Cyclingnews Fitness Q&A - January 22, 2012

The peloton on the road to Old Willunga Hill.

The peloton on the road to Old Willunga Hill. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Topics: Power to weight ratios, Returning confidence levels after a bad crash, Efficient cadence, Balancing aerodynamics and power, Recovering from a shattered femur

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To find advice that relates to you more easily:

Eating less than recommended, yes or no?

Cycling with a fused knee


Strange Iliotibial Band Syndrome Symptoms

Low volume training and ‘Wattage’ drift

Is there a training benefit to eating less than required when doing training rides to purposely put yourself in the box or should you always follow the 1g carbohydrate per kg both training and racing?

Pamela Hinton says:

Hi Darren,

Eating less than required when training is not beneficial.

Some have proposed that training while fasted (i.e., first thing in the morning) or without adequate carbohydrate consumption will “train the body to use fat.”

However, this strategy is ineffective from the perspective of getting the most out of your training, and here’s why. It is true that not eating before a ride or under-eating (carbs) during the ride will increase the use of fat for energy during exercise. This happens because you either start your ride with depleted glycogen stores or deplete them during the ride. Because your body has no alternative, it has to use stored body fat for energy. So far, that sounds like a good thing, right? But, there’s a high price to pay: if fat is the only fuel available, you are forced to exercise at low intensity.

Carbohydrate mandatory for high-intensity exercise because more ATP is produced per liter of oxygen consumed from carbohydrate than fat.

Training per se causes metabolic adaptations that increase oxidation of fat for energy during exercise: 1) increased release of fatty acids from fat stores during exercise; 2) increased fat storage near skeletal muscle mitochondria for more rapid use; and 3) increased capacity of skeletal muscle to oxidize fat.

The bottom line is that your body will respond best to training if you give it the required fuel.

Cycling with a fused knee

I am a 21 year old female and my right leg is fused at the knee, which makes it so that I am unable to bend it. I am curious if there are any kinds of bikes that I could look into as I cannot ride a regular one. I am interested in just riding the bike around town. I really miss being able to ride a bike and have been looking for a while but just can't seem to find anything that I could ride. Do you have any information on this?


Cami Smith

Scott Saifer says:

Hi Cami,

With a knee that won't bend, you aren't going to be doing any bicycling that seems or looks "normal", so the next question is how close to normal you can get and how far from normal you are willing to go to ride. One off-the-shelf possibility to get you out on the road again certainly is some sort of hand-cycle. A Google search will bring you lots of options there.

I'd love to say that you could ride standing with one leg straight, but that simply won't work. If you really want to be on a bike rather than a trike, a second possibility is pedaling with one leg, rigging a way to get your second leg supported out of the way and probably adding a weight to the right pedal to make it easier to get the pedals around. A recumbent bike would make getting the right leg out of the way much easier than an upright bike.

People with no knee or lower leg at all can ride relatively normal bikes with prostheses. I'm not an expert on such things, but I imagine you might be able to involve your right leg with a prosthesis hinged near your knee in a way that allows you to pedal with both legs.

Good luck. I hope you are able to get rolling again. Do let us know what you decide to try and how it works and of course write again if we can help in any way.


Hey panel,

I have two questions regarding interval training.

1. When looking to improve overall performance are there any advantages/disadvantages to doing interval training on hills when the variables are the same as the flat: i.e length, cadence and effort?

2. Should intervals be done on consecutive days or is it best for recovery and performance gains to have a rest or recovery ride day in between? (due to training restrictions I often end up doing intervals back to back, typically one day doing 30X30 intervals (12-16 reps) and the other doing 3X3 (6-9 reps).

Many Thanks.

Scott Saifer says:

Hi Adam,

Two good questions!

Many people find it easier to raise heart rate and deliver higher power on hills than on flat, so I suggest that you do intervals on both hills and flat. Being able to make power on the flat roads will turn out to be a very valuable racing skill for TT riding, chasing or breaking away, so doing your intervals only on hills where it is easier is an error.

Do your intervals on non-consecutive days as much as possible to maximize the fitness gains.

Strange Iliotibial Band Syndrome Symptoms

Ever since I discovered this wonderful website, I have eagerly awaited the "Fitness Q&A" articles because many of the tips you give others apply to myself as well. I am a 17 year old competitive cyclist, and though I do not consider myself among the elite, I do tend to place well in almost all the road races I enter. As of now I have been seriously training for a little under two years. Over the summer I ride 200 to 250 miles a week, and during the winter I use the bike trainer for about an hour a day for five days out of the week.

Last winter I encountered some pain in my left knee and decided to go to a physical therapist, he diagnosed my problem as Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome (ITBFS), and gave me great advice and a stretching routine. Shortly after doing the prescribed stretches, my knee pain disappeared, but one symptom of ITBFS remained, I could still feel my iliotibial band flick over the bone protrusion on my femur. I continue to do this stretching routine three or four times a day, everyday. Over the next summer I returned to my training regimen, and made some wonderful progress, and I was free of knee pain, but the flicking continued.

After it started getting cold, I decided to take a month off with hopes of getting rid of the 'flicking' sensation in my knee, and I discovered something strange. My left knee became sore, not excessively so, but there was a small amount of pain when I would stand up from a crouched position or something of that sort. After riding again, I noticed this soreness disappeared, and then came back again after not riding for a few days. Once I resumed winter training, I found the flicking was still present, and the soreness in my knee was completely absent.

I debated returning to the physical therapist. but resolved to email the the panel of experts because my physical therapist was not as well versed in cycling specific injuries as he is injuries specific to more popular sports in my area. Any advice regarding this issue would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your time,


Steve Hogg says:

G'day Jonathan,

The 'flicking' sensation is caused by a muscle, tendon or ligament moving across a bony protrusion or landmark. It might be because you have some minor anatomical abnormality but given what you have said about your ITB history on the left side, it is more likely that you’re on seat symmetry when riding is not what it could be. ITB niggles that arise on a bike are almost always a product of dropping the hip on the other side and subsequently challenging the plane of movement of the hip on the affected side.

The solution could be as simple as dropping your seat a few mm. If the seat is too high, next to no one sits squarely on the seat and overextends each leg equally. What normally happens is that they will drop one hip, mostly but not always the right hip, and overextend the other leg through a less than ideal plane of movement.

Of course there are other possible reasons as well but seat height is by far the most common. I would suggest dropping your seat 5mm as a test and leaving it like that for 2 weeks of consistent riding. Then get back to me and let me know what happened.

Low volume training and ‘Wattage’ drift

Good day All,

With increasing non-cycling related responsibilities I have fairly recently adopted a high intensity low volume type of training plan. My question relates to my rest days. If I take the day off completely I feel horrible and find it difficult to get up for the next training ride. If I ride at an active recovery pace (around 40-50% of threshold power) I feel better and the next day's workout is significantly easier to get up for. The question is am I hurting myself by riding on my off days?

The second question relates to the power readings on my power meter. I use a powertap and calibrate it before every ride. I am familiar with cardiac drift but is there such an animal as power drift? I find the wattage required to maintain a given speed continues to rise for about 40 minutes when it will eventually flatten out for the speed I am riding. This is seen on an indoor trainer so wind and hills are a non-issue.

I look forward to your answers.

Best regards,

Art Magnaye

Scott Saifer says:

Hi Art,

Fun questions, thanks! No, you are not hurting yourself by riding on your rest days, so long as the rides are very, very easy. 40-50% of threshold power certainly counts as very, very easy. Moving blood through the tissues, stretching them, keeping the muscle fibers sliding over each other... all these are good for recovery. So long as you are not generating new fatigue, activity is good on rest days.

Yes, there is such a thing as power drift on certain trainers. For instance, I have several fluid trainers. In one of them the fluid seems to get less viscous as it warms up so that the power required to maintain a speed is quite high at first but decreases with time. This is the opposite of the effect you are noting. I'd guess that some part of your trainer is increasing friction as it gets warmer. To test, I'd suggest a roll-down test done in the first minutes of a ride and repeated 40 minutes in. If the roll-down time decreases, you know that friction has increased. Then you can attempt to determine why.

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 five-time Missouri State Road Champion, racing for Dogfish Racing Team.

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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