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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 February 20, 2007

Recovering from mononucleosis
Underwear or not?
Saddle height, toe overlap and the balance test
Toe numbness in right foot
Cold and numbness in feet and hands
Crank length
Gastric distress after rides
Recommended training program

Recovering from mononucleosis

I'm a 22-year old college student who was recently diagnosed with mononucleosis. I'm a Cat 2 racer on the road. My first collegiate race is only two weeks away. My first major event is five weeks away.

One week ago I was training hard and starting to see some real gains in power. It was five days ago that I last felt "bad." I've been feeling normal since then. Do you have any wisdom for me on when I can start full-time training again? Should I scrap hopes of competing in the first collegiate event?

Owen Nielsen

Scott Saifer replies:

First, you have my sympathy. Second, if you really have mononucleosis, you can scrap not just that first race but your whole season most likely. A 'quick' case of mononucleosis is about three months. A slow one could be nine months or longer.

When you have mononucleosis, you'll be on a roller coaster of fatigue, seeming recovery and fatigue again. You can try training again when you feel decent for a week or so, though you don't know if that is recovery or just a hill on the roller coaster until a few weeks later. Trying to train while you have mononucleosis may or may not make it take longer to pass. The time course is so variable that it's almost impossible to say. My guess is that you'll be ready to train again in the late summer or in the fall.

Underwear or not?

I'm new to road cycling - do people wear underwear beneath their nicks or not? I did but boy did it rub. If I don't wear them pubic hair is poking sticking out everywhere. Do I need to shave down there just to enjoy my ride? What's the protocol?


Scott Saifer replies:

No underwear. Yes some sort of chamois lubricant. Don't cut that hair down to zero length unless you want ingrown hairs. You can cut it short enough to keep it inside your nicks if you want. Or just wear black and be comfortable knowing that nobody but you knows that the hair is sticking out.

Saddle height, toe overlap and the balance test

This is a combined question. What is the determining factor in saddle height, is it the 30 degree angle that is spoken of in numerous fitting articles, or is it another one of the mysteries that eludes so many?

Toe overlap. Should there be any? Or is it sometimes one of the problems with fitting certain people?

The balance test. I know that you state that this is a good way to find out if you are sitting too far forward, but this also would go against the KOPS (Knee Over Pedal Spindle) method that is so readily thrown out to us.

I am basically giving you topics here that I would like to hear your opinion on.

I find that with the balance test, I sit behind the pedal spindle. Could being farther back cause a cyclist to put strain on the knees, or is this typically something that happens when you are too forward? I can ride in a very low position for rides even in the 5.5 to 6 hour range. My leg at the bottom of the pedal stroke is at the upper limit of the aforementioned 30 degrees. I have toe overlap, but to get rid of it I would either need to be on a frame with a fork that has more rake or more wheelbase, which would put me to using a stem that is very short on a larger wheelbase frame.

Bruce Humphries

Steve Hogg replies:

Determining factor in seat height? Hamstring flexibility. The hamstrings contract in part on the pedal downstroke even though they are extending as a whole. If the hamstring is overstretched, it usually becomes obvious on a hard hilly ride or a ride where you are forcing the gear. Forget the 30 degree angle. I am not saying it is totally without merit but am saying it is the product of averaging and also hard to measure accurately. The best seat height is one where the rider can reach the bottom of the pedal stroke with power, fluency and control with both legs, while forcing the gear up a steepish hill without ill effects afterwards. These can be a knot high in the hamstrings just under the glutes, niggles at the back of the knee, perineal tenderness from contact with the seat and so on.

As viewed from the side under controlled conditions, the extension of the knee should not accelerate noticeably just before the bottom of the stroke. If it is, control is being compromised which means that when under pressure, the rider will stamp hard but have to coast through the bottom of the pedal stroke to some degree. This means higher peak muscular contractions for a given average power and lesser ability to maintain the effort.

Toe overlap, should there be any? In an ideal world no; in reality more often than not. Let me differentiate between what I call 'technical overlap' and 'dangerous overlap'. Technical overlap is where the shoe can hit the front wheel during a walking pace U turn if the rider is careless. Dangerous overlap is just that - dangerous, and is a rare thing. Even with technical overlap it is impossible to hit the foot on the wheel at any speed above about 8 kms an hour. This is because the front wheel would have to be turned so far in the attempt to hit the foot, that bike and rider would likely crash before there was foot to front wheel contact. I would call dangerous overlap a situation where the foot can hit the front wheel at speeds above 8 km/h. While I have seen a couple of instances of this, it is rare.

Most of the riders I position leave here with cleats further back on the shoe than when they walked in the door. This increases the chances of toe overlap but I have never had a complaint about dangerous overlap.

Re the balance test. Of course it goes against KOPS (Knee Over Pedal Spindle). After 30 years I am still waiting for someone to explain to me the immutable truth in KOPS, or why it exists at all. I think its currency has more to do with endless repetition than any particular merit. Repeat something often enough for long enough and becomes 'true'. For many people KOPS equates to a seat position that is too far forward. For a sizable minority, particularly riders with really inflexible low backs and hips, KOPS can place the seat too far back. I think there are factors more important in arriving at an efficient and comfortable position on a bike than adherence to some arbitrary relationship.

Toe numbness in right foot

I am a 40 year old male 184 cm 87 kg. I have a short left leg, but only by about 10mm. I ride weekends only covering 50-65km in a ride. During the week I run about 25 km and do one sprint session (running) so I am in a reasonable state of fitness. I have been experiencing numbness in the three smallest toes on my right foot.

The numbness starts in the little toe after about half an hour and progresses to the other two by the one hour mark. When I get off the bike the numbness goes away fairly quickly. I feel like I am sitting on a nerve as I don't experience any muscle soreness or weakness in the right leg.

I recently changed saddles (from Selle Italia SLR transam to Fizik Arione) and this has helped slightly but not cured the problem. I was otherwise quite comfortable on the SLR. Is there anything you can suggest I should look at in my setup to alleviate the numbness? A cycling friend suggested getting expensive nicks with better padding. Would this be a likely cure?


Steve Hogg replies:

Here is a stab in the dark. If your right leg is measurably longer, the greater torque developed over a life time at the right hip can leave you with an anterior iliac crest. When this happens, the right sacro iliac joint will be restricted at some level and the right glutes, hamstrings and hip flexors are likely tighter than the left side as a consequence. It is also a reasonable bet that you favour the longer right leg on the bike. I am betting on nerve compression somewhere lower back and foot as being the culprit.

Find a physiotherapist with a reasonable knowledge of neuroanatomy and you should be able to get a result.

It would be a good idea to compensate for that 10 mm discrepancy on the bike too.

Cold and numbness in feet and hands

I'm convinced my problem is twofold: a physiological problem, made worse by poor shoe fit and cleat position. I'm looking for some input regarding the physiological nature of my problem, which is severe cold and numbness in my feet and hands, made worse by, but independent of, cycling and environmental conditions.

Throughout my adult life I have often mentioned to friends and family that I suffered from cold feet. It was never anything more than a curiosity, occasionally a nuisance , and generally motivated me to wear wool socks during the winter, and give up skiing.

Over the last 3+ years, as my involvement with cycling increased, the cold feet syndrome has gotten progressively worse, including outright numbness in my feet, and has been accompanied, to a lesser degree, by cold hands. For a time I chalked it up to the colder weather associated with cyclo-cross season. The deeper into the fall and winter the colder my feet and hands got - no combination of socks, booties or gloves made a difference.

But this past fall, and currently, due to another work assignment change, for the first time I've had to do 80% of my training on a trainer indoors. Yet my feet are still cold and numb; the hands less so (no numbness in hands except during extreme cold - 20's or less). Thus it's become apparent to me that it is not just a function of cold weather.

In hindsight I realize that I experience the same sensation year around, but during the summer it's not perceived as cold feet, but more of a heightened awareness of my feet, a glow, or an aura maybe. Not a buzz or tingle. I seem to be especially sensitive to exposure to even moderately cold environments - and living in northern Calif. that means just 50 degree Fahrenheit or less.

I walk outside and my feet and hands are instantly cold. I also experience it when not on the bike, and while just living and working indoors. On the bike the sensation is always present. Off the bike it's intermittent, arising as often while at home sitting on my couch over a carpeted floor, as it does at work sitting at my desk over a bare tile-covered concrete floor; whether I'm wearing wool socks and wool slippers, or wearing two pair of wool socks in thick leather work boots tramping around my property.

Bruce Lodge
California, USA

David Fleckenstein replies:

This sounds very much like Raynaud's syndrome, which is a vasospastic condition where the small arteries into the feet and hands constrict, and is usually triggered by environmental stress (typically exposure to cold).

I would recommend seeing a physician who can confirm and possibly help treat the symptoms. I have had clients see a rhematologist, as these symptoms can occasionally be indicative of some autoimmune conditions.

Crank length

I've read many of your articles on crank length. One question I’m not sure if you've had yet: Does it matter if I run a 175 on my triathlon bike and a 172.5 on my road (training) bike, or do they need to be the same?

Also, do you feel that triathletes should drop down one size from the recommended size to save their legs for the run, or does it matter?

Ryan Bates

Steve Hogg replies:

Do different crank lengths matter on different bikes? I can't give you a definitive answer. If you are riding both bikes regularly, or riding each bike exclusively for blocks of training; it probably doesn't matter much as you will get used to them. 2.5mm is less than 1.5% difference in crank length. I suspect that there are probably greater differences between your bikes than 2.5mm of crank length.

Do you use the same seats on both bikes? In the same relative position? The same shoes? With the same relative cleat placement? The same pedal system? The same bars in the same relative position?

If the answer to any of those queries is no, then you have more to adjust to than a small change in crank length.

Should triathletes use a shorter crank? Again, I wouldn't make any blanket recommendation. Athletes and their abilities and susceptibilities vary. If you are concerned about this in any way, then the simplest solution is to use the same crank length on both bikes.

Gastric distress after rides

In Pam Hinton's reply to this question, she didn't address the possibility that the rider is suffering from insufficient electrolytes in the gut. This seems to be a possibility, since the rider said that he has switched from drinking electrolyte drinks to just drinking water.

As I understand it, if you don't have enough electrolytes in your gut, then your body can't absorb the contents, because it is guarding against diluting the electrolytes in your blood. Thus, stomach upset results, particularly if you're continuing to down any food that then just sits there.

On several occasions, I've given cyclists who were suffering from gastric distress some electrolyte pills (Endurolytes) and they have been very effective at relieving the distress.

Nicholas Bull

Pam Hinton replies:

It is unlikely that the plain water is the cause of the gastrointestinal distress. Studies in humans have demonstrated that fluid absorption from the intestine is equivalent for plain water, 6% carbohydrate solution with sodium, and 6% carbohydrate without sodium (e.g., Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 33(6):907-915, June 2001.) Water absorption from the intestine is not dependent on concurrent ingestion of electrolytes. Blood electrolyte concentrations are regulated by the kidneys, not the gut.

Recommended training program

Could you help me with information for training programs on road cycling? I ride distances up to 70 miles but can not ride at high speed as I tend to drop a gear to lower resistance but keep up constant pedal speed. I struggle to keep in the high gear at a fast speed but seem okay going up hill against high resistance.

Mike Casey
Wigan, England

Scott Saifer replies:

You need a training plan, which is more than we can provide on this forum. Buy a book (mine [Bike Racing 101] or Joe Friel's Cyclist's Training Bible are good choices, though there are certainly other good ones), or hook up with a coach. A coach is better. No one can make a good plan for you without knowing a good deal more about you than what you've shared in your note.

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