Cyclingnews Fitness Q&A - July 27, 2011

The legs of a world champion - Giorgina Bronzini (Colavita/Forno D’Asolo)

The legs of a world champion - Giorgina Bronzini (Colavita/Forno D’Asolo) (Image credit:

Topics: Hip pain, Shaving your legs, Toe numbness, Left-right leg bias

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:

Hip Pain

Shaving your legs

Toe numbness

Left-right leg bias

Hip Pain


I have a problem whereby I moved from SPD pedals on my roadbike (the old style road SPD's) to SPD-r about a year ago. Since moving to SPD-r's I immediately noticed that my feet felt locked into the vertical plane. My left leg is fine but in my right leg I immediately began to have mild lateral hip discomfort. This was mitigated by moving the right cleat to the absolute limit of it's travel to the medial aspect of the shoe and rotating the cleat so my toe is angled away from the midline (consequently my heel brushes the chainstay).

The problem was manageable until recently, as I have increased my training load in preparation for some events later in the year. I now have anterior/lateral hip pain and I feel that I have less stength, or ability to apply force to the pedal and in pulling up on the upstroke - in the right leg.

A little background: I saw a physiotherepist for anterior hip pain last year after a lot of running and squash. My problem is extreme inflexibility in the muscles/tendons traversing my hip joint (r>l). I also ride mtb and I have little problem on my MTB, my perception is that the SPD cleat and pedal accommodates my inflexibility by allowing my foot to rock in the lateral plane when I pedal, but when my foot is fixed by the SPD-r cleat my hip joint must accommodate. I ride toe out on my mtb as well.

Obviously if I return to SPD pedals on my road bike the problem will me mitigated and I can return to full training, however I love my new carbon soled road shoes so much I'm reluctant to swap for a road shoe drilled for SPD cleats (unless you can point me towards some high quality road shoes drilled for SPDs).

My question is: my other consideration was speedplay pedals - given my problem do you consider that these pedals have enough play (lateral rocking etc) to accommodate my biomechanical peculiarity? I'm also considering that a longer right pedal axle may be necessary as my right leg 'wants' to splay more when pedalling. Your advice on pedal selection would be appreciated.



Steve Hogg says:

G'day Sean,

I'm assuming that what you are calling SPD-R is in fact the current 3 bolt Look style SPD-SL pedals and cleats? If not, let me know. SPD-R's were the now superseded Shimano pattern 2 bolt road pedal with the two bolts oriented fore and aft, not side by side.

The reason you don't have problems of similar nature on your mtb is because the wider crank separation width and more upright torso position are kinder to dysfunctional hips and low backs.

The problem on your road bike is almost certainly lack of foot correction ( arch support and canting) on the right foot (and probably to some extent on the left side as well). With the amount of lateral rocking that is common on Spd's your foot was able to find a position that didn't stress the kinetic chain on that side. The Spd SL's won't allow that play and so now the underlying problem has manifested. Speedplays are not the solution either, as they will only rock laterally with badly worn cleats or bowties (engagement point of pedals which contact cleats).

You can probably have your cake and eat it too with a bit of care. That is, keep your existing shoes and pedals. You will need good arch support and likely some wedging as well. These 3 links will give you the info you need.

  1. Arch Support
  2. Wedging
  3. Cleat Position

Once you've read them, get back to me if any clarification is needed.

Shaving your legs


Pro riders keep their legs looking in great shape under tough conditions. How do they shave, how far, how close etc.



Scott Saifer says:

Hi Noel,

Each to his own. Mostly electric razors or disposable blades, same as everyone else uses on their faces or armpits. Shaving usually stops somewhere near the lower edge of the shorts, maybe higher on the outside. You don't want to shave areas that get rubbed since that causes ingrown hairs.

Toe numbness


I’m a long time recreational cyclist but have recently been seduced by the charms of road riding and been riding a lot more seriously in the last 2 years.

Recently I have been noticing toe numbness on both legs after riding for only a few miles. Previously the problem had been present but generally after 30-40 miles which I attributed to fatigue.

The numbness starts at the toes, mainly on the right foot first, then radiates to the calf and lower back. I have Shimano 105 SPD pedals, and '10 Litespeed C3 road bike. I had the bike professionally fit at the local bike store. I also just upgraded to a SMP pro saddle, hoping that would take care of the problem. But that has not been the case.

I don't know what the conditional is called so I can’t Google it. Hope you can help.


Steve Hogg says:

G'day Hung,

I need more info. When you say "Recently, I have been noticing toe numbness in both legs." What has changed recently?

In the 3 month period prior to first onset of the toe numbness, did you change your position?

If so, what was changed?

Did you change any equipment?

If so, what was changed?

Have you changed your behaviour in any way; stretching more, stretching less, riding harder; that sort of thing?



Left-right leg bias

I just had a bike fit with motion capture and most of the results were within the norm and required minor fit adjustments. However using s fitcycle it was determined that while in a seated riding position that I had a left leg bias of between 12-16% and while pedaling standing it evened out. In looking at all other variables my tester advised that there was no pelvic rock or other obvious signs as to why this was happening.

Would like to see what you and the panel have for suggestions. My fitter suggestion was to see a PT and see if there is a muscle imbalance due to a dormant muscle group or something else. Also. I should have mentioned that I have no recent injuries and am a right handed person who has always been right side dominant from sight, throwing and kicking.

Thank you in advance for your assistance!!


Steve Hogg says:

G'day Jeff,

I like the question. If your left / right power balance evens out when off the seat then you can largely forget the "muscle imbalance due to a dormant muscle group......" because though possible; it is unlikely that the "dormant" muscles suddenly wake up when you stand on the pedals.

There are three other possibilities. As background, power imbalances usually resolve or improve when off the seat because the rider is no longer locked into as fixed a relationship with the bike as when they are on the seat. That means one of the following explanations is the likely cause.

1. Firstly, the cadence and load that was used can play a part in these things and skew the results. I have a Velotron and test fit clients in their existing position before fitting them. A common pattern that I see regularly is:

At moderate load and cadence, the rider favours the left leg in terms of output. As cadence increases the readings become much closer to 50 / 50, and the cadence range that this happens is usually the cadence range that the rider naturally falls into for TT's or sustained steady output efforts. As load rises and the rider has to force the gear, then the right leg becomes more dominant, with the rider often displaying an imbalance of the same order or more than you have described. Don't get the idea that what I've just described is universal as it isn't, but it is common.

The challenge then is what to do about it and there is no consistent answer. The measures necessary are an individual thing, and on the info you have given me, I can't give you definitive advice.

2. The second thing is lack of habituation. And I'm assuming here that the left / right power imbalance was determined at the end of the fitting session. If not, then ignore this possibility.

When we ride a bike, a precise and complex muscle firing sequence is required to perform the task. This is called a motor pattern. You mention minor changes to your position were made. That means that your physical relationship to the bike was changed in turn requiring a change in motor pattern. Your position can be changed quickly but a motor pattern can take anywhere from hours to weeks to change. I caution all fit clients to ride at low to moderate intensity for 3 weeks post fit. At high intensity, we all try to fall back into patterns of movement we are used to but which are not yet in sync with the requirements of the new position. This lack of synchronisation of motor pattern with new position presents a Challenge to the riders position.

The key thing to understand about a Challenge, is that the rider will ALWAYS compensate by increasing their tendency to asymmetry.

So what I'm saying is that it would be worth your while riding as you are at low to moderate intensity for several weeks, and then having another test session to see whether there has been an improvement. It is quite possible that there will be.

3. The third possibility is the position you hold on the bike is the cause. I know you have had a fit but when you say "I just had a bike fit with motion capture and the results were within the norm.........", you are describing process work, not bike fitting as I understand the term. The result was predetermined. The angle of your bent knee is with in Y range; the angle of your upper arm and torso is with X range and so on and so on.

What that means is that the fitter didn't look at you. He / she used motion capture technology to tell him / her what you were doing and then applied a template of averages to your position. The problem with this approach is not the technology. The problem is the blind application of the 'norms' you speak of. They are averages and may or may not apply to you. The more parameters of position that are addressed using 'norms', the less individually reliable the result and the more the chance of a compounding error skewing the result. Seat height, seat setback, cleat position and foot correction are the major determinants of power output and equality of power output between left and right sides. Bar position will only play a (negative) role if the bar is noticeably too low or too far away. Have a look at this list of links and see how your position fares when compared to the info given there.

  1. Seat Height
  2. Seat Set Back
  3. Cleat position
  4. Arch Support
  5. Wedging

I would be interested to hear how you get on. Best of luck.

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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