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Fitness questions and answers for April 3, 2009

Form & Fitness Q & A

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your age, sex, and type of racing or riding. Due to the volume of questions we receive, we regret that we are unable to answer them all.

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.

Jon Heidemann ( is a USAC Elite Certified cycling coach with a BA in Health Sciences from the University of Wyoming. The 2001 Masters National Road Champion has competed at the Elite level nationally and internationally for over 14 years. As co-owner of Peak to Peak Training Systems, Jon has helped athletes of all ages earn over 84 podium medals at National & World Championship events during the past 8 years.

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.

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.

Fiona Lockhart ( is a USA Cycling Expert Coach, and holds certifications from USA Weightlifting (Sports Performance Coach), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach), and the National Academy for Sports Nutrition (Primary Sports Nutritionist). She is the Sports Science Editor for Carmichael Training Systems, and has been working in the strength and conditioning and endurance sports fields for over 10 years; she's also a competitive mountain biker.

Eddie Monnier ( is a USA Cycling certified Elite Coach and a Category II racer. He holds undergraduate degrees in anthropology (with departmental honors) and philosophy from Emory University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.

Eddie is a proponent of training with power. He coaches cyclists (track, road and mountain bike) of all abilities and with wide ranging goals (with and without power meters). He uses internet tools to coach riders from any geography.

David Fleckenstein, MPT ( is a physical therapist practicing in Boise, ID. His clients have included World and U.S. champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes. He received his B.S. in Biology/Genetics from Penn State and his Master's degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University. He specializes in manual medicine treatment and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilization musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.

Since 1986 Steve Hogg ( has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, 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.

Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.

Pamela 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 assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated changes in menstrual function on bone health.

Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion. Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.

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.

Scott Saifer ( has a Masters Degree in exercise physiology and sports psychology and has personally coached over 300 athletes of all levels in his 10 years of coaching with Wenzel Coaching.

Kendra Wenzel ( is a head coach with Wenzel Coaching with 17 years of racing and coaching experience and is coauthor of the book Bike Racing 101.

Steve Owens ( is a USA Cycling certified coach, exercise physiologist and owner of Colorado Premier Training. Steve has worked with both the United States Olympic Committee and Guatemalan Olympic Committee as an Exercise Physiologist. He holds a B.S. in Exercise & Sports Science and currently works with multiple national champions, professionals and World Cup level cyclists.

Through his highly customized online training format, Steve and his handpicked team of coaches at Colorado Premier Training work with cyclists and multisport athletes around the world.

Richard Stern ( is Head Coach of Richard Stern Training, a Level 3 Coach with the Association of British Cycling Coaches, a Sports Scientist, and a writer. He has been professionally coaching cyclists and triathletes since 1998 at all levels from professional to recreational. He is a leading expert in coaching with power output and all power meters. Richard has been a competitive cyclist for 20 years

Andy Bloomer ( is an Associate Coach and sport scientist with Richard Stern Training. He is a member of the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) and a member of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES). In his role as Exercise Physiologist at Staffordshire University Sports Performance Centre, he has conducted physiological testing and offered training and coaching advice to athletes from all sports for the past 4 years. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for many years.

Michael Smartt ( is an Associate Coach with Whole Athlete™. He holds a Masters degree in exercise physiology, is a USA Cycling Level I (Elite) Coach and is certified by the NSCA (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist). Michael has more than 10 years competitive experience, primarily on the road, but also in cross and mountain biking. He is currently focused on coaching road cyclists from Jr. to elite levels, but also advises triathletes and Paralympians. Michael is a strong advocate of training with power and has over 5 years experience with the use and analysis of power meters. Michael also spent the 2007 season as the Team Coach for the Value Act Capital Women's Cycling Team.

Earl Zimmermann ( has over 12 years of racing experience and is a USA Cycling Level II Coach. He brings a wealth of personal competitive experience to his clients. He coaches athletes from beginner to elite in various disciplines including road and track cycling, running and triathlon.

Advice presented in Cyclingnews' fitness pages is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for individual athletes. If you follow the educational information found on Cyclingnews, you do so at your own risk. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

Shim height and cleat fore/aft position
Different length feet and positioning
Over-pronating on the bike
Uneven saddle wear
Wheel weight and sprinting
Cleat position
Shoe advice

Shim height and cleat fore/aft position

In the most recent Fitness Q&A, in the question about Leg length discrepancy/ITBS, you mentioned that he should move his "cleat back 1mm further again for every 5 mm that you shim it up". Can you elaborate on this? I ask because I now have 13mm of shims under my cleat (2cm LLD at the hip).

David Mackay

Steve Hogg replies:


The answer as to why is 'rocking torque' or 'rocking couple' as it is sometimes called. Basically, the further your foot is from the pedal axle, the more effort it takes to stabilise your foot on the pedal. With your 13mm shim, as you drop your heel, that foot being further from the pedal axle, will rotate further behind the pedal axle for a given degree of heel drop than the foot without the shim. The 1 mm further back (relative to foot in shoe) for every 5mm of shimming 'rule' is a reasonably effective rule of thumb. Like all rules of thumb, it may not be correct in individual circumstances. Some riders can get away with less, some need more.

Ideally what you are looking for is the same feeling of stability of foot over pedal for each leg. The correct fore and aft cleat position for the shorter leg is the one that gives you the same 'feel' on pedal as the foot of the longer leg. Overwhelmingly in my experience, this means that the cleat on the foot of the shimmed cleat will need to be further back relative to foot in shoe.

Different length feet and positioning

Wondering what if any information/thought there is out there about what cyclist should do to correct position for feet of significantly different length (half a US shoe size or about 1cm). My leg length has been measured and is very close if not equal but I feel out of balance when all things are set the same. So I have tried new cleat fore-aft positions and shims but nothing seems to put me in the 'perfect' position. I am a 38 yr old racer.

Thanks, Allen
Orange County, CA

Steve Hogg replies:


A difference of 10 mm in foot length is sizeable and is approximately a size-and-a-half difference in Euro sizing. Have a look at this link and this one.

Position the cleats for each foot separately according to to the recommendations given and you won't be far wrong. Now, do you use a single pair of shoes of the same size or do you use a smaller sized shoe for the smaller foot?

If you are using a single size of shoe I assume that it fits the larger foot well. That will mean that it will be impossible to gain a good cleat position for the smaller foot as the cleat on the shoe of the smaller foot will have to be much further back on the shoe sole than the cleat of the larger foot. You will need to buy two pairs of shoes in different sizes and use one from each pair that fits the appropriate foot well or invest in custom shoes.

You could possibly use Speedplay pedals in conjunction with Speedplay part no. 13330 which are alternative baseplates that allow up to 14mm more rearward adjustment than the standard Speedplay baseplate. I can't guarantee the Speedplay option will work and think it best that you have a shoe on each foot that fits well enough for the shoe to be an extension of the foot rather than have the small foot floating around in a shoe that is too big.

Lastly, you say that your legs are the same length. That means that you will need a shim under the shoe of the smaller foot to make up for the lesser ability of the leg on the small foot side to reach fluently through the bottom of the pedal stroke.

Over-pronating on the bike

Whenever I ride I get this pain on the outer side of the sole of my left foot. Only the left foot. It feels as if some tendon or muscle or something on that part of the sole were under strain. The pain comes after just a few minutes of pedaling, tends to get worse during the course of a ride, and doesn't go away until after I stop riding. It doesn't really matter whether I am pedaling hard or easy.

Years ago, when I was a runner, somebody told me that I tend to over-pronate. I do not have flat feet, though. Not even close.

I have experienced this problem for years, but I simply put up with it. I recently got a new bicycle, new pedals and new shoes, all of which are quite different from the ones I was using before, and I was hoping that those changes would somehow make my pain disappear, but the problem persists. (In case it helps: my old shoes were a fairly inexpensive pair of Nikes and my old pedals were a pair of Shimano Ultegra; my new shoes are Sidi Ergo2 and my new pedals are the Look Keo).

Is there such as thing as over-pronating for cyclists? Could it be something else? What can I do?

I am a 31-year-old male, 5'8", and an amateur racer.

Steve Hogg replies:


Get hold of some BikeFit Systems cleat wedges and follow the instructions and go through a trial and error procedure as to how many to use. Almost certainly they will make a positive difference to your problem.

Uneven saddle wear

I have several bikes, similarly set up,and several pairs of shorts.

In each case - the right side of my saddle seems to drop after a while and the right side of shorts wears more - do I need a shim under one of my shoes? It's getting a bit expensive.

Michael Matar

Steve Hogg replies:


A shim is one possibility but the most important thing is that you find out why your seat and knicks wear this way. The most likely conclusion is that you are dropping your right hip but why is the question that needs answering. Common possibilities are and or any combination of:

* Short right leg
* Tighter right side hip and lower back
* Autonomic self protective measure that allows you to work around another issue

The last two have any number of other possibilities that cause them. Self knowledge is indispensable so firstly, have an x ray or scan to see whether there is a leg length difference or not. Then have a good structural health professional give you a global structural assessment. Get back to me once you have done that and I'll attempt to advise further.

Wheel weight and sprinting

I bought a new set of wheels (2008 DT-Swiss RR-1450 Mon Chasseral) a few months ago. They are about 500grams lighter than my previous set (2006 Fulcrum 5). These DT wheels have a nice light feel while climbing and accelerating. However, I have noticed that they don't sprint as fast as the heavier Fulcrum wheelset. I run this test using the same bike, same tires/tubes, same gear ratios, on my rollers, on the road, with both DT and Fulrum tested first, and over a flat-ish 250 metre sprint the Fulcrum wheelset more often than not wins.

I don't believe their is anything wrong with the DT wheels; they feel almost as equally stiff, and when I free spin the wheels both DT and Fulcrum go about the same number of revolutions. This finding seems to go against cycling conventional wisdom. I would have figured that the DT wheels being lighter would have a lower rotational inertia and hence would be easier to sprint. In contrast, my deep winter diversion (this test) is leaving me with the feeling that higher rotational inertia is more advantageous in a sprint.

I have only been able to find one piece of information which seems to confirm this hypothesis, which is a wheel test by Mavic where the lighter wheels got the worse climbing performance got. Do any of the panelists have any experience with wheel weight and cycling performance?

Michael Kemp
East Lansing, MI

Steve Hogg replies:


The only experience that I have had that is relevant is in the early days of Campag Shamals and Mavic Cosmic (early aluminium 39mm deep versions). Much to my surprise I found that despite the heaviness of the wheels, my climbing times up regularly ridden hills were unchanged providing I stayed on top of the gear. Descending I found them an advantage in increased stability which I put down to increased gyroscopic inertia of the heavier rims and wheels. Dunno if this is relevant but that's my two cents' worth.

Cleat position

I have recently just purchased some new shoes and at the same time swapped pedals from Look Keo to Shimanos. I found that there was too much float and loss of power in the Look pedals.

Since putting the new cleats on and shoes i have been having difficulty finding the right/ comfortable position for my cleats. I am sure i have seen something on cyclingnews before that gives advice on cleat position and was wondering if you could possibly email this to me or let me know where to find it so i can try a few things out.

Tobyn Horton

Steve Hogg replies:


I think this is what you are looking for and this might help too.

Shoe advice

I am after some advice to solve a problem with my feet and which shoes to buy.

First of all some background on me I guess. I am Male, 28, just a tad under 6 feet tall and weight 70 kilograms. I took up Cycling just over 2 years ago. I played cricket ALOT when I was younger, which led to some injury problems (Shoulder Reconstruction at 17, two lots of key hole surgery to my left knee to clean up the joint) and during one of my re-hab periods following surgery to my knee my physio suggested that running was no longer a good option for exercise for me and to try cycling.

I didn't take cycling up at the time, but a few years later my new partner's brother, who is a professional cyclist got my interested, and I have been riding ever since. I am not a person to do anything in half measures, and quickly set about getting myself fit enough to race. I do about 300 to 400km a week and recently contested my first road race. My entry into racing was set back longer than I would have liked after a training crash in January 2008 that badly broke my right clavicle.

Now to my problem. During a heavy training spell last year around August I started having discomfort under 1st Metatarsal of the big toe on my left foot, got worse to the point of having to abort training ride. On the advice of some informed people I tried moving my cleat position, both back and forward with no success in relieving the pain. I tried different innersoles in my shoes, with no change, but this led me to wonder if my shoes were to big.

At this time I had lost about four kilos from when I purchased the shoes (Sidi Ergo 2's, size 46) so I started running a second set of Sidi innersoles on top of the stock ones, this seemed to solve the problem. I still decided it would be a good idea to consult my doctor, had an x-ray and a CT of my left foot, which discovered sesamoids under the 1st Metatarsal, these are 2 useless bones under the ball of the big toe. Apparently, while not an overly common diagnosis, it was nothing to be concerned about. So I went on pedalling (with the 2 innersoles in each shoe) and haven't had any further problems other than some mild tenderness from time to time.

During me first race we found while my endurance is good, that I was lacking in the power department. I have started some training aimed at increasing this; low RPM-big gear climbs, etc. and the dreaded paid in the 1st Metatarsal has returned, this time in my right foot. Following a particularly heavy session last week the pain reduced me to being not about to bend my big toe or walk.

I am now starting to wonder again if my shoes are to big, I have now lost seven kilos since buying my current Sidi shoes. My first pair of serious shoes were a set of Specialized BG Pro (2 Velcro Straps, 1 Ratchet Closure) in size 45, these were destroyed in my crash, and replaced with 2007 Sidi Ergo 2 shoes which I have had for just over a year. I am going to replace the Sidis and need your advice on what to replace them with. Being that shoes represent a big outlay I want to make the most informed decision.

I have looked at the Heat Mouldable Shimanos, Checked out Bont's A-One, I also considered the Specialized Top End model with the Boa Twist Closure. I was very happy with the Sidis and would have another pair if the only issue with my current one's is sizing. The biggest problem I have with shoes is my feet are very narrow, I have been told that Northwaves are not a good idea due to there width in the forefoot, again this is something that led me to the Sidis, I was told they are good for narrow feet.

I guess in summing up, I don't know what to try and am after any advice that could solve my problem.

Thanks in Advance for your help.

Brenden Grygierczyk

Steve Hogg replies:


It is very unlikely that the problem you have is caused by choice of shoe. Where do you live?

Brenden then responded:

I live in Bendigo in Victoria. I was pretty sure it would not be the shoes causing the problems... These extra bones I have are causing most of the problem, I was hoping there may be a shoe option out there somewhere that could help lessen the impact, or any other solutions would be great !!

Steve Hogg replies:


Sorry, I thought you may have been a Brendan G that I know slightly and who lives in Sydney. If you were, I was going to suggest that you come in and I would fix the problems. To add to Scott's advice; cleat position plays a part in how severely people with an issue like yours affects them. What I would suggest is moving your cleats further back on the shoe. Check out this link and this link that will provide some guidance for doing that. Let me know how you get on.

Brenden then responded:

The cleat position articles you included I have read in the past, when I first started to have the problem with my feet (Left foot first, last year) and was unaware at the time that I had the sesamoids. I, like lots of other people used the "Ball of foot on top of pedal axle" rule, so when I read these articles was hoping for some relief. I moved my cleats back in small increments, 2mm's at a time, until I got to the 11mm's suggested for 46-47 size shoes.

Unfortunately, and to my dismay, the further I moved the cleats back the more pain I got in my feet around the area of the sesamoids. The problem seems to be that the sesamoids are mobile, so can be moved with some pressure with your fingers. There are 2 in each foot, if you drew a line from the ball of my Big Toe to the corresponding joint of my little toe, the sesamoids would run along the line, side by side. When looking down from my point: Excuse the rough drawing, if this is my right Big Toe ….

The sesamoid on the left, which is the one on the inside of my foot seems to get pushed further to the left and causes pain from the its original site to around the side of first Metatarsal, right around to the top of the joint. So pretty much the whole inside half of the first metatarsal joint get incredibly sore. To give you an idea of how much pain it causes, when I broke my collar bone last year I didn't bother with pain relief, but when my right foot flared up last week, I had to take something for the pain.

After getting the advice from Scott I started to have a big of a look at what sort of inner soles other shoes come with. The Sidi Inner Soles are unbelievably thin. A good mate of mine rides Specialized shoes, and I pinched one of the inner soles out of his shoes for a look, and the 2 Sidi Inner Soles I am currently using is not half the thickness of 1 Specialised inner sole. Running with that I ride for the first time yesterday in over a week in a set of his Specialized shoes (size 45) with no pain. Admittedly there was little Big Gear work, and no big climbs, it was just our normal coffee shop social ride.

With this new info in mind, what do you think? Thanks for your advice so far, we seem to be moving in the right direction.

Steve Hogg replies:


I'm sorry that moving your cleats back didn't work. Some people have very touchy sesamoids but I have found this is rare of itself. If cleat position isn't the reason, then the two most common other reasons are a seat height that is touch too high causing the rider to sort of push with the toe at the bottom of the pedal stroke and poor foot cant on the pedal which can be addressed with wedging. I would persevere with the thicker insoles and if that solves the problem it is either inherently touchy sesamoids of a seat that is a touch too high.

Thicker insoles lower effective seat height. If the insoles do the trick, it would be an interesting experiment to go back to the Sidi insoles and drop your seat say 5mm and see if the pain returns. If it does, then it is your sesamoids that are touchy rather than seat height that is the issue. Best of luck.


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