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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 November 14, 2006

Speedplay cleat positioning
Cramps after time off
Teaching and training
Cleat position and seat height
The balance test
Positioning for mountain biking
Winter training
Training after injury
Crank length

Speedplay cleat positioning

I want to make you guys aware of a product that Speedplay offers that will address the problem in last week's posting. We offer a part called the Aluminum Extender Plate, part #13330. The Aluminum Extender Plate replaces our standard base plate. This increases the limit of rearward placement by 14mm. The Aluminum Extender Plate retails for $25.

Andy Jasper
Speedplay, Inc.

Cramps after time off

I have been racing for thirty five years. In my early years I won nation and oceanic titles, but now as a 49 year old master I still don't know what is really happening to my legs. At 49 years old I weigh 68kgs and am 170cm tall - I ride 172.5mm crank length on the road, and on the track 165's. As a 19 year old I used 170mm for the road and 165mm on the track, and I weighed 67kgs. I always have a high cadence usually one cog less than every one in the bunch. I set every new bike up from scratch so I don't transfer over the old bad habits.

Muscle myopathy does not seem to be the issue in my case. However if what we are talking about is that 'crampy' feeling after a hard ride or race, the feeling when you can't walk down steps which can be debilitating, then I was told this was lactic build up or over-training. It got to a point where I could only do a training ride or race twice a week.

For me this still occurs so is it genetic or a chemical imbalance? Nowadays when I have a few days off the bike I make the first one a slow to medium ride - that's off the big ring. I average about 30 km/h for about 3.5 hours (100kms) at varying heart rates - isn't this how we should train!? But what is going on in our bodies - muscles tearing apart? Lactic buildup? Genetics? Chemical imbalance? Incorrect set up with bike position?

In recent years I have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder and as a result I take SSRI's [Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors]. These are not the best as they slow down my reaction times which in turn slows me down, making it harder to race. I have noticed that the SSRI's appear to eliminate a large amount of the muscle crampy soreness. I continue to up the ante and race hard - I still race elite races at an Australian national level, B/C grade. Over the years bikes and positions have changed, as have shoes, pedals and seats - I can eliminate these as a problem. Training methods have changed - big gears, little gears, recommended time on the bike, recovery times and so on. Can anyone explain what is happening to us once we eliminate these variants?


Scott Saifer replies:

The soreness you are describing is almost certainly not an experience of lactate or lactic acid itself. Measurements of muscle and blood lactate concentrations after exercise show that they return to normal levels well before the time that post-exercise soreness shows up. Besides this, lactate does not make muscles sore.

Most likely the soreness you are experiencing is simply the inflammation that follows from muscle damage during hard exercise. The question then is why you experience so much soreness, and there are several avenues to investigate:

1. Are you having more actual damage than other riders and if so why? If you train and race and eat and drink and sleep exactly the same as the other guys but actually have more muscle damage than they do, you have a myopathy and need to either accept it get medical attention. Maybe the connective tissue within your muscles is unusually weak. That could be nutritional, or genetic or maybe something esle.

2. Do you train, eat, drink, sleep and race the same as the next guy? This is a huge question, but let's just start with the training. You have to ride daily or at least four days per week pretty consistently to condition the muscles before you should expect to be able to race hard without debilitating soreness, and most of that riding needs to be at a pace well below lactate threshold. It is typical to be sore after every ride if all your rides are hard or if you are riding hard only a day or two per week. This is the weakened (weekend) warrior syndrome.

3. Are you having the same damage as others but experiencing it more intensely? Depressed individuals commonly have heightened sensitivity to pain. I don't know how SSRI's affect that sensitivity but your experience that the drugs make you less sore and crampy certainly suggests that this mechanism may be at work.

Teaching and training

I am a masters road racer in the northeast of the US. To support my needed training time on the bike, I often teach a spin class. While I have been fortunate enough to sell my classes on periodization (thus having to do what I do come November-April), I often find my heart rate jumping higher and getting out of breath while having to talk while under effort. After a few words, what was once a zone 2 turns to 3 or 4.

1. Any tricks of the trade I should work on to keep my breathing under control considering I will then need to instruct/talk?

2. Does barking orders and jumping zones have a positive, or potentially negative, effect on my training and proper breathing?

John Mattio

Scott Saifer replies:

Thanks for this awesome question. I have several clients who teach spin classes and have still been improving their racing over the past few years. Obviously having to do a hard session on a particular day at a particular time could be disastrous for racing performance, if the relative timing of the class and race are wrong. Now to your questions, and then I have a radical suggestion for you.

1. To keep breathing under control, you need to keep intensity under control. The participants can see you cadence, which they should be imitating, but they can't see the resistance you have set compared to your current fitness level, so keep the resistance low enough that you can do your demonstrating with an effort that keeps you below your ventilatory threshold.

2. A short session of jumping zones and barking orders does not have to have a negative effect on your training and could have a positive effect, depending on when and how much it is done. The big question is how you recover and whether fatigue from the spin class interferes with other training. If it does, spin classes are interfering with the bigger plan.

3. Radical suggestion: People, even spin class participants, love personal attention. Take a cue from the aerobics instructors: Once you get the class going, you can move between the bikes telling individuals how to modify their pedal strokes, change the position of their hips, adjust resistance to get the right intensity and so on. Then when the hard interval is over, get back on your spinner and demonstrate how to cool down.

Cleat position and seat height

Thank you for all the great advice you provide about cleat position and cyclist posture/biomechanics. I have a question, one that a few others in our Belgium bike club have also wondered about.

I have been riding 15 years, have been told my flexibility is way above average, have never really had on-the-bike problems and thus I have suffered little biomechanical problems on the bike save for shimming my left cleat due to a 6mm left leg being shorter than the right. I ride Sidi shoes (I have narrow feet, size 45) and Look (red cleat) pedals. The ball joint on both shoes/cleats has been about 5mm forward of the axle crank center.

After years of wondering, I recently decided (trying to get to your 10mm suggestion) to just shove the red cleats back as far as they could go on the Sidi shoes, to test your theories. On the first and ensuing ride after doing this, I was in heaven, feeling a more powerful plant on the pedals, feeling even more better in posture (something I couldn't believe), and not noticing any toe pointing in and/or out.

My question is this: when a person begins moving the cleats of any shoe back to lengths you suggest in your articles, what should we be doing with the seat height and seat front/back position? For example, I changed nothing else on the bike when I slid the red cleats all the way back (keeping their same position for everything else). I have noticed over the weeks some soreness in my right (longer leg) frontal knee area (almost like a meniscus soreness), but nothing that my flexibility and comfort while on the bike can't overcome and/or just ignore.

In general, should there be some seat height and/or front-back adjustment when moving cleats to your suggested lengths?

David Whetzel
Mons, Belgium

Steve Hogg replies:

I am assuming from what you have implied that you moved the cleats back 5mm or so further on your shoes. Assuming this is the case, then it is probably likely that you need to drop the seat a couple of mm. I say 'likely' because sometimes a rearward change in cleat position can cause a rider to alter their pedaling technique. This can sometimes mean that seat height may even need to rise.

The balance test

I was reading the fitness letters and reference to getting the saddle position setup dialled using the 'balance test'. Can you point me to an article that explains this test?

Rolf Rae-Hansen

Steve Hogg replies:

We all want to have an effective position on a bike and there is a lot of often conflicting advice available regarding this. So let's start with basics and define a couple of terms. There are 2 basic philosophical approaches that can be taken to rider positioning; reductionist or holistic. A reductionist approach tends to focus on one aspect of the body. It might be a strict biomechanical approach based on statistical norms or it may be formula driven and based on mathematical formulae. Sometimes a mix of both is used.

I have 2 criticisms of this way of positioning people. The first is that methods based on averages tend to yield average results at best. How does anyone know whether they are Joe or Josephine average? Equally, even if they think they are, how do they know they are average in the various parameters of position that may be considered by any particular reductionist method? 'Average' people are creations of marketing companies, not of real life in most cases. At least, that has been my experience to date. The second criticism that I have is that this way of doing things tends to attract people that learn a 'recipe' or formula and too often this tends to blind them to seeing what is in front of them in any single case. Reductionist methods can be a crutch for those who don't want to think or a hindrance to those that do, but are worried about departing from a formula or recipe based on mathematical/biomechanical/marketing cred at some level.

A holistic approach considers the whole body. An effective position is comprised of often contending requirements. As an example, a rider may want to be aerodynamic but if he pursues that idea too far, breathing ability and power output may be compromised. Or a rider may want terrific leverage on the pedals at low rpm for hills but also be able to spin like really fast when necessary. To pursue either too far will compromise the ability to do the other well. That is what a bike position is; a set of compromises based around the structural and functional realities of the rider and the type of use they wish to put their body and bike to. This makes the task of positioning the rider much more of a task of judgement than of applying norms or formulae and this is something that a lot of people in the positioning biz are uncomfortable with.

So how to go about it and what basis should we operate on?

Let's start with the most basic requirement - neurological fitness. Neurological fitness is the measure of how accurately the signals from the brain and the feedback from the body to the brain travel around the body and is largely determined by how adequate our level of Structural fitness (posture, flexibility and core strength) is. At any moment in time, our level of Structural fitness is a given. No one can change or improve themselves instantly in that regard by waving a magic wand but they can base their position on principles that allow the most efficient use of the motor control parts of their brain no matter what their current Structural fitness level. If they don't, then optimal performance within the constraints of their current structural limitations will always be elusive.

How do we do that?

The way we have evolved neurologically means that our brain gives absolute priority to our postural musculature (allows us to stand erect, hold any given position, plays a very large part in breathing) and lesser priority to our phasic musculature (power producing). If you accept that statement and my understanding is that it is fact, not conjecture; then in the quest for greatest efficiency on a bike, it makes sense to sit on a bike in such a way as to involve the least amount of postural musculature in holding a position on the bike. That way we can devote the greatest effort neurologically and physiologically to propelling the bike rather than in maintaining a position.

Still with me?

If you are, the only way to limit postural muscle involvement on a bike is to have the seat the minimum distance behind the bottom bracket that allows the rider to cantilever their torso out from their pelvis without unnecessary enlistment of torso or shoulder complex musculature to support that upper body weight. Just how far the seat needs to be back is an individual thing that will depend on the core strength, proportions and flexibility of the rider involved.

A simple example: 2 measurably identical riders. Rider 1 has a tight lower back and poor ability to extend (flatten ) the mid thoracic spine. Rider 2 is quite flexible. Rider 1 will need to sit further forward than Rider 2 because his back is convexely curved and so doesn't throw as much of his torso weight forward. Rider 2 may have greater ability to support that extra effective torso length gained by his greater ability to extend his spine but he still has a longer effective torso length. That means that he may need to sit anywhere from slightly further back than Rider1 to way further back depending on a host of other factors.

The short cut to achieving this is what I call the Balance Test. A brief description is as follows. Get on your bike and ride with hands in drops on flat road in a large gear where you are working hard muscularly and are at about 85 - 90 rpm. Take your hands off the bars and hold them beside the bars. Can you do this without arching your back, swinging your arms back or falling uncontrollably forward?

If not, then you may have your seat too far forward. I say 'may' because many peoples level of structural fitness is so poor, and usually accompanied by asymmetries of pelvic function, that they are inherently unstable on a bike seat. That means that they use their shoulder and upper body muscles to brace and stabilise themselves with no matter what. For those people, and there are a lot out there, it becomes a case of best possible compromise. They may not be able to pass the balance test without a lot of structural improvement, but they should feel that the great majority of their weight is borne underneath their sit bones and little borne by their arms.

Cross checks to determine whether you have got it right.

1. Apart from the structurally superior few, you should be able to teeter on the point of balance, not be rock solid.
2. If you are too far back, good leverage and being able to push a big gear will be fine but ability to pedal fast will be compromised.
3. If you are not far back enough, spinning will be fine but big gear ability (relative to strength and ability) will be compromised.
4. A pre condition for all of this is good cleat position as has been mentioned many times in various posts. Cleat position plays a large part in the way the muscles of the leg are enlisted and how stable we are on pedals and seat. See these articles on cleat position and the ball of the foot.
5. Other factors that can derail this are bars that are too far away or too low for a particular riders ability to reach them comfortably under load.
6. Even if all is okay, there will be weight on the bars at low speeds and intensities. The idea is the harder the rider goes, the greater the unweighting of the bars. Remember that it is at high intensities that we need to be really efficient.

In simple terms, the holding of a position should be effortless or nearly so. That way all available effort, neurological, muscular, whatever, can be used to drive that bike down the road. In other words, the position is held passively rather than actively.

What happens if we don't do things this way?

Well for most, they will have too much weight forward for a minority they will be too far back). When there is too much weight borne by the upper body at high intensity (and we have all seen people who look like they are trying to drag their bike down the road with their arms and shoulders when going hard. The back arches and tenses, the shoulders tense and the arms tighten) breathing ability is restricted. There are 20 muscles used in respiration of which 18 have postural implications. That means that they can also be used to bear weight and stabilise the upper body with. If they are bearing weight and stabilising the upper body, then they cannot relax to allow full breathing. It is unlikely that this will matter too much at low speeds and intensities but most races are decided by who can perform the longest at higher intensities. Meaning that if you want the best chance of winning you need to tick the box marked 'Ride at lowest metabolic cost'. The Balance Test, correctly applied is the big picture of being able to do that.

There are plenty of other details but that will get anyone with a modicum of body awareness pretty close to where they need to be in terms of seat position fore and aft. Providing that they have good cleat position and seat height.

Positioning for mountain biking

I was wondering if the recommendations for cleat positioning or saddle fore/aft position are any different for a mountain bike than a road bike Originally, when I got my mountain bike, the shop set me up with the saddle farther forward than I have on my road bike and told me that it should be different than a road bike. But I wasn't comfortable so I gradually changed my position back to what I had on my road bike and then everything felt fine. So, is there any reason that a mountain bike position should be different? Should I just get used to the position?

Dave Walker
Livermore, CA

Scott Saifer replies:

For maximal power and comfort on the flat, the mountain bike should be set up similarly to the road bike in terms of cleat position, saddle height and setback. If you are using your mountain bike for cross training for the road season, making the fits match is probably your best bet. The difference between the road and mountain bike is that on the mountain bike, bike handling can be as high a priority as power and comfort.

Now if you do a lot of very steep climbing and you've set up your bike so you have minimal weight on your hands on the flat, you're going to have negative weight on the hands on steep up and very little weight on the front wheel. You might fix this by moving the seat forward, or by sliding forward on the saddle when climbing. Moving the saddle forward compromises power and comfort on the flat and moderate grades, so I'd suggest sticking with sliding forward on the saddle.

Many riders who enjoy technical descending like a higher bar position than they might have on a road bike. This is a personal preference item. If you can see down the trail on a steep descent without straining your neck, your bars are high enough.

Note that I've said the position should be "similar" not "identical". Feel free to play with the position a bit to see what allows you to come back from your rides with minimal fatigue in the postural muscles.

Winter training

I wouldn't pretend to be an expert on winter training methods, but I find validity of both arguments in doing long winter rides and short 20 minute power intervals. I've been riding/training racing for the past 20 years.

I also understand a little about athletic training/physiology/kinesiology as a physical rehab therapist. I've found in the past when I have done mostly the long winter base mile training, I came into the season unable to sustain high energy intervals and my sprinting ability was terrible. It makes sense to perform shorter high power workouts. After all, muscles are keenly activity specific.

When I've gone the other way and engaged in mostly shorter high intensity workouts, I've come into the season fairly competitive, but lacked the endurance to perform high intensity efforts over time. I think the old maxim "Ride your bike" has always been the most obvious and wisest method.

When one looks at resistive weight training to build muscle mass and strength, one can see how repetitive training with a specific muscular activity improves that muscles ability to perform that particular task. I'm certain it's the same for high effort intervals, sprinting and climbing.

Whatever you're looking to improve, constant repetition with an eye to push the envelop is the key. Coaching or experience is important to know how much and how hard and how often and how and when to rest. I find the longer winter ride is also a great time to work on pedal speed and stroke efficiency.

Dan Mitchell

Scott Saifer replies:

You are 100% right that a winter of all base will bring you to the season unprepared for hard effort, and a winter of all harder effort, or of training with hard effort being a large percentage of training time, will bring you to the season without the endurance to survive the races strong enough to take advantage of your ability to make a hard effort.

The weak, argumentative answer is that you can get your speed back in a few weeks or a month, but that once you start racing you won't get endurance so if you have to choose all base or all intervals, choose all base.

The stronger answer is to note that each component of training has a typical time course, and to commence each component the appropriate time before the important races of the year so that you peak in all aspects of physical and mental fitness at the correct time for your season or for the races you care about most. For most riders, that can be accomplished by having a few months of pure base, followed by a few months in which more intensity is gradually incorporated into the plan, culminating with race-like intensity or practice racing to put the finishing touches on race fitness.

Training after injury

I'm a 32 year old male cyclist. 11 weeks ago I was injured in a collision with a car. My doctors have advised that I can start riding again in a week's time, but eager to get back out on the road, I did a 20km criterium today. First time on the bike and first race of the season in one go. While happy that I was able to finish without too much discomfort, I think that I have lost a lot of muscle/ strength in my legs and nearly all of my fitness. My weight has dropped around 2kg in this time. I finished last and rode at an average speed 5km/h slower than previous times and with my heart rate close to max the whole time.

Prior to the accident on weekdays I was doing 1hour in the mornings and 1hour at night on the indoor trainer and sometimes 1hour 45minutes at night to catch up on missed sessions, combined with a 3 hour ride on a Saturday, with no hills and the same with hills on a Sunday. I did this for 6 months over winter. Also with some swimming at lunch time and running in the mornings when away on business trips and holidays (1hr run). So min of 16hrs a week cycling.

All of the work on the trainer and running was base building with no anaerobic work. The plan was to cut down the base training and start interval/AT work at the beginning of the season, cutting back the hours but increasing the intensity.

Now I'm at the point where I'm not really sure where I should restart my training. Should I start with intervals/AT to build back the muscle. Or do I start over again on the base work. Will my fitness and strength come back quickly or is going to be slow process. I had always subscribed to the theory that if you had a week off training it took 2 weeks to get the fitness back. If this is true will it take me 22 weeks (6 months) to get the fitness back?

Michael Glennon

Scott Saifer replies:

As you read this, try to be glad that you survived the collision and are able to ride again. Unless you've been doing some aerobic work while off the bike, you are back to square-one on training and fitness. Your ratio of two weeks training for each week off is about right, but fortunately it only applies to shorter times off, up to a few weeks, otherwise guys who start to train in the 40s could never get fit.

After a long break you can train back to really good fitness in probably 3-5 months. You won't be as capable as if you had never been injured, but you'll be as capable as you would have been this season before you were injured unless you were an elite, international or top national level athlete. Just to complete the discussion, after such a long break a top level athlete would expect to be at 100% most likely in the second year.

Your 4-5 months of training should start with base work again. When you have the same speed and power for a given heart rate or perceived exertion that you had before your injuries, you are ready to move on to more intense training. In the 4-5 months I'm including a month of transitional racing, so you could start racing in 3-4 months and expect to go decently well. You can also shorten that time if your goal is just to race and forget the competition. The problem is that if you make the training time much shorter, you'll have a very short season as you'll be going past your red-line in almost every race, as you have already experienced.

Crank length

Is there any truth in the following formula? Recommended crank length in millimeters = (1.25 * inside leg in cm ) + 65

Until recently I had been using a 170mm crank length, then I purchased my new bike which has 172.5mm. Apart from the obvious changes in geometry going from one manufacture to another, I noticed that the longer crank felt very strange and reduced my explosive power. But this was offset by the fact that I moved to a stiffer frame. So in summary, I actually have not lost nor gained from buying a new bike, just feel a little strange. Wanting to know more about crank length, I stumbled across this formula. My inside leg is 80cm and my height is 178cm, if you crunch those numbers the answer comes out as 165mm crank length. This might be for a track crank I am not sure.


Scott Saifer replies:

The ideal crank length depends on the intended use and the individual rider. This formula is not accompanied by an intended use, ergo is not valid. Now, even assuming it was accompanied by an intended use, a formula that takes into account only inside leg length is probably not going to be valid for all riders.

I recently dealt with a 6'5" (1.97m) rider with legs as long as you would expect for such a height, but comparatively tiny feet at size 39. He could not make effective use of 180 or even 177 mm cranks even after many months of trying, but spun like a top on 175s.

Unless spinning smoothly is not considered to be important, I take that to mean that foot size or at least some variable other than leg length is important in choosing crank length.


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