Fitness questions and answers for July 10

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.

Optimal race weight
Choc milk redux
Fixed Cleats
Crank length
Cycling and osteoporosis
Raw food diet
Foot numbness with new shoes and pedals
Pedal stack height
More on women's saddles #1
More on groin pain

Optimal race weight

I'm a 24-year-old male category 3 and collegiate racer in my first full season of racing. I train about 12-15 hours per week. I have had the most success in longer road races and stage races, especially those with lots of climbing. I have a question about the optimal weight for performance in these types of races.

In this article, you discuss weight and performance, and you tell a rider that the optimal range for a 5'9" cyclist is 135-155 pounds, and say "Note that there is a low end of the range."

At the start of last season, I was completely untrained, and weighed 160 lbs. I am 6'0" tall. Progressively over the first 9 months or so of training, I lost about a pound every two weeks. My weight stabilized at about 138 lbs, and has been that way for the past 3 months.

I note that most professional riders who are my height, even those who are climbers, tend to be heavier than I am by 7 to 12 pounds.

You say there is such a thing as too light. Do I need to gain weight to be more successful? If so, can you suggest some good strategies for adding mass in the most productive way? Should I simply increase calorie intake, should I do more resistance training to add muscle mass, or something else entirely?

Thanks for your time,

Tyler Stetson
Portland, Oregon

Scott Saifer replies:

Chances are very good that you could increase sustainable power in such a way as to maintain or slightly increase power to weight ratio for climbing but increase absolute power for flat land riding if you were to gain some mass in your leg and butt muscles. You could also improve your sprint. Based on your current weight and height, I'll guess that if you get to the end of a hilly race with a group, you are not the fastest sprinter, and you have to work harder than the competition on descents.

If you slightly increase calorie intake and maintain a high volume training program, your bicycle powering muscles will gain mass and your power will increase. If you greatly increase intake in an effort to gain mass rapidly, you will gain fat and perhaps less useful muscle mass.

Without a thorough detailed diary of your current eating, I can't recommend specifically what you need to eat more of. Given how light you are, chances are that any calories will help, but for the sake of completeness, check your daily protein intake. If you are trying to add muscle slowly, it should be around 2/3 to 3/4 gram per pound that you want to weight, so about 100 to 115 grams per day. Eat enough carbohydrate that you don't bonk and do have good energy for training and racing, and then enough fat to get the calories you need to gain weight slowly.

I have a lot of experience with having clients lose weight at different rates, so I have a pretty good sense of how rapidly one can lose weight while maintaining strength and power. I've had very few clients who needed to gain weight, so I'm really not sure of how quickly one can gain muscle without gaining fat. I'll suggest an initial target of 1 pound per month.

Choc milk redux

A couple years back, a coach of mine spoke of the value of chocolate milk as a recovery drink. Hoards of my teammates flocked to the tasty treat however I stayed true to some of those highly engineered recovery drinks and pointed to out the questionable and hydrogenated ingredients in some of the "kiddie brew" my mates were chugging down.

Flipping through a popular US cycling magazine, I saw an article heralding chocolate milk and how much better is does in side by side testing with the fancy (and pricy) stuff I buy.

What is the real scoop?

John Mattio

Pam Hinton replies:

The popularity of chocolate milk as a recovery drink skyrocketed earlier this year following the publication of a study demonstrating that it is an effective recovery drink (Karp et al., 2006). The researchers had 9 trained young male cyclists perform a glycogen-depleting interval workout, followed by a 4 hour recovery period and then another workout at 70% of VO2max until exhaustion. During the recovery period, the participants consumed 500mL of recovery drink immediately after exercise and another 500mL 2 hours after exercise. The subjects performed the testing on 3 separate occasions to determine the efficacy of 3 different recovery drinks: low-fat chocolate milk, Endurox R4, and Gatorade. In the chocolate milk and Endurox trials, subjects consumed similar amounts of energy ( 400 kcal), carbohydrate ( 70 g), and protein ( 19 g). Energy ( 105 kcal), carbohydrate (30 g) and protein (0g) intakes were significantly lower in the Gatorade trial. The subjects were allowed to consume as much water as they wanted during exercise and recovery.

Surprisingly, chocolate milk and Gatorade were equally effective recovery drinks. The subjects were able to pedal for 40 minutes at 70% of VO2max after consuming the chocolate milk or Gatorade compared to 27 minutes after drinking Endurox. Enhanced glycogen resynthesis during recovery may explain the differences among recovery drinks; however, glycogen content of the muscle was not measured in this study. The authors speculated that the differences among recovery drinks may have been related to the type of carbohydrate. Chocolate milk and Gatorade have glucose, sucrose, and in the case of the milk, lactose. The Endurox, in addition to simple sugars, contains complex carbohydrates.

Post-exercise, elevating blood glucose levels quickly is beneficial to replenish glycogen stores, so high GI foods are advantageous (Burke et al., 1993). Athletes should aim to consume 1.5 g carbohydrate per kg BW in the first 30 minutes after exercise and again every 2 hours for 4-6 hours post-exercise ("Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance," 2000). Insulin secretion is needed for glycogen synthesis because it increases glucose uptake into the muscle and stimulates the enzyme that makes glycogen, glycogen synthase. So post-exercise, the greater insulin secretion associated with high GI foods is advantageous. For maximal glycogen repletion, it is the GI of a carbohydrate, rather than whether it is simple or complex, which is important. There are some complex carbohydrates that are also high GI-synthetic sweeteners like maltodextrin, are an example. In contrast, most complex carbohydrates in fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes are lower on the GI scale.

The effect of protein on glycogen repletion is equivocal due to differences in study design. Studies that compare isoenergetic post-exercise carbohydrate with carbohydrate plus protein usually conclude that there is no advantage of adding protein (Jentjens et al., 2001). Studies that compare treatments that equivalent in carbohydrate, but differ in protein and, therefore, energy content, generally find that carbohydrate plus protein is superior to carbohydrate alone (Ivy et al., 2002; Williams et al., 2003). Other factors affecting the conclusion are the dose and timing of the supplements after exercise. Studies providing large amounts of carbohydrate every 30 minutes during recovery from exercise, maximize glycogen repletion compared to studies with less frequent feedings. If glycogen repletion is maximized with carbohydrate alone, then it is not possible for protein to enhance the response.

Studies that found added protein increased glycogen synthesis post-exercise could not attribute the difference to increased insulin levels, so the mechanism of the effect remains unknown (Ivy et al., 2002).

So, whether your recovery drink consists of a scoop of Gatorade or Nestle Quik or low-fat ice cream or even an expensive, engineered powder, the important thing is to get some carbohydrate in you as quickly as possible. In this case, the sweeter, the better.

Fixed Cleats

How do you experts feel about fixed cleats? I'm currently using black Look Keo cleats with no float at the advice of a physical therapist who suggested them to address some lower leg problems. I'm about 2,000 miles into my current season with them and they seem to work for me really well. We obviously paid a great deal of attention to cleat position and dialed them in over the course of several hundred early season miles, with some minor adjustments to seat position as well.

Our thinking was that some of my behind-the-knee pain and continual calf tightness was at least partly a function of those muscles having to stablize the foot on the pedal relative to the float on the red cleats I was using previously. Simultaneously, I addressed some flexibility and strength balance problems, through yoga among other things.

I'm just curious since almost everything I read talks about the benefit of increased float, while I seem to have found the best success with no float. I've also become a dedicated proponent of complementary strength and flexibility work as part of my training.

John Flumerfelt
Portland Maine USA

Scott Saifer replies:

There is actually some research on this topic. Roughly 75% of cyclists in one study I recall did as well or better with free-floating cleats than fixed cleats, but another 25% reported more problems with floating than fixed cleats, so this really is a case where one product or method is not ideal for all riders. You must fall in the 25% group.

Crank length

I'm a 38 year old male who road races.

My query concerns changing crank length - if you change it should you adjust saddle height?

Also, how do you suggest that saddle set-back should be measured?

Rory Wyley

Steve Hogg replies:

Overall seat height should stay the same with one qualification which I will talk about in a second. If you increase crank length by 5mm for example, drop your seat post 5mm further into the frame. This will leave you with an unchanged seat height as measured from top of seat to pedal axle centre. The qualification that I would put on that is that sometimes, not often, but I have seen it happen; a noticeable change in crank length can cause a change in pedaling technique with the end result being a lower or higher seat height than previously.

To accurately measure seat position you will need:

300mm (12") steel rule
a four foot carpenter's level
a measuring tape
a dial protractor (available at hardware stores)

1. Lock the bike up in an indoor trainer or other fixture that will hold it securely. Leaning the bike against a wall will NOT work repeatably.

2. Check the bike is level by using the four foot level between axle centres. A water level is even more accurate.

3. Lay the steel rule along the long axis of the seat.

4. Place the dial protractor on top of the steel rule and note down the angle of the seat relative to horizontal ( nose up x degrees or nose down x degrees)

5. Use the steel rule to measure the length of the flat section of the seat rail and place a mark with a marker pen in the centre of the flat section.

6. Replace the steel rule atop the seat and measure seat height from centre of bottom bracket to underside of the steel rule atop the seat making sure that the measuring edge of the tape goes through the mark in the centre of the seat rail. Note down the measurement.

7. Place the level vertically with the planed edge running vertically through the bottom bracket centre and using the bubble at each end to make sure that it is vertical. Now use the steel rule to measure back to the nose of the seat. Note down that measurement

Do not use a plumb line as in this application there is a ± 10mm error potential easily. The plumb line falling from nose of seat usually contacts the seat stays and it forced forward by them resulting in inaccuracies and usually not repeatable ones.

Now you should have your seat height, seat setback and angle of seat relative to horizontal that they were measured at. The above is repeatable with an error potential of a mm or two. To do better than that you need to invest in specialist jigs that thread into either bottom bracket or pedal hole of the crank.

The above is only repeatable too, providing you use the same type of seat.

Cycling and osteoporosis

When surfing on the web I came across an article suggesting that cyclists are particularly prone to suffering osteoporosis because they practise a low impact sport. Does that refer to all kinds of cycling? One thing is sedately pedalling along so that you barely break into a sweat, and another is the kind that involves pounding up mountains, standing on the pedals and pulling hard on the handlebars. I always thought any kind of exercise that builds up muscle was good for the bones. I would be grateful to know your opinion.

Lucy Brzoska

Pam Hinton replies:

You are not the only rider who has become concerned after reading about the increased risk of low bone density in cyclists. I have heard the argument that you make about sedately pedaling along versus stomping on the pedals before. I think that there's a bit of denial going on in the minds of those who try to make the case--and rightfully so. None of us want to acknowledge that the sport we love has a potential downside along with all of the many health benefits it brings. The latest information, however, is not all bad news, with a little extra effort, there are things that you can do to strengthen your bones.

We don't really know the prevalence of low bone density in cyclists and other non-weight bearing athletes. This summer we are studying the effects of long-term participation in cycling on bone mineral density. The results, although still preliminary, are sobering. Approximately half of the cyclists have osteopenia, which is hip or spine BMD 1 standard deviation ( 10-12% of BMD) below the average for young adult males. Osteoporosis, more serious bone loss, is BMD 2.5 standard deviations below the norm. Low BMD is associated with increased risk of fracture; each standard deviation below the mean increases the chances of fracture by 1.5-2.5 fold. Our subjects are competitive regionally and range in age from 20-60 years. It's not just the masters' athletes that have low bone density; we're seeing it in guys who are in their late 20s.

I will try to explain why pounding up mountains, standing on the pedals and pulling up on the bars does not strengthen bones. In a healthy individual, bone will adapt to its environment, increasing strength in response to external forces. The importance of mechanical stress on bone health is evident in studies of weightlessness. Spaceflight of 1 and 6 months reduced BMD by 2.5% and 5%, respectively. Four months of bed rest reduced bone mass by 3% in the spine and 4% in the hip. In both cases, the loss of bone mass was greatest in bones that are most stressed by gravity. So how does bone sense external forces, such as the gravitational force of body weight, and respond by depositing additional bone mineral? Answering this question requires a brief look at bone biology. Bone consists of a mineral matrix that is deposited on a protein framework. Bone cells (osteocytes), responsible for synthesis of new bone, are located within fluid-filled spaces (lacunae) within the mineral matrix. The lacunae are interconnected by tiny channels (canaliculi) that also are filled with fluid. The movement of fluid within the lacunae and canaliculi creates shear stress (fluid movement) at the surface of the bone cells. This shear stress is how external forces exerted on the skeleton stimulate bone growth. Larger shear forces (flow rate) have a greater anabolic effect.

Understanding this signaling process explains why bone responds differently to different types of mechanical loading, and thus, to different types of exercise. In order for fluid shifts to occur, the loading must be dynamic, i.e, the skeleton must be moving when loaded. Static (stationary) loading does not create fluid movement. To understand the importance of dynamic loading, imagine what happens when you are riding in a car and the driver brakes unexpectedly, suddenly stopping the car. You, and everything else that is not secured, lurches forward and then slams backwards. In this example, you represent the fluid in bone. Stopping of the forward motion produces sudden shifts. Now consider what happens when the driver stomps on the brake when the car is parked. Nothing. This situation is analogous to the shear stress that occurs with static loading of bone.

The difference between weight-bearing and non-weight bearing sports also can be understood from this analogy. If the driver of the car is going 50 miles per hour and suddenly slams into a brick wall, your movement (remember, you represent the fluid) will be much greater than if the driver was going slower or had time to brake normally. Coming to a sudden stop is analogous to the ground stopping the downward motion of your body weight. Traveling at faster speeds upon collision with an immovable object represents the difference between low- and high-impact weight-bearing activities. For example, both walking and jumping are weight-bearing activities, but the impact forces on the bones of the legs and feet are much greater with jumping than walking. To study the forces exerted by different activities, researchers implanted devices to measure force into the tibias (shin bones) of six healthy volunteers and then compared the effects of walking, performing a leg press, stair-stepping, running, and bicycling. Running induced shear forces that were twice that of walking and nearly eight-times that of cycling. To put the effects of cycling in perspective, the shear forces induced by walking have a minimal effect on bone mass. Cycling does not generate the shear forces required to cause bone growth. Therefore, the risk of low BMD associated with cycling is proportional to the time spent in the saddle.

Low BMD in cyclists is not inevitable. You can minimize bone loss by consuming adequate calcium (at least 1000mg per day) and by incorporating high-impact activities into your training program. Thankfully, when it comes to maximizing the bone-building effects of high-impact exercise it turns out that short, frequent training is best. This is because the response of bone to external forces requires adequate rest between loading sessions. Bone cells rapidly become desensitized to fluid shear stress. Animal studies have shown that bone cells stop responding after 50-100 loading cycles per session. Eight hours of rest is required to completely restore sensitivity of the bone cells to mechanical stress. Moreover, short recovery periods (10-15 seconds) between loading cycles, results in a greater increase in bone mineral than no recovery time. The most effective exercise program to increase bone mass would consist of jumping, e.g., squat, tuck or box jumps, or other plyometric exercises, e.g., bounding, single leg hopping, performed with short rest intervals between cycles and eight hours of rest between sessions. Also, young bone, particularly growing bone, is more responsive to external loading than older bone. Although the phrase, "better late than never," certainly applies to high-impact exercise training, don't wait until middle age to start high-impact exercise training. Based on studies done in pre- and postmenopausal women, BMD increases by 2-3% after six months of training at least 3 times per week. High-impact exercise increases BMD as much as the drugs used to treat osteoporosis. When it comes to increasing bone strength, a little bit of preventive maintenance goes a long way.

Raw food diet

I'm a 33 year-old Cat 3 roadie and I've recently become intrigued by raw food diets. Although I have not taken the plunge, as I evaluate the foods that I typically eat, I notice that they generally are pretty raw to begin with: lots of vegetables, fruits, and nuts. I don't eat meat for no other reason than I don't really like it. However, I do eat lots of breads and cereals, so my diet is also rich in starches. The evolutionary logic behind a more raw diet makes sense to me, but I'd like to hear your thoughts about it. Note that my goal is not to lose weight, but to try something a bit more natural that would also provide adequate nutrients for cycling.

Steve Smith
California, USA

Scott Saifer replies:

I have little doubt that you could get adequate nutrition from an all-raw diet, but the argument that living closer to the prehistoric condition is somehow going to be better for you as a general rule is downright silly, evolution or not. Your body is the result a process of evolution, but so is your brain and your society and culture. Your body evolved to survive without shoes, sunscreen, and titanium bike parts, but then someone figured out that life is longer, nicer and less painful when you use these things.

Rather than choose foods based on a philosophy ("raw is better"), why not choose them based on taste or health-science or a combination?

Foot numbness with new shoes and pedals

I purchased a new road bike, shoes and pedals approximately two months ago, and I have been experiencing numbness in my feet. I am 33 year old male, weighing about 215 pounds. My pedals are Look-style Nashbar Z11, and my shoes are Louis Garneau Ergo Air Revo with red Look cleats. Numbness sets in after 35-45 minutes of riding, starting in my big toe and spreading quickly through the ball of my foot to my other toes. I have adjusted the cleats several times, most recently to position more of the cleat over the area of numbness in an attempt to better distribute the stress of pedaling on my foot. This has worked for my right foot, but not for the left. My saddle height and fore-aft position seems to be good: I have not experienced any pain or discomfort in my ankles, knees or hips. Is this something that will go away over time, or should I buy new pedals with a larger platform area? If new pedals are the solution, what brands and models of pedlas should I be looking at?

My previous pedals were Look compatible Shimano Ultegras from 1991. I remember these being very close to a pair of Look pedals my brother had (might have been Look PP196, but I'm not sure). My old shoes were made by Look, circa 1997. Unfortunately, I don't remember the model, but they were quite wide compared to the shoes I have now.

I did some hunting around online for possible causes of numb feet, and I found an article that suggests the saddle might be involved. My current saddle is a Selle Italia XO Trans Am. I find it has more padding than I like, and it has a centre cut-out that really doesn't do anything for me. I tend to wiggle around on the saddle to get comfortable after I stand up. I'd like to replace it with a Selle Italia SLR, which looks quite similar to my old saddle, a Vetta SP Tri Shock. Could the saddle be part of the problem?

Mark Heiden
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Steve Hogg replies:

I am intrigued when you mention that your previous shoes were wider than the ones that you have now. Is there any sense of lateral compression across the forefoot when you are wearing your new shoes?

If so, compression of the nerve plexus caused by this could be the problem.

Concievably the seat could be part of the problem if a nerve pathway is being compressed somewhere along its length. I have to say though, that numbness in the feet is more commonly caused by shoes and cleat placement than it is by choice of seat.

As a test, leave the straps at the front of your shoe undone and go for a ride. Is the problem still apparent to the same degree?

Is the left foot wider than the right?

If so, this would point to the shoes being too narrow across the forefoot.

If none of the above works, as an experiment, drop your seat 5mm and see if the severity of the problem is reduced. It may be that you are over reaching slightly on the left and doing whatever is necessary to reach the bottom of the stroke. Sometimes this can cause on part of the foot to be more heavily loaded than the rest.

Failing all of that, and if you are convinced that it is not the shoe width, have a play with some Lemond wedges. If there is no positive result with that, consider talking to a podiatrist about fittings under your insole to spread the metatarsal heads and relieve pressure that way.

Pedal stack height

First, thanks for a great web site overall. I've learned much from the fitness section & have been following Steve Hogg's advice on positioning.

Given the "dynamic" approach to fit, I"m wondering what Steve & other contributors think of compact vs. standard road frames. Are compact frames more "user friendly" in terms of fit, ie. offer more flexibility in range of fit within each parameter of sm, med, & large? Or, is this also a drawback vs a traditional if one gets a traditional that "fits" (loaded question given Steve's comment that the only measurement he's concerned about is standover ht). Meaning, stem length & seat setback etc. likely to be "better" on a traditional than on the "wider" range on a compact? Or, if you're in the proper "range" on each, are the differences meaningless? What's the most important size consideration on a compact?

Also, how important is pedal/cleat "stack height?" Is this marketing hype or does it make a difference in power transfer & pedaling dynamics? Like the above on frames, are the differences between higher end road pedals likely to be big enough to to make any difference?

Thanks for your time & indulgence.

Michael
USA

Steve Hogg replies:

A compact frame and a conventional frame of the same materials, wall thicknesses and dimensions, top tube slopes aside have no real meaningful differences. The compact frame should be stiffer because of the smaller main triangle but have a more flexible seat post because more of it is exposed. The conventional frame should be slightly stiff but have a less flexible seat post. To what degree these qualities are apparent will depend on the relative slope of the top tubes. In saying this, I am assuming that the same seat post is used in both.

When you say that "Steve's comment that the only measurement he's concerned about is standover height". I feel that you have taken an inference that I didn't intend. What I have said is that in the job of producing an effective position or set of ideal frame dimensions for a client, the only measurement of that client's that I am concerned about is their inseam. Not because of any inherent correlation between it and their ideal frame or position, but because when designing a frame for them, I need to make sure that they can stand over it comfortably. If I know their inseam and calculate the standover height of any hypothetical frame, then that question is answered one way or another.

To best answer your question; let's assume two frames, one compact, one conventional. Both for arguments sake are identical in other than top tube slope. What that means is that they both have the same seat tube angle, effective horizontal top tube length, head tube length, head tube angle, bottom bracket drop, chainstay length, fork offset and front centre.

Only two meaningful measurements will differ; seat tube length and stand over height. Stem length and seat setback possibilities will not differ at all.

I sell a lot of custom frames and will give the customer what ever their design preference, whether it be compact or conventional as their will be no positional differences between the two. There are occasions where I strongly recommend a compact for the following reason. If a customer must have their bars high relative to their seat on a conventional frame there are only three ways to achieve this. That is too have a lot of headset spacers or make the frame larger and compromise standover height. Additionally there can be an extended head tube but I try to stay away from them because they look ugly.

By comparison a compact frame can be designed with the front end height of a larger frame but show a lot more seat post and not have to compromise standover height. At a glance, all people tend to notice is the amount of head set spacers and the amount of seat post exposed and a compact frame with high bars looks better than a conventional frame with high bars, at least to my eye. For that reason, I think compact frames are valuable.

I have one of each with all but identical dimensions and have no strong preference.

Re pedal and cleat overall height. This does make a difference but I have to say that most current systems of road pedals, Campagnolo aside, are within about 5mm of each other and any differences in feel probably have more to do with pedal system differences than they do overall pedal and cleat heights.

I have just changed from Campag to Speedplay (including the 3 hole base plate adaptor) after using the Campags since they first came on the market. I had to drop my seat 7mm and found initially that my ability to pedal quickly was compromised. This is coming back but the change affected me in the sense that I feel like I am relearning how to do things slightly. I suspect that this is normal.

More on women's saddles #1

Just a quick tip to Steve Hogg and Robin Crumpton with regards to ladies saddles.

My partner started cycling 3 years ago and tried around half a dozen different saddles and ended up on a Fizik Vitesse which she now swears by (rather than at......) all the women cyclists we have recommended try this saddle who have then actually proceeded to try it now also use it. (about a dozen from memory)

We tend to break it in by fitting it a few deg nose down for the first few days use then lift the nose to the 'normal' position (2-3 deg nose down)

Might be worth a try

Matt Rowley
Leamington Spa, UK

Steve Hogg replies:

I used to use a lot of Vitesses but my experiences were that the approval rating under a large number of female backsides was more like 50/50. I used to stock 7 or 8 different womens seats and am happy to sell seats on a try for a fortnight and bring back if unhappy basis. In the recommendations that I made, I tried to stick to seats that experience has shown me will suit a large majority of women.

More on women's saddles #2

Mr. Steve Hogg doesn't mention the new Selle San Marco Aspide "Glamour" women's saddle, which comes both with a cut-out or without one. It's way lighter than anything else women's specific on the market (185 g) and super comfortable. I never would have bought something women's specific before this one came out because they're all so damn heavy. But I gave this one a shot and was totally shocked and amazed at how great it is. I'm completely converted and don't ever want to buy another saddle. Highly recommended to women who want performance as well as comfort.

Marian Jamison

Steve Hogg replies:

There were a host of seats that I didn't mention. I tried to stick to the ones that as I said, I have extensive experience with. The seat you mention has not been available all that long ( at least in Oz) and to date, I have only seen one example which was the day before your email arrived. I am going to order both versions and experiment a bit with 'problem children'.

More on groin pain

Thanks for the advice.

I have backed off harder rides and started the focused counting on the right side which has alleviated some stress on the left and is very much working the right. I have also begun a lifting program to strengthen my right leg which I am doing 2 days a week right now.

My question now is how many moderate rides should I be doing a week with a focus on the right side and how should I space that out with the days I lift weights so I don't overuse the right side, etc.?

So, example should I be riding Sun, Tues, Thurs, Sat and lift Monday and Friday?? or another combination.

Thank you again.

Andrew M. Joyner
State College, PA

Steve Hogg replies:

My best guess is that you should prioritise cycling and weights in alternate weeks. That way your leg doesn't get 'used' to what you are trying to do and is stimulated afresh. If you have 5 days a week to train, why not try the first week with 4 rides and 1 weights session and the second week, 4 weights sessions and 1 ride or something similar. What you don't need to do is over stress the leg, so maybe 3 and 1 week about would be better.

Let me know how you get on.

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