It’s just turned 1-year since I had a TKR (Total Knee Replacement) of my left knee on 25th April 2015, which not surprisingly has since had an impact on cycling. I first ventured back on the bike after 6-weeks using the turbo trainer and MTB (Montobecane) bike. Initially the biggest impact on cycling was the lack of knee bend, mostly resulting from extensive swelling, as a result even turning the pedals slowly and without resistance was painful and difficult. To undertake this it was essential to raise the saddle considerably, thus reducing knee bend during each rotation. Notwithstanding the difficulties and discomfort it was good to be spinning again – good for my mind and good physically.
From the outset I’ve been determined to do everything possible to achieve the best possible outcome from the operation and over the past twelve months I have therefore followed a disciplined regime with this in mind. Starting with x5 laps walking slowly round my small garden at week-3, day-by-day I then increased the number of laps before venturing outside on short local walks, eventually building up to nearly 3-miles by the end of 3-months. Of course a return to walking was essential, prior to the operation I had found even cutting the grass difficult and painful, but beyond regaining mobility my aim has been to return to cycling, as best as I could.
The turbo trainer was the beginning of my journey back on the bike and played an important role in restoring knee bend and my spirits. Like the walking I took it slowly at first and either every day or every other day undertook first 10-minutes, then 20- minutes, then 30-minutes spinning, whilst at the same time slowly increasing resistance. Throughout this period I also carried out relevant physiotherapy exercises and reduced medication until finally during week-10 the great day came when I ventured back on the road again!
The area immediately adjacent to my house is hilly and I did not want to risk climbing at this still early stage, so my secret weapon was the Airnimal Joey folding bike. Taking the folding bike by car to nearby flat countryside I was able to ease back into cycling once again. My first journey was only 3-miles, which I undertook very carefully; the roads were very familiar but I can say they were some of the best three miles I’ve ridden since I started cycling nearly 60 years ago. Despite riding slowly, after weeks of pain and doubt I felt euphoric to be propelling the bike along the tarmac once again. It was satisfying and uplifting to know that I could cycle again but I would soon discover that there was still a long way to go.
Looking back I was too eager and soon had to scale back the cycling and rest the knee for a few weeks. As a result when I returned to the road I stayed on the Joey throughout most of the winter and cycled whenever possible on the flat, so that by the end of February I had increased to a maximum of 15-mile rides, albeit largely riding round in circles! However, sometimes less is more and on sunny winter days I appreciated being able to undertake these short rides as much as longer ones I have undertaken in the past.
Throughout this period my goal was to get back on the Dawes Audax bike and start cycling from home again, which I achieved in the first week of March. Since then I have now ridden up to 25-miles and as a result it has been possible to return to local roads that I had to abandon since the operation last year. This has been a satisfying outcome and I hope to do more in the coming months, being mindful not to overextend myself again. The left operated knee has generally held up well though the leg remains quiet swollen, with the calf some still 2-inches larger than the right leg but I’m told by the surgeon it should continue to improve further over the coming year.
Despite the success of getting back to walking and cycling it seems clear that I’m unlikely to be able to undertake the sort of rides I was two to three years ago and I’m going to have to assess how this will ultimately affect my cycling goals in the future. However, even before the operation it was clear there was another problem, which beyond the early recovery period has played a greater role in my cycling over the past year and ultimately may determine my cycling future – the problem now is my right knee! It is not uncommon that once one knee goes the other follows shortly thereafter. I had experienced some discomfort with this knee at the end of 2014 and especially during the Puglia tour in early April 2015. Getting back on the bike after the TKR has now highlighted this problem once again. As a result I have had to further moderate my cycling not because of the TKR recovery but in order to preserve and protect the right knee – ironic or what?