Cyclingnews TV   News  Tech   Features   Road   MTB   BMX   Cyclo-cross   Track    Photos    Fitness    Letters   Search   Forum  

Recently on

Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

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.

The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel

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.

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.

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.

Fitness questions and answers for February 7, 2005

Crank arm length?
AT, LT, VT I'm confused
Back pain solution
Elevated resting heart rate
Spleenectomy and VO2
Heel and toe
Heart rate
Maximum power ranges
Saddle query

Crank arm length?

Hello. I'm a 31-year-old Cat.3 racer in the United States. I'm 6' 2" tall and weigh 175lbs. My specialty is sprinting and I'm an ok climber. I have a 34" inseam. The distance from the side of my hip to the pivot in my knee is around 18". The distance from the pivot in my knee to my ankle is also right around 18" (inches). I use a size 47 shoe. A gentleman I have recently gone to for some coaching told me that my 180mm crankarms were way to long for me. He mentioned going with maybe a 175 or even a 172.5. Do you have any suggestions?

Just for some background. This issue got started because we're doing spin up drills where we eventually get up to 145rpm. I told my trainer that when I hit 130rpm (seated) I can't get much higher because I feel like my knees are going to fly out. It's like I start to completely lose composure and it feels very odd. I asked him if crank arm length could dictate how fast you can spin. That's when I told him the cranks were 180's and he looked at me like I was mad.
Thanks for any help you can offer me on this. Thanks again!

Christine Guest

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Christine,

The subject of crank arm length is one of endless contention. A lot of the time I am not sure that there are definitive answers. I know people of your height and inseam who are happily using [and sprinting] on 180mm cranks. Equally I know others who detest long cranks and use crank lengths that in many peoples opinion are way too short. But they do it effectively.
The question you have to ask yourself is whether under race conditions you need to pedal at over 130rpm. If not and I presume this to be your answer, I wouldn't worry too much about crank length.
Additionally, given your apparent inability to spin beyond 130rpm, your bike position and level of flexibility and function in all the musculature that controls the hips could be areas that are holding you back as well.
There is a countryman of yours named Ron Haney who has gone further into the detail and implications of crank length than anyone I have come across. He points out correctly, that viewed proportionally, your 180mm cranks are no longer than the 170mm cranks that many smaller riders are happily pedalling away on. If you contact me privately, I will, with his permission, give you his email address, as he is a font of information regarding crank length. A lot of his views contradict the long-held beliefs of many, including me, but his arguments are well reasoned and compelling.
One way to put this to rest in your own mind is to borrow a pair of 175 mm cranks, raise your bars and seat 5mm so that your effective bike position does not change and ride them for a while. If you find that you perform better in races, stick with them. If not, return to your 180's as the only thing that matters really, is how you perform in a real world race situation, not necessarily how you perform in a training drill.

AT, LT, VT - I'm confused

I've been riding/racing competitively for about 5 years. I'm 40, a middle of the pack MTB sport rider, and a very green cat 5 road rider. A couple years ago, I went to a USCF cycling coach and had an LT test done, and found my LT to be about 161. I followed some of the guidelines given to me during this consultation, but relied mainly on the MTB training bible as I couldn't afford a coach. I've since read a few other books related to cycling-specific training and I'm more confused than ever as to what my zones should be.
I have the following data, which may or may not be helpful - my max HR is 198 - I've hit this level 2-3 times in the last year. My resting HR is 50. My average HR on a recent one hour 40 minute MTB race was 178; I gave it all I had. On long (3.5 miles) uphill 4-5% grades, I can breathe through my nose exclusively and have an average HR of 172-174 for intervals up to 15 minutes in length. Given this information, can you tell me what my "training zones" are and what the difference is between AT, LT, and VT? Thank you for your time and I'll look forward to your response


Mesa, AZ

Dario Fredrick Replies

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your question. You're not alone. Many coaches and even physiologists confuse the terminology and concepts of "threshold" and performance. This is such a commonly misunderstood area of physiology and training that it has been a focus of my research over the past few years.

Let's first look at the three thresholds you mention: AT, LT and VT.

AT or Anaerobic Threshold was a term applied to the lactate inflection point, or the point at which the appearance of lactate in the blood accumulates faster that its rate of removal/use. It was once thought (incorrectly) that a lack of sufficient oxygen to muscle shifted energy delivery to anaerobic metabolism, resulting in an increase in lactate production thus causing fatigue. Since lactate does not cause fatigue, nor does it determine anaerobic metabolism, the misnomer anaerobic threshold was rejected as a concept nearly two decades ago.

LT or Lactate Threshold is a more recent and descriptive term for the lactate inflection point described above. Due to the misconception about lactate as the source of fatigue, it was thought that the workload just below lactate accumulation in the blood reflected a maximum sustainable level of performance (typically measured as a 1 hr TT). Despite the fact that LT is a better name for the lactate inflection point than AT, recent research suggests that it underestimates TT performance. You seem to have experienced this limitation yourself while measuring heart rate (i.e. LT = 161bpm vs. MTB race: 178bpm).

VT or Ventilatory Threshold describes the inflection point for ventilation during an incremental exercise test. Ventilation increases at about the same rate as oxygen consumption up to about 50-70% of VO2max (depending on one's trained level). At this point, ventilation increases exponentially (just beyond the ventilatory threshold). Although ventilation is not a limiter of performance, some researchers have found that power at VT predicts average power for a 40km TT. However, since the test method to determine VT is typically a VO2max test, the design of the test does not necessarily give us an accurate prediction of TT heart rate. Since most cyclists use a heart rate monitor for training, predicting TT power alone is insufficient.

Performance Threshold

Regardless of lactate appearance or the rate of ventilation, as competitive cyclists we really just want to know how hard to ride in training or how fast we could potentially go in a race. We are interested in measuring and predicting performance, or a "performance threshold," such as the maximum sustainable output for a given period of time (e.g. 30 min).

You can easily (relatively speaking) measure your heart rate (HR) for a 30 min TT, and determine the average for the effort. The TT average HR value (± 3bpm) is your performance threshold. It is this level of intensity and heart rate zones relative to your performance threshold that you should use to determine training intensities. Your resting and max HR numbers are not necessary. If I had to guess from the numbers you provided, I would say that your performance threshold is ~180bpm. However, I recommend a (30 min hill climb TT) field test to validate this for yourself.

Training Zones

There are multiple approaches to training zones, varying in number of zones and definition to percentages of threshold HR. At Whole Athlete, we use five zones base on a cyclist's performance threshold HR, also called Maximal Steady State (MSS = 30 min TT). The breakdown of the zones based on MSS is:

Zone 1: 70-80%

Zone 2: 81-88%

Zone 3: 89-93%

Zone 4: 94-100%

Zone 5: 101-110% and up

Rather than define each zone, which could take an entire article, here is a very general application of the zones to training. Keep in mind that this is not a fixed application, but a basic overview for a given training year, since the periodized approach we recommend varies training volume and levels of intensity in cycles. Sub-zone 1 is active recovery. Most of your training time should be spent in zones 1-3 (endurance training), while for work in zones 4 and 5 (max sustainable to supra-threshold), a little goes a long way.

Best of luck,

Back pain solution

I suffered back pain problems similar to those described by Neil in the Jan. 31 fitness letters. Like him, I tried exercise, stretching, chiropractic treatment and position adjustments made under the close supervision of a coach. Nothing helped, and I eventually gave up racing and considered giving up riding altogether. Then I read Grant Peterson's bar height theories and I raised my handlebars to approximately one inch below my saddle top. The back pain disappeared almost immediately. I wonder why more coaches don't consider this simple solution to back pain, as an aero position is worthless if you can't ride.

Mike Hagburg

Bismarck, ND

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Mike,

For given body proportions, the lower the bars, the more functional and flexible the rider needs to be. You are spot on about the greatest aerodynamic position is useless if you can't perform or even ride. I see a lot of riders with low bars but the only part of their bartape that is dirty is on the top of the bars. The drops are pristine. I think low bars are better but only providing the rider can reach them comfortably with ease. The correct bar height is the one where the rider can exercise all their hand placement options without discomfort for sustained periods relative to the time they spend on the bike whether the end result is high or low.

Elevated resting heart rate

Has any of the panel got any experience of the following - I am 37, and returned to cycling last spring, after 12 years. I have run 4-5 times a week in those 12 years, and have had a resting heart rate of 52 bpm for a number of years.

Since last Christmas (2004) my resting heart rate has increased to 60-62 bpm for no apparent reason. I have been doing 130-150 miles per week since October, and don't feel in any way overtrained. I am eating and sleeping well, of constant weight, maintain full hydration, and have not had any significant infections recently.

What really concerns me is that when out on a steady level 2 ride, I seem to be working at a higher heart rate at a given speed than before Christmas (referenced against a regular training partner). It appears as if the increase in heart rate has also occurred at the top end (although my max heart rate does not seem to have increased.) Regards,

Ian Rawson.


Andrew Bloomer Replies

Hi Ian

I too had a break from cycling for four years whilst I got over a back injury that prevented me from achieving an efficient riding position. I took up running in the interim to satisfy my competitive urges.

On returning to cycling this time last year I noticed that my exercising heart rates were way below those that I used to use and that the drop could not simply be explained by an advancement of just four years. For example, my heart rate at the lactate threshold (that which most riders can hold for up to an hour or so) had dropped from around 165bpm to around 140bpm. One possible reason we both experienced this is due to the way the body adapts to training. For this you have to start thinking about training adaptations at the cellular level. When you trained as a runner, your body adapted by increasing the mitochondria within the muscle cells used for running and also the capillary density that supplied those cells. The mitochondria are where the exchange of blood gases and nutrients takes place during aerobic exercise and the capillaries that supply the muscle cells are the last branches of the arteries where the blood ends up after it has travelled from the heart.

When you resumed cycling, you were asking your muscles to perform endurance exercise using the muscle cells in a slightly different manner than for running. It takes time for the adaptations to mitochondria and capillary density to change in order to perform the new exercise optimally. It took me most of last season to witness a raise in exercising heart rates back to previous levels. To put your mind at rest, I believe the raise in exercising heart rate is simply your body becoming more efficient in processing the amount of blood you can supply to the working muscles and, in turn, your heart will be happier to supply this extra blood (beat faster).

The best way of demonstrating that what you are experiencing is positive is if you had performed a lactate test on your return to cycling and one now to determine your body's lactate response to exercise. The results I guess you would have found would be a large increase in power output at the lactate threshold (one of the largest determining factors in endurance exercise) regardless of what your heart rate was. For example, at the lab where I work, I performed a lactate test on myself (with the help of a colleague) and found that Lactate threshold power output in spring and autumn last year were 160 watts at 143bpm versus 250 watts at 160bpm respectively. Incidentally, you may not witness an increase in maximal heart rate from endurance exercise and many elite athletes experience a decrease.

Finally, your elevated resting heart rate might possibly be due to changes in body composition since your return to cycling, although again this would be difficult to quantify without tests. You mention that you have remained at a constant weight but of more importance than body weight alone is the relative contributions of fat mass and lean tissue. An increase in lean tissue may incur a small increase in resting heart rate as the heart now has to beat faster at rest to supply the larger muscle mass with nutrients, etc for tissue repair and regeneration (a constant process). Again I have anecdotal experience of this when I hit the gym a few years back, gaining a few kilos of lean tissue and lifting my resting heart rate a few bpm. Although there is evidence to suggest that a low resting pulse is associated with good cardio-vascular fitness, under these circumstances an increase in resting heart rate is not to be viewed as a decrease in fitness.

I believe that the symptoms you have explained are to be viewed positively but if you are still worried about your training you can receive sports science support and coaching relatively cheaply to get the most from your training, monitor your progress and ensure you do not do any long term damage to your health.

Spleenectomy and VO2

To what extent is my oxygen uptake and utilization affected by having my spleen removed from my circulatory system? I understand that the spleen helps remove "spent" red blood cells. I am interested to know what has replaced this function in my body and what if anything I can do to replace/enhance/supplement the duties of my lost organ.

Joe Branch


Pamela Hinton Replies

Hi Joe,

The spleen is a soft, highly vascularized organ of the immune system that is designed to filter and purify blood. The spleen is an excellent example of structure determining function. The white pulp of the spleen makes up 10-15% of the spleen and is where most of immune cells are localized. (Hence, the term "white", as in white blood cells). The spleen contains the most immune cells of any single organ in the body, and most of these are T and B lymphocytes. When these cells encounter a foreign substance (antigen), for example - bacteria or viruses, they mount a defensive response, multiplying and producing antibodies and other infection-fighting compounds.
Because the blood passes through the white pulp slowly, there is ample time for the lymphocytes to come in contact with potential pathogens.
The spleen is especially effective in eliminating bacteria that are encapsulated (e.g., streptococcus pneumoniae, haemophilus influenzae, neisseria meningitides) because it contains a unique type of B cell. The red pulp, which comprises the remaining 80-85% of the spleen, appears dark red because it is filled with blood. This dense meshwork of blood vessels is specialized in filtering the blood. Some of the capillaries have blind ends and the blood that collects in these sinuses must pass between cells before it reaches the vessels that carry blood out of the spleen to the rest of the body. As blood passes through this cellular sieve, the red blood cells have to deform to fit through the tiny spaces between cells.
Cells that are too fragile or cannot deform do not pass through the filter. These defective cells are instead engulfed and digested by specialized immune cells (macrophages) in a process called phagocytosis. The iron that is released after digestion of the red blood cells is scavenged and transported to the bone marrow where it used to make haemoglobin for new red blood cells. New blood cells that leave the bone marrow are immature (reticulocytes). The final maturation process occurs in the spleen.
Without a spleen you will be more susceptible to infections from micro-organisms due to the loss of filtering, phagocytosis, and antibody production. Post-splenectomy infections are less common among adults than infants and children and in patients whose spleens were removed because of trauma rather than disease. The liver has some capacity for phagocytosis and it will remove "spent" red blood cells from your blood. Even though your spleen has been removed, you still possess immune cells that are capable of providing you some protection against infection. Lymphocytes circulate throughout the body in the lymphatic vessels, pushed along by the force of skeletal muscle contractions, and stopping at the site of infection. (You've observed this phenomenon if you have noticed enlarged lymph nodes in your neck when you have a sore throat or sinus infection).
Immune cells in your intestine also protect you from pathogens that might try to enter your body via the gut. Although you are not completely defenseless against micro-organisms, you are very susceptible to those that were most effectively destroyed by your spleen. As you probably know, prophylactic antibiotics (penicillin and amoxicillin) and vaccination against the encapsulated bacteria are used to reduce the risk of post splenectomy infections. You should contact your physician for seemingly minor illnesses and injuries (e.g., sore throat, road rash) because they may want to treat you with antibiotics.
Your oxygen uptake and utilization will not be affected by your splenectomy. At rest, about 5-10% of total blood volume is circulating through the spleen. During exercise, blood is diverted from the spleen (and other organs) to the exercising muscle. There is also some evidence (in animals anyway), that with the onset of exercise, the spleen contracts. Squeezing the spleen releases additional red blood cells into the circulating blood supply, causing a small increase in hematocrit and hemoglobin concentration. Since you no longer have a spleen, all of your available red blood cells are circulating all of the time. So, your exercise performance is not likely to be affected by your missing spleen. There is not really much you can do to make up for your missing spleen that your body isn't already doing for you. Your liver is removing the "expired" red blood cells from circulation and the rest of your immune system is doing its part to protect you. Your best bet is to reduce your risk of infection by not exposing yourself to disease-causing bacteria and by seeking immediate treatment from your physician when you come down with an illness or are injured.

Heel and toe

My name is Michael Kemp. I'm male, 28 years old, and a Cat 2 road racer. I recently had a medical bicycle fit. My fitting has produced some mixed results. I am extremely comfortable in the arms/shoulders/back from the reduced co-pit length, and additionally, I think my power/strength has improved with my now more open hip angle. Oddly enough the increase in power/strength may have revealed/exacerbated another problem.

I have a little scoliosis so I sit on my saddle tilted toward the left leg. I believe this creates a leg length difference. Also, I tend to pedal with my heel down more than my toe down. As a result, the left calf is tighter than the right (ie, because the left calf doesn't have to drop as far to achieve the same leg length). I believe this to be a muscular adaptation due to me having ridden in this pelvic tilted position for over 10 years.

I don't really notice any effect of this if I'm 'spinning'. However, when I go to use my new-found power, I really notice that my right ankle drops more. I believe my increased power/strength puts more stress on my 'tilted left pelvis/more flexible right calf' compensatory mechanism -ie- the increased power/strength placed on my more flexible right calf allows my dropping of the heel to additionally straighten my leg on the right side more so than in the past.(Sorry it took so long to get to that). In any event, I'm beginning to notice some pain (maybe more like stiffness) at the back of my knee as a result of this. It's like my saddle is virtually too high for the right leg. I don't suppose this was ever a problem in the past because my super stretched-out position prevents me from generating enough power/strength to stress my right leg. I feel like the two twins you evaluated. One was pedalling toe down and the other was pedalling heal down. Except I have one of each of their legs.

I've only made one modification in an attempt to improve the problem. I cracked a crank a year ago. So campy sent me a new arm. The problem with tapered squares is they begin to sink onto the axle further every time you tighten the crank. So basically I had two crank arms at two different Q-factors. Unfortunately, I had the wider Q-factor on the 'left leg/tilted down side of the pelvis, which only worsened my tilted left position. I changed the Q-factor on my left pedal cleat and that pushed my hip back to a more even position. Enough so that when I ride with my prostate now (sort of) sits on the right side of the saddle. A significant improvement in my pelvic tilt but my leg still seems to straighten when under my new increased load.

I don't want to be a whinny puss because I know I'm never going to be perfect in the saddle. But I also don't want to destroy my one knee in favour of the other. So the point of this being - help! I guess I have a series of questions - feel free to answer any question I should have asked.

1) Do you think my current modification was wise?

2) Are there additional modifications you would suggest?

3) Do you think shimming or packing up one side in favour of the other would help in this case? I'm apprehensive to pack up one side in favour of the other in fear that it might worsen my scoliosis. Is it going to worsen my scoliosis? Which side do I pack up? How much do I pack up one side?

4) When spinning, it feels like my heel is not pressed as far back in the right shoe as my left heel is in its shoe. I pushed both my cleat back as far as possible to remove this feeling (I know your ball of foot forward of pedal axle so in case you were wondering. My shoes are about a cm too large, so moving my cleat all the way back leaves the ball of my foot dead centre over the pedal axle). So, I often wonder if I'm sitting with one knee further forward than the other. I think that's a twisted pelvis/hip. However, whenever I ask my girlfriend to observe me from 'behind and above' she makes no note of twisting forward on the right or left. Instead I get a "no dear' and a pinch on my rear. Could a twisted hip or pelvis (?) be part of this problem too? Are there any other ways to evaluate twisted pelvis?

4) I suppose this is more of a question for a physical therapist. I've been diligently trying to improve my structure using some exercises, and I'm considering aggressively stretching my left/tight calf to try and lessen the effect of my 'flexible right calf compensatory mechanism. Is this nonsense?

5) Are all my questions nonsense and will lead to zero improvement in my position?

6) Does this problem sound significant enough that I should consider being re-evaluated?

7) Should I give-up cycling and take up knitting instead?

Michael Q. Kemp

Tucson Arizona

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Michael,

I like a bloke with a sense of humour. If I understand you correctly you lean to the left pelvically on your bike and this causes mild overextension of the right leg. Was any attempt made to address this when you were positioned?

As an aside, what is a ' medical bike fit'?

With your crank arms being different distances from the centreline; how much of a difference are you talking about? If crank arms are fitted to the bottom bracket axle that is clean and free of grease and tightened to the recommended torque, the problem you have experienced in this regard will NEVER arise. I will attempt to answer your queries:

1. Absolutely. More power [ which is what every bike rider wants ] means more stress on your structure. In your case this has brought to light other issues. The challenge now is to solve those issues. If you can, you can have your cycling performance cake and eat it as well.

2. Yes, a few. Firstly you need to know whether you are leaning to the left because of a measurable leg length discrepancy or whether it is because you are tighter in the musculature that bears on the left hip. There is also a small but possible likelihood that you have what is known as a small hemipelvis. This means that one ilium [ side of the pelvis ] is smaller than the other. Affected people tend to lean towards that side on a bike without rolling the hip forward. From your self description, this is a possibility. You work in a medical facility; arrange to have a waist down x ray in a standing position and limb length measured accurately from that. If you have a small hemipelvis, it will be obvious. Once the x ray is done, you will know more about what you are dealing with. The plan of attack is:

a) Drop your seat 3 - 4 mm. If the seat is a little too high, many peoples response to this is to favour one side. Does this solve the lean to the left problem? If not, put the seat back where it was and
b) Fit a 5 mm spacer under the left shoe. Once this is done, do you still lean to the left? If not, bingo; your right leg should feel a lot better. If yes, then
c) Remove the spacer and fit a soft build up to the left rear of the seat. The stuff I use here is adhesive backed felt that I get from a printing shop [don't ask what they do with it because I don't know]. If you can't source that I will have to leave it to your ingenuity. Once done this will limit how far you can lean to the left and the right leg should feel like it reaches the bottom of the stroke much better. If this is the case, does the left leg feel like it is over reaching to any degree? If so, fit whatever spacer is necessary under the left cleat that allows the left leg to feel 'right'. If not, you will by now be a happy, pain-free bike rider.
3. Point two covers part of your query. The quick and easy fix is to pack up the right shoe as that is the leg that is over reaching even if is only a consequence of your left leaning sitting style. That will solve your problem is the short to medium term but over a longer period will only reinforce your hang to the left technique. For this reason only do it as a last resort. What typically happens if you do this is that every thing feels groovy for a period and then you fall to bits fairly quickly. By this I mean that something will start hurting or feeling very wrong and it typically comes on quickly. If you exhaust the other suggestions and have to try this just to get some sort of result, just be aware that at some future time you will need to remove the packer under the right cleat and possibly fit it or a smaller one under the left cleat once you run into problems. It is very unlikely that you could worsen your scoliosis following the advice I have given. Ideally, if we can get you sitting square on the seat, it would minimise any scoliotic tendency.

4. I would strongly advise you to start by getting some shoes that fit well, and once done, look at and and position your cleats accordingly. It can only help. Once you do this you may have to drop the seat a few mm to allow for the extra extension of the legs that this will force upon you. From what you have said about the way you pedal, I'm not surprised if one knee looks further forward than the other. The right side greater heel drop will not push the knee as far forward as the toe dipping left side technique. Given everything that you have said including your different pedalling styles I would almost bet that you have a short left leg. Have that x-ray to confirm or otherwise.

5. Get hold of 'Overcome Neck and Back Pain' and 'Stretching and Flexibility', both by Kit Laughlin. You will learn a lot and they are written by a bloke with a noticeable leg length discrepancy. If you exercise a bit of care and closely follow the written instructions, you are unlikely to harm yourself and quite likely to end up much better for the experience.

6. Not at all. In your position, I would be trying to keep the power improvement that you have recently gained and solve my problems too.

7. Re evaluated by whom? The people who positioned you or a structural health professional? If you mean whoever positioned you it would not hurt, though I am surprised that this issue wasn't addressed first time around. If you mean the latter, you really need to know what the root causes are whether they be measurable or functional. The more info you possess about your own condition, the more likely you are to get the result you seek.

8. It depends on how many jumpers you and your circle of family and friends need; though it is winter on your side of the pond. You need to give this matter some consideration.

Heart rate

I am a 58-year-old cyclist and in winter, because I am mildly asthmatic, concentrate my rides on a turbo. My resting pulse is around 54bpm.When working out I ride for periods of up to 1.5 hours, increasing gearing and heart rate after warming up. However, to reach 121 to 138bpm, which I understand to be the max for someone of my age, seems very hard indeed. Despite thrashing the pedals my max hr ticks along at 114-115 - is anything wrong or should I just push higher gears to hit the target?
Thanks for your help

Tony Freeth

Andrew Bloomer Replies

Hi Tony

From a few calculations of my own, it looks like you have worked out your target exercise heart rate range for yourself using the formula, 220 - your age and then exercising between 75% and 85% of that figure. This is a generalisation, usually used by health clubs when clients begin an exercise programme or may be written on the back of the box in which a heart rate monitor was purchased. It relies on the assumption that everyone's maximum heart rate will be exactly 220 beats per minute minus their age. In reality this is usually never true. You may have a lower than average maximum heart rate but let me assure you this is by no means a sign of weakness. Maximum heart rate is not generally correlated with performance and many elite athletes and world champions have a low exercising and maximal heart rate.
A better way of determining your training zones would be from the results of a true maximal aerobic power (MAP) test where your actual maximal heart rate would be calculated. There is usually no substitute for finding your maximum heart rate than from good old-fashioned hard work. Another good way of finding your training zones is from the results of a lactate test to determine metabolic responses to exercise at various heart rates and power outputs. This test would determine your lactate threshold, the point above which lactic acid is produced faster than it gets removed (and the exercise feels very hard as in your description). From this figure, other training zones can be determined and training more structured with hard days and easy days so that every session is not a thrash.
If you adopted this approach, there would be far less chance of over training, more recovery, and therefore better gains in fitness (you get fitter during the rest and recovery, not from the training). From your description, your lactate threshold heart rate may be in the region of 110-115 beats per minute. This is perfectly fine; perhaps during the training sessions listen to the body as much as look at the heart rate monitor. Warm up and then ride at an intensity you think you could just manage for 30 minutes to an hour at the most, look at your heart rate monitor and you would not be far from your lactate threshold heart rate. Remember to include easy days on the bike

Maximum power ranges


I just picked up a trainer (from Performance Bike) that has a "power" readout. In an unprepared test, I turned out about 900 maximum watts. A friend said that he and others he rides with have maximums around 1200 - 1500. I know I could do a little better, but these seem very high - the Joe Friel Cyclist's Training Bible seems to indicate values closer to mine... can you point me to (or quote some averages for) typical max watts for amateur cyclists? Thanks!

Ryan and Jennie

Ric Stern Replies


Depending on what type of test you did and your gender and mass, such powers of ~ 1200+watts are perfectly possible. Most healthy males, whether trained or not can likely generate as a minimum ~ 11watts/kg in a peak power sprint test (5 seconds all-out). For a 70 kg male this would be 770 W. However, most males of an average mass (~ 70+ kg) will likely have no problem in generating ~ 1000+ watts. Good road sprinters (of average size) may be able to generate in excess of 1200watts. World class 200-metre track sprinters will generate 2000 - 2500watts, but will on average be much heavier than road sprinters.

The 900watts you have produced will be very dependent upon the accuracy of your trainer compared to an SRM or Power Tap. It's likely not to be accurate. The 1200+ watts that your friends produce is possible, but will depend on the accuracy of their power metres (and whether they've been correctly calibrated). At the upper level quoted (~1500watts) this rider could possibly be an excellent sprinter, depending on mass, gender and accuracy of their power metre.

If you want to compare your power output to friends you'll need to use the same accurate power metre to get a comparison. It's unlikely that most trainers will have the accuracy you require.

Saddle query

I have just changed my saddle from a SLR-Sella Italia to a Flight-Sella Italia. Do I need to drop my seat height, as the Flight seems a little higher?

Paul Hazlewood

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Paul,

If a straight edge is laid on top of those two seats, brand new out of the box, the measurements from the elbow at the rear of the rail are Flite 55mm and SLR 40mm respectively. This is taken from centre of rail vertically to underside of straight edge. At the elbow at the front of the rail the measurements are Flite 44mm and SLR 34mm. This is measured to a straight edge laid along the top. A Flite has more of a dip below this than the SLR, which reduces the real difference somewhat. I would try dropping your post 7 - 10 mm depending on where in the range of fore and aft adjustment you have your seat positioned as a starting point. Then do the rest by feel.

Another consideration is that you will need to position the nose of the Flite about 10mm further forward in relation to the bottom bracket than you had the SLR to get the same butt to bottom bracket relationship. This is because of the different lengths of the seats and that the differing shapes force the rider to sit in a different spot on each relative to the length of the seat.

Other Cyclingnews Form & Fitness articles