Fitness questions and answers for June 19, 2007

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.

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.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 ( 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.

Brett Aitken ( 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 website.

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 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 ( 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, 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.

Shoe modifications for arch cleats
Dual cleat positions
Cleat position swapping
Pedaling style
Shoe sole angle
Possible pedaling angle remedy
Post porta-pottie downer
Cleat position for sprinters
Wrist/finger problems

Shoe modifications for arch cleats

I was hoping Steve Hogg, or someone, could give some pointers on converting a pair of cycling shoes to accept arch cleats. I would love to try arch cleats but don't want to shell out the money to buy a new pair of Biomac or D2 custom shoes before having some idea how the cleat position would affect me.

Can one purchase the 2-bolt cleat inserts to attach to the soles of one's shoes? I have some old cycling shoes that I don't mind trying out some modifications on.

Ken Harkin
Manhattan, Kansas, USA

Steve Hogg replies:

Given the multitude of shoes out there with differing shapes in the arch, I can only give general advice. The basic problem is that to position a cleat so that the pedal axle is under the arch of the foot means that the concave curve of the bottom of cleat systems doesn't match the shape of the area of the shoe sole under the arch. Here is a step by step guide.

Dual cleat positions

Since arch cleat positioning would reduce sprinting ability but could possibly increase power for sustained climbing or time trialling would it be advisable to use both positions, normal and arch, depending on the race? For example, using arch cleats for a hilly road race or TT and normal cleat positioning for a criterium or race where a sprint is inevitable.

Thanks for your time,


Steve Hogg replies:

It may be worth persevering with different cleat position for different types of racing but you would need plenty of time to re-adjust to conventional cleat position after any time spent using midfoot cleat position. What you are suggesting was what occurred to me initially, but after a few attempts, I didn't bother persevering as I spent too much limited training time adjusting to cleat position changes rather than training.

Cleat position swapping

I have been following your experiments with the arch cleat position with some interest. The question is how easy it to swap back and forth between positions? As a Tuesday night TT fan (8 to 50 km) I would want to use the arch position for more power (or better spread power), but swap back on Fridays for the local Track League (Where I can unleash my B class sprint).

Ok, two pairs of shoes would seen to be sensible/necessary (well I have 2 bikes!), but have you spotted/experienced any other problems while changing positions. With the exception of riding specific intervals in the position for that race, which position would you train in? And has your jump diminished when you have changed back due to the different position.

Mark Allen
Midlands, UK

Steve Hogg replies:

Something similar occurred to me initially but I found it hard to re adjust to conventional cleat position. That may not be a universal experience, though I know it has been shared by a few others that I talk to.

Pedaling style

I have been following your cleat placement comments with great interest for the last 18 months or so. I have tried both 'behind the ball of the foot' and 'midfoot' cleat positions.

I was wondering if you have any thoughts on the suitability of these cleat positions and pedaling styles. I have a natural heel up, toe down style. I have always felt that I was more of a puller than a pusher of the pedals. I also prefer a highish cadence. I am a mountain biker and on long climbs always seem to keep a cadence of around 90rpm. This seems to come from my running days when I was also a forefoot striker with very minimal wear on my heals. Even when I run it feels that my body focus more on pulling my leg through the stride than pushing off on the other foot.

The reason I am asking is because I suspect that the above mentioned cleat positions are not suitable for me although I badly want them to be. I can really see the theoretical benefits - if you have a natural heel down style, your pedal stroke will focus more on pushing than pulling. I have tried a cleat position 10mm behind the ball of my foot for about a year and the midfoot position for about three weeks.

Comfort was great and I experienced almost all of the benefits mentioned by yourselves but only up to about 85% efforts. Under that I feel I can ride all day long, but at hard efforts or racing pace I just feel unable to produce the power I want despite trying different seat heights and for and aft positions .I will appreciate your thoughts on this.

The reason why I am asking what effect one's pedaling style will have on your ideal cleat position is because I suspect that the more one has a toe down style, the closer the cleat should be to the middle of the ball the foot (from a rearward position).Because, at least in my instance, with such a toe down style there will be more focus on pulling of the pedals than a heel down style meaning that the ball of the foot will also act more like a hinge on which your foot (and leg?) rotate as opposed to the pushing style of a heel down cyclist. Or am I on the wrong track?

Also, what about the relationship between torque and power? The ability to push big gears will give you a lot of torque but you won't go very fast unless you can generate the power (leg speed) to turn or to accelerate the torque to maintain a high speed. It seems stability on the pedals is at least as important as the ability to maintain a high or optimal cadence or at least for racing purposes? Which is probably what you have been saying all the time?

If it feels like one is clawing your toes through the bottom of the pedaling stroke does it mean that one should move your cleats forward until the clawing sensation disappears? Even if it means forward of the ball of the foot?

I also noted from Steve's previous postings that he always suggests lowering the saddle when moving cleats back but in one of his articles on his own website he mentions that he thinks most people have their saddles to low. I realise that these comments might be unrelated but will appreciate if he can expand on the latter issue of saddles being to low.

My last issue is also saddle height related. My current set up has a seat angle of about 73 degrees (saddle is halved if you extend the seat tube which is claimed to be 73 degrees.). My cleats are about 5mm behind the ball of my foot. I am a male about 1.77m and 76kg.

My problem is chafing of the skin on my tender areas between my legs. I realise my saddle may be too high. But if I move it lower and/or back I just don't feel powerful. Any suggestions?


Steve Hogg replies:

Interesting mail. I am the last person to tell you to try and change what comes naturally to you under load so keep the pedaling style you have. Regarding cleat position and pedaling technique; in the post named Cleat Position #2 which says in part:

Shoe sole angle

I have ridden with a pair of Nike Poggio IIs for the last three years and have been reasonably happy with them. I have some Lemond wedges and have always felt they are efficient in delivering all the power I can generate. I have sometimes had numb feet with them after long rides and as they are gradually falling apart, so I decided to buy a new pair of Specialized BG Carbon Pro shoes. I bought these shoes because of the good reviews friends have always given Specialized shoes and hopefully to cure the numb foot problem. I must say they are very comfortable shoes.

The problem I have is that they feel very different when pedaling, not uncomfortable, I simply don't feel I am putting down all the power I can. I have the cleats in exactly the same position as previously after many small adjustments. Having given this much though I can see only one difference to my Nike shoes that may be causing this very different feel. With the Shimano cleat placed flat on the floor, the heal of the Specialized measures 1.75cm higher off the horizontal than the Nike. Clearly the angle from the ball of the foot to the heel is greater with the Specialized.

My question is would this alone really give such a different feel to the shoe? Should I be adjusting saddle height for this difference? Maybe there are other differences I am not aware of, maybe the thickness of the sole is greater and hence my foot does not feel as close to the pedal. Any ideas? I really love the comfort of the shoe, but the feeling that I am not as efficiently delivering the power with this is a constant frustration.


Eddie Monnier replies:

Did you also add your wedges to your new setup? How many wedges are you using on each foot? Please confirm you're forefoot varus (thick part of wedge on inside of each foot). I ask because Specialized BG ("Body Geometry") shoes have a small amount of correction - equivalent to 1 wedge - for a varus forefoot built into the shoe. It is possible if you transferred all of your wedges you are overcorrecting relative to what you had on your Nike set up.

Steve Hogg adds:

In addition to Eddie's good advice and assuming that has been taken into account, the amount of heel lift in a shoe last can have quite an effect on how the rider perceives power transmission. A shoe with high heel lift often causes the rider to use more ankle movement to apply force to the pedal through the power part of the pedal stroke. Some riders adapt to this, some don't. Given that you like the comfort of the shoes, it may be worth persevering and learning a new way of pedaling efficiently.

Pedaling angle possible remedy

Scott Saifer suggested a pedal-crank adapter to move the pedals out in the June 13, 2007 Q&A ("Pedaling angle problems"). Here is a product (Kneesavers Pedal Extenders) I've seen online, but have never used, that may help.

Thanks for the great Q&A articles.


Scott Saifer replies:

Thanks for this great tip. I was not aware that anyone was already making the product I was thinking of.

Post porta-pottie downer

OK, are you ready for the most bizarre question you've ever been asked?

One of the most ubiquitous sights at any bike race is the line to the porta-potties just before the start of a race. Riders line up to take that last bathroom break, and possibly lose a bit more pre-race weight if they are fortunate enough to drop the kids off at the blue cesspool. This is especially common at time trials and hilly road races.

However, I've kinda noticed something. Sometimes, while I do emerge feeling a bit "relieved", I also sometimes don't necessarily feel any more energetic. In fact, I get on the bike and I feel a bit sluggish and it takes a bit to get the legs firing again. Is there some sort of hormonal response to taking at number two so close the start of a race that might keep a rider from being number one at the end of the race? Increased serotonin, perhaps?


Scott Saifer replies:

I don't have an answer for you. Just wanted to say that yes, this is one of the most bizarre questions I've come across. Whether or not the effect you noticed is real, I would not suggest holding back for fear of triggering the effect, if you know what I mean.

Cleat position for sprinters

I'm quite interested in Steve Hogg's cleat position exercise, in particular with respect to sprinting. I do a lot of bike fits myself and I use some of Steve's ideas for fitting recreational riders and general endurance racer with some success, but even after buying and watching 'Sitting Pretty' (Steve's bike fit philosophy DVD) I'm still unsure as to what his position re foot/pedal axle location would be for a sprinter.

Most of what's been written suggests that moving the foot forward may benefit endurance riding but what is its effect on peak power for sprinting for both track and road sprinting events?

Steve, any ideas or do you have any empirical data to suggest an 'ideal' foot/axle relationship for a sprinter? Conventional wisdom says ball of the foot over or even slightly behind the axle for peak power outputs, but conventional wisdom has a habit of being found to be self-perpetuating myths in the bike biz (KOPS - Knee Over Pedal Spindle etc).


Steve Hogg replies:

My apologies for the confusion. Here are the links (one and two) to my general recommendations for cleat positioning (midfoot cleat position aside). For road sprinters, I would stick with those. For track sprinters, halve the distance suggested in those posts for the placement of the centre of the first mtp joint in front of the pedal axle.

Wrist/finger problems

I am a new cyclist, training for the PanMass Challenge in August, 2007 ( Last weekend, I rode 40 miles and this weekend I rode 50 miles, but when I got home, my wrists hurt. But more importantly, I had very little strength or dexterity in my fingers. I could barely hold a fork and knife while I was eating, let alone cut meat. I have tried to concentrate on changing hand positions frequently during riding and also to dangle and shake my arm and wrists several times.

I am new to cycling, and am still nervous on my bike, so I know I may be gripping the handlebars too tight - but I'm trying to relax and concentrate on loosening my grip. The PMC is a 112-mile ride, and at this point I am concerned I won't be able to finish - my wrists/hand strength won't hold out.

I am a 59 year-old female. My bike is a road bike (Specialized Sequoia). My handlebars are the classic road bike style.


Steve Hogg replies:

Your problem may be caused by exactly the reasons you state. Other common reasons are: seat too far forward causing a weight transfer forward that has to be supported by the arms and/or handlebars that are too low. Only you can tell whether it is your nervousness or if you are bearing too much weight. Set your bike up on an indoor trainer and while pushing a reasonably hard gear, take your hands off the bars suddenly. If you can't support yourself without hands at least briefly, I suspect that your position on the bike could use some work.

Carrie Cheadle adds:

Practice releasing that death grip while you ride. During your ride try this mantra out "Relax my hands, relax my face, breathe." The small act of relaxing your hands and face can help send a message to the rest of your body to relax as well.

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