Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for July 24
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.
Knee injury seems permanent
Pedals and more
Sore knees and crank length
Strictures and cycling
Is there a relationship between a low 'Ejection Fraction' (i.e., measure of
cardiac output) and maximum heart rate and cycling performance?
Kelby Bethards replies:
As you've alluded to the Cardiac Output, from the "formula" for cardiac output...
CO = Stroke Volume X HR.
Having a low ejection fraction would in turn change the stroke volume. This
would impair delivery of O2 to tissues. Thus to have as high of a cardiac
output as somebody with a higher ejection fraction, would require increasing
Someone with a lower ejection fraction, would need to be able to attain a
higher heart rate (HR) to "perform" as well as if the ejection fraction were
So, it more than likely would impair cycling performance.
Scott Saifer adds:
Unless you have an unusually large heart, a low ejection fraction will mean
a low stroke volume and so a low cardiac output. Compared to another rider
with normal ejection fraction, similar heart size and similar maximum heart
rate your VO2-max will be lower. Compared to all other riders, your performance
may or may not be worse, depending on how low your ejection fraction is, and
how well endowed you are in other ways that support cycling performance.
[John asked this question last week too - this week we have an insight into
the detection problem from Pam Hinton.]
I have a question I'm sure you get a lot, but I never see the answer.
How do you dope on the professional level of cycling and not get caught? Are
they taking levels of growth hormones, EPO, testerone and reintroducing their
own blood at lower does than the tests can detect? How do they do it? Somebody
must know how because it is happening. Example: Ulrich is alleged to have doped
in the Giro this year, but he won a stage and the tests showed no signs of doping?
John M. Spidaliere
Pam Hinton replies:
I know it may be hard to believe, but it is very difficult to detect banned
substances in athletes. In fact, it is challenging to measure hormones like
erythropoietin (EPO) and growth hormone (GH) in people who are using them
therapeutically. Explaining the challenges of detecting these compounds in
blood or urine, requires a brief discussion of endocrinology. Hormones are
chemicals that are made in one organ, are released into the blood, and then
bind receptors in other organs where they exert their effects. For example,
GH is made in the pituitary gland.
In the liver, GH causes synthesis of another anabolic hormone, insulin-like
growth factor-I (IGF-I). GH and IGF-I increase protein synthesis in skeletal
muscle, bone formation, and cartilage growth; GH enhances mobilization of
fat stores. EPO is made in the kidney and acts on the bone marrow to increase
synthesis of new blood cells, including red cells (erythrocytes). Hormones
can be made from amino acids (peptide hormones) or from cholesterol (steroid
hormones). GH, IGF-I and EPO are peptide hormones; testosterone, androstenedione,
and dehydroepiandrosterone DHEA are steroid hormones.
Because these hormones are naturally produced in the body, as test for doping
must be able to distinguish between the hormones that are produced in the
body (endogenous) from those that are taken orally, topically or injected
(exogenous). Many of the anabolic steroid hormones used are synthetic versions
of the real thing; in other words, they are chemically similar to the endogenous
hormones, so they still act on the target tissues, but the variation in chemical
structure is large enough to distinguish the difference between the endogenous
hormone. In contrast, synthetic GH (recombinant human, rhGH) is chemically
identical to the forms produced in the body. As a result, the only way to
test positive for GH is to detect abnormally high levels of the hormone in
Even if someone is using GH regularly, this is very difficult to do. GH is
released from the pituitary gland in a pulsatile manner throughout the day,
so blood levels are constantly fluctuating. In addition, GH doesn't stay in
the blood for very long; the half-life is only 20 minutes. As result, blood
levels return to normal very quickly and the window for detection of doping
is at most 36 hours. An alternative to measuring GH directly, is to determine
the levels of other proteins, such as IGF-I and markers of bone growth, that
increase as a result of elevated GH levels.
The advantages of this approach are that these indirect markers of rhGH abuse
do not fluctuate dramatically throughout the day and they stay elevated in
blood longer than rhGH. For example, IGF-I will stay abnormally high for 2
days and markers of bone formation for up to 7 days.
Currently, researchers are attempting to establish normal ranges for these
markers, taking into account differences due to sex, age, and ethnicity. The
difficulties in measuring rhEPO abuse are similar to those associated with
rhGH. rhEPOs have differ slightly from endogenous EPO in chemical structure.
rhEPO have extra carbohydrates attached to the protein, which act to extend
the half-life of the rhEPOs. Endogenous EPO has a half-life of 8.5 hours,
compared to 20-50 hours for the synthetic varieties. The difference in carbohydrate
content is the basis for the current test for rhEPO abuse. Endogenous and
synthetic EPO have different electric charges and, therefore, migrate at different
rates when exposed to an electric field in a method called, isoelectric focusing
(IEF). The current test for rhEPO abuse requires an abnormal blood EPO concentration,
high hematocrit, percentage of new red blood cells (reticulocytes) or soluble
transferrin receptors followed by indentification of synthetic EPO using the
IEF of a urine sample.
Other logistic complications associated with measuring peptide hormones in
blood or urine relate to the integrity of the sample. For example, EPO in
urine is rapidly degraded, so the test must be performed as soon as possible
after sample collection. Blood samples need to be stored at the proper temperature,
2-8°C for up to 24 hours. Otherwise, serum should be frozen at -20°C; samples
should not be thawed and refrozen.
It is important to remember that testing for banned substances serves two
purposes. In theory, at least, it protects the integrity of sport. As importantly,
it prevents athletes from abusing substances that have negative, even life-threatening,
Six weeks ago an SUV driver neglected to look in my direction pulling out from
a stop hitting me square on my right side while I was commuting home by bicycle.
The shoulder dislocation went back in nicely as they were preparing to work
on it in the emergency room. Surgery later that evening inserted a full length
nail into my broken femur. The surgery took an extra 3 hours due to complications,
alignment and muscle between the broken femur ends.
At my 6 week check the surgeon indicated that the femur was angled at 7 degrees.
There was no change in the angulation between the 3 week and 6 week checks.
He indicated that this would have no impact to walking, running, bicycling,
skiing, etc. It seems like we're often concerned with much less variation in
body structure when it comes to bicycle fitting. Is this angulation something
to be concerned about? Is it worth a second opinion from an orthopedic specialist?
Could I expect bike fit issues with this angulation such as knee or hib problems
(none of which have been experienced in the past)?
A second concern - once my knee flexes enough to get my right leg around a
turn of the cranks what should be the path to rebuilding fitness and strength
on the bike? I have rollers, but can borrow a trainer. Rollers might need some
more leg speed and strength than I'll have at first. Strength, leg speed and
leg smoothness is the goal, but with a rollers I'm concerned about the initial
ability to pedal a sufficient cadence to balance and achieve an effective workout.
I am a 47 year old, 6'2", 159 lb male who gets in 3,000 miles bicycling and
an equal amount of time cross country skiing and roller skiing, with infrequent
runs. I do an occasional TT, but mostly use my bike time for training for the
cross country ski season. Riding consists of commuting to work training sessions,
group rides and an annual century and recovery rides with the kids.
Steve Hogg replies:
A cautious answer to your query as to whether you will experience issues
with the altered femur angle when riding your bike is maybe. I am sometimes
surprised by what clients can cope with without problems and sometimes dismayed
by how little they can cope with without problems. I would be finding the
best person available to check out your position with regard to seat position,
cleat position and angle and footplant on pedal before you do too much cycling
at any intensity. Ideally it should be someone with experience in remedial
stuff and who takes a structural approach to bike positioning.
As your recovery goes on, you may need to revisit them as you achieve a greater
range of movement.
I am a Cat 2 racer, 5'4" weighing in at 125. I took a year off the bike to
find out that I hate running and now that I am back on the bike, 4 months now,
and training hard for the late season races and to get a base for next year,
I am having major saddle and feet issues. I am on my third saddle because I
developed saddle sores on both sides of my butt bones or seat bones (it is actually
just below my bones) and I have numbness in my left foot at the ball of the
foot extending into my toes. I do have a neuroma in my left foot just below
my fourth toe that probably causes me more pain. My shoes are Specialized and
I do have an orthotic with a metatarsal pad to help separate my bones. Not helping
much for some reason. I am in so much pain with my butt until it goes numb and
then my left foot starts to hurt because I have been on the bike for more than
two hours. I am riding in so much pain that it isn't much fun. Can you help?
Steve Hogg replies:
There could be several reasons for the discomfort caused by your seat. First
the positives; the pain is on or near the sit bones which is good, as it means
that you are not chaffing more sensitive areas. What is bad is that you are
finding this weight bearing uncomfortable.
1. Many women do not experience any genital discomfort even though their
choice of seat or seat position fore and aft is poor. They do this by sitting
almost off the back of the seat. This keeps soft tissue elevated or nearly
so off the seat but means that their weight is borne by a relatively small
and often extra firm area seat; the rear edge. Have someone look at where
you are sitting relative to the length of the seat. If you are sitting on
the rear most edge or close to it, then it is common to experience discomfort
of the sort you mention. Equally, sitting like doesn't lend itself to achieving
optimal on seat stability and extra effort expended in trying to achieve that
can make the problem worse.
2. If you have your bars very high (and I don't know that you do), then there
is a rearward transfer of your body weight. This can load up the sit bones
and surrounding areas. I'm not telling you to lower your bars, as if they
are very high there is probably a reason you have them like that. It may be
that a seat with plenty of firm padding would help though. One to try is the
Selle Italia Ladies Gelflow (also known as Ladies Trans Am) as while quite
firm initially, they soften up noticeably after a few weeks regular riding.
3. Are you stable on the seat?
What I mean is that if you are squirming around because of a tight lower
back or perhaps too high (or even too low) a seat height, then the area you
mention can be discomforted. Have a look at these posts on cleat position
because if you are a long way from what is suggested, it can have an indirect
effect on stability on seat: www.cyclingnews.com/fitness/?id=2004/letters07-26
Now your foot pain. From your description it doesn't seem to be caused by
the neuroma near the fourth MTP. Have someone check you for forefoot varus
on the left side. The thought that occurs to me is that a common off bike
compensatory mechanism for this is to walk with load on the outside of the
foot as this allows reasonably good tracking of the knee despite the varus
forefoot. This could be (and I may be way off here) the reason for that neuroma
or part of the reason. Now if that same compensatory mechanism hasn't followed
you onto the bike (and it doesn't always) then you may be loading the first
MTP too much. If this is the case, playing with some Lemond wedges will probably
be of benefit.
The other possibility (and I am assuming in all of this that there is no
real issue with the ball of the foot as there is with the 4th MTP area. If
in doubt, get a podiatrist to check you out) is that the orthotic in that
shoe has too much correction and you are trying to push the ball of the foot
further down relative to the lateral edge of the foot. To see whether this
is likely, go for a ride without the orthotic in left shoe. Just use a normal
insole. If the ball of the foot is better but the 4th MTP pain is there, then
ask your podiatrist to make you up something to solve both problems.
Recently Floyd Landis revealed to the world the need to have a hip replacement
at the conclusion of this year's Tour De France. Alan Lim, PhD, who is part
of his coaching staffing overseeing power outputs and other aspects of Floyd's
training and racing said that after the hip replacement Floyd will be even stronger
on the bike. I, along with many of his fans certainly hope that is the case.
The question I have relates to knee replacements. I am 56 years old, and after
many years of basketball and several knee operations to remove all of the meniscus
in the right knee, my doctor has recommended a total knee replacement because
arthritis has set in.
Bicycling has been wonderful in controlling the pain but pragmatically I realize
at some point I'm going to have to have it done. If I do have the knee replacement,
would this put an end to intensive training and competing in local races?
Steve Hogg replies:
Here is a non medical answer to your query. I have had post knee replacement
riders as clients and they were able to get back into racing though not necessarily
at the level they participated before the op. I don't know if this is the
case will all people post knee replacement but don't give up just yet. I suspect
that Dave and Kelby can give you a more considered opinion as I am sure that
there are plenty of variables.
Knee injury seems permanent
I am a 29 yr old male that enjoyed mostly recreational mountain biking for
the two years I lived in CA. I took it seriously and strived to improve. I rode
at 15 - 30 miles a week on single track and fire road trails with good elevation
changes. At the end of my 2 years I started road ridding and would occasionally
put in 30-40 miles on the weekend.
A year ago I moved to Denmark and after a few months off for winter started
training on the mountain bike and road bike. By early spring last year (may)
I was improving a lot and pushed myself with a 40 mile ride. The next weekend
I had an intensive mountain bike ride (15km) and later that day my first knee
injury symptoms showed and I had to limp a bit as there was pain below my left
knee cap. I took a few days off and then tried the method of pushing through
the pain and ended up with intense pain across the front of my left knee cap.
I took a week off then did a low intesisity spinning road ride and the next
day I had similarly bad pain in my right knee. I then took 4 days off and did
some easy mountain biking which felt great. The next day I went again and the
following day both knees were very sore. I then spent some time adjusting my
cleats and seat height to recommended levels and b mid June I was taking short
extremely easy road rides and still was getting sore the next day; a dull ache
most intense on bony area below knee but extend around the outside of knee area
to the top of the kneecap.
I saw a local Danish doctor and he said it was nothing too serious and that
I should try exercising my hamstrings and quads and also use a trainer for light
cycling workouts. I tried the exercises for a few months but was constantly
in the cycle of feeling pain in my knees and the resting for a week and trying
It's a year later now and my knees still feel as weak and damaged as before
and I am very saddened by missing the summer riding season and the prospect
of not riding intensely again. I have removed my clipless pedals for simple
platform petals on my road bike but my knees still get injured with a ride.
I am supposed to see the orthopedic surgeon next month but don't have much faith.
I take glucosamine/chondroitin as well as fish oil before and after I do any
riding. Are my knees just broken before the age of 30?
Steve Hogg replies:
Are your knees broken before age 30?
Unlikely. Knees are full of fibrous tissue; tendons and ligaments. That means
that they don't have much blood flow. That in turn means that they are hard
to injure but once injured it is hard to recover because of this limited blood
flow. At the risk of stating the obvious, knee pain is never something to
'push through'. You haven't given a lot of info that allows me to try and
advise without writing a 'War and Peace ' answer about the possibilities.
The best advice is to find a good structural health professional (physio etc)
and have yourself assessed globally to find out what is loading your knee
on the bike. Once you have an answer to that, I may be able to help further.
By all means see the surgeon. The only thing to consider is that bike related
knee injuries not caused by sudden impacts, are rarely caused by issues with
the knees themselves but usually are caused by issues with the hip and lower
back at one end and the foot and ankle at the other end or a combination of
both, forcing the knee to load in ways that it doesn't like. Poor bike position
and cleat position can play a part as well.
If dysfunction in your body or a poor bike position have caused this, surgery
may well repair any damage that you have done, but it won't change the reasons
that caused the problem. What I am saying is that you should be striving to
find out or find someone who can find out, why the problem has arisen in the
I ride MTB enduro and do a bit of road riding as well. I have been having pain
on the side of my right knee (occasionally left too) just below the boney protrusion
on the outside of the knee where the tendon meets that. Not the tendons/ligaments
on the outside but the one just in from that. I went to a PT person who said
it was an ankle stability, which I worked on all winter. After the last 12 hour
race, the pain came back. Can it be tracked back to poor bike set up or poor
mechanics? I am a 38yo male, small and light. I don't race often, but I put
in about 15+ hours a week.
Steve Hogg replies:
You haven't given me a lot to go on. Assuming your physio was correct, you
can strengthen your ankle all you like, but under real load (read racing or
training hard) most issues, unless totally put to bed by the strengthening
you have done, will reassert themselves. Visit the physio again and ask whether
it it a good idea to effect some sort of mechanical solution to your problem,
like an orthotic device in your cycling shoe to take the pressure off your
Now that all assumes that it is your ankle function that is the problem.
If it isn't, then there are a lot of other possibilities. Rarely does knee
pain on a bike have much to do with the knees themselves. The knee is a single
plane joint situated between two joints, the hip and ankle, that can work
in a variety of planes. Most on bike knee issues are a result of dysfunction
in the hips/lower back at one end or the foot/ankle at the other forcing the
knee to move in planes that it doesn't like.
For instance, how flexible are you?
Are there noticeable differences between your left and right sides in glute,
hamstring or hip flexor flexibility?
If the answer to the the first is not very and the second is yes, then what
you experience can be the result. In summary, it could be you, it could be
your bike position but more likely is a combination of both.
Pedals and more
This is a question about some recent problems my son experienced in racing.
I'd like to hear your opinion. He is a 15 year old 2nd year Novice, racing both
road and track. Height 182 cm, weighs 63 kg. Last January on the national track
championship, in the second lap of the 500 m, he pulled his right foot out of
his pedal and after setting the 2nd split time, made the last time.
Last week, in a stage course he experienced the same thing in a bunch sprint
twice(last occasion the sprinting speed was above 61 km/hr). Both times in a
winning position and both times ending up beside the platform. Of course very
frustrating. Both times he pulled his right foot out of his pedal in full sprint.
After the first time we tightened the pedals up to almost maximum tension. He
rides with Look CX7 and Shimano SH R-151 shoes. His cleats were renewed only
a week ago. His leg position is rather or very "X-shaped".
Is this a biomechanical problem or a purely technical problem? Would another
type of pedal (f.i. Speedplay or Time) be better suited for him?
We appreciate your advice,
Steve Hogg replies:
When you describe your sons leg position as X shaped, I assume that you mean
that he is knock kneed and / or that he pedals with his knees in towards the
top tube. This is a biomechanical thing and people who function like this
can get untidy in terms of the plane of movement of their legs when sprinting
off the seat. The likely reasons that he is pulling his foot in the sprint
1. That there is not enough available freeplay in one direction on the right
cleat. Set the angle of the right cleat so that when he is pushing hard on
the pedals, his right foot is in the middle of the available range of freeplay.
Get him to ride hard on a trainer. Stop him with his right foot forward and
check how much free movement is available either side of that point. If there
is not reasonably even amount of movement either side of where his foot naturally
sits on the pedal under load, then this is the likely cause. When he is sprinting,
he probably gets a bit untidy in terms of the plane of movement of the right
leg and with the cleat up against the inner or outer stop, he pops the foot
out sooner or later.
2. That the cleat angle is good, but that under severe load and probably
off the seat when sprinting at that speed, the angle of his right foot on
the pedal changes enough for him to move outside the range of freeplay that
the pedal allows. The number of potential reasons for this are many and all
have to do with less than ideal foot, ankle or hip function.
Probably the simplest advice is to change to Campagnolo Pro Fit pedals. They
have a similar overall pedal / cleat stack height as the Looks and I have
never come across anyone who has accidentally pulled their foot out of them.
Speeplay Zero pedals are another where it is almost unknown for someone to
pull their foot accidentally. If you choose Speedplays, drop your son's seat
height 5 - 7mm as there is a large difference in the pedal / cleat stack height.
The freeplay on the Speedplay Zero's can also be adjusted from very little
to more than most people will ever need. If your son has his Look cleats all
the way back on the shoe, Speedplays may not be an ideal option because their
baseplate does not allow as much rearward adjustment as a Look does. If your
son's cleats are in the middle of the range of fore and aft adjustment or
further forward than that, then the Speedplays will be fine.
Sore knees and crank length
My name's Alexi and I'm a 15 year old male, I race in triathlons and am currently
ranked 5th in the New Zealand Secondary School system.
The winner of these races is an awesome cyclist, and the only triathlete I
know who wins the race on the bike. Cycling is also my strength but not as much
as him, I've recently been researching pedal crank length and I want to buy
a larger crank. A have rather long legs for my age in comparison to my torso
(I'm 1.76m around 5'9 and my inseam is 86-86.5cm (i'm still growing) and my
lower legs are long in proportion to my upper legs). My bike comes with the
standard 170mm crank, my inseam suggests around a 175-177.5mm crank, but this
increase seems so subtle, I was thinking more a 180mm, what are your thoughts
on this? The majority of my races are non-drafting, but i do compete in the
odd draft legal races.
One other thing, just recently I've been experiencing bad knee pains in my
left kneecap. It occurs around the 3 o'clock position of the down stroke and
is a burning sense beneath the upper kneecap, when this occurs I am usually
affected for a few hours after the ride. I don't know what it is. My bike is
a Specialised Tarmac, size 52 frame, I use Look 267 pedals.
Another problem (so many) is a nagging lower back pain on my left side. It
usually occurs after 12 solid k's on the bike during a race, when I'm on the
aerobars (Oval Concepts), but it also occurs after about an hour-an hour 1/2
of riding on the hoods. I've experimented with a high seat, low seat, saddles
forward and rearwards, nothing seems to work. Do you have a solution??
Steve Hogg replies:
Firstly, don't even consider longer cranks until you have sorted out the
left knee problem. Longer cranks are of no benefit unless the extra range
the hip and knee have to work through can be very well controlled. Left knee
and back pain suggests that you do not have good control of 170's let alone
From what you have told me, the left knee problem and the left lower back
problem are almost certainly linked. Culprits could be:
1. Short left leg. To establish this it is worth having a standing X ray
or scan with bone lengths measured between joint centres. Anything else is
a guess, sometimes a good guess, sometimes not.
2. Have someone stand behind and above you on a chair while you pedal hard
with your shirt off on an indoor trainer. Do you favour one side in the sense
of dropping or rotating forward one hip on the downstroke on that side?
This is very likely and the reason that the back pain occurs more quickly
on the aero bars than it does on the brake hoods is that the lower more stretched
position on the aero bars presents more of a challenge to the stability of
your pelvis on the seat. In other words, the aero position magnifies any existing
problems because your upper body is further down and more stretched out.
Strictures and cycling
I am a 21 year old male who is considering a returning to cycling after having
surgery to repair a urethral stricture. It has been 18 months since my surgery.
Prior to this problem, I participated in endurance mountain bike events and
rode around 15-20 hours per week, consisting mostly of road riding. According
to my urologist, the stricture was the result of repeated micro-trauma from
cycling. After exploring the issue, I have found it difficult to find information
concerning strictures and cycling. Have you heard of this problem occurring
among cyclists? As I consider a return to cycling more frequently, are there
any suggestions concerning fit, or equipment that would help to eliminate a
recurrence? Any insight into this issue is greatly appreciated.
Kelby Bethards replies:
You have a interesting condition. It makes sense that a stricture could form
from the microtrauma and inflammation from this. But the stricture would need
to be quite a ways into the urethra to be from cycling.
So, maybe an urologist out in the cyclingnews audience can help out, but
I think your best bet is to get a good saddle with the appropriate fit and
a perineum relief zone.
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