Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for June 26
The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel
Carrie Cheadle, MA (www.carriecheadle.com)
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 (www.davepalese.com)
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 (www.trainright.com)
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 (www.velo-fit.com)
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
David Fleckenstein, MPT (www.physiopt.com)
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 (www.cyclefitcentre.com)
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
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 (www.wholeathlete.com)
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 (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
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 (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
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 (www.cyclecoach.com)
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 (www.cyclecoach.com)
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 (www.elitefitcoach.com)
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
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.
Singulair and EIA
Cleat position for track
Achilles and knee pain
High avg HR / Inconsistent race results
Pelvic Symmetry Solutions
Hips, flat feet, and tight knee
FSA K-force seatpost as sol'n to pelvic asymmetry
I live in an area that has lots of flat open roads, and as you can imagine,
roadkill is a common sight in those areas. I work in a job field that places
a high level of caution when handling airborn pathogens. This caution has lead
me to inquire on the concerns one should have when passing roadkill. Can pathogens
be transmitted from a two day old decaying carcass to a human who inhales while
passing by? As many do I'm sure, I hold my breath if I can until I've passed,
but on exerting rides this isn't practical or possible. Are my concerns valid?
Phil Newby, Indiana
Kelby Bethards replies:
Hmm, that’s an interesting question. I have not heard of any zoonotic infections
(cross species) be “caught” by passing by some road kill. The reason I think
it is improbable, is that it would require a certain amount of inoculum (bacterial/viral
particles) to be concentrated right where you pass through. Any breeze or
wind would quickly dissipate these.
I guess I don’t think the odds of acquiring an illness from road kill is
unlikely unless you stop to pet it or there is a big pile of road kills in
I think you are more likely to vomit on your handlebars and shoes from the
Another panelist was nice enough to point out to me this important bit of
You may also want to stress that in some states (such as my previous residence
in Tennessee) it's legal to harvest roadkill for consumption, and Philip could
be passing by a tasty nugget of roadside goodness.
Steve Hogg adds:
I can't help but pass this on. A couple of years ago there was an item in
the papers here. A German tourist with a history of mental problems that had
gone missing 3 years prior and presumed dead. He had been found alive and
reasonably healthy in the Queensland outback semi desert. How had he been
By eating the roadkill from the road trains ( a road train is a prime mover
towing up to 6 trailers behind)
Singulair and exercise induced asthma
I was reading about allergies/EIA with interest, as it seems I have acquired
EIA over the last few years, mainly in race situations, or extremely intense
training situations. For instance, today I was working on 45 sec intervals,
but was only able to complete 3 of them, because of the inability to breathe
after each one, I think it was wearing my system down each time. I also had
a mild episode during a race this past Sunday after a particularly hard counter-attack.
(luckily I was able to hang on the back until I recovered once they caught me...
When it first started happening, 2.5 years ago, my MD gave me an inhaler, but
told me it was stress related, not really about the bike and exercise. So I
didn't use the inhaler, because I didn't want to become dependant on something
like that. However, the stress has been relieved, life is much better and I've
had enough of these episodes now (and recently) that I want to do something
When I go to my MD about this, is Singulair something that could help this?
Anything else I should mention to him about EIA? Is there some other explaination
for these symptoms that my MD should look into before prescribing an inhaler?
I have been taking Zyrtec and Flonase for 2 years for allergy relief, and that
seems to work just fine as far as sinus stuff is concerned.
Kelby Bethards replies:
Well it seems that you may be getting EIA after all. I do take care of a
cyclist or two that only get the symptoms at really intense work outs or races.
They almost can’t get themselves to have an attack while riding alone or training.
The two things I have had recent luck with for those people are: Serevent
inhaler (NOTE: not for rescue during an attack) using it ½ hr prior to workouts/races
and Singulair. Singulair also helps with allergies by the way, so it may be
a good route for you to go. Also, it may be that the Serevent is not necessary
for you if the Singulair does the trick. A lot of MD’s aren’t using Singulair
yet for EIA as it doesn’t have the “indication” from the FDA, but I’ve had
luck with it with people, especially those with allergies.
Now, like I said, the Serevent doesn’t work for rescue, but hopefully prevents
an attack, you should keep an Albuterol inhaler with you for rescue until
you are certain you won’t have an attack.
Richard Stern adds:
Apologies to all as I've not been following this discussion, however, I just
want to point out that if you're taking these (and many other medications,
whether prescribed or not by your doctor) you'll need to lodge a Therapeutic
Use Exemption certificate with your governing body. Otherwise there are likely
to be issues if you are drug tested. (I don't know if this has already been
Salmeterol, salbutamol, terbutaline, and formoterol are allowed by inhalation
but only when you have a TUE.
Kelby Bethards adds:
Thanks for pointing that out. I did put that out there quite a long while
ago, but you are right, it’s good to bring it up again.
For most local races and regional events, this usually is not something enforced
or probably even thought about as drug tests aren’t performed. However, I
have filled these out for cyclists to have on hand in case they are needed.
Richard Stern adds:
True, but given the diversity of the Cyclingnews audience, I suspect that
there are quite a few cyclists who read this that are drug tested. Additionally,
at least in some countries there can be random drug testing at local or regional
It would be horrific if an innocent user of (e.g.) salbutamol was caught
at a local race by drug testers, simply because they didn't think they'd need
a TUE because they thought they'd never be tested. I'm sure it's already happened.
Cleat position for track
Steve - Do you still recommend positioning the ball of your foot forward of
the center of the pedal on a track bike?
More specifically for a pursuit shoe / bike set up?
Steve Hogg replies:
Yes I do though the amount can vary compared to a road bike. A track bike
is different because there is little requirement for high torque, low cadence
seated pedalling ( no hills) and because of the need for quick standing starts.
On a standing start, the rider is over the bottom bracket and much further
forward than when seated. This means that there is a larger dead spot in the
pedal stroke either side of top and bottom dead centre than than when on the
This in turn means that not only is force on the down stroke necessary but
also the ability to lift the heel of the foot at the bottom of the stroke
forcefully just after bottom dead centre. This will aid the top foot in getting
over top dead centre as quickly as possible. If the cleat is too far back,
then ankle movement and the ability to lift the heel like this is compromised
to some degree.
People vary. Some pursuiters find that they can do this quite adequately
with the cleat position I would prescribe for the road. But a sizeable number
perform better in standing starts with the cleats slightly further forward
( 1 - 3mm) than the posted recommendations in standing starts. So experiment
a bit is the answer.
The other thing is that pursuiting is generally more about higher rpm pedalling
than road riding. Once the bike is up to speed, the forward momentum of the
bike and the fixed drive system mean that momentum carries the rider through
dead spots in the pedal stroke. This in turn means that a lot of things can
be got away with in a positional sense that would not be nearly as effective
on the road with a freewheeling drive system.
Achilles and knee pain
I'm a 30 yo male and I've been riding a bike (road) for about 1 year now, I
raced some crits (D-C grade) over the summer in Melbourne. I recently upgraded
to a new bike frame and took most of the measurements across from the old bike
to the new (saddle height, saddle to bar drop, saddle setback etc). I typically
ride about 150-250kms a week and according to my computer, average cadence for
my rides is normally around 92-97.
About 2 weeks after getting the new bike, I started to notice some irritation
around my Achilles tendon, left leg only - feels like the lateral side, inline,
or just above the lateral malleolus. It seemed to be connected with some minor
discomfort in the back of the knee, located in a medial posterior area.
After another week or 2 of this irritation and searching your site quite a
bit, I decided to try moving the cleat position of my left shoe slightly (about
3mm) back. I went on one quite long ride after this, however the pain seemed
much more amplified. I decided not to leave the cleat in that position because
of the increase in pain. I am hesitant to move the cleat further forward, as
they feel quite forward at the moment according to Steve Hogg's formula for
After the moving the cleat back to its original position, I tried moving the
saddle forward slightly (about 4-5mm), but didn't adjust seat height yet. The
'test ride' in this position was only 2 days after the painful one. There was
a lot less irritation there, however some discomfort still remained. I had a
week off the bike, thinking it might be a good time to let any inflammation
die down. Having gone for another ride in this same, seat forward position,
the discomfort has returned. On the second ride, I think I noticed a tendency
to have ride sometimes with a "heel down" position, even on the upstroke with
my left leg, and was wondering about raising the saddle slightly to compensate.
Sorry for the long post, however I wanted to give you as much information as
possible. I guess in summary, the pain is only in my left leg, it seems to be
in the Achilles tendon or the knee, rarely both at the same time. My left calf
does seem to be quite tight - a massage does it wonders. The pain only seems
to be there when I'm riding the bike, or happen to be walking on stairs just
after riding, its not apparent when walking, running, nor is there any sign
of swelling, discoloration etc.
Steve Hogg replies:
Every thing you say is indicative of the left leg reaching further than it
likes. That is why moving the cleat back on the shoe made things worse as
that caused a greater extension of the left leg. Equally, that at least partly
accounts for why moving the seat forward partly alleviated the problem because
that reduced the reach to the pedals.
As a start, drop your seat 5 - 8 mm, move the cleat to where you think it
should be and reassess. Then get back to me about whether your feel like each
leg is more evenly loaded.
I have a question related to problems that might be caused by a rider having
strabismus (crossed-eyes). In my case, I was born with severe strabismus that
was corrected by surgery when I was an infant. As an adult, I do have some drift
of my right eye (hypertropia or drifting up). My riding partners all comment
about how I ride with my head tilted to the right. I believe this is caused
by my eye condition. Here is the question: Because I ride with my head tilted
to the right, can this cause neck pain? Have you ever heard of riders with this
condition having neck problems? What can I do about it? Thanks.
Kelby Bethards replies:
So, you have an interesting question. Since your strabismus is not the typical
mis-alignment, it is possible that you are tilting your head to compensate.
IF your right eye is hypertropic and drifts up, you may be trying to 'level'
your pupils by tilting your head. This leads me to the question, do you need
to tilt your head to feel comfortable or to get the visual input you need?
For example, I have a lot of friends and know many riders that tilt their
head to one side or the other while riding. (I think the old training book
by Eddy B, former nation coach, even recommended it). So, have you tried to
consciously straighten your head while riding or does this give you funky
Also, which side of your neck hurts from this? If it's both sides, it may
actually be a bike position problem more so that the way you are holding your
head, unless your right ear is touching your shoulder while riding or something
Solutions: This is the tough part. Either your fit (help, Steve Hogg, help!)
or the way you are holding your head needs altering. Or you may need to see
your ophthalmologist and see if any further correction can be performed in
your eye alignment.
Thanks for your reply. I believe the tilt is to get the visual input that I
need. If I try to level my head, I get a strange off-balance feeling. The only
thing I can say is try riding your bike with your head tilted to one side. That's
what it's like. My neck hurts mostly on the left side below and behind my ear.
Although it hurts all over sometimes, it is almost always in that location.
Kelby Bethards adds:
You may want to get your bike position checked out. If you are very far leaned
forward it will cause you to tilt your head more to level your pupils. A more
upright (like those little climbers) position may be such that the strain
on your neck isn't painful. I would have expected the pain to be on the other
side of your neck since you are tightening those muscles more so than the
You may want to try some stretches for your neck also.
Dave Fleckenstein adds:
The short answer to your question is yes - your strabismus is most likely
the source of your neck pain. A very important function of our neck is to
allow a level field of vision, and if your eye height is unequal, the spine
will compensate through a combination of rotating and side bending to make
them level. The joints in the spine have a maximum range of motion and often
cyclists develop problems because their cycling alignment forces some of their
cervical spine into maximum extension. To use our elbow as an analogy, straighten
your elbow fully, them push it even straighter - not very comfortable, eh?
This is essentially what some riders to the joints (facets) in their neck
for hours on end. When we place the added stress of having to level your eyes
into the equation, those joints (and ligaments, musculature, etc...) are being
I would definitely recommend a less aggressive position that will place less
stress on the spine. I would also recommend having a P.T. or chiropractor
evaluate your cervical spine to establish a program to offset the alignment
that you are accumulating. I have personally found manipulation to be particularly
effective in initially treating this, followed by a flexibility/stabilization
program to allow you to minimize any cumulative stresses of the position
To see a real life example of this type of restriction - watch Paco Mancebo
riding during the Tour. He has atrocious cervical and thoracic postures, but
manages to get the job done quite well.
By "less aggressive position," do you mean a shorter stem? More upright? Thanks.
Dave Fleckenstein replies:
Not as "aero" or flexed forward. The more that horizontal that your torso
is, the more your neck has to backward bend for you to see the road. This
forces the joint into its maximal range even without the addtional stress
that your compensations would add.
I would look at a combination of both shortening or raising the stem depending
on your position. I would make this change slowly, particularly if you are
riding frequently. This is definitely where Steve can add some insight.
I am a 33 year old male who began biking in the last several months, I ride
a Specialized Allez Elite bike with Look clipless pedals. I have always been
a good endurance athlete with agility. I was a D-1 football player and have
been a runner most of my life culminating in finishing the 2003 NY Marathon.
I took up biking due to nagging IT band problems, plantar fascia problems, etc.
and decided to become a biker to save my body.
Anyway, I live in Central Pennsylvania in a very hilly area of the state. I
have worked up to riding 4-5 days a week, averaging 1-2 hours per ride. I decided
two weeks ago to go on a 3 hour plus ride and half way through this, I began
to feel a sharp pain on my left side underneath my left testicle but more towards
the point where my groin comes up to my pelvis. Almost feels like hamstring
even though it could also be groin. Anyway, I had to finish but was very very
tight and painful and worried I was going to rip something so coasted on and
off in to the end.
I rested several days and iced the area and it seemed to go away so I began
riding again but never as long as that ride. Every time I ride now, especially
up any sort of hill and on the downstroke I feel this pain underneath the left
side which progressively gets worse at the end of the ride but then seems to
go away within a day or two prompting me to ride again.
I am frustrated that this won't go away and am wondering if it is irritation
from poor pedaling technique as I definitely feel myself putting force on the
downstroke on the left side and I was Serotta Fitted on my bike by a professional
in town who did note that my left leg seems to flare out when I ride which may
be putting pressure on my groin/hamstring. Anyway I needed some advice on this
and wondered if you had heard of anything similar in novice riders? Thanks.
Andrew M. Joyner
Steve Hogg replies:
I have seen similar instances and in my limited experience of the problem
you describe, all either hung to the right on the seat which dragged the left
side of the groin across the seat. Or alternately, the rider had a rotation
of the sacrum with the left ilium externally rotated and the right ilium internally
rotated or similar.
Two things I would suggest; firstly to see a good physio and find out how
you function pelvically and if there are any noticeable asymmetries of function
or alignment and secondly that you have a friend observe you while you are
on a trainer and see whether you hang to one side.
Let me know what you find.
High avg HR / Inconsistent race results
I am a CAT 3, 27 years old , 5'10 155 lb and I come from a D1 swimming background
so I have been competing competitively and some form or another all my life
at endurance events.
My question relates to excessively high avg HR during races. This season, my
form has been increasingly sporadic, one race I will be top 3 (RR) and the next
RR I will get dropped (similar courses and field talent). I have looked at my
HR files from the races and it appears that in all these races, even during
descents, my HR fails to drop. This leaves me with an average HR over the course
of 3-4 hours around 185 bpm, which is above my VT2. I have validated my HR monitor
to make sure it wasn't mechanical error.
What appears is that during some races, once my HR crosses VT2, it never fails
to come down. Almost like the accelerator is stuck. On a recent race, I gave
one effort on a climb that lasted for around 7 minutes where my HR was 190.
However, after the climb there is a freewheel descent and then just rolling
flats. During this time I made sure to check my HR and even after 20 minutes
my HR was still hovering at 180 even though my perceived rate of exertion was
fairly low (I would say a 5 on a 10 point scale).
I am trying to pinpoint some causes to this (however difficult that may be)
and wanted to see if there was any literature out that may point me in the right
direction (i.e. diet, dehydration, over trained, sickness, etc.). I was diagnosed
in college with exercise induced asthma but, at least initially, I don't think
that this is related as I haven't had trouble breathing. I am sure this question
is utterly impossible to answer, so I am more looking at a few areas that I
could research. Thanks for your help. I, along with all the amateurs on this
forum I am sure, really a appreciate the group's expertise and time in answering
Scott Saifer replies:
I'm not sure what you mean by validating your heart rate monitor. If you
mean that you checked your pulse at your throat or wrist during one of these
episodes, we can assume that your heart rate is really staying high and not
dropping. What you are describing in not a typical symptom of overtraining,
dehydration or any common infectious illness I can think of.
What you are describing is called tachycardia: heart rate too high for the
current oxygen demand. There are several possible causes. Are the episodes
associated with anxiety? You could be having panic attacks. The other area
of possibilities is an actual heart problem. Since heart problems are potentially
very serious, I'd suggest you get checked out by a physician, preferably with
an exercise stress test. Please tell us what the doc says.
Pelvic Symmetry Solutions
In Steve Hogg's article, The Problem of Pelvic Symmetry, he speaks of a solution
to pelvic symmetry was improving flexibility and core strength. However there
is no mention of specific exercises and stretches to target to do this. Mr.
Hogg, if you could outline a plan to follow in order to correct this problem
I believe it would be helpful to everyone.
Steve Hogg replies:
Pelvic asymmetries have a host of possible causes from accidents of birth
and development to the results of trauma. That means that there is no single
solution. I make the blanket recommendation to every rider that they stretch
and improve their core strength because too many neglect structure and function
and spend their limited time only training their motor, not the body they
house it in.
Other than that, as a non health professional on a panel including health
professionals, I don't want to stray into recommending courses of action that
would be better done by those better qualified to do it. Perhaps you need
to address this to Dave or Kelby.
Hips, flat feet, and tight knee
Background: I am 34 and been racing for almost 17 years and never really had
bike fit issues. Last year I crashed hard and ruined my frame. Differences in
top tube and angle (73.25 to 74 degree) were handled with a different seat post
and a different stem. The problem started with the cranks. I went from the old
Dura-Ace low profile to the new 10 speed cranks. I found my ankle hit the crank
on the 10 speed. Couple this with new Time pedals going from the old style Time
Equip, I decided on a professional fitting.
For my whole life, my right foot has had a pretty pronounced pronation. I have
orthotics in my street shoes. I have good flexibility from doing yoga for the
last three years. My team is sponsored by a chiropractor and I have needed more
than normal adjustments to my hips since the fitting. Before the fitting I only
needed periodic adjustment and it was always to my right hip which mostly would
get tilted up. I also needed to stretch my gluteus more than normal; I have
since learned these were likely side effects from my right foot pronation that
I had been riding with for all these years.
The bike fitting involved inserting some foot beds into my Sidi Genius shoes
and the use of LeMond wedges. Two on the right foot to correct the pronation
and two on the left side to make my knee track perfectly straight. This was
a major change and I put some miles in knowing it was going to take some getting
used to. I soon found myself with chronic foot pain across the top of my feet
and across my ankles. I was constantly asking my wife to please twist and "crack"
my feet to relive the pressure - more on my right side. I also found myself
walking on the outer edge of my left foot and had numbness in my right leg.
My chiropractor recommended removing the wedges since I never had foot problems
before. This relived the foot pain but then my pronation returned. The foot
beds seem to provide enough support to prevent my ankle from hitting the crank
but I found my knee falling in (like it always has) and I suppose you are not
surprised to find I had IT band issues within two rides. I also experienced
pain on the underside of my right foot. I was diagnosed with a strain of my
hip flexors and IT band but by the time I was able to see a PT it cleared up
but the PT found my right gluteus medius and minimus are really weak - I imagine
from all the years of having my right knee fall in. I am currently doing exercises
to correct this. In the meantime, I am still having major problems with my bike
fit on my right side.
As soon as I got the IT band issues, I put one wedge back on the right side
and my chiropractor added small heel wedge which at the time stabilized my foot
and relieved the IT band. Now several weeks latter, I am experiencing tightness
in my right knee, some right foot discomfort, and right hip tightness/discomfort.
Steve Hogg often asks the following so I figured I would address them right
away. Note this is with one LeMond wedge and heel wedge on my right foot.
1.. My right leg feels more powerful then my left but does not seem as smooth.
2.. I am attempting to verify this, but I believe that my right thigh is slightly
closer to the seat post then my left.
Any recommendations would be appreciated. I am leaning toward in addition to
my pronation, a leg length issue. Thank you in advance for your help.
Steve Hogg replies:
Thanks for the detailed info. Is it possible to have an x ray or scan to
definitively determine leg lengths on each side?
Everything you say implies left / right assymetries but in an effort to advise,
it would help a lot if you knew whether differing limb length plays a part
in this or whether it is functional.
Do you have record of your old position?
As you imply that the only real changes were to cranks and pedals. Is this
If you were using the older profile Dura Ace cranks with low Q and the old
Time pedals ( large roughly triangular high Q) and have changed to the current
(high Q) Dura Ace cranks with the current (low Q) Time pedals I would have
thought that the equipment differences would have largely cancelled each other
out. Except for one thing.
Your older Time pedals not only had plenty of rotational movement but also
lateral movement which the current ones either don't have or to only a limited
Do you still have your old pedals?
If you get back to me with those answers, I will attempt to advise.
Thank you for getting back to me, I am sure I speak for many cyclists when
I say thanks for all the advice over the years in various articles and columns.
In writing you, it allowed me to step through the fitting and adjustment sequence
I have gone through. It became clear to me that the problem started with the
wedges under the cleats.
To address your questions: I have a record of my old position - I still have
my old crashed bike hanging in the basement with the old pedals. I am on a new
frame but the major changes were the cranks and pedals. I thought about trying
my old pedals but Time does not make them anymore so it seemed like a relative
short term fix until I wore the cleats out. Thanks for the discussion on Q-factor
and I agree it looks like pedals and cranks cancel each other out.
Since I wrote you, I had a fitting with my chiropractor. The results indicate
I do sit square on the saddle and both my legs are equidistant from the seat
post. I do not drop a hip. I assume that a leg length discrepancy would show
itself through one leg being closer to the seat post then the other or not sitting
square on the saddle? If not, my chiropractor will take x-rays if you thinks
What my chiropractor did was remove the last wedge from under my right cleat
and increased the size of the wedge in my right heel. The heel wedge stabilized
my heel in the shoe and prevented my foot from pronating. I then raced a criterium
that night (I know not the smartest thing) and everything felt awesome. My legs
felt more supple and I could spin. Overnight, my knee pain was gone, my right
hip felt "loose", and my foot pain was gone. The next day I went on an 140k
zone 1/2 ride and everything felt even better. My right knee tracks fairly straight
and my foot does not pronate and thus does not hit the crank. I have some muscle
soreness but not localized quad soreness like before. It feels like I am using
my hamstrings more again which likely accounts for the better spin and smoother
pedaling. My right leg also no longer feels stronger.
In the opinion of my chiropractor, it is best to address the flat feet issue
at the heel and not the ball of the foot. This definitely appears to be the
case for me. Frankly, I am amazed at how many problems were created by some
small wedges under my cleat. Given the last few days of riding I think I have
resolved my issue - I will need to ride more to be sure. Also, so others may
avoid the problems I have had, perhaps some discussion on wedging at the cleat
or heel is warranted. I am not going to argue with success but I do not completely
understand why this worked. My theory is that the wedge at the cleat created
a force on the knee. As an example, just role your foot to the outside edge
and you may feel a slight pull on the knee. Overtime, this problem also moved
into my hips and then back. The pain in my foot was created by putting pressure
down with each pedal stroke and effectively twisting the foot at the ankle ever
so slightly due to the angle created by the wedge at the cleat. I suppose the
use of wedges at the cleat arose since most force is transferred through the
ball of the foot while pedaling but perhaps this is a false assumption since
as you have pointed out in a previous article, stiff cycling shoes make the
foot more comfortable. Should we be looking more to the heel to correct pronation
problems? The only other solution I can think of is to wedge at my arch inside
the shoe but the heel is where most orthotics do it.
Steve Hogg replies:
I think that you had better hang onto your chiro as he sounds like a good
one. I am glad that you got a result and from what you say, I wouldn't bother
with the X ray. If you are sitting squarely, a functionally more or less similar
on each side and both legs extend to much the same degree, then you don't
appear to have a problem.
Re the heel wedge vs forefoot Lemond style wedge. I have seen this before.
What I suspect has happened with you is pretty much what you think. The ankle
pronates but the correction was made at the forefoot. You mention that the
right foot is flat. Flat feet are generally flexible feet. This means that
the forefoot wedging without a heel wedge put a torsional stress into the
mid foot and that sounds like the cause of your problems.
A forefoot Lemond style wedge can still work well for many pronators providing
that they have a more rigid foot than you have. There is no hard and fast
rule but I generally think that if the ankle rolls in substantially, then
it is safer to try a heel wedge and reassess as necessary. Often the best
solution may not be the immediately apparent one. When I am in doubt about
which way to go with a client, I try what I think is likely and modify as
necessary. The cues are that there should be no pain, though small short term
niggles aren't necessarily a bad sign. The other thing is that if the solution
is the right one, or heading in the right direction, most clients will feel
an immediate improvement in stability of foot on pedal and bum on seat.
It is not that common to find health professionals with a good insight into
bike related problems, so as I said before, hang onto that chiropractor!
FSA K-force seatpost as sol'n to pelvic asymmetry
Thanks for the clarification.
I just discovered your fitness forum on CyclingNews.com and have read thru
much of the last year or two. Great stuff!
Rather than any one race, I have set my main season goal as getting myself
as comfortable, efficient, and powerful on the bike as possible. I would appreciate
you considering my case and giving me any insight you can.
I am a 42 y.o. USCF Cat 3 crit racer and newbie track racer (what fun!). Height
= 183.6 cm, Weight = 87 kg, Inseam = 84.2 cm. Carnac Quartz = 44.5 Current saddle
height = 75.8 cm (center of crank bolt to top of saddle measured along seat
I have good core strength and hamstring flexibility (palms flat on floor easily),
but somewhat tight ITBs. Long history of lower back soreness while riding and
in daily life, including herniated discs in 2001 (S1/L5, L4/L5 - no surgery,
phys. therapy resolved acute pain, I do daily "press-ups" for rearward back
mobility - similar to yoga Cobra position).
I have for years had a pronounced right heel wiggle using Speedplay X pedals.
This quickly wears out the cleat springs (and pedals!), leading to side-to-side
foot rocking and achilles tendon soreness. I also have felt my left and right
halves "fighting" each other.
This Spring I have been videoing myself on a trainer to improve my positioning
and found that both knees tracked outward on the upstroke, with the right flicking
inward on the downstroke, producing the heel wiggle. The video also revealed
a rather violent hip and lower back rocking: the right side dropping and returning
to level on each pedal stroke -- no wonder my back hurts when I hammer! From
the rear I appear to sit on the saddle shifted to the right. My shorts show
wear spots on both sides of crotch (meaty thighs), but the right side is forward
of the left, which indicates my right hip is rotating forward, right? And while
riding I find the same is true: it feels like my right sit bone is out of place,
i.e. not on the meat of the saddle like the left sit bone. Since discovering
this, I try scooch my right hip back to sit more squarely on the saddle, which
feels weird now but I hope will become natural eventually. Or will I always
sit cock-eyed? I found your left-brain-engaged-by-cycling article quite insightful.
I did my best to measure leg lengths and found at most a 5 mm difference (right
leg shorter, mostly in the lower leg). Using the Lemond Fitness varus measuring
device, we found minor right foot varus and left valgus, both small enough require
only 0-1 wedges.
Despite appearing to not have significant varus/valgus, in an attempt to even
my knees WRT the top tube (right knee closer on downstroke), I experimented
with varying LeMond Wedges left and right, plus shims for my shorter right leg.
The wedges would seem to feel better immediately, but over a few rides felt
less stable during harder efforts. I eventually removed the wedges and now have
only 3mm of shim on right cleat, nothing on left side.
During this time I was raising my saddle to stop my knees' outward movement
on the upstroke - additionally, side-view videoing showed that my max. leg extension
was ~40-42 degrees instead of the 32+/- degrees recommended by Pruitt and others.
To get under 35 deg, I have raised my saddle (gradually over time) from 75.0
cm to 75.8 cm and may go several mm's higher if no problems arise.
Once I believed the right foot wiggle had lessened, I bought a pair of Speedplay
Zero pedals. I started with the float as open as possible and have gradually
tightened it down, allowing for my slight toe-out stance. My goal is to use
reduced float to restrain the remaining wiggle. Is this a bad idea?
After reading your articles on rearward cleat placement WRT first metatarsal,
I checked mine and moved the cleats back ~3 mm on the shoe so the first metatarsal
is ~10 mm ahead of the pedal spindle with cranks level and heel level with pedal
to the ground (video shows that is my actual foot position under load). My feet
immediately felt more solidly connected to the pedals!! It has only been the
one ride, so I hope the new cleat position proves out over time.
WRT my foot position with cranks level: Is heel parallel with pedal okay, or
sign of a position error such as saddle too far back? By heel parallel to pedal
I mean the rear half of my Carnac is parallel to the ground and the plane of
the cleat is nose-up quite a bit.
To summarize after all the gyrations, I have raised my saddle 8 mm to 75.8
cm, put a 3 mm shim under right shoe, and set cleat fore-aft per your recommendation.
And I am trying to keep my sit bones feeling symmetrical on the saddle.
Am I on track or just flailing uselessly? Any thoughts you have would be most
Steve Hogg replies:
It is good to hear from someone with problems who has taken a thoughtful
and methodical approach to diagnosing and solving them. A couple of observations:
From your self description of your pedalling style, you are probably much
tighter than you should be in and around the hips and lower back. Find a yoga
or pilates class with a good teacher who has experience with clients with
compromised low back function. Any time you put into this will be repaid with
interest in improvements in how you feel and perform on a bike. Better function
and symmetry off bike can only mean the same on bike. I think we need to get
our structures adequately ( adequately means above average but only because
the average is poor) functioning before we can even look like performing to
potential on a bike.
Your seat height seems to be towards the high normal range for your leg length
and foot size but that doesn't mean that you are wrong. If you feel more stable
and powerful with no loss in control or stability on the seat then it is fine.
If in doubt experiment a bit as even 3mm too high will exaggerate any tendency
to favour one side, in your case the right. I would recommend that you get
the appropriate offset FSA post with Data Head. This will allow you to move
your seat laterally to the left but bring your butt back to the centreline
or closer to the centre line.
Brains are could at doing what the parameters of position we set ourselves
dictate. If we hang off centre as you do, we become good at it but this only
serves to perpetuate or exaggerate the asymmetries. If the seat is to the
left of the centre line and this makes your body more centred, then it can
only be a good thing.
The outward tracking of the knees on the upstroke indicates that the external
rotators of the hip are probably a lot tighter than they should be. So something
to work on there. Be a bit careful with reducing the freeplay on the right
cleat to control the 'wiggle'. By doing this it is possible to shift load
elsewhere, possibly to the knee which won't to you any favours.
Basically, you need to do two things. Get hold of the appropriate FSA seat
post, grind off the two small pins on the upper half of the seat rail clamp
and then clean up the grooves with the edge of a file. This will allow you
12 - 13mm of lateral offset securely. Use the lot. If you make progress with
stretching and functional symmetry down the track, then the clamp can be moved
back to the centre line at some stage in the future.
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