Recovering from knee replacement surgery is the worst. The only thing worse than the pain after knee replacement is the thought of having to live the rest of your life with the pain of living with a knee that needs to be replaced.
In April, I went under the robot knife and had my left knee replaced. It’s been three months of pain, physical therapy, and, did I mention the pain?
Bicycling is one of the best recovery tools for knee replacement, but I had a slow recovery, and for the first two months, I couldn’t even do a pedal stroke on a stationary bike. I had to sit on the saddle and rock my foot forward and back, trying to will my knee to bend enough to make a complete revolution.
The lack of ability to ride was incredibly frustrating because, just before my surgery, Cannondale released new bikes in their Adventure Neo Allroad line. After talking to Cannondale about my upcoming procedure, they were nice enough to send me a loaner Adventure Neo Allroad EQ to review for my recovery.
The plan is to use the bike first to get me back in shape to ride my Cannondale SuperSix, and then use it when I want to hit gravel trails or for errands to town.
It is unfathomably frustrating to stare at a beautiful new bike and not be able to ride it, but it gave me the motivation to work harder in physical therapy.
Two months and two days after my surgery, I hit a milestone when I could slowly pedal a recumbent. The relaxed geometry of the bike allowed me to get the rotation I needed to turn the pedals, and I knew that first rotation that I was on my way to riding again.
A week later and I was riding the stationary bike at physical therapy. Like the exercise bikes you see at the gym, this one had a wide saddle and more laid-back geometry than a real bike.
Two days later, I could finally get on the beautiful, gleaming Adventure Neo Allroad EQ. I could only ride up and down the block a few times, but the ride had the feeling of freedom from when I was a kid.
The Adventure Neo Allroad has a Bafang electronic drivetrain with a 250W hub motor that can get up to 47 miles on a charge. A thumb throttle gives assist up to 20mph, and while it won’t do that speed uphill, the motor provides a nice boost.
The EQ in the name stands for “equipped,” as it comes with a rack, lights, and massive tires that can go from paved roads to gravel to dirt roads without any issue.
With a stepover frame, Neo (that’s what I’ve decided to name it) is easy for me to mount. Neo has similar relaxed geometry to the bike at the therapist, as it’s designed to be used on any terrain. For my first ride, I racked the saddle back and raised the seat post just above my usual position.
Not only is Neo an excellent bike for a new rider that’s going out to ride with a more experienced cyclist and wants to be able to keep up. I ride regularly with a group of friends that had been riding for a few years and have become more and more capable riders. Having an e-bike available would have been a great way to build up cycling power while also being able to experience the fun of visiting new places.
out and back
Sunday is the regular group ride day with my friends, and it’s been a year since we all rode together. My original knee injury happened more than 35 years ago, and surgery at that time involved the removal of my meniscus.
I’ve ridden tens of thousands of miles since that original surgery, but over the last few years, my knee bones rubbing together made cycling harder and harder. Last winter, I had to give up even on stationary bikes.
This Sunday, I rolled out of bed, ready for my first ride of 2023. My friends had planned a 30-50 mile ride, and I planned to join them for the first few miles.
Getting started is always a challenge. During the first few pedal strokes, my knee was pretty tight, but the support of a powered hub made it possible for me to warm my legs slowly.
The Bafang hub has five engine boost levels, and generally, I ride in the first or second level. The Neo has seven gears, and the bike boosts along with your level of input. Even at the first level of powered support, it’s pretty easy to get close to 20mph with a slight decline on the road.
We rode together for the first four miles, chatting and catching up. I instructed my friends not to let me overdo it as I’m prone to writing checks my legs can’t catch. Our route is along the river, with beautiful views, and the air was, for the first time in days, free of smoke from Canadian wildfires.
At the fifth mile, their route took them up a short-but-steep hill and a mile after a mile-long 15% grade climb.
Their ascent was a good reason to bail, so I turned around as they headed up the hill. Usually, I’d feel bad for abandoning them but having ridden that far exhilarated me.
For about a mile, I turned off the powered assist and pedaled on the flat river road without help from the bike. It was exhilarating.
On my way home, I turned and rode to the end of a pier jutting into the river. A mile-long road, the path had been used to load ships sailing down the Hudson River and was used during World War II as an embarkation point for soldiers.
I was nearly alone as I pedaled to the end of the pier and stopped at the end with no people around at all. I sat and thought about life and how cyclists go through different stages.
I turned around and pedaled home, assisted by Neo. One short climb on the return route was only possible for me now with an e-bike. About 500 yards long, the road starts at close to 18%, flattens briefly, and then hits 18% again. The momentary flat is just long enough to mess up a good cadence.
On this ride, though, I put the bike at the highest level of assist and hit the throttle. I didn’t set a speed record, but I didn’t get off and walk either.
Neo and I are going to be good friends.
Recovering from Knee Replacement Surgery and Happily A Fred
Many years ago, I was moderating a live chat for Bike Hugger during the Tour de France, and there was a commercial for a bike computer that featured two riders arriving from different directions at a coffee shop.
One rider had no bike computer, and the other rider did. The rider with the bike computer looked at it and smiled as he saw his mileage. The screen showed he had ridden seven miles, and many people in the chat joked about what a “Fred” he was for being proud of seven miles.
Some people on the live chat commented on how silly the short distance was. Another cycling website even wrote an article about the commercial and how ridiculous it was for someone to be so happy with such a short ride.
I wrote a rather scathing reply to this as my cycling journey started with rides much less ambitious than seven miles. Chronically overweight as a kid, my first real happened riding in my 20s when my friend’s mom gave me her three-speed Raleigh road bike when she moved.
My first ride on that bike was about a mile, but it was the start of a journey to see me riding bikes worldwide. I would have killed to have been able to ride seven miles.
That first ride with friends last week was about 11 miles, the longest I’ve ridden since last summer by 11 miles. While most of it was assisted by a powerful engine, it’s one of the cycling accomplishments I’m most proud of.
By fall, I hope to be back on my Cannondale SuperSix and riding under my own power, but my stable of bikes will likely include an e-bike from now on. They’re incredibly convenient and an excellent choice for a day when you’re not sure how much you’ve got in you but want to ride.
I’ll be doing a full review of the Cannondale Adventure Neo Allroad EQ after I’ve spent more time on it, which I’ll be doing in about five minutes as I ride back from the coffee shop where I’m writing—a coffee shop I had to drive to just a few days ago.
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