Cyclingnews Fitness Q&A - October 19, 2011

– Team mates Floyd Landis and Andrew McNab of Orca Velo Marino warm up in the velodrome.

– Team mates Floyd Landis and Andrew McNab of Orca Velo Marino warm up in the velodrome. (Image credit: Pete Bruggeman)

Topics: Warm up guide, Training on different bikes, "Q" Factor

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Warm up guide

Glucosamine Sulphate

"Q" Factor

Warm Up Guide


Can you give me any heart rate targets for a proper warm-up in preparation for a 2-3 hour race and an under 45 min. time trial please? Also, physiologically, what is going on in the body during warm-up? I have always been fascinated to watch my heart rate climb slowly for 15 to 20 minutes and then stabilize during a steady effort warm-up, or, the hills I face before my heart rate lifts seem harder than those same climbs later in a ride.

Thanks, Steve

Scott Saifer says:

Hi Steve,

Here's a possible warm up scheme for a 45 minute race:

20 minutes easy spinning your way up from 70-80% of LT heart rate
5 minutes at 80-93% of LT heart rate
3 minutes at 93-96% LT heart rate
2 minutes right around LT
3 minutes easy
2 minutes right around LT
3 minutes easy
2 minutes right around LT
10 minutes easy ending less than 15 minutes before the start.

Putting that less technically, take about a half hour to warm up very gradually until you reach your LT. Then do three 2-minute intervals with three minute rests right on the edge of breathing harder and feeling a hint of leg burn.

I don't like to have people warm up by power because if something is not quite right, a power that is usually sub-LT can be anaerobic and burn too many matches before the race start.

What to do before a longer race depends on how the race is likely to start. If the race starts with a climb, or the riders are likely to take off hard, use the same warm-up as before a shorter race. If the race is guaranteed to start easy (does that ever happen?) you can shorten the warm up to include only the first 28 minutes of the above.

The exception for both longer and shorter races is extreme weather days. If it is hot enough that you might overheat during the warm up, keep yourself wet with plain, cool water while you spin around for 20-25 minutes and call that warming up. If it's so cold and wet that you'll be hypothermic if you do the warm up, get better clothing and then do the warm up.

Tailoring training with two different disciplines

Hey everybody,

Scott Saifer says:

Hi Joseph,

If your goal is mainly to be competitive on the MTB, you should be doing just enough MTB time to maintain your skills, and all the rest of your training time on the road. That might mean a day every week or two on dirt, and the rest of the time on the road. On the road you make the sort of consistent power that causes aerobic development. Eventually you take the steady effort you can make on the road and do what you can to make a similar effort on the MTB. MTB riding may feel like a series of very hard and then easy bits making you think you should work on bursts of power or intervals, but that's not how races are won. MTB races are won by coming as close as possible, given the terrain, to a steady effort.

To optimize your ability to hold a high pace for the length of a race, you need a big aerobic engine. You get that by doing several months of base riding before doing any harder stuff. Once you have those several months of base riding on the road, add two days per week of long, sub-LT intervals, say 5-15 beats below LT if you are using a heart rate monitor or hard but below the level that brings on heavier breathing if you don't. One day each week these could be on the dirt for skills refinement and the other on the road for maximal fitness gains. After a month of these intervals, do a month of 5-8 minute intervals, two days per week at LT. Again, one set on dirt and one on the road. On the other days, keep up your base riding. Once you have followed this plan, you'll need a few hard group MTB rides or races to find your race legs, and then you should be hot for racing.

“Q” Factor

Hey guys, I'm a 6'1'' 165 lb triathlete, mountain bike and occasional road racer. I have found that making my stance on the bike as narrow as possible my power and heart rate numbers have improved for the better.

This involved moving my cleat to the outside of the shoe, which proved to be tricky with 48cm feet not hitting the crank arm, and finding cranks that had a low Q factor. I also noticed that, despite having the black KEO no float cleats, when I moved the saddle forward and up my feet pointed straight ahead more and the issue of my heal hitting the arm became less significant unless I became tired and stroke got sloppy. I have always used Big Meat wedges under my cleats, in case that matters. My two questions are: Is Q factor really that huge of a deal? My friends are crying "placebo".

I do have narrow hips for my height, 32 inch waist, etc. Second question is, how do I duplicate this stance on my mountain bikes? There is and inch and a half difference in stance and for some reason every mountain crank I find seems to clear the chain stay by a pointlessly huge distance. How the heck do I solve that problem?

Thanks, Paul

Steve Hogg says:

G'day Paul,

Yes, it does matter to a point. Like you, the less separation between my feet the better I like it. I use Speedplay road pedals with the 1/8" shorter than standard axles, have the cleats pushed all the way to the outside (to bring my feet in) and use Campagnolo cranks because they are couple of mm narrower than Shimano and SRAM and 5mm narrower than many aftermarket brands.

I'm narrow hipped and have good mobility in the hips and low back, which may play a part, though I'm not sure.

Every pedal stroke is a potential challenge to pelvic stability on the seat. If my feet are much further apart on my road bike I constantly have a feeling of shuffling around on the seat. It is not bad but I never feel 'right', whereas with the foot separation I ride, I feel rock solid on the seat. Additionally, with feet further apart on the pedals I find that I have to increase my stretching because at some level, greater foot separation is harder on my body, at least on the road bike.

Re the mountain bike; it won't happen. Again I have the same issue. Whenever I get on the mountain bike after a period off it, it feels strange. On the road bike with free play cleats my feet point straight ahead. On the MTB, I pedal noticeably heel in. This is 'normal' due to the wider pedal spacing. The solution on the MTB is to make your bar height and position conservative. I can comfortably ride a lower than average bar position on the road bike but don't even try to on the MTB. I find that if I do, and combined with the 35mm wider crank separation it feels terrible. With bars higher, there is less pressure on hips and lower back and I adapt to the wider foot placement quickly. At the moment I'm spending more time on the MTB than usual and it has become 'normal'.

From time to time I come across fit clients with the same issue as you and I have on the road bike. Speedplay make a stainless steel axled Zero with a 1/8" shorter than standard axle. Additionally, the Ti axled version has the same axle length. Both have more ability to adjust the cleat laterally than other systems. Keywin, who are not well known, have pedals with 3mm and 6mm shorter than standard (but with very limited rotational movement or lateral cleat adjustment). Additionally, the higher end Cannondale cranks have a Q factor of approximately 140mm whereas Campag are 145.5, Shimano and Sram are 147.5mm and most others are wider still.

When I started cycling, road cranks had Q factors of 130 - 135mm but that was in 5/6 speed days. As manufacturers have added more cogs at the rear, the outermost rear cog is much closer to the chain / seat say junction at the rear tip with the consequence of chain moving further outward in the outer gears. Crank Q factor has had to increase so that the right hand crank arm doesn't foul the chain in top gear.

Hope this helps.

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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