Fitness questions and answers for October 17, 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.

Hip flexor pain
Calf cramps
Big hands in Deda bars
Cycling or running for weight loss
Piriformis syndrome
Intermittent tachycardia
Seat or pedal stroke
Bar sweep
Leg length discrepancy
Efficient climber or better position?
Pain on side of knees
Uneven cleat wear and power
Health issues

Hip flexor pain

I'm a long-distance runner. After my 50 mile trail race this summer, my chiropractor had me stop running for awhile because the extensive downhill running had banged up my hips. Consequently I've been riding my bike a lot more now, and have gradually over the course of three months or so brought my long ride up to 80 miles and my weekly total in the 100 mile range. So naturally I signed up for an Ironman. The point of all this is that even though I have been measured and fitted to my bicycle by the local bike shop and their computer-aided technology, and had my cleats aligned via R.A.D. I'm still getting hip pain - not so much in the joint itself as after the run, but on the outside of the hips.

I'm not sure exactly where the hip flexor IS - I always thought it was on the front of the thigh and its function was to lift your thigh in relation to your waistline. The pain I'm getting is more towards the outside. So of course I want you to tell me the way to get ride of the pain! Specifics - I have no leg length discrepancy (per chiropractor); I do have a history of ITBS from running (usually relieved by proper stretching and this feels different and not so much outside as that); decent hamstring and low back flexibility. I'm riding in Look pedals, Sidi shoes (size 42), 5'6" 140lbs female. I toe in while running and riding and my left foot turns in more than my right, but supposedly my cleats were aligned for this. If you have any more suggestions as to what I can try, I'd like to here them. I have noticed that you recommend placing the cleat so the ball of the foot is in front of the axle, so that might be one thing to try if you think it might help.

Celeste Walz

Dallas, Texas

Steve Hogg replies

Celeste,

I am a little confused. Are you getting hip pain on the bike OR after running off the bike OR just after running without a bike ride prior?

Celeste Walz then responded:

Steve,

The pain is while riding, and after riding. I've dropped the run mileage way down and haven't noticed any hip pain while running. For example, I rode 70 miles yesterday, aerobic pace, nothing fast or fancy but by the end of the ride the outside of my hips were sore. While driving later that day it was hard to lift my leg while seated. (If I would have a clutch, I would have been in trouble). Today I was noticeable sore, so I skipped my planned run and swam instead.

Steve Hogg replies

Celeste,

Try the cleat position that you have read on the forum. It won't hurt and it may help. I can't remember encountering a similar problem before. Give me as much info as possible.

What model and size of bike do you ride?
What brand, model and size shoes do you use?
What seat do you use?
What pedal system do you use?
Am I correct in assuming that this pain is not present if you run without a prior ride?
If you are riding along and start coasting do you have movement of your feet at the pedal either side of where your foot naturally wants to sit?

To determine the above, coast after a period of pedalling hard and move the left heel outward. Is there movement?
Coast again after a period of pedalling hard and move the left heel inwards. Is there movement?
Repeat on the other side and let me know the answers.
If riding in a moderately hard gear with hands in the drops, can you support your weight if you take your hands off the bars?
Just to satisfy my curiosity; what do you mean you were positioned with the aid of computer technology?

Calf cramps

I hope you can help me. I cycle about 300 to 500km a week and have no problems at all on the bike. However, I would like to do triathlons, but every time I start to do any running I get localized stabbing pains in one leg or the other, anywhere from the top of my Achilles area to the middle of my calf. This problem started about ten years ago, but it has become so frequent that running has become impossible. It isn't predictable in what part of my calf or which leg it will happen, except that I can feel it coming on and then it suddenly hits. Sometimes it starts when I just go out and do a painfully slow two or three kilometers. Sometimes I can do a few runs and then it hits. I have been to a couple of doctors and they had absolutely no advice other than "don't run". I wear new, comfortable running shoes and have no pronation or unusual sole-wear problems. I don't know if this is relevant, but I am a mid to fore-foot striker and my old running shoes have very little heel wear. I have tried heel-toeing, but the problem still occurs and my knees become a little achy.

I hope this is enough information for you to help me. Thanks a lot.

Greg Dillon

Hiroshima, Japan

Steve Hogg replies

Greg,

You say these pains don't occur on the bike, only running off the bike. Do they occur if you run without a bike ride prior to the run?

Greg then responded:

Hey Steve,

Thanks for your reply. Yes, the cramps do occur without having gone out for a ride.

Steve Hogg replies

Greg,

Given that, you may be better posing your question on a running forum. Do you ever stretch your gastrocs and soleus? If not, it is time to start. Have you seen anyone about this problem, i.e. physio, masseur, podiatrist etc?

Big hands in Deda bars

I have been using an FSA 200 anatomical drop 42 c-to-c bar for a while but find the drop section inappropriate for my hands, and this was confirmed by John Kennedy who I saw recently; he recommended the Deda deep (145mm drop, 95mm reach), or shallow drop (135mm drop, 80mm reach) in the 44 outside-outside bars. I am an A grade racer who trains largely alone and will be using Campag chorus on one set and Ultegra 9 on the other set of bars; returning or trialing the bars is not really an option because they will come direct from the dealer not through the LBS. I prefer the idea of the shallow drop because it would be easier to spend more time in the drops, but I have abnormally large hands for my height (177cm tall that is) and 95mm across the palm just proximal to the bases of the phalanges 2-5 with the broadest aspect of my palm being 115mm across (base of 1st to transverse measurement). My main concern is with my hand size, will I fit the shallow drop or will it just be uncomfortable and the deep a better option. Any help or advice greatly appreciated.

Lachlan

NSW

Steve Hogg replies

Lachlan,

I can't see how you would comfortably get your hand into a Deda Shallow with the measurements that you cite. The Deda Deep is a better bet. I have palms the same size as you and have recently switched from 3T Merckx bars [150mm drop, 80mm reach] to the Deda Deeps as both pairs of 3Ts were over seven years old, seen some hard use, and I started to wonder whether I was setting myself up for an unpleasant experience [breakage] if I kept them much longer.

The Deeps work fine for me but I had to shorten my stem 10mm. I know the difference in reach is 15mm but a 10mm shorter stem felt right. No one makes a true deep drop [ 150mm+ drop] bar anymore to my knowledge, which is a pity as I still think they are probably the best all round shape for a large hand.

Cycling or running for weight loss

I have experienced a shoulder injury and 12 weeks post surgery I can start to take full view of my weight gain. Is running or cycling the quickest method of safe weight loss? My thoughts are that while cycling provides a very safe and reliable method it does not provide 'the' quickest method. I have found this question very difficult to research in terms of a definitive answer. If you guys could assist I would be thankful.

Brent Bryce

Scott Saifer replies

Brent,

Not to be too cheeky, but neither running nor cycling is the best way to lose weight. I know from personal experience that it is possible to gain weight while riding 300 miles or more per week. I f you become very fit, you can expend perhaps 1000 Calories or a bit more per hour. If you enjoy your eating, you can eat that much in less than 15 minutes.

The only way to lose weight is by eating fewer Calories than you expend.

Piriformis syndrome

Can you shed some light on whether or not cycling can cause or exacerbate this syndrome and what can one do to try and alleviate the discomfort? Thanks and enjoy reading your advise.

Roger Daniel Pagel

Andy Bloomer replies

Hi Roger

I'm no expert on the therapy required to alleviate the pain but can tell you that, as a sufferer myself, you can manage it and have a successful cycling life. There are stretching routines you can do to try to lengthen the piriformis and minimise the discomfort caused. These routines should be shown to you by a properly qualified physiotherapist.

My symptoms are limited to numbness that starts in my left butt and radiates down the back of my left leg. There's usually always a background level but the severity increases if I don't do the stretches for any length of time. The stretches are very effective in lengthening the piriformis and taking the pressure of the sciatic nerve (the cause of the symptoms).

See your physio for a proper diagnosis, get a good stretching routine that works and you should be able to continue cycling without any trouble. Good luck.

Intermittent tachycardia

I want to thank you for all the information you present in this forum. I have a question which I hope you can answer. I have been riding and racing on the road and track for 25+ years. I am 45, 84kg, 174cm, 46.5% haematocrit, resting HR 37, LTHR 180, max HR 195, peak power (CP0.2 =1600w), and average power (CP60=300w). Needless to say at my weight and average power, I am best suited to sprint events and flat short races. I have been treated for exercise induced asthma for over five years and recently I was diagnosed with intermittent tachycardia (possibly exacerbated by my albuterol inhaler) and mild mitral valve regurgitation.

My cardiologist guesses this makes my heart 5-10% less efficient. He performed the usual battery of tests (ECG, isotope stress test, and ultrasound), which he plans to perform again in a year barring deteriorating condition. He told me to continue to exercise, but he had no prescription regarding intensity. So my question to you is should I limit my exercise regime (weight lifting and cycling 6-12 hours/week) temporarily, or otherwise, and if so is there a percentage of max HR limit that would provide benefit without excessive risk and still allow me to train and race. As it is right now I am pretty comfortable doing 2+ hour rides w/ the middle hour at 165 - 183 bpm and the final sprint to the high 180s. I am no longer close to a velodrome so I planned to focus on short flat circuit races next year.

My workouts would focus more on repeatability (sprinting out of corners) instead of 200m peak power, but I know from past experience these workouts can be very stressful and hard to recover from. Thanks in advance for any advice you can give.

Austin

Scott Saifer replies

Austin,

If you need to limit your heart rate to be safe while training, wouldn't you need the same limit while racing? I don't think it's possible to race competitively with the idea of keeping your heart rate below a certain limit all the time. One can try to ride efficiently so as not to raise the heart rate too high too often, but sometimes you will have to go to the limit to win. I can't see how you're going to do that if you think you might die as a result.

The question seems to me to be whether it is safe for you to continue to make maximal efforts in training AND racing. That should be answered by a doctor who is intimately familiar with your case.

Seat or pedal stroke

I noticed that I bounce a lot on my seat when I keep up a faster tempo. Is it because my seat is too low or because I have a bad pedal stroke?

Marc Richard

Steve Hogg replies

Marc,

It could be a number of things. Possibilities are any of or a combination of:

1. Seat too high
2. Seat too low
3. Not flexible enough in any of or a combination of: lower back, glutes, piriformis, hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, gastrocs and soleus. It is unlikely that if lack of flexibility is the issue that it is only one muscle or muscle group that is the problems.
4. Lack of practice pedalling at higher rpm.
5. Poor cleat position.
6. Seat too far back or too far forward.
7. Bars too far away causing you to become unstable on the seat when stability is challenged by higher than normal rpm.

Bar sweep

Hi,

Do you know why the manufacturers made all the mtb handlebar with some (3-5 degree) sweep?

If I sit on my bike, and try to hold my bar relaxed and in the most comfortable position bended elbows, relaxed shoulders, etc), my wrist angle not near the anatomically normal position on the bar. Riser bars have even more sweep, maybe because the width of the bar. I guess the manufacturers trying to follow an arc-like reach, but like me with 50cm (side to side) shoulder width and 60cm long bar, the back sweep is to much. Completely flat bars can be a solution, or maybe special bar facing the same angles (3-5degree) front and downward? Thanks.

Oliver

Steve Hogg replies

Oliver,

You are spot on with your observation. The reason for the sweep is to prevent the elbows fouling the legs when riding in tight, technical stuff off road where sometimes the bar may need to be turned at near right angles to the top tube to negotiate very tight, slow turns.
The problem with this is that as you have noted, the shoulders are raised and internally rotated, the elbows are cocked, the wrists bent at a less than ideal angle and the outside of the palms loaded up.

The partial solution if not riding really tight technical stuff is to rotate the 'flat' [3 - 7 degree bend] or riser bar rearwards so that the sweep is down and back. With a riser bar with a large rise, this brings the additional complication of needing to lengthen the stem as the now rearward, downward sweep reduces the reach to the bars. Rotating the bars like this allows the load to be spread over the entire palm, rather than the outer part only, and allows the elbows to move inwards and the shoulders to drop to a relaxed position.

For urban mountain biking or fire trail type riding in open country, that kind of bar position is much kinder to the arms, hands and shoulders and associated muscles. For the tight stuff the usual angle, though less comfortable, is still the way to go for practical reasons. There used to be a bar called something like 'moustache' I think, that had a rearward and downward sweep but I haven't seen one for some years now.

Leg length discrepancy

Hi, I read with great interest your advice provided on the cyclingnews website for the fellow who had one arm shorter than the other by 7 inches. It was a very good solution and thought that you may have some advice for someone who has one leg shorter than the other.

Problem: My left leg is shorter by 1/2 an inch.
Current solution: I use in my Nike cycling shoe a heel lift inserted within the shoe. Problem is that there's not much room in those shoes for the lift and my foot, as a result my heel easily comes out of the shoe.

Bike stores have recommend that I use a lift underneath the cleat of the shoe. I've tried that before and could never get used to the odd angle of the foot required to pedal evenly. Other stores have recommended that the best solution is an orthopedic cycling shoe. Yet, who manufacturers such cycling shoes and at reasonable price. What do you recommend?

Christian P. Brun

Ottawa, Canada

Steve Hogg replies

Christian,

A heel lift can work well for leg length discrepancies when walking because the heel is first point of contact. A heel lift is useless when cycling because the contact area with the cleat is the forefoot, not the heel. Remove the heel lift from your cycling shoe and fit a spacer under the left cleat. Make sure that when you fit the spacer under the cleat you follow the advice on this post and this post for both cleats. For every 5mm you have to pack up the left cleat, move the cleat on that side back an additional mm relative to foot in shoe. I have had numerous people in the past mention that they couldn't cope with a packer under their cleat and in every case the problem was not enough foot over the pedal. Those posts if followed, should point you in the right direction.

The other consideration you need to think about is how this discrepancy has caused your pelvis to compensate. Many people like yourself, with a long right leg, will end up with an anterior iliac crest on the same side. This typically means that you may be sitting further forward on the seat with the right side of your pelvis and reaching a lesser distance to the pedals with the longer leg. To find out whether this is happening, fit your bike to an indoor trainer and while pedalling in a bigger gear, have someone positioned above and behind you look down at how square you are on the seat. You may not twist to the right because not everyone who has a long right leg does, but enough that I should mention the possibility. If you find this is the case, get back to me for further advice. Let me know how you get on with the cleat packer.

Christian then responded:

Thank you Steve I just read your email this morning and will try out your suggestions. This is the best advice I ever received!

It would also be very valuable for the Cyclingnews website, I'm sure many more people have the same problem as I do. As a matter of fact I remember years back reading an article on Francesco Moser preparing for the hour record and his doctor at the time (Conconni I think was the name) had discovered that one of his legs was stronger than the other due to a leg length discrepancy.

Steve Hogg replies

Christian,

Luc Leblanc won the World's road race and at least one KOM title at the TdF with a 30mm leg length discrepancy; the legacy of being hit by a car as a child. Measurable leg length discrepancies are far from rare and are rarely a barrier to performance cycling if tackled appropriately. The larger problem tends to be changes in pelvic function as a result of years of asymmetry.

One thing that I forgot to mention is to keep the heel lift in your walking shoe. Otherwise every step you take reinforces asymmetric ways of functioning. The heel lift can play a part in minimising the ongoing effects of those asymmetries.

And stretch! Stretching is like insurance. I have come across flexible people with marked measurable asymmetries who were unaware of them because their degree of flexibility meant that in a practical sense, they were little affected or unaffected.

Efficient climber or better position?

I have a question about efficiency while climbing. I am a 150lb, 5'8" recreational road rider who rides for fitness. In the summer, I eventually get up to just over 100 miles per week. After a good deal of tweaking last year, I'm comfortable on the bike and I like to think my position is dialed in. My strength, if I have one, is climbing. I always easily drop my riding partners on a climb of any significance, and they always catch up to me on the descent/flats. As the season progressed this year, I started wondering if it wasn't so much that I'm a good climber, but that I'm simply in a better position WHEN climbing. I came to this conclusion as I have been unable to make any progress while riding on the flats. I'm always pulling up the rear of any pace line, and I dread taking pulls. I just don't feel like I have any power. As soon as the road heads up though, I am dropping guys again. Could it be that my setup and/or position changes that much on an incline, giving me more power than I have in my "flats" position, or is this just a consequence of being better in one discipline than another? Most of my climbing, by the way, is seated with hands on the tops of the bars. I feel like if I had the power on the flats that I have in climbs, I could be a much better rider. Thanks, I really enjoy your Q&As each week.

Lawrence

Steve Hogg replies

Lawrence,

There are a variety of reasons that may explain what you experience.

1. Assuming similar physical capacities, the performance equation on the flat is surface area over power. All other things being equal [which they never are anyway], a significantly larger person develops more power but does not have as big a difference in surface area. Most of the gun rouleurs are bigger riders. This contrasts with climbing where speeds are lower, air resistance is less of an issue [except descending], gravity is the major resistive force and the performance equation seems to be power over weight. This is where smaller and/or lighter riders excel. Their absolute power may not be great but their power to weight can be relatively high. Some of the coaches can probably be more definitive regarding this.
2. When you climb your effective seat tube angle and your relationship with gravity changes. As the road gradient changes and the road rises, you are being moved relatively further behind the bottom bracket and are applying power through a different part of the crank rotation than you are on the flat. It may be that your seat is not far enough behind the bottom bracket, but other than by experimenting, there is no way that you can be certain. Set your seat the minimum distance behind the bottom bracket that allows you to support your torso, arms and head with minimal effort required by the arms and shoulders. This way, whether on the flat or uphill, you can devote maximum effort to propelling the bike and the minimum effort to maintaining your position on the bike.
3. You climb on the tops of the bars which is fine. I assume that under load on the flat you place your hands in the drops. It may be that your bars are too low or too far away and the net effect of this is to restrict your ability to breath. In contrast when you are more upright climbing this is no longer an issue. It is possible too that the opposite is the case and that your reach to the bars is not enough. If so, this would cause you to arch your back noticeably when on the drops. Doing this restricts potential lung capacity.
4. By the sound of it, you like climbing hills. Often, we tend to emphasise what we are good at on a bike and neglect what we are not naturally talented at. Have you done specific training to increase your abilities on the flat?
5. Any combination of the above. I don't know whether any of this strikes a chord with you but best of luck. If you narrow down the issues, I will try and help further.

Lawrence then responded:

Thank you Steve. Your message does ring a bell, specifically in relation to seat setback. I have 2 bikes, one with a Fiz'ik Arione, the other with a Fiz'ik Aliante. Most of this season, I have ridden the Aliante, which as you know, is more like the old Concor saddles in that it has a slight dip up in the back. The Arione, on the other hand, is long and flat, offering much more varied riding positions.

It could be that the Aliante has been "holding" me more forward than necessary on the flats. I'll give it a push back (and perhaps down just a bit, to compensate) and see if I notice a difference. I think you may be on to something here! Many thanks for your quick response,

Steve Hogg replies

Lawrence,

You are right in the sense that the Aliante does not allow the rider to sit as far back as an Airone for the same relative seat rail position and this may indeed be your problem. The best advice that I can offer anyone running more than one road bike is to use the same shape of seat, pedal, bar and shoes positioned in the same relative relationship to each other. That way every where you contact the bike is in the same relationship and adjustment when changing from bike to bike is limited to handling differences between bikes, rather than positional differences.

I have lost count of the number of riders who train on a heavier bike during the week and race on the techo lightweight number on weekends and don't perform as well as on the heavier bike.
The reason simply is that they are used to the bike they spend more time on, and spend too much race time adjusting or attempting to adjust to the different position of the race bike.

Pain on side of knees

Hi

I am a 46 male 5'10"- 210 pds( I know too much weight but I am working on it) who rides the road. I have been riding for 14 yrs ,centuries and club rides. These rides are done as strong as possible. I used to have pain all around my knees but after reading this column and following Steve Hogg's advice I have solved these problems. I would consider myself a spinning type of rider no real big gears but I have started to do more short rides with slightly bigger gears . My problem is that 2 days after a strong ride with my son ( you got to watch these young kids) the side of my knees are sore. If you were looking at your knee cap from above it would be the right side near the top of the triangle on the right knee and just the opposite on the left. I have movement with my feet when they are at the bottom of the pedal stoke ( heels move equal distance from side to side) and my knees do not splay out to the side . Is this just my body getting used to the bigger gears or do I have a set up problem? Thanks.

Jim DePalma

Steve Hogg replies

Jim,

It could just be getting used to big gears but the left/right difference in the location of the strain suggests that something is not right somewhere. I need more info. If you can answer me these questions we can proceed further.
1. Find a podiatrist and have them determine the relative alignment of forefeet to rearfeet [varus/valgus] and let me know the answer.
2. Do you sit square on the seat?
And don't automatically say yes as the great majority of riders don't [though they think they do] though the degree varies from gross to insignificant. Lock up your bike in an indoor trainer, get a sweat up, and while riding in a gear that makes you work a bit, have an observer stand above and behind you [on a chair is ideal]. What I need to know is: do you drop either hip more than the other and if so, which one?
And do you rotate one hip forward on the downstroke more than the other and if so, which one?
3. Stand in front of a mirror stripped to your underwear. Place the thumb of each hand on the top of your pelvis and press downward onto the bone. Looking in the mirror, is either thumb higher than the other and if so, by how much?
4. Still standing in front of the mirror with feet slightly apart, does one knee seem to be locked more than the other and if so, which one?

You say in your letter is that by following whatever advice you have read here, you have alleviated previous problems, but I would guess that the increased effort [bigger gears] means that underlying short comings are reasserting themselves. So we need to get to the bottom of things.

Uneven cleat wear and power

I have a question about cleats that wear unevenly and what that might indicate about power output. My Look Delta cleats (the floating style) always wear much faster on the outside rear corner, the left cleat faster than the right, to the point that the inner corner is barely worn when I have to replace the cleats. I have tried to use the LeWedges to correct this problem, but that seemed only to increase the wear. I'm on my third pair of cleats this season, which seems a bit excessive since I only train and race 6-8 hours a week. I have very flat feet and wear orthotics in both my cycling shoes and my street shoes.

My question: would it be better to reverse the LeWedges so that my foot tilts towards the crank, rather than away as their literature suggests It seems that putting all of the force onto the outer part of the pedal would make for a less powerful stroke, but I'm not sure I grasp the physics involved. Thanks and thanks for all the great advice,

Christian Sheridan

Chicago, USA

Eddie Monnier replies

Christian,

Are you sure the wear isn't happening when walking in your cleats rather than during normal cycling?

Definitely DO NOT reverse the LeWedges unless your forefoot tilts down on the inside of your foot (we call this forefoot valgus). Very few people have a forefoot tilted this way, the vast majority are forefoot varus (inside of foot is tilted up).

The purpose of the wedge is to put the foot in a neutral position relative to the pedal platform so that the foot does not roll before making full contact with the pedal. If you insert the wedge opposite to what is appropriate for your foot, you will worsen your pedal mechanics and may even cause yourself injury.

Health issues

Hi,

I have a weird condition that makes me think I'm going to have a heart attack. I ride to work every day about 40 minutes each way up some big hills; I try to keep my heart rate as high as I can at about 150bpm but not to the point that I will pass out. My problem is when I'm at rest about 45bpm, I sometimes get a sharp pain in my chest and/or shortness of breath - this really freaks me out. I have no problems while doing the workout, only at rest. I think I might not be breathing right during the ride. The funny thing is when I don't exercise much this doesn't seem to happen at all. I'm 33, 84kg and about 180cm tall. My doctor says that I might be over working; I don't think this is normal.

Diego Baigorria

Kelby Bethards replies

Diego,

How long does this shortness of breath last? How long is the pain there? Does the pain ever happen when not at rest? Do you ever get other symptoms with it?

I know, a lot of questions. But, serious things can happen to people your age. I tend to think it is something called a PVC (Premature Ventricular Contraction). That'll make it feel like your heart is about to jump out of your chest and for a brief moment make you feel short of breath. Most of time, people experience (at least I do) what feels like a pause in the heart beat, followed by a large beat (that feels like the heart is going to hop out of your chest) because of increased filling time between beats, then another quick beat right away. At that time, people feel short of breath.

HOWEVER, I do think it warrants looking into further. There are monitors you can wear that you can push a button with symptoms and record your heart tracing and what your heart was doing a few moments before this feeling happens.

So, talk to your doctor more and see if it needs a further evaluation. The reassuring thing about it all is that if you had a serious heart problem, more than likely it would bother you when exercising. If it is just an occasional PVC that is ok, but I think that needs to be proven.

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