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Cyclingnews Fitness Q&A - March 10, 2011

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Carlos Sastre (CSC) on the rollers prior to his effort. He finished 30th, 16 seconds behind Cancellara.

Carlos Sastre (CSC) on the rollers prior to his effort. He finished 30th, 16 seconds behind Cancellara. (Image credit: Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews)
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Jiri Jezek (far left) rides with a prosthetic limb and recently won a scratch race at the Tasmanian Christmas Carnival track series.

Jiri Jezek (far left) rides with a prosthetic limb and recently won a scratch race at the Tasmanian Christmas Carnival track series. (Image credit: Shane Goss)
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Cannondale says the Synapse's stay shaping helps give it a softer ride than the SuperSix Hi-Mod.

Cannondale says the Synapse's stay shaping helps give it a softer ride than the SuperSix Hi-Mod. (Image credit: James Huang)

Got a question for the fitness panel? Send it to Emails may be edited for length or clarity, but we try to publish both questions and answers in their entirety.

Roller training

Hi there

I have recently received a set of rollers as a gift and I'm looking for some help on training techniques to use. Can you give me a few ideas to work on? I am an average club level cyclist.


Scott Saifer says:


Here are some ideas to get you started training on your rollers. If you poke around online, you can find a lot more.

1. Cadence Pyramid

Warm up like a Spin ride and use your Basic heart rate zone (70-80% of max heart rate for novices, 65-75% for elite). Do cadence pyramids as follows. Start with 2 minutes at 70 rpm, then 2 minutes at 90 rpm, 2 at 75, 2 and 90 and so on by this scheme: 70-90-75-90-80-90-85-90-90-90-95-90-100-90-105-90... Keep working up until you have trouble staying smooth on the bike, then work your way back down to 70 rpm again. Depending on available time, ride for five minutes at a comfortable cadence and then build another pyramid.

2. Threshold Sensor Zig-Zags (Only do these when you are okayed for work of this intensity)

Warm up for at least 20 minutes at an recovery pace. Then pedal your heart rate back and forth as rapidly as possible from the bottom of the recovery zone to your AT heart rate. The trick is you are not allowed to overshoot. The goal is to feel how hard you have to ride so that your heart rate will just slide up to threshold but not past, and how easy to ride to have it drop to the bottom of the recovery zone, but not below. Go back and forth for 15 minutes, then ride endurance for 15 minutes and repeat.

3. Pedaling Drills:

Warm up with 15 minutes easy pedaling, then do the following drills:

1) Stroke Break downs:

Quarters: Focus on your pedal stroke 1/4 stroke at a time, for five strokes, and then more on to the next quarter stroke until you've gone all the way around three times. Thus: Down-Down-Down-Down-Down-Back-Back-Back-Back-Back-Up-Up-Up-Up-Up-Over-Over-Over-Over-Over and repeat.

Halves: Focus on your pedal stroke 1/2 stroke at a time, for five strokes, and then more on to the next half stroke until you've gone all the way around three times. Thus: Down-and-Back -- Down-and-Back -- Down-and-Back -- Down-and-Back -- Down-and-Back – Back and Up -- Back and Up -- Back and Up -- Back and Up -- Back and Up – Up and Over – Up and Over – Up and Over – Up and Over –Up and Over – Over and Down – Over and Down – Over and Down – Over and Down- Over and Down and repeat

Full Stokes: Now do ten full pedal cycles focusing on making full circles with the left leg and then 10 with the right leg.

2) One leg drills: Unclip one foot at a time and pedal with the other for 30 seconds, pedal with both feet for 30 seconds, then the other foot for 30 seconds, then both feet and so on until you are tired. Then spin out the remainder of the time

4. Strength Intervals

Do an endurance zone ride, but once you have warmed up, set the resistance high enough to stay in your endurance zone with your cadence around 50 rpm for five minutes at a time. Alternate with five minutes at 90 rpm

5. Distraction

Listen to music or watch a video if one is available

Bike choices

I've got a few questions which I have laid out below.

I currently ride two bikes:

Cannondale Synapse. Size 56. Geometry here (


* Light and fast.
* Feel OK after long rides.


* Bit twitchy.
* Worry about damage on planes, etc
* Limited to narrow tyres.

Salsa Vaya. Size 56. Geometry here (


* Feel super stable on this bike.
* Can carry wider tyre.


* Bit heavy.
* Not keen on the look of drastically sloping top tubes.

I am really enjoying the stability of the Vaya and want to try a get that same feel in a more classic-looking road bike (probably made of steel). I'm a light rider at 67kg and I'm not going to be doing any loaded touring. A friend of mine suggested that I try and get a classic sport tourer similar to those that were around in the '80s. He suggested a geometry of 73 head angle, chainstays between 43 and 44.5 and a fork offset of 5.5.

1) How do you reckon that would ride?
2) I'm keen to be able to use a 32 tyre but am not keen on cantilever brakes. Do I need long reach brakes? If so, are they any good?
3) What are the pros and cons of threaded vs threadless forks?
4) I like the look of fillet brazed frames. Is there any down side to choosing this over lugged frames? Such as repairability?

I'm not a competitive rider but do like to go on rides of 120km or so and I do those at an average of around 24km/h. Basically I'm looking for a fun sporty bike but with a nice feeling of stability to it.

Any of your wisdom would be appreciated.


Steve Hogg says:


I had a look at the geometry links of both your bikes. The biggest problem with answering questions like this is that I have no knowledge of the position that you hold on either bike. The position you have can have a bearing on the differences you've noted. With that in mind, here goes:

1) How do you reckon that would ride?

Not very well unless you had a very low bottom bracket. I'll explain. Your Salsa Vaya and your Cannondale Synapse have similar steering stability. The Vaya has a trail figure of 60 and the Synapse 59mm. A negligible difference. Trail is the distance that the contact patch of the tyre 'trails' behind the steering axis.

Another way of thinking of it is as the tendency for the bike to self centre. Even if Mechanical Trail is used as a comparison, which is trail measured at right angles to the steering axis, and which I think is a better means of comparison between different steering geometries, the difference between these two bikes is only 2mm.

Both achieve it with different combinations of fork offset and head tube angle but the result is so similar as to be barely noticeable in terms of stability. So other factors explain the difference you've noted with the Synapse being a "bit twitchy" and the Vaya being "super stable".

Those other factors may be:

Bottom bracket drop - The Vaya lists the bottom bracket drop (distance the centre of the bottom bracket 'drops' below a horizontal line between front and rear axles) as 75mm, which is lower than average for road racing bike.

A low bottom bracket equals more stability as felt by the rider, all other things being equal. The Synapse geometry doesn't list bottom bracket drop, but rather measures the height of the bottom bracket centre from the ground and records this as 265mm. Working on the assumption that this is based on using a 23mm tyre, then the bottom bracket drop is 72mm. This gives a small advantage to the Vaya if we are talking this parameter alone, but not enough to explain the marked difference you find in riding them.

Wheelbase - The Vaya has a 50mm longer wheel base with most of the difference being in the chain stays. This is a substantial difference and may be enough to explain a large part of the difference that you feel. For instance. the Vaya extra long chain stays mean that your weight is distributed more over the front wheel than it is relatively speaking on the Synapse because the rear wheel has been moved further back. This dampens steering to some degree and may play a part in what you feel. Possibly a large part.

Centre of gravity- This is a pet hobby horse of mine. The lower the combined centre of gravity of bike and rider, the more stable the bike will feel all other things being equal. The Synapse is a lighter frame by some margin and I would assume a lighter bike. That means that even if your position in space relative to the bottom bracket centre of each bike is the same ( and it may not be) then the centre of gravity of the combined bike and rider will be higher from the ground on the Synapse than on the Vaya giving an advantage to the Vaya in terms of perceived stability. An additional factor here may be any difference in the position you hold on each bike. The riders weight placement and distribution can have a huge effect on centre of gravity.

Gyroscopic inertia- Any significant differences in wheel weight will have a bearing on stability. More weight equals more gyroscopic inertia.

Getting back to "how well it would ride"; you've spec'd long chain stays like your Vaya but much, much quicker steering geometry. A 73 degree head tube angle paired with a 55mm fork offset yields 46mm of trail and 44mm of mechanical trail (assuming a 23mm tyre). That is a very, very quick steering front end and at odds with your stated desire for stability. My advice is to have a lowish bottom bracket drop of 75 - 80mm and a trail figure of around 60mm. A steel frame built like that with the long chain stays that you want should be plush and very stable.

2) I'm keen to be able to use a 32 tyre but am not keen on cantis. Do I need long reach brakes? If so, are they any good?

They work well enough but need more force at the lever for the same degree of braking because the longer reach arms apply less leverage for a given amount of force at the lever..

3) What are the pros and cons of threaded vs threadless forks?

Threadless forks are easier to fit stems and head set to and easier to adjust and service. Unless you want the retro look and the extra time spent on maintenance that goes with it, choose threadless.

4) I like the look of fillet brazed frames. Is there any down side to choosing this over lugged frames? Such as repairability?

A well built fillet brazed frame should not fail in normal use. They can be repaired as easily as a lugged frame but will need more finishing time. Once the fillet has been built up, there is a lot of donkey work involved in giving the fillet a smooth appearance.

Riding with a prosthetic leg


I'm wondering if you could help me; I have a prosthetic below the knee on my left leg and I've entered the Cancer Cycle in Kenya to do 400km but I have trouble with the sleeve that my leg fastens into.

When I go riding the sleeve gathers behind my leg and blisters, making it hard to pedal and sore behind the knee. I wound be grateful for any advice you can offer me to overcome the problem.


Scott Saifer says:

Hi Kathrine,

Congratulations on your resolve to do the 400K despite the extra challenge of a prosthetic leg. You are awesome!
I think you are asking about a problem with blistering where your prosthesis rubs on the back of your leg. It that is not your question, please clarify.

I have to admit to not being an expert on prostheses, but well experienced with blisters from rubbing so I'll make some suggestions and you'll have to tell us if they are realistic in your situation.

Blisters happen when skin is repeatedly rubbed, pulling the surface layer of skin so that it moves compared to the lower layers. To avoid blisters you need to eliminate the rubbing. In some situations (like in the "saddle contact area") the best solution is a lubricant. That might work for your prosthesis. I don't know if the prosthesis is easy to clean which is certainly a consideration before you go putting goop on it.

Another, often better solution it to introduce a layer of something against the skin that will move with the skin and slide on the inside of the prosthesis. The challenge is to come up with something that will stay in place and not bunch up or get stuck to the prosthesis. That might actually mean introducing two layers that can slide on each other while one sticks to your leg and the other to the prosthesis. Two pairs of tights cut to length might work.

In many situations, some adhesive material can work wonders in preventing blisters. That is, apply cloth "coaches tape" to the area where you expect to get rubbed. Apply enough over a large enough area that the edges of the tape won't be getting rubbed so it can stay on.

Whatever solution you try, of course try it several times on longer training rides before you start out for the 400k ride. Good luck.

Effects of a tooth infection


I have what seems to be a tooth infection and wondering whether it has something to do with my pedaling squares at the moment... I am trying to avoid antibiotics/dentist - are there any other options?


Scott Saifer says:


Any serious infection can interfere with your ability to perform athletically, and untreated tooth infections can turn into really horrible situations (think brain abscess as the extreme case). Yes, dentists and antibiotics are unpleasant, but not nearly as bad as an untreated tooth infection. Get to a dentist.

Kelby Bethards says:


Scott is correct. A couple things. Serious things can occur from infected teeth. The most extreme case I have seen is infectious pericarditis (infection around the heart) from a dental abscess. Rare, but deadly.

I have responded to many emails in which people are "afraid" or hesitant to use antibiotics. I understand this to a degree, but you need to think about the simple question: Which has the worse side effect - an infection or an antibiotic? You cannot perform to your best with an infection. Antibiotics aren't great, but you may not be able to fight of the infection without it.

Middle-aged muscle gain

Dear Cyclingnews,

I always enjoy reading and learning from the Fitness Q & A portion of your website. My question is in regard to regaining and retaining muscle mass. For background, I am a 53-year-old male competitive cyclist. I am 6'4" tall and currently weigh 188 lbs.

I got into cycling by accident at age 28 while undergoing rehab for sciatica brought on by distance running and playing a lot of tennis. Part of the rehab was riding a computerized exercise bicycle. After a few weeks on the exercise bike, I was able to out-power even professional indoor soccer players who were also being treated at this clinic. I was advised by my doctors to discontinue distance running. So I took up cycling and enjoyed some modest successes in the following years.

In the winter of 1997 at age 39, I underwent a performance test administered by the Union Memorial Hospital (Baltimore, MD) human performance lab. On the date of the test I weighed 203 lbs at 12 percent body fat. By the test analysis, my ideal weight at the time would have been 197 lbs at 9 percent body fat.

Fast forward to more recent times, after a five-year layoff, I came back to cycling in 2001, lost a lot of weight, participated in a few races from 2006 to now including the most of the local 2010 cyclocross races.

I am riding pretty well, but feel that my performance is not what it was in my forties and at 188 pounds and I would guess under 9 percent body fat, I am much lighter than the ideal weight prescribed by the 1997 test. My climbing is good but not spectacular and I can't hold a 53/12 or 13 for very long on the flats like I could back in the day. I attribute this as much to loss of muscle as to age, though I am sure the two are related.

What should I do to try to regain the lost muscle? I am currently in the gym but in year past I have never been really able to add much weight. Also, I don't want to entirely concentrate on weights at the expense of cycling-specific fitness.

Currently, I am in my standard winter maintenance period which consists of one ride in excess of three hours on the weekend, weather permitting (road or mt. bike), two 30-minute +/- interval trainer sessions a week and two weight lifting sessions a week. My diet is pretty well balanced but I am sure it could be improved. Are there any legal ways to boost growth hormone production in a male my age?

Any advice you can dispense would be greatly appreciated.

Galen Wallace
Towson, Maryland USA

Scott Saifer says:


Your note gave me a laugh. When the performance testing centre told you that your ideal weight was 197 lbs at 9 percent body fat, they weren't even pondering the question of cycling ability. They were just calculating what you'd weigh at 9 percent body fat if you kept the same lean mass you had at the time.

Nine percent is three percent less than the 12 percent body fat you were carrying. That means you were carrying, in their view, three percent of 203 pounds or six pounds of extra fat. Ergo your ideal weight is 203 - 6 = 197 pounds. If you had been 230 pounds and 12 percent, they'd have told you your ideal weight was 223. If you had been 170, they'd have said 165.

At 188 lbs you actually weigh about right for a professional flat-land sprinter or time trialist your height. You're still a bit heavy for climbing, maybe 5-10 pounds overweight, but you don't necessarily want to be a pro-tour climber, and you don't need to climb like a tour climber to slay all comers in local masters racing. Your weight, too low or too high, is not the reason you aren't performing as you'd like or as you used to.

Your main problem is a deficiency of training volume. No one, big muscled or small, is going to climb well or push big gears effectively on four hours of bike training per week. No one is going to compete well on four hours per week of training when riding CX races against guys who are mostly doing eight hours or more.

If you were riding well in your first go-round as a cyclist on so few hours, that would be because you were working off your running base, but after a five-year lay-off, that base is gone.

It is possible that you are undereating or that your training plan is poor and that is holding you back. If you are often tired in training and recovering poorly, you should consider your diet and the balance of work and rest in your plan, but right off I'd recommend building up training hours y adding aerobic endurance pace hours rather than worrying about being underweight. After all, a guy very close to your height and weight has won the Mt Ventoux stage of the Tour de France by riding away from the field.

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.