Cyclingnews Fitness Q&A - December 22, 2011

Riders strung out on a training ride under the Big Sky at USA Cycling’s Cyclocross summer training camp in Helena, Montana

Riders strung out on a training ride under the Big Sky at USA Cycling’s Cyclocross summer training camp in Helena, Montana (Image credit:

Topics: Single quad burn, Scoliosis, Adapting to having less time for proper training, Winter base training

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Single quad burn


Adapting to having less time for proper training

Winter base training

Single quad burn


I have received some good info from here before and hoping you can help again.

I’m 55 yrs young and ride between 6000 -7000 miles a yr and have for 25 yrs. I still race both on and off road. Due to a broken right hip as a child, my right leg is a cm shorter than my left. I do not have any lifts in my “street/running” shoes. A couple of yrs ago I developed a bad case of hip bursitis in my right hip and It took most of a winter of physical therapy and cortisone shots to get over the problem. I was still able to ride my bike, just could not push the pedals hard (mostly zone 2/1 rides) after I got over the bursitis, I decided to add some shims to my right road cycling shoe, but didn’t mess with my mountain bike shoe.

Over the last couple of years ( and its getting worst and worst) I’ve notice that under harder efforts that my right quad loads up bad, to the point that if I’m doing intervals I have to stop, not due to breathing but because my right quad is hurting bad. Also my left quad is now 1 cm. smaller than the right… when I ride my mountain bike I do not have this problem which is kind of making me think I might need to take the shims back off, but I’m really confused in what to do.. I had an expert fit me as far as feet pedal interface and was wedged, and checked shim height, but I’m just not sure if that was the way to go as the problem is getting worst, to the point where I’m beginning to think that be completive might be over for me.

Thanks for any help/advice given

Steve Hogg says:

G'day Jeff,

You're not giving enough info for a definitive answer. If the right leg is more developed, it is doing more work. Please answer these questions when you have time.

1. What is the percentage breakdown of training time spent on road bike versus training time spent on mtb.

2. Do you have the same relative cleat position with each shoe / pedal combination? And please don't guess the answer.

3. Do you ride your mtb at as high an intensity as you ride your road bike?

4. When you say "I had an expert fit...........etc"; was that road bike only or both bikes?

Jeff replies:

Thanks for the quick response

I ride my road bike 80% of the time

I had my cleats set 9mm +/- back from the ball of my foot (size 43 shoe) on my road bike, but the fitter set them all the way back, I moved them back to where I had them (9mm) tonight just trying something!!, I use speedplay pedals on road bike. My mountain bike I also slid the cleat back after the fit; I use time attack pedals I have not changed them. I had the fit done this past October.

I raced my mountain bike quite a bit this past spring and did not notice the problem. Have not really ridden it hard lately

The fit was road bike only.


Steve Hogg says:

G'day Jeff,

The problem is either over extension or under extension of the right leg. If it is over extension, typically the pain will be in the head of the quads just above the knee. If it is under extension, it will be in the belly of the quads.

The thing that occurs to me is that if you have evolved a compensatory response over years for not shimming the shorter leg, almost certainly by dropping or rotating forward the right hip, adding the shim may not have changed that leaving you with less leg extension than originally. Remove the shim as a trial and let me know the result.

The training plan for the rider lacking time


How can I maximise the use of time off safely. I hope I will get the occasional run in and maybe stationary bike session during work weeks. Is it possible to maintain bike fitness, perhaps see improvements with these schedule limiters?

Scott Saifer says:

Hi Stuart,

This is not an ideal work schedule for a serious athlete, but then no work schedule is ideal for a serious athlete so everyone works with what they've got. You can train more during your off-periods and much less during your work periods, but skipping riding for three weeks at a time is certainly not an option though if you want to do decently in Ironman events. I suggest a minimum of two rides, two runs and two swims every week, working or not. When you are working, they could be an hour or so each ride or run, and 45 minutes each swim and mostly at recovery pace if needed.

Then when you get to your break, take another easy day or two or three until you recover from work, if needed, before ramping up the volume. If you are relatively injury prone, take the first week of each break medium, maybe doing 2 hour sessions on the bike, 90 minute runs and swims. Then ramp up rapidly to whatever you have time for and is appropriate for an Ironman athlete heading for your event date.

The effects of a scoliosis on saddle position

If I ride with the saddle a little to the left (because of the scoliosis), it will create any issue with my left knee?



Steve Hogg says:

G'day Enrico,

Maybe, maybe not. Every case is different. I assume you are not sitting squarely on the seat and that is this is the reason for your question. If my assumption is correct, the best thing to do is find out why you can't sit squarely on the seat. It may because of the scoliosis but that begs the question 'What is the scoliosis a product of?'.

Has any health professional every suggested you have a measurable difference in leg length for instance?

Pointing the seat off centre to try and allow a rider to function more symmetrically in a functional sense is something that I do from time to time but it a last resort measure. Always it is better to find out and address the root cause(s) of the problem.

Can you give me more information as to what problems you are experiencing?



Winter Base Training

I know that this is the season for questions regarding base training. All your answers have given me an ample amount of information regarding base training. However I still have one small question.

Scott Saifer says:

Hi Khalil,

There is a difference. (Hey, you asked, "is there a difference").

There are some good things that happen physiologically that don't happen on shorter rides, so it is important that SOME of your base rides be single, long rides. If you get any fatigue on a two hour ride, doing 2 hours, recovering a bit and doing two more hours will have some special benefits. If you live somewhere that mid-day heat makes training difficult, splitting a ride can be beneficial.

In my experience, it pays to do one of your rides each week as a single, long ride. It also matters how many hours you accumulate for the week, but it doesn't seem to matter as much if the other rides are split or not.

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.

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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