Cycling in Your Golden Years: How to Protect Your Knees

Cycling offers a host of mental and physical health benefits for seniors. In one study by the University of Birmingham, cyclists between the ages of 55 and 79 were found to have a slower loss of muscle mass, improved cholesterol levels, healthy body fat levels, preserved strength, and improved immunity compared to healthy adults who don’t exercise regularly.

Although cycling is a low-impact exercise that places minimal stress on the joints, knee pain can sometimes still be an issue for seniors. Fortunately, however, it’s possible to protect your knees and stay pain-free by maintaining proper form and avoiding common cycling mistakes.

Maintain Good Form

Maintaining good form while cycling is essential to protect your knees. Not only do stable knees result in a more powerful pedal, but they can also help prevent soreness after a ride. So, make sure to keep your knees straight while pedaling. Cycling outdoors or using a stationary bike is even included as a common part of physical therapy for dementia patients.

When looking at yourself straight-on sitting on your bike, there should be a straight line down from your thigh to your shin. If your knees are able to move or wobble at all, either outwards or inwards, the kneecap is prevented from gliding smoothly.

In turn, you risk placing stress on your cartilage and inflaming your knees — which is particularly dangerous for seniors who already may be dealing with mild osteoarthritis. So, focus on keeping your pedaling motion as straight and circular as you can.

Similarly, if you use clip-in pedals, it’s particularly important to keep the “float” of your foot position at less than 4.5 degrees, which will feel most comfortable and natural.

If, on the other hand, your legs are at too sharp an angle, you’ll end up putting too much pressure on your knees, which can result in pain.

Maintain a Decent Yet Comfortable Speed

Focus on maintaining a good yet comfortable speed as you ride. In fact, pedaling more than 80 revolutions per minute is recommended. Anything below 60 revolutions per minute, on the other hand, can actually end up being damaging to your legs and knees.

Maintaining a decent pace while cycling essentially allows you to pump your knees and legs in an easy, continual fluid motion, which prevents pain and discomfort.

And, this doesn’t necessarily have to be difficult to achieve — simply keeping your bike in the right gear will ensure you’re not forced to pedal any quicker than you should be.


    Want the best cycling experience?
    Sign up for the latest bikes, gear, and accessories reviews out there.

    By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Policy
    and European users agree to the data transfer policy

    And, if you do find pedaling at the recommended pace is simply too taxing, fear not. An electric bike can provide you with the extra pedal assistance needed. In fact, electric bikes are a great way for seniors with mobility issues to experience the health benefits of cycling.

    Even with an electric bike, cycling can still successfully slow down the aging process without overly traumatizing your joints.

    Keep Your Seatback

    Keeping your seat back as your ride is another secret to healthy, pain-free knees. When you sit too close to the handlebars, your knees are forced to adopt a position that can end up being uncomfortable.

    So, make sure you keep enough distance between your seat and your handlebars as you ride. Similarly, if you have a long bike ride planned, consider using elastic therapeutic tape aka kinesiology tape on your knees.

    Commonly used by cyclists, the therapeutic tape is stretchy like a rubber band, clings comfortably to your joints, and provides your muscles and tendons with extra support. It can also help reduce swelling and prevent pain.

    While it’s not recommended to use therapeutic tape alone as a way of treating sore muscles and joints, it can be an effective addition to a treatment program that includes physical therapy.

    Listen to Your Body

    While no one should be pushing themselves too hard as they ride, this is especially true for seniors. So, listen to your body and stop cycling as soon as you feel any pain. Even minor knee pain now can end up spiraling into a potentially serious tear if you ignore it and carry on riding.

    If you do start to feel any pain, you can always switch to an e-bike. An e-bike gives you the freedom to still go out on bike rides while providing a much-needed break from pedaling as your body heals and recovers.

    Fun, low-impact, and kind to the joints, cycling is a great exercise for seniors. By taking extra care to protect your knees while you ride, you can stay healthy, mobile, and pain-free throughout later life.


    Some other articles you might find of interest:

    See how bike riding makes its mark among other outdoor activities:

    How Bike Riding Compares to Other Popular Outdoor Activities

    Make a bike stand on your own with these tips:

    How to Easily Build a Bike Stand – 3 Methods Compares

    Ride bike comfortably and safely with these tips:

    Best Tips for a Safer Summer Bike Rides: Ways to Stay Healthy and Clothing to Wear

    About the author
    Cycling in Your Golden Years: How to Protect Your Knees — Bike Hacks