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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 March 20, 2005

Frame size
Longer left leg
Torque versus power

Frame size

I was wondering why frame size is so important. I think if you get all the aspects in the right place (lowering the saddle with spacers, etc) the size of the frame doesn't matter because all the "body-contact" points are placed in the right place, as if they were on a right size frame.

Another question - I'm experiencing lower back pain when racing and climbing really step hills in mtb. I'm 177 cm, have a 15" frame (c-c), 84 cm inseam, the saddle height is 74 cm. I think I'm pretty flexible; I've done some back exercises like back extensions and others for the last 3-4 months.

Will a change of frame ease the pain? What others things could I do to improve this?

Eddy Roldan

Steve Hogg replies


Regarding frame size; in terms of position, what you suggest can often be achieved. That doesn't mean that it's necessarily good practice. A large rider with a stack of seatpost showing on a too small frame is likely to have more than ideal toe overlap, a possibly dangerously flexible fork steerer tube if a mile of spacers are used on a carbon steerer tube fork, a seat jacked out over the rear wheel, and a long stem that when the rider is off the seat sprinting may place his weight far enough forward in relation to the shorter top tube of a too small frame to momentarily cause the rear tyre to lose contact with the road when really nailing it in a sprint.

A small rider on too large a frame may have issues with standover height and if the stem is ridiculously the short the steering of the bike quickens as the shorter stem means that the bars have to be moved in a smaller arc for the same degree of movement at the axis of steering. To use myself as an (atypical?) example: 182cm tall, 860mm inseam, above average flexibility and largish feet. Ideally I use a 530mm c to c frame with a 575 top tube and a 71.7 degree seat tube angle. Why is the frame so small relative to leg length. Because if it was any larger I would not be able to get my bars low enough. If I ride a production 530mm c to c frame, I have significant toe overlap, a really long stem which feels insecure when sprinting and a seat that is almost over the back axle which makes the front end feel very light and wander in the fast corners.

If I ride a larger production frame, then no overlap but I must sacrifice ability to jump hard in the sprint because my bars are too high. Regarding your back pain - a change of frame is unlikely to make a difference unless there is a change of position as well. If the relative placement of seat, bars and feet on the pedal is unchanged, then the back pain will still be there.

In broad terms your back is hurting because of either:

a. the way you function on a bike,
b. the way you sit on a bike, or
c. a combination of both. You need to establish which is the case. To offer any help, I need much more info.

Longer left leg


I have had a bio-mechanical problem and would like your opinion if possible. In a nutshell my right leg moves inwards then outwards on the upstroke. I have had both legs measured and have had different results, as it is difficult to pinpoint reference points any part of the pelvis. With my index finger placed on the anterior-superior region of each side of the pelvis the right side seems lower, however when I am lying supine and have a measurement taken, the difference seems negligible.

I've built up my right shoe and am using a crank length difference of 2.5mm. What do you think the problem is?

Kieran McKenna

Steve Hogg replies


I assume from what you say that you have a long left leg? The only definitive way to measure leg length is with CT scan or similar. Measuring from bony landmarks is prone to a large error factor. If this is the case, a common result from a long leg is an anterior iliac crest on the long legged side (left?) as a result of the extra torque developed over a lifetime of activity by a long leg. Often this can be the case without any difference in leg length for a variety of reasons. If the left iliac crest is forward, then the sacro iliac joint on the left side is restricted to a greater or lesser degree as the left ilium moving forward at the crest is pivoting on the sacro iliac joint. This in turn means that the left hip, left ilium and the lower spine have to move more or less as a unit rather than independently.

Set your bike up on a trainer. Ride with your jersey off and an observer standing behind and above you. On a chair is ideal. If as I suspect, you are dropping the left side on every left pedal downstroke, then that forces the knee movement you describe on the right side upstroke. Let me know what you find.

Kieran then responded:


Thanks for the reply. The right side is the one that seems short. Last year I built up the right pedal by 5mm and used a 2.5mm shorter crank. This more or less positioned me square on the saddle, but did nothing for the wobble. This year I'm trying to make the pelvis more flexible by doing some stretches. Have found now that my left knee (long side) is suffering from patellar pain on the bike.

Your reply although quite informative still leaves me wondering what to do. Is hard to know if I should be attempting to strengthen up the short side, build up everyday shoes, use Lemond Wedges. What do you mean by an anterior crest? Do you mean that the pelvis on the short side has rotated backwards? Thanks for your help.

Kieran McKenna

Steve Hogg replies


Assuming as you say that the right leg is short and the left leg is long, then the knee pain you describe on the left side and the lateral motion of the right knee at the top of the stroke is probably because of the following scenario:

Long left leg develops more torque at the hip over a lifetime. When walking we push back with our legs to propel ourselves forward. The differing torque development at the hip between differing leg lengths often causes the top of the pelvis ( iliac crest ) of the long legged side to end up semi permanently further forward than that of the short leg. Often this is associated with tighter glutes, hamstrings and hip flexors on the long legged side. Often too, it is associated with a noticeably varus forefoot on one side; usually but not always the long legged side.

This leaves the rider with the following situation - dropping and rotating forward of the hip on the long legged side means that the long leg reaches a lesser distance to the pedals than the short legged side. For many this twisted hip drop sitting and pedalling style causes a lateral motion of the knee on the other side. As the hip drops on the downstroke of the long legged side, the other leg on the upstroke must accommodate this somehow and a lateral movement of the knee is one reasonably common way, though not the only one.

You don't indicate how much difference there is in leg length or whether it is in upper or lower leg or indeed whether it is certain that there is a measurable difference. CT scans and similar are definitive. Measuring between bony landmarks isn't necessarily definitive.

A suggested plan of action is this - get some Lemond wedges and fit two for starters to your left (long legged side) shoe with the thick side of the wedge closest to the crank arm. Also try a shim or packer under the left cleat to accommodate the leg length difference if there is one. The patellar pain could be because you are sitting too low on the long legged side to minimise extension on the shorter side or it could be because you have a varus forefoot on that side which is likely but by no means certain. Let me know how you get on.


Can you define the term "zones" i.e. 1 through 6 as used numerously in these posts? Thanks.

Ric Stern replies


Many coaches use different training zones/levels, which can be set from different variables. Not everyone uses 6 zones - some use more, and some use less.

Some coaches will define training zones based on the average heart rate of e.g. a ~1-hour TT (or shorter) which seems to be a popular way to do things in the USA. Others may define based on maximum heart rate, which seems to be more popular in the UK and Europe (e.g., this is how British Cycling defines their training levels).

On the other hand some coaches define zones based on a specific metric of power output, e.g., about 1 hour TT power; or maximal aerobic power - which is how we define our training ranges - see Our articles explain some of the physiological responses to exercise at each zone.

If you're looking at different articles or answers which mention zones or levels, you'd most likely have to see which coach or sports scientist was answering as each one may have a different meaning for each zone.

Torque versus power


I recently started training with a PowerMeter and am wondering what the difference between Torque and Power is. Plotting the two variables on the same axis shows that (for me) they lines lie on top of each other for the most part, but sometimes they diverge. What do these numbers really signify?

John Wilde

Scott Saifer replies


Thanks for lobbing a softball. Torque is effective force times lever arm length. Since your crank length is fixed, torque is an indicator of the force you are applying to the pedal in the direction perpendicular to the crank. Power is, among other things, torque times rotational velocity or force times speed, again only considering the force perpendicular to the crank.

If pedalling cadence is invariant, torque and power track each other. If cadence changes, the ratio of torque to power changes. If you are pushing hard on the pedals but not moving fast, you get a high torque but low power. If you are pedalling a higher cadence, you can get a higher power with a much lower torque.

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