Fitness questions and answers for August 8, 2005

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Form & Fitness Q & A

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at fitness@cyclingnews.com. Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your age, sex, and type of racing or riding. Due to the volume of questions we receive, we regret that we are unable to answer them all.

Carrie Cheadle, MA (www.carriecheadle.com) is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University.

Dave Palese (www.davepalese.com) is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16 years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl, daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.

Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000. Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows, he races Cat 3 and 35+. He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins, CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural, urgent care, inpatient and the like.

Fiona Lockhart (www.trainright.com) is a USA Cycling Expert Coach, and holds certifications from USA Weightlifting (Sports Performance Coach), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach), and the National Academy for Sports Nutrition (Primary Sports Nutritionist). She is the Sports Science Editor for Carmichael Training Systems, and has been working in the strength and conditioning and endurance sports fields for over 10 years; she's also a competitive mountain biker.

Eddie Monnier (www.velo-fit.com) is a USA Cycling certified Elite Coach and a Category II racer. He holds undergraduate degrees in anthropology (with departmental honors) and philosophy from Emory University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.

Eddie is a proponent of training with power. He coaches cyclists (track, road and mountain bike) of all abilities and with wide ranging goals (with and without power meters). He uses internet tools to coach riders from any geography.

David Fleckenstein, MPT (www.physiopt.com) is a physical therapist practicing in Boise, ID. His clients have included World and U.S. champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes. He received his B.S. in Biology/Genetics from Penn State and his Master's degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University. He specializes in manual medicine treatment and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilization musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.

Since 1986 Steve Hogg (www.cyclefitcentre.com) has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, a cycle shop specialising in rider positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable cycling problem.They include World and National champions at one end of the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the other end.

Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.

Pamela Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University and is now an assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated changes in menstrual function on bone health.

Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion. Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.

Dario Fredrick (www.wholeathlete.com) is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.

Scott Saifer (www.wenzelcoaching.com) has a Masters Degree in exercise physiology and sports psychology and has personally coached over 300 athletes of all levels in his 10 years of coaching with Wenzel Coaching.

Kendra Wenzel (www.wenzelcoaching.com) is a head coach with Wenzel Coaching with 17 years of racing and coaching experience and is coauthor of the book Bike Racing 101.

Steve Owens (www.coloradopremiertraining.com) is a USA Cycling certified coach, exercise physiologist and owner of Colorado Premier Training. Steve has worked with both the United States Olympic Committee and Guatemalan Olympic Committee as an Exercise Physiologist. He holds a B.S. in Exercise & Sports Science and currently works with multiple national champions, professionals and World Cup level cyclists.

Through his highly customized online training format, Steve and his handpicked team of coaches at Colorado Premier Training work with cyclists and multisport athletes around the world.

Brett Aitken (www.cycle2max.com) is a Sydney Olympic gold medalist. Born in Adelaide, Australia in 1971, Brett got into cycling through the cult sport of cycle speedway before crossing over into road and track racing. Since winning Olympic gold in the Madison with Scott McGrory, Brett has been working on his coaching business and his www.cycle2max.com website.

Richard Stern (www.cyclecoach.com) is Head Coach of Richard Stern Training, a Level 3 Coach with the Association of British Cycling Coaches, a Sports Scientist, and a writer. He has been professionally coaching cyclists and triathletes since 1998 at all levels from professional to recreational. He is a leading expert in coaching with power output and all power meters. Richard has been a competitive cyclist for 20 years

Andy Bloomer (www.cyclecoach.com) is an Associate Coach and sport scientist with Richard Stern Training. He is a member of the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) and a member of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES). In his role as Exercise Physiologist at Staffordshire University Sports Performance Centre, he has conducted physiological testing and offered training and coaching advice to athletes from all sports for the past 4 years. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for many years.

Michael Smartt (www.cyclecoach.com) is an Associate Coach with Richard Stern Training. He holds a Masters degree in exercise physiology and is USA Cycling Expert Coach. Michael has been a competitive cyclist for over 10 years and has experience coaching road and off-road cyclists, triathletes and Paralympians.

Kim Morrow (www.elitefitcoach.com) has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion, and a Fitness Professional.

Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns MyEnduranceCoach.com, a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find a coach.

Advice presented in Cyclingnews' fitness pages is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for individual athletes. If you follow the educational information found on Cyclingnews, you do so at your own risk. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

Hill training for flat races
Track bike versus road bike
Speedplay roll float
Giving blood
Commuting goals
Pedal spacers
Asymmetric calf muscles
Handlebar fit
Lower back spasm
Leg length discrepancy
Nerve damage #2
Bike position

Hill training for flat races

I am a 48 yr old male who is riding 100 - 150km per week and running on 'non-bike' days. Almost all of my training is in hilly country on some rough paved roads. Some gradients are in excess of 10%. I am 6'0" and weigh 165 lbs. My favourite ride is a 28km pretty steady climb and back home again. When I ride with friends at about my fitness level, I tend to get away from them in the hills, but if they are there in a sprint at the end, I lose! My competition events come in the form of a few triathlons a year, although I would like to try bicycle racing when I get a lighter bike. Question: am I making a mistake in only training in the hills for the competition events which are mostly flat? If so, what can I do in my daily riding to increase race efficiency? Thanks!

Jerry Unser

Scott Saifer replies

Jerry,

The differences between the biomechanics of climbing and riding flats are not large, if you have low enough gears to allow you to spin the same cadences on the hills as on the flats. You didn't mention your gearing, but unless you are training on a mountain bike, I'm doubting you really spin on 10% grades. Markedly different cadences actually activate different muscle fibers within your pedaling muscles, so you if you spend a lot of time grinding away at low cadences in the hills, you may not even be training the fibers you'll actually use in your flatter triathlons.

One of my clients who trains for triathlons did almost all his training on hills until recently simply because in the area where he lives one has a choice between riding hills and riding routes with unpleasantly heavy traffic. A few months ago I talked him into doing laps on a short, quiet but nearly flat stretch rather than his usual hilly loops, and his cycling improved tremendously over the next few weeks. His comment was that on the hills he never made a really steady effort for more than a few minutes as is required in an Olympic triathlon ride. Rather, he was riding hard up hill for a few minutes and then relaxing on the steep descents. It only took a short while for him to become accustomed to making the steady effort, but that change made a huge difference in his ability to pace himself on flat triathlon courses.
So another question besides the cadence you use in the hills is the length of the hills. If you don't get to make uninterrupted efforts of at least 15 minutes, find yourself somewhere flatter to train, even if it means doing laps on a short, flat stretch of road.

Track bike versus road bike

Is it better to have the lengths of your track bike and road bike the same? Or should one be longer than the other?

Giancarlo Bianchi

Scott Saifer replies

Giancarlo,

Your question is a bit broad, but I'll give an equally broad response. Because your road position should allow you to spin smoothly and develop both a high cadence and lots of power, the arrangement of the parts of your body relative to each other on a track bike should be similar to that on a road bike. That is, if we took photos of you on your road and track bikes and cut them out, they'd be pretty much the same. The major difference is that on the track bike you'd be rotated forward a few degrees. How much depends on your track specialty. Assuming you are not focused on long points races or six-day races, track events are generally shorter than road events, which means that you can tilt forward, putting more weight on your hands without too much discomfort or lasting injury. Tilting forward lowers your shoulders for reduced aerodynamic drag, while maintaining the relative orientation of the legs, hips and back maintains the spinning and power of the road position.

Any track frame that allows you to achieve the forward tilt will work. Your seat angle (actual or effective) will be steeper on the track than the road bike, and the bars will be lower and farther forward compared to the bottom bracket. This can be achieved with a low-setback seatpost and a long, down-angled stem and a frame geometry similar to your road bike, or with a specialised track frame. How the bike handles will finally determine what works for you.

Speedplay roll float

Steve,

Thanks for all your great feedback and assistance.

I started physical therapy with someone here in the Boston area that has a background with bicycle racing, she was one herself, and has treated cyclists, so has a good understanding of cyclists' tendencies.

The root of my apparent leg length difference is indeed a pelvis symmetry issue. As you correctly surmised, I hang off the right of the saddle a bit, and also have a pelvis that is twisted to he right (the left side is "closer" to the handlebars). I inserted the shim in the left pedal as a band aid solution to the left leg over-extending due to the lean to the right. This also resulted in the feeling of carrying more weight on my left upper body as my upper body wanted to follow the direction of my pelvis, putting more weight on the left arm.

I have embarked on a series of resistance and isometric exercises along with more disciplined and focused stretching. In only two weeks I feel some improvement; I am getting back to a more centered position. I have removed the shim from the left shoe/cleat interface.

I am planning to make an appointment with Bill Peterson (www.wedofeet.com) for a comprehensive fitting as well as the creation of orthotics. The therapist I am seeing recognised from the wear pattern on my shoes, that I walk on the outside of my feet. Orthotics will help "fill in" the space under my foot correctly so I don't roll my knee over as much on the downstroke and create unnecessary stress.

I believe I'm making some positive progress, with much credit to your advice.

I do notice that my feet seem to be "leaned" over on the outboard side of the Speedplays, perhaps allowing my feet to follow their natural tendency. Also, the fact that there is an adapter plate between he shoe and the Speedplay cleat seems like a buffer in the kinetic chain of the legs that is not ideal; there are two sets of screws involved to affix the cleat to the shoe, instead of one. I am thinking about either returning to Look or trying Time, since they both have a wider and more stable platform and generally do not require an adapter plate. What do you think? Do you know what the stack height difference is between these systems? I'll have to adjust for that when I switch. Thank you.

Wayne Maceyka

Steve Hogg replies

Wayne,

I'm glad that you are addressing the pelvic symmetry issues, as that is the key to riding well.

There is not necessarily a correlation between the way the feet contact the ground when walking and what the feet do when riding a bike, though from what you have said, in your case it is likely that there is a correlation. One issue to be aware of when you have the orthoses made is this. Ask the question about whether the pair of orthoses that you are getting to correct footplant are to be used on the bike or whether to get another pair for the bike. Additionally, you will probably need the orthoses modified or changed once you are functioning more symmetrically.

The pelvic asymmetries mean that you have one leg that is functionally longer than the other. This in turn means that there is an implication for footplant in that the angle at which each foot contacts the ground may be different. If you resolve this issue, the prescription of the orthoses may need to change somewhat. Equally, when there is any real degree of asymmetry off the bike, the degree to which this transfers onto the bike can be anywhere from closely correlated to a lot different.

What I am saying in effect, that any orthoses prescribed for the bike should have some sort of on bike assessment as to their suitability and may differ from what is prescribed for off the bike. Regarding the Speedplays; you may well be right that a Look or similar pedal will be more appropriate for you but I am not sure what you mean by the Speedplay adaptor "buffering" the kinetic chain. They are a pain to set up because of two sets of screws and that the cleat has to be removed to move the baseplate on the shoe sole, but their adaptor does not add any meaningful amount to the sole to axle distance. The baseplate is 3.5mm thick in the middle, though there are plug in shims front and rear to accommodate the curve of the shoe sole. The cleat goes on top of this 3.5mm but has an effective height of all but zero as it fits over the pedal which lightly contacts the baseplate during use. This gives an effective cleat height of somewhere between 3.5 - 4.0mm and a sole to axle distance totalling 12.5 - 13.0mm which is quite low.
By comparison a Look Keo is 17.0mm. As I write this I don't have a Time pedal and cleat here to measure.

Just an observation here; of the Keo users I know, all are happy. Of the current model Time users I know a minority are not happy for a variety of reasons, all to do with the "feel" of the pedal. It's worth trying before you buy. The last thing to consider is that the issues that you have pelvically may be part of the problem with the way your knees move around on the bike, not just your feet.

Giving blood

I regularly give a unit of blood every 2-3 months for my local blood bank. With all the attention that is being focused on blood doping and EPO abuse, I was wondering how much this loss of blood and red blood cells is affecting my ability to perform. The blood bank tells me that it takes about 56 days to regain the lost red blood cells but the normal fluid volume is reached almost immediately after donating. With giving approximately 10% of my blood supply at this frequency, am I really hurting my ability to train and race at my best? I feel that donating blood and plasma is important to my community, especially being type O Positive; however I don't want any negative athletic effects for my gratuity. FYI: I am 6'1" and 189 lbs and my normal resting HR is 48. Thank you.

Rob McCoy

Dover, Delaware, USA

Scott Saifer replies

Rob,

There is no question that theoretically donating blood compromises your training and your competitive ability. The question is how the theory applies to you. During the period in which your red cell count is low after a donation, you are not going to be producing the same power that you would with a higher red cell count. Thus the training stimulus is decreased.

The questions I would want answered before advising you to continue or stop donating blood is the level at which you are racing and the extent to which other factors are compromising your training. If you are riding professionally, or trying to keep up with the pros in local races, you can't afford to do anything to compromise your performance. In that case you should be doing 20+ hours per week of high-quality training and resting most of the time when you are not training. If you are working lots of hours, and training few, or training lots but not getting enough rest, I can't say that donating blood is really what is holding you back. Since you are 6'1" and 189 pounds, I'm guessing that you are either a track pro, or you fall in the second category of riders for whom blood donation will not be the principle limiter to performance.

Commuting goals

I'm 32, nearly 33, year old male 5'7", 170lbs. I have raced in the past, and been schooled big time. My peak heart rate is around 180-185bpm, I know that I'm in trouble if I get much above 175bpm I won't be able to recover quickly and will get dropped soon. I know that my training volume was low and inconsisent, and I also know that my lactate threshold is not developed. In order to increase my training volume, and hopefully lose weight, I've started commuting. I'd also like to mix some intervals, possibly two days per week. My goal is to just keep up with local racing club, which will require speeds around 25mph and many fast bursts of power. But these events are nearly one hour, so endurance is not much of a goal for me, I'm mainly concerned with my speed and power.

My questions are:

1) Is the 10 hours per week generally accepted bench mark?
2) Can I meet my goals of increasing my speed and power in these two short sessions per day? Thanks again.

David Boon

Scott Saifer replies

David,

Whether the 10 hours per week will be adequate depends a bit on where you live and how stiff the competition is, as well as your natural talent. With the recent rise in popularity of cycling in the US, and in California in particular, each category now seems to be about as fast as the next higher category used to be. I've found recently that 10-12 hours per week seems to keep my clients in the race, even if not always in the front.

Split workouts can be more valuable than single workouts, but there are several factors to consider. If you are getting worn out later in a workout and ride quality is dropping, splitting the workout into two, entirely high-quality workouts may be beneficial. I do think it is important to get one or two workouts per week that are full length at appropriate times of year. By full length I mean the time of your longest routine race plus an hour or so. By the appropriate time of year I mean during base development and base maintenance.

One thing to keep in mind is that when you train you are practicing what you are doing in training. Only after you have warmed up are you optimally training the physiological systems that are active after you are warmed up. Thus when you split your workout and double the time you spend warming up, you are taking that time away from high-quality, warmed-up training. Thus your two one hour rides are worth about as much as 1:40 of continuous riding.

Pedal spacers

Hi,

I have been cycling and racing for several years and recently bought a new bike, a Cannondale Six13, but my heel tends to hit the chainstays. This is the first time I have experienced this with any bike.

My question is:

Would you recommend your pedal spacers with Speedplay pedals, or should I move my cleats inward as far as possible, which would be more effective in resolving this issue while having the least effect on my pedal position and stroke,

If the pedal spacers are the better way to go, then I would need to order them asap; I have Dura Ace 10 speed cranks Thank you.

Doug Pomeranz

Georgia, USA

Eddie Monnier replies

Doug,

It's important to understand that there are quite a few aspects to adjust in properly setting up a cleat to insure a neutral relationship with the pedal:

1. Fore/aft
2. Side-to-side (width)
3. Rotation
4. Forefoot cant
5. Degree of float

The fact that your ankle is hitting the chainstay needs to be resolved. But I don't recommend just moving your cleat in (to move your foot out) or adding a spacer without assessing the alignment of the knee/foot/pedal. It's possible that by moving your foot out, you may be positioning your foot too wide relative to your knee. So, you may save your ankle to spite your knee!

If you have the original Speedplays, the float is unlimited. You may have excessive movement because you have other alignment issues (eg, a forefoot cant that should be corrected, incorrect stance width as you suspect) which has come to your attention due to the wider chainstay of your new bike. If, however, you have the Speedplay Zeros, then you can adjust the amount of float. Besides what I've already mentioned, it might be that the float is "centered" incorrectly, causing your foot to toe out excessively.

My strong recommendation is to see the most respected fitter in your area and have him/her assess your setup.

Asymmetric calf muscles

Hi there,

I am 50 years old, bought a road bike 12 months ago, and now enthusiastically riding about 200 km per week. I've never cycled before, so my legs have got a lot stronger over the past year and changed shape. I notice that the shape of the calf muscle on the inside of the leg is quite different on one leg to the other. When I flex, the left leg has a bulge in the middle whilst the right leg has a bulge top and bottom with a hollow in the middle. I have no pain, no apparent difference in strength, and no other signs of asymmetry. Is it anything to be concerned about?

David Benson

Steve Hogg replies

David,

A health professional I am not, but if there is no apparent issue and you want to be sure that there is no issue in the making, find a good physio, preferably one who is a cyclist, and have them assess you on and off bike. It is possible that your asymmetric development pre dates your cycling. If not, then you are certainly doing something differently between left and right sides.

If the physio finds anything obvious on bike that is not present off bike, get back to me with what they found and I will advise from there if necessary.

Handlebar fit

Steve,

Let me start by stating I have relatively small hands; I wear a size small glove and my fingers are not very long. I have been riding a set of Deda Newton bars (42 end to end) with an ergo bend for about four years. They are OK but I feel the ergo bend cocks my wrists when I am in the drops and want to be close to my breaks, i.e. descending. Anyway, I just built up a new bike and put on a set of Easton ec90 carbon bars (42 cm centre to centre this is slightly wider), the reach and drop are just slightly larger (but in comparison to most ergo bars out there the numbers are very typical) and it seems almost impossible to get comfy in the drops whist still being able to reach the brakes.

I positioned the bars how I like them with the bottom between horizontal and pointing to the rear axle. However, in order to reach the levers I have to have the palm of my hand above the straight ergo section, where the bar bends dramatically; not only does this put pressure on the edges of my hand but my wrists are cocked to their maximum angle making them very sore at the end of the descent. I have tried moving the levers down the bar but the brakes are still far from my fingers if I have my hands on the straight ergo section of the bar.

The dilemma is that a classic curve, (ie, Italian) seems like it would cock my wrists more, but I would be within easy reach of the brakes. Whereas an ergo bend, in the normal drop position, feels great on the wrist but I can't reach the brakes. Any recommendations? Thanks.

Ryan

Boulder, CO

Steve Hogg replies

Ryan,

I don't know just how long your fingers are but a potential solution is as follows: go back to your Newton bars which while they may not be perfect, have the best shape out there for hands like yours. I say this because compared to most other so called anatomic bars they have a more open radius bend positioned higher in the overall drop depth with a flatter top section just above the bend. This means in use that a brake lever can be positioned higher for a given reach to the brakes from the drops than on any other bar that I have seen.

Position the Newtons so that the rear of the bottom of the bars is horizontal. As you tip them up slightly as you have done, the anatomic grip section becomes more vertical which in turn means that to grip it you drag your elbow and shoulder down unnecessarily. The only negative with this bar is the sharp kink where the grip section meets the horizontal bottom part of the drop. This is just where the hand grips the bar while off the seat sprinting and while one can get used to it, the kink does not fit the hand well. The solution is to untape the bars, cut some spare bartape into six pieces; 2 x 2", 2 x 11/2" and 2 x 1" [2 x 50mm, 2 x 38mm and 2 x 25mm]. On each kink lay the 2" piece and place the 1 1/2" and then the 1" piece. Secure them with some sticky tape or similar and then re tape the bars. This will round the kink out and fill the hand much better as well as helping the feel when riding in the drops.

Now you may have done all of the above and with your brake hoods positioned where you want them, still be unable to reach the brake levers. If you use Shimano STI levers, you can glue a shim onto the top of the gear barrel. To do this, pull the brake on slightly, and using some sort of adhesive, glue a rubber or similar shim onto the top of the gear barrel where it contacts the grip when the brakes are released. The brake cables then need to be readjusted. Shimano make optional short reach STi levers in both 9 and 10 with a choice of two shims to fit to reduce reach to the brakes.

If using Campagnolo, it gets a bit complicated as there is no more or less flat area on top of the brake lever as there is with Shimano but it can be done. If careful, a small hole can be drilled through the top of the brake lever on an Ergolever at the front. Once done a small piece of rubber or similar can be wired behind the top of the front of the brake lever to prevent it from fully closing which brings the brake lever closer to the bar. Again the brake cables will need readjusting. I hope this helps.

Lower back spasm

Hi Steve,

I am a 27 year old male. I have had hip problems for the last year. The ITB and TFL tightness stopped me from cycling for a long time and, even now, I am restricted to shorter, easier rides. The problem also manifests itself in my lower back with a serious knot on the same side. I don't doubt that these are interconnected, but the spasm won't go away. What else can I do other than Pilates and weights? I don't have a leg-length discrepancy so is my problem a muscle imbalance and a weak core?

Alex Rose-Innes

Steve Hogg replies

Alex,

Have you seen any good structural health professionals for an opinion?
If not, that would be a good place to start. If you have, get back to me with what you were told.

Leg length discrepancy

My right femur is 1/4" shorter than the left. I have been compensating by running my right cleat forward on the shoe, and my left cleat back on the shoe with what seems to be good results. Do you see any issues with this or do you think shimming the short side is a better method? Thanks.

Matt Mattice

Steve Hogg replies

Matthew,

What you have done is fine in so far as it allows the short leg to 'reach' further, but my experience is that you will be better served by positioning the cleats in the same relationship to foot in shoe on each side. This will necessitate a shim under the cleat of the short leg. Depending on how your body has compensated for the discrepancy on a bike, the shim may need to be anything from noticeably less than the measurable difference in leg length [common] or perhaps more than the measurable difference [less common]. If you have to shim your cleat a lot, move the cleat on that side 1mm further back relative to the foot in shoe for every 5mm that you build up the shim. Given the small discrepancy, and assuming that you haven't made any 'weird and wonderful' accommodations for that, I would be surprised if you need a shim of more than 3mm.

Dave Fleckenstein replies

Matt,

While this may seem to alleviate the leg length discrepancy, you are pedaling with two different pedaling styles. To illustrate, take your current shoe and place the cleat 1/4 forward of your current position and pedal - then place the cleat 1/4 behind your current position and pedal. These two positions should feel greatly different. While you may not have adapted quite as radical a position with your shoe, I would contend that, over millions of pedal strokes, you will most definitely develop muscular asymmetries within your pelvis and leg musculature.

I would first be absolutely sure that you have a true leg length difference and not a functional leg length difference caused by pelvic imbalances. This can be done through a skilled health care professional (PT, chiro, or orthopedic physician).

Personally, I do not shim small differences (1/8"-1/4") as most of us normally have this amount of asymmetry and function without difficulty. If you feel that there truly is a difference that prevents you from having a normal pedal stroke (usually apparent by "dipping" on one side versus the other), then a shim would provide you the best chance of maintaining a symmetric pedal stroke. I would start by placing a 1/8" shim to begin and re-examine your pedal stroke.

Nerve damage #2

Steve,

After your reply to previous correspondence I went to see a sports doctor and they had a look at me on the bike and could not find any fault with my pelvis not being level; I also had x-rays done of my hips and back and it all seems normal. As far as my flexibility goes I do mostly have a stiff muscle on my right glute, but all the other muscles are very flexible. You mentioned the look keo pedals - I never made any adjustments when I put the new pedals on, so it does seem that I was riding too high on the bike, and I'll now make a 7mm adjustment, thanks for that!

I told you about the problem with the nerve on the right side; I think I also have a problem with my ITB on the right knee - there is a lot of pain there when I ride, could this also be from riding too high on the bike?

What rehabilitation should I go through for this? Some people tell me to stop riding, others say I should just ride every second day and not more than one hour at a time, they have also advised me to get a cortisone injection. Could you maybe tell me what process would be the best for me; I have some big races coming up at the end of October and the beginning of November and would like to be ready for them. Thanks for the info.

Willem Bezuidenhout

Steve Hogg replies

Willem,

I have just got off my backside and measured the difference in height from axle centre to shoe sole between a conventional Look pedal and a Look Keo pedal. The difference is somewhere between 4.5 and 5mm, so drop your seat that far.

I can't believe though that the sudden onset and severity of your problems could be caused merely by sitting slightly higher than you were used to. There has to be other factors involved. Is there any way that you could double check the position on your old bike versus the new one?

Additionally, when you changed pedal systems did you place the Keo cleats in the same relationship to foot in shoe as you had the older style Look cleats? Before even attempting to advise how you recover, you need to make sure that the bike position itself on the new bike is not the underlying cause of the problem.

As to recovering from the nerve problem, tight glute and ITB issue, I would not attempt to advise in any detail as I can't see you and am not a health professional anyway. See if you can find a good physio or sports physician who is a cyclist or has had long experience with cyclists and follow their advice.

Bike position

Hi

I was just wondering if my position on the bike had anything to do with the reason why I felt my thighs doing all the work instead of my glutes?

What suggestions regarding positioning can you suggest to spread the load out more across my legs?

Simon Frost

Scott Saifer replies

Simon,

As a general rule, the quads are more active if the seat is too low or too far forward. The glutes become more active as the seat goes up or back. As to which adjustment would serve you better, check out Steve Hogg's posts in the archives.

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