Fitness questions and answers for February 6, 2007

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at...

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.

The magic number 7
Fast/slow twitch fibres and endurance
Getting back into training
A pain in the foot
'Slack' frame angles
Maximising training time
Wobble-naught bike fitting
Choosing the perfect saddle
Losing power riding in the drops
Selle SMP saddle setup
Modern frame sizes too small?

The magic number 7

Hi Ric

I hear a lot of talk about seven, that is, the seven Watts per kilogram ratio being the magic number. I'm having trouble comprehending this.

I perused ol' Floyd's power output on Stage 17 - Tdf 2006, the day nobody could keep up with him. At his 68kg weight, he couldn't manage seven Watts per kilogram for even a measly five minutes. I read somewhere that you yourself could keep this up for four minutes. Are we to see you in the yellow jersey later this year in Paris?

Floyd's data from Stage 17 (source: Allen Lim, Bicycling.com): "Attacking about a quarter of the way up the Col des Saisies for 30 seconds at 544 watts, which settled into a 5-minute peak of 451 watts, which continued for 10 minutes at an average of power of 431 watts, and left everyone in his dust after 30 minutes at an average power of 401 watts."

Ric Stern replies:

I believe you've either read my comments incorrectly, or there has been a typo somewhere: sustaining seven Watts/kg for four or five minutes would be as likely as flying to the moon for myself.

However, there are a few who could sustain more than seven Watts/kg for five minutes or so. You also have to realise that just because FL didn't sustain that for five minutes during a TdF stage doesn't mean he can't (although I have no idea as to whether he can) sustain that in a maximal five minute test (not a paced effort that lasts for five or six hours inside multiple days of racing).

On the other hand, every so often, some pro will make some declaration in an interview that he can sustain this magic number of seven Watts/kg for an extended period of time (e.g. 1 hour). This however, is beyond current human limits. I suspect it's either bravado, rounding up of data, or an incorrectly calibrated power meter.

Fast/slow twitch fibres and endurance

I have a question about muscle fatigue/endurance and fast/slow twitch fibres. It's hard to frame but I'll try.

I've been finding some strange real world situations where I'll be really tired riding along on the flat, but come to a hill and I'll be able to seemingly shrug off the tiredness and climb it really quickly. This is perception on my part but seems backed up by comparison with my riding partners.

Along the same lines, I even think I can ride one of my favourite rides and finish feeling fresher if I've done it harder than if I've taken it a little easier.

So I'm wondering if you're riding at say 85% for long distances, are you using slow twitch and exhausting those fibres, but the fast twitch fibres are staying unused and fresh, and when you step up to say 95% and drive hard up a hill are you then working the fast fibres and accessing previously unused energy stores?

That is, do fast/slow twitch fibres have individual glycogen stores that will be depleted at different speeds depending on how you're using the overall muscle? Do they work fairly independently so you can you end up with slow twitch fibres totally depleted but fast twitch fibres still relatively fresh?

I think I'm a relatively 'fast twitch' guy so that might explain my observations. Riding at a fast cruising pace in a group I'm relatively disadvantaged due to a lack of endurance due to a relatively small percentage of slow twitch that will fatigue quickly, but come hills or a sprint (if I'm still with everyone) I'm advantaged by a large proportion of relatively unused fast twitch fibres.

Does this make any sense, or am I extrapolating far too far based on a little knowledge of muscle physiology? If it does make sense what are the implications for getting the best out of my body on longer rides?

David Danks
Melbourne, Australia

Scott Saifer replies:

The short answer to your question is that yes, individual muscle fibres have their own glycogen stores. They also share glycogen storage in the liver, but the rate of energy release that can be sustained by oxidation of hepatic (liver) glucose is lower than that which can be sustained by oxidation of locally stored glucose. And yes, the glycogen stores are depleted only in those fibres that are recruited during a particular exercise. The only thing you've written with which I take issue is the idea that the fibre recruitment pattern relates to a "percent" effort. Percent of what? The recruitment patterns of fibres in the bike-powering muscles depends on the force requirement, training and the availability of un-fatigued fibres.

In an untrained individual, the muscle responds to a call for force by first recruiting small motor units (groups of muscle fibres that are controlled by a single nerve and therefore can only contract as a group and not separately) and then adding in gradually larger motor-units until the required force is reached.

In an experienced individual, the brain is wired to call on the needed number and sizes of motor units automatically, without the ramp up. Slow twitch motor units are smaller and so are recruited in low-force situations (high-cadence, low force pedaling for instance), while fast twitch units are larger and recruited when larger forces are required (low cadence, high force pedaling (mashing) or high cadence, high force pedaling e.g. sprinting, jumping over short hills).

You could exhaust your fast twitch fibres by pushing a big gear or by making hard accelerations within a steady-paced ride. The fact that you are getting to the sprints with fresh sprinting legs suggests that you are doing a good job of riding efficiently and of spinning to "save the legs".

Getting back into training

In the very beginning of August 2006 I was involved in an accident, because of injuries I haven't been riding till now although there were no serious consequences for my body. As it is cold winter here in Belarus, spring should be late and cold also. And I am willing to start training when the temperature will be only about 7-10C.

What can you recommend to get in form after a long period resting and not encounter problems from low temperature riding?

Alexey Borisevich

Scott Saifer replies:

After a long break, start with short, low intensity rides with at least one day of recovery between rides for the first two weeks or so. By easing in gently your body has a chance to respond to the initiation of training without injury. By starting with short rides, you won't find out that a bike set-up problem is going to cause you knee pain, for instance, when you are hours away from home.

Here's a possible scheme for the first rides back on:

Rest Ride (1/2 hour just turning the pedals)
Day Off
Rest Ride
Day Off
Short "Base" (1/2 hour-45 minutes, heart rate below 80% or just turning the pedals with a little pressure)
Day Off
1 Hour Base
Day Off
1 Hour Base

(alternate until you've been back on for two weeks)

There's nothing wrong with doing these rides on a trainer or rollers or spin bike or other contraption to allow you to start training before the weather warms up. If you are willing, you could also jump start your fitness development before the weather improves with aerobic cross training.

A pain in the foot

I am a triathlete/cyclist usually at 180-185 pounds, 5'10 1/2" who bikes at least one long ride a week most weeks that are sunny. While I occasionally, after the long ride, get back aches, neck aches, butt aches and cramps (calf), I was quite surprised when I did the Seattle to Portland bike ride (206 miles in a day) that by far the most agonizing and painful body parts were the balls of my feet.

I have SidiErgo carbon sole shoes that otherwise fit like a glove and had never given me pain before. The pain by the end of the ride was teeth grinding. What could cause that and how could it be corrected?

Kurt

Steve Hogg replies:

Riding unaccustomed distances or intensities can highlight issues that aren't as obvious in everyday riding. The most common cause of the pain you describe is poor cleat position or the need to cant the foot. Have a look at these posts on cleat setup and ball of the foot positioning then adjust your cleats accordingly.

Once you have done that, it is probably a good idea to get hold of a packet of Lemond wedges and experiment. If you run into problems let me know.

'Slack' frame angles

I used to ride a Barracuda XX Team (circa 1998) as my mountain hardtail - although there were things about it that I did not like - it was incredibly twitchy at speed, and going down anything steeper than a gentle slope felt like taking my life into my own hands. I have no idea what sort of travel the fork had, but the head and seat tube angles were 70.5 and 73.5 respectively.

I recently built up a new frame (Kona Kula Primo) with an 80mm travel fork with angles of 69.4 (head tube) and 71.4 (seat tube). The Kona website publishes these figures, but one Kula model comes with an 80mm fork, and the others come with 100mm forks, so I don't know if those angles might change slightly depending on the model.

Anyway, the Kona is much more stable and more responsive at the same time, and it seems to feel better both going down and going up.

My question is, is it differences in the geometry that cause the difference in feel? I have heard a lot about "slack" and whatever people call the opposite of slack head and seat tube angles. What does it mean, in terms of bike feel and handling, for an angle to be "slack?"

Devin

Scott Saifer replies:

A steep head or seat angle means a larger number or an angle closer to 90 degrees. A slack angle is a smaller number. A slack seat tube produces a laid back bike. Slack = shallow as well. Lots of jargon to keep track of.

Frame engineers tell as that the important variable in the front end is trail. If you draw one line down the center of your steerer until it intersects the ground and also drop a vertical line from your front hub to the ground, the two lines hit the ground in different places. The difference is the trail, and more trail = more stable. There are two ways to increase trail: shallower head angle or less fork rake.

Your two bikes with 1 degree difference in head angle may have substantially different trail or might not, depending on the relative rake of the forks. If the fork rakes are equal, a 1 degree change of head angle will make a big difference in the feel of the bike.

However, the amount of weight on the front wheel compared to the back also makes a big difference. If you've put the saddle at the same spot fore-aft with regard to the seat-tube rather than with regard to the bottom bracket then it is roughly 2 cm farther back on the new bike than the old, which ought to make the bike twitchier rather than more stable. If the new top tube is shorter than the old one, that puts more weight on the front wheel, which makes it more stable.

In short, bike geometry absolutely does determine the feel of the ride on a MTB, but there are so many variables that go into determining bike stability that it's really hard to tease out the relative effects and importance of each. Your new bike rides the way it does because of the combination of all aspects of the geometry.

One more thing to consider. Any frame can be made twitchy and unstable by putting the handlebars too high.

Maximising training time

With job and life commitments I only have 5-6 hours per week to devote to cycling - with most of that being 1hr lunch rides and a 2-3 hour ride one weekend day. My husband is also an avid cyclist so we have to split the riding time on the weekends.

I was tested a few years ago and was told that my lactic threshold was about 178bpm. When I race my average heart rate (HR) over the course of the race is consistently around 175bpm. In spinning classes when I can watch my HR, verses having to pay attention to where I'm going, I've seen my HR get up to 193bpm (this is when my eyes start crossing and I start praying for mercy). I've noticed that when my HR exceeds 179-180 it puts me on the rivets so to speak and I can't stay there for very long.

My question is how can I maximize my small amount of training time? I don't honestly expect to be dominating the field but I'd like to have decent showings at the races. Since I obviously don't have time to put in long miles should I be doing intervals? And if so, at what HR zones? Should I be including any strength training?

During the week I mainly ride my road bike (or ride my MTB on a dirt road near work) and I like to ride my MTB at the weekends. I have plenty of hills of varying sizes to choose from for training and a few fairly flat options as well.

So what type of training schedule would you recommend for a time-crunched mom like myself?

Wenona Ayarbe

Dave Palese replies:

Your situation, commitments and available time are similar to probably 80% of the athletes I work with.

As a very general suggestion: Plan two high intensity sessions per week. During the season, races count as a hard session, so then you would do just one hard workout during the week. By high intensity, I mean intensity that is at or above your threshold intensity. The nice thing about a workout session like this is that they tend to be short, with the warm-up, interval workout, and cool down last usually just about an hour.

I suggest for starters that you do one session that I would categorize as a threshold session, with intervals 6-7 minutes long where your heart rate gets to 173-178 bpm. Don't kill yourself during the first couple minutes of these intervals, so much so that you are crawling at the end. Pace yourself and you should be going as fast or faster at the end of each interval. Rest for about 3-5 minutes between each interval and start with 20-25 minutes of total interval time in your first sessions.

The other session should be shorter intervals at a higher intensity. Be sure that this session and the previous are separated by 2 days of easy riding. After a good warm-up of 20-30 minutes, start with intervals lasting 1-2 minutes. Again don't overdo the first portions of the intervals, only to be going slower at the end. We don't train to go slow. To start, separate the intervals with 3 times the interval length. Start with 6-10 minutes of total interval time. These intervals are hard but it's what separates those who just hang on, and those who race their bikes.

These suggestions are very general. One of the hardest things we can do is try to achieve performance goals when our time is so limited. Not because of the amount of time available, but rather it's difficult to decide how to best use it. That's where a coach comes in. I suggest that you seek someone to help you balance your real life and riding to make the most of every minute on the bike.

Wobble-naught bike fitting

I have been experiencing some knee pain for a few weeks now and I was wondering if you have ever heard of Wobble-naught bike fitting services? Would they be able to help me get the correct fit if I have been experiencing knee problems?

Austin Frey

David Fleckenstein replies:

My general statement, particularly for people with injuries, is that a formula driven fit system is not an absolute answer, and any formula is only as good as the experience of the person using it. All that we need to do is look at the pro peloton to know that there are many different ways that riders successfully align themselves on their bike. To say that there is any one magical formula is shortsighted at best. To give you an idea of how many systems can give a best "fit" check out this site.

My personal experience with the Wobble-naught fit is that it is an aggressive fit for an aggressive racer but does not accommodate for body-to-body physical differences (hip and lumbar mobility, age related spine changes, etc). My Wobble-naught measurements are almost identical to my personal fit obtained using Steve Hogg's many recommendations with the exception of cleat measurements which were obtained with Steve's system and differed significantly.

With that said, most of the formula systems, I feel, get you within 10% of your best alignment. I know a number of Wobble-naught fitters who use the numbers as a guide and then adjust based on their experience.

A skilled physical evaluation and bike fit analysis, preferably from someone with a medical background and understanding of knee pathology will give you the best chance of truly fixing your problem. If there was a formula for healing injuries, we could simply spit all of the numbers into a compute and have our answer. In truth, these solutions involve problem solving and experience to gain resolution.

Scott Saifer adds:

Wobble-naught's system was developed with the input of my business partners. If your knee pain is arising from the 'normal' sources like cleat position, seat height or seat set back, Wobble-naught will probably fix it.

If your knee pain is arising from leg length discrepancy or other anatomic abnormality, from riding with inadequate protection from the cold, from riding big gears with inadequate conditioning, or from riding excessive distance with inadequate conditioning, Wobble-naught will not fix the problem.

If you review the archives and compare your symptoms to those described by others, you may find corrections already suggested for your issue. If you have a unique sort of knee pain, I hope you'll share the details with us.

Choosing the perfect saddle

I bought an SLR saddle some weeks ago, it's the perfect shape for me and I find it positionally correct, however, even after a one and a half hour ride my ischia feel as if they are being beaten firmly with a ball-pein hammer! Admittedly I could spend more time to break it in, I have come back to riding after a 4 month layoff.

My question is, does this saddle break in at all or must I throw it away and get a more padded version of the SLR? Or are there any Selle Italia models of similar shape but more flex? I rode an avocet air 40 for 12 years with no dramas on even the longest rides, but I can't find anyone that sells them now and my old saddle is getting quite worn out. I realise that saddles are a subjective thing but not everyone can keep buying saddles until they get it right, any advice would be appreciated.

Sean Parker

Steve Hogg replies:

The simple solution is to ditch your SLR, write it off to experience and buy either an SLR XC which is the same shell with a realistic amount of padding or an SLR Gelflow which also has a sensible padding depth and a perineal cutout.

I have an SLR on a bike that I rarely ride for more than two hours at a time and an SLR Gelflow on the bike that I spend most of my time on. If you choose the Gelflow, raise your seat 2 mm above your current height to account for the sag in the padding. Raise it another 3 mm once the padding softens up which usually takes about 3 weeks of regular riding.

Losing power riding in the drops

I am a 21 year old male, 6'0", with roughly 50/50 legs and torso, erring slightly on leg length. UK size 12 feet. My style is fairly high cadence, and I find it easy to find the "sweet spot" cadence, when you know you are at maximum sustainable power output i.e. comfortable, powerful and changing a sprocket in either direction would cause a loss of power. I ride a new, 56cm road bike, no radical geometry. I ride with the bar before the hoods almost horizontal (I tilted the bars upwards from stock to make it easier on my wrists when riding on the hoods). I ride Sunday club rides most weekends, of about 65 - 75miles at a decent pace, and during the week I commute 14miles per day through central London. This involves a long high speed blast at full effort down embankment for about 2.5miles, the rest very on/off sprint - stop - sprint riding.

My question is two fold. As soon as I bought the bike I changed the stem from an insane 120mm to 80mm, and it seems to suit me very nicely when I am on the hoods. My first problem comes when I move to the drops - I get firm, almost painful pressure on my perineum, and seem to lose power to my legs. I have noticed myself forcing a higher cadence until I become unstable before changing gear, instead of shifting in a smooth progression as I would on the hoods. Additionally, in order to hold the diagonal of the drops, a slightly forced wrist position must be adopted - presumably caused by my tilting the bars upwards, thus changing the angle of the drops. This combines to mean that I cannot spend very long riding on the drops, measured in a couple of minutes at a maximum.

My second question is that I feel I have my optimum cleat position sorted, I have a slight toe-down pedaling style, and I don't get any kind of knee or ankle pain even after 75-80mile ride. However, if I slow down or back off and just spin without putting any power through, as you would to drop gears whilst stopping for traffic lights, or to slow down gently behind another rider, or when pedaling at walking pace. My right knee feels "loose" I suppose is the best way to put it. A bit like the upstroke of my left leg is doing all the work and pulling my right shin down. This effect disappears the instant I put power though the pedals in a smooth circular motion, pushing and pulling on the top and bottom of the stoke as appropriate, but I can force it to happen by adopting a push-push pedal stroke.

These two factors are combining to make me dissatisfied with the ride of my bike, the first especially. I feel sure it is a matter of set-up but no-one I know can suggest anything.

Technical point: my stem is reversible, and is currently on its "low" side, it can be turned to "high" to be slightly raised from the horizontal.

James

Steve Hogg replies:

Reading between the lines and with some educated guesstimating, you don't sound particularly flexible. The likely cause of your perineal issues when reaching for the drops (and your 'loose' knee) is a seat set too high. Bar position could play a part in this too.

You are better off rotating your bars back down so that the rearmost portion of the drops is horizontal or nearly so. You will then need to partially untape the bars and move the brake levers higher for comfort.

As to whether to flip flop the stem to the high position, drop the seat 3-5 mm and then see if you can ride in the drops pain free and comfortably see where you are going. If you can't, I would try the stem in the high position first.

Cleat position can play a part in the sort of problems you are experiencing. Have a look at these posts on cleat setup and ball of the foot position.

With regard to your bars, it might be worth your while reading this post as well.

Selle SMP saddle setup

I have been riding and racing for more than 20 years (5'10", 150lbs., reasonably fit). In the past couple years (getting into my late 30's) I've decided to try and quit suffering with poor saddle comfort. I've tried a Specialized Toupe', a Fizik Arione and a Selle Italia SLK.

All of these saddles have given me some perineal pressure but the overriding problem is soreness under my sit bones and particularly on the right side where I sometimes get very sore and a small "bump" under the skin. I have also experimented with saddle height and set back and put my cleats back (as suggested). I was fitted by a reasonably experienced coach with the help of a Fit Kit.

So after all the rambling... I've just switched to a Selle SMP Stratos saddle. With the big cut out, the perineal pressure is gone but the seat bone problem persists although not as bad. I set it up with the rails at a 5 degree up angle (as suggested) and slide forward too much. Do you have any suggestions for set up?

Marc

Steve Hogg replies:

If you have had persistent perineal issues, then either your seat is too far forward or too high. Perhaps both. We all tend to favour one side while riding a bike in the sense of dropping one hip and bearing more weight on the sit bone on that side. If the seat is even 3 mm too high, the tendency to do this is exacerbated and pain is often the result. If your seat has been set by formulaic methods (inseam measurement times a number) then this is even more likely.

I would drop your seat 3-5 mm and see how you get on. Recheck your cleat position as well. Cleats that are too far forward just add to on-seat instability.

The SMP Stratos should be a luxurious seat at your bodyweight. The SMPs can be used with a variety of angles relative to horizontal without ill effects to a much greater degree than most other seats. The key to SMPs is that you have to have your butt shoved up against the rise at the rear so that gluteal mass takes some of the weight. If you sit too far forward or if you have the seat nose down too far, they can be very uncomfortable in a bony kind of way.

If your bars are too low or too far away, that can force you to sit slightly forward on any seat when under reasonable load. Go through the archives, particularly the second half of '04 and see what you can find about positioning, the 'balance test' and passive pelvic stability.

Modern frame sizes too small?

I am doing some research for a local touring club (SCBC). I agree with your statement on older bikes since I still have mine. One thing that I have found is that every company measures their seat tube length from a different point. It seems to me that they used to measure center to center but now they are measuring center to top or center to top of the seat clamp, which could result in a shorter head tube. Compact frame measurements are even worse as they seem to be a guess. Case in point, I have a 59cm Lemond, 60cm Cannondale, 61cm Fuji and a 62cm Trek and all have relatively the same top tube within millimeters of each other.

Why can't manufactures give a double measurement like the old Colnagos such as 60 x 59? To me, the top tube length is more important since a seat tube can be adjusted 20mm more easily than a stem, which if over compensated for could cause an ill handling or unsafe bike.

Michael Gorman

Steve Hogg replies:

I couldn't agree more. Many years ago, all seat tubes were measured centre to centre. This makes sense to me because if you are designing a frame with a CAD program or even on graph paper, you need to work along centre lines and that used to be the case. Cannondale were the first manufacturer that I am aware of that started measuring seat tubes from centre to top, possibly because their larger diameter top tubes skewed the measurement in terms of what most people used as a point of reference; i.e. a skinny tubed steel frame.

Anyway, centre to top seemed to become a peculiarly American thing initially, which made no sense to me as all the other frame dimensions were measured centre to centre. I think what happened is that once centre to top became the de facto American standard and given the size of the place as a potential market, many manufacturers obliged by framing their geometry specs in terms that Americans had become used to.

No problem with that but I wish there was some convention on what centre to top means. For Cannondale, Klein and others it means centre of bottom bracket to a point on the seat tube that is in line with the top of the top tube. For others it means from centre of bottom bracket to the top of the seat tube including any seat tube extension that may be there.

A few years ago Trek won my unofficial award for the most confusing range of measurements. Their carbon frames were measured from centre to seat tube top and the seat tubes had a modest extension. Their aluminium range (2300's etc) were measured the same way with a substantial extension on the seat tube yielding a much lower top tube for the same nominal seat tube length. To Treks credit though, they supplied bikes with generous steerer tube lengths.

Merida use a very long seat tube extension and measure centre to top meaning if you buy the same nominal seat tube length as you would with other brands, the front end of the bike is a long way further down than many buyers expect it to be.

The other frustration is that many manufacturers supply incomplete geometry making it harder than it should be to compare dimensions. Colnago win the prize for the most complete frame geometry charts. They are a little hard for many to read at first because no matter how you measure a frame, Colnago have that dimension on their geometry charts. If you take the time to wade through the complexity, at least you have a level of certainty to what a rider may be considering purchasing.

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