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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 December 12, 2005

Knee pain
Crank length and bar choice
Wrist/palm pain
Femur tibia ratio
Changing saddles
Bar position
Leg length discrepancy
Load off quads
Hips and LLD
Bike fit issues
Shims wedges

Knee pain


I have been cycling now for ten years; both mountain biking and road biking. I cycle about 50-70 miles at weekends, and also commute daily 10 miles per day. I also do circuit training twice a week. I'm 35 years old.

In the last two years I have had experienced a painful knee after prolonged cycling (more than 50 miles). The pain comes on quickly at the 40 mile point. At first I feel a slight pain or tightness at the back of my knee, which then seems to focus just underneath the kneecap. I am forced to stop my bike ride because of the pain. For a few hours afterwards I find lowering my body weight and descending stairs on that knee to be extremely painful. After 24 hours rest and ice the knee feels better enough for moderate cycling. The problem has been with me now for two years!

Some things I have tried:

-MR Scan was clear
-Resting and then slowly increasing mileage
-Taking strong anti-inflammatories as routine
-Stretching and strengthening quads, hamstrings, calves
-Strengthening vastus medialis
-Knee bends to strengthen the patellar tendon
-Changing the seat height
-Changing my SPD shoes for both mountain and road bikes
-Wrapping up in cold weather, etc, etc

I have a tight piriformis on the same side as my right knee. Could this be related?

Paul Davies

Steve Hogg replies


A few queries:

1. Which knee?
2. Stand in front of a full length mirror stripped to your underwear and bare chested. Which knee do you lock most when standing as you normally would?
3. Do you stand with one foot more heel in than the other?
4. Run your thumbs down the side of your ribcage until you strike the top of your pelvis [ iliac crest]. Which side if any is higher?
5. Do you stretch regularly? If so, on which side are your hamstrings tighter?
6. On which side are your hip flexors tighter?
7. On which side are your glutes tighter?
8. You will need an observer for this one. Mount your bike on an indoor trainer and level the bike. With your observer standing above and behind [on a chair is ideal], and with you pedalling fairly hard, which hip sits forward and do you rotate it forward and down?

Paul Davies then responded:

1. Which knee?

The right knee

2. Stand in front of a full length mirror stripped to your underwear and barechested. Which knee do you lock most when standing as you normally would?

The left knee - my right knee is often bent and I tend to raise the right heel off the ground slightly.

3. Do you stand with one foot more heel in than the other?

Yes, the right is more heel-in.

4. Run your thumbs down the side of your ribcage until you strike the top of your pelvis [iliac crest]. Which side if any is higher?

Possibly the left side just a little

5. Do you stretch regularly? If so, on which side are your hamstrings tighter?

I stretch everyday. Left hamstring was tighter for a long time but has improved of late. Now both are about the same.

6. On which side are your hip flexors tighter?

The right hip flexor is tighter. There is a very noticeable tightness there.

7. On which side are your glutes tighter?

Definitely the right. It's very tight. I have what could be piriformis syndrome. The right side of my butt hurts if I sit on a hard chair.

8. You will need an observer for this one. Mount your bike on an indoor trainer and level the bike. With your observer standing above and behind [on a chair is ideal], and with you pedalling fairly hard, which hip sits forward and do you rotate it forward and down?

I don't have a cycle trainer. But when sat on the bike and cycling my right hip is forward. But my wife (who was observing) couldn't tell if it was down/lower. Also, I have a pain on the outside of my right foot when walking, and it has gotten worse in the last year or so.

Steve Hogg replies


From what you have said, you are likely to have either a rotated hip or a right ilium that is twisted. This may be associated with a varus right forefoot to a degree not present on the left side. The 100% solution is to find a hands on physio, chiro or similar and have your self assessed in a global sense including your feet and institute a regime to solve the underlying problems.

In the meantime, get hold of some Lemond wedges and have a play by placing some with the thick side to the inside of the shoe. Start with three and see what difference [hopefully positive] that makes. Check out the various posts in the archives re cleat position and above all make sure that you have an even range of movement either side of where your foot naturally wants to sit on the pedal. Let me know what you find out.

Crank length and bar choice


I wanted to thank you for your advice given freely in your columns. You're passionate about your work which shows through in your well thought responses. I have (over the past 5-6 months) adjusted my cleats and position slightly according to your suggestions. It's interesting to note when viewing in a mirror (standing) my hip line is pretty even now, post adjustments. Before, my left hip was noticeably elevated and forward and off the bike I experienced a constant throb in my gluteus medius. Also, my quadriceps was over developed with an underdeveloped gluteus region. Through your adjustment suggestions, stretching and remaining properly hydrated, I am now relatively pain free.

I still am playing with the cleat position and have a question that is probably obvious to you but perplexing to me. I have different placement of my metatarsals due to different insteps in each foot. I assume this is the reason for the difference in length in each of the feet. My question - why not take the measurement from the ankle bone? Wouldn't this properly line up the knee and pelvis better than using behind the 1st metatarsal of different length feet?

My next question is concerning crankarm length. I have a 74cm inseam and switched to 165 crankarms about 1.5 years ago because I was experiencing difficulty getting on top of the gears on the climbs. I am looking at upgrading to 10 and after four years of cleaning and taking care of my Ultegra and my husband's Chorus 10, there is no comparison in quality. (His Campy, I think, looks better than when he bought it, if that's possible!) The two issues - my little hands on Campy levers may have a problem wrapping around comfortably for thumb reach, and crank arm length. They do not carry 165's. I am thinking with my cleat position corrected I may me ok on the 170's.

My question is how long should I give this to experience if this is a good move and how will my body react if this is a bad move? I may add, my body will react negatively with 1-2cm off any of my measurements so I will initially go through pain, I'm sure. It's after that - what should I be looking for? Perhaps I should wait to try this experiment in winter after racing is done? Any thoughts are appreciated. Thank you!


Steve Hogg replies

I have thought in the past about what you are saying, but there are a few practical problems in measuring from either malleolus [the bumps on the side of the ankle] or the heel. Firstly, the plantar fascia, which is a flat tendon-type structure, attaches to the rear of the foot and the metatarsal joints. The type of cleat positioning I advocate reduces stress on this as well as having a pronounced effect on the musculature enlisted further up the chain.

Briefly, if there is enough foot over the pedal, ankle movement is limited to a degree that can be well and easily controlled by the calves. This in turn means that the calves can get on with what I think is their real job on a road or tri bike, which is to contract eccentrically in concert with the hamstrings doing the same during the pedal downstroke. Both calves and hammies cross the knee joint. Working together eccentrically, the net effect is to pull the knee backwards.

What that in turn means is that as well as the quads working hard to extend [straighten] the knee on the pedal downstroke, this second extensory mechanism is also at work PROVIDING cleat and seat position are ok. This, as you have found, spreads the load over a much larger amount of musculature and because of where the quads and hammies attach, can aid pelvic stability on a bike seat.

If as in your case, someone with differing foot sizes measures their cleat position from the heel, they will have pedalling mechanics that may be grossly different on each side. This may have a negative effect more than their legs. Experience has taught that the best option in such cases is to get the cleat position right for each foot separately, and if foot size is noticeable different and assuming that there are no other complicating factors, to be prepared to place a shim under the cleat of the short foot so as to gain even extension of both legs at knee, hip and ankle.

As to why I choose to measure cleat placement relative to first metatarsal - merely convention. Any publication I have read does this and continuing that method makes it easier for people to understand. Any cleat placement posts I have posted are approximate and are unlikely to do anyone any harm if followed. If I was positioning someone in person, I may depart from the posts slightly because of other factors.

In relation to crank length and swapping groups - for your 74cm inseam, even 165mm is a long crank. Much as I agree that Campag is generally better made, the Shimano 10 speed levers are a better bet for what are likely to be your small hands and fingers. Given the history of problems that you imply, I would stick to the crank length that you have already. I would get a pair of Deda anatomic bars in whatever width is appropriate. Deda measure outside edge to outside edge with the bar sizing and make down to a 38 cm outside to outside [35.5cm centre to centre]. They are technically a deep drop bar with a medium reach, but the radius of the bend is quite open compared to a lot of anatomic bars as well as being situated relatively high in the total drop. What this means is that combined with Shimano 10 speed STI levers, you are more likely to be able to get the brake hoods at a comfortable height so as they can be held without a pronounced bend of the wrist while still being able to reach the brake levers from the drops.

The only negative with the Deda anatomic bars are the sharp corner where the anatomic section meets the flat section at the bottom. This is right where the hand grips the bar in a sprint or off the seat effort and this shape doesn't allow the bar to fill the hand well. Two or three layers of bar tape in decreasing lengths place atop each other on that corner will feel a lot better when the bar is taped with that in place. If using the Deda anatomic bar, position it so that the rearmost portion of the drops is horizontal.

I don't know you and can't see you, but purely on the inseam measurement that you have, I would not advise going to longer cranks and would advise from an ergonomic point of view that you are probably better served by Shimano 10 speed bits than Campag given your size.

Erica Leister then responded:


Thanks for the advice! I decided that Ultegra 10 in a 165 crank length was my only option and it has worked out well except the derailleur adjustment. On such a little frame, I will probably never have a totally quiet ride in all gearing. But everything else is great!

Now it is Christmas time and I'm ready to get my bars. I run an ITM OS Millennium 42 with an OS stem (9). It's a very deep drop and I would like the levers to sit on the bars similar to a Campy lever. You suggested a Deda bar. I would like less drop (my knees hit my abdomen, I'm very heel up in my pedal stroke at the top) but don't mind the distance of the levers on the tops (it's what I'm use to). However, you are right, there is a break in the wrist, and I'm losing the advantage of these levers. But I am not willing to give up reach to the brakes.

Which Deda bars would you suggest - Newtons or Magics (or another)? Also, I cannot find either in a 38 or 40 o to o in an OS. I would like to use my OS stem. Would the shallow bar alleviate the huge drop but retain the lever position high and also reachable for breaking? Thanks in advance and have a Merry Christmas (and a healthy one, too!)


Steve Hogg replies


The problem with most shallow drop bars is that though they suit narrow hands in a width sense, the radius of the bend of the drops is tight meaning in turn that as the STI hoods are raised up, the brake levers move further away from the bars and are harder to reach. Newton Shallow are made in 40 cm o to o in oversize 31.7mm bar clamp diameter and should be available to any store that wants to order them from the distributor. If you use the Shallows, one solution to your problems is to fit the STI levers at a comfortable height that allows an unbent wrist. If you can;t reach the brake levers comfortably, glue a rubber shim on top of the gear barrel where it contacts the hood when the brake lever is open. A 3 mm shim will bring the brake levers in 8 - 10mm closer to the bars.

If you choose to try a Deda anatomic bar, which is probably a better bet in terms of reaching the brake levers with the STI hoods at a height that is comfortable, forget the Magics as they only go down in size to a 42 o to o. The Newton anatomic and the Big Piega have identical shape and are available in 40cm o to o in the oversize you seek. The Big Piega is also available in 38 o to o in oversize.
Deda are about the only manufacturer that is fair dinkum in catering to small people. Their width range in some models goes down to 36cm o to o.

Wrist/palm pain

Hello, I'm a 46 year old male and have had chronic wrist-hand pain for about 6 mos now. I do believe it is mostly caused by road shock from the 6000+ miles so far this year. Sometimes I'm forced to rest a day or two, especially after long distance rides. I'm using a carbon fork and have dbl-padded handlebar tape. My seat is adjusted where I'm not tilting my body weight down to the handlebars through my arms. My arms appear not over extended as well. I'm not quite sure if they are badly bruised, have nerve damaged, or early arthritis. Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated!

Scott Saifer replies

Hi Ty,

When you are in your normal riding position, are your wrists neutral (hands in a natural position, extension of the forearms), or are they bent to the side or back? Is your handlebar width set to match your shoulder width (centre to centre on bars matched to acromion process spacing)? The acromion is the bony bump just towards your midline above the shoulder muscle on top of the shoulder.

Femur tibia ratio

Hi Steve

I am a 34 year old age group triathlete and road racer. I am 6'2" and weigh 77kg.

I come from a triathlete background but am doing more and more road races. Over time I have found a tendency to ride steeper angle road frames (saddle forward or zero setback seat posts, my TT bike is 80°) and also I seem to generate more power up a hill while seated on the nose of my saddle. My inseam length is 89cm and my femur is 41cm long and tibia 42cm long. As far as I can tell with a short femur length, I lose the mechanical advantage or leverage of a long femur.

My question is two fold - should I ride steep angles on my road frame (i.e. a soloist with seat forward 76°) during road races, or should I ride a more conventional angle and try developing stronger cycling muscles.

I seem to enjoy longer crank lengths 180mm on my time trial bike 175mm on road. I seem to be severely hampered by short crank lengths (I am almost unable to ride with my group on a flat recovery ride with 172.5mm cranks, I mean face grimacing 80% -90% efforts to get up inclines I usually ride at 65%). I am equally comfortable spinning 180mm cranks and 175mm cranks at 110rpm, I just seem to climb better with the longer cranks.

My gut feel tells me to ride 180mm road cranks at 76° seat angle, but all road cyclists I have spoken to say no. I am not sure if my predilection for steeper angles is from my triathlete background or short femurs.

Please give me some advice or if you know where I can research further. Lennard Zinn's formula suggests 190mm cranks for my inseam length.

Lawrence van Lingen

Steve Hogg replies


The bottom line is to do what is right for you whatever that is. Don't get hung up on femur length. It plays some part in arriving at a good position but it is not as simple as short femur = steep seat tube angle and long femur = relaxed seat tube angle. How flexible you are in the hips and lower back will play a much larger part in seat tube angle than your femur length. I have very short femurs and ride a 71.7 degree seat tube angle. There is no magic in that particular number; what matters is how functional you are and how you bear your weight and pedal a bike, not how you measure in a limb segment.

Equally forget any measurement based method of choosing crank length as for every person that a given leg length to crank length ratio works for there will be some that it does not. The mythical quest in cycling is to come up with mathematical relationships between bodies and frames and equipment and then apply them to a wide range of people. This approach is fundamentally flawed as it only quantifies the rider in a static sense and ignores functional and dynamic aspects of the rider, which after all is what really matters when you throw a leg over the seat.

There are a couple of reasons that suggest themselves as to why you feel better on the nose of your seat like: negligle core strength means that you use your upper back and shoulder complex as a pelvis analogue to stabilise yourself with [meaning in turn that you shorten up your position to allow this], tight lower back and hips, poor cleat position etc, etc. They are things that you should improve if I am right and may lead to the need to modify your position - but in the meantime, if you are comfortable in the steep position you ride and perform better on long cranks and can still pedal them well under load, stop listening to your detractors and go and ride your bike happily. Most people quieten somewhat when all they see is the back of you in tough terrain.

Changing saddles

Thank you for considering my email. I am a C grade club level cyclist and am considering upgrading my saddle from a Selle Italia Flite to the Fizik Arione. I have been professionally fitted by John Kennedy who has me riding 8.5cm behind the bottom bracket with the flite. My question relates to translating this position to the new saddle given the obvious length and width difference. Obviously, measuring from behind the bottom bracket will no longer cut it. Is there any scientific method (through measurement or calculation) to ensure I remain in the same relative position other than by feel alone?



Steve Hogg replies


Yes there is. You are talking about two different seats of differing length and shape. There is a process that would allow you to get it right but I make a portion of my living knowing how to do what you are asking accurately. I have probably given away more hard earned info on this site than has been sensible. Additionally there are potential traps if a bit of method is not used. The simplest solution would be to revisit John Kennedy, spend a couple of bucks and get him to do it.

Bar position

Hello Cyclingnews

I have a question regarding road/racing bicycle handlebars (size/shape).

I ride a road bicycle (~45-50mm saddle to handle-bar-top height difference) and I feel quite comfortable on brake hoods and on handle-bar tops after ~60-80km+ rides. By this I mean - no localised pain or discomfort during or after the ride of 60-80km. My brake hoods are almost on the same level as the bar-tops are i.e. bars twisted up a bit to elevate the hoods.

However, I can not ride for any more than ~2 minutes at a time in the bar-drops (not comfortable and stiff neck due to having to lift it too much after ~2 min). I also feel like I can not generate enough leg power to stay in the drops for prolonged amount of time. So I suspect my drops are too low. I do have poor back flexibility, I can only get to ~10cm middle-finger to the floor if I try to bend over and touch my toes. I recently started stretching which is helping but very slowly.

A suggestion was made by fellow rider that perhaps I simply need to get different shape/size handle bars with shallow drops.

Would this be a valid solution and if so what specifically should I look for in new handle-bars as far as size/shape is concerned and what are the mast major brands to consider? And what is a "shallow drop" handle bars? Thank you in advance.

Yuri Budilov

Steve Hogg replies


By twisting the bars upwards to allow you to reach the brake hoods, you are solving one problem and exacerbating another. When the bars are twisted up, the section where you grip the bars in the drops becomes more vertical. This means that when you place your hands there, the vertical hand placement required to this means that you are dragged lower down and your back is extended more than the height of bars would suggest.


Rotate the bars back down. If they are an anatomic bar, have the lowermost point horizontal or nearly so. If they are a round drop bar, have the lowermost point angling up towards the front about 5 degrees.
This may leave you in the situation where you are now comfortable in the drops [unless the bars are too low or too far away] but cannot get your brake hoods high enough for comfort and concurrently reach the brakes. If so, get back to me with what model, brand and width [specify whether measuring centre to centre or outside to outside] of bar you use and what type of STI or Ergo lever you are using and I will advise.

Leg length discrepancy

This is on behalf of a friend that lives overseas. His left leg below the knee is approximately two inches shorter than the right due to an accident. His left foot is a 42 and right is 43, so he's using different sizes of shoes but same model of shoe. The question is what's the most appropriate setup on the bike for him? Should he build up the shorter leg by two inches? Or should he ride a low saddle height. Bear in mind that from his hips down to his knees on both legs are even in length. The only difference is his lower leg. Thank you.


Steve Hogg replies


The bare bones of an answer is to do what ever degree is necessary for him to reach the bottom of the pedal stroke with the same ease on the shorter leg as the longer leg. He is going to need 25mm plus build up. He is likely to run into problems controlling that size of packer because of rocking torque, unless the cleat is moved substantially further back relative to foot in shoe on the shoe of the short leg.
Better still would be to come up with custom shoes with more rearward cleat positioning on the affected side and with a built up sole. That may not be possible depending on where he lives.

Differing crank lengths may be necessary too. A noticeably shorter crank on the short side will help with reaching the bottom of the stroke on the short legged side if a large enough packer cannot be fitted with comfort and solidity of foot on pedal. The other issue is what changes to functional left/right symmetry has this discrepancy caused over time? If you can provide info regarding that I will attempt to help further.

Load off quads

In one of Steve Hogg's responses on the Fitness Q&A he said that pedalling-from-the-back should result in a balance of muscle use between the quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes. Thus, the quads should not become overly worked and tired in comparison to the hamstrings.

Beginning two years ago I began moving my seat back in an effort to eliminate a patellar tendonitis problem in my right knee, which has gotten better. In so doing, I changed seatposts twice, each time achieving more setback. I currently use an Oval post that has about 25 mm setback, resulting in the front of my seat being 8mm behind the bottom bracket spindle. (I am 180cm tall and my inseam length is 83cm.) Further, this position puts me in fairly good balance when I do the hands-off-the-drops test while pedalling hard - I do fall forward slightly.

In addition, I believe I have a pretty good pedalling technique in that I pull back on the pedals, push forward early, and my upper body is quite still. My seat height allows me to pull back with power and control, with my heels down, as he advises.
However, when I ride hard for 45 miles including a 3-mile climb, my quads (and to a lesser extent, my calves) always feel sore and tired, while my hamstrings and glutes feel fresh.

Does he have any other suggestions on how involve more of my backside muscles? Thank you.

Don Whitehead

Steve Hogg replies


Firstly, confirm that you mean that your seat is setback 80mm behind the bottom bracket and not the 8mm you have written.
Assuming that to be the case, where are your cleats positioned relative to foot in shoe?
Have a look at these posts and set your cleats up accordingly, using this post and this post. Cleat position plays a major part in getting what I call the rear chain, the hamstrings and calves, working as I would ideally have them working on a bike. If this involves a substantial cleat movement rearward, you will have to lower your seat a few mm. The other thing that could explain what you feel is if your seat is a little to high. This would be the case if your tiredness/soreness? of the quads is felt mostly at the head just above the knee. It may be that the greater heel drop typical of climbing under load is causing a slight overextension of the knee. Equally, your seat may not be quite back far enough.
There are other reasons why you could be overloading your quads like reciprocal inhibition of the glutes caused by overly tight hip flexors etc, but let's keep this simple for the moment. Sort your cleats out and let me know what happens.

Hips and LLD


I've noticed in many of your helpful answers lately, you've mentioned if distance between the inner thighs at the seat post is different on one side or the other it may cause problems. But, isn't it natural for the gap to be bigger on the right because of the chainrings? Thanks.

Jason Warner

Belleville, IL

Steve Hogg replies


The short answer is no. All modern road cranks that I am aware of, place the outermost surface of each crank are where the pedal screws in, equidistant from the centre line of the frame, the dimension known as ' Q' factor. There are occasional exceptions but usually the difference is a mm or two. Most MTB cranks are the same though the distance is greater.

The reason I mentioned inner thigh to seat post distance is that most riders favour one side in the sense of hanging or rotating forward or both to one side, usually the right side but not always. Unless someone has large thighs that brush the seat post, it is easier for people to determine to which side they hang by looking between their legs on a bike at the inner thigh to seat post gap, than it is for them to enlist an observer to watch what happens to them pelvically.
To recap, if the inner thigh to seat post gap is greater on one side, the rider will be hanging to the other side. To give an example; greater gap on left side means that rider is hanging towards the right. There are a host of reasons that this may be so but it is very common though the degree varies enormously.

Jason Warner then responded:


Your advice it wonderful! Thank you again. Your recent advice has focused on rotated hips and LLD, and I seem to have similar issues. But, my problem seems to be different from people you've recently helped. My left hip rotates forward while I'm on the trainer; however, my left leg seems to have the smoother stroke compared to the right while the left knee is closer to the top tube. Here's the difference; when I have my wife compare the length of my legs while sitting or lying down, my right is about three to five millimetres shorter. I may be reading your advice wrong, but it seems my hip rotation would mean my left leg should be shorter, correct? My varus on both feet has been measured, and I'm using shims on both feet to correct it. Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated! Best regards.

Jason Warner

Steve Hogg replies

The affected leg may be longer or shorter depending on the compensatory mechanisms that a person evolves. There may be no measurable discrepancy, just functional ones. I have written that a dropping right hip and various patterns of movement and compensation are very common. They are but are not universal and there is plenty of other ways different people function.

I wouldn't take your wife's' measuring of your legs as a reliable guide. If your left leg stroke is smoother, either that leg is longer [ and your wife is right about the length difference] or you are favouring the left in the sense of looking after that side at a subliminal level, while paying whatever price is to be paid on the other side. This is not common but far from rare.

Try twisting your seat nose slightly to the left. This will square up your hips to some degree and cause your left leg to reach further, but shorten the distance that your right leg reaches.
Let me know how you get on.

Bike fit issues

I am a 47 year old male triathlete, riding about 100-150 miles a week. Recently, I have developed pain under the lower outside of both knees. Although the pain may be running related (I stopped running to see if it improved), I am also concerned it could be bike related. While I know injuries are often the product of many causes, I am a bit concerned that my tri-bike or something related may be causing the knee pain. I have been using the tri-bike (a QR Kilo) regularly since September.

I have three hypotheses about the tri bike and knee pain:

1. My body (knees) don't like the aggressive position. I have no problems on my cyclo-cross bike.

2. The problem is caused by my position on the tri bike. When I use the tri bike, I tend to ride the rivet, putting almost all my weight on the nose of the seat. I have also found that when I use the tri bike, I get tight adductors, which sometimes cramp (seize) after my rides. That fact and the knee pain lead me to believe that maybe I am unstable on the tri seat and that my inner thighs and knees are forced to provide support the seat isn't.

3. Maybe my body is simply not used to the tri bike and the knee pain is transitional.

Why does the theory of why matter? Well if the bike geometry is the problem, then no amount of fitting, adjusting and getting used to the bike will fix the problem. If the problem is the seat, I need to adjust that. If the problem is transitional, I need to ride more.

Dr Glenn Stephens

Steve Hogg replies


At the risk of stirring up controversy that I don't need in my life, my experience is that there are two groups of people that ride the style of bike that you have.

The first group are a minority and get away with riding really steep seat tube angled bikes because it is either:
1. What they are best suited for and ideal for their function and technique.
2. Not what they are best suited for, but they spend enough time on structural maintenance to allow them to have no real problems.
3. Not what they are best suited for but the price to be paid in postural changes and muscle imbalances has not bitten them hard enough yet.
4. Not what they are best suited for but the 'look' is worth just about any physical price.
5. For a variety of reasons this bike is ridden less than their 'normal' bike for a real or perceived advantage in TT's and not enough time is spent on it often enough, for any real problems to arise.
The second group are the majority who because of structure and function are just not suited to your and similar style bikes. For a lengthy discussion on this second group, have a look at this particular article. As a doctor [of medicine?] it will make sense to you.

Only you can decide whether the pain is transitional but the adductors loading up tells me that you are not stable in this position and are enlisting whatever you can to stabilise your pelvis. You are probably using your upper back and shoulder complex as a pelvis analogue in a stability sense. If you are not a flexible person in the hips and lower back or are sitting too high, then what you describe is typical.

Thanks a million for the information. Convinced that a tri bike would improve both my bike and run times, I bought a QR Kilo. I didn't have it fitted, but it was uncomfortable from the outset (especially the time trial bars). I tried to make the bike more comfortable by adding a longer stem with a 17% rise, and replacing the tri cowhorn bars with regular handlebars. This made the bike somewhat more comfortable - but never as comfy as my road bike.

Glenn Stephens then responded:

After racing a half IM aquabike, I decided I should ride the bike for my long rides (100-130 kilos). 6 weeks later my knees are hurting, I finish rides with crampy adductors, and I have a kink in my neck. These would seem to be the "injury" time bombs that you speak of in your article.

To test your theory, I am going to ride only my road bike for a month and see if all these problems improve. I am not an exercise physiologist, and a lot of your reasoning is over my head, but it is a joy to watch a scientific mind at work, even in a field so far from mine.

Steve Hogg replies


What sort of doctor are you?

Regarding the seat posts; I am not familiar with the Profile and so can't comment. Also I don't know what post you are using currently.

If the setback model of Thomson is compared to what I call a 'standard offset' seatpost, which I define as a seat post where the front edge of the seat rail clamp is more or less in line with the centre line of the seat post shaft, [Campag and Shimano are typical of 'standard offset' seat posts] then you will find that it has 4-5 mm LESS offset than a standard post. So no joy there.

With an FSA SL 220, you will get 22mm more rearward adjustment which of itself [and assuming that you are of average seat height, say a 55cm centre to centre frame] is worth a little under two degrees of seat tube angle but by shoving the seat hard back all the way so that the seat is not centred on its rails you will get an extra degree with most seats, 3 degrees in total. So unfortunately, no joy there either.
Someone who replied to something regarding offset posts in '04 mentioned a Titec Hellbent and said that had 34mm more offset than standard. If this can be confirmed and you shove the seat hard back, you would be approaching four degrees of seat tube angle potentially.
One caution though, is that unless you are currently using a very long stem that 4 degrees of seat tube angle roughly equates with 40mm of top tube length. You will end up with your seat way over the rear axle as most 'tri' bikes have ridiculously short chainstays. Additionally you will add a virtual 40mm or so to top tube length meaning that unless you are using a really long stem now, it will probably handle like a shopping trolley with too much weight over the rear wheel and not enough over the front wheel.

If after a bit of playing around, you can't get comfy, get rid of the frame and chalk it up to experience.

Shims wedges

Hello, I have been told I need a combination of Lemond wedges on my left leg by my local bicycle fit professional. However, I use Time MTB pedals and I have been unable to make the combination of SPD style shims work with this pedal system. The shims get caught up on the the cleat and pedal engagement system causing inconsistent performance from the pedal, as well as sloppy and sometimes "sticky" feelings from the pedalling platform. I need four wedges (shims) and this causes another issue which is rocking from side to side or sloppy cleat to pedal interaction due to the stack height. I have addressed this with the man who fit me and he only offered one solution trim the wedges. Are you aware of a similar product that use shims specific to time MTB pedals/Cleats? Please help.

Don Galligher

Fort Wayne, IN

Steve Hogg replies


I am not a fan of the SPD style wedges because my experience is they just plain do not work. They don't let the cleat bite into the sole of the shoe which means that too often they come loose as well as the problems you describe. If you were told to use 4 wedges and that is correct, do this instead:

If they are being used in counter-stacked fashion to give a shim, build up the underside of your insole instead. If they are being used as a wedge, do the following:

Get 2 sheets of A4 paper. Fold them in half along the short axis. Fold on 3 times and the other 4 times. Using packing tape, stick them on atop the other on the inside length of your shoe insole. Make sure that the narrower piece [folded four times] is along the inner edge and the wider piece covers it but does not extend past the longitudinal mid point of the heel. You will almost certainly need to trim the wider piece at the heel. Use plenty of tape and you have wedge will not move around but will need periodic replacement.

The pressure of your foot in shoe will prevent them taking in too much water in the wet. If your toes feel a bit crowded, cut the paper so that it does not extend towards the toe further than the heads of the metatarsophalangeal joints.

Don Galligher then responded:

I appreciate your response; unfortunately it has taken me a while to get back to this. Before I try this I just wanted to clarify a few points. Just to make sure I am interpreting your instruction correctly, when I am making the folds are each fold in half of itself? Or am I to fold on another line or is the width of the fold not important? Also does the number of folds include the first fold of each sheet of paper "Fold them in half along the short axis"?

Once again, thanks for your help; I have been struggling with this issue (over pronation) for some time. I could never get my left leg to "feel right". I see a chiropractor, for routine maintenance, for an issue of my left hip rolling forward. The adjustments seem to help that, but despite my efforts of stretching, technique drills such as isolated leg drills pedalling, and others I have been unable to get the powerful smooth feeling stroke I have with my right leg. Once the issue was diagnosed now getting the correct fix will be a relief. I have tried custom insoles, professional fit, specialized body geometry shoes. I have spent hours reading your column on cycling news and find the overall picture of biomechanics that you and your staff provide to be very insightful. Thanks for your work in this area! Cycling needs more talented specialists helping the athletes develop.


Steve Hogg replies


Regarding the paper wedging; get your A4 sheets and sit them so that the greater length faces away from you. I will call the top north, the bottom south and the left and right sides west and east respectively.
Fold the paper so that you are folding along the 'equator' of west to east.

Keep folding in half each time until you have the desired number of folds. After three folds your paper should be 210 mm long by 38 - 40 mm wide. After four folds it should be 210mm long by 19 - 20 mm wide.
Let me know what happens.


I am 25 year old CAT IV racer from the States and was curious about my lacking motivation during this time of year. I mean, is it OK to not feel like looking at the bike some days? For instance, today was a day I planned on hopping on the trainer (because snow is still piled up on the roads), but just couldn't get myself to do it.

I have been hitting the gym about three times per week and yesterday I was shot and not in any mood to be there, but I did it. I am thinking about how I sacrificed so much last season and have nothing to prove for it: no upgrades or any good results. Why is my motivation waning so much? Can it be the stresses of school and money? Can this be a nutritional thing as well? I am just concerned because I am trying to this the "right way" this year (i.e. letting myself REST!), but it's killing me!

Shaun Riebl

Dave Palese replies


I don't know all the particulars about your situation but your story is a familiar one. I'll offer some general advice that may help.

It isn't uncommon to have a lack of motivation after a long season. And after a season that may have been less than inspirational, it is even harder. It's easy to be all jazzed when things are going well. But it's the athlete who can keep moving forward even when things are tough that has a leg up on the competition. Cycling is sport built on "failure". I don't believe that good athletes ever fail, just make mistakes. But it's a word that most can wrap their minds around.

This is the time of year where normally, you will have reviewed last season, analysed your successes and mistakes, and started to plan for next season. In short, put 2005 behind you and set your sights on 2006! It's a new year, a new season and a fresh opportunity to correct the mistakes you made in '05.

When I talk to athletes, cyclists and xc ski racers, who cite the issues you are dealing with, it 99% of the time boils down to poor goal setting, no goal setting, or a loss of focus on set goals during the season, that is the cause of their angst.

Start by reading the article I wrote last season about Goal Setting. It'll give you some pointers to help you develop a plan. The other stresses that you cite (school and money) can also be causes of low morale. When the rest of your life isn't clicking, it can be tough to be motivated to do much else. Nutritional issues aren't my forte, but if you want to cover all the bases, you should see a dietician to start.

Here are some thoughts to get you back on the horse so to speak.

First, don't ignore the goal setting issue. That should be first and foremost the priority. Without that piece in place, 2006 will with out a doubt be less than stellar.

I suggest that you do whatever you feel like doing for the next 2-3 weeks. Set a goal of working out 3-4 times per week. The goal here is to be consistent. We're not looking for big hours, just 3-4 times per week, 45-60 minutes each time. Go to the gym, ride the trainer, xc ski, hike. It doesn't matter, just do something. Many time when we hit a rough patch and we can't or don't workout for extended periods we start to feel less an less like an athlete, and then the thought is "What does it matter if I workout today or not?" It's questions like this that a good set of goals will answer, but until you have that in place, let's just make easy, and have a very digestible volume goal of that 45-60 minutes at a time doing whatever.

If you are on the trainer, define some sort of interval workout, your favourite regardless of the focus is the best for our purposes now, as even 45 minutes on the trainer can really toast you right now.

I am sure that if you get moving on setting those 2006 goals, and get a few weeks of consistent calorie burning together, your attitude will make a 180 by the first of the year.

If you need/want any help setting your goals, let me know. Have fun and good luck!

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