Form & Fitness Q & A
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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.
Shoe modifications for arch cleats
Dual cleat positions
Cleat position swapping
Shoe sole angle
Possible pedaling angle remedy
Post porta-pottie downer
Cleat position for sprinters
I was hoping Steve Hogg, or someone, could give some pointers on converting a pair of cycling shoes to accept arch cleats. I would love to try arch cleats but don't want to shell out the money to buy a new pair of Biomac or D2 custom shoes before having some idea how the cleat position would affect me.
Can one purchase the 2-bolt cleat inserts to attach to the soles of one's shoes? I have some old cycling shoes that I don't mind trying out some modifications on.
Manhattan, Kansas, USA
Steve Hogg replies:
Given the multitude of shoes out there with differing shapes in the arch, I can only give general advice. The basic problem is that to position a cleat so that the pedal axle is under the arch of the foot means that the concave curve of the bottom of cleat systems doesn't match the shape of the area of the shoe sole under the arch. Here is a step by step guide.
1. Get hold of two Shimano part number Y4YN01000. They are called SH-R121 cleat nuts, are cheap and can be ordered through any Shimano retailer. They are the 3-bolt threaded fitting that is fitted to the sole of some Shimano shoes. Shimano have several other cleat nuts that will do the job but that is the one that I am using.
2. Look Delta, Look Keo, Shimano SPD, Time and a few others have a vertical line on the edge of their cleats. That line equates with the pedal axle with cleat in pedal. Place the cleat under arch of the shoe so that the vertical line on the cleat is under the middle of the arch of your foot. Now use a marker pen or similar to draw an outline around the cleat.
3. Place the cleat nut upside down on the outline of the cleat so that the threaded holes are more or less in the middle of the potential range of adjustment of the cleat. Use a scribe or other pointed object to mark the shoe sole underneath the centre of each threaded hole.
4. Find a block of pine to put inside your shoe. Place the shoe upside down and use a 2mm drill bit to drill a pilot hole through the sole at each of your marks. Then use a 5mm and lastly 7mm bit to enlarge the holes.
5. Remove the insole from the shoe and fit the cleat nut so that it lines up with the holes you have drilled. Secure the cleat nut with a piece of packing tape over it inside the shoe.
6. Get some Bostic, Mastic or any kind of building filler epoxy type putty that will dry hard and can be sanded or cut. Screw three M5 screws into the cleat nut from the INSIDE of the shoe. They will need to be longer than normal. Where the screws protrude through the outside of the shoe sole. Coat the screws liberally with soap, candle wax or grease.
Now get your Bostic or similar and mix it up and place a decent sized blob of it over the area where the cleat screws protrude.
7. Coat the underside of the cleat that you intend to use with wax, soap or grease Place the cleat over the Bostic so the screws protrude more or less through the middle of the cleat slots. Push the cleat down until in contact the sole of the shoe at the front and back of the cleat.
8. Now carefully remove the cleat screws from the inside of the shoe and after fitting washers to the cleat, screw the cleat to the shoe lightly. Tightly enough for the cleat to push out any excess Bostic but not so tightly that the cleat deforms. Use a knife to remove any excess Bostic from around the edge of the cleat and leave it alone to go hard.
9. If you get it all right, you will have a shim underneath the arch of your shoe that is the correct shape to allow your cleat to be positioned under the arch.
I saw a pair of Bebops the other day. Only the second pair that I have seen and they seem a good system. I am going to chase some up as they will be easy to mount to a road shoe at the midfoot; much easier than most 3 bolt systems.
Let me know how you get on
Since arch cleat positioning would reduce sprinting ability but could possibly increase power for sustained climbing or time trialling would it be advisable to use both positions, normal and arch, depending on the race? For example, using arch cleats for a hilly road race or TT and normal cleat positioning for a criterium or race where a sprint is inevitable.
Thanks for your time,
Steve Hogg replies:
It may be worth persevering with different cleat position for different types of racing but you would need plenty of time to re-adjust to conventional cleat position after any time spent using midfoot cleat position. What you are suggesting was what occurred to me initially, but after a few attempts, I didn't bother persevering as I spent too much limited training time adjusting to cleat position changes rather than training.
I have been following your experiments with the arch cleat position with some interest. The question is how easy it to swap back and forth between positions? As a Tuesday night TT fan (8 to 50 km) I would want to use the arch position for more power (or better spread power), but swap back on Fridays for the local Track League (Where I can unleash my B class sprint).
Ok, two pairs of shoes would seen to be sensible/necessary (well I have 2 bikes!), but have you spotted/experienced any other problems while changing positions. With the exception of riding specific intervals in the position for that race, which position would you train in? And has your jump diminished when you have changed back due to the different position.
Steve Hogg replies:
Something similar occurred to me initially but I found it hard to re adjust to conventional cleat position. That may not be a universal experience, though I know it has been shared by a few others that I talk to.
When I have said that I lost my jump in the sprint, that's what happened. What has happened over time is that I am still slower in the jump but finish stronger and can hold a high speed for longer. So I expect that my sprint in terms of time for distance is not much different to what it was. Rather that I get going more slowly but finish faster.
Once I woke up to this, I didn't bother trying to swap cleat positions any more, I just changed my tactics a bit.
I have been following your cleat placement comments with great interest for the last 18 months or so. I have tried both 'behind the ball of the foot' and 'midfoot' cleat positions.
I was wondering if you have any thoughts on the suitability of these cleat positions and pedaling styles. I have a natural heel up, toe down style. I have always felt that I was more of a puller than a pusher of the pedals. I also prefer a highish cadence. I am a mountain biker and on long climbs always seem to keep a cadence of around 90rpm. This seems to come from my running days when I was also a forefoot striker with very minimal wear on my heals. Even when I run it feels that my body focus more on pulling my leg through the stride than pushing off on the other foot.
The reason I am asking is because I suspect that the above mentioned cleat positions are not suitable for me although I badly want them to be. I can really see the theoretical benefits - if you have a natural heel down style, your pedal stroke will focus more on pushing than pulling. I have tried a cleat position 10mm behind the ball of my foot for about a year and the midfoot position for about three weeks.
Comfort was great and I experienced almost all of the benefits mentioned by yourselves but only up to about 85% efforts. Under that I feel I can ride all day long, but at hard efforts or racing pace I just feel unable to produce the power I want despite trying different seat heights and for and aft positions .I will appreciate your thoughts on this.
The reason why I am asking what effect one's pedaling style will have on your ideal cleat position is because I suspect that the more one has a toe down style, the closer the cleat should be to the middle of the ball the foot (from a rearward position).Because, at least in my instance, with such a toe down style there will be more focus on pulling of the pedals than a heel down style meaning that the ball of the foot will also act more like a hinge on which your foot (and leg?) rotate as opposed to the pushing style of a heel down cyclist. Or am I on the wrong track?
Also, what about the relationship between torque and power? The ability to push big gears will give you a lot of torque but you won't go very fast unless you can generate the power (leg speed) to turn or to accelerate the torque to maintain a high speed. It seems stability on the pedals is at least as important as the ability to maintain a high or optimal cadence or at least for racing purposes? Which is probably what you have been saying all the time?
If it feels like one is clawing your toes through the bottom of the pedaling stroke does it mean that one should move your cleats forward until the clawing sensation disappears? Even if it means forward of the ball of the foot?
I also noted from Steve's previous postings that he always suggests lowering the saddle when moving cleats back but in one of his articles on his own website he mentions that he thinks most people have their saddles to low. I realise that these comments might be unrelated but will appreciate if he can expand on the latter issue of saddles being to low.
My last issue is also saddle height related. My current set up has a seat angle of about 73 degrees (saddle is halved if you extend the seat tube which is claimed to be 73 degrees.). My cleats are about 5mm behind the ball of my foot. I am a male about 1.77m and 76kg.
My problem is chafing of the skin on my tender areas between my legs. I realise my saddle may be too high. But if I move it lower and/or back I just don't feel powerful. Any suggestions?
Steve Hogg replies:
Interesting mail. I am the last person to tell you to try and change what comes naturally to you under load so keep the pedaling style you have. Regarding cleat position and pedaling technique; in the post named Cleat Position #2 which says in part:
"3. For riders with an exceptional heel dropping pedaling style, I would increase the amount of foot over the pedal slightly. The converse is true for the exceptional toe down style pedallers."
So no disagreement there, at least with regard to forefoot cleat position
Regarding your problem; if you feel okay up to 85% but not over that, then potential culprits are:
1.Perceptions. Sometimes our perceptions don't match reality. I found this early on with my experience with midfoot cleat position. I didn't feel fast - until I looked at my speedo and realised that my perceptions didn't match what my eyes confirmed.
2. It may be that 1. is not correct and that you have measured your performance in some way. If so, something else is awry. With the midfoot cleat position, it is very easy to sit too high. The chaffing you mention may be a sign of that.
3. If your seat is too high or too low, that will influence how you feel and perform.
4. When you were experimenting, how much trial did you give any single change?
When I experiment I am in the habit of making a change, riding during the week without further change (unless I am injuring myself) and then doing a 3-5 hour hilly ride on the weekend. By the end of that, I may be adapted to the change or I may not, but I have found the long hilly ride a reliable indicator of whether to persevere further or not. It may be that you have been making successive changes without allowing your body to adapt properly.
5. Re toe down technique. With midfoot position, that doesn't seem to matter (I say cautiously). I have one customer working towards a particular goal on the track at the moment. He is a Masters World Champ and an exceptionally toe down pedaller. After some initial issues he has taken to the midfoot position really well in the sense of improved performance and quicker recovery times. He still pedals toe down with the midfoot cleat position and doesn't seem to have a problem. One person's response doesn't make an argument but the two things that stand out to me about the midfoot position is that most people show improved ability to both push a big gear slowly and to pedal a small gear fast after a week or two of habituation.
Lastly, if you are happy with the pedal axle 5mm behind the centre of the ball of the foot and feel that your seat is too high but that when you lower it, your performance drops, the best advice is to lower the seat to what is comfortable and leave it there until your performance returns. That might take a day, a week, or even up to three weeks, but if seat height is the issue, your performance will return (and probably improve) at a lower seat height.
I couldn't agree more that foot stability on the pedal is of overriding importance.
I have ridden with a pair of Nike Poggio IIs for the last three years and have been reasonably happy with them. I have some Lemond wedges and have always felt they are efficient in delivering all the power I can generate. I have sometimes had numb feet with them after long rides and as they are gradually falling apart, so I decided to buy a new pair of Specialized BG Carbon Pro shoes. I bought these shoes because of the good reviews friends have always given Specialized shoes and hopefully to cure the numb foot problem. I must say they are very comfortable shoes.
The problem I have is that they feel very different when pedaling, not uncomfortable, I simply don't feel I am putting down all the power I can. I have the cleats in exactly the same position as previously after many small adjustments. Having given this much though I can see only one difference to my Nike shoes that may be causing this very different feel. With the Shimano cleat placed flat on the floor, the heal of the Specialized measures 1.75cm higher off the horizontal than the Nike. Clearly the angle from the ball of the foot to the heel is greater with the Specialized.
My question is would this alone really give such a different feel to the shoe? Should I be adjusting saddle height for this difference? Maybe there are other differences I am not aware of, maybe the thickness of the sole is greater and hence my foot does not feel as close to the pedal. Any ideas? I really love the comfort of the shoe, but the feeling that I am not as efficiently delivering the power with this is a constant frustration.
Eddie Monnier replies:
Did you also add your wedges to your new setup? How many wedges are you using on each foot? Please confirm you're forefoot varus (thick part of wedge on inside of each foot). I ask because Specialized BG ("Body Geometry") shoes have a small amount of correction - equivalent to 1 wedge - for a varus forefoot built into the shoe. It is possible if you transferred all of your wedges you are overcorrecting relative to what you had on your Nike set up.
Steve Hogg adds:
In addition to Eddie's good advice and assuming that has been taken into account, the amount of heel lift in a shoe last can have quite an effect on how the rider perceives power transmission. A shoe with high heel lift often causes the rider to use more ankle movement to apply force to the pedal through the power part of the pedal stroke. Some riders adapt to this, some don't. Given that you like the comfort of the shoes, it may be worth persevering and learning a new way of pedaling efficiently.
If you have given as much effort to that as you are prepared to and are still not happy, then I would suggest moving the cleat further back on the shoe. That will cause you to limit ankle movement to some degree and give you back the 'feel' that you have lost. As you do this, you will probably need to drop your seat slightly as well. It will take a bit of experimentation to establish just how far back you need to move the cleat. I am a big fan of low heel lift cycling shoe lasts and can understand your frustration.
Scott Saifer suggested a pedal-crank adapter to move the pedals out in the June 13, 2007 Q&A ("Pedaling angle problems"). Here is a product (Kneesavers Pedal Extenders) I've seen online, but have never used, that may help.
Thanks for the great Q&A articles.
Scott Saifer replies:
Thanks for this great tip. I was not aware that anyone was already making the product I was thinking of.
OK, are you ready for the most bizarre question you've ever been asked?
One of the most ubiquitous sights at any bike race is the line to the porta-potties just before the start of a race. Riders line up to take that last bathroom break, and possibly lose a bit more pre-race weight if they are fortunate enough to drop the kids off at the blue cesspool. This is especially common at time trials and hilly road races.
However, I've kinda noticed something. Sometimes, while I do emerge feeling a bit "relieved", I also sometimes don't necessarily feel any more energetic. In fact, I get on the bike and I feel a bit sluggish and it takes a bit to get the legs firing again. Is there some sort of hormonal response to taking at number two so close the start of a race that might keep a rider from being number one at the end of the race? Increased serotonin, perhaps?
Scott Saifer replies:
I don't have an answer for you. Just wanted to say that yes, this is one of the most bizarre questions I've come across. Whether or not the effect you noticed is real, I would not suggest holding back for fear of triggering the effect, if you know what I mean.
Since you have noticed this effect and it's best not to hold back, do what I tell my riders to do, if they ask: figure out about how long after you eat dinner and how long after you wake up in the morning you typically are ready to move your bowels, and be sure to time dinner the night before and morning wake up time on race day to allow that movement to be completed long enough pre-race that the let-down effect you are noticing has passed. And choose pre-race dinner foods that pass relatively quickly.
I'm quite interested in Steve Hogg's cleat position exercise, in particular with respect to sprinting. I do a lot of bike fits myself and I use some of Steve's ideas for fitting recreational riders and general endurance racer with some success, but even after buying and watching 'Sitting Pretty' (Steve's bike fit philosophy DVD) I'm still unsure as to what his position re foot/pedal axle location would be for a sprinter.
Most of what's been written suggests that moving the foot forward may benefit endurance riding but what is its effect on peak power for sprinting for both track and road sprinting events?
Steve, any ideas or do you have any empirical data to suggest an 'ideal' foot/axle relationship for a sprinter? Conventional wisdom says ball of the foot over or even slightly behind the axle for peak power outputs, but conventional wisdom has a habit of being found to be self-perpetuating myths in the bike biz (KOPS - Knee Over Pedal Spindle etc).
Steve Hogg replies:
My apologies for the confusion. Here are the links (one and two) to my general recommendations for cleat positioning (midfoot cleat position aside). For road sprinters, I would stick with those. For track sprinters, halve the distance suggested in those posts for the placement of the centre of the first mtp joint in front of the pedal axle.
Why the difference?
A road sprinter needs to get to the end of a race before he needs to worry about the sprint and the general recommendations will help in that regard. Often, the winner of a road sprint isn't the fastest rider but the freshest one.
With a track sprinter it is different. The effort is much shorter and maximising the 'jump' can be important. To do that, an off the seat effort is needed, at least initially. When the rider moves forward off the seat, two things happen. More force can be exerted while off the seat but the size of the dead spot either side of TDC [Top Dead Centre] and BDC [Bottom Dead Centre] in the pedal stroke increases because the rider has moved forward over the bottom bracket.
The solution that comes naturally is to rip the heel of the downward leg upwards forcefully after BDC, which helps get the upward leg over TDC. If the cleat is too far back, this motion is limited because ankle motion is lessened. The cleat position I am suggesting is far back enough to be a positive in terms of stability of foot on pedal, but not so far back that off the seat efforts are compromised.
I have had a few handy sprinters seat PBs for the flying and timed 200m using that recommendation. One gent contacted me last year who had set a couple of world records using that recommendation. He attributed his success to the cleat position. I think he was being kind and that his hard work was the major reason for his success, but it was interesting that he felt cleat position made a difference.
I am a new cyclist, training for the PanMass Challenge in August, 2007 (www.pmc.org). Last weekend, I rode 40 miles and this weekend I rode 50 miles, but when I got home, my wrists hurt. But more importantly, I had very little strength or dexterity in my fingers. I could barely hold a fork and knife while I was eating, let alone cut meat. I have tried to concentrate on changing hand positions frequently during riding and also to dangle and shake my arm and wrists several times.
I am new to cycling, and am still nervous on my bike, so I know I may be gripping the handlebars too tight - but I'm trying to relax and concentrate on loosening my grip. The PMC is a 112-mile ride, and at this point I am concerned I won't be able to finish - my wrists/hand strength won't hold out.
I am a 59 year-old female. My bike is a road bike (Specialized Sequoia). My handlebars are the classic road bike style.
Steve Hogg replies:
Your problem may be caused by exactly the reasons you state. Other common reasons are: seat too far forward causing a weight transfer forward that has to be supported by the arms and/or handlebars that are too low.
Only you can tell whether it is your nervousness or if you are bearing too much weight. Set your bike up on an indoor trainer and while pushing a reasonably hard gear, take your hands off the bars suddenly. If you can't support yourself without hands at least briefly, I suspect that your position on the bike could use some work.
Carrie Cheadle adds:
Practice releasing that death grip while you ride. During your ride try this mantra out "Relax my hands, relax my face, breathe." The small act of relaxing your hands and face can help send a message to the rest of your body to relax as well.
Shallow breathing can also add to the stress response so make sure you are breathing. You can come up with some sort of cue to trigger yourself to remember to do this. Set your watch to beep every five minutes or watch your odometer and try it every five miles.
The way that you are talking to yourself can elicit that stress response as well which then can lead to the death grip on the handle bars. Try out using a cue word as you breath like "calm", "smooth", or just "relax" to help counteract that stress response.