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.
How is my cleat in the middle of my shoe going to affect fore-aft position of the saddle? What happened to having my knee line up with spindle of the pedal and ball of my foot for optimal power?
One thing that does make me kind of understand the concept was a buddy of mine noticing that when we rode our townies with platform pedals and sandals, my natural tendency was to place my 48cm foot on the arch when climbing.
We both found that interesting especially since we were accustomed to 15 hours a week with our ball of foot on the pedal sweet spot.
Wrightwood, CA, USA
Steve Hogg replies:
I hope that you don't have a 48cm foot and trust that you mean size 48. To your question. I can't answer your question specifically because I haven't seen you on a bike. If you are happy with your current position and move the cleats back to under the TMT joints, just drop your seat whatever seems the appropriate amount. 30 - 40 mm is typical from what I have seen to date. You will find that the correct seat height seems low in terms of the degree of leg extension you are used to.
Re: your comment about ball of foot over pedal axle for optimal power. I would be surprised if anyone said that cleat position produced optimum power. Personally I think that it is the application (poorly) of an attempt to draw parallels between the mechanics of the foot and ankle during a running or walking stride and the mechanics of the foot and ankle in a rigid soled shoe that is clipped into a pedal.
My experience is that you have to commit terrible positional sins to have a negative effect on power. What will be affected first is the ability to sustain power or to put it another way, the ability to develop power efficiently is compromised first which limits the duration that a given output can be sustained.
I have only five or six weeks of experience with midfoot cleat position in the sense of being able to use torque analysis software to confirm the effect of positional changes with hard data. So far, and I accept that it is early days yet, every single rider who has gone this route has a minimum efficiency improvement of 5 - 10 %. By efficiency improvement, I mean that the torque peak for a given wattage drops by that amount. How can that be?
Because torque is applied for more degrees of crank arc. A lower torque peak means less peak muscular contraction which in turn means greater ability to sustain the effort.
Would it dumb down your fabulous website too much to include pictures or diagrams in Steve's arch cleat position article to make this easier to understand for us newbies?
Steve Hogg replies:
I'm on the case as you are not the first to request a graph of a pre and post cleat change torque curve. Part of the delay is:
1. I am really busy with stuff that I get paid for and,
2. I am using SRMs with new SRM torque software plus proprietary add on software for displaying the curves in a variety of ways. SRM's torque hasn't been updated in years and won't work on any computer later than Windows 98. This has caused a few issues as the old laptop I have for this with W'98 is resistant to allowing me to export the graphs. I am working on a solution to this as time allows.
As to where the TMT joints are, have a look at any anatomy book.
I am very intrigued with the concepts Steve H has been discussing. A hip replacement in 2000 left me with nerve damage that makes my calf prone to cramping when under stress. If a new cleat placement moves even a little of the stress to other muscle groups, I am all for it.
I have read the posts and responses several times. The conclusions I reach are:
1. The only right way to make the move is to buy Biomac shoes.
2. Biomac shoes are not readily available in the States and even if the shoes can be found, riders won't be able to use Speedplay pedals.
3. Speedplay makes an adapter that can be used to mimic Biomac.
It sounds like Steve thinks the adapter would be helpful though it is an inferior solution to buying Biomac. But he never actually says those words. Am I missing something? If not, how big a deal is the difference between Biomac and Speedplay adapted?
Dennis J. Simpson
Grand Junction, CO, USA
Steve Hogg replies:
Re 1. Not correct. What I said was that Biomacs are the only shoes designed to take a midfoot cleat. Some shoes can be modified but it takes a bit of home handyman nouse that not everyone possesses.
Re 2. After prompting from me (and probably others) Biomac have developed a solution that will allow the use of Speedplays and some other 3 bolt systems.
Re 3. Not correct. Speedplay make an adaptor (p/n13330) that allows a Speedplay cleat to be moved back 13-14 mm further than on their standard 3 bolt adaptor. Their standard adaptor has 4 or 5 mm LESS rearward movement potential in terms of where the cleat ends up relative to pedal axle than most 3 bolt systems. So the gain is not unimportant but is not to be confused with placing the cleat at the midfoot.
To use my shoes as an example, to position the centre of my TMT joints over the pedal axle means that the centre of my 1st MTPs are 63 mm in front of the pedal axle as best as I can measure in a size 44 shoe. You won't achieve that or even close with a Speedplay adaptor.
Re your last paragraph, I'll spell it out. I have wide experience with 2 cleat positions. Ball of the foot over the centre of the pedal axle and anywhere between ball of foot 6-20 mm in front of the centre of the pedal axle depending on the shoe size, technique and individual requirements of various clients. I a small but growing amount of experience with midfoot cleat position and the torque analysis software and hardware to see what effect that has on the way that power is produced.
I have limited experience with in between those two positions. I have a simple system that allows foot placement changes easily and quickly that was developed by a gent I have the highest respect for named Ron Haney. So far my experience with moving riders feet around fore and aft over the pedal is that the midfoot position produces the flattest torque curve for the greatest number of people.
I've been reading your article on cleat positioning with great interest. I have followed your articles over a number of years and your approach and advice seems very sensible.
The culmination of many of your ideas is now coming through, eg. in your recent post on 'arch-cleat' positioning.
As you are aware, your ideas are really quite radical, and certainly involve BIG changes, eg "drop your seat 30-50 mm"!
I am prepared to believe that you are correct but before taking my current fit position apart in the hope of gaining an improvement could you please summarise your current fit suggestions for a reasonably fit club/sportive rider (200-300km /week, Etape type event rider)? Could you maybe do an article summarising your current fit ideas? In particular:
(i) Cleat position (relative to 1st MT). What rules of thumb do you now use? What is your starting point (for a 'physiological average' 70kg, 6 foot, size 43 shoe man)? 10mm behind 1st MT, 20mm? Further?
(ii) Cleat angle (ie. heel in, neutral or out). Obviously one matches the 'natural' angle that the feet fall to rest at, but, further than that is it worth introducing some heel in to avoid ITBS?
(iii) Knee over pedal axle (seat height). In front or behind pedal axle?
Dr Miles Jefferson
Steve Hogg replies:
I don't have rules of thumb. I believe in an individual approach. A couple of years ago, someone asked me a question about recommendations on cleat position and I gave what I think are safe 'average' cleat positions for various shoe sizes. In retrospect, I stick by the recommendations but think I made a mistake in giving out the info. My problem with it is that a lot of the people who contact me about other matters seem to think those recommendations are like the Ten Commandments; written in stone and not to be broken if you are a 'believer'.
They aren't. They will be an improvement for most people in most cycling disciplines, but when fitting a client I depart from them regularly. Sometimes by a small margin, sometimes by a large margin because of the implications of different equipment choices, pedaling technique, foot/ankle morphology and so on.
The arch cleat thing is not the culmination of my ideas. I didn't think of it but was put on to it by others- contacted the gent (Gotz Heine) who seemed to have more experience with it and data about it than anyone else; corresponded with him for a lengthy period; met with him and put his ideas to the test. And they have worked both for me and the clients of mine who have been game enough to take the plunge.
All of the info you want is in the archives if you care to look. I won't be doing a summary article because it is another unpaid demand on my time when I have plenty of those already. Additionally, if I did do it, how relevant would it be to you?
All I know about you is that you are a "a reasonably fit club / sportive rider (200-300km/week, Etape type event rider" and the way you have framed your question suggests that is a 'general type' for whom 'general solutions' would suit. Maybe they will, maybe they won't.
I currently ride a 57cm frame. I have an old 56cm frame that I am thinking of using, setting it up as a training bike. Is it possible to do this without harming my position too much by changing stem length, height, set height etc, and getting measurements as close as possible to my race bike set up?
I am wishing to use it for training during the week and save my new bike for club racing on the weekends.
Scott Saifer replies:
In my experience 56 and 57cm frames can be identical in every dimension, or they can be quite different. You certainly should be able to get your three contact points (pedals, seat, bars) set up identically on the two bikes through choice of stem, saddle height, saddle set back and so on. That should give you equal power production and an identical training position, but whether that would be a great position for handling on either bike is hard to say.
I am a 32 year-old male amateur roadie, 6ft tall, 260 lbs. I currently ride about 130-150 miles a week. I am working on getting my weight down, but I am a heavily muscled fella.
My question is in regards to appropriate shoes. I have wide feet and flat arches, and recently purchased, erroneously, a pair of size 12.5 (47) Sidi genius road shoes with Look Keo Sprint pedals.
Of course, they were very tight across the ball of my foot, and very uncomfortable to ride in. What are your recommendations for road shoes and pedals for someone of my stature. It seems I read somewhere in the FAQs about Carnac or Nike being a good choice for wide feet, but I can't find the article. Thanks in advance and an immense thank you for all the wonderful articles.
Richmond, VA, USA
Steve Hogg replies:
Sidi make a version of the Genius called Genius Mega. It is a double EE fitting and should be wide enough for all but the rarest exceptions.
I also am a coach (based in Salt Lake City, UT). I am curious what protocol you and Mr Heine are using for torque analysis.
I ask because I also have the resources to try such testing (with a SRM with TA). I have been toying with aft positioning of the cleat, but from a personal pain/numbness standpoint so haven't spent much time comparing against performance.
Steve Hogg replies:
A fairly simple one. Have rider maintain speed, gear and wattage for a fixed time period. Record effort and graph it which produces a curve which is an average of the crank revolutions performed in that period.
Change cleat position, drop seat and bars appropriately and repeat effort at same speed, gear and cadence for same time. Record effort and overlay the two torque curves.
If viewing a graph of the curve, the peak of the 'mountain' is lower and the base of the 'mountain' wider. Most of the time with most people (to date) the trough between peaks is higher as well.
If viewing as a polar graph the 'bubble', with midfoot cleat position is rounder than with forefoot cleat position.
One thing that I have not been able figure out is a problem with my varus knees. I bought some of the wedges for under my cleats and am unable to set them up correctly. It would seem that I would want the thick side of them to be towards the inside of the foot, but I tried that and had knee pain within 10 minutes of easy spinning.
I flipped them so that the thick side was towards the outside and the right side felt great but the left side continued to give me problems when I ramped the mileage up. I use Speedplay X-2 pedals and Shimano top end carbon shoes that are a few years old.
I also wear out the left side of the saddle after about 6 months as well, so I am also thinking that I have some sort of asymmetry there. I have set up my cleats according to your suggestions in the past and their fore/aft placement feels great.
I have had people watch me and nobody can seem to confirm this, but I suspect that I drop my left hip. I feel so much stronger on my left leg compared to my right.
Some other tidbits: My adductors are very well developed and seem to cramp first in races. My left sartorious is more developed than my right. I put all the pressure on my foot right under my first metatarsal; the outside of my foot doesn't get any pressure. My right Quadratus Lumborum seems to get a bit tight now and then.
Thank you very much for any help you may be able to offer!
Steve Hogg replies:
The totality of what you are saying is that it is likely that you are dropping and internally rotating your left hip on each pedal stroke. The evidence is there - tight right QL (bracing to resist the left hip drop), the worn left side of seat and the greater left sartorius development.
You need to find out more about how you function rather than where you are tight or strained. If you want something to work on, here is a list.
1. Establish definitively whether there is a measurable leg length difference.
2. Find out whether your left sacro iliac joint is restricted in any way.
3. Confirm or otherwise that you do indeed drop your left hip.
4. Start stretching or getting instruction in how to stretch effectively.
5. Find a structural health professional and have a global assessment and plan a regime to address the problems identified. There are plenty of measures that may help you in the short term on the bike, but the underlying issues of asymmetry of function on a bike that you describe, won't go away unless they are addressed off the bike.