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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.
Singulair and EIA
Cleat position for track
Achilles and knee pain
High avg HR / Inconsistent race results
Pelvic Symmetry Solutions
Hips, flat feet, and tight knee
FSA K-force seatpost as sol'n to pelvic asymmetry
I live in an area that has lots of flat open roads, and as you can imagine, roadkill is a common sight in those areas. I work in a job field that places a high level of caution when handling airborn pathogens. This caution has lead me to inquire on the concerns one should have when passing roadkill. Can pathogens be transmitted from a two day old decaying carcass to a human who inhales while passing by? As many do I'm sure, I hold my breath if I can until I've passed, but on exerting rides this isn't practical or possible. Are my concerns valid?
Phil Newby, Indiana
Kelby Bethards replies:
Hmm, that’s an interesting question. I have not heard of any zoonotic infections (cross species) be “caught” by passing by some road kill. The reason I think it is improbable, is that it would require a certain amount of inoculum (bacterial/viral particles) to be concentrated right where you pass through. Any breeze or wind would quickly dissipate these.
I guess I don’t think the odds of acquiring an illness from road kill is unlikely unless you stop to pet it or there is a big pile of road kills in your path.
I think you are more likely to vomit on your handlebars and shoes from the odor.
Another panelist was nice enough to point out to me this important bit of info:
You may also want to stress that in some states (such as my previous residence in Tennessee) it's legal to harvest roadkill for consumption, and Philip could be passing by a tasty nugget of roadside goodness.
Steve Hogg adds:
I can't help but pass this on. A couple of years ago there was an item in the papers here. A German tourist with a history of mental problems that had gone missing 3 years prior and presumed dead. He had been found alive and reasonably healthy in the Queensland outback semi desert. How had he been surviving?
By eating the roadkill from the road trains ( a road train is a prime mover towing up to 6 trailers behind)
Singulair and exercise induced asthma
I was reading about allergies/EIA with interest, as it seems I have acquired EIA over the last few years, mainly in race situations, or extremely intense training situations. For instance, today I was working on 45 sec intervals, but was only able to complete 3 of them, because of the inability to breathe after each one, I think it was wearing my system down each time. I also had a mild episode during a race this past Sunday after a particularly hard counter-attack. (luckily I was able to hang on the back until I recovered once they caught me... waaah!)
When it first started happening, 2.5 years ago, my MD gave me an inhaler, but told me it was stress related, not really about the bike and exercise. So I didn't use the inhaler, because I didn't want to become dependant on something like that. However, the stress has been relieved, life is much better and I've had enough of these episodes now (and recently) that I want to do something about them.
When I go to my MD about this, is Singulair something that could help this? Anything else I should mention to him about EIA? Is there some other explaination for these symptoms that my MD should look into before prescribing an inhaler?
I have been taking Zyrtec and Flonase for 2 years for allergy relief, and that seems to work just fine as far as sinus stuff is concerned.
Kelby Bethards replies:
Well it seems that you may be getting EIA after all. I do take care of a cyclist or two that only get the symptoms at really intense work outs or races. They almost can’t get themselves to have an attack while riding alone or training.
The two things I have had recent luck with for those people are: Serevent inhaler (NOTE: not for rescue during an attack) using it ½ hr prior to workouts/races and Singulair. Singulair also helps with allergies by the way, so it may be a good route for you to go. Also, it may be that the Serevent is not necessary for you if the Singulair does the trick. A lot of MD’s aren’t using Singulair yet for EIA as it doesn’t have the “indication” from the FDA, but I’ve had luck with it with people, especially those with allergies.
Now, like I said, the Serevent doesn’t work for rescue, but hopefully prevents an attack, you should keep an Albuterol inhaler with you for rescue until you are certain you won’t have an attack.
Richard Stern adds:
Apologies to all as I've not been following this discussion, however, I just want to point out that if you're taking these (and many other medications, whether prescribed or not by your doctor) you'll need to lodge a Therapeutic Use Exemption certificate with your governing body. Otherwise there are likely to be issues if you are drug tested. (I don't know if this has already been mentioned).
Salmeterol, salbutamol, terbutaline, and formoterol are allowed by inhalation but only when you have a TUE.
Kelby Bethards adds:
Thanks for pointing that out. I did put that out there quite a long while ago, but you are right, it’s good to bring it up again.
For most local races and regional events, this usually is not something enforced or probably even thought about as drug tests aren’t performed. However, I have filled these out for cyclists to have on hand in case they are needed.
Richard Stern adds:
True, but given the diversity of the Cyclingnews audience, I suspect that there are quite a few cyclists who read this that are drug tested. Additionally, at least in some countries there can be random drug testing at local or regional races.
It would be horrific if an innocent user of (e.g.) salbutamol was caught at a local race by drug testers, simply because they didn't think they'd need a TUE because they thought they'd never be tested. I'm sure it's already happened.
Cleat position for track
Steve - Do you still recommend positioning the ball of your foot forward of the center of the pedal on a track bike?
More specifically for a pursuit shoe / bike set up?
Steve Hogg replies:
Yes I do though the amount can vary compared to a road bike. A track bike is different because there is little requirement for high torque, low cadence seated pedalling ( no hills) and because of the need for quick standing starts. On a standing start, the rider is over the bottom bracket and much further forward than when seated. This means that there is a larger dead spot in the pedal stroke either side of top and bottom dead centre than than when on the seat.
This in turn means that not only is force on the down stroke necessary but also the ability to lift the heel of the foot at the bottom of the stroke forcefully just after bottom dead centre. This will aid the top foot in getting over top dead centre as quickly as possible. If the cleat is too far back, then ankle movement and the ability to lift the heel like this is compromised to some degree.
People vary. Some pursuiters find that they can do this quite adequately with the cleat position I would prescribe for the road. But a sizeable number perform better in standing starts with the cleats slightly further forward ( 1 - 3mm) than the posted recommendations in standing starts. So experiment a bit is the answer.
The other thing is that pursuiting is generally more about higher rpm pedalling than road riding. Once the bike is up to speed, the forward momentum of the bike and the fixed drive system mean that momentum carries the rider through dead spots in the pedal stroke. This in turn means that a lot of things can be got away with in a positional sense that would not be nearly as effective on the road with a freewheeling drive system.
Achilles and knee pain
I'm a 30 yo male and I've been riding a bike (road) for about 1 year now, I raced some crits (D-C grade) over the summer in Melbourne. I recently upgraded to a new bike frame and took most of the measurements across from the old bike to the new (saddle height, saddle to bar drop, saddle setback etc). I typically ride about 150-250kms a week and according to my computer, average cadence for my rides is normally around 92-97.
About 2 weeks after getting the new bike, I started to notice some irritation around my Achilles tendon, left leg only - feels like the lateral side, inline, or just above the lateral malleolus. It seemed to be connected with some minor discomfort in the back of the knee, located in a medial posterior area.
After another week or 2 of this irritation and searching your site quite a bit, I decided to try moving the cleat position of my left shoe slightly (about 3mm) back. I went on one quite long ride after this, however the pain seemed much more amplified. I decided not to leave the cleat in that position because of the increase in pain. I am hesitant to move the cleat further forward, as they feel quite forward at the moment according to Steve Hogg's formula for fitting them.
After the moving the cleat back to its original position, I tried moving the saddle forward slightly (about 4-5mm), but didn't adjust seat height yet. The 'test ride' in this position was only 2 days after the painful one. There was a lot less irritation there, however some discomfort still remained. I had a week off the bike, thinking it might be a good time to let any inflammation die down. Having gone for another ride in this same, seat forward position, the discomfort has returned. On the second ride, I think I noticed a tendency to have ride sometimes with a "heel down" position, even on the upstroke with my left leg, and was wondering about raising the saddle slightly to compensate.
Sorry for the long post, however I wanted to give you as much information as possible. I guess in summary, the pain is only in my left leg, it seems to be in the Achilles tendon or the knee, rarely both at the same time. My left calf does seem to be quite tight - a massage does it wonders. The pain only seems to be there when I'm riding the bike, or happen to be walking on stairs just after riding, its not apparent when walking, running, nor is there any sign of swelling, discoloration etc.
Steve Hogg replies:
Every thing you say is indicative of the left leg reaching further than it likes. That is why moving the cleat back on the shoe made things worse as that caused a greater extension of the left leg. Equally, that at least partly accounts for why moving the seat forward partly alleviated the problem because that reduced the reach to the pedals.
As a start, drop your seat 5 - 8 mm, move the cleat to where you think it should be and reassess. Then get back to me about whether your feel like each leg is more evenly loaded.
I have a question related to problems that might be caused by a rider having strabismus (crossed-eyes). In my case, I was born with severe strabismus that was corrected by surgery when I was an infant. As an adult, I do have some drift of my right eye (hypertropia or drifting up). My riding partners all comment about how I ride with my head tilted to the right. I believe this is caused by my eye condition. Here is the question: Because I ride with my head tilted to the right, can this cause neck pain? Have you ever heard of riders with this condition having neck problems? What can I do about it? Thanks.
Kelby Bethards replies:
So, you have an interesting question. Since your strabismus is not the typical mis-alignment, it is possible that you are tilting your head to compensate.
IF your right eye is hypertropic and drifts up, you may be trying to 'level' your pupils by tilting your head. This leads me to the question, do you need to tilt your head to feel comfortable or to get the visual input you need?
For example, I have a lot of friends and know many riders that tilt their head to one side or the other while riding. (I think the old training book by Eddy B, former nation coach, even recommended it). So, have you tried to consciously straighten your head while riding or does this give you funky visual input?
Also, which side of your neck hurts from this? If it's both sides, it may actually be a bike position problem more so that the way you are holding your head, unless your right ear is touching your shoulder while riding or something that extreme.
Solutions: This is the tough part. Either your fit (help, Steve Hogg, help!) or the way you are holding your head needs altering. Or you may need to see your ophthalmologist and see if any further correction can be performed in your eye alignment.
Thanks for your reply. I believe the tilt is to get the visual input that I need. If I try to level my head, I get a strange off-balance feeling. The only thing I can say is try riding your bike with your head tilted to one side. That's what it's like. My neck hurts mostly on the left side below and behind my ear. Although it hurts all over sometimes, it is almost always in that location.
Kelby Bethards adds:
You may want to get your bike position checked out. If you are very far leaned forward it will cause you to tilt your head more to level your pupils. A more upright (like those little climbers) position may be such that the strain on your neck isn't painful. I would have expected the pain to be on the other side of your neck since you are tightening those muscles more so than the left.
You may want to try some stretches for your neck also.
Dave Fleckenstein adds:
The short answer to your question is yes - your strabismus is most likely the source of your neck pain. A very important function of our neck is to allow a level field of vision, and if your eye height is unequal, the spine will compensate through a combination of rotating and side bending to make them level. The joints in the spine have a maximum range of motion and often cyclists develop problems because their cycling alignment forces some of their cervical spine into maximum extension. To use our elbow as an analogy, straighten your elbow fully, them push it even straighter - not very comfortable, eh? This is essentially what some riders to the joints (facets) in their neck for hours on end. When we place the added stress of having to level your eyes into the equation, those joints (and ligaments, musculature, etc...) are being overwhelmed.
I would definitely recommend a less aggressive position that will place less stress on the spine. I would also recommend having a P.T. or chiropractor evaluate your cervical spine to establish a program to offset the alignment that you are accumulating. I have personally found manipulation to be particularly effective in initially treating this, followed by a flexibility/stabilization program to allow you to minimize any cumulative stresses of the position
To see a real life example of this type of restriction - watch Paco Mancebo riding during the Tour. He has atrocious cervical and thoracic postures, but manages to get the job done quite well.
By "less aggressive position," do you mean a shorter stem? More upright? Thanks.
Dave Fleckenstein replies:
Not as "aero" or flexed forward. The more that horizontal that your torso is, the more your neck has to backward bend for you to see the road. This forces the joint into its maximal range even without the addtional stress that your compensations would add.
I would look at a combination of both shortening or raising the stem depending on your position. I would make this change slowly, particularly if you are riding frequently. This is definitely where Steve can add some insight.
I am a 33 year old male who began biking in the last several months, I ride a Specialized Allez Elite bike with Look clipless pedals. I have always been a good endurance athlete with agility. I was a D-1 football player and have been a runner most of my life culminating in finishing the 2003 NY Marathon. I took up biking due to nagging IT band problems, plantar fascia problems, etc. and decided to become a biker to save my body.
Anyway, I live in Central Pennsylvania in a very hilly area of the state. I have worked up to riding 4-5 days a week, averaging 1-2 hours per ride. I decided two weeks ago to go on a 3 hour plus ride and half way through this, I began to feel a sharp pain on my left side underneath my left testicle but more towards the point where my groin comes up to my pelvis. Almost feels like hamstring even though it could also be groin. Anyway, I had to finish but was very very tight and painful and worried I was going to rip something so coasted on and off in to the end.
I rested several days and iced the area and it seemed to go away so I began riding again but never as long as that ride. Every time I ride now, especially up any sort of hill and on the downstroke I feel this pain underneath the left side which progressively gets worse at the end of the ride but then seems to go away within a day or two prompting me to ride again.
I am frustrated that this won't go away and am wondering if it is irritation from poor pedaling technique as I definitely feel myself putting force on the downstroke on the left side and I was Serotta Fitted on my bike by a professional in town who did note that my left leg seems to flare out when I ride which may be putting pressure on my groin/hamstring. Anyway I needed some advice on this and wondered if you had heard of anything similar in novice riders? Thanks.
Andrew M. Joyner
Steve Hogg replies:
I have seen similar instances and in my limited experience of the problem you describe, all either hung to the right on the seat which dragged the left side of the groin across the seat. Or alternately, the rider had a rotation of the sacrum with the left ilium externally rotated and the right ilium internally rotated or similar.
Two things I would suggest; firstly to see a good physio and find out how you function pelvically and if there are any noticeable asymmetries of function or alignment and secondly that you have a friend observe you while you are on a trainer and see whether you hang to one side.
Let me know what you find.
High avg HR / Inconsistent race results
I am a CAT 3, 27 years old , 5'10 155 lb and I come from a D1 swimming background so I have been competing competitively and some form or another all my life at endurance events.
My question relates to excessively high avg HR during races. This season, my form has been increasingly sporadic, one race I will be top 3 (RR) and the next RR I will get dropped (similar courses and field talent). I have looked at my HR files from the races and it appears that in all these races, even during descents, my HR fails to drop. This leaves me with an average HR over the course of 3-4 hours around 185 bpm, which is above my VT2. I have validated my HR monitor to make sure it wasn't mechanical error.
What appears is that during some races, once my HR crosses VT2, it never fails to come down. Almost like the accelerator is stuck. On a recent race, I gave one effort on a climb that lasted for around 7 minutes where my HR was 190. However, after the climb there is a freewheel descent and then just rolling flats. During this time I made sure to check my HR and even after 20 minutes my HR was still hovering at 180 even though my perceived rate of exertion was fairly low (I would say a 5 on a 10 point scale).
I am trying to pinpoint some causes to this (however difficult that may be) and wanted to see if there was any literature out that may point me in the right direction (i.e. diet, dehydration, over trained, sickness, etc.). I was diagnosed in college with exercise induced asthma but, at least initially, I don't think that this is related as I haven't had trouble breathing. I am sure this question is utterly impossible to answer, so I am more looking at a few areas that I could research. Thanks for your help. I, along with all the amateurs on this forum I am sure, really a appreciate the group's expertise and time in answering our questions.
Scott Saifer replies:
I'm not sure what you mean by validating your heart rate monitor. If you mean that you checked your pulse at your throat or wrist during one of these episodes, we can assume that your heart rate is really staying high and not dropping. What you are describing in not a typical symptom of overtraining, dehydration or any common infectious illness I can think of.
What you are describing is called tachycardia: heart rate too high for the current oxygen demand. There are several possible causes. Are the episodes associated with anxiety? You could be having panic attacks. The other area of possibilities is an actual heart problem. Since heart problems are potentially very serious, I'd suggest you get checked out by a physician, preferably with an exercise stress test. Please tell us what the doc says.
Pelvic Symmetry Solutions
In Steve Hogg's article, The Problem of Pelvic Symmetry, he speaks of a solution to pelvic symmetry was improving flexibility and core strength. However there is no mention of specific exercises and stretches to target to do this. Mr. Hogg, if you could outline a plan to follow in order to correct this problem I believe it would be helpful to everyone.
Steve Hogg replies:
Pelvic asymmetries have a host of possible causes from accidents of birth and development to the results of trauma. That means that there is no single solution. I make the blanket recommendation to every rider that they stretch and improve their core strength because too many neglect structure and function and spend their limited time only training their motor, not the body they house it in.
Other than that, as a non health professional on a panel including health professionals, I don't want to stray into recommending courses of action that would be better done by those better qualified to do it. Perhaps you need to address this to Dave or Kelby.
Hips, flat feet, and tight knee
Background: I am 34 and been racing for almost 17 years and never really had bike fit issues. Last year I crashed hard and ruined my frame. Differences in top tube and angle (73.25 to 74 degree) were handled with a different seat post and a different stem. The problem started with the cranks. I went from the old Dura-Ace low profile to the new 10 speed cranks. I found my ankle hit the crank on the 10 speed. Couple this with new Time pedals going from the old style Time Equip, I decided on a professional fitting.
For my whole life, my right foot has had a pretty pronounced pronation. I have orthotics in my street shoes. I have good flexibility from doing yoga for the last three years. My team is sponsored by a chiropractor and I have needed more than normal adjustments to my hips since the fitting. Before the fitting I only needed periodic adjustment and it was always to my right hip which mostly would get tilted up. I also needed to stretch my gluteus more than normal; I have since learned these were likely side effects from my right foot pronation that I had been riding with for all these years.
The bike fitting involved inserting some foot beds into my Sidi Genius shoes and the use of LeMond wedges. Two on the right foot to correct the pronation and two on the left side to make my knee track perfectly straight. This was a major change and I put some miles in knowing it was going to take some getting used to. I soon found myself with chronic foot pain across the top of my feet and across my ankles. I was constantly asking my wife to please twist and "crack" my feet to relive the pressure - more on my right side. I also found myself walking on the outer edge of my left foot and had numbness in my right leg. My chiropractor recommended removing the wedges since I never had foot problems before. This relived the foot pain but then my pronation returned. The foot beds seem to provide enough support to prevent my ankle from hitting the crank but I found my knee falling in (like it always has) and I suppose you are not surprised to find I had IT band issues within two rides. I also experienced pain on the underside of my right foot. I was diagnosed with a strain of my hip flexors and IT band but by the time I was able to see a PT it cleared up but the PT found my right gluteus medius and minimus are really weak - I imagine from all the years of having my right knee fall in. I am currently doing exercises to correct this. In the meantime, I am still having major problems with my bike fit on my right side.
As soon as I got the IT band issues, I put one wedge back on the right side and my chiropractor added small heel wedge which at the time stabilized my foot and relieved the IT band. Now several weeks latter, I am experiencing tightness in my right knee, some right foot discomfort, and right hip tightness/discomfort.
Steve Hogg often asks the following so I figured I would address them right away. Note this is with one LeMond wedge and heel wedge on my right foot.
1.. My right leg feels more powerful then my left but does not seem as smooth.
2.. I am attempting to verify this, but I believe that my right thigh is slightly closer to the seat post then my left.
Any recommendations would be appreciated. I am leaning toward in addition to my pronation, a leg length issue. Thank you in advance for your help.
Steve Hogg replies:
Thanks for the detailed info. Is it possible to have an x ray or scan to definitively determine leg lengths on each side?
Everything you say implies left / right assymetries but in an effort to advise, it would help a lot if you knew whether differing limb length plays a part in this or whether it is functional.
Do you have record of your old position?
As you imply that the only real changes were to cranks and pedals. Is this correct?
If you were using the older profile Dura Ace cranks with low Q and the old Time pedals ( large roughly triangular high Q) and have changed to the current (high Q) Dura Ace cranks with the current (low Q) Time pedals I would have thought that the equipment differences would have largely cancelled each other out. Except for one thing.
Your older Time pedals not only had plenty of rotational movement but also lateral movement which the current ones either don't have or to only a limited degree.
Do you still have your old pedals?
If you get back to me with those answers, I will attempt to advise.
Thank you for getting back to me, I am sure I speak for many cyclists when I say thanks for all the advice over the years in various articles and columns. In writing you, it allowed me to step through the fitting and adjustment sequence I have gone through. It became clear to me that the problem started with the wedges under the cleats.
To address your questions: I have a record of my old position - I still have my old crashed bike hanging in the basement with the old pedals. I am on a new frame but the major changes were the cranks and pedals. I thought about trying my old pedals but Time does not make them anymore so it seemed like a relative short term fix until I wore the cleats out. Thanks for the discussion on Q-factor and I agree it looks like pedals and cranks cancel each other out.
Since I wrote you, I had a fitting with my chiropractor. The results indicate I do sit square on the saddle and both my legs are equidistant from the seat post. I do not drop a hip. I assume that a leg length discrepancy would show itself through one leg being closer to the seat post then the other or not sitting square on the saddle? If not, my chiropractor will take x-rays if you thinks it prudent.
What my chiropractor did was remove the last wedge from under my right cleat and increased the size of the wedge in my right heel. The heel wedge stabilized my heel in the shoe and prevented my foot from pronating. I then raced a criterium that night (I know not the smartest thing) and everything felt awesome. My legs felt more supple and I could spin. Overnight, my knee pain was gone, my right hip felt "loose", and my foot pain was gone. The next day I went on an 140k zone 1/2 ride and everything felt even better. My right knee tracks fairly straight and my foot does not pronate and thus does not hit the crank. I have some muscle soreness but not localized quad soreness like before. It feels like I am using my hamstrings more again which likely accounts for the better spin and smoother pedaling. My right leg also no longer feels stronger.
In the opinion of my chiropractor, it is best to address the flat feet issue at the heel and not the ball of the foot. This definitely appears to be the case for me. Frankly, I am amazed at how many problems were created by some small wedges under my cleat. Given the last few days of riding I think I have resolved my issue - I will need to ride more to be sure. Also, so others may avoid the problems I have had, perhaps some discussion on wedging at the cleat or heel is warranted. I am not going to argue with success but I do not completely understand why this worked. My theory is that the wedge at the cleat created a force on the knee. As an example, just role your foot to the outside edge and you may feel a slight pull on the knee. Overtime, this problem also moved into my hips and then back. The pain in my foot was created by putting pressure down with each pedal stroke and effectively twisting the foot at the ankle ever so slightly due to the angle created by the wedge at the cleat. I suppose the use of wedges at the cleat arose since most force is transferred through the ball of the foot while pedaling but perhaps this is a false assumption since as you have pointed out in a previous article, stiff cycling shoes make the foot more comfortable. Should we be looking more to the heel to correct pronation problems? The only other solution I can think of is to wedge at my arch inside the shoe but the heel is where most orthotics do it.
Steve Hogg replies:
I think that you had better hang onto your chiro as he sounds like a good one. I am glad that you got a result and from what you say, I wouldn't bother with the X ray. If you are sitting squarely, a functionally more or less similar on each side and both legs extend to much the same degree, then you don't appear to have a problem.
Re the heel wedge vs forefoot Lemond style wedge. I have seen this before. What I suspect has happened with you is pretty much what you think. The ankle pronates but the correction was made at the forefoot. You mention that the right foot is flat. Flat feet are generally flexible feet. This means that the forefoot wedging without a heel wedge put a torsional stress into the mid foot and that sounds like the cause of your problems.
A forefoot Lemond style wedge can still work well for many pronators providing that they have a more rigid foot than you have. There is no hard and fast rule but I generally think that if the ankle rolls in substantially, then it is safer to try a heel wedge and reassess as necessary. Often the best solution may not be the immediately apparent one. When I am in doubt about which way to go with a client, I try what I think is likely and modify as necessary. The cues are that there should be no pain, though small short term niggles aren't necessarily a bad sign. The other thing is that if the solution is the right one, or heading in the right direction, most clients will feel an immediate improvement in stability of foot on pedal and bum on seat.
It is not that common to find health professionals with a good insight into bike related problems, so as I said before, hang onto that chiropractor!
FSA K-force seatpost as sol'n to pelvic asymmetry
Thanks for the clarification.
I just discovered your fitness forum on CyclingNews.com and have read thru much of the last year or two. Great stuff!
Rather than any one race, I have set my main season goal as getting myself as comfortable, efficient, and powerful on the bike as possible. I would appreciate you considering my case and giving me any insight you can.
I am a 42 y.o. USCF Cat 3 crit racer and newbie track racer (what fun!). Height = 183.6 cm, Weight = 87 kg, Inseam = 84.2 cm. Carnac Quartz = 44.5 Current saddle height = 75.8 cm (center of crank bolt to top of saddle measured along seat tube).
I have good core strength and hamstring flexibility (palms flat on floor easily), but somewhat tight ITBs. Long history of lower back soreness while riding and in daily life, including herniated discs in 2001 (S1/L5, L4/L5 - no surgery, phys. therapy resolved acute pain, I do daily "press-ups" for rearward back mobility - similar to yoga Cobra position).
I have for years had a pronounced right heel wiggle using Speedplay X pedals. This quickly wears out the cleat springs (and pedals!), leading to side-to-side foot rocking and achilles tendon soreness. I also have felt my left and right halves "fighting" each other.
This Spring I have been videoing myself on a trainer to improve my positioning and found that both knees tracked outward on the upstroke, with the right flicking inward on the downstroke, producing the heel wiggle. The video also revealed a rather violent hip and lower back rocking: the right side dropping and returning to level on each pedal stroke -- no wonder my back hurts when I hammer! From the rear I appear to sit on the saddle shifted to the right. My shorts show wear spots on both sides of crotch (meaty thighs), but the right side is forward of the left, which indicates my right hip is rotating forward, right? And while riding I find the same is true: it feels like my right sit bone is out of place, i.e. not on the meat of the saddle like the left sit bone. Since discovering this, I try scooch my right hip back to sit more squarely on the saddle, which feels weird now but I hope will become natural eventually. Or will I always sit cock-eyed? I found your left-brain-engaged-by-cycling article quite insightful.
I did my best to measure leg lengths and found at most a 5 mm difference (right leg shorter, mostly in the lower leg). Using the Lemond Fitness varus measuring device, we found minor right foot varus and left valgus, both small enough require only 0-1 wedges.
Despite appearing to not have significant varus/valgus, in an attempt to even my knees WRT the top tube (right knee closer on downstroke), I experimented with varying LeMond Wedges left and right, plus shims for my shorter right leg. The wedges would seem to feel better immediately, but over a few rides felt less stable during harder efforts. I eventually removed the wedges and now have only 3mm of shim on right cleat, nothing on left side.
During this time I was raising my saddle to stop my knees' outward movement on the upstroke - additionally, side-view videoing showed that my max. leg extension was 40-42 degrees instead of the 32+/- degrees recommended by Pruitt and others. To get under 35 deg, I have raised my saddle (gradually over time) from 75.0 cm to 75.8 cm and may go several mm's higher if no problems arise.
Once I believed the right foot wiggle had lessened, I bought a pair of Speedplay Zero pedals. I started with the float as open as possible and have gradually tightened it down, allowing for my slight toe-out stance. My goal is to use reduced float to restrain the remaining wiggle. Is this a bad idea?
After reading your articles on rearward cleat placement WRT first metatarsal, I checked mine and moved the cleats back 3 mm on the shoe so the first metatarsal is 10 mm ahead of the pedal spindle with cranks level and heel level with pedal to the ground (video shows that is my actual foot position under load). My feet immediately felt more solidly connected to the pedals!! It has only been the one ride, so I hope the new cleat position proves out over time.
WRT my foot position with cranks level: Is heel parallel with pedal okay, or sign of a position error such as saddle too far back? By heel parallel to pedal I mean the rear half of my Carnac is parallel to the ground and the plane of the cleat is nose-up quite a bit.
To summarize after all the gyrations, I have raised my saddle 8 mm to 75.8 cm, put a 3 mm shim under right shoe, and set cleat fore-aft per your recommendation. And I am trying to keep my sit bones feeling symmetrical on the saddle.
Am I on track or just flailing uselessly? Any thoughts you have would be most appreciated.
Steve Hogg replies:
It is good to hear from someone with problems who has taken a thoughtful and methodical approach to diagnosing and solving them. A couple of observations: From your self description of your pedalling style, you are probably much tighter than you should be in and around the hips and lower back. Find a yoga or pilates class with a good teacher who has experience with clients with compromised low back function. Any time you put into this will be repaid with interest in improvements in how you feel and perform on a bike. Better function and symmetry off bike can only mean the same on bike. I think we need to get our structures adequately ( adequately means above average but only because the average is poor) functioning before we can even look like performing to potential on a bike.
Your seat height seems to be towards the high normal range for your leg length and foot size but that doesn't mean that you are wrong. If you feel more stable and powerful with no loss in control or stability on the seat then it is fine. If in doubt experiment a bit as even 3mm too high will exaggerate any tendency to favour one side, in your case the right. I would recommend that you get the appropriate offset FSA post with Data Head. This will allow you to move your seat laterally to the left but bring your butt back to the centreline or closer to the centre line.
Brains are could at doing what the parameters of position we set ourselves dictate. If we hang off centre as you do, we become good at it but this only serves to perpetuate or exaggerate the asymmetries. If the seat is to the left of the centre line and this makes your body more centred, then it can only be a good thing.
The outward tracking of the knees on the upstroke indicates that the external rotators of the hip are probably a lot tighter than they should be. So something to work on there. Be a bit careful with reducing the freeplay on the right cleat to control the 'wiggle'. By doing this it is possible to shift load elsewhere, possibly to the knee which won't to you any favours.
Basically, you need to do two things. Get hold of the appropriate FSA seat post, grind off the two small pins on the upper half of the seat rail clamp and then clean up the grooves with the edge of a file. This will allow you 12 - 13mm of lateral offset securely. Use the lot. If you make progress with stretching and functional symmetry down the track, then the clamp can be moved back to the centre line at some stage in the future.
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