Fitness questions and answers for March 21, 2005

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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.

Shoulder surgery
Bunions and cycling
Upper calf pain
Pedaling question
Achilles Pain
High heart rate while riding in tropical countries
AT LT VT clarification
Estimating power output
The age old Crank length issue
Saddle boils
Cholesterol?

Shoulder surgery

I am a 55 male who has cycled for pleasure for about the last 25 years or so. Nothing competitive, just organised rides 3-4 times per year (50-75 miles) plus regular riding during Spring, Summer and Fall, mostly on weekends, but a little during the week as well when time permits. In Feb 2004 I came down with adhesive capsulitis ("frozen shoulder") in my right shoulder. I had the same thing in 2000 in my left shoulder which I was able to overcome with physical therapy. However, physical therapy did not work in 2004 and I finally had to have surgery (subacromial decompression) in June 2004. Healing took a long time such that I did not cycle at all that year. After my surgery, the surgeon said that I had arthritis and some loss of cartilege in the shoulder. My shoulder has regained about 75% of its range of motion but still hurts to a small extent all the time and is "not right" when I have tried to cycle a few times in 2005 - short distances - but it causes enough discomfort that it basically prohibits me from riding.

I have two questions for any doctors or trainers with any knowledge of adhesive capsulitis, subacromial decompression (and post-surgery prognosis):

1) Could the years of cycling have caused the arthritis and/or cartilage loss in the shoulder (from the constant leaning over)?
2) Will I ever be able to cycle again? I love no other sport like cycling but I think I have lost it forever.

Tom Atherholt

Moorestown, NJ, USA

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Tom,

There are a number of measures necessary to varying degrees to resolve your problem; i.e. being able to cycle more or less pain free. Firstly there is the need to position your seat far enough back so that you are bearing the majority of your weight on your sit bones and consequently unloading the upper body. There are a large number of posts regarding the general approach to this in the archives over the last eight months or so and it would potentially be of benefit for you to have a look.

Next, there is the issue of bar height. You sound like you are never going to be 'as new' in the shoulder department again. Don't be scared to have your bars higher than some of your competitive friends. You are the one with the damaged shoulder and the first priority is to set yourself in a position that allows this. If this means high bars in the short or even long term, it is better than not riding at all or doing further damage.

Lastly, there is the asymmetry issue. Given that the affected shoulder has a lesser range of movement than the good one, you are likely to not be able to reach as far out or far down to the bars on that side. Find yourself an electrical supplies type business and buy yourself a metre or so of flexible plastic conduit about 20 mm in diameter. Also source some heat shrink tape. Once you feel like you have your seat and bars in more or less the right relative placement, but perhaps still have discomfort on the bad shoulder side, remove your bartape on that side and move your brake lever high enough to be a comfortable reach. Then tape the conduit on the inner surface of the drop portion of the bar on that side and also on the upper rear surface of the bar between brake lever and stem. Wrap the conduit securely with the shrink wrap tape and apply heat via a heat gun. This will make the conduit secure on the handle bar. Once done, retape that side of the bars and you will have to reach approximately 22 - 25mm less on that side to the bars which will take further pressure off the limited range of movement of the sore shoulder.
I have seen a few people similarly afflicted and there is always a way. I hope this info helps.

Bunions and cycling

Firstly, some background on me - I'm a 41 year old male, 6 feet tall and weigh about 165lbs. I've been road racing/riding for about 10 years now. No chronic pains, just some typical on and off stuff. Only issue that I really have are numb toes some times. I have really bad knees from years of soccer and general youth sports. I use Look pedals with Sidi shoes (with sole inserts in them).

About a year ago I had a bike fitting and they suggested that I widen my Q factor due to my bow legs. I am quite bow legged…I got a pair of the Look CX6 pedal so that I could play around with my Q-factor as suggested. In general I've been pretty happy with the wider Q suggested - I'm getting a little more power and in general feel stronger in TT type efforts. I think it's helped me get a little more out of each pedal stroke.

Now to the issue that has recently popped up. I have bunions on both feet. It runs in my family, and most of my brothers and sisters have the same thing. They never used to really bother me, but lately I've found it somewhat painful. I was curious to know your thoughts are about bunions and cycling. Could the recent wider Q factor have something to do with it? It seems like it might if my foot was now at an angle to the pedal which is causing more pressure on the inside of my foot versus across the whole ball of my foot. I wouldn't swear to it, but I think while my left bunion is getting worse while my right one seems to be getting better. So maybe the Q factor helped on one side but caused a problem on the other. Would the Lemond wedges be worth a try to correct the foot pedal angle? I've tried to adjust the cleat forwards and backwards using the tips you've posted here in the past to address my numb toes and it didn't seem to make much difference in the bunion pain, but like I said it is a recent thing and I've not tired to much to address it. Just looking for some things to try in bike set up, equipment changes or preventive off the bike work - thanks.

Mike Steeves

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Mike,

This is a cute one. The increased severity of bunion pain on one side and the lessening of it on the other side after moving your feet further apart means that it is likely that the combination of wider pedal 'stance' for want of a better term is the problem. Here are a couple of suggestions:

1. On the side that is more painful, move the pedal of your CX-6's back halfway from where they are now to where they came out of the box; i.e. as far in as possible. This is likely to have a positive effect. If so, great, and you can work on fine tuning the exact distance out from minimum that the pedal needs to be. If doing this makes the problem worse, which is not likely but possible, then the foot needs to move further out. If there is no more adjustment left, this can be done by fitting a 2-3 mm washer on the pedal axle between it and the crank arm.

2. The next thing that occurs is that the combination of wider 'stance' and shoe inserts may not be ideal. This is particularly likely if you are using a generic orthotic type insole rather than prescribed ones. Get some Lemond wedges and starting with one fit it thick side to the outside of the shoe. This is contrary to the advice generally given, but my guess is that your forefoot wants to roll in more than it currently can and this will help. If this helps but not enough, try another and so on. Now while I think that this is the most likely occurence, I am happy to be wrong. So if fitting the wedge as described makes the situation worse, reverse it so the thick side is to the inside of the shoe and near the crank arm.
Yours is an interesting and uncommon problem. I would be happy to hear how you get on.

Upper calf pain

My problem is I cannot raise my seat to the height that it should be. Every bike fitter I've ever seen instantly wants to raise my seat 30-40mm.

The higher position "feels right" and results in a measured 15-20Watt increase in power. The problem is my right calve rejects the higher position. The dull pain/strain is located about 70mm below my knee, at about the top of the muscle belly. If you were to sight down my lower leg and consider my foot to be at 12 o'clock, the pain is at the 7 to 8 o'clock position (right calf).

The pain is worse when seated and/or pedaling heel-down. The pain is not felt when out of the saddle and much less if I consciously pedal toe-down. I must also mention, my right foot naturally wants to rotate outward (by 10mm measured at the heel.) I compensate by rotating my Look cleat inward.

After my bike fitting, it was discovered my right leg is 6mm longer than the left. A shim was added to the left shoe to compensate. I had custom footbeds made. I am told I pedal toe down on the left, and heel down on the right. Years of compensating for the longer right leg I'm sure.

I'm getting frustrated because I know there's a lot more power to be had. What do you suggest? I have good flexibility and stretch after every ride. The only thing I really haven't played with is pedal Q-factor. If my foot externally rotates by 10mm, it would seem to me I would want to move the pedal away from the crank by 10mm. But that's making the assumption the pedal is at the correct location for a neutral foot rotation in the first place. Any advice would be of help -
Thanks.

Jim Breen

Boston, Massachusetts

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Jim,

Good question, and thankyou for including all the relevant info. Bear with me while I give you some background. What is likely to be happening is this - a long right leg typically leads to an externally rotated right hip. Years of walking/running while exerting more leverage on the long legged side [longer lever] causes the right ilium [side of the pelvis] to tip forward at the iliac crest [top of the ilium]. This movement pivots on the sacro-iliac joint. For every 5mm the iliac crest moves forward in relation to the left side, the right hip will move up and back approximately 3mm as the hip joint is below the centre of the ilium.

This leaves you with a right hip that is behind the left and a right sit bone that is behind the left. The only way you will feel even standing up or sitting on a bike seat is to rotate to the right to square up your hips and equalise the pressure on your sitbones. The natural compensation for this to maintain balance walking or pedalling is to externally rotate the hip. This is what causes your right foot to move in at the heel and splay outward at the fore foot on the pedal.

What has this got to do with your problem?

A lot - I will bet that your right side is tighter in the hamstrings and hip flexors and calves. This is a consequence of the partial or total inhibition of your glute that often happens on the externally rotated side. All of the postural muscles on that side from the hip downwards have to work harder as a compensatory measure for the asymmetry of posture. Now you mention an asymmetrical pedalling style with the right leg being the heel dropping side and the left leg being the toe dipping side. The heel dropping technique on the right side causes the gastrocnemius and soleus [major calf muscles] to work hard as not only are they plantar flexing the foot at some point towards the bottom of the stroke but in concert with the hammies are working eccentrically to help extend the knee. In contrast, on the other side your toe dipping technique places less pressure on the calf in general.

So I think the root cause of your problem is a tighter right leg working harder in a particular way. The higher your seat height, the greater the strain placed on tight muscles already working too hard. As an aside you may need to consider a right shoe cleat placement slightly further back relative to foot in shoe than on the left because of your habitually asymmetric foot angle when pedalling under load.
The other thing that is likely is that your custom footbeds may, and I say may be overprescribed on the right side. This is likely because of the lateral location of the pain but I cannot be sure of this. It would be worth getting some Lemond wedges and stacking two underneath your right cleat with the thick edge to the outside of the shoe sole. This will have the effect of lessening the amount of eversion in your footbeds. Try this, you will notice a difference quickly. If it is less pain then you are on the right track. If, and it is possible, this makes the problem worse then reverse the wedges and place the thick edge to the inside.

In your shoes I would make stretching my other sport. You don't need to spend as much time stretching as you do riding but it should have a higher priority than riding. By this I mean that if because of time pressures you are faced with the choice from time to time between stretching and riding, miss the ride and do the stretching. Get hold of a copy of 'Stretching and Flexibility' by Kit Laughlin. It is as good a self help manual as you will find.
Once you start to improve your flexibility, symmetry and function, by all means start to creep the seat up. Don't think that there is any goal to achieve in the sense of a measurement that you must achieve. The ideal seat height is the one where you can function efficiently while remaining pain and injury free. Best of luck.

Pedaling question

I am a relative newcomer to cycling, and I have a pedal stroke question. When I watch racing on TV, it appears as if there is an inward slant to the racers' knees towards the middle of the bike when they pedal. When I am on my bike, my knees seem to be exactly perpendicular to the ground and my pedal stroke seems to be exactly up and down. Is there something with the fit of my bike that is wrong, or perhaps a problem with my pedaling stroke? Thanks for any information you can offer.

MC

Pennsylvania

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day MC,

Keep pedaling, and don't worry about it as you don't have a problem. If your knees track straight up and down without deviation, many
people who enquire about knee problems with this forum would be envious of you. Don't emulate the pros, be MC.

Achilles Pain

I have just purchased a new bike with standard geometry, which I was professionally fitted for. Previously I rode a compact geometry frame for a number of years, and have been riding 300 a week for a while with no issues at all. I have had the bike for 2 weeks and have done about 500k's. However, ever since the first ride, I have experienced achilles pain on my right leg. Hills and high cadence seem to worsen the situation. By way of history, I broke the tibia on this leg 5 years ago. It doesn't have the same range of movement, and my wife (a physio) measured it and reckons it's a little shorter than my left leg. I am training for the L'etape du tour in July and cannot afford to blow my achilles up (and end up with crepitis). I have had the following recommended by the Bike Physio (in the absence of a full bike position and fit assessment): a) Lower the seat 1mm and b) get some extra insole material and insert it under the insole in the right shoe (to lengthen the leg etc). Do you have any other suggestions that may help in the very short term.

Andrew Cowlishaw

Glen Waverley, Victoria, Australia

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Andrew,

It appears that your problem dates immediately from your using your new bike in what you infer was a new position. What changed?
Seat height, shoes or cleat position?
I would lower your seat 5 mm as an interim measure and position your cleat as suggested in the July 26 posting and the October 11 posting on the subject. Let me know whether this has a positive effect and we can go from there.

High heart rate while riding in tropical countries

Hi there!

I am a 32 year old male, riding about 8,000 - 10,000 km/year, sometimes 15,000 such as during the year of PBP.

I have been cycling since about 16 years of age, and have always experienced higher heart rates readings than all my mates, at all levels and intensity of riding . For instance, when just doing long rides at medium intensity, all my friends are at 120-130, while I will be at 145-165. When hills come, I will be able to maintain for hours 185-190 while my friends will be only at 170-175. During the alpine classic ride (held in Bright, Australia) my reading averaged 176 for 10 hours!

I have a Max heart rate of 204, recorded in a lab, and a max power of 420 kw.

I also noticed that when riding in cold and mildly cold weather, my heart rate was much lower than in South east Asia (Singapore, for instance), by at least 20 bpm.

My question is:

I have been riding in Singapore for about two years, with hot humid weather. When real speed in the bunch comes, my heart rate goes too high, and I can't follow properly, since I reach my max when I should be only at 185-190 - and when the sprints arrive, I have nothing left. How can I train better for speed? For endurance, I can ride miles and miles at medium - low intensity, but when speed comes, I'm finished! Please advise of any problems - thanks!

Jean-Francois Torrelle

Singapore

Michael Smartt Replies

JF,

Your experiences with heart rate and its inherent variability are not uncommon. You've brought up a few issues on why this is, so let's break it down a bit and run through them one at a time.

You've pointed out how your heart rate is always much higher than some of your mates. Just to be clear, there is nothing good or bad about this observation, nor does it have any relation to fitness/performance. The ranges of heart rates that are appropriate for training are essentially unique to each individual and are determined by your genetics. Having a higher or lower absolute number at a give speed/workload doesn't tell us anything; the percentage of your max heart rate you are working at does, however, say a lot and is something you could compare between individuals.

Performing a quality test in a lab is always a good way of getting some information about your fitness, aerobic capacity, etc. However, one can not truly average 86% of their max heart rate for 10hrs; in your case, this tells me that the conditions of your lab test (e.g.: temperature) were likely quite different, you were probably somewhat dehydrated during your event and you were much more psychologically stimulated during your event.

All of these things work together to elevate your heart rate as compared with the lab test. If this is something you experience on a regular basis, I suggest you discuss the matter with the lab that tested you or perform a field test to determine max heart rate (or TT heart rate) for training outdoors.

As I mentioned, temperature can greatly effect heart rate for a given workload/power output. And this works both ways: when your body temperature rises, your cardiovascular system has to work harder to dissipate the excess heat, increasing the heart rate you see; when your body temperature is lower, the cardiovascular system adjusts by minimizing blood flow to certain areas of the body, which reduces the heart rate that you see. From your descriptions of how your heart rate responds to different climactic conditions, you appear to be very sensitive to temperature. This is something that anyone will adapt to over time, but there is a genetic component to this as well. Some of us are just much better at dissipating heat than others and you may always experience significantly elevated heart rate numbers when you are cycling in hot and humid conditions. This is fine, just be mindful of hydrating (water/sports drink and a little sodium) before, during and after working out.

If indeed your cardiovascular system is working overtime to deal with the high temperatures and humidity, your ability to work at very high intensities will be reduced. Since more of your blood flow will be dedicated to removing heat, there will be less to deliver oxygen and remove/metabolize the by-products of energy production. In other words, your aerobic capacity is always being used for several different physiological operations, and it's my guess that a large enough amount is going towards dissipating heat to effect your performance.

AT LT VT clarification

I was rereading the fitness question from February 7 today as it got referenced regarding AT LT and VT. In it, Dario Fredrick lays out zones based on %MSS. I was looking over the numbers and noticed they were continuous; that is to say no percentile blocks were left out. As I'm sure you're aware, there is a school of people who believe there is a no man's land between z3 and z4, when calculated from max hr - it usually ends up being between 80 and 85% - z4 starts at 85% and this is where power/lactate/speed intervals should begin. Am I to interpret Dario's zone table as saying that such a no man's land does not exist? Is it different for max hr vs. mss-based training? More information would be appreciated, thanks very much.

Carl Bradtmiller

Dario Fredrick Replies

Hi Carl,

You touched on a common misconception. Indeed, there is no existance of a "no-man's land" per se, but rather it is an issue of proper timing. We addressed a similar question a few weeks back
Regarding Max Heart Rate vs. Maximal Steady State Heart Rate (MSS HR), at Whole Athlete, we prefer to base training zones on MSS HR (30 min performance threshold) rather than Maximum HR. First of all, Max HR is difficult to pinpoint as it can be highly variable with one's rested or trained state, difficult to attain, and it can change with age. More important however, MSS HR and thus training zones are not fixed percentages of Max HR, and their values relative to Max HR can change with training.

For example, assuming we are able to accurately determine your Max HR, let's say hypothetically that you and your training partner both have a Max HR of 190 bpm. You might estimate your MSS HR as 90% of your Max HR, or 171 bpm. Your actual MSS HR could actually be 180 bpm, while your training partner's MSS HR could be 165 bpm. So in this example of using a fixed percentage of Max HR, you could both under and over-estimate MSS HR for each of you respectively and misjudge your training zones.

Estimating power output

Guys,

Is there a simple formula to estimate power output for when I am climbing/doing intervals? I was recently doing some big ring strength intervals and reckon that these should be useable as approximations for power output. I have a Polar 710i HRM which gives me a good approximation for gradient.
Let's say I am approx 74kg, and my training bike is around 12kg loaded up. If I go up a 1.24 mile hill with a 3.7% gradient at 13.5mph surely all the inputs are there to approximate the power output. I am sure I read a piece on here about some time ago and would appreciate some help. Thanks

Ian Jackson

Dario Fredrick Replies

Hi Ian,

While it may not be simple, the formula to estimate climbing power is:

W = krMs + kaAsv2 + giMs

Here are the symbols defined:

W = power in watts
kr = rolling resistance
M = total mass of the cyclist and bicycle
s = speed on the road
ka = air resistance
A = frontal area (cyclist and bicycle)
v = road speed plus head wind speed
g = gravitational acceleration constant
i = road incline or approximately, grade

Since we don't have all the values to solve the equation for your climbing power, you can plug in the values you have into a simplified calculator here: http://www.exploratorium.edu/cycling/aerodynamics1.html, which should give you a reasonable estimate for power. Enjoy.

The age old Crank length issue

Hi There,
Yes, I'm going to bring it up again - the age old issue of crank length. But rather than going into the scientific nature of the whole topic, I guess I just want a simple answer with a bit of advice thrown in.

I'm riding a 56cm frame with full Dura Ace components, but the crank arms are 175s. I'm 5'9" and a bit and weigh 68kgs, (not a lot of fat!) Also, inside leg measurement is the bog standard 32" (going on my Levi Jeans!). I ride several times a week and mainly train for triathlon disciplines from sprint distance to half ironman and with the eventual goal (two years) of a full Ironman. I do enjoy riding with the cycle club on a Sunday too, and hope to do more training in winter and join in some cycle races. There you go - your typical nine to fiver who after work is out there trying to get fitter.

Looking at the problem, are the crank arms too long? If so, (which they probably are) should I change to 172.5s? But the more important question is - if I stuck with 175's (cause a new crank ain't cheap) am I losing power, speed or efficiency with what I have at the moment? Is it worth forking out the dosh for a new crankset? Have you any recommendations? I guess what I want to know is am I going to notice an increase in power output?

Dean Mullin

Dario Fredrick Replies

Hi Dean,

The short answer to your question is that you could probably go either way (172.5 or 175 mm), and given that you have been training and racing on your 175's and that you didn't mention any imbalance or injury, I see no compelling reason to change.

On the other hand, the long answer begins with the common "It depends..." Since you are basically riding time trials in your multi-sport events, the goal is to minimize aerodynamic drag (air resistance) in your position (and equipment) while maximizing efficiency/sustainable power. Depending on your pedaling style, flexibilty and position on the bike, it is possible that switching to slightly shorter cranks may improve your aerodynamics, efficiency and power.

The difference between 172.5 and 175 mm cranks in the diameter of a pedal revolution is 5 mm. Comparing your TT position between these two crank lengths, your saddle position with the 175's would be lower, or closer to the bottom bracket to accomodate the appropriate extension of your knee at the bottom of the pedal stroke. 175 mm cranks also bring your knees higher than 172.5's at the top of the pedal stroke. The higher the pedal position at the top of the stroke, the more closed the hip angle becomes (especially in an aero TT position), making it more difficult to apply force over the top of the pedal stroke with a deeply flexed hip.

Therefore, the shorter cranks may help you to improve the mechanical efficiency of your pedal stroke (avoiding a "dead spot" over the top). Improving your efficiency can translate to improved power with appropriate training. You might otherwise be able to achieve a lower, more aerodynamic position with the shorter cranks, enabling you to bring your torso lower relative to the highest point of your knee/thigh in the pedal stroke. Keep in mind that lower is not necessarily better if it compromises power and efficiency.

As there are multiple variables to consider, such as your flexibility, pedaling style and position on the bike, the best bet would be to have an experienced bike fitting specialist work with you on this issue in person.

Saddle boils

Hi - can you please tell me if there is anything on the market that helps clear up saddle boils? I occasionally suffer from these and they are extremely painful. Your advice would be welcome, thanks!

Robert Sheppard

Scott Saifer Replies

Hi Rob,

My preferred treatment for saddle boils is "drawing salve". Drawing salves are mixtures of a steroid to take down inflammation with an antibiotic to kill off the infecting bacteria. For saddle boils you put the drawing salve on a bandage to keep the boil covered and in contact with the salve. Drawing salves are available at pharmacies and drug stores. One brand name product is Boil-Ease. I don't know that it is better than other brands, but I do know that the generics work fine.

Cholesterol?

Despite good diet and a lot of exercise I still have high cholesterol, would lowering my cholesterol with medication help my blood function better in respect to cycling performance? Thanks,

Chris Heintz

Scott Saifer Replies

Hi Chris,
The short answer is probably not. It is unlikely that lowering your cholesterol levels will in itself improve your cycling performance. In the mid-90s I knew two bike racers who trained together: One an accomplished cat 2 with very high cholesterol, the other a mediocre three who trained as much or more but had very low cholesterol. This doesn't mean that I counsel you against taking the cholesterol lowering drugs. If your doctor thinks they are right for you, take them.

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