Fitness questions and answers for November 28, 2006

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at...

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.

Bar position
Leg length discrepancies
Track bike versus road bike

Bar position

My question is regarding the fore/aft road bar position. I have everything else set to all your recommendations (with success). I've been told two ways. The first: when seated with hands in the drops and elbows slightly bent, looking down with only your eyes not tilting your head, the bars should intersect or block the front hub. The second: when seated with hands in the drops and elbows slightly bent, looking down tilting your head, the bars should intersect or block the front hub.

Randy Houston

Scott Saifer replies

The short answer to your question is 'neither'. Why would you suddenly need a longer stem if you got a fork with more rake? Why would someone with stubby arms and a long neck need a long stem? The bar-blocks-hub concept is a quick and easy way to get close for most riders, but not a good way to settle on a final stem length. In the old days we said that if you placed your elbow against the saddle nose and your finger tips reached the bar, that was a touring fit, if there was a 2cm gap, that was a racing fit. There are lots of these fitting tricks, (knee ‘over’ pedal spindle, whatever that means, fixed knee angles at full extension (with the ankle at what angle?), back part of bars (which you never actually use) horizontal) that sound good but come up short when you try to apply them to a wide variety of riders.

See these previous posts on saddle fore/aft position and stem length.

Steve Hogg replies

Neither method you mention has any merit when applied to a large range of riders. There are too many individual and equipment variables. Just to mention equipment for a moment; if your bar has a longer or shorter reach (and the current range of road bar reaches is nearly 25mm) then you will need differing stem lengths for the same reach to the drops. This will move the relationship between top of bar and front hub but not alter the riders position in the drops. If you have a steeper or less steep head tube angle, or a fork with greater or lesser offset, then those differences will also alter the relationships between top of bar and front hub without necessarily changing rider body position. So forget what you have been told.

What you need to be able to do is reach your bar drops with ease while being able to look ahead comfortably. When you think you have achieved that, perform a hard 20 minute effort at TT pace with hands in drops. Are the drops easy to reach under that load after 20 minutes?

If not, there is still work to do with either bar position or seat and cleat position. Forget the formulae. They are probably correct for some combinations of frames, bars and riders and incorrect for many others.

Leg length discrepancies

After reading many of your articles on fitting and leg length discrepancies I thought I needed to drop a line. Most of the posts deal with short lower legs however in my case I have a 5mm short left femur and 3mm short left tibia for an X-rayed total of about 1cm. I'm a 25yr old cat 2 racer logging about 650hrs per year. I have excellent flexibility and core strength. My hips are relatively stable in the saddle to do my body compensating for leg length through changing leg angles such as heel drop.

I have been fitted by many professional fitters, only to change what they have done and follow my bodies ‘intuition’ as well as respond to input from people such as yourself.

Things that I have recently done in response to your writings; move my Speedplay cleats all the way back in my Sidi size 43 shoes, move my saddle backwards a total of about 1.5cm from being all the fore on a zero setback post, move from a 130mm stem to 110. I maintained my saddle height when moving the saddle backwards.

In the past I have experimented with any combination of a short left crank, forward left cleat, 1mm-5mm of shims, left cleat with greater Q angle than right. None of these have seemed to do much, currently I have 2-3mm of lowering in the left cleat, no varus adjustment. I have custom orthotics in both shoes with forefoot medial posting.

My symptoms include:

1. Chronically tight left ITB and left lateral hamstring and tissue between ITB and hamstring. This required weekly deep tissue massage to prevent maltracking of the patella, over time these muscles begin to pull on patella and cause knee pain. Adjusting Speedplay Zero cleat to prevent toes pointing out has helped this issue to some degree as it has seemed the the left leg wants to rotate toes out which tightens the left lateral hamstring (tibial rotation).

2. The left leg has a much larger degree of plantar flexion throughout the stroke than the left leg, as the two legs try to compensate for difference in length. (right heel drops much more than left)

3. Left leg and stroke has never felt as powerful and smooth as the right.

4. Occasional ITB pulls on periosteum of tibial plateau causing extreme pain upon contact or skin pressure, usually resides after deep tissue massage 3days later.

The main thing that hinders my comfort is the development of tight tissue in the left leg quadrant, especially left lateral hammy and ITB, which eventually lead to sub patellar pain and maltracking.

Matt Winstead
Huntsville, AL

Steve Hogg replies:

Re your 1: The symptoms you experience are indicative of over reaching with that leg under load and probably from favouring the right leg to some degree. To explain further, we all tend to favour one side autonomically. This is usually but not always the right side. If a rider is really functional, this may be almost imperceptible but it is always there. When there is a challenge though, whether by less than ideal function, poor bike position, perhaps in your case a leg length discrepancy, or whatever else may be the problem, the tendency to favour one side becomes more pronounced. To get to the point, can you confirm that you sit squarely on the seat?

The best way to find out is to ride your trainer indoors under load to the point where you are fatiguing. Have your shirt off and have someone observant stand on a chair above and behind you and have them look down at your hips and lower back.

Re your 2: I have seen a small number of riders with a short leg do as you describe effectively and at little or no cost long term, but I have seen a larger number pay an unacceptable price in discomfort of tendency to injury.

Re your 3: That is because I suspect it is more than over reaching mildly, but being dragged towards the centre line by you favouring your right side. The answers to the questions I asked in 1 will confirm this or otherwise.

Re your 4: Same again as 3 is the likely reason.

A bit more info - there is a high correlation between a long leg and a large degree of forefoot varus on the same side that is either not present or is much less on the other side in my experience. What I am getting at is how were your cycling orthoses prescribed?

If they were prescribed after watching or videoing you walk or run on a treadmill, then there is a 50% chance that they aren't helping you on the bike and may be part of the problem. This is because your leg length discrepancy will alter your foot plant at some level when walking. But the way you stand and the way you sit and their affect on leg extension and the angle your feet come at the pedal may not be the similar.

The other thing is that a 5mm femur length difference is not a lot. The femur never points at the ground so it is rare that it has to be compensated for fully. The 3 mm lower leg difference is another matter. The lower leg mainly points at the ground though and usually has to be fullly or compensated for assuming (not a safe assumption) that the rider sits squarely on the seat. I think the approach you should take is to find out whether you are sitting squarely which will give me info to get more of a picture of what you are doing and then I can advise step by step from there.

Track bike versus road bike

Is there an article posted somewhere where it states the different riding positions one should take when preparing their track bike as compared to their road bike? If not, then what are some general guidelines? Should you have it set up almost the same as your road, save for a slightly lower/more forward seat position? Or should it be completely different? As in a smaller frame (top tube wise/stem wise)? Any help would be appreciated.

Giancarlo Bianchi

Steve Hogg replies

Have a look at this post on track bike fitting. That should answer all or most of what you have asked. After reading that, if you have specific queries, get back to me.

Back to top