Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for May 1, 2007
The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel
Carrie Cheadle, MA (www.carriecheadle.com)
is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping
athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie
specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track
racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology
from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology
from John F. Kennedy University.
Dave Palese (www.davepalese.com)
is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16
years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities
from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl,
daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.
Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of
Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before
obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000.
Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows,
he races Cat 3 and 35+. He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins,
CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural,
urgent care, inpatient and the like.
Fiona Lockhart (www.trainright.com)
is a USA Cycling Expert Coach, and holds certifications from USA Weightlifting
(Sports Performance Coach), the National Strength and Conditioning Association
(Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach), and the National Academy
for Sports Nutrition (Primary Sports Nutritionist). She is the Sports
Science Editor for Carmichael Training Systems, and has been working in
the strength and conditioning and endurance sports fields for over 10
years; she's also a competitive mountain biker.
Eddie Monnier (www.velo-fit.com)
is a USA Cycling certified Elite Coach and a Category II racer. He holds
undergraduate degrees in anthropology (with departmental honors) and philosophy
from Emory University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.
Eddie is a proponent of training with power. He coaches cyclists (track,
road and mountain bike) of all abilities and with wide ranging goals (with
and without power meters). He uses internet tools to coach riders from
David Fleckenstein, MPT (www.physiopt.com)
is a physical therapist practicing in Boise, ID. His clients have included
World and U.S. champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes.
He received his B.S. in Biology/Genetics from Penn State and his Master's
degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University. He specializes in manual
medicine treatment and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilization
musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.
Since 1986 Steve Hogg (www.cyclefitcentre.com)
has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, a cycle shop specialising in rider
positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders
from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable
cycling problem.They include World and National champions at one end of
the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the
Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick
Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica
Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.
Pamela Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular
Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University
of Wisconsin-Madison. She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University
and is now an assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University
of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency
on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated
changes in menstrual function on bone health.
Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling
competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion.
Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.
Dario Fredrick (www.wholeathlete.com)
is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a
former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in
exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.
Scott Saifer (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
has a Masters Degree in exercise physiology and sports psychology and
has personally coached over 300 athletes of all levels in his 10 years
of coaching with Wenzel Coaching.
Kendra Wenzel (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
is a head coach with Wenzel Coaching with 17 years of racing and coaching
experience and is coauthor of the book Bike Racing 101.
Richard Stern (www.cyclecoach.com)
is Head Coach of Richard Stern Training, a Level 3 Coach with the Association
of British Cycling Coaches, a Sports Scientist, and a writer. He has been
professionally coaching cyclists and triathletes since 1998 at all levels
from professional to recreational. He is a leading expert in coaching
with power output and all power meters. Richard has been a competitive
cyclist for 20 years
Andy Bloomer (www.cyclecoach.com)
is an Associate Coach and sport scientist with Richard Stern Training.
He is a member of the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) and
a member of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES).
In his role as Exercise Physiologist at Staffordshire University Sports
Performance Centre, he has conducted physiological testing and offered
training and coaching advice to athletes from all sports for the past
4 years. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for many years.
Kim Morrow (www.elitefitcoach.com)
has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified
USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion,
and a Fitness Professional.
Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United
States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns
a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around
the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find
Advice presented in Cyclingnews' fitness pages is provided for educational
purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for individual
athletes. If you follow the educational information found on Cyclingnews,
you do so at your own risk. You should consult with your physician before
beginning any exercise program.
Is my bike growing?
Off season rowing training
Who should I see?
Getting back on the bike
There has been a lot of discussion recently about the benefit of placing the
cleat under the arch of the foot. I have a few questions regarding this.
If I remember correctly you mentioned that when placing the cleat midsole there
is no need for wedges to shim a forefoot varus/valgus, can you elaborate on
Also how would a LLD be affected by this? Would there be a need to change the
height of the shim? What about saddle height? How much should I lower it compared
to a MT position of the cleat?
Have you ever tried using two cleats under each shoe? A midfoot placement for
climbing and a MT position for sprinting/high cadence?
Steve Hogg replies:
I have to say at the outset that I am fairly new to midfoot cleat position
having only been introduced to it a short time ago. I will answer your questions
as best as my experience to date allows.
Re shims and wedges: I can't say NO need. Too early for me to say that. I can
certainly say LESS need.
For wedging, when the forefoot is not involved, there is no need for forefoot
correction providing the heel can sit in the shoe at an angle that accommodates
the needs of knee further up the pedaling chain. For some people with calcaneal
issues and shoes with an internal shape that force the heel into a certain relationship
with the shoe, wedging may be necessary. For most it would be true to say no
wedging is necessary. In my own case after eliminating wedging that I had used
successfully (in the sense of some reasonably severe injuries from years ago
not causing any pain or niggles) I found that I still need a small post under
the first MTP. This is the cost of a fairly damaged knee not causing me grief.
It is less compensation by far, than I have been able to use successfully in
For shims, again I don't know definitively yet. I have a client with a measurable
difference in leg length of 18mm. With his current cleat position and a 16mm
shim, his torque curve is quite even and very similar on each leg. He has ordered
some Biomac shoes that are designed for midfoot cleat position and I will experiment
with differential cleat position which is something that I haven't been crazy
about in the past, except when necessary to minimise rocking torque when using
a shim. With midfoot cleat position, the tarsometatarsal joint is such a stable
area of the foot, that it should be possible to have a measure of difference
in cleat position without the negatives that can otherwise occur.
A couple of years ago I had a client visit from the Netherlands whose major
issues were back pain. He has a measurable leg length discrepancy and one of
the measures that I instituted with him was to place a shim underneath the cleat
of the shorter leg. Mission accomplished in the sense of the back pain disappeared
and he told me later that his average power had increased. I am still in contact
with him and he has been experimenting with differential midfoot cleat position
recently. He tells me that he has been able to dispense with the shims that
I used and that he still has no back pain and that his average wattage has risen
again. This is a sample of one only, but it is a positive sign and I hope to
have a more informed opinion as time goes by. There has been interest in midfoot
cleat position amongst a number of my customers, so I have a few people who
are happy to be subjects for experiment.
If the LLD is all or mainly in the femur, theoretically, a shim should not
be necessary with midfoot cleat position unless the femur length difference
was so large that differential cleat position would not be enough to compensate
without unacceptable trade offs. When any difference in leg length is in the
lower limb, the picture is likely to be more complex and there has to be practical
limits beyond which shimming is necessary.
I apologise if I'm not giving cut and dried answers but I as I say, early days
for me with regard to midfoot cleat position.
Regarding seat height changes, there is no fixed amount that the seat needs
to drop. In my limited experience to date it has varied from 27mm (the amount
I needed to drop my own seat) to one case I know of where a 50mm drop was necessary.
The average seems to be 30-35 mm but a lot of this depends on where the foot
was over the pedal prior to changing to midfoot cleat position. I had the centre
of my first MTP 20mm in front of the pedal axle centre as measured with the
cleat horizontal (Speedplay) or 15 mm in front as measured with the foot level
(i.e, that is with shoe leveled where the sole joins the upper at mid heel and
where the sole joins the upper at mid forefoot).
In my case, changing to midfoot cleat position meant the cleat had to move
back an extra 43 mm for a size 44 shoe. For riders with first MTP over pedal
axle, the amount that the cleat needs to be moved back would be greater than
that for a similar sized foot.
The biggest problem with midfoot cleat position is actually achieving it. A
lot of shoes would need substantial modification and even then, it may not be
possible. Swiss made Biomac shoes are made to accommodate midfoot cleat position
but only with a two bolt cleat because like many shoes, the shape of the sole
in the midfoot is concave.. I got myself a pair of Biomacs and am using long
superseded Dura Ace SPD pedals. With the Biomac shoes, the sole is probably
5mm less thick than other shoes and that has an impact on the distance the seat
needs to be dropped too.
Have I tried two cleats on the shoe, one under the TMT (midfoot) and one under
Yes, but I only bothered persevering for a couple of rides. Firstly it is cumbersome
to be trying to exit each pedal and re-enter in a second position in the last
kms of a race when a few things can be happening. Secondly, initial jump in
the sprint aside, I have found that my ability to rev out a gear on or off the
seat has improved, my ability to hold a big gear when off the seat has improved
a lot and when on the seat slightly. That is just in the sprint. I am climbing
local hills faster than I normally do as well. Basically, as far as I'm concerned
it is all positive.
There are definitely efficiency gains. Through the generosity of a few friends
I have been able to cobble together torque analysis software and hardware. That
shows that the midfoot cleat position makes a substantial difference to the
torque curves of any rider that I have tested to date. Simply, at a given wattage,
speed and cadence; the midfoot position produces a torque curve with a lower
torque peak and higher torque trough than forefoot cleat position. What this
means is that the rider isn't pushing harder, but rather has less pressure on
the pedals but for more degrees of crank arc. Basically, the rider is able to
push for longer in each crank rotation. What the flattened curve also means
is that peak muscular contraction must be less for a given wattage. That means
that a given effort can be sustained for longer.
I have used the same indoor trainer for years and it measures power output.
I know historically, what the relationship between my heart rate and wattage
is while performing efforts on this trainer. What I am finding with the change
in cleat position is that in the longer efforts at a given wattage, my heart
rate is the same as I am used to seeing, but takes longer to rise. That would
seem to confirm what the torque analysis shows. In ramps tests, I still crack
at the same wattage as usual but can maintain that output for longer.
In conclusion, if you are interested in midfoot cleat position, try it. From
my experience to date, the negatives are a lessened ability to jump hard in
a sprint but that seems to be largely overcome by increased ability to maintain
a high speed in a sprint. The other potential problem is that on a conventional
frame, there is substantial toe overlap. This is only an issue at slow speeds
- walking pace, but has made me change a few low speed riding habits.
For me, those negatives are a cheap price to pay for the advantages which are
Here's an interesting one for you. I'm a 42 year Cat 1 from Texas who had a
L4L5 right-sided lumbar laminectomy in December 1993. In 2000, I had a L5S1
left-sided microdiscectomy. Due to complications from my first surgery I have
foot drop on my right side and my tibialis anterior has completely atrophied
and is basically nonexistent.
Obviously, this has resulted in a very inefficient pedal stroke as every time
I pull up on my right pedal, get out of the saddle to sprint, climb, etc, my
right foot drops resulting in an inefficient pedal stroke. As you might have
guessed, with foot drop on the right I have all kinds of muscular imbalances
from 12 years of cycling. But, surprisingly, with two back surgeries and a ton
of scar tissue to deal with, I have zero back pain and typically ride 250-400
miles per week.
With 12 years of dealing with back pain and a degree as a physical therapist,
you kind of become an expert at treating anyone's back pain as a result of your
experience with two back surgeries. The four things that I must do every day
to ride pain free on a consistent basis are stretch my hamstrings, hip flexors,
piriformis and hang from an inversion table for 10-15 minutes.
I have been a physical therapist since 1994 and this is how I have treated
my own deficits thus far. I have moved my pedal cleat back on my shoe as far
as it would go to decrease the fulcrum distance between the pedal spindle and
my ankle joint. This helped to decrease the foot drop during the upward pedal
The thing that has helped the most by far is purchasing a set of Rotor Cranks.
With the crank arms being offset and the right one coming through quicker to
help eliminate the dead spot, these things have almost made my pedal stroke
as if I did not have foot drop at all. I am just curious though from your expertise,
between moving my cleats all the way forward and the addition of the rotor cranks,
is there anything else I should be doing to make my pedal stroke more efficient?
Steve Hogg replies:
Your approach sounds sensible and you have done all the right things. Here
are a couple of things that you may want to try.
Modify your existing shoes if possible (if not get hold of a set of Biomac
shoes) and move your cleats to a position underneath the tarsometatarsal joint.
That will flatten your torque curve, shorten your foot as a lever (and minimise
the foot drop on the up stroke), minimise stress on the tibialis anterior as
well as most likely allowing you to perform better too.
If you do this, then you may want to experiment with conventional cranks fitted
with Rotor Q rings. Depending on the orientation of the Q rings, you should
be able to mimic the effect of the Rotor cranks without the extra weight and
less than ideal chain line that can accompany their use.
I am a male 40 year-old veterans/masters cyclist who competes in road races
and criteriums. My training loads are about 300km per week. I have an arthritic
left hip that has significant ROM limitations in flexion and internal rotation/adduction.
My bike set up is tailored to a best fit with my orthopaedic limitations.
Recently I have been suffering from the feeling that my anterior hip impinges
on the top stroke and have been experiencing sharp pains with stronger efforts
during attacks or pulling turns up hills particularly. I like to ride a lower
cadence usually. I have had to quit several races recently due to worsening
pain. I plan to consult an orthopaedic surgeon soon.
My questions are:
Are there any set up options that would be of benefit to minimise impingement?
Have you heard of similar cyclists with this problem and have they had symptom
resolution with arthroscopic surgery?
Are there off bike training exercises that would be of benefit and maintain
If hip replacement surgery is offered would racing be possible still. I assume
a total hip replacement will be an option and not a Birmingham resurfacing type
Dave Fleckenstein replies:
Femoroacetabular impingement occurs when bony growth of the acetabulum blocks
the femoral neck from moving through a normal range of motion and can result
in the pattern of restriction identical to what you describe. Arthroscopic and
open surgical techniques are used to remove this block and I have had some clients
respond extremely well to this surgery.
I would recommend that you choose your orthopedic specialist carefully; often
the clients who are candidates for this surgery have seen a number of specialists
previously without resolution. I would also want to rule out labral pathology
of the hip and referred sacroiliac joint pain as other sources of dysfunction.
From a conservative standpoint, we have had success with a program of gentle,
progressive capsular and hip musculature stretching, hip abductor (particularly
gluteus medius) strengthening, and alteration of your bike position. On the
bike, I try to open the hip joint as much as possible with these clients and
typically bring their saddle forward and up to decrease the overall angle of
Again, I must caution you to do your research and choose your specialist carefully!
Getting the correct diagnosis is essential with this often confusing injury.
I am a 45 year-old male cyclist weighing approx 150 pounds living in Melbourne,
Australia. I do not race, but train 8 to 10 hours per week (250-300 kms) so
I can ride socially with friends of mine who do race.
I am finding I can go hard (average 34 -38 km/h) for around 40 kms, but hit
the wall then. My family has modified its eating habits in the last six months,
and I eat very little red meat now, but plenty of fish.
Could my power problem be due to a lack of iron in my diet?
Scott Saifer replies:
Unless you have been bleeding and your iron status was borderline low before
the diet shift, six months is not long enough for you to go from iron-normal
to iron deficient, especially if you are eating a decent amount of green, leafy
vegetables. Several famous world-beating racers have been vegetarians. Still,
if you are really concerned, get your doctor to send you for a blood iron test.
More likely hitting the wall at a bit over an hour of hard riding is related
to lack of carbohydrates either in the daily diet or consumed on the bike, hydration
issues, or simply riding above the level for which you are trained.
Pam Hinton adds:
To add to Scott's reply, you want to have both your hemoglobin and ferritin
tested. If your hemoglobin in low (<13.5 g/dL for males) than your fatigue
can be attributed to anemia. Serum ferritin is used as an indicator of iron
stores. Following a vegetarian diet, even one that includes lots of plant sources
of iron, can result in iron-depletion. Your ferritin level will tell you if
your stores are adequate (normal range: 20-300 ng/mL).
Is my bike growing?
Although I've found many of the "fit" articles on CN very informative-there
is one topic I don't believe has been addressed: The effect of aging on bike
fit! Since I've purchased my bike (fitted!) four or five years ago-I could swear
the reach to my hoods has increased!
Since I'm quite certain my titanium frame isn't expanding-is it normal for
the body to change enough (a few more kilos, a bit less flexibility) to warrant
a bike size change? I've already shortened my stem to a 9cm...I don't want to
go smaller and effect handling-and I don't want to move my "sweet spot"
seat position up any further. FYI...40 is coming up this summer!
Scott Saifer replies:
Aging does not affect bike fit, but riding and not doing body maintenance does.
Unless you are actually getting shorter yourself, it sound like you are mostly
suffering from gained weight and decreased flexibility or maybe core strength.
If you work a bit and fix these issues, your bike will fit the same as it did
when you were "young".
Off season rowing training
In the April 17 edition, Dave Palese replied to a reader regarding the use
of a Concept 2 rowing ergometer as off-season training for cycling. As a former
collegiate rower, and still-occasional user of the rowing erg (it can be oh-so-painful!),
I am curious if Dave et al were considering the true benefits of the rowing
Dave noted that rowing "will not improve your cycling". I would challenge
this. The rowing motion, when done properly, is 80% reliant on leg strength.
I know that many people incorporate weights into an off-season regimen, including
leg presses. The majority of the force created in the rowing stroke is from
exactly this motion. This of course assumes that one uses correct technique,
which many people do not.
I have used the erg in past years during the off season, and noticed an impact
on leg strength and good maintenance of CV fitness. Used correctly, the erg's
power measurements can be leveraged to design specific workouts focusing on
AT, base fitness, etc.
Additionally, it has been estimated that one rowing stroke is approximately
equal to 1/4-1/3 of a sit-up, so core conditioning is an added bonus. Considering
a 20 minute set done at 20 strokes/minute, this is 400 strokes, or 100-120 sit-up
equivalents! As for upper body strength, the use of the arms and lats is at
the end of the stroke and is secondary.
I personally am an erg advocate, as you can see!
Dave Palese replies:
Thanks for your response.
My reply to Ken's question in no way knocked the rowing machine or its motion/technique
as a way to build or maintain general or even rowing specific fitness. I made
no statement that eluded to rowing not being a good exercise for developing
leg strength and cardio fitness. On the contrary that is what I said:
"But, as I am sure you would agree as a former competitive rower, had
you exclusively cycled during the rowing off-season, and then jumped into competition
with little or no time on the water or on the rowing ergometer, you performance
would surely be less than optimal."
What I said to Ken was that it is fine to supplement his off-season training
using the Concept 2, but should not do so to the exclusion of the bike. Cycling
has a specific component, as does rowing, that needs to be maintained year round
if one wants to be continually improve.
Thanks again for your note.
What is the function of the piriformis muscle during the pedal stroke? I know
that the muscle is an external rotator of the hip, but I would have thought
that pedaling involved straight flexion and extension of the hips only.
My reason for asking is that since taking up recreational road cycling as a
38 year-old two years ago, I have been battling with a seemingly intractable
ache/numbness/pain in my left leg, which after much trial and error I have realized
is sciatica due to a tight left piriformis.
I won't bore you with any further details, other than to say that I have read
your article on pelvic asymmetry, and can confidently say that I have had every
one of the symptoms you describe, and then some.
I've had orthotics, LeWedges, leg length discrepancy assessment, and the whole
lot. After six months patient stretching (once I hit on the right diagnosis
and found a stretching exercise that worked), there is a huge improvement, and
there are times now when the bike actually feels like a bike and not a torture
rack. So I am confident that I am going in the right direction.
As the muscle comes back to life (after a probable 20 years of injury and inactivity),
I can feel an ache or dragging sensation in the muscle during pedaling. I have
not felt this before, and it is clearly the sensation one gets when an injured/recovering
muscle is being exercised. It is getting less all the time as function improves.
So I am therefore using the piriformis muscles continually when pedaling, and
I am wondering as to what their role is.
As I said, the stroke feels like straight flexion and extension only, without
external rotation. Have they some function in stabilizing the hip?
Scott Saifer replies:
I'm not the expert here, so maybe one of the other panelists will jump in,
but you are right that the main muscle groups active in pushing the pedals are
the flexors and extensors or the knee, hip and ankle, all working in the plane
Hip rotators are not going to provide power, but they do keep the movements
of the leg controlled and coordinated. If not for the adductors, abductors and
rotators, how would you keep the knees from floating out to the side or rubbing
the top tube, or keep the feet from spinning off the pedals?
Steve Hogg adds:
The piriformis has its origin at the front of the sacrum and inserts into the
greater trochanter. It is an external rotator of the hip but even when not switched
on must move as the hip moves with the pedaling action.
What I assume you are feeling is a piriformis that is not yet stretched to
its ideal length and still maintains some unnecessary tension. This is even
more likely if, as you imply, you don't sit reasonably squarely on the seat.
I have somewhat of an unusual problem. I had spinal surgery when I was a child
and two of my lower vertebra were fused together. I think it was L3 and L4 or
L2 and L3. I was told I would never be able to do a lot of things including
having kids etc. and I went ahead and did it anyway!
Now I am 40 and have always had a passion for cycling but until recently had
no opportunity because of time, money and commitments to get into it. Now I
have a mountain bike and ride a few times a week and go with a group on the
weekend to the forest... great fun and minimal pain because I am out of the
seat a lot of the time.
I recently decided to get a road bike. Something I have always wanted but I
find sitting in the seat is very uncomfortable. As I lean forward for the bars,
I am not able to put weight on the sit bones as I guess most people would because
my spine doesn't move the same way, so I find myself bearing down on well....
less comfortable bits!
I know there are female seats out there and I was wondering if you could guide
me in the right direction as to what to get.
I also realize I could just change the handlebars to flat ones but I would
rather not unless there is no other way. It's difficult to explain but because
I have a disability (and I realise mine is so slight in comparison to others),
it makes me want to be able to match the 'normal' riders all the more.
So, I thought you may have some ideas as to which would be more suitable for
someone who has fused spinal vertebrae and whose pelvis tends to tilt back a
little further than most.
With much thanks for you time
Scott Saifer replies:
Your lumbar fusions may or may not be the source of your troubles. I point
this out because a large number of the normal riders you aspire to be like have
the same problem. In the case of the riders without lumbar fusion, the problem
is usually soluble, and I'll bet yours is as well.
The most important dimension of a saddle is the width of the flat part at the
back. Not the overall width, but the width of the flat part. It needs to be
wide enough that your sit-bones rest on top of that flat part and not on the
down-angled part. If the saddle fits into the soft space at your rear, you will
descend until you are putting weight on the front no matter how other parts
are adjusted. If you are sitting on top that problem is eliminated.
The next saddle question is the amount of padding. If the sit-bone zone is
so soft that you settle in until you get pressure on the nose of the saddle
as well, you will again have pressure on the nose of the saddle no matter how
well other things are adjusted. A rock-hard saddle is not the answer, but one
into which you can sink just a little bit.
Most riders, male and female, can be perfectly happy and comfortable on saddles
that do not have cutouts. A few riders really do need cutouts, but for them
some of the cut-out saddle shapes make things worse and others better, so you
may need to experiment a bit.
Now, assuming your saddle is suitable for your anatomy, getting the pressure
off the nose requires getting the seat far enough back and properly tilted,
and getting the bars high enough. The attached article includes instructions
for those adjustments.
Who should I see?
I'm a 25 year old road racer (US Cat 3), who made big gains in a year or two
of racing during college five years ago. Since then I have basically floundered
every year, training some and then getting hit by some type of use injury, from
strained achilles tendon, knee problems resembling chondromalacia, to occasionally
tweaking my lower back.
I'm very convinced I have some leg inequality issues, though I haven't done
all the tests to determine if they stem from hip alignment, leg length discrepancy,
foot orientation, etc. Rather than give a whole bunch of details and look for
a diagnosis now, I am just seeking recommendations about the sort of specialist
I would best off going to see for a first round at getting these issues resolved.
I assume a proper bike fit is at some point a necessity, but if there are physiological
issues I can correct through physical therapy, chiropracty, podiatry, it seems
that I should try to solve them first, rather than just accommodate them. Is
this thinking correct? If so, who would have the best chance of identifying
my issues and helping me correct them?
To complicate the matter, I'll just mention that I have a very limited budget,
so shopping around is difficult, and my insurance-provided pediatrician was
less than helpful. Lastly, if it useful, I ride old Look pedals, and am kind
of big: 6 foot 2 inches, 180 lbs when I'm very in shape, 195 when I'm not.
Also, while I used to jump into training, the last several years I have been
very careful about slowly building up miles and intensity, so I'm pretty sure
that is not the entire problem.
Los Angeles, CA
Steve Hogg replies:
I will let Kelby and Dave advise you on the specifics of who you should see
but I want to relate something. I see a lot of people with various asymmetries
and accidents of birth and development. They fall into two categories - the
larger group for whom their structural shortcomings limit their ability on the
bike and the smaller group who have the same issues on the surface, but it doesn't
limit their performance on a bike.
The second group are the ones who work on their posture, flexibility and core
strength. Find a yoga, Pilates, functional exercise or similar class as a starting
point and make it a priority in your life.
Getting back on the bike
I want to get back to riding my bike, I haven't really been on my bike for
over two years, I feel that I need to get fit enough to ride again,
I used to love going to the Lake District, but I don't think I would make even
an easy ride. I need to rebuild myself, and eat better, can you suggest anything
or a training program for me.
I am going to enroll at the gym tomorrow to use the exercise bike and walking
machine. Is this the right way to go? I feel unfit for the first time in my
I'm 6 foot tall and weigh about 12-13 stone, I do walk a little, and I take
a vitamin tablet each day. I suffer with ankylosing spondylitis and have done
now for over ten years. And I have a wrist injury but I do have 60% use of my
I do hope you can help me, and I thank you for your time and efforts.
Scott Saifer replies:
You would do well to get connected with a coach local to you where you are.
Meanwhile, the key to getting fit is having a plan you can stick to. That generally
means one that starts out very easy and builds up very gradually. Since you
are currently pretty inactive, any activity you take up will be an improvement
and bring improved fitness, so feel free to mix several aerobic activities as
you get started even though the main goal is cycling.
Any of the aerobic machines in the gym, bikes, swimming, walking, hiking can
all be good for you. I don't know exactly where you are starting, so join this
routine at the appropriate spot:
Start with 15 minutes of some sort of activity that raises your heart rate
but not your breathing every other day. When you've managed that for two weeks,
start adding five minutes per session to all the sessions for a week at a time
(so 15 minutes every day, then 20, then 25...) until you hit 30 minutes per
session. Then add one session per week until you reach six per week or don't
Then it is time for reassessment. 30 minutes six days per week will never make
you a racer, but it will bring substantial improvements in health and fitness.
How much more time do you have to invest regularly? Keep working up by adding
roughly 30 minutes per week to your activity time until you are using all the
time you want to invest.
Keep the intensity low until you are at peak volume, or until you are doing
eight hours or more per week regularly. Then consider going harder, again preferably
with a coach's guidance.
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