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.
Fitness questions and answers for July 10
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.
Optimal race weight
Choc milk redux
Raw food diet
with new shoes and pedals
Pedal stack height
on women's saddles #1
More on groin pain
Optimal race weight
I'm a 24-year-old male category 3 and collegiate racer in my first full season
of racing. I train about 12-15 hours per week. I have had the most success in
longer road races and stage races, especially those with lots of climbing. I
have a question about the optimal weight for performance in these types of races.
In this article, you discuss weight
and performance, and you tell a rider that the optimal range for a 5'9" cyclist
is 135-155 pounds, and say "Note that there is a low end of the range."
At the start of last season, I was completely untrained, and weighed 160 lbs.
I am 6'0" tall. Progressively over the first 9 months or so of training, I lost
about a pound every two weeks. My weight stabilized at about 138 lbs, and has
been that way for the past 3 months.
I note that most professional riders who are my height, even those who are
climbers, tend to be heavier than I am by 7 to 12 pounds.
You say there is such a thing as too light. Do I need to gain weight to be
more successful? If so, can you suggest some good strategies for adding mass
in the most productive way? Should I simply increase calorie intake, should
I do more resistance training to add muscle mass, or something else entirely?
Thanks for your time,
Scott Saifer replies:
Chances are very good that you could increase sustainable power in such a
way as to maintain or slightly increase power to weight ratio for climbing
but increase absolute power for flat land riding if you were to gain some
mass in your leg and butt muscles. You could also improve your sprint. Based
on your current weight and height, I'll guess that if you get to the end of
a hilly race with a group, you are not the fastest sprinter, and you have
to work harder than the competition on descents.
If you slightly increase calorie intake and maintain a high volume training
program, your bicycle powering muscles will gain mass and your power will
increase. If you greatly increase intake in an effort to gain mass rapidly,
you will gain fat and perhaps less useful muscle mass.
Without a thorough detailed diary of your current eating, I can't recommend
specifically what you need to eat more of. Given how light you are, chances
are that any calories will help, but for the sake of completeness, check your
daily protein intake. If you are trying to add muscle slowly, it should be
around 2/3 to 3/4 gram per pound that you want to weight, so about 100 to
115 grams per day. Eat enough carbohydrate that you don't bonk and do have
good energy for training and racing, and then enough fat to get the calories
you need to gain weight slowly.
I have a lot of experience with having clients lose weight at different rates,
so I have a pretty good sense of how rapidly one can lose weight while maintaining
strength and power. I've had very few clients who needed to gain weight, so
I'm really not sure of how quickly one can gain muscle without gaining fat.
I'll suggest an initial target of 1 pound per month.
Choc milk redux
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.
What is the real scoop?
Pam Hinton replies:
The popularity of chocolate milk as a recovery drink skyrocketed earlier
this year following the publication of a study demonstrating that it is an
effective recovery drink (Karp et al., 2006). The researchers had 9 trained
young male cyclists perform a glycogen-depleting interval workout, followed
by a 4 hour recovery period and then another workout at 70% of VO2max until
exhaustion. During the recovery period, the participants consumed ~500mL of
recovery drink immediately after exercise and another 500mL 2 hours after
exercise. The subjects performed the testing on 3 separate occasions to determine
the efficacy of 3 different recovery drinks: low-fat chocolate milk, Endurox
R4, and Gatorade. In the chocolate milk and Endurox trials, subjects consumed
similar amounts of energy (~400 kcal), carbohydrate (~70 g), and protein (~19
g). Energy (~105 kcal), carbohydrate (30 g) and protein (0g) intakes were
significantly lower in the Gatorade trial. The subjects were allowed to consume
as much water as they wanted during exercise and recovery.
Surprisingly, chocolate milk and Gatorade were equally effective recovery
drinks. The subjects were able to pedal for ~40 minutes at 70% of VO2max after
consuming the chocolate milk or Gatorade compared to 27 minutes after drinking
Endurox. Enhanced glycogen resynthesis during recovery may explain the differences
among recovery drinks; however, glycogen content of the muscle was not measured
in this study. The authors speculated that the differences among recovery
drinks may have been related to the type of carbohydrate. Chocolate milk and
Gatorade have glucose, sucrose, and in the case of the milk, lactose. The
Endurox, in addition to simple sugars, contains complex carbohydrates.
Post-exercise, elevating blood glucose levels quickly is beneficial to replenish
glycogen stores, so high GI foods are advantageous (Burke et al., 1993). Athletes
should aim to consume 1.5 g carbohydrate per kg BW in the first 30 minutes
after exercise and again every 2 hours for 4-6 hours post-exercise ("Position
of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American
College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance," 2000). Insulin
secretion is needed for glycogen synthesis because it increases glucose uptake
into the muscle and stimulates the enzyme that makes glycogen, glycogen synthase.
So post-exercise, the greater insulin secretion associated with high GI foods
is advantageous. For maximal glycogen repletion, it is the GI of a carbohydrate,
rather than whether it is simple or complex, which is important. There are
some complex carbohydrates that are also high GI-synthetic sweeteners like
maltodextrin, are an example. In contrast, most complex carbohydrates in fruits,
vegetables, grains and legumes are lower on the GI scale.
The effect of protein on glycogen repletion is equivocal due to differences
in study design. Studies that compare isoenergetic post-exercise carbohydrate
with carbohydrate plus protein usually conclude that there is no advantage
of adding protein (Jentjens et al., 2001). Studies that compare treatments
that equivalent in carbohydrate, but differ in protein and, therefore, energy
content, generally find that carbohydrate plus protein is superior to carbohydrate
alone (Ivy et al., 2002; Williams et al., 2003). Other factors affecting the
conclusion are the dose and timing of the supplements after exercise. Studies
providing large amounts of carbohydrate every 30 minutes during recovery from
exercise, maximize glycogen repletion compared to studies with less frequent
feedings. If glycogen repletion is maximized with carbohydrate alone, then
it is not possible for protein to enhance the response.
Studies that found added protein increased glycogen synthesis post-exercise
could not attribute the difference to increased insulin levels, so the mechanism
of the effect remains unknown (Ivy et al., 2002).
So, whether your recovery drink consists of a scoop of Gatorade or Nestle
Quik or low-fat ice cream or even an expensive, engineered powder, the important
thing is to get some carbohydrate in you as quickly as possible. In this case,
the sweeter, the better.
How do you experts feel about fixed cleats? I'm currently using black Look
Keo cleats with no float at the advice of a physical therapist who suggested
them to address some lower leg problems. I'm about 2,000 miles into my current
season with them and they seem to work for me really well. We obviously paid
a great deal of attention to cleat position and dialed them in over the course
of several hundred early season miles, with some minor adjustments to seat position
Our thinking was that some of my behind-the-knee pain and continual calf tightness
was at least partly a function of those muscles having to stablize the foot
on the pedal relative to the float on the red cleats I was using previously.
Simultaneously, I addressed some flexibility and strength balance problems,
through yoga among other things.
I'm just curious since almost everything I read talks about the benefit of
increased float, while I seem to have found the best success with no float.
I've also become a dedicated proponent of complementary strength and flexibility
work as part of my training.
Portland Maine USA
Scott Saifer replies:
There is actually some research on this topic. Roughly 75% of cyclists in
one study I recall did as well or better with free-floating cleats than fixed
cleats, but another 25% reported more problems with floating than fixed cleats,
so this really is a case where one product or method is not ideal for all
riders. You must fall in the 25% group.
I'm a 38 year old male who road races.
My query concerns changing crank length - if you change it should you adjust
Also, how do you suggest that saddle set-back should be measured?
Steve Hogg replies:
Overall seat height should stay the same with one qualification which I will
talk about in a second. If you increase crank length by 5mm for example, drop
your seat post 5mm further into the frame. This will leave you with an unchanged
seat height as measured from top of seat to pedal axle centre. The qualification
that I would put on that is that sometimes, not often, but I have seen it
happen; a noticeable change in crank length can cause a change in pedaling
technique with the end result being a lower or higher seat height than previously.
To accurately measure seat position you will need:
300mm (12") steel rule
a four foot carpenter's level
a measuring tape
a dial protractor (available at hardware stores)
1. Lock the bike up in an indoor trainer or other fixture that will hold
it securely. Leaning the bike against a wall will NOT work repeatably.
2. Check the bike is level by using the four foot level between axle centres.
A water level is even more accurate.
3. Lay the steel rule along the long axis of the seat.
4. Place the dial protractor on top of the steel rule and note down the angle
of the seat relative to horizontal ( nose up x degrees or nose down x degrees)
5. Use the steel rule to measure the length of the flat section of the seat
rail and place a mark with a marker pen in the centre of the flat section.
6. Replace the steel rule atop the seat and measure seat height from centre
of bottom bracket to underside of the steel rule atop the seat making sure
that the measuring edge of the tape goes through the mark in the centre of
the seat rail. Note down the measurement.
7. Place the level vertically with the planed edge running vertically through
the bottom bracket centre and using the bubble at each end to make sure that
it is vertical. Now use the steel rule to measure back to the nose of the
seat. Note down that measurement
Do not use a plumb line as in this application there is a ± 10mm error potential
easily. The plumb line falling from nose of seat usually contacts the seat
stays and it forced forward by them resulting in inaccuracies and usually
not repeatable ones.
Now you should have your seat height, seat setback and angle of seat relative
to horizontal that they were measured at. The above is repeatable with an
error potential of a mm or two. To do better than that you need to invest
in specialist jigs that thread into either bottom bracket or pedal hole of
The above is only repeatable too, providing you use the same type of seat.
Cycling and osteoporosis
When surfing on the web I came across an article suggesting that cyclists are
particularly prone to suffering osteoporosis because they practise a low impact
sport. Does that refer to all kinds of cycling? One thing is sedately pedalling
along so that you barely break into a sweat, and another is the kind that involves
pounding up mountains, standing on the pedals and pulling hard on the handlebars.
I always thought any kind of exercise that builds up muscle was good for the
bones. I would be grateful to know your opinion.
Pam Hinton replies:
You are not the only rider who has become concerned after reading about the
increased risk of low bone density in cyclists. I have heard the argument
that you make about sedately pedaling along versus stomping on the pedals
before. I think that there's a bit of denial going on in the minds of those
who try to make the case--and rightfully so. None of us want to acknowledge
that the sport we love has a potential downside along with all of the many
health benefits it brings. The latest information, however, is not all bad
news, with a little extra effort, there are things that you can do to strengthen
We don't really know the prevalence of low bone density in cyclists and other
non-weight bearing athletes. This summer we are studying the effects of long-term
participation in cycling on bone mineral density. The results, although still
preliminary, are sobering. Approximately half of the cyclists have osteopenia,
which is hip or spine BMD 1 standard deviation (~10-12% of BMD) below the
average for young adult males. Osteoporosis, more serious bone loss, is BMD
2.5 standard deviations below the norm. Low BMD is associated with increased
risk of fracture; each standard deviation below the mean increases the chances
of fracture by 1.5-2.5 fold. Our subjects are competitive regionally and range
in age from 20-60 years. It's not just the masters' athletes that have low
bone density; we're seeing it in guys who are in their late 20s.
I will try to explain why pounding up mountains, standing on the pedals and
pulling up on the bars does not strengthen bones. In a healthy individual,
bone will adapt to its environment, increasing strength in response to external
forces. The importance of mechanical stress on bone health is evident in studies
of weightlessness. Spaceflight of 1 and 6 months reduced BMD by 2.5% and 5%,
respectively. Four months of bed rest reduced bone mass by 3% in the spine
and 4% in the hip. In both cases, the loss of bone mass was greatest in bones
that are most stressed by gravity. So how does bone sense external forces,
such as the gravitational force of body weight, and respond by depositing
additional bone mineral? Answering this question requires a brief look at
bone biology. Bone consists of a mineral matrix that is deposited on a protein
framework. Bone cells (osteocytes), responsible for synthesis of new bone,
are located within fluid-filled spaces (lacunae) within the mineral matrix.
The lacunae are interconnected by tiny channels (canaliculi) that also are
filled with fluid. The movement of fluid within the lacunae and canaliculi
creates shear stress (fluid movement) at the surface of the bone cells. This
shear stress is how external forces exerted on the skeleton stimulate bone
growth. Larger shear forces (flow rate) have a greater anabolic effect.
Understanding this signaling process explains why bone responds differently
to different types of mechanical loading, and thus, to different types of
exercise. In order for fluid shifts to occur, the loading must be dynamic,
i.e, the skeleton must be moving when loaded. Static (stationary) loading
does not create fluid movement. To understand the importance of dynamic loading,
imagine what happens when you are riding in a car and the driver brakes unexpectedly,
suddenly stopping the car. You, and everything else that is not secured, lurches
forward and then slams backwards. In this example, you represent the fluid
in bone. Stopping of the forward motion produces sudden shifts. Now consider
what happens when the driver stomps on the brake when the car is parked. Nothing.
This situation is analogous to the shear stress that occurs with static loading
The difference between weight-bearing and non-weight bearing sports also
can be understood from this analogy. If the driver of the car is going 50
miles per hour and suddenly slams into a brick wall, your movement (remember,
you represent the fluid) will be much greater than if the driver was going
slower or had time to brake normally. Coming to a sudden stop is analogous
to the ground stopping the downward motion of your body weight. Traveling
at faster speeds upon collision with an immovable object represents the difference
between low- and high-impact weight-bearing activities. For example, both
walking and jumping are weight-bearing activities, but the impact forces on
the bones of the legs and feet are much greater with jumping than walking.
To study the forces exerted by different activities, researchers implanted
devices to measure force into the tibias (shin bones) of six healthy volunteers
and then compared the effects of walking, performing a leg press, stair-stepping,
running, and bicycling. Running induced shear forces that were twice that
of walking and nearly eight-times that of cycling. To put the effects of cycling
in perspective, the shear forces induced by walking have a minimal effect
on bone mass. Cycling does not generate the shear forces required to cause
bone growth. Therefore, the risk of low BMD associated with cycling is proportional
to the time spent in the saddle.
Low BMD in cyclists is not inevitable. You can minimize bone loss by consuming
adequate calcium (at least 1000mg per day) and by incorporating high-impact
activities into your training program. Thankfully, when it comes to maximizing
the bone-building effects of high-impact exercise it turns out that short,
frequent training is best. This is because the response of bone to external
forces requires adequate rest between loading sessions. Bone cells rapidly
become desensitized to fluid shear stress. Animal studies have shown that
bone cells stop responding after 50-100 loading cycles per session. Eight
hours of rest is required to completely restore sensitivity of the bone cells
to mechanical stress. Moreover, short recovery periods (10-15 seconds) between
loading cycles, results in a greater increase in bone mineral than no recovery
time. The most effective exercise program to increase bone mass would consist
of jumping, e.g., squat, tuck or box jumps, or other plyometric exercises,
e.g., bounding, single leg hopping, performed with short rest intervals between
cycles and eight hours of rest between sessions. Also, young bone, particularly
growing bone, is more responsive to external loading than older bone. Although
the phrase, "better late than never," certainly applies to high-impact exercise
training, don't wait until middle age to start high-impact exercise training.
Based on studies done in pre- and postmenopausal women, BMD increases by 2-3%
after six months of training at least 3 times per week. High-impact exercise
increases BMD as much as the drugs used to treat osteoporosis. When it comes
to increasing bone strength, a little bit of preventive maintenance goes a
Raw food diet
I'm a 33 year-old Cat 3 roadie and I've recently become intrigued by raw food
diets. Although I have not taken the plunge, as I evaluate the foods that I
typically eat, I notice that they generally are pretty raw to begin with: lots
of vegetables, fruits, and nuts. I don't eat meat for no other reason than I
don't really like it. However, I do eat lots of breads and cereals, so my diet
is also rich in starches. The evolutionary logic behind a more raw diet makes
sense to me, but I'd like to hear your thoughts about it. Note that my goal
is not to lose weight, but to try something a bit more natural that would also
provide adequate nutrients for cycling.
Scott Saifer replies:
I have little doubt that you could get adequate nutrition from an all-raw
diet, but the argument that living closer to the prehistoric condition is
somehow going to be better for you as a general rule is downright silly, evolution
or not. Your body is the result a process of evolution, but so is your brain
and your society and culture. Your body evolved to survive without shoes,
sunscreen, and titanium bike parts, but then someone figured out that life
is longer, nicer and less painful when you use these things.
Rather than choose foods based on a philosophy ("raw is better"), why not
choose them based on taste or health-science or a combination?
Foot numbness with new shoes and pedals
I purchased a new road bike, shoes and pedals approximately two months ago,
and I have been experiencing numbness in my feet. I am 33 year old male, weighing
about 215 pounds. My pedals are Look-style Nashbar Z11, and my shoes are Louis
Garneau Ergo Air Revo with red Look cleats. Numbness sets in after 35-45 minutes
of riding, starting in my big toe and spreading quickly through the ball of
my foot to my other toes. I have adjusted the cleats several times, most recently
to position more of the cleat over the area of numbness in an attempt to better
distribute the stress of pedaling on my foot. This has worked for my right foot,
but not for the left. My saddle height and fore-aft position seems to be good:
I have not experienced any pain or discomfort in my ankles, knees or hips. Is
this something that will go away over time, or should I buy new pedals with
a larger platform area? If new pedals are the solution, what brands and models
of pedlas should I be looking at?
My previous pedals were Look compatible Shimano Ultegras from 1991. I remember
these being very close to a pair of Look pedals my brother had (might have been
Look PP196, but I'm not sure). My old shoes were made by Look, circa 1997. Unfortunately,
I don't remember the model, but they were quite wide compared to the shoes I
I did some hunting around online for possible causes of numb feet, and I found
an article that suggests the saddle might be involved. My current saddle is
a Selle Italia XO Trans Am. I find it has more padding than I like, and it has
a centre cut-out that really doesn't do anything for me. I tend to wiggle around
on the saddle to get comfortable after I stand up. I'd like to replace it with
a Selle Italia SLR, which looks quite similar to my old saddle, a Vetta SP Tri
Shock. Could the saddle be part of the problem?
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Steve Hogg replies:
I am intrigued when you mention that your previous shoes were wider than
the ones that you have now. Is there any sense of lateral compression across
the forefoot when you are wearing your new shoes?
If so, compression of the nerve plexus caused by this could be the problem.
Concievably the seat could be part of the problem if a nerve pathway is being
compressed somewhere along its length. I have to say though, that numbness
in the feet is more commonly caused by shoes and cleat placement than it is
by choice of seat.
As a test, leave the straps at the front of your shoe undone and go for a
ride. Is the problem still apparent to the same degree?
Is the left foot wider than the right?
If so, this would point to the shoes being too narrow across the forefoot.
If none of the above works, as an experiment, drop your seat 5mm and see
if the severity of the problem is reduced. It may be that you are over reaching
slightly on the left and doing whatever is necessary to reach the bottom of
the stroke. Sometimes this can cause on part of the foot to be more heavily
loaded than the rest.
Failing all of that, and if you are convinced that it is not the shoe width,
have a play with some Lemond wedges. If there is no positive result with that,
consider talking to a podiatrist about fittings under your insole to spread
the metatarsal heads and relieve pressure that way.
Pedal stack height
First, thanks for a great web site overall. I've learned much from the fitness
section & have been following Steve Hogg's advice on positioning.
Given the "dynamic" approach to fit, I"m wondering what Steve & other contributors
think of compact vs. standard road frames. Are compact frames more "user friendly"
in terms of fit, ie. offer more flexibility in range of fit within each parameter
of sm, med, & large? Or, is this also a drawback vs a traditional if one gets
a traditional that "fits" (loaded question given Steve's comment that the only
measurement he's concerned about is standover ht). Meaning, stem length & seat
setback etc. likely to be "better" on a traditional than on the "wider" range
on a compact? Or, if you're in the proper "range" on each, are the differences
meaningless? What's the most important size consideration on a compact?
Also, how important is pedal/cleat "stack height?" Is this marketing hype or
does it make a difference in power transfer & pedaling dynamics? Like the above
on frames, are the differences between higher end road pedals likely to be big
enough to to make any difference?
Thanks for your time & indulgence.
Steve Hogg replies:
A compact frame and a conventional frame of the same materials, wall thicknesses
and dimensions, top tube slopes aside have no real meaningful differences.
The compact frame should be stiffer because of the smaller main triangle but
have a more flexible seat post because more of it is exposed. The conventional
frame should be slightly stiff but have a less flexible seat post. To what
degree these qualities are apparent will depend on the relative slope of the
top tubes. In saying this, I am assuming that the same seat post is used in
When you say that "Steve's comment that the only measurement he's concerned
about is standover height". I feel that you have taken an inference that I
didn't intend. What I have said is that in the job of producing an effective
position or set of ideal frame dimensions for a client, the only measurement
of that client's that I am concerned about is their inseam. Not because of
any inherent correlation between it and their ideal frame or position, but
because when designing a frame for them, I need to make sure that they can
stand over it comfortably. If I know their inseam and calculate the standover
height of any hypothetical frame, then that question is answered one way or
To best answer your question; let's assume two frames, one compact, one conventional.
Both for arguments sake are identical in other than top tube slope. What that
means is that they both have the same seat tube angle, effective horizontal
top tube length, head tube length, head tube angle, bottom bracket drop, chainstay
length, fork offset and front centre.
Only two meaningful measurements will differ; seat tube length and stand
over height. Stem length and seat setback possibilities will not differ at
I sell a lot of custom frames and will give the customer what ever their
design preference, whether it be compact or conventional as their will be
no positional differences between the two. There are occasions where I strongly
recommend a compact for the following reason. If a customer must have their
bars high relative to their seat on a conventional frame there are only three
ways to achieve this. That is too have a lot of headset spacers or make the
frame larger and compromise standover height. Additionally there can be an
extended head tube but I try to stay away from them because they look ugly.
By comparison a compact frame can be designed with the front end height of
a larger frame but show a lot more seat post and not have to compromise standover
height. At a glance, all people tend to notice is the amount of head set spacers
and the amount of seat post exposed and a compact frame with high bars looks
better than a conventional frame with high bars, at least to my eye. For that
reason, I think compact frames are valuable.
I have one of each with all but identical dimensions and have no strong preference.
Re pedal and cleat overall height. This does make a difference but I have
to say that most current systems of road pedals, Campagnolo aside, are within
about 5mm of each other and any differences in feel probably have more to
do with pedal system differences than they do overall pedal and cleat heights.
I have just changed from Campag to Speedplay (including the 3 hole base plate
adaptor) after using the Campags since they first came on the market. I had
to drop my seat 7mm and found initially that my ability to pedal quickly was
compromised. This is coming back but the change affected me in the sense that
I feel like I am relearning how to do things slightly. I suspect that this
More on women's saddles #1
Just a quick tip to Steve Hogg and Robin Crumpton with regards to ladies saddles.
My partner started cycling 3 years ago and tried around half a dozen different
saddles and ended up on a Fizik Vitesse which she now swears by (rather than
at......) all the women cyclists we have recommended try this saddle who have
then actually proceeded to try it now also use it. (about a dozen from memory)
We tend to break it in by fitting it a few deg nose down for the first few
days use then lift the nose to the 'normal' position (2-3 deg nose down)
Might be worth a try
Leamington Spa, UK
Steve Hogg replies:
I used to use a lot of Vitesses but my experiences were that the approval
rating under a large number of female backsides was more like 50/50. I used
to stock 7 or 8 different womens seats and am happy to sell seats on a try
for a fortnight and bring back if unhappy basis. In the recommendations that
I made, I tried to stick to seats that experience has shown me will suit a
large majority of women.
More on women's saddles #2
Mr. Steve Hogg doesn't mention the new Selle San Marco Aspide "Glamour" women's
saddle, which comes both with a cut-out or without one. It's way lighter than
anything else women's specific on the market (185 g) and super comfortable.
I never would have bought something women's specific before this one came out
because they're all so damn heavy. But I gave this one a shot and was totally
shocked and amazed at how great it is. I'm completely converted and don't ever
want to buy another saddle. Highly recommended to women who want performance
as well as comfort.
Steve Hogg replies:
There were a host of seats that I didn't mention. I tried to stick to the
ones that as I said, I have extensive experience with. The seat you mention
has not been available all that long ( at least in Oz) and to date, I have
only seen one example which was the day before your email arrived. I am going
to order both versions and experiment a bit with 'problem children'.
More on groin pain
Thanks for the advice.
I have backed off harder rides and started the focused counting on the right
side which has alleviated some stress on the left and is very much working the
right. I have also begun a lifting program to strengthen my right leg which
I am doing 2 days a week right now.
My question now is how many moderate rides should I be doing a week with a
focus on the right side and how should I space that out with the days I lift
weights so I don't overuse the right side, etc.?
So, example should I be riding Sun, Tues, Thurs, Sat and lift Monday and Friday??
or another combination.
Thank you again.
Andrew M. Joyner
State College, PA
Steve Hogg replies:
My best guess is that you should prioritise cycling and weights in alternate
weeks. That way your leg doesn't get 'used' to what you are trying to do and
is stimulated afresh. If you have 5 days a week to train, why not try the
first week with 4 rides and 1 weights session and the second week, 4 weights
sessions and 1 ride or something similar. What you don't need to do is over
stress the leg, so maybe 3 and 1 week about would be better.
Let me know how you get on.
Other Cyclingnews Form & Fitness articles