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Author Topic: Biking effort (pedal force) on stationary bikes or "trainers"  (Read 10243 times)

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Offline Mtlcyclist

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Biking effort (pedal force) on stationary bikes or "trainers"
« on: December 02, 2007, 09:34:01 AM »
This is more of a biking question, but pertains specifically to pedaling force as it affects an injured/treated knee, so I thought I'd ask here as well as the biking forums I'm on. 

Is there a stationary bike that allows you to get a reasonable cardio rate going while providing only moderate pedal forces similar to a bike outdoors? My old flywheel bike has ridiculous pedal forces at any wattage that gets me into my cardio zone. It's really way too hard on my knee.

[Back story: Three years post-op and I'm still getting swelling and pain after biking for more than an hour. The OA was in an area that the surgeon said has little blood supply (inside of the left femur), so he said I could expect a long healing process - but this long? This is secondary to my question, though. I can ride as much as I can handle, but I still have to apply ice, wrap, and take ibuprofen afterwards and repeatedly for a day or two after longer (>2hrs) rides. I ride 22-25km/hr average speed, and I used to be 198 lbs, but have really cut back to 170 so far, with 155 as my goal. I'd like to resume long rides, with a Century (100 miles) and a double metric century (200km) as my touring goals. If the OA keeps getting in the way, I'm destined for 50km rides or less  >:( ]

I'd already switched to a short wheelbase over-seat steering recumbent bike before my surgery, for less back/butt/neck/wrist pain.  Recumbent bikes are a godsend, but you have to spin at higher cadences so as not to over torque your knees. Fine enough.

Now, I have an old (indestructible) stationary bike, direct geared with a massive flywheel, for our long and cold Canadian winters. But I cannot even do an hour on it (at any wattage settings that get an equivalent cardio rate to outside biking) without just killing my knee - it's worse than 4 or 5 hours of riding outside.

So far I've done some cursory investigation into more modern stationary bikes (mine is the old Bodyguard 855).  There still seems to be either the strap and flywheel like on mine, or the "magnetic" tension system.  (I'm not interested in the Schwinn "Airdyne" type, since the effort cannot be adjusted to one's preference,\; instead the forces simply get higher the faster you pedal. Yuck).

Does anyone know of a stationary bike that has gearing which keeps the pedal forces reasonable? 

My other choice is a "trainer", one of those hydraulic/air turbines that you lock onto the rear wheel of your outdoor bike, and spin away. The better ones have remotely adjustable tension, and they all seem to claim a "realistic" ride.   Does anyone have any experience using these? Do they give comparable pedal effort for a given wattage setting to when you're outside on the bike?

The trainers run up to around $400, which is where I see most of the mid-priced stationary bikes going for.

No, rollers won't work for me, if anyone's thinking of this - it's insane with the very tippy nature of the recumbent at low speeds to try balancing on them. I remember a few spectacular falls in my youth with a regular 10-speed off of one, whilst cleated and clipped in! Ouch...

I just want to get going on this, since winter closed in a bit early this year, and I'm missing my outdoor rides.  Plus I'd like to start building up my km's per ride to prepare for spring.  And, oh, yes, I'll head back to my surgeon to ask about the pain - maybe another MRI is in order...not that it found the OA last time :(



Hyperext ACL & meniscus tear skiing '80 - MRI, no surgery, PT only.
Swelling after >1km walking for years
Injury '04 = MRI finds meniscus tear
Arthro '05 clean meniscus & undetected class 3 OA, 50% ACL strip noted.
Swelling/some pain after >1 hr biking. 3 yrs post-op, still only up to 50-80km.

Offline frederico

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Re: Biking effort (pedal force) on stationary bikes or "trainers"
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2007, 01:59:53 AM »
Hi, I hopped over here after spending a lot of time on the "Muscle and Tendon" message board - quad tendon rupture.  Anyway, I purchased a fluid trainer last year for my road bike when I was rehabbing from my surgery and found it to be a very effective way of training and rehabilitating my knee.  I found the resistance to be adjustable enough that I could get into a good cardio- workout without stressing my knee.  (I also have arthritis in the same knee I ruptured the quad tendon in) I used a heart rate monitor to help gauge the workout and of course I was riding on the trainer in my clip in shoes which gives you an effective energy transfer as well.  I would recommend the fluid trainers highly.  I felt it was very similar to riding outside on the roads.  With the adjustabe resistance, you can flip it up and pretend you're doing a hill for a while and then back off.  I had never used a bike trainer previously (I have an elliptical trainer which was my mainstay prior to this) although I had tried a stationary bike years ago such as you described and thought they were sub-optimal.
Bike Nashbar at www.nashbar.com has some fluid trainers beginning at $149 (U.S.) and going up to $300 (U.S.).  I have the higher priced spread with the electronic data display.   
Hope that helps.  Good luck!

Regards,

Fred

Offline Mtlcyclist

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Re: Biking effort (pedal force) on stationary bikes or "trainers"
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2007, 02:44:01 AM »
Fred:  Thanks a lot for your input.

I got much the same from Bike Forums about using trainers.  I had the additional complexity of figuring out what would work with my recumbent bike, and the consensus all around is the  Kinetic Machines by Kurt are the best in fluid trainers.  It doesn't have adjustable tension, but rather the effort increases with speed, but it's apparently one of the most realistic road-feel fluid trainers on the market.  Plus, unlike some notorious other makes, it doesn't have a propensity for leaking all over your floor in short order.

I'll be picking one up at my bike shop this Saturday.  At $330, it's a lot cheaper than spending a thousand or more on a decent recumbent stationary, assuming they even have something that is geared/belted for more realistic pedal forces.

Oh, on the topic of bikes and knees still, one thing I noticed that really helped with knee pain I was getting riding with Shimano clips pedals, was to switch to a non-spring return clip system.  I've been using Speedplay Frogs (happens to be the MB version) for three years now, and I never get the side pains that I would with the Shimano system.  It takes a little bit getting used to, but boy does it give your knees a break, since you can rotate your feet laterally up to the release limit (about 20-22 degrees outside) before the clip lets go.  This means your legs (and knees) aren't locked rigidly in-line as you pedal.

Hyperext ACL & meniscus tear skiing '80 - MRI, no surgery, PT only.
Swelling after >1km walking for years
Injury '04 = MRI finds meniscus tear
Arthro '05 clean meniscus & undetected class 3 OA, 50% ACL strip noted.
Swelling/some pain after >1 hr biking. 3 yrs post-op, still only up to 50-80km.

Offline lady

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Re: Biking effort (pedal force) on stationary bikes or "trainers"
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2007, 12:28:16 PM »
I'm a new biker (was told to never bike again, only water arobics-yuck). Anyways. My new doc says bike! bike! bike! and I am. I'm so thankful to have found this thread. The two of you are very knowledgable, which has me going.....huh. But thanks to your question Mtl I am learning alot. Sorry to hear about your troubles. I have come to love biking again and was an avid rider when I was younger and could ride for miles, I'm happy to be back at it. The most I can ride up to now is 6 miles. I get off for a half hour and lift and do another 6. I hope to be riding like you by next summer.
Don't get discouraged. I think an appointment with your doc is in order. Good luck. And thanks for all the great info.
dislocated patella and chopped off most of chondal 1985
chondroplasty/medial meniscus repair 1996
ACI  quater size defect-surgery failure
lateral meniscus repair2002
chondroplasty, lateral Meniscectomy2006
synvisc & orthovisc injections 2008/2009
drained and cortizone injection 2008

Offline aislyn

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Re: Biking effort (pedal force) on stationary bikes or "trainers"
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2008, 01:08:48 PM »
Fluid trainers are the way to go, as they best simulate outdoor conditions. I found that by dropping my resistance and not trying to "muscle" through the ride that I got a great cardio result and a good workout for my knee. It was more like "spinning" and a lot more bang for the buck than what you can get on a staionary bike and my OS told me that I was also improving the amount and distribution on synovial fluid in my knee.