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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 January 23, 2007

Cycling and tinnitus
Kcal, poor man's SRM?
Back of the knee pain
SLR saddles
Discomfort in the drops
Heart rate dangerously high?
Hip movement while in the drops
Crude VO2 max measurement

Cycling and tinnitus

My ears have been "ringing" for 6 years, and the one specialist I went to never asked me about cycling, and I didn't think to mention it. Now a buddy of mine has had a tinnitus diagnosis, and cycling was listed amongst various causal factors. Of the basic list of caffeine, alcohol, and drug abuse listed, I can say that a couple of cups of coffee a day and a couple of beers/wine probably do not fall into the abuse category.

But if we are talking riding, then hyper-extending your neck for 2-3 hours a day does sound somewhat abusive. I have been riding for close to 30 years, but my intensity picked up greatly about 10 years ago. Could the sport I love really have my ears ringing?


Jon Heidemann replies:

Tinnitus is one of those medical issues that plague a lot more people than most of us realize. Unfortunately, a single direct cause has not been medically determined. The source of that sensation (cochlea) is affected by many issues in its normal function: air pressure, attitude or position of the head, temperature, cavity and tissue infections, natural and unnatural internal damage, dehydration, etc. Lately, there is some pretty substantial evidence that food allergies may play a significant role, too. These things were all mentioned by your casual investigation.

Does cycling actually play a role in the onset of tinnitus? Well the environment that is created for you while cycling may help to create episodes of tinnitus: the position of the head, the increased fluctuations of positive and negative air pressure inside the ear canal as you are moving down the road, possible dehydration and body temperature rise from the activity. The cycling environment could simply be a catalyst for the severity or occurrence of tinnitus if you have undiagnosed hearing or nerve damage in your cochlea or a food allergy.

I suggest experimenting with that environment. Does this also occur if riding inside (without a fan to eliminate air movement around and past the head) on a trainer? What about if sitting on an indoor recumbent exercise bike (to change the position of the head while cycling)? Food allergies are also worth investigating. Does the onset of tinnitus occur at consistent times while riding (90 minutes or 3 hours into a ride, as examples)? Do they happen more often in the afternoon vs. the morning?

One cautionary issue to be aware of is that during severe episodes of tinnitus, the normal sense of balance can be adversely affected. If this proves to be the case, riding outside is not recommended because of obvious safety reasons. A consult from an audiologist or neurologist is greatly advised. An audiologist can provide a referral to neurologists who specialize in hearing and balance issues stemming from the inner ears cochlear nerve.

Good luck with managing this issue. It will take some investigational effort on your part, but the more information you can gather from your specific symptoms and special environment, the more information you can provide your doctor, audiologist or neurologist if you need to see one.

Kcal, poor man's SRM?

Do you think it is possible to have the Kcal expenditure during workout as an indication of training goal?

I have heard you can use an SRM system as an indicator for how much you need to train during each training session, for example a training ride should last for 2000 watts - when that's accomplished the training is over.

Can the same thing be achieved using accumulated Kcal from a Polar heart rate monitor?

The training session should last for 2000 Kcal, when that's accomplished the training is over. And if so, can a weekly schedule be put together to build a periodization program to peak one's performance based on Kcal?

Of course the periodization program needs to take into account at what intensity to train in and so on...but still, can Kcal be used as a poor man's SRM?


Scott Saifer replies:

The total energy output during a training session is an interesting variable but not one to build your training plan around, whether it is measured by Polar HRM or by SRM, unless your goal is simply to expend calories.

There are several problems with energy expenditure as a metric of when one has done enough training. One obvious one is that it doesn't change with fatigue. If your goal is 200 Kcal, you're likely to go out and expend 200 Kcal even if what your body really needs is rest.

Back of the knee pain

I started getting a pain at the back of my right knee about a month ago. It started about 40 minutes into a ride, into a head wind, but spinning at about 100 revs. Oddly it doesn't seem as bad when there's more resistance.

I've seen a physio, who said the pain is in the popliteus muscle. I've been treating it with ice, massage and stretching. It seems to be getting a bit better, and is better some days than others. (I didn't ride yesterday, but it's worse today than it's been all week.)

I changed from Speedplay pedals to Time pedals about two months before the pain occurred with seemingly no problems. I can only assume this was a delayed reaction to the change, so have since changed back to my Speedplay pedals. However the knee is still not quite right.

I have been doing a bit of DIY, with a lot of kneeling and standing on ladders, if that could be a factor.

Matt Eastwood

Steve Hogg replies:

You mentioned you had changed pedals from Time to Speedplay. Speedplays are a great pedal but their major weakness in my view is that the standard baseplate has less rearward adjustment than most other pedals. You may have ended up with your less foot over the pedal than you have had in the past. Have a look at these posts on cleat and ball position and attempt to gain the cleat position recommended there.

If you can't do that, order Speedplay part no. 13330 which is a set of alternate baseplates that allow up to 15mm more rearward adjustment of the cleat. Position the cleats as suggested in the posts. Drop your seat 3-5 mm anyway and if following those posts means moving the cleats back on the sole of the shoe substantially, then drop your seat another few mm to allow for the greater extension of the more rearward cleat position.

One last thing; the popliteus can occasionally play up if you don't have the rotational angle of your cleats correct. It is a good idea and simpler to check that first before following the advice above.

SLR saddles

Just read Steve Hogg's post on SLRs. I am tall and lean but a bit heavier (6'3" and 85kg), and found SLR and SLR XP to be as hard as hell after an hour. The SLR XC however, I find the most comfortable saddle I've ridden. The thing I have found with SLRs (of all the aforementioned variants), is that they are mostly not straight: looking from the front the right side is higher (I have packed under the left rails to level it).

Bill McCourt
Brisbane, Australia

Steve Hogg replies:

Yeah, my backside likes the shape as well but needs a bit more padding over the long haul than the SLR provides. Weight is a funny thing. I have customers of your weight who think SLR's are a comfortable seat and don't have problems with long rides on them and others who like the shape, but like me find there is time limit to riding them.

The XC is the same shell but more heavily padded. I chose the Gelflow because it was the only other variant around at the time they came on the market though it was called the Trans Am at the time.

Discomfort in the drops

I am writing in response to a post I saw from Jan 2nd. I also feel discomfort in the drops.

My back story is that I have been riding seriously for about 3 years and am more a triathlete then I am a cyclist. I really do enjoy the cycling portion of my sport and work on it as often as I can. As you know, the cycling of the triathlon event is essentially a time trial and being as aero as possible is a good thing. I currently ride a Cannodale CAAD8 and I love the ride.

I feel no discomfort in any portion of the ride, distance, strong effort, climb... nothing. Except for getting into the drops. I find that I can't stay in the drops for anything longer then about 4-5 minutes. I start to feel tired and a little winded, almost like I am not getting enough air. This is accompanied with a cramped feeling in that position. I am a larger rider, 5'11' 193lbs so perhaps I am not made to go fast.

Also I have found that the better my conditioning has become over the last several years the longer I can stay in the drops.

Cleveland, USA

Scott Saifer replies:

Discomfort in the drops is not nearly as uncommon as it should be, but it sounds like you have a relatively unique sort of discomfort. It's possible that the reason you feel like you don't get enough air is because you are actually unable to fully inflate you lungs while in that position. If your bars and low and your belly is big, this would not be too surprising.

I'd like you to test one possible cause of the feeling that you are not getting enough air as follows: Mount your bike on a trainer and pedal along at an easy pace. Sit up-right in a no-hands position, take a very deep breath and hold it. As soon as you begin holding your breath, tilt forward onto the drops. Now open your throat as if to resume breathing, but try to inhale a little bit more.

If you can get more air in, we can conclude that your position is not compressing your chest and that is not why you feel a ability to get enough air. On the other hand if a puff of air is forced out when you try to breath on the drops, we can conclude that you really are compressing your breathing space when you go on the drops. If that is the case, the solution will be to reduce the belly-thigh interference, perhaps by raising the bars with a tilted-up stem or by moving the seat forward and the bars forward as well.

Heart rate dangerously high?

While attending my weekly spin class during the winter, my hear rate for most of the 45 minute session ( I generally arrive early and warm up for at least 15 minutes) is between 170 and 185 unless I make a conscious effort to moderate it, and even then I try to maintain at least 170.

I recently spoke with my cardiologist and he was a bit dismayed when I told him that I got my heart rate up past 180.

I am a 39 year old male (slightly over weight currently). Should I be concerned?

The most I have ever recorded on my heart rate monitor is 196 and when I am in shape (or at least have biked most of the summer) my pulse drops to between 45-55.


Scott Saifer replies:

There is nothing wrong with getting your heart rate over 180 unless you have some other problem that might be exacerbated by the effort. Many cyclists have maximum heart rates over 200 bpm and can cruise with some degree of comfort at 180, while others will be gasping at that level.

In either case, if the rider is healthy, there is no danger other than fatigue and possibly over training if that is a hard effort for you and that effort is repeated too frequently.

Hip movement while in the drops

I apologize in advance for adding another question to a seemingly endless stream of positioning related questions sent to this forum.

I've read almost all of Steve Hogg's past advice, and I'm much more comfortable on my bike than I was before I started reading this forum. For instance, I set my saddle farther back enough so that I have no problem supporting my torso when I let go of my hands in the drops while riding sufficiently hard.

However, my hip starts to slide forward as soon as I let go of the bar. Is this indicative of any potential improvement on my riding position? Have I set my saddle too far back, or should I move it even farther back? Or could it be something entirely different?

Ken Sugawara
Tokyo, Japan

Steve Hogg replies:

You say that your hips slide forward when you take your hands off the drops but have no problem supporting your torso when you let go of the drops. So I assume that there is a measure of control. You let go, feel a tendency to come forward on the seat but that is controllable more or less.

The largest variable with the balance test is how functional the rider is pelvically. If they are asymmetrically tight in either hip or low back or symmetrically very tight, then they will be inherently unstable to whatever degree and use their upper body to stabilise with. This may be you, I don't know.

If you are sliding forward a touch then the next pedal stroke pushes you backwards, you slide forward a touch and then the following pedal stroke pushes you backwards, then you have nothing to worry about.

My feeling is that we should be a touch forward of our centre of gravity and the above experience (if that is what you are doing) is indicative of that. If a rider has really superior dynamic core strength, they can be rock solid with hands off bars but there aren't many capable of that.


Here is my problem. I am 62 years old, and I ride about 3000 miles a year. It's almost all on the road - on a Litespeed Classic. I have had the bike for 5 years. Last year I started getting terrible cramps in my quadriceps after a hard 40 mile ride. We try to average 18mph on our rides, and they are hilly.

I drink a lot of water, and take no prescription drugs -only vitamins and a baby aspirin. There has been no change in the set-up on my bike, so I am at a loss as to why I am having these bad cramps in my upper legs. It started last year, and happened again this year

Bob Connelly
Chattanooga, TN, USA

Scott Saifer replies:

Since the cramps always hit the same muscle, I'm suspicious that muscle is being overworked as the result of a bike-fit problem. Quads are called on excessively if the saddle is too low or too far forward generally.

Any chance that while you have not deliberately changed the set up, the seat post may have slipped a bit?

Click here for a PDF detailing other causes of cramps and possible cures.

Crude VO2 max measurement

I am interested in performing a self administered VO2 max test for cycling. I do not run so I would like to conduct it on a stationary bike. Do you have an links or suggestions on how to perform one?

Ben Badagliacca
Buffalo, NY, USA

Scott Saifer replies:

You cannot perform a true VO2 max test without some pretty fancy gas measuring equipment. You need to be able to measure the amount of oxygen in your inhaled and exhaled air while you gradually increase effort up to the VO2 max level.

Many gyms and university sports departments have the necessary equipment. If you ask around, you may be able to get tested for free if you are willing to be a subject for a study or for students to practice running the test.

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