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Fitness questions and answers for August 9, 2004

Form & Fitness Q & A

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at fitness@cyclingnews.com. Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your age, sex, and type of racing or riding.

Carrie Cheadle, MA (www.carriecheadle.com) 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 (www.davepalese.com) 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 (www.trainright.com) 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 (www.velo-fit.com) 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 (www.physiopt.com) 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 (www.cyclefitcentre.com) 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.They include World and National champions at one end of the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the other end.

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 (www.wholeathlete.com) 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 (www.wenzelcoaching.com) 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 (www.wenzelcoaching.com) 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 (www.coloradopremiertraining.com) 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.

Brett Aitken (www.cycle2max.com) is a Sydney Olympic gold medalist. Born in Adelaide, Australia in 1971, Brett got into cycling through the cult sport of cycle speedway before crossing over into road and track racing. Since winning Olympic gold in the Madison with Scott McGrory, Brett has been working on his coaching business and his www.cycle2max.com website.

Richard Stern (www.cyclecoach.com) 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 (www.cyclecoach.com) 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 (www.cyclecoach.com) is an Associate Coach with Richard Stern Training. He holds a Masters degree in exercise physiology and is USA Cycling Expert Coach. Michael has been a competitive cyclist for over 10 years and has experience coaching road and off-road cyclists, triathletes and Paralympians.

Kim Morrow (www.elitefitcoach.com) has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion, and a Fitness Professional.

Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns MyEnduranceCoach.com, a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find a coach.

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.

Knee over pedal spindle
Crank length
Leg musculature
Long tibia
Smoking - how dangerous?
Q factor
Achilles tendonitis
Climbs
General malaise
HRM cardiac training
Ideal weight and food on the go
Muscles
Tweaking seat height
Saddle sores
Shoulder cramps
'Passive' position
Tension headaches

Knee over pedal spindle

It seems that these days many bike fit experts also require a knee position that is vertically neutral over the pedal spindle when the crank arm is in the horizontal-front position. Do you agree with this? Would you complete this fit discussion by addressing knee position (ideal fore-aft seat position for power transfer) and seat height? Which is, in your opinion, the first to start with - seat height or fore-aft?

Thanks for the great discussion!

Tom Anderson
Golden, Colorado

Steve Hogg replies:

I have a horrible feeling that this is going to be a long reply. The reason so many people position the knee over the pedal axle is a by product of the ' doing it by numbers' approach. The well trodden path to riches in the bike positioning business, is to come up with a measurement based system, commit it to a cd , floppy disc or manual and then sell it to every bike shop that is interested. The underlying assumption is that a bike position or bike frame choice is a product of a persons static measurements and a few simple relationships [ the one you describe plus ball of the foot over the pedal axle, multiply leg length by a number for seat height etc]. This idea is simple and persuasive, we get measured for a suit, why not get measured for a bike?

Crank length

One quick final question: what are your views on crank length? I am 5'10' with a 33.5 inseam. I race road and MTB, so I currently run 175s on both bikes. I train mostly on the road - as do many MTBers these days - so, I feel keeping the cranks the same helps me reduce the chance of soreness when I ride the MTB.

Realizing that my "ideal" crank length is 172.5, am I losing any efficiency on the road by riding a 175?

Tom Anderson

Steve Hogg replies:

Given that you are using your road bike as a training aid for your MTB, I would stick with the 175s so that the crank length is the same on both. It is always harder to go up a crank length on short notice, like spending the week days riding 172.5s and going up to 175s for the weekend MTB race, than it is to go down a crank length.

Leg musculature

I've been riding seriously for 3 years. I note new thigh muscle definition, the obvious heads of the quad above the knee, but also muscles on the sides and further up in front. What is the function of these various muscles? It seems like I'm able to "pedal from the hip" more now, but it might be my imagination or not good in any event. Any insight to muscle function and pedal style/bike position? Why do cyclists have a split calf?

Darrel Stickler
San Mateo, CA

Steve Hogg replies:

What you observe is a by product of training, ie increased muscle development and perhaps decreased fat overlaying them. Broken down and simplified, pedalling action is something like this. The glutes and hamstrings extend the hip, ie push the upper leg, our primary lever on a bike downwards. At the same time, the quadriceps extend the knee, ie straighten the lower leg and the muscles of the lower leg control the movement of the ankle. Generally, the further forward a rider sits, the more they enlist the quads, and the further back they sit the more they enlist the hammies and glutes. Ideally we want these muscle groups working in harmony so the pedalling load can be spread over the greatest area of upper leg musculature.

Long tibia

I am a male 34 year old 100-150 miles a week group rider plus a little racing. Lately I have been struggling with my bike set-up, in particular saddle height and for -aft. I think I am having difficulty because my lower leg length is probably longer than average, although my upper leg is probably closer to average. I always feel as though my legs are just to long. I am 5'9" 148 lbs. Any suggestions, do people with longer tibias need to make their adjustments with this in mind ? If it helps my legs are 32" with 18" of that being from the bottom of patella to the floor.

Jack Agnell

Steve Hogg replies:

Unfortunately there are no rules of thumb that work well for everybody, though I can give you some general advice that will help you in the right direction.

Smoking - how dangerous?

I didn't get a reply to this question a while ago, so I'm trying again. I'm well aware that smoking is not healthy, that's obvious, especially when you do sports at a certain level. But exactly how bad is it? Does it really slow me down a lot to smoke 10 cigarettes a day, does my heart rate increase, my lung capacity decrease etc? Is there a rule of thumb of seconds lost per km on a tt?

Mikkel Laursen

Scott Saifer replies:

I'm just guessing here but I bet you didn't get an answer because performance coaches won't take a smoker seriously. Sorry I don't have a seconds per kilometer answer for you. After ten years in business and more than 300 clients, I've never had a client who smoked. Anyone who cares about speed on the bike should not smoke. I have had clients who were ex-smokers. They seem to recover their full ability to breath deeply in about five years once they quit.

Q factor

I have always ridden with Time Equipe pedals (the old ones), but just got a pair which, unlike my old ones, can not be installed using a pedal wrench, but rather an Allen wrench.

As there is now considerably less of a gap between my pedals and the crank arms, should I be really careful about going out and riding like nothing has changed on the bike? I have seen a few letters about 'Q factor' on the site, but it seems people here are talking about a few millimeters.

The gap between the pedal and the crank arm on my "new" Equipes seems to have been decreased far more than a few mm's, leaving me a little concerned with such a dramatic reduction. I am not sure if you need more information in order to answer this question, but please let me know if there are unknown unknowns that I don't know about.

Matt Kinder

Steve Hogg replies:

The story is this. The original Time Equipes' that you had, had no ability to angle the cleats, but because there was 20 degrees of rotational movement this was only a problem for a rare few. In addition to rotational movement, the cleat could also move 15mm across the pedal with out rotating. The idea being that the foot could find its own position naturally. Most people's feet naturally gravitated to the outside of this 15mm movement giving an extremely wide 'effective' Q factor.

Achilles tendonitis

I'm a female, cat IV rider, 5'8", 130 lbs, ~ 400 hr/yr training plan this year, and I like to climb hills a lot. About 10 months ago I injured my Achilles while running (sprints) training for a short distance triathlon. My pain is in the distal part of both Achilles near the heel. I have not run now for over 8 mos, but on & off I'm still plagued by Achilles pain after riding, hills especially, and also long rides after a few easy days. I ice them, take anti-inflammatories occasionally, & I've started some weight training for my gastrocs thinking that might help. Hasn't yet. It's been a long time!. Looking for other suggestions, roles for ultrasound or PT, etc.

Nicole Alexander
Tucson AZ

Steve Hogg replies:

There are health professionals on this forum that can better answer the question you have asked re rehabilitation, but there is another issue to consider. That is cleat placement fore and aft on your cycling shoes. You may or may not have some propensity for Achilles tendon strains for other reasons, but if you don't have enough foot over the pedal when cycling, your problem will be further aggravated. If you look on this site for the Fitness Q & A post ' Cleat position 1 and 2' on July 26, and follow that advice re cleat placement in your shoe size, at worst you will be no better off and at best you may get a pleasant surprise.

Climbs

There isn't a wealth of information about training for long climbs. For example, I ride a climb which is 14k at about 6%. I do this purely for fun, but sure would like to improve my time for the ascent. Most of the time I avg about 180hr, and it takes about 50 minutes or so. I am always spent at the top. Sometimes I try to go slower, but that's not the point, and besides I end up with a very low cadence if I do that.

Should I just keep riding it? Ride it more often? Help!

Dean Georgaris

Brett Aitken replies:

First you need to be specific about what your aiming to achieve on the climb. Start with the major goal in mind first (eg. cutting 2 minutes off your time within 3 months) and then start breaking it down into smaller pieces to help you make it happen. 2 minutes seems alot but it's only an improvement of 10 seconds a week.

General malaise

I am a 28, soon to be 29, year old Cat 4 racer. I am about 71 inches tall, and approx. 190 lbs. I have been off work most of the spring and summer, and consequently, have had time to ride a fair bit. Approx. 160-200 miles per week, or, 12-13 hours per week.

Lately, as in the last two weeks, I have been getting to about the 30 minute point in my workouts, and feeling just generally blah. I can't explain what has brought it on. I have been calorie limiting, to about 1000 cals till 5:00pm, then a ride, then dinner for about 800 calories. Is this low-calorie diet, in an effort to slim down, causing the general malaise that I am feeling? Additionally, I ride in intense heat and humidity, in the order of 90F and 75% Humidity, with little elevation climbing. During these rides, of any intensity at all, I notice a light-headedness that often accompanies the problem, usually, just before. I do not have a history of medical problems, though my dad passed away a year ago from a sudden heart arrhythmia. I have no diagnosed health problems, and take no medication. My diet consists primarily of low fat, high carb foods. I am a heavy caffeine user. I eat hardly no fruits and veggies though.

Ashley Renfroe
Birmingham, AL, USA

Pam Hinton replies:

Here's an experiment for you to try that might shed some light on your problem. First, determine the gas mileage for your car. Then, completely empty the gas tank and pour back in exactly one-half gallon. Now, try to find ways to drive that car the exact distance that it is supposed to travel on a full gallon. You can probably do it if you strip out the interior and maybe take off the doors and fenders, but you'd still have to drive very slow and coast on all the down-hills.

HRM cardiac training

I'm at a loss! I seem to be shunning all the prescribed, documented rules for Heart Rate sports fitness training using a Heart Rate Monitor.

Using a Polar s720i I've just started getting back into a fitness regime and am cycling, running & swimming and hope to do a half ironman around Christmas time. But all the literature I read just doesn't seem to apply to me!

A few pointers:

The adage of 220 minus age for Max HR doesn't fit - I should therefore be 187. Twice now I've tested with my Polar HRM and recorded a MHR of 199 (resting HR at the moment is about 55).

Using the Polar Fitness Test, my VO2Max is around 58 - Journals and books (Peak Performance - Issues 104 page 5,6, & 7 Londeree and Moeschberger (1982) 'Effect of age and other factors on HR max' - Research Quarterly for Exercise & Sport, 53(4), 297-304 Swain et al (1994) 'Target HR for the development of CV fitness' - Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 26(1), 112-116 Miller et al (1993) - 'Predicting max HR' - Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 25(9), 1077-1081) quote a formula for working out %VO2Max as: %MHR=0.64 * %VO2 Max + 37 or (.64*58+37)=74% of MHR for my VO2Max.

Bearing in mind - that VO2Max is the threshold for excessive Lactic acid build up and a point that should only be crossed during very strenuous point of training / race that gives my VO2Max HR of 148. This is ridiculous! I reach this HR within 2 mins of starting a run! So this must be wrong.

Point in Action:

Did a 12 Km run a couple of weeks ago (bearing in mind it was the first run/exercise for 6 months) I spent 45 mins continuous with my HR above 180 - which is above 90% of my (excessively high) MaxHR. This shouldn't be possible without collapse! but felt fine (although a bit knackered!)

A couple of weeks of exercise and my HR has dropped significantly and now I run consistently at around 170. But does this change the fact that I could sustain longer periods of higher intensity work in a race for example.

I want to try training in the right 'zones' and as I am doing a half ironman ( which will be 5 hours of exercise if I'm lucky) knowing my thresholds will be quite important. I do also realise that this is a MHR taken from a running test so my cycle zones would be approx 5 beats less.

Does all this mean I actually have the potential (with training) to go quite fast, or am I just an unfit bugger? :o) I suppose genetic makeup has a lot to do with it.

About 10-12 years ago I was very fit. Running 10km cross country races in approx 32-33 mins - at the moment I'd be luck to break 50 mins for that distance.

I am really interested in all this stuff and hope I haven't inconvenienced you too much in making you read this.

Dean Mullin

Scott Saifer replies:

You sound like someone who would be great fun to coach. I'll answer a few of your questions. 220-age gives a poor approximation the population average maximum heart rate. 210 - 1/2(age) gives a better approximation to the population average, but the standard deviation is still around 10, which means that 96% of people will be within 20 beats of the average. The only way to know your own maximum heart rate is to do your own test. The formulas are nice for setting up zones for people who are so out of shape that they might die if they go hard enough to test.

Ideal weight and food on the go

I am an 18 year old (male) road cyclist, and I intend on competing in the collegiate ranks in B/C divisions next year. I am 5'8" on a 58 cm Trek 1000, and weigh approximately 135 lbs. I am a very good climber, and can ride with or away from the group when the roads turn up. I can hold my own and usually ride about 20 mi/hr for my 2-3 hour training rides through hilly NW Connecticut, but I don't seem to have the power to drive for long distances on flats by myself, and I get dropped very often on descents since heavier riders just seem to shed me out the back. In a sport where everyone thinks weightlessness is the key, do I actually need to gain weight to become a better all-around cyclist?

Also, I have trouble taking in solid food while riding. Then it seems like it is only a matter of time before I crash out. Power gels can only get you so far, and I usually take a water and gatorade/saline bottle, but I inevitably burn my reserves about three hours into an effort and start cramping or just feel drained. I have tried energy bars mostly but they just tend to sit dryly in my mouth and make a painstaking task to chew. I try to suck down water and make it go down more smoothly, but the whole circus act usually makes me sit up and work to get food down rather than just eating in the flow of the race or ride. Any suggestions?

Tres Lambert
CT

Pam Hinton replies:

At the risk of helping to promote a giant in the industry, much of your problem will be solved through application of the Nike slogan: just do it. With a couple more years of age and the experience that goes with it, you'll no doubt gain a few pounds, but more important you'll learn ways to hang with the bigger dogs on the long descents. For insurance, find yourself a good all-around weight training (pumping iron) program and get yourself an 11-tooth cog. Another thing you'll learn with practice is how to fuel up on the run.

Muscles

Hi, I'm a 29 year old male beginning cyclist. I have mostly played baseball, basketball, and boxed as an amateur when I was in my teens. I was just wondering which are the major muscles that are used when cycling? Can there be any repetitive type injuries to these muscles? Just curious. I am now trying to avoid jogging since I have bad knees. But, up to this point in my age, I am now wondering why I did not take cycling at a much earlier age. I love it. I started with 5 miles a day, now I'm up to 20 miles a day, six times a week. I either rest on Saturday or Sunday. Thank you for any info that you may give me.

Sergio Flores

Scott Saifer replies:

The major muscles providing power on the bike are the glutes, hams, quads and calves. When riding hard, low back muscles also become active. The muscles that support your head when you bend forward are active too. Many other muscles have smaller roles in supporting you weight on the bike, and making the postural changes that come with steering and slowing.

Tweaking seat height

I'm a 46 y/o, fit, average vets road racer. Solid build, 88-90kg. No mutant anatomy but have always used a more than average heel down pedaling technique. A while back I developed a problem (no injury or such that I was aware of) in my right leg with a pain running from the outer hip diagonally across toward the inner thigh. Not a quad pain but more deep within the leg. During sustained hard effort it would sometimes be accompanied by lower back pain, across the back and not a glute pain. It would normally not come in until 30km or so and would sometimes be serious enough to make me get off. A few minutes off would then allow me to go again. I often had the feeling that my right leg was working harder than the left.

Thinking front of leg pain / too low theory I tried increased seat height - worse. Tried more seat set back and, while the perception of power was better, pain was marginally worse. I then took the opposing theory, lowered seat height and reduced set back and, ignoring the one change at a time rule, shifted cleats forward (previously set so as to be below the ball of foot) after reading your recent comments. The result of all this was 6mm less seat height and 5mm less set back than I was originally riding. LOOK cleats are now nearly as far forward as they'll go on s.45 Shimano's.

I've done around 150km total in 3 rides since. During ride one I felt that the cleat change was causing my feet to roll outward (normal for me & I have to wear runners built on a curved last) during the pedal downstroke but leg pain was vastly improved. Using the go with it and not force it theory I then fitted a pair of scaphoid arch supports before riding again. Feet feel great and I can sustain higher cadences more comfortably, feeling like my pedaling is much more circular. The leg pain has been almost eliminated but has shifted. The sensation (after the same 30km or so) is now toward the outside of the quad and parallel with my thigh. No more back pain. The rest of the set-up is unchanged. My question is - from a physiology view, do these actions & effects make sense? Is there anything else you may suggest? I'm a little worried, not understanding why the problem arose in the first place, that I might be setting myself up for developing some other drama.

Mick Meaney

Steve Hogg replies:

The original pain sounds like a tight psoas or iliacus, the psoas merges with the iliacus and as both are hip flexors, they are functionally linked as well. The psoas then continues across the hip joint to the lower back where it splits into six 'fingers'. 5 of these attach to the 5 lumbar vertebrae and the 6th to the lowest thoracic vertebrae. If it is the hip flexors that are overtight, then pain at the front of the upper thigh and low back pain can be one of the possible results commonly.

Saddle sores

Hey guys, a "delicate" question. What is the best way to deal with the annoying recurence of saddle sores, i change knicks & Jerseys every day, shower twice a day, but they still re-occur in the same place, right where the "cheeks" - (for want of a better word), meet the saddle, right in the delicate area of the groin region,( the underside of the Scrotum, where the sun don't shine basically )

It has never been a problem before - would a chamois creme help...?? It's starting to effect my position on the saddle & my training. I am 35 yo, Male, and race Road races & Crit's.

Matt McGoon
Australia

Steve Hogg replies:

It sounds like hygiene is not the problem which leaves a number of possibilities.

Shoulder cramps

I read with great interest the recent inquiry from Adrian Blomfield regarding shoulder cramps. I did what you prescribed by setting up a stationary trainer and having someone observe my hips and shoulders. I think, based on your diagnostic test, my problem may well stem from not sitting square on the saddle. What do I do now? Thanks in advance.

Mark Mendelson
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Steve Hogg replies:

The ideal solution is to use the services of a physiotherapist, chiropractor, osteopath or similar to resolve the underlying asymmetry which is commonly caused by overtight hip flexors and / or a restricted sacro -iliac joint on the affected side, and less commonly caused by a multitude of things.

'Passive' position

I read Steve Hogg's reply to the question about penile numbness with interest, in particular Steve's guidance on achieving the 'passive' position.

It leaves me with one question - can he describe in more detail how he achieves it ? The description he gave left me a little confused - did he mean - balanced when leaning forward ? i.e. you move into your drops position, then take your hands off the bars, while in that position, and then see if you do/don't fall forward - if that is the case, I don't know a rider who would not fall over or tense their back to hold the position !!!! As you can see I am a bit confused - but also interested in getting it right, because I think it could be very helpful

John O Sullivan

Steve Hogg replies:

The factors that prevent people being able to pass the hands off test are:

Tension headaches

I'm a 26 year old male and I'm around 5'9" and weigh 165 lbs. I ride a Giant TCR Aero series bike which has a compact road geometry and I've removed the aero bars that came with the bike. After moving to New York City recently, I've started road biking about 150-200 miles per week and essentially given up my mountain bike which I had been riding recreationally in the past. I weight train intensely about 3 times a week in addition to riding. However since picking up road biking, I get intense crushing pains on either side of my head towards the middle to end of my sets. This is particularly prevalent when I'm performing exercises while I'm lying on my back. The crushing pain usually resolves to what can be best described as a 'tension headache' and persists usually for the rest of the day. I have never felt any pain when biking, even on my longer trips. I'm wondering if this is something due to a mistake in my position while riding that's putting strain on certain muscles in my head and neck region -- perhaps I'm too stretched out? Is this something that will resolve itself after time?

Eric Lee

Steve Hogg replies:

There are other people on this forum who know far more about headaches than I do, but I will relate an incident that occurred some years ago. I had a rider seeking advice re position. His problems were sore hands, perineal numbness and stiff neck and shoulders and headaches such as you describe. The headache complaint in not a common problem, but the others I see daily. We sorted out his position so that he bore far less weight on his arms and upper torso and the headaches disappeared as well. My assumption at the time was that the over enlistment of upper torso, neck and shoulder muscles to ride a bike must have played a part in his headaches. He is the only person of thousands I have seen to have this happen, so don't get your hopes up. I mention it only in the remote chance that you are similarly affected.

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