Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for June 13, 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 cleat position at the Giro?
Arch cleat revelations
Arch cleats for my competitors
Magic X pedals
Heart rate: drops vs. hoods
Riding no handed
Pedalling angle problems
Arch cleat position at the Giro?
I am not sure but it looked as though Liquigas might be riding with cleats
set farther back than is the current norm, more like arch or a bit farther forward.
Riders looked a bit more flat-footed than I usually see. Any idea if this is
true? I noticed it during the final parade stage in the Giro while Liquigas
was leading the final laps in Milan. Just a thought/question.
The arch cleat position
Photo ©: Steve Hogg
Photo ©: Steve Hogg
Steve Hogg replies:
I don't know. As I mentioned previously, there are a couple of big timers using
midfoot cleat position but that will become obvious over time.
There has been another rider, Thomas Rohregger, using midfoot recently who
has made a minor splash. Since he switched, he has been giving some of the
big names a hard time on the climbs. I have included some photos that a friend
who takes a close interest in Euro cycling sent me.
Rohregger's cleat position and improved performance on the climbs of the Henninger
Turm and Giro del Trentino (lead up race to the Giro) apparently occasioned
some discussion on the Italian TV coverage. My contact also said that the
named climbers were talking to Rohregger quite a bit after the Giro del Trentino
That is all I know. Whether that had any influence on Liquigas, or whether
indeed Liquigas are using a more rearward position, I don't know.
Arch cleat revelations
I'm a reasonably competitive triathlete from South Africa, 33 years old, have
been doing tri for about three years and was formerly a swimmer in my youth.
In response and agreement to Dave from Colorado's email about arch cleats.
Firstly I have moved my cleats back to almost the centre of the shoe and it
definitely has improved my speed and endurance which is especially noticeable
when climbing or standing.
I was thinking about doing it before I came across your articles because I
was suffering from continual lower leg injuries (stress fractures etc) from
running and being a triathlete was searching for a way to reduce the amount
of work my calf and soleus muscles were doing while riding in order to see if
less fatigued muscles would prevent this.
Well the improvement has been dramatic and the extra speed on the bike is a
real bonus. I was able to move my cleats about 3cm further back than was possible
with Speedplay pedals and Specialized triathlon shoes by drilling a single hole
further back and turning the base plate around. You have to be careful because
there is no room for error if they aren't lined up because you will have very
little lateral movement to get your shoe closer or further from the crank after
doing so but with a ruler, pencil.6mm drill bit and a steady hand it isn't too
much of a problem. I am willing to send pics if you like.
After having done this I feel there is still some extra power to be gained
by going back a little further maybe 1.5cm or so and am planning on doing this
by buying the fore aft adjuster base plates by Speedplay which allow 5mm extra
rearward movement (because they are reversed) and having them machined and bevelled
to give me that extra 1cm.
The reason I say this is because I can still feel that my I am resisting the
downward thrust of my quads with my lower leg muscles which apply upward pressure
in order to prevent your ankle joint from angle from becoming more acute in
order to get the wattage into the cranks. Somewhere along the length of your
foot there is a point of balance where all your quad power goes into the cranks
and your lower leg muscles don't have to resist this power.
Simply put, if you were designing a piston or some other mechanical devise
that had a straight shaft (your leg) driving a round bearing (your crank) you
wouldn't add an ankle joint into that machine because you would have to add
another piston or hydraulic devise in order to hold that joint stiff.
It doesn't matter if you're a butterfly, diesel engine, or cyclist the fewer
joints involved the more economical the machine. The next step I guess would
be for bike manufacturers to move the bottom brackets as far back as possible,
almost touching the back wheel to avoid the overlap of the front wheel which
is inevitable when moving your feet forward, adding a little bit more rake on
the forks wouldn't hurt either, or making slightly longer top tubes since your
centre of gravity is more forward.
And as for hamstring tightness, it is simple to avoid by moving your saddle
more forward because I suspect that it is as result of the new angle that you
would be pushing now since you have effectively close your hip angle slightly.
My biggest problem is that I've had to put a longer and negative drop stem on
my bike to make sure I'm in the same aero position I was in before making the
I guess that's it then, just one last thing is that having made the switch
I will never ride any other way - it is logical, simple and most importantly,
faster! Plus I have had absolutely no injury problems since, am biking and running
more k's a week and the handling improvement is noticeable.
Steve Hogg replies:
Thanks for passing on the tip regarding moving Speedplays rearwards. I don't
know exactly where you have your cleats, but ideally you want the pedal axle
more or less under the middle of the arch of each foot. If you can achieve that,
you should resolve the last niggle you mention.
I am happy that you got the result you sought and what you say about the performance
gains is in line with what I and others that have tried it are finding. It would
be nice if a few shoe manufacturers offered a shoe that allowed midfoot cleat
position as an option. It shouldn't be too hard to redesign the sole of a shoe
so that it had two sets of 3 hole mounts. Early days yet though, and if that
is to happen, I suspect it will take some time.
Regarding frame redesign, I am about to take delivery of a frame with a longer
top tube and front centre and a shorter stem with altered steering geometry
to make allowances for the different feel of a short stem. It is a bit of an
experiment but it will be nice to ride without the amount of toe overlap that
I currently have. Once I got used to the toe overlap, it hasn't been a problem,
but I had to re-learn how to track stand and change a few walking pace riding
habits. All things considered though, I wish I had woken up to this kind of
cleat position 30 years ago.
Thanks for taking the time to pass your experience on.
Arch cleats for my competitors
I have tried the mid-foot arch cleats and I want everyone to start riding in
this position. My testing has proven a 10 percent decrease in power, along with
reduced endurance. Perhaps this is why cleats have been in the same position
since the late 19th century.
While the arch cleat may alleviate problems for riders with weak ankles or
under-developed calves, it has no benefits in racing situations. It does have
a similar effect as putting the saddle way back. This probably explains why
some riders sense improvement, comfort, or efficiency. Many riders today have
moved their saddles forward in imitation of triathletes or various time trialists.
This may be more aerodynamic, but it does not use the muscles as efficiently
as a normal saddle position.
One quick comment on odd pedals, such as the drop pedals sold by Side-Mount.
I have not tested them. However, when I asked the company to back up their claims
of better power, speed, and aerodynamics; their only reply was 'rider feedback'.
They have no scientific research, no power charts, just their say-so.
Dave Fleckenstein replies:
You need to go back and re-read the posts re: arch cleats, but I would take
her world championship medals vs. your pseudo test as proof that different alignments
work differently for different riders.
However, Max Testa (one of the world's top exercise physiologists who at one
point was working with 35 of the top 50 UCI ranked cyclists) recently completed
a study at his lab on cleat position and efficiency and clearly found (p<.001)
that as the cleat moves posteriorly cyclists are more efficient. I am not sure
as to the publication date for the study but know that it is pending.
For you to make the blanket statement that: "it has no benefits in racing
situations" is inaccurate, as proven by multiple world road championship
and recent Tour de l'Aude winner Susanne Ljungskog. Personally, I have found
a point of diminishing returns and am about 8mm behind the axle which is right
in line with Steve Hogg's thinking for cleat alignment.
Steve Hogg adds:
I read Tim's mail with some interest. Good luck to him and his opinion. I wish
I had such certainty in my life. My experience of bike position to date, and
it's fairly extensive, is that the more I learn, the less I am certain of! So
when a correspondent has such certainty in their views, I worry a bit.
Anyway for your info and amusement and possibly to convince Tim to look again,
here is how I heard about this and what convinced me to try it. When I first
heard about the arch cleat thing, I was skeptical based on very limited experience
with it, and then only as a rehabilitative measure. I started corresponding
with Gotz Heine and it turned out we know some of the same people in Europe.
I checked him out with them and everything I was told was that "the guy
is worth listening to". He is a an ex pro who rode the Giro and Paris Roubaix
as a 19 year old, resolutely anti drug, and has been a team director of minor
teams for years, where his focus in a variety of ways was to improve athletic
performance without drugs. Drug use is rampant at all levels of Euro cycling.
He is also a chiropractor and naturopath but is not airy fairy in any way. A
more down to earth guy would be hard to find.
After much correspondence he impressed me as a thinker who made sense, so I
bought a pair of his shoes to give it a go. I did as he suggested and just dropped
my seat and bars until it felt okay which was 18mm. I rode 30 kilometres and
felt very strong but slow. Huge gears seemed easy, but no ability to rev and
I am a bit of a peddler. I also got semitendinosis tendon soreness behind both
knees and had to ride the last 10 kilometres home very slowly while thinking
"don't know about this cleat position". The other thing that was obvious
was that riding off the seat felt terrible.
I pulled my bars and stem back up the 18 mm and put my usual shoes on to ride
to work that morning - and felt like I had never ridden a bike before! I was
out of sync and felt weak and powerless. I kept riding until my position (which
has been largely unchanged for years), felt normal again. That took more than
50 kilometres. That really made me think. If a 30 km ride with arch cleats effected
a change in motor patterns that quickly, then to me, it seemed like there might
be something intuitively right about it. Well at least enough to explore further.
Here is the rub. I am far better than average functionally, but did a lot of
stupid things in my youth. This means that to be comfortable and powerful on
a bike I have to work around some major injuries. When I decided to persevere
with the arch cleats I found that I had to start again in terms of ticking all
the boxes that allow me to ride pain free. My seat ended up 30 mm lower and
I mad other changes too. The torque analysis proved invaluable for this.
Three months later, I am riding better than I did 15 years ago by any measure.
Improved TT times, recovering more quickly. Training intervals that used to
flatten me now tire me but that is about it. Even in short sharp, lots of sprints
riding, I am performing better, though I have had to change tactics a bit. I
no longer can out jump most people but I find the harder the effort, the more
I seem to have left in comparison to guys that I would normally measure myself
Now I have torque analysis data on nearly 100 people. All show a broader, flatter
torque curve with arch cleats. I have simple apparatus. SRMs with torque analysis
with wooden platforms attached to pedals. That way, foot position can be varied
in relation to the pedal axle with ease bare foot. With many, there is no immediate
change in their curve with a radical change in foot position. But if you hammer
them on the trainer for 40 minutes to an hour in the arch position, their curve
starts to smooth out noticeably. That is all the time that it takes. Probably
analogous to the 30 kilometres that it took me.
Of these, a dozen or so have been convinced to go to arch cleats immediately.
For the rest, they think: yeah it works but I don't want the expense and
complication.' None of the dozen are interested in going back though a few have
had similar experiences to me: that it took a reassessment of their whole position
to get results.
I am interested in Dave's reference to the Testa test and if I could trouble
you Dave to send me a link when it is available. I know a well qualified exercise
physiologist and a biomechanics professor who are trying to get funding now
to do a study on arch cleat position. This is uncertain at this stage but what
is motivating them is that the exercise physiologist is an ex elite rider who
I convinced to try arch cleats and his experience with it has been positive.
I will know more in several months.
So Tim, you not getting a result means that you didn't get a result. There
may be a multitude of reasons for that. What your experience doesn't mean is
that there is no merit to the idea and that others shouldn't try it if they
are that way inclined.
Magic X pedals
Hi Steve, I read your comments concerning the Magic X pedals with great interest
(I believe now endorsed by Bernard Hinault). I've been studying them for the
last week or so and have been very intrigued by the idea. I've raced as a cat
2 for many years and have always had difficulty attaining a comfortable position
while riding in the drops on long and hard efforts (or TT's over 20km).
Simply put, my gluteous maximus cramps so severely I have to return to the
brake hoods just to finish the race. I assume my long legs and short upper body
are the problem, since I've experimented extensively with saddle position, frame
size and stem length to no avail. I've also tried a stretching program without
noticing any significant improvement. In sum, I can't ride in a low position
for very long without cramping.
One change that seems to help is reducing the pedal stack height (for example,
custom shoes with Speedplays). I'm guessing this is because my legs do not have
to rotate as high in the pedal circle, reducing how far my gluteus maximus must
stretch. Consequently, I'm theorizing the Magic X system would reduce my problem
even further because it would effectively lower my stack height another 8.5mm.
Some additional comments concerning Magic X pedals:
-Their web site is vistadeal.com.
-They make a frame that is designed around their pedal/chainring system.
-With their integrated pedal unit (cranks and pedals together with the pedal
bearings located inside the crank arms) there probably is no increase in Q factor
over a standard bike.
Any input you might have would be much appreciated.
Steve Hogg replies:
You know more about them than I do. I have looked at the site and yes, they
are interesting and I don't want to prejudge them. However, this is not the
first time this idea (dropped pedal) has been around. Shimano did one (AX pedal)
in the 70's, a Euro friend tells me that there was a Siligardi pedal in the
late '80's (not strictly a pedal but a short secondary crank that attached to
the normal pedal axle hole and then had the pedal of riders choice attached
to the secondary arm) and I have seen more than a few home made versions.
There is no problem with dropped pedals if it can be done with a lighter weight
and reasonable Q-factor as these have not been strong points of dropped pedal
systems in the past. What I said before is correct though. If you work out how
far the dropped pedal sits below a normal pedal platform and then move your
cleats back that distance rearwards on your shoes, your foot will be in largely
the same relationship with the pedal hole of normal cranks with the altered
cleat position as it will be with pedal axle hole of a dropped pedal. Simpler
method, largely similar result.
A foot moves in a circle that is translated from the circle transcribed by
the pedal axle by the distance between sole of foot and centre of pedal axle.
Shoe sole thickness and overall height of cleat and pedal platform determine
the distance at the top between the two translated circles. If you do go ahead
with the Vista pedals and/or cranks, I would be interested to hear how you fare.
However, as you say, there can be an advantage in the sense of reduced hip
and knee flexion over the top of stroke, depending on the pedaling technique
of the rider. If your glutes give you grief on the bike, it is very likely that
you are overly tight in all the wrong places. It may be that you need to move
your seat forward because your glutes shouldn't be working hard enough to cramp
while riding a bike, assuming a reasonable level of function, unless you have
radically long cranks or a seat too far back for who you are functionally.
Heart rate: drops vs. hoods
This is just something I was pondering while on a ride, and wondered if you
had any information on it. In races, the outcome normally is decided by the
person who is the freshest at the end.
It seems to me that aside from aerodynamics, if I were ride on the hoods my
heart would have to work harder to pump the blood to my head because I'm more
up-right. Conversely, if I were to stay in the drops my head would be lower,
and to me it seems logical that my heart would be working less.
Does this make sense? Have any studies been done in this area
Scott Saifer replies:
Yes, sitting up increases heart rate for the same output of useful work, but
no, that does not in itself limit racing performance. The heart is generally
not the limiting factor. In long races the limiter can be hydration or fuel.
In shorter races it is generally fatigue locally in pedaling muscles.
Of course it can always be a mental lapse or absence of tactical sense, but
extra heart beats by themselves do not put one at a disadvantage. Of course
sitting up also increases wind resistance and work done by the leg muscles,
even when the rider can't feel that the work is harder, so sitting higher is
generally disadvantageous for reasons not related to heart rate.
My left leg is longer than my right leg - roughly 1.5cm in the tibia. However
on the bike, my hips have rotated such that my long left leg is functionally
shorter than my right. When I drop a plumb line from knee, my left knee is ~2cm
behind the pedal and my right knee is ~2cm in front of the pedal spindle! I
had a 1/2cm worth of shims under my right cleat (my measured shorter leg), but
now I am thinking of removing them (should I ship up my functionally shorter
leg to straighten things out?)
At times, I can feel myself hanging off to the left side of the saddle, but
recently (last few years), I feel as though I've been sitting more on top of
the saddle. My odd body is causing me some serious pain in my perineal area
- not surprisingly on the left side in one particular place. I assume that the
pain is being caused by pressure on the left side as my functionally shorter
leg stretches at the bottom of the stroke. The pain is especially bad when I
am racing or going hard (read: in the drops or hunched over).
When I remove my saddles, they are always bent/worn so that there is a noticeable
drop on the left side. Most recently I tried the Selle SMP saddle. Initially
is was super comfy...until a lot more riding and then I felt like I was sitting
on the left edge of the seat.
How can I regain some level of comfort and/or straighten my crooked hips!?
Steve Hogg replies:
What you describe is not epidemic but far too common, i.e. the measurably longer
leg is the functionally shorter leg on a bike. A life time of exerting greater
torque at the hip with longer leg, can cause the ilium on that side to rotate
inward or rotate forward or both, pivoting on the sacro iliac joint. Either
way, the function of the sacro iliac joint is compromised. This causes the longer
leg sided hip, ilium and lower spine to function as a unit rather than separately.
There may be various other complications; sacral twists and interesting patterns
of asymmetric muscle tightness and so on.
Here is what you can do:
1. Firstly and most importantly, do whatever is necessary to function more
symmetrically off the bike. It won't be only on the bike that you are like this,
it is just that you don't have any pain off the bike (or don't mention it if
you do). The absence of pain off the bike is a poor indicator that all is well.
Training yourself to function more symmetrically will probably need to involve
an assessment by a switched on structural health professional and plan a regime
of self-improvement. They can advise and help but ultimately you have to do
the work. This option is the ONLY 100% solution. You may need manipulation,
massage, stretching, core strengthening, a heel lift, shoe build up, orthoses
and possibly more.
2. There are mechanical measures that you can put in place to improve things
on the bike in the meantime. There are two seat posts that should help. The
first is the FSA K Force Lite, in 0 mm, standard or mega offset. If you get
one of these, make sure that you get the latest version with the 3 piece Data
Head. There are two small pins cast into the top of the upper half of the seat
rail clamp. The pins locate the seat rail clamp over the centre of the shaft
and sit either side of the longitudinal upper piece that the two seat rail clamp
tightening bolts screw into. If these pins are ground off, then the seat rail
clamp can be moved 12-13mm either side of the centre line of the seat post shaft.
If this is to work for you, then you would move the seat off centre to the right
to make the left leg reach further and perhaps sit more symmetrically relative
to the centre line of the bike.
3. It is more likely that you should try an American Classic J Post seat post.
The seat rail clamp assembly is minimalist and secured by a single bolt on the
side. The design of the post means that if you mount your saddle and don't tighten
the bolt you can tilt the seat up longitudinally by 5 -6 degrees and then tighten
the bolt like. In your case, raise the left hand side of the seat and probably
point the nose off centre to the right as well. Raising the left hand edge of
the seat won't stop you dropping your hip, but it will limit how far you can
drop it. Twisting the nose of the seat to the right will help square you up
pelvically, providing you cope. Some do, some don't.
You have the shims under the correct foot; i.e. the shorter leg (unless your
long leg and hip are incredibly, incredibly, tight which is possible but not
likely) but it is unlikely that 5mm is enough. Bear in mind that you hang away
from the short leg, have a lower right leg that is 15mm shorter than the left.
5 mm is very unlikely to be enough of a shim. The lower limb points more or
less downwards through its pedal stroke and so the shim has to be more close
to what the discrepancy is.
Added to measurable difference is the increase in effective difference that
is caused by your twisted way of sitting. You will need to move the shimmed
cleat further back relative to foot in shoe than the non shimmed cleat to reduce
rocking torque. There is a point of diminishing returns with this. As you increase
the shim, you reduce the short legs' need to reach but moving the cleat further
back increases its need to reach.
4. Seat height is crucial as is the amount of packing under the right cleat.
If your reach to the right hand pedal is even a few mm too much, you tendency
to favour the longer left leg will kick in even more so. That's what you are
good at and your brain and body are trained that way.
5. The bottom line is that if your estimate of a 40 mm difference in forward
position of the knees is correct, then you are in bad shape and at the upper
edge of what I have seen. Mechanical measures like 2 and 3 can help, but are
no substitute for a solution. The real solution is 1. I have seen people with
similar issues of the same severity as you describe and experience has taught
me with many of them, to refuse to attempt the job until they tick the off the
bike boxes first. Otherwise, in some cases both parties waste a lot of time
and effort for limited gain. Fix the body and you will fix its relationship
with the bike.
Best of luck and start the process of introducing yourself to your own body.
I have begun to ride a new tri-bike which I will use next year. At 49 I find
the low position pretty tough on the neck, therefore, I simply look down over
the wheel more than normal.
Do you know of any neck exercise, or stretches I can start doing that might
make a long ride more tolerable?
Steve Hogg replies:
I can't help with exercises but why ride a position where you only look up
Raise your bars until you can see where you are going comfortably.
Regarding general advice on stretching. I don't know anything about you but
it is unlikely that your neck and upper thoracic spine alone is holding you
back from looking forward. Take up a whole of body stretching regime and over
time you may solve your problem. In the short term give serious consideration
to adapting your bike to fit you rather than the other way around.
Riding no handed
In the last two years I've noticed that I'm unable to ride with my hands off
of the handle bars. Almost immediately the bike leans to the left. In order
to eat, pee, or show off my biceps I have to counter lean way right. I do have
a very small 4mm functional leg length difference so I've just assumed that
this was part of the cause of my left leaning blues.
However, I often question this because I have no problem riding hands free
on my mountain bike. I noticed today that the front wheel doesn't sit centered
in the fork. The wheel looked leaned to the left. I centered the wheel and my
no hands problem got worse. So then I pushed the wheel as far left in the fork
as my drop out would allow and the problem went away. Interestingly, I also
felt very square on the bike too.
Could these results suggest my hands free problems aren't primarily due to
my leg length difference but more so from an unbalancing of my bicycle? Alternatively,
could an asymmetrically laced rear wheel unbalance a bike? I am curious to ride
the bike farther than around the block to see how I feel (i.e. does my right
hand which goes numb on long rides still do so) but I'm totally freaked out
by the thought of the wheel slipping and eating it.
Are their any ways to check whether my bike is out of balance? In the history
of the universe has anyone ever heard of something like this? Moreover, I find
all of this fascinating and wonder if angling the wheels slightly could be a
novel way to balance the rider out on the bicycle.
East Lansing, MI, USA
Scott Saifer replies:
It sounds to me like 100% of your problem with riding hands free is due to
the bike and not to your leg length discrepancy. It's odd that you'd have to
twist the wheel in the fork to anything other than its neutral position to be
able to ride hands free. Any chance your fork or frame might be bent?
Pedalling angle problems
I am male, 19 years of age and am starting on my first season doing crits and
time trials, mainly riding with the university road team. My problem originates
from having feet 30 degrees to my knees.
This cannot be sorted (consulted an orthopedic doctor) and it causes the inside
of my heel to collide with the rear chain stays and excessive rubbing on the
crank arms. On climbing on occasions my feet have even forced beyond the float
of my look cleats to tread on the big ring of my FSA compact chainset. Even
with the free arc limiting on the pedals I am still wearing away my shoes, crank
I would appreciate any suggestions regarding improving pedalling efficiency
and decreasing component ware.
Scott Saifer replies:
I am assuming you mean that your feet point out at 30 degrees away from the
midline of the bike. That's a huge angle and well beyond the design capabilities
of standard pedals, cranks etc. I've never had to help a client with such a
large angle before, but it sounds like what you need is to get the pedals a
lot farther from the bike.
I'd suggest talking to a machinist about making a pedal-crank adaptor for you.
Maybe one of the other panelists has another suggestion.
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