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Cyclingnews Fitness Q&A - August 17, 2011

Mary is happy for any chance to prepare some good food.

Mary is happy for any chance to prepare some good food. (Image credit: Mary McConneloug & Mike Broderick)

Topics: Fitting a new seat, Diet and weight, Returning to competitive racing, Sore hamstrings - bike fit issues.

Got a question for the fitness panel? Send it to Try and include as much relevant information as you can think of. The more details you can provide the better the panel can tailor their response to your question.

Emails may be edited for length or clarity, but we try to publish both questions and answers in their entirety.

To find advice that relates to you more easily:

Problems with fitting a new seat

Diet and weight, finding the right balance

Returning to competitive racing

Sore hamstrings - a bike fit issue?

Problems with fitting a new seat


I am a 53-year-old cat. 2 rider and have been racing for 30 years. One problem I have never had, until recently, is post ride bilateral ‘charley horses’ and calf, sometimes even foot arch cramping.

I don't think this is an electrolyte or hydration issue. Several months ago I began experimenting with the "sit bone" seats (Selle SMP and ISM) to be a little more friendly on "the boys" and better accommodate my rotated and dropped sacrum. I do feel like I am better planted on the seat and sitting straighter in general but it feels like I have a little more weight shifted forward and my quads, and to a lesser degree my hamstrings, are working harder while my gluts are not as much. I set my knee to spindle distance the same as I have always had. Any ideas or thoughts? Is this an inherent issue with these types of seats?


Jerry Morrison

Steve Hogg says:

G'day Jerry,

I had to Google "charley horses" to find out it is U.S. slang for cramps. If you are convinced it is not hydration or nutritional (magnesium etc?), then it probably has something to do with the seats you are experimenting with. Can you restore your old position and seat as a starting point?

If so, have a look at this post as it is good advice for anyone experimenting with their bike position.

Then start making changes one at a time. I assume that the SMPs and ISM seats you have tried have altered your position in space above the bike. Your are convinced that your knee is in the same relationship to the pedal that you are used but this doesn't mean you are in the same position on the bike that you are used to. The Knee / Pedal relationship can be the same with differing seat heights and setbacks. Based on what you have said, I'd suggest that your experimenting has left your seat too far forward and and too high.

What I would suggest doing is going back to your original position. Then read the post I've linked to above, and the information below.

Basic instructions for fitting a different seat

Diet and weight


My question relates to diet and weight. I have struggled to stay down at my winter weight (~167 lbs) despite the longer ride and work out times (currently I float around 170+). I have not changed my diet much if at all (intake ~2000-2200 calories per day). I am looking to start racing next year (at a very amateur level of course) and I would like drop some more weight. My question is this - what do you recommend for someone to do for their diet to help lost more weight? Do you think it has more to do with the exercise being longer endurance rides vs. short interval rides? Any diet plans that you might recommend? Thanks

Pamela Hinton says:

Hi Chris,

You are really asking two questions: 1) Why can’t I maintain my winter weight during the rest of the year when my training volume is increased?; and 2) How should I change my diet to lose weight?

Regarding your difficulty maintaining your winter weight despite the increased training volume, keep in mind that we are talking about a very small difference in body weight (167 vs. 170 lbs, i.e., less than 2%!). Recognize that body weight and body composition are not the same thing. In other words, you don’t know whether the increase in body weight is due to gains in muscle, fat or a combination. It is quite possible that, in reality, you are relatively leaner now due to a gain in lean body mass since the winter.

Before I give anyone advice on how to lose weight, I always ask them to consider whether their weight loss goal or "ideal" body weight is realistic. Trying to achieve a body weight or percent body fat that is too low and/or cannot be sustained will ultimately have undesirable effects on performance and health. You didn’t provide your height, so I cannot determine whether losing a few pounds would leave you at a healthy body weight. However, at 2,000-2,200 kcal/day, your energy intake is quite low, making it difficult to consume a nutritionally adequate diet. In my experience, you will be much more successful at losing the weight and maintaining a lower weight if you focus more on your training and less on "dieting".

The First Law of Thermodynamics applies to human beings, so to lose weight, you have to create an energy deficit. A negative energy balance of 500 kcal per day will result in the loss of about one pound per week. If you lose weight too rapidly (<2 pounds/ week) than you risk losing muscle mass, which is obviously something you want to avoid.

To create an energy deficit you can decrease your energy intake and/or increase your energy output. Being aware of portion size is a great place to start to decrease your energy intake. There are other small changes that you can make to your diet that aren’t likely to have a negative impact on your training. You want to limit your intake of foods that have a high energy density, i.e., a lot of kcals per volume, and that are low in other nutrients (like vitamins and minerals). A good example of this type of food is the fat that we add to our food (e.g., butter on bread, dressing on salad, etc.) I am by no means suggesting that you eliminate these foods from your diet.

Rather, simply decrease the amount that you consume. For example, by using one tablespoon of dressing instead of two, you cut out 100 kcal.

This a very small decrease in your overall energy intake, but over the course of 4-5 weeks would result in a loss of one pound of body fat. You should also pay attention to the energy you consume as beverages. Soda, fruit "juice," and beer have about 150-200 calories per 12-ounce serving, and most of that energy comes from simple sugar (or alcohol). You could easily reduce your energy intake by eliminating these "empty" calories.

To increase the "energy out" half of the energy-balance equation you could increase the frequency or duration of your exercise session to expend more calories. You might also try increasing the intensity of your workouts by doing hill repeats or intervals once a week. The high-intensity efforts (>85% of max) cause your metabolic rate to stay elevated for several hours after the workout. This increase in your metabolic rate by ~10% is equivalent to approximately 200 extra calories expended during the 24 hours after the high-intensity session. It takes an energy deficit of 3500 kcal to lose one pound of body fat. You could accomplish this by substituting a high-intensity workout for 8 weeks.

Don’t lose sight of your ultimate objective - which is to excel at cycling - as you try to drop a few pounds. Keep focused on your training, which is just as important as your weight, in preparing to race next year.

Returning to competitive cycling


Scott Saifer says:

Hi Stephen,

You are on the right track with the idea of training through the rest of this summer and right up to the 2012 races. You need a training plan, which is more than I can describe here in adequate detail. I'd suggest you get yourself a book or work with a coach. Very briefly, you should do a few months of base and then start increasing intensity gradually with one month that includes long sub-lactic threshold intervals a couple of days per week, one month that includes shorter LT intervals a couple of days per week, and then one month that includes either club rides, races that you enter for training, or supra-threshold efforts, sprints, all-out hill repeats and the like one or two days per week. I usually suggest that people use racing to put the finishing touches on racing fitness so that they get a dose of tactical education along with their high-end fitness, but if you want to be hot off the blocks, you'll have to develop your high end before you start racing.

Sore hamstrings - a bike fit issue?

Mr. Hogg

I recently did a 7x3 VO2 max workout and my hamstrings and calf's hurt for days after. I then started to study bike fitting and found your site. The first thing I did was to check my cleat position. I was 10mm too far back!

I had a Retul fit two years ago. The fitter said he did not believe in KOP and moved me back (aft). I never checked my cleats. My legs also get tired after a FTP interval workout but not as bad as they do with VO2 max intervals. I did your balance test and can do it but it is very hard. I am comfortable on the bike and can do 4/5 hr. rides. I think my saddle height is good.

Should I try to move my saddle forward 3-5mm? Do you recommend anyone in USA, Texas for a good fit? Could the hamstring and calf soreness be anything else?

Thank you for any help. All fitters within 100 miles of me use the KOP method.

Richard Linebaugh

Steve Hogg says:

G'day Richard,

I agree with your Retul guy about KOPS but struggle to understand how a quality bike fit can ignore your feet!.

Too far rearward a cleat position will hinder your ability to sprint. However, the rearward cleat position shouldn't create a problem for your hamstrings and calves unless either:
1. Your seat is too high
2. Your seat is too far back
3. A combination of both.

If either 1, 2 or 3 applies to you, and based on what you have told me, it is likely, then yes, you will have problems passing the balance test. The most common positional mistake I see is too high a seat height. You mentioned you'd been to our site, so read the posts on seat height; and this one.

Apply that info, and see how you get on.

As to competent bike fitters in Texas; there is only one gent that I would suggest; Jerry Gerlich at Castle Hill Cycles in Austin. He is way ahead of run of the mill bike fitters and will do a good job.



The Cyclingnews Form & Fitness panel

Scott Saifer ( is head coach, CEO of Wenzel and has been coaching cyclists professionally for 18 years. He combines a master's degree in Exercise Physiology with experience in 20 years of touring and racing and over 300 road, track and MTB races to deliver training plans and advice that are both rigorously scientific and compatible with the real world of bike racing.

Scott has helped clients to turn pro as well as to win medals at US Masters National and World Championship events. He has worked with hundreds of beginning riders and racers and particularly enjoys working with the special or challenging rider. Scott is co-author of Bike Racing 101 with Kendra Wenzel and his monthly column appears in ROAD Magazine.

Steve Hogg has owned and operated Pedal Pushers since 1986, 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. He can be reached at:

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.

Pam 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 associate professor of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of energy balance on bone health. She has published on the effects of cycling and multi-day stage racing on bone density and turnover.

Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling competitively in 2003 and is a three-time Missouri State Road Champion.

James Hibbard progressed from the junior to the professional ranks as a rider and has over 15 years of competitive cycling experience. He is a former Collegiate All-American track cyclist, trained as a resident athlete at the United States Olympic Training Center, earned international medals as part of the U.S. National Team, and was a member of the powerhouse Shaklee and HealthNet Professional road cycling teams.

He has earned 13 National Track Championship medals, as well as numerous junior, U-23 and elite California State championships on both the road and track. Since retiring from full-time racing in 2005, James has focused on his development as a coach.

David Fleckenstein, MPT, OCS ( is a physical therapist practicing in Eagle, ID and the president of Physiotherapy, PA, an outpatient orthopedic clinic focusing in orthopedics, spine, and sportsmedicine care.

His clients have included World and US champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes. He received his Masters degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University and is currently completing his doctorate at Regis University.

He is a board certified orthopedic specialist focusing in manual medicine and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilisation musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.

Carrie Cheadle, MA ( 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 ( 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.

Dario Fredrick ( 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.

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