Safety Issues: ("leg suck" and other riding concerns)

I'm a new trike rider.  With 145 miles on the odometer since I bought my Rambler GT in mid-August 2015 I find that I'm learning new things everyday.  I'm a recently retired instructor in adult education and the one thing I learned about adults is that they all have infinite patience in learning something new (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).  Yes, I'm looking at you (I'm saying as I look in the mirror).

I'm going to put forth my thoughts and I wish that all who read this will contribute their thoughts and experiences as well.   We all have our unique experiences and by sharing we all learn.  Wow, do I sound like a teacher or what?

Where I encounter the possibility of "leg suck" is if I'm going too fast (usually on a downgrade) and I'm not in a gear where pedaling is applying force to the drive wheel.  One who has ridden a multi-speed bike has encountered this phenomenon.  Frantically trying to pedal and engage the drive wheel is fruitless and can easily create the condition where your feet disengage and fall from the pedals.  

You are left with two choices.  One, just coast until you feel resistance when pedaling.  Two, gently pedal (you always pedal when shifting) and begin shifting to a higher gear until you experience resistance.  

Okay, three, apply the brakes until you slow down and re-engage the drive wheel. Road conditions may be such that you just want to coast until you're back in control and that works for me.  Also, I gently pedal and shift to a lower gear if I see that it will be necessary such as when coming to a stop sign/light or approaching another upgrade (and my tongue will be hanging out again ;-).

It's important for you to maintain an awareness of road conditions.  As in defensive driving, think ahead to know what you need to do.  I'm thinking that having your feet fall from the pedals could be due, in part, to inattention or panic.  Of course, other factors may be present such as leg strength (or other physical conditions), in which case heel slings are recommended (safety is very important).  Do what you feel needs to be done.

I personally don't see a need for clip-on pedals unless I become a "Trike Warrior" bent on taking long distance trips or competing in a serious competition.  At 67 I just don't see that happening.  The standard pedals have nice protruding cleats that help to keep your foot securely on the pedals.  I would caution against smooth/hard/slick soled shoes because there is nothing for the cleats to engage.  In fact, I would recommend thicker, heavier, stronger shoes that would protect your feet.  I use walking/running shoes with a deep tread.

I cringe when I see people riding with thin, flimsy house slippers or flip flops.  Riding a trike is fun, that is, serious fun and your personal safety is very, very important.  Just like bicycling, a helmet is important as well.  Schwinn makes an adult hybrid helmet with a magnetic type clasp if you have trouble with those strong, squeeze type clasps.

Gloves ensure better control of your trike.  In warmer weather fingerless gloves are good.  For colder weather I wear a relatively inexpensive pair of work gloves that are warm, but not too heavy and stiff.  Check your local discount/farm/hardware store.

Very importantly, I always wear my RoadID bracelet because my medical conditions, and other personal information, are readily available to first responders.  I might not be able to speak, but my RoadID will speak for me. Since I don't carry a wallet I keep a five dollar bill in my shoe just in case I need a Dr. Pepper fix along the way.  So far I've been able to resist, but you never know.

Those are my thoughts for the moment.  Please join in, post, and help make riding your trike a safer and happier experience for all.  Oh yes, these thoughts are my personal opinions based on experience and common sense.  You are responsible for you own safety.  I'm not responsible for your actions or inactions...  73 Hal


  • Elrique64

    I have been around cycling since the mid 70's and though I wear a helmet now I am fully supportive of you right to ride without one heck we all did up till the 90's For me cycling/triking is all about the freedom to ride with friends as we see fit.

    I do take exception with the idea that mashing on the pedals blows out knees. never seen or heard of a cyclist blowing out a knee as a result of low cadence. I know low cadence is less efficient and can result in soreness and even fluid but a blown knee highly unlikely! Together my wife and I have ridden with thousands of people and over the course of the past four decades have yet to meet or even hear of someone wrecking a knee by turning the pedals. That said I myself spend many hours on the stationary bike in the winter months refining and consolidating the muscle memory needed to spin 95-100rpm. 

    I have heard of several people sustaining serious legs injuries due to leg suck. The info details injuries from sprains to compound fractures and comes from an exceedingly reliable source.
  • edited September 2015
    Sorry boys things like over use and tendonitis are common with mashers, something I never do as stated, but a blown knee(as defined by torn ligaments)? still waiting to hear of one. People should stick to the facts on public forums, like that will happen, yes you can injure your knees by mashing on the pedals but the comments above re bike vs trikes have no basis in reality. If you come to cycling with bad knees it is possible to do further damage but spinning and cycling in general are great for knees. 

    I have had my own set of limitations and came to riding a Rambler precisely as a rehab device. Two broken legs and heels pinned and screwed together, destroyed L3 vertebra removed and replaced with a cage and clips, four months in a wheel chair at age 54 now at 57 I am back as far as my jacked up heels and ankles will let me go. 

  • Leg suck is a real hazard on tadpole trikes. The trike is low to the ground and your legs are horizontal so when your foot comes off the pedal before you have time to react it is sucked under the cruciform. You do not have to be flying down a downhill for leg suck to occur. Rough pavement, hitting a pothole, any jarring motion can cause your foot to come off the pedal. Retention devices such as clipless pedals, heel slings, and Power Grips will prevent your foot from coming off the pedal.

    There have been some devastating injuries such as broken legs, broken ankles, torn ACL's, etc. These are injuries that take months to recover from and one may never regain 100% function in the injured leg. You may think it will never happen to you, but it only takes one slip off to result in an injury that may affect you for the rest of your life. 

    Here is a Google search for "leg suck" on the Bentrider message board. As you can see there are a lot of hits.
    John Werner
    Rover Tandem
  • edited September 2015
    Just did 45, the problem is you are passing on misinformation and it is not semantics. Cycling injuries to the knee are almost never the type that require immediate surgery to fix one or more torn ligaments. It is important for all of us that ride to understand the potential for overuse and improper fit type injuries and how to prevent them. Proper setup and fit of the trike or bike will eliminate most of the potential for knee injury. Saddle height or in the case of a trike distance to the pedals from the seat is critical and can go a long way  to preserving knee health. Pedal extenders on trikes can be very helpful to place the knees in alignment with the hips. Proper cleat placement is critical if you are using SPD or other clipless type pedals. Getting a neutral and aligned position for the feet, knees, and hips will greatly reduce the stress on all the leg joints. 

    Cycling knee injuries do come with a warning and give the rider ample time to seek adjustment of their ttrike or technique to remedy the issue. First comes pain then swelling anyone who ignores these warning signs is asking for trouble. If your knees hurt seek help from a fit specialist at your dealer if the pain persists seek medical help. 

    You obviously haven't read any of my other posts regarding cadence so let me spell it out. I do not mash the pedals and have worked very hard to achieve a constant cadence in the low 90's it is more efficient and allows me to ride further faster and with less fatigue then mashing the pedals.SO my knees are fine and I am smiling every day as I ride.
  • Two most common cycling knee injuries are Tendonitis and Chondromalacia. Tendonitis is caused by low saddle height or on a trike it would be boom or seat not extended far enough and by pedaling in too high of gear. 

    Chondromalacia is caused by over training and pedaling in too high of gear.I developed Chondromalacia in 1994 when I had 5500 miles by late Sept. It was definitely from overuse. About 4000 of the miles were on a DF and 1500 on a Tour Easy. I was in good shape then (unlike now) and was riding fast and long distances. The only cure was to cut bay back on my cycling by limiting my miles and riding slow in low gears and really spinning. The knee pain slowly went away and by next spring I was fully recovered. 

    The only cure for Tendonitis and Chondromalacia is limited riding or no riding, ice, and anti-inflammatory drugs. The prevention for these ailments is proper bike fit, do not over train, and spin a high cadence. I was a masher before the Chondromalacia, Since that time I have been a spinner and have not incurred anymore knee ailments.  
    John Werner
    Rover Tandem
  • Elrique64, I acknowledge all of the salvos that you have fired across my bow.  I thank you for your service as I'm sure you would thank me for mine in the U.S. Army Military Police.  You will notice that I specifically pointed out that I was giving my thoughts, opinions and experiences.  I also invited everyone to give their thoughts, opinions and experiences.  What I did not expect to do was start a fire in your powder magazine.  I am not telling anyone to do anything.  What you do is your business.  

    If wearing the shoes you do works for you, fine.  If not wearing gloves works for you, fine.  As a disabled veteran I salute you sir.  I agree that veterans are getting short changed and it's not just one party doing it. Many of our elected officials would not know one end of a rifle from the other.  They're clueless.  You have my support on that.  I certainly apologize if I have offended you; it was not my intent to do so.

    Personally, I wear a well-ventilated helmet because it helps protect my brain bucket.  Nurses and doctors in emergency rooms refer to helmet-less riders (motorcycle, bicycle, etc.) as "donor cycles."  Also as a young police officer I investigated a head on collision between two bicyclists, late at night, running high speed.  The riders and bikes were entangled, bikes destroyed and one of the cyclists in intensive care for several weeks.  It was a bloody scene I will never ever forget.  Back then in the early 70s helmets were not being used.

    I also wear gloves for hand protection.  I learned that from motorcycling.  Hand injuries are painful and I want to protect my hands because I'm a musician.  Elrique64, as you describe your reason for not using gloves I would suggest trying finger-less gloves for some protection and the exposed fingers as giving you a feeling of control.  For cold weather I would suggest finding a very thin pair of leather gloves.  I wear a pair of very thin gloves for driving because I too want to feel better control of my vehicle.

    Let me say that I approach riding the trike as not being a great deal different than operating a motor vehicle on public roads.  I obey signs, watch for traffic, practice courtesy, operate in consistent manner with high regard for safety.  Perhaps that is due to my long experience in military and civilian law enforcement.  I never enjoyed investigating traffic accidents when most could have been avoided.

    Elrique64, I am not stepping up to protect you from yourself.  Yes, you can do as you wish and it appears you are doing so, but let me conclude: 1) I do not hate your slippers and riding barefoot on those cleated pedals would be really painful, 2) Wear or not wear a helmet...your choice obviously, 3) Wear that VFW pin and wave that Navy flag proudly cuz you earned it, 4) The experience of "leg suck" was my experience and I'm sure there are many other reasons, 5) If you apply your brakes intermittently they won't overheat and fail, but if the grade is that steep you need to start braking early and not before it's too late.  I'm just sayin'. 6) Keep on drinking that Mtn Dew. Dr Pepper is my drink of choice.  Cheers to you sir! 

    As for the knee problems, I find that a steady, higher cadence is easier on my knees and as I approach a grade I gear down and keep my cadence.  When I'm in the lowest gear and I run out of gas, I stop, lock the brakes, drink some water, catch my breath, rest my legs, relax, smell the flowers, then unlock my brakes and go on.  If it takes me several stops to climb that be it.  I'm not ashamed and I find that as I keep riding I am building strength and stamina and maybe one day I'll conquer that kick-@$$ hill.  I read an article written by a professional cyclist about steady cadence as opposed to charging at a hill and it worked for me.

    The one thing I do take exception to is your remark that unless what you do hurts others then it's not anyone's business but yours.  Really?  You do something that is unsafe and causes harm to someone when it could have been "easily" prevented just means you can say, "Oops, my bad" and now your responsibility is absolved.  That's what drunk drivers use as an excuse for killing other people.  I don't buy that and I believe there can be reasonable rules without overdoing it.  Would you not agree?  Helmets for kids and race drivers?  I can live with that.

    It will take me a while to sort out all the other posts and I'll make further comments as I have time.  I'm glad to see a lot of posts even with the accompanying fireworks.  I'm new to riding a trike and I have to say that I absolutely love it! 

    I've ridden road bikes for years and now I see that I had very little time to see the scenery and not have to concentrate on avoiding road rash for lack of concentration.  Now I ride at a slower pace and I enjoy the scenery and smell of the air (except when the path goes by the poultry processing plant).  I'm sitting low to the ground and I can see things like the flowers and the odd curvy stick on the path with the  diamond shaped pattern.  

    I personally have come to appreciate living in the present moment.  And my awareness is heightened when I hear "On your left" from a road bike passing me like I am going backwards.  We now have a nice system of multi-use paths and even here there are rules.  Keep in your lane and alert others when passing.  Be courteous. Alas too, old habits die hard.  I keep first aid supplies in my panniers just in case.  You never know.  I guess I'll always be that officer willing to help others in need.  There are some wicked hills, deep ravines and speeding cyclists on the local paths.  I'm just sayin'.........

    Elrique64, I'm glad you're still active, aware and not in mothballs.  I think we could have lots of lively conversations.  Keep on riding!


  • Enrique said "Much easier to mash up them hills now, right?  WRONG!  If you put too much strain on the knee joint for too long of a time, you can do some serious damage to that complex joint.  Try to get and keep your pedal RPM in about the 60-80 range to prevent this injury.  If you can't do it with your current gearing then it's time to invest in lower gearing.  This one time investment is much cheaper than the surgery and recovery from a blown knee would be. "
  • I like to ride my trike.
    I wear a helmet when my kids are watching, but just a ball cap otherwise.
    Sometimes my knees hurt and sometimes they don't - but I've had bad knees for years (my DD-214 says "don't come back")
    I try to be careful not to hurt myself. . . all the time. . . and on my trike.
    Sometimes I share my opinions and sometimes I don't.
    I like to ride my trike.
  • edited September 2015
    @webbbc My sentiments exactly, except the helmet. I wear a helmet all the time, but that is my choice. I also don't have bad knees and often wonder why. It's not like I haven't tried (yuk yuk).
    As for opinions, they are like butt holes.....everybody has one.
    I like to ride my trike. Like...totally fer sure...whatevah
  • My experience with the pushing/pulling thing is concentrate on just the pulling because I seem to automatically push without really thinking about pushing. Also I try not to use my shin muscles but my inner thigh muscles when pulling.

    This is just my experience, so take it with a grain of salt. 

  • Hello Elrique64, the name here is Hal. "without negatively impacting those around me"  Perhaps I misunderstood exactly what you said and I apologize.  Unfortunately the question tends to come up after the incident occurs, but I hear what you're saying.

    I can think of a couple of thoughtless things that I see almost every day.  One, is people who pull trailers, but never hook up the lights.  The lights are broken and/or the connection pigtail is just dangling and dirty indicating they've never been used.  The other is the penchant of putting dark plastic covers over headlights and taillights.  It's fashionable, but extremely dangerous not to mention illegal.  People just don't see the danger and there's a lawsuit waiting to be filed.  Those are thoughtless acts that come to mind.

    Yesterday I thought you to be quite the curmudgeon, but I now see you in a different light.  Yes, you come out with guns blazing, but I'm seeing your posts in other places.  I see you dispensing useful, practical information, rescuing fallen cyclists, and giving sincere words of encouragement to others.  You are outspoken, but again forgive me, I think I've blown your cover.
  • edited September 2015
    Elrique64 Thanks, even though I may seem like an interloper here I come back to this forum from time to time because I remember what it was like to feel broken, helpless and less than other folk. Because there are allot of beginners and people with limitations and I like to read of the progress and strides they are making. 

    Meniscus injuries do suck my wife had the surgery a few years back and the knee has never been quite the same. Weirdly I also have friend, injured in a climbing fall, that had an open tib fib fracture where the broken end of his tibia was driven up through the knee joint and out his quad. He has had several surgeries and still has trouble. Most likely he will be heading for a replacement soon. 

    My reaction to the characterization is due to the fact I believe the idea of blowing out a knee and needing surgery could needlessly worry and dampen the enthusiasm of some of the less experienced readers. So lets just agree that we should strive for higher cadences and any of us experiencing knee pain for more than a few rides should get help and fix the problem so we can all ride more in the future?

    Regarding your feet believe me I know what it is like tio have feet that suck what a challenge it is day to day when the things you need to stand and walk on hurt like hell. It still takes a couple hours each morning before the discomfort recedes to background level. I can ride though and the pure elation I feel at being just like everyone else doing that one thing is powerful. I understand why you named your trike Freedom and am very happy you seem find the same joy riding.

    So eyes forward life happens up the road!
  • Don't mind me. I'm just going to chime in tell you guys how much I am loving this thread. Reasons as followed:

    1. I appreciate and completely respect the way everyone has torn down the "virtual" communication barrier when it could have been so much easier to just lash out. 

    2. Often times it is difficult to find comradery in the civilian world, but often times I find it on this forum. 
        You guys set the standard for this forum, and I couldn't be more thankful for that.

    3. I also couldn't be more thankful for the services you put forth for our country and countrymen. Thank you! 

    4. Very awesome input on many different levels regarding, safety, common courtesies while riding, and perfectly fine riding suggestions and opinions. 

    Sunday I am leaving for a 300 mile ride. With that being said some topics of discussion on this thread will be reflected in a group discussion I am hosting for this ride/event.

    Your input has given me plenty of material to address to fellow cyclists. 

    Thanks! That's all I've got! Sorry to interrupt! 
    TerraTrike - Customer Relations, Assembly, and Forum/ Facebook Administrator. 
  • I guess there are mashers and then there are mashers? I consider myself a masher to a degree.. I tend to like a certain amount of resistance on the pedals when I turn them. An example is when I get to a corner I wil slow and gear down some. And while my cadence starting of is fairy low I am not neccearilly pushing all that hard to get it going. But in No way would I back the gears down till it has NO resistance since it feels like it will OUTSPIN my foots ability to stay on the pedals doing so.
    I do have existing knee pain. But not when I cycle. My knees tend to hurt when I bend and kneel down metal detecting in the grass.
    I find when approaching a corner there is a limit on how far I can down shift and turn the pedals from high gear ,24th. So for me it is a matter of what gear I am in and maybe dropping the front 1 and the rear a few if I am going away from the wind and downhill on my area. Or just dropping a few on the rear if I am going into the wind and up hill...

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