Form & Fitness Q & A
Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Jon Heidemann (www.peaktopeaktraining.com) is a USAC Elite Certified cycling coach with a BA in Health Sciences from the University of Wyoming. The 2001 Masters National Road Champion has competed at the Elite level nationally and internationally for over 14 years. As co-owner of Peak to Peak Training Systems, Jon has helped athletes of all ages earn over 84 podium medals at National & World Championship events during the past 8 years.
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. Clients range from recreational riders and riders with disabilities to World and National champions.
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.wholeathlete.com) is an Associate Coach with Whole Athlete. He holds a Masters degree in exercise physiology, is a USA Cycling Level I (Elite) Coach and is certified by the NSCA (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist). Michael has more than 10 years competitive experience, primarily on the road, but also in cross and mountain biking. He is currently focused on coaching road cyclists from Jr. to elite levels, but also advises triathletes and Paralympians. Michael is a strong advocate of training with power and has over 5 years experience with the use and analysis of power meters. Michael also spent the 2007 season as the Team Coach for the Value Act Capital Women's Cycling Team.
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.
I am a 46 year old Cat 4 road racer. My mechanic recently dropped my handlebars down about a centimetre because there was a small crack in the carbon stem. He didn't think I would notice a difference riding, and I thought it might give me a more aerodynamic position. For short rides (10-20 miles) I don't notice much, but after longer rides both my lower and upper back are very sore. Is this something my back will get "trained" for over time, or am I risking long term back problems by continuing to ride this way? I've been riding in the lower position about three weeks.
Steve Hogg replies:
Firstly am I correct to assume that it was your fork steerer tube that was cracked and not your stem?
Working on the assumption that your answer is yes, then after three weeks if you are still experiencing difficulties don't think for a moment that your flexibility and ability to extend your spine will increase by forcing it into a position that it doesn't like. All you will do is load your lumbar spine more in flexion and that isn't a good thing.
What to do?
I'd suggest these options:
1. If your stem is in the low position, flip flop it to the high position. Measure bar height prior to doing this as flipping the stem may cause a height increase of more than 10mm. If it does, you will need to rearrange the head set spacer stack.
2. Find another stem with more rise.
3. Replace the fork.
After reading recent article on arch cleat position from Steve Hogg would like to know if after moving cleat back towards arch of foot do you need to move saddle forward at all?
Steve Hogg replies:
The answer to that is as clear as mud. If you have read through the archives you will note that I am fairly keen on the rider bearing the great majority of their weight underneath their backsides and not using any more effort than the minimum necessary to steer and control the bike. The short answer to why that is, is that it gives the rider the best chance of optimising how their central nervous system prioritises efficient muscle enlistment patterns for cycling.
Still with me?
If so, midfoot cleat position typically causes the rider converting to it to drop their seat by 30 - 40mm. Dropping the seat height by that amount moves it forward 10 - 13 mm. In some cases (and I'm one of them) the weight transfer forward caused by this is enough to unnecessarily load the arms and shoulder complex of the rider. If that happens, move the seat back until you feel okay. If it doesn't, and people vary, leave alone.
I am sure I've read something on the subject regarding the variety of rise in shoe lasts but can't seem to find the article.
Can you explain the pros/cons for flatter road shoes when compared to shoes that have a greater rise to the heel?
I currently wear Sidi Ergo 2s, but previously I wore Diadora Veloces which had a relatively flat carbon sole.
Steve Hogg replies:
Most commonly available shoes have low-ish heel lifts in the last at the moment, though some are lower than others. The basic issue is this. High heel lift cycling shoe lasts tend to require more ankle movement from riders whose natural technique is to drop their heels noticeably while pedaling under load. The amount of torque a rider can exert on a crank arm changes as the crank rotates and the peak value is at or near the 3 o'clock position of the crank arm. The 'problem' we are all trying to solve is how to get behind and over the pedal axle at the earliest possible point in the pedal stroke after top dead centre (TDC) which is 12 o'clock.
For the heel dropping rider under load, this requires an extra amount of heel drop because of the high heel lift last induced starting point. This can't happen until the crank arm is forward enough of TDC for there to be room for this to occur. That means pressure is applied to the pedals for a lesser number of degrees of crank arc than may be the case in a low heel lift last.
To produce the same torque per stroke with a high heel lift lasted shoe, the peak values need to be higher because pressure is exerted on the pedals for less time / distance. A higher peak torque per stroke for the same output means higher peak muscular contraction which in turn should equal greater fatigue.
That is my feeling, observation and experience which is not the same thing as an indisputable 'fact'.
The other potential issue is that my experience is that high heel lift lasted shoes often exacerbate plantar fascia and achilles tendon problems in susceptible riders
I have a question regarding power output during a time trial. I am a 21 year old Cat 2 at 6'2 155-160 lbs. I have relatively short legs and a longer torso.
Road bike: 172.5 cranks Saddle height pedal to top is 78.5cm and 8.5cm behind.
TT bike: 175 cranks, saddle height pedal to top is 78.5cm and 5.0cm behind.
Saddle to bar drop and reach is nearly identical. I have been doing Z4 efforts (TT pace) all winter and spring so I have a pretty good idea of what I can ride at for 20-30 min. I did an 18 min power test in late January at 325 watts and my coach estimates a FT of 309 (what I could put out for only 20 min a year ago). I have been doing 3x 10 min Z4 efforts separated by 1 min rest and 20 min Z4 in training at between 315 and 325 watts for the past month or so. All of this was done on my road bike. I have been working on getting my TT bike set up.
I have always heard that if your position is too extreme that you will loose power by either over extending, creating too acute of angles or cutting of blood flow. I progressively made my position more aero until I did a 20 min Z4 effort and saw some real power loss (295 watts), got a terrible side stitch and had to stop. Then I went backwards and moved it to a slightly less aero position by raising the bars up by 5mm. Now I feel really comfortable with the position. My back seems flat, arms are flat and my knees are tucked right behind my elbows. This past weekend I did my first in competition TT on the bike and held 323 watts for 28:47 min over 20k. I feel like 323 is close enough to the power I am putting out in training especially given the time was longer and with less rest then I do in training.
I have also heard that because the TT position is further over the bottom bracket that it is possible to put out even more power on the TT bike then on the road bike, if that is true, then how do you account for that between the two bike positions? I don't have a wind tunnel so everything I do has to be experimental on the roads. So my question is how do you better determine if your position is optimal? Is it a guess and check to see if power is being lost?
Steve Owens replies:
I do have a wind tunnel, so I'll answer this one to the best of my ability.
Thank you for being so descript in your email. There's a good amount of information in here, and a lot of questions. I think ultimately what you're asking is, "why can't I be more powerful on my TT bike?" and "how do I determine the most optimal position on a TT bike?" As I write this, there are also a couple of misconceptions that I would like to also clear up for Cyclingnews Form & Fitness Q&A readers out there, so bear with me as I answer your questions.
Power output relative to aerodynamics is important, however aerodynamics wins every time. 70-90% of the power you're producing to propel yourself forward goes to overcome wind resistance. In stage 5 time trial of the Tour of California, we worked with 5 of the Top 9 on the stage. Their results are not only because they are exceptional athletes, but also because they did their research and work on their position quite a lot. Aerodynamics, practicing, and adaptation, in that order, are what matters. Much if it is counterintuitive until you see the data for yourself. If I had a photo, I could probably estimate wattage savings for your position, but I'll tell you that on average, we save people about 30-35 watts in aerodynamics when we work with them. (We describe savings in terms of watts in addition to time because it's an easy way to understand it and relates it to power).
To put things in perspective, the most immediate power output loss we've seen is 12 watts - again, that's the most we've ever seen, and that person still netted over 20 watts with much greater aerodynamics wattage savings. Understand also these two things; that this is *initial power loss and that power loss is not always going to occur with greater aerodynamics. There are physiological adaptations that will take place if in the case there is a power loss. This is one of the counterintuitive parts - if you want to be faster in a time trial - or even in a breakaway or just more efficient on the road bike or in a sprint - you need to be more aerodynamic and worry less about power output (for the moment). Put all power output conversations aside and refine your position relative to aerodynamics (what's more aero? That's a whole other can of worms). Then once you've attained a position that's more aero, you'll work on power output. Yes, it's a balance, but within the rules of the UCI, you're not going to do anything so drastic (in which I can think of right now) that will be a huge detriment to your power output relative to the power savings you gained in aerodynamics. I can't go into details, but it's no surprise to me that Christian VandeVelde (Slipstream Chipotle-H30) and Tom Zirbel (Bissell) did so well in the TOC TT. Tom is very strong and he improved his aerodynamics. He's paying attention to these things. Cyclingnews.com has some great photos of this event you can look at to try and compare.
A misconception that I want to point out is going to really bug a lot of people because they're going to feel at a total loss on how to find the most aero position. Each person's aerodynamics are different. What works for one person, might not work for another. A flat back isn't always best. In fact, we're finding that a rounded back is good for a lot of people, and it opens up the hip angle - typically giving you the ability to produce more power. That's one thing I'd caution people: be careful of how you close the hip angle.
You asked about position relative to bottom bracket. First, conform to any rules that you need to conform to. It's no surprise that scooting forward on the saddle is a common occurrence from there because yes, you'll be able to generate more power as your more over the bottom bracket.
Here's what I say to you...if your threshold is 325 watts, let's say that 80% of those watts go to overcome wind resistance. That gives you 260 watts that you produce to overcome wind resistance. That's probably more than you would have estimated. If you reduce your aerodynamic drag by 30-35 watts, you're saving a lot. Yes, it's hard for someone without regular data to know what that looks like perhaps, but my point is that you can't use just power output to get you there. If getting from point 'a' to point 'b' the fastest is what you're after (and I'm sure that's the case), then think aerodynamics first. A difference in 30 watts can easily be the difference between teens and twenties in a race, versus a podium finish.
Additionally, there is almost no argument that if more TT equipment will be heavier, so I'll go slower. Manufacturers out there make excellent, aero and lightweight equipment if that eases your mind. Again, aerodynamics wins over weight most of the time - with the exception of a hill climb time trial. In this case though, there are slower speeds so weight will swing back in the direction of importance over aerodynamics.
Try a time trial in standard wind conditions on a marked out course in your baseline position. Note your power output, average HR and total time to finish. Then make purely aerodynamic changes and repeat. If you know what changes to make, you'll see a faster time, and look for similar data. Refinement starts here.
I recently saw a question on your forum about a 62 year old man using supplemental testosterone at his Doctors suggestion to improve energy and libido. You suggested that it was good that he was doing centuries and not racing, since he wouldn't be allowed to use this supplemental testosterone and still race, legally.
I am a bi-lateral testicular cancer survivor (lost both of my testicles to cancer), so my body doesn't produce any where near the normal amount of testosterone for my age, 30. I take Androgel every morning. It's a gel that I rub on my shoulders and abdomen. I get my testosterone levels checked regularly to ensure they are normal and near my naturally occurring level of 610 (taken after the first surgery and when I found out I'd be losing the second testicle). I understand that my natural levels can vary for many reasons, time of day, activity level, etc., so 610 is just one data point.
Having started cycling about 3 years ago, I finally feel that my fitness is to the point where I want to start racing at the most basic level. Will I ever be able to legally race or do I just have to be resigned to the fact that my cancer history has put me in a position where racing is not an option?
As you probably could assume, my position is that this would seem pretty unfair.
Steve Owens replies:
I would imagine that for you, a very special case, it would be possible to attain a therapeutic use exemption (or 'TUE') for your testosterone supplement. I'm not the authority on such things, but since your body does not produce the testosterone, I would only imagine the anti-doping folks would agree to let you use the supplement in competition. My guess would also be that if tested, your testosterone levels would have to fall in line with certain parameters - probably also outlined in your TUE.