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Form & Fitness Q & A

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at 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.

The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel

Carrie Cheadle, MA ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 any geography.

David Fleckenstein, MPT ( 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 ( 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 other end.

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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 a coach.

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.

Fitness questions and answers for August 21

More on testosterone
UCI rules vs bike fit
Ball of foot
Compensation for leg length differential
Difference in foot size
Knee problems
Neck and shoulders - agony
Calf pain
STI brake lever shims


[In response to several letters about testosterone over the last couple of weeks, Pam Hinton offers these comments – Ed]

Individuals with pituitary tumors, kidney disease, cancer, or AIDS—these are the people who truly benefit from the hormones that athletes abuse. Because of their illness, they are unable to produce adequate amounts of growth hormone, erythropoietin, or testosterone and, as a result, suffer complications apart from their primary illness: anemia, loss of bone and muscle mass, and increased blood cholesterol and triglycerides.

Pharmaceutical companies invest millions of dollars in research to make hormone formulations that will most closely mimic the body’s natural rhythm of release and normal circulating levels. Testosterone treatment was first available as intramuscular injections. Testosterone (200-300 mg) is dissolved in oil and then injected into the muscle; the oil slows the rate of release into the body. This route of administration results in supraphysiologic levels of testosterone that decline to low levels after approximately 14 days.

These large fluctuations in testosterone levels are associated with changes in mood, energy level, and sexual function in some men. As everyone now knows in the aftermath of Landis’ “adverse analytical finding,” testosterone also can be administered through the skin via a patch or gel. Testosterone patches provide either 2.5 or 5.0 mg per patch. They are generally applied once per day and are left on for 24 hours. When used as prescribed, i.e. 5 mg testosterone per day, testosterone levels peak 8-12 hours after application of the patch, plateau for the next 8 hours and then returning to baseline by 24 hours.

Long-term, prescribed use of testosterone patches does not result in testosterone accumulation. In other words, blood testosterone levels do not continually increase with long-term use, but stabilize in the normal range. Testosterone gels contain 50-100 mg of testosterone per dose; about 10 percent of testosterone applied in gel form is bioavailable, providing an effective dose of 5-10 mg of testosterone. Testosterone levels in blood peak 18-24 hours after using the gel. It appears that long-term use of testosterone gel results in accumulation of testosterone in the body. In contrast to injections, transdermal administration results in relatively stable testosterone concentrations in blood within the normal range.

It is important to keep mind that the hormones that are abused by athletes, were designed for therapeutic use by individuals who are sick. As a consequence, most of the information that we have about these drugs is related to their intended therapeutic use.

The majority of studies that have been conducted on testosterone, for example, were done in men who have abnormally low testosterone levels. Because hormone therapy is a long-term treatment for a chronic condition, there are very few studies of its short-term effects. So, most of what we know about testosterone is how replacement to normal levels affects men who have abnormally low production of testosterone after months of treatment.

In other words, the effects of one time use on muscle protein synthesis and/or breakdown on young, elite male athletes have not been studied. One short-term study found that five days of testosterone injections increased protein synthesis in skeletal muscle in healthy, but elderly, adult males. Another study examined the effects of three days of testosterone on fuel utilization and performance during endurance exercise in young men. Testosterone had no effect on whether participants used fat or carbohydrate for energy. Likewise, there was no effect on blood lactate or performance.

Speculation on the short-term effects of testosterone is rampant; remember, we don’t know enough about how androgens affect young elite athletes with normal testosterone levels.

More on testosterone

In Kelby Bethards' reply to the letter 'Why Testosterone' he gives an example that a test may be 98% accurate so out of 300 tests there could be 6 false positives. That's misleading in that Floyd would have had to have had two of those false positives since his A and B specimen were both positive - I guess they were, I agree it's hard to ferret out the facts in this case. But if so what would the odds of that be?

Mike Turner

Kelby Bethards replies:

You are exactly correct. I was over simplifying. I was only trying to point out, that in fact, no test is perfect. I have ordered tests on different patients before that, for the life of me, continued to be “incorrectly” positive in light of treatment. Only when using an alternative testing method did it come to light that the specimen, for whatever reason, reacted in a way that gave a positive result. I do not know the process followed by the UCI, but I would certainly hope, with this much at stake, that another method was employed to confirm the original positive test.

IF Floyd’s sample somehow triggers a positive result, and the SAME test method was used for the B sample, then the percent chance of another (possibly false) positive is close to 100%. If the first sample is tested using test A and the second sample is tested using test B, and they are both positive, then the odds that the result is a false positive is very low.

All that being said, there is much to be explained yet, and I don’t believe this will be resolved quickly. I think, potentially, both sides have explaining to do. Floyd if found to have a positive result, on 2 different test methods, needs to explain how it happened. The lab also needs to explain the test methods and their biostatistical accuracy.

UCI rules vs bike fit

First of all, I would like to congratulate you for having a Q and A section in your website where the advisers are undoubtedly experts in their own chosen field of work. I regularly visit your site and pay particular attention to the Q and A section. And the pieces of advice that your experts gave are most helpful to people like me who live in a place where experts like you are rare.

I was recently fitted to my bike by an owner of a local bike shop, who is accredited to a well known foreign bike fitting outfit. Then, I came across the UCI rules on equipment where the UCI prescribes that the peak of the saddle should be a minimum of 5 cm to the rear of a vertical plane passing though the bottom bracket spindle (Section 1.3.013, Chapter III). Having known my fore and aft position based on my bike fit, I measured the distance between the tip of my saddle and the bottom bracket spindle, using a plumb line. I noticed that the distance is less than the UCI-prescribed distance of 5 cm.

Do you know the reason behind the UCI's prescribing the said measurement? Should I move now my saddle backward to make my bike UCI legal (I want to make it UCI legal, of course). If I move my saddle backward to comply with the UCI requirement, I will have a 1 cm to 2 cm more setback than my bike fit position. Will this adjustment pose a risk of injury, or adversely affect my power, or result in poor stability on the bike.

Roland Villaluz
Manila, Philippines

Steve Hogg replies:

The rule you speak of is the UCI's attempt to limit 'Obree' style superman positioning which in their view is tending towards that of a prone recumbent. While I am in sympathy with their views, I think the rule as it currently stands (last time I checked and I must admit it has been some time) is a fairly ordinary solution. It makes no mention of seat height. A rider with a seat that is 50mm behind the bottom bracket on a 60cm frame is going to be sitting further forward than a rider of a 50cm frame.

Another detail is seat length. There are road seats on the market that vary between around 255mm to just over 300mm and so on. Anyway, last time I looked the 'out' that may apply to you is that if it can be shown that a plumb line dropped from the tibial tubercule of the knee is no further forward than the pedal axle centre, you have a legal position. This was to solve the problem of very small riders for whom a seat nose 50mm behind the bottom bracket was too far back.

I would be surprised if it is ever checked at other than championship and track races anyway.

Ball of foot

I am confused regarding finding and marking the ball of foot. I think that the ball of foot mark should be on the inside of the foot. But when I am clipped into my Look Keo pedals with grey cleats I can turn my foot. In that way if I turn my heels in the ball of foot mark moves forward and if I turn my heels out it moves backwards. I wander if I measure my baal of foot a wrong place.

If you really want to help me - please make a drawing.

Zach - Henrik Zachariassen

Steve Hogg replies:

You are correct in everything you say. What you should be trying to do is mark the centre of the ball of the foot on the side of the shoe wear it faces the crank. You need to make sure that the mark on the shoe is in the relation you want to the pedal axle at the angle that your foot naturally sits on the pedal whether that be heel in or heel out. These links on cleat position and finding the ball of your foot should make it clear.

Compensation for leg length differential

I recently suffered a femoral neck fracture that resulted in a leg length differential of about 1cm (left side short). I ride and have ridden on SPD mountain cleats for several years (road, TT, Track and MTB). As a commuter and a fitness/recreational racer I do not want to give up the convenience of double sided entry and the ability to walk in my shoes. I had an odd idea with regard to compensation and would like to know from a bio-mechanics angle, if it is a sound or horrible idea.

Could I use a shorter crank arm on my deficient side to achieve parity. I have shimmed my left shoe about 2 mm which is the most that the length of the bolts will allow and it has allowed me to ride with reasonable comfort. I still have a significant disparity in the amount of toe tip on the short side. Would moving down from a 175 arm to a 172.5 cause more problems than it will solve?

I was considering that since I lost the length off of the lever on one end (the femur) that shortening the lever at the other end (the crank arm) might be reasonable.

Bryan Carlson

Steve Hogg replies:

The best method to resolve your problem is the one that works the best. If you were here in person we would try several things and determine which suited you better than the others. Normally I would suggest a cleat shim as a starting point but understand your reluctance to do this with an SPD pedal. Axo used to make a product called a Spud Spacer that allowed an SPD cleat to be shimmed securely by either 3 or 4mm but I am told that they are no longer available. That leaves you with couple of options including shortening one crank.

I don't have any philosophical problem with you going down the different crank length route. The only criteria I apply to any corrective method is whether it works well and diminishes the chance of injury. First you have to determine how much difference in crank length. You can do this inexpensively by buying another two left hand cranks; one 2.5mm shorter and the other 5mm shorter than your existing length. LH cranks are cheap and can be bought separately. RH cranks can usually be bought only as part of a pair of cranks. Play with the 2 shorter LH cranks on which ever bike you choose and determine which feels best to you. Once this is decided, you can fit out the rest of your bikes.

If you can find a Spud Spacer though, it would be a lot cheaper. If you do get hold of a set, the cleat ends up protruding below the sole blocks of the mtb shoe. This can give a floaty feel to the freeplay that is odd. The best way to sort that out is to build up the tread blocks with Shoe Goo or similar so that they contact the pedal body again as the unmodified side shoe does.

Difference in foot size

I have a difference in foot length of 3 cm. Left is size 46 and right size 43-44. The left is the “normal” foot. The right is shorter in length but almost as wide the left. The discrepency comes from an broken leg when I was 12 years (I am now 47).

My right leg is 0.5 cm shorter than the left. I have an ortopedtic insole compensating for this. My inseam is 98 cm, my height is 193 cm.

My bike is a Boreas size 64 (c-t) Top tube 591 mm, Stem = 140 mm Saddle over handlebar = 100 mm Saddle over BB = 870 mm

Crankarm = 180 mm. Pedals = Speedplay. Shoe = Specialized Pro Carbon 46/44

I very often get a lower back pain, especially in the right side.

My question:

When placing the saddle (Fizik Arione) over the Bottom Bracket with KOPS, which leg should determine the position. Due to the difference in cleat position from the heel on left and right, both leg will never be placed optimally. What do you suggest: Measure according to the stronger leg (the left) or the weakest (the right) or in between.

Hope you can help.

Tom Nordfeld

Steve Hogg replies:

First things first. You need to make sure that each shoe fits each foot. This will mean two different size shoes which I assume is what you are using. Set the cleat for each shoe as suggested in these posts on cleat position and finding the ball of your foot.

You say that your insole compensates for your leg length difference but what about foot length. Is it built up under the forefoot or only under the heel?

If it is built up under the heel, that will help with walking but be of no use cycling. It is the forefoot that contacts the pedal and so I am hoping that your insole has a full length build up.

Now to the shorter right foot. You cannot reach as far to the pedals on this side as with the longer left foot and some extra compensation is necessary. You will need to fit a shim under the right cleat to compensate. Experiment with how large a shim but would start with 8 - 10 mm and probably more if your right insole is only built up under the heel. The test is whether you can reach the bottom of the pedal stroke with each leg feeling much the same in terms of strength and ease of movement. You will need to move the right hand cleat back 1 mm further for every 5mm that you build up under the right shoe to maintain a stable feeling on the pedal. You may wish to minimise the build up under the right shoe by fitting a longer crank to the left side to help.

Now to your question. Forget KOPS for the moment and have a look at this and set your fore and aft seat position accordingly. KOPS is a massive oversimplification of seat fore and aft positioning and is of little or no value as there are too many individual differences to consider amongst various people. What is needed is the ability to support your weight on the seat with the least effort and minimise the load supported by the upper body when riding hard.

If you need more info as you proceed, just let me know.

Knee problems

I am a 23 year old male road racer, I ride to a reasonable level in the UK but twice this year knee injuries have disrupted my season.

The pain starts on the inside of knee near the top of the patellar and spreads to the muscle above (vastus medialis I believe).

It doesn't start as soon as I ride but comes on after an hour or more. I've seen several physio's about it and have had mixed responses, from it being because I pronate when walking and because when I ride the foot is fixed in a straight position, to the cause being a tendonitus which then caused a plica to become inflamed to the most recent thought that it was a problem with the sartorius muscle being tight, yet when the physio tried to stretch the sartorius it didn't feel tight at all!

I first had this problem at christmas and it kept me off the bike for 2 months, the thing that helped me the most then I think was weight training to strengthen the surrounding muscles, as my vastus medialis had visibly atrophied on the affected side, presumably because I had been keeping off it.

I have look pedals with red cleats and have often had small injuries on this knee, which has alot of movement in the joint, but never any major problems.

I am currently resting, icing and using anti inflammatories and stretching the muscles around the knee, hoping to get it better for the end of the season but looking towards the winter can you recommend any adjustments that could be made to help? I have been rding for about 10 years and always thought that a bike fitting that may change my position alot may do more harm than good since I have developed it over so long but maybe this could help sort out my knee problem.

The problem is with the right knee, I usually unclip at lights etc with my left and push off with my right so i guess I perceive it to be the stronger one.


Steve Hogg replies:

Knee problems on a bike are not generally caused by issues with the knee itself, though that can't be ruled out. The knee is a single plane joint and can be irritated if there is any challenge to its' preferred plane of movement. The great majority of the time issues such as you describe are caused by hip/lower back issues at one end or foot/ankle problems at the other. The hip and ankle can quite happily move in a variety of planes but if doing so causes lateral or rotational loads to be applied to the knee, then what you experience can be the result.

Here is what I would suggest:

1. Visit the health professional of your choice and have yourself assessed and the results and implications explained to you in language you understand. That way, you know the current state of play in a structural sense of your own body and how this may affect your troublesome knee. Make sure that this assessment includes some sort of quantification of forefoot varus / valgus.

2. If 1. sheds no light on the matter, mount your bike on an indoor trainer taking care to make sure that it is level. Warm up and while pedaling with your shirt off under reasonable load, have an observer standing above and behind you on a chair or stool. What I need to know is:

a. Do you drop one hip and if so which side?

b. Is your pelvis twisted to one side and if so which side is forward?

c. Viewed from behind, is the gap between inner thigh and seatpost less on one side and if so which side?

3. Additionally, do you feel like one leg is stronger than the other and if so which one?

4. Does on knee sit closer to the top tube than the other and if so, which one?

If you need further help, please get back to me.

Neck and shoulders - agony

I am a 1.8m tall, 44 year old woman, new to cycling following a running injury. I am using the bike to commute to work, a round trip of about 15 miles, but have also been doing some longer weekend rides. I'm more interested in distance than speed, and in using cycling to keep fit, rather than in competing. I built up the cycling a little at a time, as if following a running programme.

My problem is that my neck and shoulders are almost permanently aching, with fairly frequent and very painful spasms. Neither rest nor anti-inflamatories seem to help. I have a hybrid bike for commuting, and my physio suggests lifting the handlebars and cycling in a more upright position - and if this works I'm happy to do it. But for longer distances, and hills, won't sitting upright make life harder? I'd like to buy a road or touring bike when I'm a bit fitter for some long trips, but not at the price of permanent neck pain. Sadly I can't afford a very expensive customised bike fitted to my exact shape.

All ideas gratefully received!

Liz Millward Hayes

Steve Hogg replies:

Listen to your physio. How will sitting higher at the front make life harder for longer distances and hills?

How far and long to you want to ride with "neck and shoulders ..... almost permanently aching, with fairly frequent and very painful spasms"?

If you are really concerned about performance on longer hilly rides, reduce your level of discomfort.

The kind of problem you have has 4 basic causes or any combination of them.

1. Seat too far forward causing a weight transfer forward which has to be supported by the arms.

2. Poor stability on seat causing the shoulder complex to be enlisted to stabilise the rest of the body with.

3. Handlebars too low.

4. Handlebars too far away.

In your case you haven't given enough info to to more than guess but I would be listening to your physio and worry about your neck and shoulders at this stage rather than your performance on long hilly rides. If lifting your bars reduces but does not solve the problem, find a bike shop that takes a structural approach to positioning and enlist their help.

Calf pain

I am a 27 year old male and I have been involved in road cycling for only 9 months, having just clocked up my first 5000km. I weight 68 kg and are 173cm in height. I ride an Orbea Gavia with Shimano 105 across the board. This is my first road bike and I am pretty happy with it and my set up.

Over this 9 month period I have built up from a reasonable fitness base and only managing short rides alone or with small groups to my present level, at which I can comfortably complete 100km + rides (or 3-4 hours continuous) at a solid pace. I would now say my fitness is very good. I have been taken on as a cycling student by a competitive-level Veteran’s cyclist and my aim is to join the local cycling club over summer and to participate in an alpine classic in January. For the last few months my program has been as follows, with additions and alterations from time to time:

Monday – long ride of around 100km (3-4 hours); Tuesday – time trial-like ride over 40km in a small group of between 3-6 with turns off the front; Wednesday – rest day; Thursday – light group ride over 35 km; Friday – 5/6 x 600 metre intervals around the local (6km) lake road, interspersed with slow recovery; Saturday – group ride of about 70 km+ ; Sunday – rest day.

However, with my attention now turning towards competition, and particularly this event in late January (my aim is to finish the event), I have joined a Thursday group that focuses on hills. I am now experiencing, for the first time in my cycling ‘career’ but not the first time in my sporting career (previously played Australian football and done some running) muscle soreness and tightness in the muscles on what I can only call my shins. This discomfort has not been present on the bike in the past, but is a pain I particularly recall from running on hard grounds during football season. It has now emerged after a focused hills session.

Naturally I would like to manage this situation as best as possible, and hopefully prevent or treat it in the most effective way. I hope that it does not persist in the future. Can any of your wonderful sports scientists offer any advice on what this strain/pain may be, how I might manage it in the short term with regards to stretching etc.. and how I might go about managing it in the future? Also, your advice on whether this strain/pain is likely to be linked with hills work, and if so, how I might go about assessing or changing any part of my approach, warm up/cool down or technique to avoid any recurrence, would be most appreciated.

Finally, thank you for your excellent website, which has provided much insight and detail for this enthusiastic cyclist.

Shannon Meadows

Steve Hogg replies:

My non medical advice is that you probably have calves that are too tight so stretching them particularly and stretching in general should benefit you. Another thing that my exaggerate the effects of tight calves is poor cleat position. If they are too far forward or too far back on the shoe, extra load on the lower leg can be the result. Have a look at these posts on cleat position and finding the ball of your foot and position your cleats accordingly. Following those suggestions won't do you any harm and will probably help - but start stretching those calves!

STI brake lever shims

Regarding Steve Hogg's suggestion to Jason Walz that he fashion a piece of rubber to shorten the reach of his STI brake levers. There are manufactured shims available from Specialized that are designed for this purpose. If Jason is not mechanically inclined, this might be a simpler way to set up a fix.

Bruce Lee
Redmond, WA

Steve Hogg replies:

Thanks for the tip!

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