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My right foot tends to pronate. So I get all the mumbo jumbo that goes along
with that, i.e., increased varus foot, heel rotation toward the frame, vulgas
knee, and knee pain under the kneecap. Can angled pedal wedges actually correct
a pronating foot? My current experience suggest otherwise. I shimmed shoes about
a year ago thinking it would stabilize the foot but my foot doesn't seem to
care. The pronating foot seems to have an increased mobility which allows the
heel to keep rolling, thereby circumventing the forefoot support.
Are orthotics able to stabilise the foot better? If so, this also brings up
the question, what is the point of angled wedges if they are unable to correct
a pronating/varus foot? Also, can pedals contribute to how bad a foot pronates?
I ride with a pair of speed plays which allows my heel to rotate toward the
bike as my foot pronates. Would using pedals with less float limit the effects
of a pronating foot? Or would preventing the heel from rotating toward the bike
without properly stabilizing the foot put more pressure on the knee?
I believe that I'm sitting squarely in the saddle...ie, the gap between my
inner thighs and seat post is equal. The only time this might not be true is
when I'm hammering. Under these conditions my right foot roles inward forcing
my right knee inward too. Hence under these conditions my right thigh might
appear closer to the seat post but never when I'm just spinning or riding tempo.
I'm going to need a few days to get the definitive proof that I'm sitting square
in the saddle. I'll digress here for a second and get back to way that is. I
wrote you in the past and told you that I had a femur length difference and
tibia length difference. I have since gone to see a chiropractor and via X-rays
we found this to not be true. I did have a leg length difference but it was
due to posterior inferior left ilium and anterior superior ilium (resulting
in a short left leg and long right leg). I believe this to be what you would
call a twisted pelvis.
The twisting of my ilium was also accompanied by my sacrum twisting down and
back (posterior) on the left. Through a regimen of adjustments I've been able
to equalize my leg length. However I'm still not sure whether I sit completely
square on the bike. As a matter a fact I'm not sure I was ever sitting twisted
but I may have just 'felt' like my body wanted to twist down and forward on
the left. I believe this to be the case b/c my left chest/back/arm/ab muscles
are all noticeably larger on the left side, which suggests to me that I was
resisting the desire of my left hip to fall by bracing with my upper body.
In addition, since having my legs realigned and pelvis untwisted by my chiropractor,
my upper body weight has been shifted to my right arm, which would further suggest
to me that I'm sitting more squarely in the saddle. To prove this I'll try and
take my bike and trainer into the chiropractor with me this week. Perhaps her
trained eye will provide better proof than my girlfriend's. Any suggestions
you might offer the chiropractor to make and accurate assessment of my sitting
I'm asking questions about this pronating foot because of a change in riding
style I've been forced to undertake. I recently moved from Tucson, Arizona to
East Lansing, Michigan and the riding style has changed significantly. Tucson
was very hill which suits this 135lbs twerp just fine. Most of my major powerful
efforts involved me spinning up a 15% hill. However, in East Lansing the terrain
is flat. The efforts here require pushing a really big gear and doing a lot
of accelerations and jumps out of that same big gear.
Every time I do one of these acceleration and jumps my foot pronates and my
knee rotates inwards. These repeated efforts seem to be causing some pain underneath
my kneecap. I had noticed this pronation in Tucson but it may have not been
an issue because when you're making a jump while spinning a 38X19 uphill it
doesn't seem to put nearly as much pressure on your joints as hammering a 52X14
on the flats does.
Also, here are some other things that may help...
1) If I'm standing and I try to pronate my feet the right foot will rotate
in further than the left
2) My right glut muscle is significantly tighter then my left
3) After hammering for a sustained period of time my left glut begins to burn
That's all I got right now. I'll get back to you with the result of my chiropractor
A couple years back, a coach of mine spoke of the value of chocolate milk as
a recovery drink. Hoards of my teammates flocked to the tasty treat however
I stayed true to some of those highly engineered recovery drinks and pointed
to out the questionable and hydrogenated ingredients in some of the "kiddie
brew" my mates were chugging down.
Flipping through a popular US cycling magazine, I saw an article heralding
chocolate milk and how much better is does in side by side testing with the
fancy (and pricy) stuff I buy.
I'm a 19 year old racer currently in Belgium racing (and learning the hard
way). I've read Steve's recommendations on cleat placement and I have a few
questions. I ask because as I set up my cleats (SPD-SL) to my shoes (DMT Ultimax,
size 44) I have trouble mounting the cleats as far back as is recommended. I'm
worried that I'm measuring the ball of my foot incorrectly as I have the cleats
as far back as possible on the shoes and it is still only 9mm (L) and 8mm (R).
Any help would be much appreciated.
I had a question about Augemtin and if it would have an effect on an athlete
performance in a triathlon? I did a half Ironman last week in Hawaii and not
only did poorly on the cycling section but became very dehydrated and performed
poorly on the run. Essentially running out of gas. This is very off for me because
running is my strength.
I was prescribed Augemtin for a repertory illness I had for a few days before
had and it was probably an effect? I am a very fit 44 year old male and have
run a 2:18 marathon etc.
We're into summer here in North America, and it seems exceptionally hot in
Colorado now. After doing a number of hot rides and races, I am beginning to
realise that heat may be my primary limiter from a performance standpoint. When
I stop to think about it, this has been true for a few years now as I have topped
40 years of age. How can one deal with this as a limiter? Assuming that one
trains on one's weakness, how can I overcome it from a training perspective
or mental standpoint? Are there tricks to cooling yourself when maxed at zone
5 in a race?
I would like to respond to Bill Caplice's question posted on June 5. I too
am 6'5" with an even longer inseam than Bill's (100 cm). I switched from 175
mm cranks to 200 mm. I am light for my height (165 lb) and am more of a spinner
than a gear masher. For decades on the 175's I turned a natural 105-110 rpm
cadence. I bought the 200's late one fall and spent the winter on my trainer
getting used to the new setup.
It took a few weeks, but I am very comfortable with the same 105-110 cadence
on the longer cranks. For me, the only drawback to the longer cranks is less
ground clearance in pedalling through turns. I don't race any more, so it's
no big deal. A real bonus to the new cranks is a feeling of being more "in"
the bike than perched on top of the bike. Handling is much better and the bike
is much more comfortable. The cranks can be purchased through Zinn Cycles, and
I think they are a great investment.
I wouldn't argue with you but not everyone is in the same boat. To illustrate
what I mean, I will mention two customers that I have. One is a gent who is
your height and has your 1 metre inseam. After much experimentation he is
very happy with 200 mm cranks as are you. The other is taller again and has
a 1040mm inseam. He struggles with pedalling fluency at anything above 180mm
and so that is what we have put on his bike.
What I am saying is that inseam is one factor in choosing crank length, not
the only one. The other things that need to be considered are:
1. Relative proportions of upper and lower leg. The greater the proportional
length of the lower leg, the higher the knee will rise at the top of the stroke
for a given inseam.
2. Foot size. Depending on pedalling technique under load, foot size can lead
to an increase or decrease in seat height and hence, indirectly affect the
choice of crank length.
3. Functionality. The less the range of movement in the hips and lower back,
the shorter the practical limits on crank length.
4. Bar height. For those with superior flexibility who can have their torso
very low when riding with hands in the drops, this places a limit on how high
their knee can rise at the top of the stroke.
5. My rider positioning experience suggests to me that as a general 'rule',
short legged people have less trouble with proportionally long cranks (and
don't forget that 165mm can be a long crank if your legs are short enough)
than long legged people. I can speculate but not say definitively why this
6. Intended use. There is no getting away from the fact that it is easier
to pedal a proportionally shorter crank really fast than a proportionally
All of the above doesn't consider limits on crank length such as ground clearance
on and toe overlap etc that can happen with long cranks if paired with a production
To give you a personal example. I have an inseam of 860mm and happily ride
172.5mm cranks which are 20% of my inseam length. I chose them because after
several years of experimentation with every length from 170mm to 177.5mm many
years ago, I found them to be for me, the best combination of leverage and
pedalling efficiency. I say for me; I am not extrapolating my experience to
the rest of the planet which is something that tends to happen a lot in cycling.
I tend to be a bit of a pedaller rather than a big gear rider and no one would
consider 172.5mm anything other than a conservative choice for a rider of
my inseam length. Your 200mm cranks are the same 20% of your inseam length
for you as my 172.5s are for me, so I find it easy to understand why you can
spin freely with them.
Early year I met an engaging American gent named Ron Haney who is a believer
in proportional crank length. At his suggestion I started to ride 185mm cranks
and persevered with them for quite a few months. I set some PB's in local
TTs and up a few hills I regularly ride but lost 7-8km/h in sprint speed!
I just could not turn them fast enough under high load conditions. Interestingly,
at low loads I could crack 200 rpm on them the rollers without problems but
really struggled at anything over 115 rpm at high loads. 185mm for me is 21.5%
of my inseam length which is very close to the 21.6% of inseam length recommended
on several American sites as the ideal crank length / inseam proportion.
Now a bit more detail. I am very short in the upper leg and have way above
average flexibility. My bars are 120mm below my seat and comfortable over
distance at that height. With the combination of a proportionally long lower
leg pushing my upper leg very high at the top of the pedal stroke plus my
low torso position, the 185's were not the best choice for me. I managed ok,
crit sprints aside, but had to double my stretching to cope with the extra
stress of using them.
So I went back to my 172.5s which felt ridiculously short initially but I
adjusted quickly. I missed the extra leverage though and continued to experiment.
I now have 177.5s on the road bike with no negatives. I am doing similar times
up hills as on the 185's but pedalling a few rpm faster to do it. I can't
sprint as fast on the 177.5's as I can on the 172.5's but have a pair of those
on the bike that I race local crits on. I don't find the transition between
lengths a chore at all. 10 minutes and I feel at home after the change.
All of this is to say that anyone with an opinion on crank length tends to
focus on the relationship between inseam length (which is not leg length and
the relationship between the two seems to differ between the genders) and
crank length because the world wants simple answers. My view is that it isn't
that simple to determine ideal crank length. Scott's post last week is as
good as you will get about how to determine whether a rider can cope with
a longer crank than they are currently riding without going to the expense
of actually buying one. Being able to ride a longer crank than a rider currently
does is one thing but and being able to perform better doing is another thing
Scott Saifer replies
I'm glad you had a good experience with longer cranks. Unfortunately it
is not a universal truth that tall guys can turn long cranks. One useful
bit of information that you have included and for which I am grateful is
that it took you only a few weeks to adjust to a 25mm increase in crank
length. That will give me confidence in telling other riders that if they
have not "gotten used to" longer cranks in a month or so, they probably
Medial ankle pain
Dear functional Guru;
I am a 37 yr. old male. I have been cycling for two years (training as hard
as my body will allow, plus a little). I've lost forty pounds and am now down
to a petite 197lbs! (5'11") I put in a good base over the winter (100-140
wk. mostly flat with some structured efforts and lots of wind). In the spring
I ramped up to 150 per week with rolling hills and some fast pack rides with
the local cat four crowd. A month ago we started doing some fairly hard hill
rides once a week - 40 miles of big rollers ½ to ¾ mile length at 8% to 15%.
This was my hard effort for the week. I seemed to be adjusting to this new
load for the first three weeks then started to develop some pain in the medial
soft tissue of the ankle.
I bowed out of the next hill ride and returned to the flatter course but
the pain continued to grow. The pain was sharp like tight skin. It started
at the top of my foot where the middle strap hits my foot and traced to the
medial ankle (moderate swelling) and up to the medial knee, then a little
further up into the hamstring. My doctor friend said I strained/small tear
of the Flexor hallus longus (plantar flexion) due to the increase hill loads.
Back off, ice, stretch, ibuprofen, etc… My question is, are there some functional
things that are being signalled by this injury? BTW, I do most of my climbing
Bike setup: Speedplay x-2 pedals, extra plate under left foot for leg length
var., One LeMond wedge for each foot (tilting out); my friends say I sit square
and don't drop one hip more than another. I have 172.5 cranks and two pairs
of shoes (Shimano carbon and Sidi carbon). Cleat located at or just behind
ball of foot. Seat has plenty of room to move back.
Fit issues: I have short legs (30" inseam) so seat post rides very low.
The only "event" I can think of that might have initiated the injury is an
low RPM effort where I pulled up hard with my legs through the back of the
pedal stroke to catch a hill sprint that I was a little slow recognizing.
Steve Hogg replies
Did this occur in on one side only or both? What brand, model and size
of shoes do you use?
There are two things you should try. Firstly, Speedplay cleats don't have
the as much potential rearward movement as a number of other brands. This
may be the issue or possibly that combined with the type of shoe that you
have. Have a look at this
post and this post
on cleat position. Positioning your cleats as suggested there should make
a positive difference. If you find that you can't achieve that, contact
me directly because there is a solution.
The second thing is that assuming that your cleats are positioned as suggested
above or that you position them as suggested with no improvement in the
problem, add a wedge to the affected side. You should be able to determine
fairly quickly whether that is an improvement or not.
Either way, let me know how you get on.
Right knee track
I've ran a search and know you've answered many related issues to mine, but
I can't find one exactly the same, so here's my problem: When I pedal, my
right knee tracks inward and lightly brushes my top tube on just about every
pedal stroke. I've recently changed pedal/shoe combinations from Speedplay
X/Specialized bg to Look KEO/Nike Poggio. I think my knee always tracked inward
a bit, but it didn't seem to be a problem with the old combination as the
increased pedal float on the Speedplays allowed me to position my heel to
prevent this. With the decreased float on the Look pedals, I'm stuck with
my knee contacting the top tube. I've had my wife watch me pedal and there
is no noticable hip drop and I sit straight on my saddle. I don't have any
pain associated with the problem either. The only possibly related structural
issue I have is that if I allow my hamstrings to get too tight, my right SI
joint gets a little out of whack and the right side of my pelvis rotates sligtly
upward, but this is an off and on problem and hasn't affected me in months.
Regardless, my left leg tracks perfectly straight. Would some type of wedge
be the easy answer here? Thanks for the help.
Steve Hogg replies
Get hold of some Lemond Speedplay wedges and experiment starting with one
under the right shoe with the thick edge of the wedge towards the centreline
of the bike. If that is a positive change, try another and so on. How tight
are your hip flexors on the right side? That could be a part or all of the
Matt then responded:
My right knee tracks inward during my pedal stroke and is causing me some
problems by contacting the top tube and creating a little pain on the inside
portion of my knee. For several years I have been using Speedplay X pedals
with Specialized Body Geometry shoes and although I always suspected my knee
tracked inward slightly, it didn't pose a problem with that setup, maybe due
to the free floating design of the Speedplays and the built-in wedge of the
Body Geometry shoes.
However, I recently switched to Look KEO pedals and Nike Poggio shoes and
the problem is now very pronounced. I don't believe I have any problems with
my feet as evidenced by perfectly even running shoe wear, my left leg tracks
perfectly straight, I sit even on the saddle and I don't have any noticeable
hip drop when I pedal. It's just that my right knee doesn't track straight.
Do I need to put a wedge into my shoe to correct this problem and if so, on
what side does the thick part go? Thanks for the help.
Steve Hogg replies
You sound like a potential candidate for wedges. Get hold of some Lemond
wedges and experiment starting with one. Place the wedge(s) under the right
cleat so that the thick side is nearest the crank arm. If one feels good,
try another and so on until you feel less stable on the pedal. If this happens,
This should make your foot feel much more stable on the pedal but may or
may not bring your knee further from the centreline of the bike. If you
do indeed have a notably varus forefoot on the right side, you will have
compensated for this in a variety of ways. A common one of those will have
changed hip and possibly pelvic function. What I am saying is to determine
the success or otherwise of using wedges by how you feel on the pedal, not
necessarily by where your knee ends up tracking providing it tracks pain
and niggle free.
There is also the small possibility that a left forefoot varus is the issue
and that the right side internal hip rotation is the compensatory mechanism
for this. Have a structural health professional look at your sacro iliac
joints with you lying flat on your stomach. If the left one protrudes more
than the right, then almost certainly it is this last that is happening.
This is a continuation of Matt
Eastwood's letter from last week's fitness Q&A page.
Hi Steve, thanks for your reply.
In answer to your questions, the centre of the ball of my foot is approx
5mm in front of the axle centre line, the cleat position was also set up by
Bio-Racer (Although the centre of the ball of my foot can be over the axle
centre line depending on how much I drop my ankle when pedalling)
My right inner thigh runs closest to the seat pin, but there's very little
in it. However, my right knee brushes the top tube, while the left is about
an inch away when pedalling.
It's probably also worth mentioning that under pressure (climbing/headwind)
I get a pain in my left buttock, I presume it's working harder to keep up
with the stronger right leg and to help the weak left leg?
Also I notice Speedplay pedals aren't particularly stable, in that there
is a 'rocking' on the pedal. Could this be a problem?
I broke my right hip and thigh two years ago and had a femoral nail put in.
Fortunately my leg lengths are nearly identical (2mm difference - measured
by 2 different specialists). Despite this injury my right leg overtook the
undamaged left leg in strength very quickly when I resumed riding. I've always
considered my right leg to be stronger, there is more muscle mass on that
side and it has always felt better and more natural on the bike, even after
the massive injury it received. All my discomfort comes from the left leg.
From reading your other replies I'm guessing you'll recommend I move the
cleats back a bit further on the shoe? How much seat drop do you need for
every mm of moving the cleat back on the shoe? Do I need to move both cleats
the same amount, even though the right leg feels good? Thanks and hoping you
can help me sort this problem.
Steve Hogg replies
Here is a plan of action. You have a history of left side niggles which
could be for any number of reasons which in turn could be left side problems
or left side compensations for right side problems. Staying away from that
for the moment.
1. Drop your seat 3mm and see if this is a positive difference or not.
Get back to me with the answer on that.
2. If 1. was positive or unchanged have a look at this
post and this post
and position your cleats accordingly. That should allow you greater foot
on pedal stability than you currently have and as it will slightly limit
ankle movement, should be a positive for your achilles tendon. After doing
this, you will probably have to drop your seat another couple of mm as the
more rearward cleat position will cause you to extend your legs a fraction
I'm a 44 year old male at 5' 10'' 200 lbs who road rides about 100 to 150
km a week. My rides for the last year have been between 30 and 45 km at a
time. The target weight I'm aiming for is 170 lbs; when I was in my teens
to about 30 I couldn't get my weight over 160; amazing what kids, a desk job
and a hypothyroid can do.
I digress…I just went out on a 60km ride which took me 2.5 hrs to do and
I felt fine; but the next morning my hamstrings were very tight and sore to
the touch. This was a new experience for me since all my rides are in a hilly
area. Was it just the extra 20km? I only had a sport drink to replenish my
fluids. Did I need a power gel to help the working muscles and reduce the
chance of the hamstrings acting up? What's the next step? Take time off till
the hamstrings feel better or do light work outs and keep the muscles working
and try to reduce the soreness?
Steve Hogg replies
There are a number of possibilities. I will assume that both hurt similarly
because you don't say otherwise. If the site of the pain was high in the
hamstring underneath the glutes, your seat is too high. If this is the case,
dropping the seat 3 - 5mm will resolve.
If the site of the pain was the belly of the hamstrings, your seat is either
too far back or your hip flexors are are way too tight causing reciprocal
inhibition of the glutes which in turn will load the hammies.
Was the ride harder than normal?
If so, combined with the extra length that may be the problem which in
turn means that any of the above could be the problem.
Another thing that can indirectly affect hamstring usage is cleat position.
Where is the centre of the ball of your foot in relation to the centre of
the pedal axle?
My wife is 57 and is a keen leisure cyclist. However she has developed osteoarthritis
in her left hip and is now waiting to have a hip replacement operation as
the cartilage in the joint has all but disappeared. This has stopped her walking
any distance and she is unable to get on her bike because it is just too painful.
Can you give any advice about post op exercise that would enable her to restart
cycling, do you know if it will be possible for her to return to cycling and
how long it might take after her operation, in fact any help on this would
be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your help.
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.
Steve Hogg replies
I would suggest that you be guided by what her surgeon or GP suggest. I
have a customer who recently had a hip replacement and he was back on the
bike (with doc's approval) six weeks after the op. Whether this is typical
or not, I don't know.
I am a 28 year old recreational cyclist who rides about 100 miles per week,
and I have a question about my apparently imbalanced pedalling. After rides,
especially those with bursts of high effort, my right quadricep muscles are
considerably sorer than my left; I am guessing that this is caused by favouring
my dominant (right) leg and pedalling harder on that side. However, if I simply
concentrate on pedalling as hard with my left leg, I can't help starting to
rock my shoulders and feel less comfortable on the bike. My question is are
there any exercises or tips that you would recommend to "balance" pedalling
effort? Thanks for your help!
Steve Hogg replies
I need more info. Set your bike up on an indoor trainer, level the bike
and pedal with shirt off under load. Have an observer stand above and behind
you and what I need to know is:
Which hip do you drop and or rotate forward under load? Does the left/right
power differential increase as the load becomes higher? Let me know those
answers and we will proceed.
Matt then responded:
(I apologise for the considerable delay in responding - I have only recently
had access to a trainer/spotter)
Thank you for your reply. My observer noticed that I drop/rotate forward
my right hip under load, and yes, the left/right power difference does seem
to increase as the load becomes higher. I have also noticed two things since
I wrote: I think my saddle has been a little too low (I have just raised it
2 mm), and my right quadricep muscles are visually a bit more developed than
my left. Please let me know if you can suggest any tips to balance my pedalling
effort - I'm building up to two centuries (Sat/Sun) and figure I should be
using both legs! Thanks again for your help, and for your great column.
Steve Hogg replies
What you say all tallies. The basic problem is that you sit off centre
and drop the right hip under load which is a common occurrence. That means
though, that the left leg has to reach further and is constantly challenged
as to its ability to maintain its ideal plane of movement.
Have a look at this
link. It will explain the best way that I have found to deal with your
Once you have read it, get back to me with whatever queries you have.
I am a 44-year-old B Grade track and road cyclist (Australia).
Over the last month or so I have noticed that my right quad (particularly
inner lower section) is tightening & subsequently fatiguing prematurely. I
notice this during bigger geared, in the saddle efforts, especially on the
indoor trainer and in some track races.
I have been checked by my chiropractor who his happy with my alignment.
The only thing I have changed in recent months are my pedals. I have moved
from using Look A5.1 to Keos. I have modified the saddle height on both road
and track bikes as recommended by Look reflecting the change in height of
pedals approx 4 mm from memory. I had adjustable float set at 6 degrees on
the old pedals but use the grey cleats now (4.5 degree float).
My right foot points slightly outward as a result of a broken leg back in
1990 and I believe that perhaps a minor restriction in movement at the bottom
of the pedal stoke is taking place, gradually building up the tension in my
I have been very careful in the changeover process to mark reference points
on my shoes in order to successfully align cleats. Before I rush into any
changes I'd like to ask your opinion as to whether 1.5 degrees less float
could have such a dramatic impact?
Steve Hogg replies
The effective difference between your older 5.1's and Keo's is more like
5 - 6mm. Given the location of the pain, it is likely that you are mildly
overextending so it wouldn't hurt to drop your seat another couple of mm.
The other variables to consider are:
1. The 1.5 degrees less rotational movement will make no difference unless
you don't have the angle of the cleat where it should be, with some available
movement either side of where your foot wants to sit under load. Also too,
there are plenty of people out there with SPD-SL's where the amount of freeplay
in the freeplay version of the cleat is just not enough. I am finding the
same thing with the grey Keo cleats. If this is the case with you, then
the Keo red cleats would be a better option.Another thing that occurs is;
on your old pedals, did you have the dial set at '3' or '6'? If it was '6',
then you had 12 degrees of movement, not 6 in total. If this was the case,
again the red Keo cleats with 10 degrees of float are probably part or all
of the solution.
2. When you changed the cleats, did you quantify where the old cleats were
relative to foot in shoe in a fore and aft sense and then take care to duplicate
that same relationship?
If not, that too may be part of the problem. The other thing is don't worry
too much about reference points when changing pedal and cleat systems. There
is too much margin for error. The only way to determine correct cleat angle
is to do some real world testing on the bike under load. Ride a hard gear,
stop and coast, twist heel in. Is there movement?
If yes, fine. If no, adjust cleat angle. Repeat but this time move heel
outward. Is there movement?
If yes, fine. If no, adjust cleat angle and retest until you are in the
middle of the range of movement. Then repeat process on the other leg. Once
done it is worth a recheck, because occasionally changing cleat angle on
one shoe affects how the other foot comes at the pedal.
Hi Scott and Team,
Having read with interest your recent reply to Bill regarding crank lengths,
I would love to explore the question a little further.
I am a 48 year-old male masters racer who only relatively recently discovered
the joys of cycling. I am now into my third club season and have recently
progressed to the A grade bunch. Whilst not contesting any finishes yet, I'm
usually staying with the bunch. I ride/train pretty much every day to a structured
plan (and loving it) - currently averaging about 375km per week. This includes
periodized blocks, recovery days, and prioritised events.
A fair degree of my focus (and priority events) are in the hills. These are
always a good hit-out and provide the added bonus of spectacular scenery.
I usually ride 172.5 cranks and have recently begun experimenting with 175mm
cranks (800mm inseam). I looked at the various formulas but decided to revert
to the functional approach - which you and your associates usually also favour.
The only concession I made was to lower the seat height about 1.5mm. Contact
throughout the entire pedal stroke feels surprisingly even with a strong sensation
After some initial muscle soreness which I suspect is due to the increased
range of movement (particularly at the top of the stroke) I am noticing some
differences in strength, power, and cadence and am wondering if what I am
observing is the predictable outcome when comparing only marginally different
crank lengths. The main differences seem to be:
1. More power, but,
2. Greater strength required to maintain over time, and,
3. More difficult to maintain similar cadence, ie; slower (harder) to jump
fast at the beginning of a sprint.
My question is, will these apparent downsides eventually disappear (or become
less apparent) with training adaptations and therefore ultimately yield greater
power? and, if not, is it worth persisting merely from a strength training
point of view, and finally, is it just a question of specialization where
172.5's may be more appropriate for crits (sprints/accelerations) and 175's
a better choice for TT's and hills?
Enjoy your practical and always provoking forum. Thanks.
Scott Saifer replies
Your feeling of contact throughout the pedal stroke and sensation of drive
suggests that the 175 mm cranks are not too long for you, but some of your
other comments suggest that maybe they are. It's odd that you feel that
you need more strength with the longer cranks, since theoretically the longer
cranks allow equal torque and power with less force. How long ago did you
switch cranks and has the muscle soreness cleared up? If you have not adjusted
to the new cranks in about 4 weeks from the change, don't expect any more
improvement unless you make some other change. It sounds like you might
be riding a gear higher since you changed cranks. That would explain the
need for more strength as well as the slower jump.
Les then responded:
Thanks. Appreciate your reply.
It has been three weeks since pedalling the 175's. General muscle soreness
has now passed. Mild tightness high in the front of the right thigh. Could
even be hip socket (in middle and front of leg) right at the top of stroke
accompanied by mild tendon tightness along the inside of the right thigh (half
to two-thirds down right thigh towards knee). I wouldn't describe either of
these as pain. More like lingering reminders that something has altered and
my body has not caught up with the changes as yet.
I am of the short muscle body type. Naturally not very flexible although
I work on it daily. This physiology seems acutely aware of even minor changes
in position. By contrast, some of my mates seem to adapt much more readily.
So, the six million dollar question. In your opinion can one make a definitive
choice about optimal crank length, or, does the answer depend on the type
of event? Is it unreasonable to try and compare three years of pedalling action
to three weeks?
Scott Saifer replies
The ideal crank length does depend somewhat on the events in which it will
be used, and then the riding style, and even then the final choice is a
compromise in events that require a variety of abilities. Cranks that are
too long in the sense of my previous posts may still give good power in
a time-trial or sustained hill-climb sort of situation, but will be impossible
to spin at high cadences achievable with shorter cranks so may be a good
choice in a TT but bad in a crit, if you like to win by sprinting. If you
win by riding away, the slightly longer cranks may work for you even in
Meanwhile, it sounds like you are asking for an injury with that pain near
the hip and down on your thigh. It sounds like your knee is coming too high
and causing some problem with your hip flexors. If that problem is not gone
in another week, you need to make some adjustment to open your hip angle,
such as raising the saddle or moving it forward, or sell the long cranks.
The saddle adjustments compromise other issues if the saddle is already
set up just right, so may not be viable solutions.
I recently had correspondence with a gentleman who switched from 175mm
to 200mm cranks and found that his body had adjusted comfortably in three
weeks. That's part of why I say that if you are not 100% percent comfortable
with your 2.5 mm change in four weeks, you probably never will be.
Ride-induced allergy attacks
I'm 34 year old male who races cat 4/5. After many of my races or longer
rides my suffering begins. Literally, as soon as dismount I start sneezing
uncontrollably. My noise runs, my eyes tear and I am having a full blown "allergy"
attack. Or so I think. However, on the bike I'm fine, with the exception of
very active runny noise.
Meanwhile, having experienced this about every time I go hard I've started
taking Claritin, Flonase, etc. Worst of all, it affects me all day, all night
and many times into the next day, and it's not seasonal. What's going on?
How can I stop this? Thanks for your help.
Kelby Bethards replies
You have an interesting set of symptoms. Without knowing more about it,
it seems that you either are not having true allergy attacks or for whatever
reason, while exercising they seem to be suppressed.
Quick questions: do you get these symptoms from other sports? Are your
symptoms mostly nose-related?
You may be getting something called vasomotor rhinitis. Runny nose from
increased blood flow, etc. Another thing you could try, if you haven't would
be Aestelin nasal spray. It's an antihistamine that goes right in the nose.
Also, have you tried Sudafed (psuedoephedrine)?
I am a 39-year-old male, weighing 100kg (about 96kg when race ready). I concentrate
mainly on long road races. I'm reasonably strong and amongst the top few riders
in my age group in my area.
I have completed the last two Melbourne to Warnambool classics (300km road
race) in reasonable time but have finished in the second (slower) bunch both
times. I'm keen to finish in the first (faster) bunch this year. I know in
order to do that I don't just need to increase my speed, but increase my endurance
at any given speed. In other words, I need to go very fast for longer periods
Both years, when the hammer has gone down, I've managed to hang on for a
while but not long enough to stay with them until they relax a bit (which
I know they eventually will). Specifically, I have hung on at 50+ kph for
about ten minutes or so but then have to let go. I know that another five
or ten minutes will usually see the bunch back off a bit and I want to be
there when they do.
Can you give me some advice on the best training for this specific objective?
The race is in mid-October.
Scott Saifer replies
The best thing would be for you to set up a relationship with a coach who
will help you develop a detailed training plan, but I'll try to come up
with some guidance for you on a very basic level.
To do that I'll need a bit more information first: You are heavy for a
cyclist. How tall are you? (Just getting at whether you are built like a
world-beating time trialist or not). What's the terrain of your target race?
Hills, rollers, or all truly flat? Will it be windy? What's the typical
time difference between the first and second groups and the time of the
first group for the 300k?
Also fill me in on your historical training patterns. I don't need to review
your whole log, but how many hours per week for which months before the
event, and with how many harder and easier days.
I have two questions.
I'm a 12 year old turning 13 in the U15 category in Queensland, Australia.
Our gears need to be locked off and all the people entered in the ITT's use
the lowest gear they can, 6m rollout. Would that mean in the ITT whoever can
have the highest RPM in that gear would win?
Also, if that's the case how should I be training to be good at TT's?
The other thing is that I emailed you not long ago and you said that wind
trainers were as good physically as the road, but could you tell me all the
pros and cons of magnetic wind trainers, physical, mental, whatever. Please.
Scott Saifer replies
To be good at TT's you need to do a lot of volume of endurance riding at
a comfortable pace, and then specific training, such as doing intervals
on your TT bike at race pace or practice time trials. Since you are gear
limited, getting shorter cranks to allow a higher cadence will be quite
I already really answered the wind trainer question. Wind trainers give
you a physical fitness benefit similar to outdoor riding, but are so boring
that few people can do the requisite hours on one to get as fit as they
would riding outdoors.