and thn it becomes tight, rubs, and will pull the knee cap off line.
best bet is to get it checked out by a physio or the like.
and do the stretches they give you, even if it makes you feel like a footy douche



I tore my PCL riding bmx years ago, and started riding a 700c SS to commute to help with rehab,

rode SS for about a year, my knee got stronger, then i went to riding fixed and my knee rapidly got stronger, rode fixed with a brake for about another year then went brakeless and have been for about 2 and a half years.

I found that after riding fixed with my knee much stronger it was still a bit sketchy on my BMX so i kinda gave that a wide berth.

I’m 24 now and I find that running a ratio just shy of 70" is great for me, spinning definately feels better on the knee instead of grinding away.

One of my fixed wheels (set up with risers) has a 69" gearing which I usually commute on as its better with the stopping and starting, although when I take my other bike (set up with drops) which I usually leave for longer rides running 75" my knee feels a bit shit after lots of stop/starts and resisting.

So personally for me, running 48/19 on my everyday fixed wheel is perfect. But that is for a 700c bike and I cant say that I’ve ever ridden a 26" bike fixed.

It may seem obvious, but make sure your bike set up and cleat positioning/pedal set up is spot on, I know that if my saddle is just a bit low it fucks with my knees something chronic if i stay in the saddle and grind away.

my 2c



the whole knee/fixed rings true for me At 32 riding single speed for 7yrs and fixed for just over 1.5yrs i didnt understand the difference that gear ratios made so sime said i set it up for a bit more spin and that strain of pulling up brakeless (i WAS riding 52/15…didnt know any better) and long rides fukin killed my knees changed ratios to 44/16 and had to work a lot harder at first but a whole lot smoother… but that being said after almost 10yrs of skating hard 4/6 nights a week i know that my body will only tolerate so much breakless fixed riding…what you gonna do… give up,nah adapt till new titanium knees get real cheap.



i had this tracking problem when i was a kid. i can’t see how it would have anything to do with riding just one gear, however.



this happened to me very shortly after i started fixed.

i moved my seat up a bit to get better extension which helped and also started some simple exercises.

do single knee squats and clench your stomache at the same time…this makes the inside muscle work a bit more and hleps with the wandering knee problem. (try standing still after a ride…put your hand on your knee and you’ll feel it pulling to the side…kinda freaky). (these were told to me by a myotherapist friend of mine…so not totally bollox)

also everynow and then i concentrate on clenching my guts while riding…don’t know if that does anything but on the same principle i think it might shift the muscles getting worked.



I think spinners are winners in terms of knee issues and avoiding them. It sure works for me.



I’d agree totally with this. pushing a ‘hard’ gear with older/weaker knees is a pretty sure fire to create issues. this is no different to any other physical issue… im not a gym person but you wouldnt walk into one and immediately go to the big weights if you havent done any weight work for years and then be surprised if you get hurt.

I’m nearly 32, riding fixed for 4+ years and had mild knee (and ankle) problems up until i started riding fixed regularly. ive had at least 2 friends who have found that riding fixed strengthened reconstructed/bad knees.

position, position, position… get yourself setup right by someone who knows what they are talking about. not by your mate who built a wheel once… :roll:

also dont be afraid to play with your post height, saddle fore-aft adjustment and bar height.

i remember seeing a stat from a physio saying that the vast majority of riders have their seat height lower than it should be. also remember that if you bring your seat up noticeably, you should consider sliding your seat forward to adjust for the shift backward with height increase.

i’ve not had knee pain that i havent been able to tweak my position to fix, i try and act as soon as i notice there’s an issue. it tends to happen after ive switched a component (bars, seat) which is obvious, and i know to expect it.

having said all that… fixed simply doesnt seem to work for some people. either their knees dont like the constant higher spinning required to support a lower gear or they simply dont build up the strength to support a mid-range gear. this could be physical or mental… its no shame, but having met 60-70yr olds commuting on fixed gears who claim 25+ years on the bike i find it hard to believe the stories about “all fixed gears ruining your knees”.

as they say in the classics “if pain persists, please see a doctor [or health professional]”



i’m only 20 and i had a knee reco on my right knee when i was 17.

I started off SS afraid i might damage my knee fiding fixed, but changed it after reading sheldons sites testimonials. only been riding fixed for 4 months really now and both knees seem to be doing fine. i was originally riding 48/16 now i’ve bumped it up to 48/17 and that’s helped make everything nice and smooth. My main concern is lower back pain-i haven’t been able to get on my bike all week because of it and will have to delay the wed night ride once again.

See a physio though, orthotics can help with knees/hip/back pain and so can specific stretches and exercises.



I guess im one of the lucky ones when it comes to knees (touch wood!). I am turning 35 this year and have been skating since I was 13. In all the years past I have done most things to an extent - rollerblades/BMX/MTB and fixed for the last year or so. I average about 80kms on a slow week and up to 120kms on a good week on the fixed.

From personal experience, I found that the gearing on the bike makes a huge difference when it comes to my knees. For the first 6 months I rode 44 x 17 and it was fine. Tried a few weeks with 46 x17 and that was ok too, but after a long stint of riding I found that my knees started to ache in the muscles. When I got my second bike I tried 46 x18 and since then I have had no pain in my legs (except soreness in the thighs from long rides). I find that this gearing is the best (for me) especially riding around Melbourne.



“That was a brave confession, let’s all thank DeeCee for his strength and honesty.
Now, is it anybody else’s first time here tonight?”



Most of you ride fixies.

Nuff said.



Hmmm, the back pain happened to me earlier this year. I started riding fixed for the first time on a new bike, the bike had almost exactly the same geometry to the roadie i’d been riding, but after 2 months i had to stop cos i had done something serioulsy wrong to my lower back. i never spoke to any sort of professionl about it but from my own self-diagnosis:

Although the fixed was the same geo as the roadie, they were both too small for me. This resulted in me bending too far down/forward than would be advised. It seems that this pressure thru my arms/shoulders combined with the pressure coming up thru my legs from resisting the cranks and met in my lower back, resulting in a pain/tension so bad that i could barely bend over at its worst.

So i stopped riding that bike. within a few weeks my back was fine again, and i was still riding the roadie that was too small.

Couple months later i decided to see if i could work out what the issue was. i got some risers first up, because i think the main issue was bending down too far. then i moved the seat a little. and i used the front brake a lot more instead of legs. i was also running 48x16.

after i put the risers on i rode the bike for about 6 weeks without any issues. (i’ve since gotten rid of the bike - it was just too small)

i’m now riding a bigger frame, still with risers, and am in a smaller gear(48x17). No issues now.

Dunno if any of this will be of any assistance to you, but hopefully



I’ve had ac ACL reconstruction about 10 weeks ago and have been riding my fixie for the past six. Not everyday though but pretty long distances.
My knee and leg love it. I’ve had no problems that I didn’t have prior to surgery.

I’m 39



do you skid stop much or just brake reverse pedalling and using an actual brake?