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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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Cyclingnews also has the full directory of all Form & Fitness questions and answers to our expert panel in a separate archive.
I have been following the cleat and saddle positioning threads of the last few months with interest. I am a recreational rider who tends to get sore hands and a bit of shoulder pain on long rides, and I also have a non-cycling related injury to the musculotendinous junction of my achilles/gastrocnemius in my left calf. I am 5 foot 8, 150 lbs. I wear SIDI Genius 4 shoes, Speedplay pedals, and have a cycling inseam of 33.25 inches. I ride a steel frame with 56 cm seat and top tubes in order to have a tall enough head tube to allow me to bend my elbows and relax my my arms while I ride. I have a fairly flexible lower back and hamstrings-- I can touch my palms to the floor with some effort while in a straight-legged standing position. I'm 38 years old, do mostly recreational riding and some racing.
When I got more serious in cycling several years ago, I set my saddle fore-aft position according to KOPS (Knee Over Pedal Spindle), which I thought was standard cycling dogma at the time. In order for me to achieve KOPS on a frame with a 74 degree seat tube and a seatpost with a fairly standard amount of setback, I had to have the saddle shoved all the way forward on the rails. With this setup and a saddle-to-handlebar drop which I varied from 3-4 inches, I would frequently get hand and shoulder/trapezius pain on longer rides. I had begun moving the saddle to the rear and the bar up a little bit about a year ago to try and reduce the pressure on my hands. Your saddle setback balance test (which mirrors the philosophy of Peter White, see his ideas here: http://www.peterwhitecycles.com) advocates being able to take your hands off the bar while riding and still maintain your forward lean without falling over, or being at the point of teetering if done indoors on a trainer. My current position nearly meets this test, but places me at a position where a plumb line dropped from underneath my kneecap falls approximately 3 cm. behind the pedal spindle.
This seems unusually far outside the norm, so I wanted to ask you if there was a limit as to how far back you are willing to move the saddle in order to find the balanced position you advocate. I am considering moving the saddle even slightly further back, or raising the handlebar to achieve a 2 inch drop from saddle to handlebars.
Also, are there other issues other than fore/aft weight distribution and bar height to address a problem regarding sore hands/trapezius? Regarding cleat position, I recall that in one of your previous responses, you mentioned that you would be addressing ways to move the cleat rearward when using Speedplay cleats. Currently my cleats are as rearward as possible without modifications. I was considering either grinding off the rear corners of the cleat or enlarging the screw holes which mate the top plates (4-hole) to the intermediate plates (3-hole).
Which method have you used and what comments would you make about the process? I also have recently been using Sole moldable footbeds in my Genius 4's. Even with the Ultra model, which is thinner, they do add a bit of heel lift. For shoes my size (43), would you recommend trying to move the ball of the foot about 10mm ahead of the center of the pedal spindle, or even further? I am not sure can identify that spot (center of first metatarsal) that accurately through the shoe, but I note that experienced fitters such as Paul Levine have suggested measuring from the second metatarsal, from the base of it if I recall correctly. It seems that your philosophy of putting the ball of the first metatarsal a bit ahead of the pedal axle would put the base of your second metatarsal very close to the spindle of the pedal axle, which I believe is Paul Levine's starting point for cleat fore/aft placement.
I'm a 35-year-old male cat 3 / 4. I'm 5' 7" and currently 132lbs. My inseam is 32.5 inches, so I'm more leg than torso. Max HR of approx 202. I'm suffering from lower back pain for the past two months. It appears as if this was done while I was moving. I relocated from the Northeast to the Southeast. I'm now in South Florida. The pain has been present ever since and would not subside. I visited a Chiropractor a week ago. After doing a few x-rays the results were as follows:
My right hip is significantly lower than the left by 11mm. The x-rays were done standing up. Another x-ray from the knees down shows that the right Tibia has most or all of the difference.
Brief histories of injuries are as follows:
02/1998 - Suffered a broken right Tibia Plateau, torn ligaments and Cartilages. 11/2004 - had an Arthroscopic surgery done to the right knee? Right leg when bent at the knee backwards, does not go all the way back to the buttocks. Hamstrings are extremely tight, more so on the left and I'm unable to touch my toes.
Last raced during the 2003 season. Since then I've been on and off the bike periodically. In November 2004 I had a Scope done to the right knee and didn't ride again until Summer of 2005 in which I did a little over 2000 mile, mostly small gears.
As of recent (1 month ago) I began riding on weekends, between 40-50 miles on both days. I try to keep up with the group ride. During riding I'm feeling as if I'm utilizing my left leg more than the right and doesn't feel smooth pedaling. My right knee is inwards to the top tube, but not touching. (the left is straight). I would get chafing and saddle sores on the right side.
On my working shoes the outer heel on the right is noticeably more worn than the left.
I'm currently riding a Custom made Compact Titanium Spectrum by Tom Kellog. Top tube is 54cm and Stem is 100mm. I'm using the Fizik Airone seat and Salsa Poco handlebars (my hands are small). Speed play zero pedals and Sidi G4 carbon shoes.
My question is how do I accommodate this discrepancy on the bike. Do I need Ortho's, and if I do can you recommend. My feet are narrow and I have high arches, I'm considering going to the specialized carbon pro, what are your thoughts? What exercises would you recommend and overall I would really welcome any suggestions and solutions that you may recommend.
My goal is to get back into racing condition and to begin racing when the time is right. I have no time limit, as I prefer to get everything correctly and to avoid any more injuries.
Currently the doctor has me using a heel lift under the right heel to compensate for the difference until the Ortho's arrives. However when walking I can feel the pain in my right hip as if it's jamming upwards. I indicated this to him and his response was it will take some time to get use to the lift and it's more of a muscular issue that's causing the pain. I'm having therapy 3 times a week.
Thank you and looking forward to your response.
Elvis then replied
The right tibia is approximately 11mm shorter. I had the owner of my local bike shop observe me on the bike. His findings were that I'm not square on the bike. My right hip is forward. He measured my arms from the elbows to middle finger and found the right to be 1 cm shorter than the left. He took the angle of my leg on the lowest point of the pedal stroke. The right leg was 32 degrees and left 34 degrees. He also said it doesn't appear as if my hip is dropping. Hope this is helpful. Looking forward to hearing from you.
A short profile is that I'm 59, weigh 205lbs and have a height of 6'3". I was out of cycling for 15 years but stuck my toe back in the water a couple years ago. About 25 years ago I was a mediocre racer at best. The highlight of my career was winning two "B" category (versus A where the cat 1 & 2 guys were) training series crits on a flat closed circuit (by being shrewd rather than good). At that time I weighed about 180.
While I obviously don't have serious competitive goals at this point I'd like to be able to build up to sticking with the fitter, younger riders on the two hours club rides that average 20 mph on rolling terrain. If that were to work I'd consider losing the weight I'd need to lose to do age group racing (Can you imagine looking forward to turning 60?).
When I decided to get back into cycling I went to a respected bike shop (that advertises with Cyclingnews) and was carefully fitted to a new Colnago Dream B stay with good components. I was fitted using a Serotta fitting cycle. While I was totally satisfied with the buying experience I later found it was very difficult to get comfortable on the bike. Not to sound like a total cycle hypochondriac but we're talking lower back pain, numb hands, saddle making male areas tingle,... I couldn't get comfortable enough to ride more than half an hour without issues.
I then made an appointment with a shop that specializes in fitting issues and training for triathletes and racers. One that came very highly recommended. I spent more than half a day with them. I was measured every which way, video taped, power output measured, put on another Serotta machine, interviewed and whatnot. New saddle, new stem, adjusted geometry, footbeds, and encouragement. The changes helped noticeably with comfort, and my speed went up a little, too.
A year later I find myself with the discomfort symptoms back. After an hour of pedalling it becomes less fun. After more I need to get off the bike to stretch to continue. I'm more than a little frustrated. Now that I have time to put into cycling comfort has become a limiting factor. Rather than having a specific question I'm wondering who you might suggest I speak with about a plan for how to get back on track in general. Did I buy the wrong frame? If so what do I do now? How do I get it fitted perfectly? Are my comfort issues solvable or am I so brittle, inflexible and "experienced" that the lack of comfort is unavoidable? Do I go back to the fitting service I've used for more work, or do I find a cycle guru with experience dealing with someone with my specific 'resume'? Thanks in advance for your advice.
Is this a common problem with cyclists and if so would I be able to train and race again if I get the operation as I am getting varied responses from docs and physios or are the other alternatives I should try before going under the knife. It's killing me not being able to race.
I am having problems with my ankles. My biking buddy doesn't think it has much to with my pedalling style. Last year I had problems at the beginning of the season with my knees hurting. I had trouble extending them at times too.
After several weeks off the bike the problem went away. This year starting in January I noticed my heels were dry and peeling. It hurt to walk on them barefoot. The area around my tendons would always be a mild red. Towards the end of February I had mild pain and could produce no power. One of my other biking buddies said Achilles tendonitis. The doctor concurred. He couldn't understand how I could do it biking. I didn't bike for three weeks. I still had pain.
I sold my Motobecane 59cm and bought a Specialized Allez Elite 62cm with a sloping top tube. My biking buddy always though that I looked funny on the old bike. I had decent leg extension but I laid down pretty low and straight with a drop of 4". I'm 6'2", 200lbs and my true inseam is somewhere about 34-35"
I tried to resume riding on the Allez. I incurred pain in the tendon and hot spots under the ball of my right foot and other toes. I had retained the same keo cleats and pedals. I have been using Lake CX100 shoes.
I decided to move the cleats in a sort of desperation. I moved the cleats all the way backwards. I had them previously in20 middle. This puts my ball of the foot very close to the center of pedal axis. I did not experience any pain in my ankle after riding some short trips. I noticed a slight sensation after the group ride on Sunday of 50 miles. I rode in the small chainring with various gears and I went a little nutty once in the 14.
My ankle on the left side is now hurting. I went to shoe and discovered that cleat had slid forward towards its original position. I am wondering where my cleats should be and my seat. I currently have the top of the seat at 32" from the BB. The bottom part of the rails are 3 1/2" and the seat clamp is in approximately the center of these rails.
I do not think that I get maximum power from my current seat position in the drops, but I haven't really tried to judge it. I also want to have a good position to avoid pain and damage. I've attached my training log for the past three years. I did not have any goals other than riding around for the past few years. I was considering of trying a local criterium or two, but I don't know if I can do it at my current state.
Thank you for your advice.
I just recently stumbled onto your website, and needless to say, very pleased, especially with the Q&A Forum!
Here is my situation: I recently was able to pick up the amount of riding (time and distance), and my legs (quads mostly) have felt like they never recover (i.e. always feel sore). I have also noticed that my heart doesn't seem to rise to the level it used to before I feel the effort. I was riding previously in North Carolina (flat to slight rolling), riding about 2-3 times per week (about 20 miles, no long rides). Upon moving to South Korea, I began riding 3-4 times per week, and lengthening my weekend ride. Terrain changed significantly with flat terrain spotted with 8%-12% grade hills. I began an aggressive effort to be able to tackle the hills, and while I can tackle them (and at a quicker pace), my legs always feel tight, especially the next day. Previously in riding, I only experienced that for a short bit, and then my body felt like it caught up. The tightness does not seem to go away.
I'm suspecting too much hill climbing, and never letting my body recover (age thing too). I recently decided to stop cycling for 3-4 days to see how the legs feel. Any suggestions would be appreciated!
I am a Cat. 3 road and cylocross racer, mostly mid-pack, 43 years old. I am 5'10", 150 lbs. This past March I developed pain in the knee, probably "jumpers knee" or tendonitis perhaps. This has happened to me in the past as well. Anyway, I have been noticing that my left femur is not symmetrical with the right. For example, when I lift my legs in the air and bend the legs at a 90 degree angle to do crunches, the left knee is about 1-2 cm longer. I also notice this when I do squats - in the lower position the left knee is 1-2 cm longer than the right.
So I'm wondering a) what I can do about it, b) if it may be related to the knee problem described above, and c) anything else you can think of.
I am a 23 year old category 2 racer, and in the past two years or so I have often had problems with twitching muscles in my right calf. At the end of hard rides/races, this twitching can lead to a cramp if I happen to point my toes down too much at the wrong time. It's something I've pretty much learned to deal with, and I can still finish well at the end of a race even when my calf is twitching like mad. I've tried the traditional cramp remedies: staying hydrated, using sports drinks, electrolyte pills, etc. and nothing seems to stop it. I am pretty much convinced that I have some sort of positioning/biomechanical issue since the twitching only happens in my right calf and also because it shows up regardless of the weather conditions or type of ride I'm doing. I sometimes even have twitching after something as easy as a one hour recovery ride.
I have seen a professional fitter to try to figure this problem out, and although he did move my position around a bit it hasn't gone away. I also tried moving my cleats back as suggested by Steve Hogg on this site, and again that didn't solve the problem. I recently read a book which suggested angling your cleats so that your feet can take on their natural angle while you're pedaling. By natural angle, I mean the angle that your feet assume when you sit on the edge of a table and let your legs dangle with your feet parallel to the floor. I tried this test and noticed that my right foot assumes a very large angle, with my toes pointing outward and my heed pointing in towards the other foot. The angle is large enough that if it would be impossible to duplicate it on the bike because my heel would rub the crank. What I did try, however, was to angle the cleat as much as possible to try and get my foot closer to its natural position (FWIW I am using Time Impact pedals, and I have them set on maximum float). I did an interval ride like this today, and unfortuantely the problem still showed up.
In any case, do you think that my calf problem could somehow be related to having such a large natural angle for my right foot? Or do you think it's caused by something else? Any suggestions on how to remedy the problem? Thanks for the help.
I'm a 23 year-old Cat 4 racer and triathlete, 5'11" and 155 lbs, who has been having some foot numbness issues. This winter I changed bikes, shoes and saddles - Cannondale CAAD 8, Shimano 215's, and Fizik Arione, respectively - and began training normally. I noticed that my toes were getting colder than usual, but chalked it up to cheap booties. But as the weather has gotten warmer, I've noticed that my toes aren't getting cold so much as they are getting a little numb. It's mostly in my toes and ball of my foot. I have tried going back to my old shoes and saddle, but it hasn't seemed to help. I also notice the numbness on my fixed-gear commuter. It usually comes on after about an hour in the saddle (on either bike), and lasts until I get off the bike.
I'm interested in getting the numbness to go away, but also in knowing if I should be worried about it. It is not painful, mostly just annoying. It also is not so bad that I have to get off the bike, I just ride through it. I'm training for an Ironman triathlon, so I do a good number of 4 and 5-hour rides. Should I be concerned? Am I hurting my legs? For a while I thought it might be a bike fit issue, but I've been fit at the shop I work at, and it was right on. I'm also pretty good about stretching both after the ride and on days I'm not on the bike. Any ideas?
I'm a 30-year-old female who does long course triathlon (main length half ironman). I train 20 hours a week, with 250-350kms a week on the bike using a Selle Italia Lady Gel seat
I have a new bike (same old seat- approx 1 year old), which has been set up apparently correctly.... the string from the knee test and leg length onto pedal tests done and i completed an ironman on it and 6.5 hour traing sessions without this much pain.
Yet since I have had this bike my hamstrings have at times been irritated. Last week I raced in a half ironman and was in complete agony, all I wanted to do was cry and get off the bike and I have never felt like that before. Where the hamstrings attach to the bones on my bottom felt like there was nails driven in. On the second lap (30km loop) I was sitting un aero (straight up), rolling right forward, any position that was not on the spots.
Once I started running the pain eased to bearable. After completing the race I found it difficult to sit on hard surfaces and hard use of the hamstrings caused extreme pain in the area. Do you have any ideas that I can try? I have always used this type of seat. I am also still using the same shoes and pedals.
I just found the forum and am still baffled as to where and why my knee pain is presenting. I am 25 year old male, cat 3 road racer, who also races cross and mountain bike. I average roughly 8 hours/week of training. Earlier this winter I sold my road bike and rode my cross bike at the beginning of my base training then switched to a friends road bike for more intense racing and the first few road races of the season. I was pain free on both these bikes.
At this point I got a new pair of pedals, Crank Bros. Quattro SL's and they felt off. Within two days my new road bike showed up and I put the new pedals on and began to ride. Within a few days I was getting some good irritation in my knee (the pain seem to alternate from the inside of the knee, to the top of the knee, to just above my tibia). I then went back to my old pedals, Looks, and kept riding and racing but still was getting pain.
I then took a few days off, went and got an official bike fit. They raised my seat, moved it back and put me on a shorter stem...at the fit I felt better but was still irritated in the knee. We ended up going to a Speedplay pedal with 3 shims for the bad leg. We also noticed that my IT band was extremely tight. At this point we agreed upon a combination of the new setup and some aggressive stretching and massage. I also took a week away from the bike. But since then I have started riding again and the knee pain is back. I have measured the geometry of my new bike vs. my friends and they are very close, the main difference I notice is that my new bike has 175 mm cranks and my friend's road bike and my cross bike both have 172.5 mm cranks. Can this difference in crank length be causing the agony?
I am in the early stages of planning for a complete left knee replacement and wonder how an artificial knee will affect my riding. I ride about 100 miles per week in the Los Angeles- San Gabriel Valley area, with a good mix of hills and flat trails.
I am in good over-all condition but have had to drastically cut back my riding over the last several months due to extreme knee-soreness after riding, especially on prolonged hill climbs where I stand up in the pedals like a stair climber exercise. How have other riders handled a knee replacement?
John then responded:
Thanks for your reply
What kind of mileage do these replacees do? My doctor said 50 per week was it. I want to do 100.
I have been suffering on and off the Bike for many years with a sorish lower back (on the LH side), it has got worse over the last year or so. I have followed many of your postings and bike set up procedures plus had medical checkups done by various Doctors, including physio and related core exercises, all of which made very little difference. The only thing the Docs could find was that my left leg is about 1 cm shorter than the right. This was not measured by x ray but by a visual assessment of my left and right hip bone height, how I walk and adding thin plates under my feet until the hip bone heights were equal. As a result I am now wearing a 5 cm heel raiser in my RH shoe, in a few weeks I will progress to a 7.5 cm raiser. So far I must say that my sore back feels better, albeit only 1 week since I started wearing the raiser.
The Doc said I should also add the heel raiser to my shoe, my question is - Would a heel raiser be effective in a cycling shoe for correcting leg length discrepancies? I have been trying to find ready made shims locally (Switzerland) without success, can you recommend anyone on line who makes and sells shims? If I decide to manufacture my own what easily available material would you recommend using?
I'm a Cat 2 with seemingly similar issues as described in Micheal's post. I seem to be constantly making small adjustments to both by bike setup and cleat setup with no profound benefit. My HT/WT: 73 inches/168lbs Pedals/Cleats: Dura-Ace 2005/Full float Cleats Size 45 Diadoras Crank: 172.5mm.
I've measured forefoot varus, noting slightly more on the right side with one wedge as the recommended range. My physio has noted the same with a temporary orthodic mold to see if that is a direction I want to go. I've tried varus wedges with some success, but using more on the right side doesn't seem to feel natural. And the temporary orthodics hurt my reasonably high arches as they are not padded. I have not decided to throw down $300 for these yet, as I am not convinced this is the solution.
I take yoga in the off season twice a week and always feel a bit more fluid from it. But time gets tighter with numerous races throughout the spring and summer, and the stretching always seems to hit the backburner.
Over the past few years, I've developed a very hard muscle knot about 3 inches about the patella just to the lateral side of the quad betweem the rectus femoris and vastus lateralis. The knot, surrounding muscles, and IT band have been worked on thoroughly by both a massage therapist and physical therapist. I suspect it has to do with using excessive force pulling over the top and early stages of the downstroke on the left side, all whilst moving around for some compensation happening on the right side.
In terms of stability and cleat position, I can't seem to find what stance width and toe in/ toe out arrangement is appropriate. I seem to want to have the left cleat slightly more toe in then the right, and I would assume this is due to reaching a bit more from hanging to the right. When the left cleat is positioned a fractioned toed in too much, and my seat is a bit too far forward, my IT band/vastus lateralis is a war zone for more than 24 hours post ride.
Any help would be much appreciated, as this seems to be such a limiting factor in my future development. Thanks for all the responses and help you generously give out to so many of us.
I have heard of cyclists having problems with knee pain if they ride hills before sufficient base miles, but, I have to admit never hearing of ankle pain.
The last time I had really ridden with any sort of intensity was about 10 years ago. About 5 weeks ago I determined to get back on the bike and lose some weight/get in shape. It's difficult where I live to avoid hills, so about 5 days in, I rode a couple of small hills. My ankle troubled me after that a little: stiffness, lack of strength through range of motion, soreness causing me to limp while walking...etc, but it was manageable. I started taking 500mg of Ibuprofen 3-4 times a day, and re-doubled me efforts to stay away from the hills. The pain slowly went away over the next week.
After two weeks, I felt comfortable riding for 90 minutes, so I went for a group ride. Put in about 2-1/2 hours over flat to slightly rolling terrain. Felt fine (if not a little tired/sore in the crotch). A day or so later, the soreness was back. I rode a little bit (15mins) the next day to try and stay loose. It got worse the day after that, to the point where I couldn't walk on it. I started on the Ibuprofen regimen again, but it had no effect.
Any sort of rotational movement or movement of the foot structure away from the tibia/fibula put me in agony. After 2 more days, I saw my doctor and had x-rays in case of any avulsive fractures: negative.
I am currently not riding at all, continuing the Ibuprofen, immobilizing the ankle with an ace-wrap, and icing it once/twice a day. It has gotten much better within three days, but...
Any recommendations for when it's back to "normal" and I want to ride again? How can I avoid this in the future? Any ideas on what caused it in the first place? Thanks in advance.
Mark then responded:
I'm sorry for getting back to you so late. I tried riding my bike on my rollers (with no resistance) and couldn't due to pain - I had three revolutions of the crank-arms before giving up. The pain seems to be in the deltoid ligaments (medial) of my right ankle although I have also had pain in the lateral side and Achilles' tendon too. It is getting better and I can walk on it now.
Have you ever heard of Muscle Milk? I was told by some friends to try it. I ride a lot of road and mtn bikes to train for Motocross racing. I'm 38 yrs old and male. Will this hinder my health at all. Or will it make me fat? I'm at 189 pounds now, but I'm trying to get down to 175 or less. Right now all I've been drinking for recovery is Endurox 4.