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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well, the title is a little succinct, so let me try to explain this in a better way:

For the first time in my life, I am suffering from knee soreness on the left side. I am almost 32, and whereas I have had tendonitis problems from other sports (I am an avid tennis player and while my elbow plays up every so often), I have never ever had any problems with my knees. Cycling is a recent thing (since a year or so, off course, before that I had used my bike as a means of transport and had even done some 100K rides for the challenge, but let's say I did not really train for cycling).

For a couple of weeks now, my left knee becomes sore after playing tennis, this has never happened before. It doesn't hurt that much, but it creaks and clicks, if you know what I mean. Strangely it does allow me to do some training rides without major concerns. I guess I will cut down on the tennis and concentrate on cycling, as it seems that my knees hold up better in that area.

So, discovering for the first time the effect of age, I want to preserve my knees as well as possible. From what I read, and from experience, I know spinning is always better than mashing. Not only for the knees actually, I have found it allows for much better endurance, and seems to save up some energy for the end of a ride.

So spinning means in this case having sufficient gears to work with on climbs. I don't really need lower gears because I would have to step off my bike on the climbs in my area, but I want to be able to keep a healthy cadence, without having to resort to mashing at low RPM's.

For the moment I am having a standard double with a 13-25 9 speed cassette, and that allows me to tackle my training rides through a hilly landscape without problems. However, I am thinking of doing some real mountains in some time, so I will probably be needing lower gears to maintain cadence.

A triple offers numerous advantages in gearing combos, so that saves the knees, but then again the q-factor is an issue that could cause problems I guess.

A compact (50-34) maintains low q-factor, but has fewer lower gears with for instance a 12-25 9 speed cassette than a triple (52-39-30) with 13-25.

The thing is as I am having a 9 speed, I cannot play around to much with my cassette, I could opt for a bigger cog than 25, but then I am probably losing some speed I use very often. With a triple I have all the speeds I am having now, plus a few lower gears when I shift to the granny ring.

So, if it wasn't for q-factor, I would go with a triple. But then again, how important is q-factor really.

Experiences, opinions?

Thanks in advance for any help.
 

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no mash fast spin good

I don't think the Q factor is important here but higher spinning is definitely going to be easier on the knees. I mean if you have really bad knees, then maybe Q comes into play, but for most of us with just average aging knees, I really think it's negligible. Mashing is bad though.
 

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32 isn't "old".

With 9sp you can run 12-27 cassettes from Shimano, or 12-28 from IRD.

Some people say they can feel the difference in Q with a triple and it bothers them, but many do not. You'll have to try it and see.

Going with a compact double will be cheaper than the conversion to triple. But a triple gives you more gearing choices.
 

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Some info.

matchmaker said:
So, if it wasn't for q-factor, I would go with a triple. But then again, how important is q-factor really.
Unless you know exactly why you're having "knee soreness on your left side", you're just guessing at how the q-factor of triple would affect your knees. For example, with certain iliotibial band (IT band) issues, a larger q-factor could actually be helpful.
 

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From what I understand the shorter you are the more having a low q-factor matters. I'm 5' 8" so kind of short and did notice the difference on the triple I've tried.....but that difference isn't that a triple hurt my knees (I didn't try the triple long enough for that to come into play so maybe it would have been an issue with long term use, who knows). The lower q factor just feels more natural to me. But note the only time I tried a triple it was a really old one and from what I understand they have gotten a lot better with respect to q-factor.

For argument sake lets say the q-factor of a triple isn't best for your knees. That would still probably take a back seat in importance to being able to spin like you want. So it probably boils down to if the roads you ride require a triple or not for you to keep a high cadance.
 

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Jay Strongbow said:
From what I understand the shorter you are the more having a low q-factor matters. I'm 5' 8" so kind of short and did notice the difference on the triple I've tried.....but that difference isn't that a triple hurt my knees (I didn't try the triple long enough for that to come into play so maybe it would have been an issue with long term use, who knows). The lower q factor just feels more natural to me. But note the only time I tried a triple it was a really old one and from what I understand they have gotten a lot better with respect to q-factor.

For argument sake lets say the q-factor of a triple isn't best for your knees. That would still probably take a back seat in importance to being able to spin like you want. So it probably boils down to if the roads you ride require a triple or not for you to keep a high cadance.
Can't argue your experiences with triples/ q-factor, but I've never seen a correlation made between them and rider height. But as wim stated, certain types of knee problems may be affected (positively or negatively) with q-factor.

As far as q-factor taking a back seat to cadence; while cadence always matters, depending on the type of knee pain, both may be of equal importance.

Here's a good resource on this general topic:
http://www.cptips.com/knee.htm
 

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I'd leave your cranks well alone and go get an ITB release from a qualified sports massage clinic.

Well, the OP asked for experiences, and the above is based on mine. And I'm well older than 32.

It might help, it may not, but at least you'll know. Oh, take a pillow. Not for your head, to stuff in your mouth to stifle the screaming. First time ITB release is bowel clenchingly, mind bendingly hurty.

Grumps
 

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thoughts...

So your knee creaks and clicks, but you've never seen an orthopedic specialist who could do an X-ray and MRI to see if you have damage that could be repaired now, to avoid more damage in the future?

The gearing answer is simple math. A compact won't give you quite the and top and low gears as a triple. The triple only becomes valuable if you need the extra ratio or two that a compact can't duplicate.

The greatest range and closest geared compact would be Campy 11 speed. You can combine a 50/34 with an 11-25, 12-27 or 12-29. I ride the Colorado mountains with an 11-25 and I'm just turning 57.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
C-40 said:
So your knee creaks and claicks, but you've never seen an orthopedic specialist who could do an X-ray and MRI to see if you have damage that could be repaired now, to avoid more damage in the future?

The gearing answer is simple math. A compact won't give you quite the and top and low gears as a triple. The triple only becomes valuable if you need the extra ratio or two that a compact can't duplicate.

The greatest range and closest geared compact would be Campy 11 speed. You can combine a 50/34 with an 11-25, 12-27 or 12-29. I ride the Colorado mountains with an 11-25 and I'm just turning 57.
Well, only my left knee has slightly been creaking and clicking for a few of weeks now. Never before have I been bothered by any knee pain. I will have a check up on it in the near future.

Well, your answer (Campy 11 speed compact) is more or less what I was thinking, but that means saving up quite a little bit of money and changing virtually the whole bike, including the wheels. Might be a good idea in the end though, instead of changing piece per piece, and then seeing in the end you had better changed the whole thing at once.
 

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If you're really on a budget, you could simply use a MTB cassette, either an 11-32 or 11-34 since you have a nine speed drivetrain. You'd have to swap your rear derailluer and get a longer chain, but once you did you could easily swap between your 12-25 and your MTB cassette depending on the terrain. C-40's comment about Campy's 11 speed groups offering a bit more gears is a valid point, an 11 speed 12-29 cassette paired with a compact would certainly give a pretty good range of gears, though it would still fall a bit short on the low end of what is possible with a triple.
 

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I have both; a triple and a compact. Can not tell the "Q factor" difference; the triple gives me more spinning choices. I ride the triple on longer rides and centuries, the compact on shorter, faster rides. I've also had knee problems and the triple has helped, but the biggest help was a cleat adjustment (angle) and tweaking my saddle height...
the triple requires more "fine tuning" if your FD to get the trim just right. it's also harder to clean the middle chainring. The compact requires more FD shifting. (i ride on very hilly terrain)
It's also cheaper to change to a compact...
 

· Cycling induced anoesis
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Andrea138 said:
Tendonitis is an overuse injury. You should get your fit checked, then see a sports medicine doc or PT in order to find out if you've got some sort of muscle imbalance that can be corrected with therapy (mostly stretching & resistance training). The spin vs. mash thing isn't really as important.
I disagree with the bolded statement, and doubt you'd ever hear that advice from any Ortho docs. From my experiences/ research, it's a commonly held belief that riders maintain an adaquate cadence of, at minimum 70, but preferably in the 80-90 range.

That advice has served me well and (IMO) is best practice for saving the knees, however, if you have evidence to the contrary, I'd be interested in reading it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I am going to see an orthopedist about this, just to make sure what it is and how to avoid it. I will asking him some bike specific things about how to put saddle, cleats and best q factor for my case.
 

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you don't need 11 speeds (but I'm sure they're great)

C-40 said:
So your knee creaks and clicks, but you've never seen an orthopedic specialist who could do an X-ray and MRI to see if you have damage that could be repaired now, to avoid more damage in the future?

The gearing answer is simple math. A compact won't give you quite the and top and low gears as a triple. The triple only becomes valuable if you need the extra ratio or two that a compact can't duplicate.

The greatest range and closest geared compact would be Campy 11 speed. You can combine a 50/34 with an 11-25, 12-27 or 12-29. I ride the Colorado mountains with an 11-25 and I'm just turning 57.
+1 C-40, but you don't need to upgrade to 11-spd (still expensive). You do not say (at least I did not notice) how steep the inclines are near you. Are you in mountains? Are we talking miles of steep inclines, or relatively few?

I have run Campy 10-spd shifters/derailleurs/cassettes for years with Shimano cranks, and put a Shimano R700 compact crank (Ribble Cyles, UK) on my cross bike last year, teamed with a medium cage Campy rear derailleur, to get the wider range I wanted for occasional trails and weighted-down commuting. Works great.

I'm about to buy a triple crank (finally) from Ribble to outfit the road bike in advance of a trip in July to Europe for some cycling in a mountainous area of Germany, and to ride a few Alps stages of the Tour (including Morzine). I put on a few pounds this winter (stupid), and don't have C-40's experience in the Rockies. I just remember how hard it was peddling a triple I rented in Boulder up Flagstaff Rd. on a visit, and don't trust the compact to give me a low enough gear in the Alps.

In succumbing to a triple for this trip, I'm following the advice of C-40 from several years ago, when he used to defend them religiously (before his conversion to compact cranks :) ), and to my 50+ years knees.

I had an MRI on my right knee after a delayed pain from a two-day/200-mile charity ride. I have good joint spacing (no arthritis), but it turns out that the inner surface on one of the "v"'s of the patella was wearing down. Glucosamine Chondroitin supplements (Target sells'em) took care of knee pain a few years back in my marathon-running days, but not this. Orthopedic doc said that when the quads get tired, they "recruit" the patella as a fulcrum, leading to this issue. He suggested highest seat position, farthest back, and narrowest Q-factor that I could get away with. The high-cadence/less mashing advice is usually sound in this situation, since high cadence produces less fatigue in the leg muscle, and uses the heart's aerobic capacity (which recovers much quicker) instead.

I did a 110-mile ride on a fixie a week ago, and 100 and 70-mile rides this past weekend on the road bike, so do not get discouraged. But do see a doc. Good luck.

p.s. I'm a big guy (6'4") and still think q-factor is important. But for two weeks in the mountains of Europe--or my net trip to Colorado--I'll make an exception and go with the triple.
 

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A few quick thoughts:
1) Clicking and grinding in a joint, as far as I'm aware, typically doesn't indicate tendonitis, but rather joint laxity resulting from injured/weak stabilizer muscles. (assuming you're not dealing with osteo or rhematic arthritis) I can't help but make the connection that your symptoms show up with you're playing tennis rather than cycling. Tennis, as you are well aware, involves a lot of pounding the clay with your feet and lots of sudden stops and springing motions from the legs at odd angles. In a word, torsion. Cycling on the other hand is largely built around keeping the travel path of your knee straight. Checking in with a sports or myofascial release massage therapist is where I'd start. Either would be able to help you find any soft tissue damage, and be similarly excruciating experiences.

2) Before dropping the money on a whole new crankset, have you tried getting a lower tooth count small chainring? With triples there's usually a lot of redundant combinations and just a couple outside the range you've got now. Between a smaller little ring and a cassette with a mega-ring or something like that you might be able to save a bundle.
 

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ericm979 said:
32 isn't "old".

With 9sp you can run 12-27 cassettes from Shimano, or 12-28 from IRD.

Some people say they can feel the difference in Q with a triple and it bothers them, but many do not. You'll have to try it and see.

Going with a compact double will be cheaper than the conversion to triple. But a triple gives you more gearing choices.
Another option for a cassette would be a Century Special from Harris Cyclery. IIRC you can get them in either a 12-30 or 13-30. I had one on my old 9 speed and it worked fine with a standard double rear derailleur.

I now have a triple and run cassettes from 12-23 to 12-27 depending on the ride. When doing gnarly climbs that 30-27 combo is nice. Overlap of gears really is not much of an issue. The only time the granny is used is when the 39-27 won't do. I cannot imagine ever riding in the 30-19 for example.
 

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changed to a compact

I Just recently changed to a compact due to minor knee issues, it worked out great. I originally changed the front chain rings to a 52, 38 with a 12-27 rear which helped. But the compact was a very impactful adjustment. Agree with many of the other posts, check your set up, also cleat position, they all can make a difference. Get a qualified person to look at your knee, it could be something very simple that can be corrected versus you guessing.

Goodluck!
 
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