Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for June 19, 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.
Shoe modifications for arch cleats
Dual cleat positions
Cleat position swapping
Shoe sole angle
Possible pedaling angle remedy
Post porta-pottie downer
Cleat position for sprinters
Shoe modifications for arch cleats
I was hoping Steve Hogg, or someone, could give some pointers on converting
a pair of cycling shoes to accept arch cleats. I would love to try arch cleats
but don't want to shell out the money to buy a new pair of Biomac or D2 custom
shoes before having some idea how the cleat position would affect me.
Can one purchase the 2-bolt cleat inserts to attach to the soles of one's shoes?
I have some old cycling shoes that I don't mind trying out some modifications
Manhattan, Kansas, USA
Steve Hogg replies:
Given the multitude of shoes out there with differing shapes in the arch,
I can only give general advice. The basic problem is that to position a cleat
so that the pedal axle is under the arch of the foot means that the concave
curve of the bottom of cleat systems doesn't match the shape of the area of
the shoe sole under the arch. Here is a step by step guide.
1. Get hold of two Shimano part number Y4YN01000. They are called SH-R121
cleat nuts, are cheap and can be ordered through any Shimano retailer. They
are the 3-bolt threaded fitting that is fitted to the sole of some Shimano
shoes. Shimano have several other cleat nuts that will do the job but that
is the one that I am using.
2. Look Delta, Look Keo, Shimano SPD, Time and a few others have a vertical
line on the edge of their cleats. That line equates with the pedal axle with
cleat in pedal. Place the cleat under arch of the shoe so that the vertical
line on the cleat is under the middle of the arch of your foot. Now use a
marker pen or similar to draw an outline around the cleat.
3. Place the cleat nut upside down on the outline of the cleat so that the
threaded holes are more or less in the middle of the potential range of adjustment
of the cleat. Use a scribe or other pointed object to mark the shoe sole underneath
the centre of each threaded hole.
4. Find a block of pine to put inside your shoe. Place the shoe upside down
and use a 2mm drill bit to drill a pilot hole through the sole at each of
your marks. Then use a 5mm and lastly 7mm bit to enlarge the holes.
5. Remove the insole from the shoe and fit the cleat nut so that it lines
up with the holes you have drilled. Secure the cleat nut with a piece of packing
tape over it inside the shoe.
6. Get some Bostic, Mastic or any kind of building filler epoxy type putty
that will dry hard and can be sanded or cut. Screw three M5 screws into the
cleat nut from the INSIDE of the shoe. They will need to be longer than normal.
Where the screws protrude through the outside of the shoe sole. Coat the screws
liberally with soap, candle wax or grease.
Now get your Bostic or similar and mix it up and place a decent sized blob
of it over the area where the cleat screws protrude.
7. Coat the underside of the cleat that you intend to use with wax, soap
or grease Place the cleat over the Bostic so the screws protrude more or less
through the middle of the cleat slots. Push the cleat down until in contact
the sole of the shoe at the front and back of the cleat.
8. Now carefully remove the cleat screws from the inside of the shoe and after
fitting washers to the cleat, screw the cleat to the shoe lightly. Tightly
enough for the cleat to push out any excess Bostic but not so tightly that
the cleat deforms. Use a knife to remove any excess Bostic from around the
edge of the cleat and leave it alone to go hard.
9. If you get it all right, you will have a shim underneath the arch of your
shoe that is the correct shape to allow your cleat to be positioned under
I saw a pair of Bebops the other day. Only the second pair that I have seen
and they seem a good system. I am going to chase some up as they will be easy
to mount to a road shoe at the midfoot; much easier than most 3 bolt systems.
Let me know how you get on
Dual cleat positions
Since arch cleat positioning would reduce sprinting ability but could possibly
increase power for sustained climbing or time trialling would it be advisable
to use both positions, normal and arch, depending on the race? For example,
using arch cleats for a hilly road race or TT and normal cleat positioning for
a criterium or race where a sprint is inevitable.
Thanks for your time,
Steve Hogg replies:
It may be worth persevering with different cleat position for different types
of racing but you would need plenty of time to re-adjust to conventional cleat
position after any time spent using midfoot cleat position. What you are suggesting
was what occurred to me initially, but after a few attempts, I didn't bother
persevering as I spent too much limited training time adjusting to cleat position
changes rather than training.
Cleat position swapping
I have been following your experiments with the arch cleat position with some
interest. The question is how easy it to swap back and forth between positions?
As a Tuesday night TT fan (8 to 50 km) I would want to use the arch position
for more power (or better spread power), but swap back on Fridays for the local
Track League (Where I can unleash my B class sprint).
Ok, two pairs of shoes would seen to be sensible/necessary (well I have 2 bikes!),
but have you spotted/experienced any other problems while changing positions.
With the exception of riding specific intervals in the position for that race,
which position would you train in? And has your jump diminished when you have
changed back due to the different position.
Steve Hogg replies:
Something similar occurred to me initially but I found it hard to re adjust
to conventional cleat position. That may not be a universal experience, though
I know it has been shared by a few others that I talk to.
When I have said that I lost my jump in the sprint, that's what happened. What
has happened over time is that I am still slower in the jump but finish stronger
and can hold a high speed for longer. So I expect that my sprint in terms of
time for distance is not much different to what it was. Rather that I get going
more slowly but finish faster.
Once I woke up to this, I didn't bother trying to swap cleat positions any
more, I just changed my tactics a bit.
I have been following your cleat placement comments with great interest for
the last 18 months or so. I have tried both 'behind the ball of the foot' and
'midfoot' cleat positions.
I was wondering if you have any thoughts on the suitability of these cleat
positions and pedaling styles. I have a natural heel up, toe down style. I have
always felt that I was more of a puller than a pusher of the pedals. I also
prefer a highish cadence. I am a mountain biker and on long climbs always seem
to keep a cadence of around 90rpm. This seems to come from my running days when
I was also a forefoot striker with very minimal wear on my heals. Even when
I run it feels that my body focus more on pulling my leg through the stride
than pushing off on the other foot.
The reason I am asking is because I suspect that the above mentioned cleat
positions are not suitable for me although I badly want them to be. I can really
see the theoretical benefits - if you have a natural heel down style, your pedal
stroke will focus more on pushing than pulling. I have tried a cleat position
10mm behind the ball of my foot for about a year and the midfoot position for
about three weeks.
Comfort was great and I experienced almost all of the benefits mentioned by
yourselves but only up to about 85% efforts. Under that I feel I can ride all
day long, but at hard efforts or racing pace I just feel unable to produce the
power I want despite trying different seat heights and for and aft positions
.I will appreciate your thoughts on this.
The reason why I am asking what effect one's pedaling style will have on your
ideal cleat position is because I suspect that the more one has a toe down style,
the closer the cleat should be to the middle of the ball the foot (from a rearward
position).Because, at least in my instance, with such a toe down style there
will be more focus on pulling of the pedals than a heel down style meaning that
the ball of the foot will also act more like a hinge on which your foot (and
leg?) rotate as opposed to the pushing style of a heel down cyclist. Or am I
on the wrong track?
Also, what about the relationship between torque and power? The ability to
push big gears will give you a lot of torque but you won't go very fast unless
you can generate the power (leg speed) to turn or to accelerate the torque to
maintain a high speed. It seems stability on the pedals is at least as important
as the ability to maintain a high or optimal cadence or at least for racing
purposes? Which is probably what you have been saying all the time?
If it feels like one is clawing your toes through the bottom of the pedaling
stroke does it mean that one should move your cleats forward until the clawing
sensation disappears? Even if it means forward of the ball of the foot?
I also noted from Steve's previous postings that he always suggests lowering
the saddle when moving cleats back but in one of his articles on his own website
he mentions that he thinks most people have their saddles to low. I realise
that these comments might be unrelated but will appreciate if he can expand
on the latter issue of saddles being to low.
My last issue is also saddle height related. My current set up has a seat angle
of about 73 degrees (saddle is halved if you extend the seat tube which is claimed
to be 73 degrees.). My cleats are about 5mm behind the ball of my foot. I am
a male about 1.77m and 76kg.
My problem is chafing of the skin on my tender areas between my legs. I realise
my saddle may be too high. But if I move it lower and/or back I just don't feel
powerful. Any suggestions?
Steve Hogg replies:
Interesting mail. I am the last person to tell you to try and change what
comes naturally to you under load so keep the pedaling style you have. Regarding
cleat position and pedaling technique; in the post named Cleat
Position #2 which says in part:
"3. For riders with an exceptional heel dropping pedaling style, I would
increase the amount of foot over the pedal slightly. The converse is true for
the exceptional toe down style pedallers."
So no disagreement there, at least with regard to forefoot cleat position
Regarding your problem; if you feel okay up to 85% but not over that, then
potential culprits are:
1.Perceptions. Sometimes our perceptions don't match reality. I found this
early on with my experience with midfoot cleat position. I didn't feel fast
- until I looked at my speedo and realised that my perceptions didn't match
what my eyes confirmed.
2. It may be that 1. is not correct and that you have measured your performance
in some way. If so, something else is awry. With the midfoot cleat position,
it is very easy to sit too high. The chaffing you mention may be a sign of that.
3. If your seat is too high or too low, that will influence how you feel and
4. When you were experimenting, how much trial did you give any single change?
When I experiment I am in the habit of making a change, riding during the week
without further change (unless I am injuring myself) and then doing a 3-5 hour
hilly ride on the weekend. By the end of that, I may be adapted to the change
or I may not, but I have found the long hilly ride a reliable indicator of whether
to persevere further or not. It may be that you have been making successive
changes without allowing your body to adapt properly.
5. Re toe down technique. With midfoot position, that doesn't seem to matter
(I say cautiously). I have one customer working towards a particular goal on
the track at the moment. He is a Masters World Champ and an exceptionally toe
down pedaller. After some initial issues he has taken to the midfoot position
really well in the sense of improved performance and quicker recovery times.
He still pedals toe down with the midfoot cleat position and doesn't seem to
have a problem. One person's response doesn't make an argument but the two things
that stand out to me about the midfoot position is that most people show improved
ability to both push a big gear slowly and to pedal a small gear fast after
a week or two of habituation.
Lastly, if you are happy with the pedal axle 5mm behind the centre of the ball
of the foot and feel that your seat is too high but that when you lower it,
your performance drops, the best advice is to lower the seat to what is comfortable
and leave it there until your performance returns. That might take a day, a
week, or even up to three weeks, but if seat height is the issue, your performance
will return (and probably improve) at a lower seat height.
I couldn't agree more that foot stability on the pedal is of overriding importance.
Shoe sole angle
I have ridden with a pair of Nike Poggio IIs for the last three years and have
been reasonably happy with them. I have some Lemond wedges and have always felt
they are efficient in delivering all the power I can generate. I have sometimes
had numb feet with them after long rides and as they are gradually falling apart,
so I decided to buy a new pair of Specialized BG Carbon Pro shoes. I bought
these shoes because of the good reviews friends have always given Specialized
shoes and hopefully to cure the numb foot problem. I must say they are very
The problem I have is that they feel very different when pedaling, not uncomfortable,
I simply don't feel I am putting down all the power I can. I have the cleats
in exactly the same position as previously after many small adjustments. Having
given this much though I can see only one difference to my Nike shoes that may
be causing this very different feel. With the Shimano cleat placed flat on the
floor, the heal of the Specialized measures 1.75cm higher off the horizontal
than the Nike. Clearly the angle from the ball of the foot to the heel is greater
with the Specialized.
My question is would this alone really give such a different feel to the shoe?
Should I be adjusting saddle height for this difference? Maybe there are other
differences I am not aware of, maybe the thickness of the sole is greater and
hence my foot does not feel as close to the pedal. Any ideas? I really love
the comfort of the shoe, but the feeling that I am not as efficiently delivering
the power with this is a constant frustration.
Eddie Monnier replies:
Did you also add your wedges to your new setup? How many wedges are you using
on each foot? Please confirm you're forefoot varus (thick part of wedge on inside
of each foot). I ask because Specialized BG ("Body Geometry") shoes
have a small amount of correction - equivalent to 1 wedge - for a varus forefoot
built into the shoe. It is possible if you transferred all of your wedges you
are overcorrecting relative to what you had on your Nike set up.
Steve Hogg adds:
In addition to Eddie's good advice and assuming that has been taken into account,
the amount of heel lift in a shoe last can have quite an effect on how the rider
perceives power transmission. A shoe with high heel lift often causes the rider
to use more ankle movement to apply force to the pedal through the power part
of the pedal stroke. Some riders adapt to this, some don't. Given that you like
the comfort of the shoes, it may be worth persevering and learning a new way
of pedaling efficiently.
If you have given as much effort to that as you are prepared to and are still
not happy, then I would suggest moving the cleat further back on the shoe. That
will cause you to limit ankle movement to some degree and give you back the
'feel' that you have lost. As you do this, you will probably need to drop your
seat slightly as well. It will take a bit of experimentation to establish just
how far back you need to move the cleat. I am a big fan of low heel lift cycling
shoe lasts and can understand your frustration.
Pedaling angle possible remedy
Scott Saifer suggested a pedal-crank adapter to move the pedals out in the
June 13, 2007 Q&A ("Pedaling angle problems"). Here is a product
Pedal Extenders) I've seen online, but have never used, that may help.
Thanks for the great Q&A articles.
Scott Saifer replies:
Thanks for this great tip. I was not aware that anyone was already making the
product I was thinking of.
Post porta-pottie downer
OK, are you ready for the most bizarre question you've ever been asked?
One of the most ubiquitous sights at any bike race is the line to the porta-potties
just before the start of a race. Riders line up to take that last bathroom break,
and possibly lose a bit more pre-race weight if they are fortunate enough to
drop the kids off at the blue cesspool. This is especially common at time trials
and hilly road races.
However, I've kinda noticed something. Sometimes, while I do emerge feeling
a bit "relieved", I also sometimes don't necessarily feel any more
energetic. In fact, I get on the bike and I feel a bit sluggish and it takes
a bit to get the legs firing again. Is there some sort of hormonal response
to taking at number two so close the start of a race that might keep a rider
from being number one at the end of the race? Increased serotonin, perhaps?
Scott Saifer replies:
I don't have an answer for you. Just wanted to say that yes, this is one of
the most bizarre questions I've come across. Whether or not the effect you noticed
is real, I would not suggest holding back for fear of triggering the effect,
if you know what I mean.
Since you have noticed this effect and it's best not to hold back, do what
I tell my riders to do, if they ask: figure out about how long after you eat
dinner and how long after you wake up in the morning you typically are ready
to move your bowels, and be sure to time dinner the night before and morning
wake up time on race day to allow that movement to be completed long enough
pre-race that the let-down effect you are noticing has passed. And choose pre-race
dinner foods that pass relatively quickly.
Cleat position for sprinters
I'm quite interested in Steve Hogg's cleat position exercise, in particular
with respect to sprinting. I do a lot of bike fits myself and I use some of
Steve's ideas for fitting recreational riders and general endurance racer with
some success, but even after buying and watching 'Sitting Pretty' (Steve's bike
fit philosophy DVD) I'm still unsure as to what his position re foot/pedal axle
location would be for a sprinter.
Most of what's been written suggests that moving the foot forward may benefit
endurance riding but what is its effect on peak power for sprinting for both
track and road sprinting events?
Steve, any ideas or do you have any empirical data to suggest an 'ideal' foot/axle
relationship for a sprinter? Conventional wisdom says ball of the foot over
or even slightly behind the axle for peak power outputs, but conventional wisdom
has a habit of being found to be self-perpetuating myths in the bike biz (KOPS
- Knee Over Pedal Spindle etc).
Steve Hogg replies:
My apologies for the confusion. Here are the links (one
and two) to my general recommendations
for cleat positioning (midfoot cleat position aside). For road sprinters,
I would stick with those. For track sprinters, halve the distance suggested
in those posts for the placement of the centre of the first mtp joint in front
of the pedal axle.
Why the difference?
A road sprinter needs to get to the end of a race before he needs to worry
about the sprint and the general recommendations will help in that regard. Often,
the winner of a road sprint isn't the fastest rider but the freshest one.
With a track sprinter it is different. The effort is much shorter and maximising
the 'jump' can be important. To do that, an off the seat effort is needed, at
least initially. When the rider moves forward off the seat, two things happen.
More force can be exerted while off the seat but the size of the dead spot either
side of TDC [Top Dead Centre] and BDC [Bottom Dead Centre] in the pedal stroke
increases because the rider has moved forward over the bottom bracket.
The solution that comes naturally is to rip the heel of the downward leg upwards
forcefully after BDC, which helps get the upward leg over TDC. If the cleat
is too far back, this motion is limited because ankle motion is lessened. The
cleat position I am suggesting is far back enough to be a positive in terms
of stability of foot on pedal, but not so far back that off the seat efforts
I have had a few handy sprinters seat PBs for the flying and timed 200m using
that recommendation. One gent contacted me last year who had set a couple of
world records using that recommendation. He attributed his success to the cleat
position. I think he was being kind and that his hard work was the major reason
for his success, but it was interesting that he felt cleat position made a difference.
I am a new cyclist, training for the PanMass Challenge in August, 2007 (www.pmc.org).
Last weekend, I rode 40 miles and this weekend I rode 50 miles, but when I got
home, my wrists hurt. But more importantly, I had very little strength or dexterity
in my fingers. I could barely hold a fork and knife while I was eating, let
alone cut meat. I have tried to concentrate on changing hand positions frequently
during riding and also to dangle and shake my arm and wrists several times.
I am new to cycling, and am still nervous on my bike, so I know I may be gripping
the handlebars too tight - but I'm trying to relax and concentrate on loosening
my grip. The PMC is a 112-mile ride, and at this point I am concerned I won't
be able to finish - my wrists/hand strength won't hold out.
I am a 59 year-old female. My bike is a road bike (Specialized Sequoia). My
handlebars are the classic road bike style.
Steve Hogg replies:
Your problem may be caused by exactly the reasons you state. Other common
reasons are: seat too far forward causing a weight transfer forward that has
to be supported by the arms and/or handlebars that are too low.
Only you can tell whether it is your nervousness or if you are bearing too much
weight. Set your bike up on an indoor trainer and while pushing a reasonably
hard gear, take your hands off the bars suddenly. If you can't support yourself
without hands at least briefly, I suspect that your position on the bike could
use some work.
Carrie Cheadle adds:
Practice releasing that death grip while you ride. During your ride try this
mantra out "Relax my hands, relax my face, breathe." The small act
of relaxing your hands and face can help send a message to the rest of your
body to relax as well.
Shallow breathing can also add to the stress response so make sure you are
breathing. You can come up with some sort of cue to trigger yourself to remember
to do this. Set your watch to beep every five minutes or watch your odometer
and try it every five miles.
The way that you are talking to yourself can elicit that stress response as
well which then can lead to the death grip on the handle bars. Try out using
a cue word as you breath like "calm", "smooth", or just
"relax" to help counteract that stress response.
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