Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for June 5, 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.
Arch cleats success
Max heart rate
Training with a knee problem
I am a 37 year-old male cyclist, who has been riding for virtually all of my
adult life (still don't own a car), and although I don't compete much at all,
I still try and get in some hard rides once in a while. I am hoping to take
part in a race later this year in Okinawa, although a new baby on the way may
scuttle these plans.
I am writing to you for your thoughts on the benefits of the dropped axle pedals.
Recently, I heard of the Vista Magic X pedal, which is similar to the old Dyna-Drive
pedal by Shimano. Is reducing or even eliminating the foot to pedal axle distance
as big an advantage as some claim it to be? Does anyone of you have experience
using them? All opinions on the topic are welcome.
Steve Hogg replies:
I haven't seen the pedal that you are talking about in the flesh but from the
pics, they are the latest iteration of the dropped pedal idea. There is an advantage
(I think) with dropped pedals but not for the reason that is usually stated.
If you watch someone with dropped pedals pedal slowly, you will find that give
or take a fraction, you can achieve the same result by moving the cleat on the
shoe used with a conventional pedal rearwards. What I am saying is that at the
3 o'clock part of the pedal stroke where the highest torque values are generated,
the foot on the dropped pedal is further forward in relation to the pedal axle
hole in the crank than it would be with the same shoe and cleat position on
a conventional pedal.
The easiest way to gain the same effect is as I said above, move the cleat
the appropriate amount to the rear and use a conventional pedal. I say 'easiest
way' because most dropped pedals that I have seen in the past carry a weight
and complexity penalty as well as an increased Q factor. Those criticisms may
not apply to the Vista pedal because I haven't seen one first hand.
I am a 28 year-old recreational cyclist. I am 70kg and 6'2" and I do approximately
eight hours a week on the bike (road and mountain) and occasional endurance
races. My problem is that for the amount of time I spend on the bike compared
to friends, I don't seem to be able to keep up. On longer climbs, I struggle
to keep pace and my breathing and heart rate goes through the roof.
In regards to the shortness of breath, the shape of my chest is slightly concave
(the medical term escapes me) - I do not have the traditional barreled chest.
My question is, would this restrict my lung capacity thus affecting my ability
to stay aerobic instead of anaerobic? Should I spend the money and get a lung
capacity test to see if it's my riding or it's just me?
Scott Saifer replies:
Unless your concave chest is extreme, it is probably not the source of your
difficulties on the bike. There are two breathing tests in which you might be
interested. One measures the speed with which you can exhale. Reduced flow on
this test indicates obstructed airways (usually asthma). If you had asthma you'd
notice it most likely as a feeling of not being able to get enough air even
though you breath hard. The other lung function test of interest would be vital
capacity, how much total volume can you move from the deepest inhale to the
You can pay to get that tested or you can test it yourself by blowing air through
a tube into a large, inverted graduated container (a plastic container in which
you would mix frozen juice would work). You need to fill it with water and turn
it upside down in a larger container (a sink for instance) which is also full
of water. If someone your height can't blow 5 L, lung capacity could really
be your problem.
More likely though, you problem stems either from inappropriate training or
inadequate training history. It takes about two years of eight hours per week
to reach one's potential as an eight-hour per week cyclist. Have you been riding
as long as your buddies?
If you are a few months into riding and they are more experienced, just be
patient. If the majority of your riding is hard, like trying to keep up with
stronger riders, you may also not be developing the necessary aerobic capacity.
If you have been going hard enough to raise your breathing on most rides, try
taking two months during which you ride all the volume you can handle but at
a level of effort that keeps your breathing steady and not much increased.
Finally, any chance you are hyperventilating? If you are taking short, shallow
breaths that don't get air down into your lungs, all that rapid breathing is
counter productive. If you are not doing so already, try making sure your breaths
are as deep as they can comfortably be.
Is there, any hard fast rule that one must follow for setting seat setback?
If there is, what is the basis for this and why?
Can a person push their seat back too far? If so, what problems can arrive
as a result of that, or is there simply no rule and go back as far as you need
to feel comfort and balance?
I was on a bike that was too small (short), I had a fitting and it was recommended
that I use a 13cm stem, which I did for almost 2 years. I always felt cramped
and not stretched out far enough. The results were sore lower back, upper back
and neck and a sore ass.
The bike I'm on now has a 72.5 seat tube and the builder recommended a 7.3
- 7.5 set back with a 12cm stem. I still feel as though I want to stretch out
and I'm about to experiment with moving my seat back to achieve a 8.8cm set
back and keeping the same stem, rather than extending my stem out as I like
the stem length, especially when standing. I'm 6'2" long torso and arms.
The only reason I think I'm doing this has some balance concepts, the further
back I sit, the more balanced I feel. Not to mention, that I continually search
for the most comfortable seating position, as my sit bones get very sore within
20-30 miles. I have begun standing more frequently and changing positions.
My seat is a Fizik Aliante. It is 138mm wide and rounded. I'm wondering if
it's the wrong seat for me. I will attempt to measure my sit bones to determine
this. Maybe I need to be on a flatter and/or wider seat.
Steve Hogg replies:
Re "rules" for seat setback - I don't like the word 'rules' but would
suggest that the best amount of seat setback is where the rider feels balanced,
with the arms functioning as relaxed props, not load bearing beams; where the
lumbar spine isn't flexed to much and where the muscles of the upper leg don't
experience localised soreness after a hard ride.
If you feel more balanced the further back you move, continue to experiment
with moving your seat back. As you do this, just be aware that there is such
a thing as too far back. Signs of this can be lower back pain (though that can
have other causes too), an inability to exert force well when riding steep hills
on the seat, tightening of hip flexors because they are cramped up too much
and a ponderous feeling of having to transfer weight when moving from on the
seat to off the seat.
Re sitbone soreness. Aliantes have soft padding. Many people are better suited
to firm padding that is ultimately more supportive.
I have an issue that I was wondering if you might be able to resolve--I have
been cycling regularly (100-140 miles per week throughout most of the year)
for the past three years and have been doing a handful of Cat-5 races every
year as well. My problem is this--it seems that toward the end of the every
season I have encountered light pain in the front of the left knee, as well
as the occasional cramping in the left calf during hard group rides and races.
My problems were always with the left leg, the right felt perfect. It seemed
like under moderate load the pain was the worst in the knee, under heavy loads
things felt actually felt better.
After reading quite a few of your fitness postings where readers were encountering
the same problem, I decided to purchase the LeMond LeWedges to see if they might
rectify the problem. I noticed that my knees did tend to have lateral movement
toward the top of the pedal stroke (riding in front of a mirror verified this)
so I figured the LeWedges would definitely help my problem.
After installing the LeWedges under my both shoes' cleats (I used two wedges
stacked on top of each other with the thick part on the inside of the shoe to
get the proper cant) I thought that I felt better power transfer immediately
as well as a decrease in the lateral knee movement. I felt great at first after
using them, but now that the miles have started to pile up for the year I am
now having trouble with my right knee while the pain in my left knee has vanished.
Also, for the first time ever I've recently encountered cramping with my right
calf in a race. I don't remember having any issues where I've injured my right
leg in any way, so I'm wondering what could be causing the problem. The pain
in the right knee occurs under heavy loads, it feels fine under moderate loads.
Is it possible that I need to change the LeWedges under the right shoe? Would
stacking them to create a platform instead of the canted angle help? Or getting
rid of them entirely under the right shoe if there is a leg-length discrepancy
that I don't know about? I'm just wondering why I never had problems in the
right leg until I installed the wedges and what the cause could be.
To give you a little more info, I also switched recently from Specialized Comp
Road Shoes to Diadora Ergo Plus shoes, but I don't think this has contributed
to the problem. I also angled my cleats recently so that my foot was a little
straighter when connected to the pedal instead of angling out at the front (I
usually set up my cleats this way because I tend to walk duck-footed, but I
noticed my foot wanting to straighten out when under load on the bike).
I use Shimano SPD-SL cleats with Ultegra pedals and have done so for the past
two years. Also, I notice that I tend to spin a smaller gear at a higher cadence
(I'm usually 80-100 rpm) than most of my peers on group rides and races, so
I don't think the problem is being caused by riding under excessive loads constantly.
I am also a fairly average-sized guy, 5'10" and 170 lbs.
Eddie Monnier replies:
It is rather routine to have different levels of correction on one's left and
right foot. It's likely your overcorrecting your right leg. Remove the wedges
from your right cleat. Allow yourself to heal. Then try one wedge in the right
shoe. If that also causes discomfort, remove it and have none on the right shoe.
Arch cleats success
Just wanted to let you know the success I've had with buying the Speedplay
adapter and moving my cleats all the way back. Total change was about 2.5cm.
I also moved my seat down and back.
The only issues I had was some initial tightness in my hamstrings, but with
some stretching, they are now fine. Heart rate is down, power is up, especially
on the flats.
Here's a question/theory for you. Smaller riders may benefit more from arch
cleats, as the levers of their body (feet, lower leg, upper leg, glutes/lower
back) are shorter in relation to the crank arm than bigger riders.
Arch cleats may allow them to get more of their body behind the crank arm.
They sure did for me.
Just and idea. Thanks for all the time you put it your comments, they are invaluable.
Boulder, CO, USA
Steve Hogg replies:
Thanks for the feedback and positive thoughts. How did you get your cleats
back 25mm with the Speedplay adaptors? Did you modify your shoes at all and/or
change to Speedplays from another pedal system?
The reason that I ask is that the Speedplay 13330's allow 13-14 mm more rearward
travel than the standard Speedplay 3 hole adaptor plate which in turn has approximately
5mm less rearward adjustment than many other pedals (Keo, SPD-SL etc). All of
which means that the net gain over other systems is about 10mm unless the other
adaptors were all the way forward and more. The other thing is that unless you
have tiny feet, a 25 mm rearward adjustment of the cleats wouldn't leave you
with the cleat under the arch if your previous cleat position was forefoot.
I'm not being critical here, but I am curious!
Re your question/theory. I don't know but am cautious about it being that simple.
To date I am finding that midfoot cleat positioning is a whole new world. It
certainly diminishes foot alignment issues as well as strains elsewhere because
the torque peaks of the pedal strokes are lower for a given output.
I think large riders tend to benefit more but not for the reasons you are considering.
Large guys are often nervous descenders because their centres of gravity are
so much higher and wheelbases of large frames are often proportionally short
relative to the size of the rider. When you position your cleats under the midfoot
and have to drop your seat somewhere between 30 and 50 mm to allow for the move
in cleat position, the improvement in bike handling and cornering is noticeable
and welcome to many.
Last week's excellent reply
by Steve Hogg prompts another question on the topic of Q-Factor and rider's
Is there any benefit in using Asymmetrical Q-factor set-up, where a cleat of
one shoe is placed in its narrowest Q-Factor position (closest to cranks) and
the cleat of the other shoe is placed on the outermost position (furthest away
from cranks)? Would it help any riders, such as those who tend to hang off one
side more than other (candidates for the off-centre seat-post or those with
small leg lengthy discrepancy) etc.
I ask because I just tried (after having read Steve's reply) using the widest
Q-Factor on my SPD-SL pedals and I found that my left foot did not like it (left
foot wanted to twist to toe-in heel-out position under high load and also stressed
the vastus medialis obliquis) but my right foot did not seem to mind either
narrow or wide Q-Factor. So I was thinking perhaps there may be a benefit from
Asymmetrical Q-Factor set up.
Steve Hogg replies:
The short answer is that there can be an advantage in having one pedal or one
foot further from the centre line of the bike than the other but it comes down
to individual cases. I have had a client for several years who was a pro mtb'er
but whose career was cut short by back pain and left knee issues. He is a bit
of a mess with a twisted sacrum and fused sacro iliac joint on the right side,
though the left side sacro iliac joint moves freely. This means that he drops
and rotates forward his right hip markedly on each right side pedal stroke and
has a pronounced internal rotation of the right hip and external rotation of
the left hip.
He is a bit of a challenge but one of the measures I took to enable him to
ride pain free (after a LOT of trial and error) was to give him a left side
pedal axle 6mm longer than his right side pedal axle and to have his left shoe
as far out on the pedal as it will go. At the same time his right shoe is as
far inboard as it will go. He is not pretty on a bike but these things, along
with other measures have allowed him to ride pain free for a couple of years
I have other customers who for various reasons have required asymmetric Q factors.
Not because it was the best solution but because it was the best achievable
solution. Most people don't, or rather shouldn't, need an asymmetric Q factor
but there is always a small minority that is likely to.
I've followed your fitting suggestions for about a year, and every change has
brought relief from my rather radical starting position--too high saddle, too
far forward cleats, too much stretch on the upper body. I've now got my cleats
(Look on size 49 Sidi Genius 4, with the older changeable cleat adapter plate)
back as far as they go with appropriate reductions in saddle height and better
setback and bar position, and this move has improved a lingering twinge on the
inside of my left knee, but not quite eliminated it. I have much better all
around comfort for longer distances.
I have a slight meniscus tear in the inside left knee but the ortho recommended
conservative treatment rather than any invasive procedures. I generally pedal
comfortably with my left heel floating considerably off axis to the bike, they
like to be angled outward about the same angle as the chain stay.
I get the knee pain right away if I pedal with my foot straight, so the float
seems to be right. I have the float set for the maximum 9 degrees and the cleats
are angled so there's excess available each way. The right foot pretty much
tracks straight when floating and there's no pain in any joint in the chain
on that side. I'm 60, 6'5" (was 6'6" in my youth, before joint settlement),
210 lbs. and I know that I have flat arches and pronate fairly significantly,
according to a podiatrist years ago when I attempted to be a runner. I use and
like 180 cranks, as I have a long inseam. Specialized body geometry insoles
eliminated some foot pain I was having with the stock Sidi insoles.
I still get that twinge in my left knee--not steady pain, but an occasional
ache. I suspect, based on the latest discussion about big gears and steep hills,
that the apparent power increase I experienced with the last cleat movement
may mean I'm pushing too high a gear so I am spinning more with some improvement.
The question: I'm now about to fit a triple crankset (conversion ring on a
Dura-Ace 7700 crankset) to continue in the spinning direction on the bigger
hills, and the setup I'll use will give several mm. more Q on the right as compared
with the left side. Should I widen the Q on the left for symmetry when installing
the rig or wait to see how it works?
I have CX-6 pedals so this is relatively easy--they're now set to minimum as
they came, with the same Q-factor as a non-adjustable Look pedal, and there's
10 mm available to the outside. I'm also considering trying Lemond wedges on
the left shoe with more height on the inside of the cleat, to see if that will
improve the knee. Am I going in the right direction?
Green Valley, AZ, USA
Steve Hogg replies:
The most likely reason for the medial left knee pain is either a shorter left
leg with internally rotated hip, or that you are hanging towards the right side
to some degree. If you look down between your legs when pedaling, is the gap
between right thigh and seat post less than between left thigh and seat post?
If so, you are not sitting squarely on the seat and are hanging to the right
to some degree. You should confirm this on an indoor trainer by pedaling with
your shirt off with an observer standing behind and above you. It is worth trying
a Lemond wedge or two (as a wedge with thick side to the inside, not counterstacked
as a shim) under the right cleat first as a tendency to hang to the right often
(not always) goes hand in hand with a significant right foot forefoot varus
and the bodies way of negating any stress on the knee on that side is to sit
asymmetrically. The problem is that in most cases the fallout is on the left
side in terms of pain or niggles.
If wedges work under the right foot in the sense of making you feel more balanced,
they are likely to only be a partial solution because 60 years of functioning
asymmetrically will have caused changes to the way that your hips and lower
back functions that are probably semi permanent. If you have confirmed that
you are not sitting squarely and are hanging to the right to some degree, get
hold of an American Classic seat post called the J post. An interesting feature
of this design is that once the seat is mounted but the bolt that secures the
seat rail clamp only partly tightened, the seat can be tilted up or down to
left or right about 8 degrees. In your case, raise the right hand edge of the
seat until you reach the point where your pelvis is level at the bottom of the
right hip drop that I assume you are engaging in.
This will decrease the distance the left leg has to reach and allow you to
function more symmetrically. Once you have done this, then move the left hand
CX-6 pedal body out by the same distance that you have had to move the right
crank arm out. That is a starting point. The finishing point is where your left
leg feels best and left knee under the least strain whether the Q is even or
All of this advice assumes you are dropping your right hip because it is the
most likely scenario based on what you have described. It is not the only one
though, so if I am wrong or you experience any problems, let me know.
Max heart rate
I am a 35 year old male that rides ~100 miles per week but I do not compete.
I started cycling 5 years ago as cross-training for running, and now would like
to step up my cycling training as well.
I have been using a heart rate (HR) monitor for years and am very familiar
with my HR max for running (currently 195). Is there an easy formula that would
determine my max for cycling based on my running max, or should I do an all-out
test on the bike to determine it?
Cleveland, OH, USA
Scott Saifer replies:
If you want a good measurement of your maximum cycling heart rate, you really
need to do a separate cycling test. The two maxima are usually within 10 beats
or less of each other, with the run max being the larger of the two, but that
is too large a range to confidently set up training zones.
Training with a knee problem
I'm a 51 year-old male club rider getting back into riding seriously again
after a lay-off caused initially by a crash in 2003. I'm currently building
up my mileage and pace for the British Cycling Tour de France sportive on July
1 but have developed a knee problem and am unsure of the best strategy given
that I need to build up stamina to handle a 195km approx ride and pick up my
current average speed (solo) from 20.9kph to a 24kph or so at least. The question
is whether to continue some training (if so what type and intensity) or rest
the knee completely and when to expect to be able to resume training in earnest
to avoid a nightmare in the sportive!
I had completed rides of 110km the previous two weeks without problem, but
the week before last I developed a twinge behind the kneecap at around 80km
of a 135km ride that became more painful as I rode home. It still hurt on stairs,
albeit reduced, on the Monday so I rested it last week apart from a turbo session
on Thursday that amounted to 35 minutes in zone 2 around 80-95RPM and 10 at
zone 3/4 border and 70-75RPM mainly. The knee felt a little "odd"
but no twinges or pain at all. Last weekend I had to abort my ride because the
knee started to hurt at around 20km and was very sensitive to road-shocks when
No changes in position - cleats, shoes, bike - since the previous ride. The
only differences I can think of are that, conscious of my weakness on steeper
climbs, I rode up an early, short, steepish, climb at around 65rpm staying mainly
in the saddle, rode at a higher pace than previously (24-30kph) and pushed bigger
gears than before on some flat/slight incline sections and into a headwind.
I also tried "pedalling circles" at times up a couple of climbs (I
also include this in turbo sessions without problems though) until hints of
some cramping showed up. Apart from some aggressive clipping out of the pedal
in traffic I can't think of any other possible contributors to the problem.
Obviously the distance wasn't the factor as the problem kicked in 30km before
the duration of the previous week's ride.
I'd really like some advice on the best strategy to adopt to protect the knee
while not jeopardising my sportive ride in about 4 weeks time, particularly
since I'm a bit off the pace already.
Steve Hogg replies:
Without knowing a lot more it is hard to pinpoint exactly what the problem
is but I can give you general advice based on the most likely reason (but not
the only one). This sounds intensity related. Take a rider with no issues (that
are apparent to the rider) and increase volume or intensity and it is commonplace
for problems to arise. The basic reason is that we run up against the limitations
of our structure, symmetry , technique and degree of function. You don't mention
which knee but there is an 85% chance that it is your left knee.
If so, the most common reason for this is the tendency that 95% of riders have
to favour the right side, in the sense of a perceptible hip drop and /or rotation
forward rotation on the seat, challenges the plane of movement of the left leg.
The knee is a single plane joint and so those stresses tend to affect it rather
than the multi plane hip and ankle joints. The greater the effort (low rpm,
high torque) the greater the chance of being bitten.
If your description of pedalling in circles meant pulling up strongly, the
engagement of the psoas and (and in some people, the QL's) required to do that
is usually as asymmetric as general pedaling technique is under load. I wouldn't
go out of your way to try and develop a strong 'upstroke'.
Anyway, what to do about it in the short time you have?
1. Try dropping your seat a few mm. This may not work at all, but if you were
really pushing a gear, the extra heel drop required to do that will have caused
mild overextension. When this happens, if the seat is even 3 mm too high, the
brain will choose one leg to look after (usually but not always the right) and
one to sacrifice.
2. Lower your gearing. If you can stay on top of your gear up hills (75 rpm
plus) you are far less likely to have problems than if you don't.
3. In the time that you have, use the knee but don't push it. The amount of
fibrous tissue in a knee joint (tendons and ligaments) means that there is limited
blood flow. Result - hard to injure but time consuming to recover from. Often
the best solution for mild problems is to use the knee gently. Using it flushes
blood and lympth through the joint and probably aids recovery. Don't over do
it. Better to get to France a bit under done with a good knee than the alternative.
4. Don't do the 'extra' effort type stuff that put you in this situation. Just
keep the fitness levels up and ride conservatively.
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