Fitness questions and answers for June 19

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Form & Fitness Q & A

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Training" for a cross-state ride
Move cleat forward?
Cold acclimatization?
Leg and back pain
Bike set up
Breathing exercises?
Femur & tibia length
FSA K-force seatpost for pelvic asymmetry
Medial Ankle pain
Painful knee
More on labial swelling
More on ride induced allergy attacks
Shoulder operation/body position
Home trainer

"Training" for a cross-state ride

I am currently "training" for an annual week-long, cross-state ride in my home state. In addition to a lot of great riding, there is a lot of eating, and--I am afraid to add--a lot of alcohol consumption.

Over the years, and I have done nearly fifty of these rides, I have tried NOT drinking, or eating less, but I have to face reality: I AM starting to get a little bit older, and I find that I am having a harder time keeping up with my younger companions, "off the bike."

You lived in Iowa at one time: do you have any tips for me, and others like me, who would like to--if just for a week--disregard good judgment and the ravages of time?

The mostly reverend Mr. Grandpa Kim,
The Orphanage, Capitol City, Iowa

Dr Kelby Bethards replies:

***Warning*** Advanced athletes only!

Irreverent Grandpa Kim,

Well, I do say you pose a question not often addressed on CyclingNews.com. Beer intervals or maybe beerervals. Finally I get to put my MD to good use.

Since I already know you, I will assume you are still riding well and the bike, as usual, is not the problem. However, being able to keep up with us younger sorts is a crucial part of the multifaceted event to which you refer. Just because you can ride, doesn't mean you can stay up and imbibe. But you NEED to.

Just like any part of cycling, you need to train for your specific weakness. Begin NOW! Go to the fridge and grab a beverage containing the said ingredient. Alcohol.

So, like anything, get your base beers in and be ready for the steady basal rate of drinking. Endurance has to be there otherwise you'll get "dropped".

Once you feel as though you have good base, you can begin drinking in zone 3, 4 and 5. I would suggest some short quick beer intervals, slam one once and a while, while maintaining your base imbibing rate. Or an alternative strategy may be to do intervals of beverages with more alcohol. This taxes the system and builds recovery.

You should be ready to hang at this point. As always, hydration is the key. Now, this is where it gets tricky, you don't want to let your pals know that you are getting water into your system as they may try to stop you from doing so. So, you may have to sneak off on occasion to get some H2O in.

If this plan doesn't work for you, then I would suggest a deception plan. Drinking a beer or two with the "youngsters" and then carry the SAME beer can with you all night, filling it with water as to appear infallible in the realm of long tour drinking. Yet as the "youngsters" become more "unobservant" (read Drunk) you will start gaining all sorts of points on the general classification.

I have received some of this information from a pal on our team known as the Swearing Scotsman (CyclingNews knows him as ROY). He knows his stuff.

Kelby Bethards, MD

PS: See you in Iowa. Your secret is safe with me, at least 40% of the time.

Move cleat forward?

I'm a randonneur, so I'm doing lots of long distance and hilly riding, but at maybe 13mph average speed. Reading your cleat-positioning article, I see that you recommend having the "ball" of the foot be about 1 cm ahead of the pedal-axle center (my feet are about 44.5). Measuring, I see the ball of my foot is almost 2 cm ahead of the pedal. This is because in attempting to deal with forefoot pain and numbness, I (gradually) moved my cleats back as far as possible. (In the end, this didn't help fit the forefoot pain and numbness, but after a visit to a podiatrist this problem has been completely resolved by taping my insoles to create a little valley for the middle metatarsals.) I've now been riding with the cleats in this position for nearly four thousand miles, about half of which is century-or-longer rides. But toe-overlap is an issue in tight turns, so I wouldn't mind trying to move the cleats forward again. Other than doing this gradually and moving seat height up slightly, do you have any recommendations? Will this tend to load up my calf muscles more?

Nick Bull

Steve Hogg replies:

Moving the cleats forward 10mm would be a large change and there are two ways to go about it.

1. Do it all at once and spend 3 weeks riding regularly at low to moderate intensities and staying away from steep hills and other high torque situations

2. Creep them forward 2mm every fortnight or so of regular riding.

Either way, once the process is complete you will probably have to increase your seat height 2 - 4mm.

If you have any problems, let me know.

Cold acclimatization?

HI I just finished reading the article about the heat treatment by Matt Vawter Boulder, CO., were Scott Saifer suggests ensuring your body is in a heat environment to help acclimatise. I was wondering if this method conducted in reverse can be used for a cold environment and if so how can it be done with out sub-coming to a cold. At present were I live (Orange NSW) we have had mornings as low as -4 at 7am with a max of between 4 and 10.

Owen
Orange NSW

Scott Saifer replies:

Acclimatization to cold is mostly tactical and psychological rather than physiological. There is a physiological component, but it should not be relevant for a racing cyclist. If your body temperature drops far enough, you shiver whether you are acclimatized to the cold or not, and shivering wastes glycogen and oxygen, impairing performance. However, the threshold skin and core temperatures at which shivering commences decrease with repeated exposure to cold. Thus regular exposure to cold could improve exercise capacity. However, getting to the shivering threshold temperature means getting well below the range of temperatures at which muscle operates most efficiently for other reasons related to muscle enzyme activities, so you should not be letting your skin or core get cold enough for this physiological aspect of cold acclimatization to be important. That is, you should not ever be getting cold enough to shiver while exercising.

The most important aspect of adjusting to cold is learning to dress for the weather. You have to do enough cold weather riding to figure out how to do that and also gain confidence that you really have it all dialed in. If you are worried about the cold, you won't perform well.

When dressing for cold, be flexible in your choice of clothing. A cat2 friend of mine routinely trains in a wool fisherman's sweater in the cold of winter. When I lived in Northeast China where the winter nighttime temperatures were low enough that it didn't matter if you used F or C degrees (about -20 to -30 degrees) I rode many miles at temperatures below 0F (-15 or so C) in a dog-ear hat, scarf, down parka, wool sweater, wool pants, chest to ankle simulated rabbit fur long underwear, balaclava, wool lined leather army gloves and loose-fitting walking boots. Sometimes by mustache and beard froze so solid I couldn't smile until I had been inside for a few minutes, but I was never cold.

Leg and back pain

I am 34 and have been riding and racing (cat 2) for about 5 years now. Last year towards the end of the racing season I started to notice some pretty sever pain in my lower back and right glute. It started out gradually but increased in intensity over about 2 months period. I eventually had to stop riding and decided it was time to see a specialist. After an MRI I was diagnosed with a herniated disc at the L5-S1. I went through physical therapy and had 2 steroid epidurals which helped a lot. Now I started to ride and I am still having pains which are not as sever but still annoying. I decided to really look at my bike position since this had to have something to do with my back problem. After video taping while on a trainer I noticed these things while riding.

1. Looking from behind I can definitely see that my right hip is lower than my left.
2. My left heel moves to the inside (towards the crank arm) on the down stroke.
3. My right knee moves in an elliptical motion. Outside at the top of the pedal stroke and then moves toward the top tube on the down stroke. (My left knee moves relatively straight.)
4. My hips are turned toward the right while seated.
5 I believe my right side has a forefoot varus.

What can I do to help bring my right hip up so that I am more level and what should I do to keep my right knee from moving so much in the pedal stoke. I have had a bike fit in the past 3 months but the pro shop where I get fitted do not deal with shims of any type so I'm not sure if they would solve my problems. I don't suffer from any other pains but I just never feel comfortable on the bike.

Kevin

Steve Hogg replies:

Everything that you say about how you sit on a bike tallies. The left heel movement is almost certainly a result of the right side twist / drop as is the oscillation of the right knee motion. First things first. Get hold of a packet of Lemond wedges and experiment with what number feels best under the right shoe. Add one at a time and keep adding while ever the addition of another wedge gives a feeling of enhanced stability under foot on the right side. Judge the correct amount by how you feel on the pedal, not by the amount of oscillation of the right knee.

When you have settled on that, you will probably find that your right knee still oscillates, possibly less but maybe not much less. Now you need to get your butt back towards the centreline of the bike. If you have tried various bodywork methods (physio, yoga etc ) and still don't sit square.

How much offset does your seat post have?

By that I mean where is the front of the seat rail clamp relative to the centreline of seat post shaft as viewed from the side?

If the front of the clamp is more or less in line with seat post shaft centre line (which is what I would describe as 'standard offset') then get hold of an FSA K Force carbon post with what FSA call 25mm offset. If your seat post has noticeably more rearward offset than the 'standard' described above, then get an FSA SL 220 or the K Force carbon version with extra setback. If your seat post has noticeably less rearward offset than 'standard' then get hold of an FSA FR 200 or the K Force carbon version with 'zero' offset.

All of these seat posts have been around for a while but recently FSA changed the seat rail clamp assembly to what they call a 'Data Head'. Which ever one you buy, you want the latest Data Head version.

Once you have the correct post, hold it so that you are looking at if from above. You will see the upper piece that runs fore and aft that is secured with the two bolts. This upper piece tightens over the two halves of the seat rail clamp. You will note that the upper half of the seat rail clamp is serrated and has two small black pins, one either side of the fore and aft piece that tighten down over it.

Grind or file these pins off and clean the serration on either side up with the edge of a file. You will now find that you can adjust the seat rail clamp assembly approximately 12mm either side of the centre line of the bike. In your case, you want to move the seat rail clamp all the way to the left of the centreline. For more about take a look at "The Problem of Pelvic Symmetry" on my website.

Once this is all done, you should be much closer to being over the centre line of the bike even though the seat is not. If you still sit with right hip forward you may then have to point the seat nose to the right of straight ahead to square up your hips to whatever degree is possible. If you get into trouble, let me know.

Understand too, that while this will work to a greater or lesser degree and take pressure off your back, the best possible solution is for you to take up some kind of postural work and become as functionally symmetrical as possible.

Bike set up

I was wondering if you could please tell me if there is a general rule for the angles/set up on bikes. By this I mean, where your knees should be in relation to your feet/hips etc when in the correct set up. The reason I ask is because I would like to check my overall set up, because I get a niggle in my left knee when riding my road bike, especially on the wind trainer. The other day, after doing a fairly hilly 30 km mountain bike race, the left knee was stiff/sore on the following day. That was the first time the pain had occurred on the moutain bike, but occurs more often on the road bike. A friend of mine who runs a bike shop says to adjust my cleats, and I think from reading past articles that my cleat should be about 7-8 mm in front of the axle. However, when I got on the bike this evening, I discovered that the cleats wont go any further foward. Perhaps my cheap shoes are the problem! The cleat and pedal are both Shimano SPD.

Is there a chart or diagram I can refer to for my general set up to see if this improves the situation, before delving into more details? I am 60 kilos, 26 yr old female, 160 cm (if this is any help!!).

Aroha Russell
NZ

Steve Hogg replies:

From what you have said, I suspect your problems probably are the result of cleat position or pelvic symmetry. The 7 - 8mm you mention. That means that the centre of the ball of your foot should be 7 - 8mm in front of the centre of the pedal axle. You imply that the cleat is forward meaning that there is not enough foot over the pedal (cleat too far forward) so it would pay to correct that before going further.

Once done, you need to check that the angle of your cleats gives you some free movement either side of where your foot naturally wants to sit on the pedal. If this isn't the case, then that needs to be fixed too.

If you do all of the above and still have the knee niggle, have someone ride behind you and see whether you are sitting squarely on the seat or are dropping one hip.

Get back to me if you have further queries.

Breathing exercises?

I seem to recall that back in the 80's there was a lot of focus on breathing techniques to increase endurance fitness. I specifically recall Greg LeMond touting the benefits of off-the-bike "Deep Breathing" exercises. I don't see these kinds of techniques mentioned anymore in popular training methods and was wondering if they are still valid? I've been focusing more on my own breathing lately and have noticed a dramatic improvement in my fitness. Has there been any more studies on the effects of breathing exercises or have these techniques simply fallen out of style?

Christopher Daniels

Scott Saifer replies:

Just my opinion, but breathing exercises, like many other valid types of training, are only effective if they help correct a deficiency or limiter. Anyone who has done a particular type of exercise and felt a benefit will likely encourage friends, neighbors and teammates to try the same exercise. I have definitely assigned deep breathing exercises to clients on occasion, and some of them have reported a perceived benefit. I would not assign deep breathing exercises to all my clients because I don't think they'd be beneficial for the majority.

Femur & tibia length

I'm a PT/ATC who does some work with cyclists here at the University of Oregon. I also am a semi-serious rider myself. I've read and heard discussion of femoral and tibial length and how these relate to top tube length and fore/aft seat position. Many experts state that riders with long femurs and short tibias should have their seats set back further and have a longer top tube than riders with short femurs and long tibias.

My questions are:

1. What is a "normal" or "average" femur to tibia length ratio? That is, in an "average" rider, is the femur the same length as the tibia? Or is one typically longer than the other?

2. How is the length of the femur and the tibia best measured? If possible please use anatomical landmarks such as greater trochanter of the femur, joint line of the knee, and lateral malleolus of the ankle. Thanks for your help.

Tim McDonald
Eugene, OR

Steve Hogg replies:

Before answering your 2 questions, I have to get a few things off my chest. I think that the experts you mention are barking up not only the wrong tree, but a tree in the wrong forest. It is called the "Proportional Forest" and a product of the wish for simple answers to a complex problem. For too long, far too many people have tried to build edifices of reasoning built on the foundations of what can be described as " If you measure this way or are proportioned this way, then your bike position and ideal frame dimensions are a product of those proportions or measurements". Specious reasoning in my view.

To arrive at answers that are valid in any single case, the rider has to be quantified in some way. Taking body measurements and limb segment proportions is a way of quantifying a person, but a largely irrelevant way, because it is the STATIC quantification of someone involved in a DYNAMIC activity.

What should be of much greater importance is quantifying how that person functions and what techniques they use to do what they are capable of, because these are dynamic measures. This should be self evident and beyond argument.

I am not blaming you for framing your queries in the way that you have because I am sure that you have read endless guff that implied what you suggest. If you read enough of that stuff for long enough, in the absence of other info, you will start to believe it.

Here is another way to look at rider positioning.

Fact One: Human brains have evolved neurologically to give absolute priority to postural (anti gravity) musculature and a lower priority to phasic (power producing) musculature.

Fact Two: To perform optimally, we need the best leverage on the pedals, consistent with the greatest control of movement that we are capable of, consistent with being able to breathe to the highest capacity.

Again, those things should be self evident and largely beyond argument. How to reconcile those two facts with a bike position?

We all need to sit on a bike in such a way as to enlist the minimum amount of postural musculature that is necessary to maintain a position. That way both physiologically and neurologically, we can devote the greatest effort to precisely switching on and off the phasic muscles, as well as some postural muscles acting phasically (hamstrings and gastrocs) that propel a bike, rather than wasting unnecessary effort in maintaining a position while under high load.

Once our heads are wrapped around that concept, then there is the detail of implementing Fact Two. There is a large amount of stuff in the archives regarding that if you care to look. If you do and that means further queries, please get back to me.

If you want something important to think about in a proportional sense, think about Effective Torso Length. I say "Effective" because many long torsoed riders don't have long 'Effective Torso Lengths' because they are not flexible enough to extend their torso comfortably while at high heart rate and pedalling at high load. Conversely, many short torsoed riders have long 'effective torso lengths because they do have the ability to extend their torsos while under load. In between is everyone else with individually different capacities. Effective Torso Length is important because a rider's seat needs to be the minimum distance behind the bottom bracket that is necessary for them to be able to cantilever their torsos (to whatever "effective"capacity they are capable of) out from their pelvis without needing to use much in the way of upper back or shoulder complex musculature to support that torso weight. Why?

There are 20 odd muscles of the torso used in respiration. 18 of those muscles have postural implications meaning that they can be used to breathe with, or they can be used to support weight or to stabilise with. They can't do both contending functions well at the same time. A simple way of putting this is that the area from the waist down should be used to propel the bike. The torso should be used to breathe with and there should only be enough tension in the arms and shoulders as is necessary to steer and control the bike. It is all about being able to minimise postural musculature involvement in supporting weight or stabilising. If the seat is far enough back so that the torso is self supporting because that weight is largely borne on the seat by the ischial tuberosities, then mission accomplished. For some people this will mean that the seat is a long way back. For others it will mean a long way forward and the rest will be somewhere in between. The determinants of relative seat setback and ideal frame dimensions will have much more to do with function and technique than they do with measurement or limb segment proportions.

If you need practical applications and explanations of this, stay tuned.

Re your question 1. I used to know the answer to this but probably forgot 15 years ago. If it matters having read the above, let me know as I think I know where the info is.

Re your question 2. By x ray or CT scan. Measurements from bony external landmarks have too great a + / - error factor. I have lost count of the number of clients that I have had who have been told by health professionals that one leg is measurably shorter than the other only to find after a scan or x ray that there was no meaningful (meaningful = less than 2mm in my book) or that it was actually the other leg that was short.

Tim responded:

Thanks for the detailed reply. I agree with you that you cannot use a "cookbook" method to fit people on bikes. It seems to me (and I am a neophyte when it comes to bike fitting, so maybe I'm way off) though that some basic measurements and ratios would be helpful in getting a cyclist "in the ballpark" as far as frame size is concerned. It seems like some basic measurements would be helpful for someone trying to decide between stock bikes, for instance, with a 54 cm frame/ 56.5 cm top tube and a 54 cm frame/ 54 cm top tube. After the most appropriate frame was selected further modification and "fine tuning" would be done with seat ht and fore/aft positioning, equipment selection involving stem length, etc.. Does this make sense?

Regarding torso length, this is something I've wondered about also. After I sent the email I wished I would have included a question about this. The same folks who talk about femur and tibial length will refer to torso and leg length in cyclists. What are the ratios for this? I know there are methods to measure these values (Colorado Cyclist has a detailed procedure, for instance). Do you know the best way to measure torso and also what constitutes a "long torso/short leg length" and vice versa. How is this type of thing determined? I know I may be in the wrong forest again but thought I'd ask anyway. Thanks in advance for your help.

Steve Hogg replies:

What you are asking seems to make sense to a large part of the cycling universe but not to me. If you want a half baked method to give a half baked result there is plenty of stuff about with tables of: "torso plus arm length = top tube length" and "inseam length x (?) = seat tube length"

There is a lot of it out there so take your pick. You will find that various iterations disagree though, often substantially. The problem with what you are suggesting is that when a novice rider walks into a bike shop and that kind of approach is taken by the 'expert' in the shop (and bear in mind for a novice cyclist an expert is anyone who knows more than they do) it confers credibility on an approach that is seriously flawed. This has led countless numbers of cyclists to believe this stuff because there was no contending information or opinion.

That is why there is this seemingly endless cycle of proprietary programs and books of tables that someone or other dreams up every few years and sells in large numbers to bike shops. If any of them genuinely worked for large numbers of people they would quickly come to dominate. Which of course they haven't.

If you want to go down the route of advising people on frame sizes and dimensions you already have a large part of the 'toolkit' you require. You are a health professional with an understanding of how human bodies function. That is the best head start you will get.

If you are asking these queries from a personal point of view then base your position (which will determine your frame dimensions) on what feels comfortable, powerful and needs no effort to maintain when riding hard. From time to time I will have a rider make a booking for positioning and I will be pleasantly surprised at how little change I have to make. It is more of a tidy up than a positional change. I always question these people about how they arrived at the position they have. Some of them are experienced cyclists, some not, but their answers all tend towards the reasoning that they judged any changes they had made on how comfortable and strong they felt. You could do a lot worse than that.

If you choose to play with your position and come up with something that satisfies you, you can then use the free version of BikeCAD Pro that is available on the net to turn that position into frame dimensions. You will probably need to learn a bit to do that but knowledge is no burden and you will get a far better result than with the methods you are suggesting; i.e. standard tables.

In essence that is what I do in my daily job. Quantify people in a structural sense as to their abilities. Quantify them again on bike in terms of their capacities, symmetry and technique and make changes appropriate to their case. Then record that position and use CAD software to determine a set of ideal frame dimensions from that position. The only body dimension that I measure is inseam length. Not because it matters intrinsically, but because I need to know that the rider can comfortably stand over whatever frame dimensions I end up with the CAD software.

The reason for the measurement based approach is that not enough of the retail bike industry takes positioning seriously. It is too often looked at as a marketing tool rather than a task of itself. That attitude lends itself to simple 'solutions' and engenders in otherwise educated people the belief that there is some validity in this. Don't laugh, you are one of them.

I'm not being rude, I used to be one too and it is hard to mentally break away from such a ubiquitous approach even though most of realise intellectually that it has severe limitations. If you want to get measured, go and buy a suit. Look where that has led us; to an industry in which bikes now come in S, M, L, XL. Just like T shirts. I would argue that the way you or anyone else relates to a bike is a little more complex than the way they relate to a T shirt.

Body dimensions play a part in determining frame dimensions but my experience is that there is no close correlation and the potential + / - error is too high to bother with.

FSA K-force seatpost for pelvic asymmetry

After reading "The Problem of Pelvic Symmetry" I found that you did not say which way to move the seatpost clamp and thereby the saddle.

For someone with a right hip drop, which way would he move the saddle?

Barry Greenberg

Steve Hogg replies:

Assuming that info is the solution or part of the solution to your problem, then you would need to move the seat laterally to the left. That would bring you back over the bike's centre line or worst case, closer to the centre line.

Medial Ankle pain

I am a 37 yr. old male. I have been cycling for two years (training as hard as my body will allow, plus a little). I've lost forty pounds and am now down to a petite 197lbs! (5'11") I put in a good base over the winter (100-140 wk. mostly flat with some structured efforts and lots of wind). In the spring I ramped up to 150 per week with rolling hills and some fast pack rides with the local cat four crowd. A month ago we started doing some fairly hard hill rides once a week - 40 miles of big rollers ½ to ¾ mile length at 8% to 15%. This was my hard effort for the week. I seemed to be adjusting to this new load for the first three weeks then started to develop some pain in the medial soft tissue of the ankle.

I bowed out of the next hill ride and returned to the flatter course but the pain continued to grow. The pain was sharp like tight skin. It started at the top of my foot where the middle strap hits my foot and traced to the medial ankle (moderate swelling) and up to the medial knee, then a little further up into the hamstring. My Dr. friend said I strained/small tear of the Flexor hallus longus (plantar flexion) due to the increase hill loads. Back off, ice, stretch, ibuprofen, etc… My question is, are there some functional things that are being signaled by this injury? BTW, I do most of my climbing seated.

Bike setup: Speedplay x-2, Extra plate under left foot for leg length var., One LaMond wedge for each foot (tilting out), Friends say I sit square and don't drop one hip more than another. 172.5 cranks. Two pairs of shoes (Shimano carbon and Sidi carbon). Cleat located at or just behind ball of foot. Seat has plenty of room to move back.

Fit issues: I have short legs (30" inseam) so seat post rides very low.

The only "event" I can think of that might have initiated the injury is an low RPM effort where I pulled up hard with my legs through the back of the pedal stroke to catch a hill sprint that I was a little slow recognizing.

Any recommendations?

John Mitchell

Steve Hogg asked:

Did this occur in on one side only or both?

What brand, model and size of shoes do you use?

There are two things you should try. Firstly, Speedplay cleats don't have the as much potential rearward movement as a number of other brands. This may be the issue or possibly that combined with the type of shoe that you have. Have a look at this posts on cleat position and this one. Positioning your cleats as suggested there should make a positive difference. If you find that you can't achieve that, contact me directly because there is a solution.

The second thing is that assuming that your cleats are positioned as suggested above or that you position them as suggested with no improvement in the problem, add a wedge to the affected side. You should be able to determine fairly quickly whether that is an improvement or not.

Either way, let me know how you get on.

John Mitchell replied:

The affected side is the right leg. My shoes are the Sidi Carbon Genius, and I also have a pair of the Shimano Carbon they are three yrs old and top of their line model

Also, I have been told by friends that I do ride in a "toe down" position. I do not "ankle". Should this be trained out or is my natural tendency my best position?

Steve Hogg replies:

Both of your pairs of shoes have a relatively low heel lift last so that is unlikely to be the problem. Re your pedalling technique; leave it alone and be happy. The only implication is that if you still pedal relatively toe down under load, like when climbing hills, then the major force vector on the pedals is from front to rear. This in turn means that your pedalling technique tends to cause you to transfer weight to your upper body. The simple solution to that is to set your seat set back according to the balance test that is mentioned in the archives many times.

Have you had a chance to try an extra wedge yet?

Painful knee

Wow, it really hurts (sometimes). In fact, I haven't set foot on the bike for more than a week.

The pain began two weeks ago. I rode four days that week after having ridden only about 2 days per week during the Spring (usually 90 minute ride and one in the 3-4 hour range). The rides were each about 90 minutes each, two on the road and two mountain. The first road ride was pretty easy and then the rest included varying degrees of hard work.

Now for my pain. Its a dull ache that varies in intensity from annoying to very painful, mostly somewhere inbetween. The pain seems to emmanate from the hip, become intense at the knee, and then radiates down the outside of my shin (left side). Its been going on for about a week now.

I have been stretching the outside of my quad (IT band I think), hamstring, groin, and calf, and that seems to help. And I have also been icing and heating (hot tub) it, but still have pain that comes and goes. I should also mention that I had the ACL in that knee repaired 15 years ago. It was a semitendinosis (hamstring) repair, not pattella.

Any thoughts about what might causing the pain and what might help it? Thank you!! Tre Hendricks, Hood River, OR USA

Steve Hogg replies:

For something as severe as you describe, my first port of call would be a good physio. Once they have examined you, I would be interested to hear what they have had to say.

Secondly, can you confirm that you sit squarely on the seat; i.e that you don't tend to drop one hip forward and down?

More on labial swelling

[Daria Gal's original question was asked and answered here.]

After reading through the links you recommended as well as the other articles available on your website here are the things I have noticed and or done:

1) I definitely sit to one side. To remedy this I'd like to try an FSA seat post with the DATA head that you mentioned. However, looking at them with my boyfriend he noticed that there seems to be a difference in construction between the 2006 models and earlier versions. Just looking at photos of them on the internet, not in person, it looks like the 2006 models wouldn't have any way to accomplish any lateral adjustment, whereas older models seem to have a different construction which would allow for this. We are going to go to a LBS to see the seat posts in person. Do you know if the newer FSA posts can be modified so the seat can be adjusted laterally?

2) I adjusted my cleat position on my pedals to that which you recommend. I had my cleats much further forward than your recommendations.

3) Checking my saddle position fore and aft by seeing if I could take my hands off the drops and not fall forward, I found that I could easily do this. With my boyfriend's help we actually moved my saddle forward from where it was positioned trying to see if we could find that point where I couldn't take my hands off the drops without falling forward. In fact we ran out of room on the saddle rails before I became unbalanced so we moved the saddle to a position about 1/2" forward of it's initial position for starters, thinking that my position might be too stretched out. From reading your thoughts on saddle positioning am I correct in saying that I eventually want to have my saddle at that point where I can just barely keep myself from falling forward when I take my hands off the drops while riding? Does this hold true for women with our in general lower center of gravity compared to men?

4) Viewed from behind with my bike on a trainer, when I'm pedaling, my hips remain level, so I don't think my saddle is too high. I'm considering dropping it 1/4" anyway to see if that helps, but haven't done that yet.

5) I'm riding an Avocet O2 women specific saddle. I am also trying to focus on sitting on my sit bones and not allowing myself to roll forward, producing a concave back.

6) My bars are positioned so that the top of the bars are even with the top of my saddle.

In summary, I've changed my cleat position and moved my saddle forward 1/2". I am aware that things feel different when riding. Not good or bad but just different. My labial swelling isn't as severe as it was but it is still definitely there. It seems that I've made some adjustments in the right direction. The next step is to find a seat post which allows me to adjust my saddle laterally. Thanks so much for your input and the excellent well written articles on your website!

Daria Gal

Steve Hogg replies:

Re 1. The Data Head FSA posts are the newest ones. They have 3 part seat rail clamp assembly comprised of an upper and lower half that clamps the seat rail plus a piece that runs fore and aft over the top of the two halves that clamps them down and keeps them secure. The older posts have identical shafts, it is only the head that is different.

Re 2. Good. That should have made a positive difference to the feel of the foot on the pedal.

Re 3. You want the seat at the minimum distance behind the bottom bracket that allows you to all but support the weight of your upper body without a lot of need for tension in arms and shoulders. Depending on how you are put together and how you pedal and how you function, this could leave you with a seat position fore and aft that may be anywhere from way forward to way back. When you say that you can support your weight well, make sure that you are not arching your back to allow this. Also repeat under load. The harder you press on the pedals the easier it is to support your upper body weight. Ideally your seat position fore and aft should allow you to have near weightless upper body when riding really hard and while there should be some weight on your hands at low intensities it should not be uncomfortable in any way.

Re 4. Try dropping the seat 6mm as you say. If you feel smoother leave it there. If there is no difference perceptible in pedalling fluency under load, put it back up.

Re 5. That is a biggie with flexible women. As soon as you allow the low back to become concave you roll the pelvis forward and jam bits you would rather not into the seat. A lot of flexible women feel no back pain doing this, but experience genital discomfort. Core strength training is the solution. Ideally the low back should tend towards slightly convex for best comfort while riding on with hands in the drop bars.

Re 6. For the time being keep the bars at whatever height gives you best comfort until you are over your immediate issue. Once that's sorted out, then you can experiment with bar height. I am glad that you are making progress.

More on ride induced allergy attacks

[Bryan Scott's original question was asked and answered here.]

I don't get these symptoms playing any other sports and for the most part they are all nose related. I believe I've tried everything, Sudafed, Claritin D, Flonase (or similar), etc. Regardless the sneezing begins, the eyes start tearing and I'm out for the count.

Meanwhile, when I lie down everything calms down and I'm okay until I stand up again. I just don't get it.

Thanks again,

Bryan Scott

Kelby Bethards replies:

So, when you are riding, there are no troubles? When you stop your nose runs like crazy?

Ok, well I have two other ideas. I still think it may be allergy related or like I may have mentioned vascular (vasomotor rhinitis). Or at least related to exposure to allergens (pollens, dust, etc)

When you are breathing hard, you minute volume of air going through your airways increases (thus exposure to allergens). So, I am curious to find out, if you haven't done so, if saline sinus rinses help at all. Get one of the bottles at the pharmacy and the saline "kit" and hose out your nose right after your rides. This cleanses the nose and removes dust, pollen etc.

The other thing, that I already mentioned, is Aestelin nose spray. It is a nasal antihistamine. Tastes bad, but controls runny noses pretty well.

Let me know if you try these or have.

Shoulder operation/body position

I am 29 year old male from South Africa; I used to be an elite cyclist racing for a team in Belgium. I came down in a race, dislocating my right shoulder. The race doctor advised me that it was not too serious and that a biokinesis will be able to sort me out. I took it as not being so serious and carried on riding because it was the best form I ever had. The problem was that my shoulder kept dislocating and I only had the surgery a year after the crash.

About two weeks after the crash I rode a race and could not stay with the bunch that was racing at 30km/h. I had no power in my legs and I felt uncomfortable on the bike. After 2 years of struggling I quit my passion with a real sore heart. I could not get back into form.

The problems I experienced; it felt as if I was hanging to the right side, my left lower back, left glute, outer left hamstring runner down into my calf will pull tight, left lower back would be in pain after a ride; feels as if I am sitting on a bone on the left side which hurts after a ride.

This indicates to me that I am not sitting square on the saddle. One of the noticeable problems is that my right shoulder blade is slightly lower than my left shoulder. It also feels as if I am using my outer quad of my left leg more because I tend to lift my foot off the ball to the small toe when pedaling , indicating that I am not pedaling straight or my left leg is slightly longer in length.

I would like to get back into cycling. Can you offer me any advice on how to get my body position correct so that I can ride pain free? Thanks for a great forum.

Ronnard

Steve Hogg replies:

If you are indeed hanging to the right, which would explain all or most of what you relate as problems, then ideally you need to straighten your self up. Yoga, Pilates or any kind of bodywork will help and you could do worse than find a good structural health professional to assess you and plan a regime of self improvement. Once that is all done, and if you still have the same problems then have a look at "The Problem of Pelvic Symmetry".

Let me know how you get on.

Home trainer

My magnetic trainer seems to flatten my rear wheel.

Is this the set up or wrong tyre pressure

Darren

Scott Saifer replies:

Do you mean that the trainer causes air to leak out of the tires, or that the trainer drum presses into the tire?

The trainer drum is supposed to press into the tire about 1/8-1/4 inch (3-6 mm). It is not supposed to let the air out. If it is letting the air out, I'd have to know where it is coming out and how (bang or slow leak) and whether it has done so just once or repeatedly.

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