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Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for August 8, 2007
The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Short legs & cycling
Sex & cycling
Bike fit & cleat placement
Threaded sole inserts to increase cleat adjustment
Short legs & cycling
As a result of a motor cycle accident some 22 years ago (April 1985), I sustained
the following injuries :
- Compound fracture of the Left Femur
- Hairline fracture of the left femoral condoyle
- Ruptured ligament in right ankle
- Fractured 4th & 5th Metacarpals in Left hand
The femoral fracture left me with significant scarring and a leg which is between
9 - 12mm shorter than the right, and additionally, my foot is rotated about
10 - 15 degrees outwards. I have recently taken up cycling again, and as a result
of some Left knee pain, sought some treatment at a physio. This turned out to
be an issue with my cl-lateral ligament, which strapping solved quite well.
But during this process, I became concerned that I have never been positioned
on my bike properly, and sought out some expert advice.
I was setup by a local bike shop in Adelaide, who when given all of the data,
positioned me with "traditional methods", and I am more than happy with the
results. I was too high, seat was too far back, and my cleats needed to be adjusted
to take into account my foot angularity. I also began to consult a local chiropractor
who is an avid cyclist and also has a similar issue (short leg), and we are
investigating further optimizing my positioning. Initial x-rays showed the effect
of my short leg on my posture, but also showed up an even more serious issue
in that my back is "too straight"!
My overall question relates to the optimising of positioning with regards to
my shorter leg. There seems to be two sets of opinions on how best to solve
this. The simple one (and chiropractor supported) is to add spacers to the affected
cleat to account for the leg length. The "traditional bike fit" argues against
this idea in that adding stack height to the pedal reduces the power input,
and thereby exaggerating the effect of the weaker leg.
I can understand both sides of the argument, and since the leg length discrepancy
is in the femur, is altering the pedal stack height the optimal solution, or
are the traditionalists correct in that this will result in a greater power
discrepancy between the legs due to the stack height of the pedal ?
Being a 40 year old "social rider" who is aiming to complete 50 - 150km friendly/competitive
rides, TdU Challenge stages and the like, how important is this fit issue when
compared to a fully competitive cyclist? Your input into what maybe the best
solution is appreciated?
Steve Hogg replies:
If because of a functional or measurable discrepancy in leg length, a rider
cannot reach the bottom of the pedal stroke on both sides without compromising
pelvic stability on seat or without asymmetrically stressing their lumbar
spine, then a compensatory shim or other measures HAVE to be used. Any other
course leaves open the possibility of injury or debilitating niggles.
If there is a problem any other course of action is foolish. Don't take this
to mean that all leg length discrepancies have to be compensated for. Some
don't (most do) but, if there is a problem, what is the rider to do? Ask one
leg to extend further than it comfortably can under load which risks injury?
Or even worse, develop a technique where the shorter leg becomes 'lazy' in
the sense that the rider doesn't apply pressure to the pedals for the full
length of the downstroke as an autonomic self protection measure?
Compensate for the discrepancy to whatever degree is necessary and use both
legs to their (perhaps varying) potentials. One thing to consider is that
as you shim up a cleat, negative effects of rocking torque can become obvious.
The easiest way to negate this is to move the cleat slightly further back
relative to foot in shoe. Typically 1-1.5 mm for every 5 mm the cleat is shimmed.
There is a point in diminishing returns though, because as you move the cleat
back, you ask the leg to extend more.
I am a 54 year old 188cm 100kg rider who does not race. I ride 30km every morning
with a group and 60km on the weekends. I changed my cleats to the 'arch cleat'
position following the instructions set out by Steve Hogg and have had a fantastic
result, I will now never return to the 'standard' position. However riding hard
causes some discomfort in the very top of both my calves, so my question is:
do I need to adjust my seat either up or down to resolve this issue. I amble
able to ride up a rise in a bigger gear and if I let go of the drops I am stable.
With the cleats in this position I am riding the best that I have ever have.
Wal st Clair
Steve Hogg replies:
I'm glad to hear that it is mostly good. Re the pain at the top of the calves,
your seat needs to drop a bit more and/or your seat is slightly too far back.
Drop the seat 3 - 5mm and see how that goes. If that doesn't do the trick,
raise it back to where it was and then move it forward 5mm. Either way, let
me know what happens.
Sex & cycling
I know this is going to sound like a joke question, but in all seriousness
I mean it. I haven't had time to browse all the health and fitness articles
to see if it's been asked (I doubt it), but please, suffer me this time.
The background: I remember in high school cross country, our coach 'strongly
discouraged' any sexual encounters the night before a meet, citing a supposed
decrease in testosterone levels, and a corresponding drop in performance. Without
divulging too much, I just want to say that conditioned superstition, a steady
girlfriend, and a full race schedule make for a trying summer.
My question is this: is there any actual scientific merit to my former coach's
warnings? Would a tangible decrease in performance be perhaps due to either
physical exertion and/or a late night, as opposed to actual hormonal changes?
More importantly, can ANYTHING a person does have a short term effect on hormone
levels (androgynous or otherwise) noticeable enough to cause a performance drop?
Or would the perceived drop be due to a secondary concern (i.e. late night resulting
from the sex life, not actually the act itself)?
Again, I apologize if this seems absolutely ridiculous. It just seems that
it could make for a potential volatile situation if my race schedule forever
dictates the path of my relationships.
Other information that might be necessary for whatever reason -- I'm male,
coming up on my twentieth birthday next month, ride Cat 3 and hold my own, have
hopes of turning pro, and have been training for endurance sports for the last
Thanks for actually taking me serious.
Kelby Bethards replies:
You, I assume, know about Greg LeMond. When he went to Europe and was racing
and winning Tours, he was a bit of a new character on the scene. I vaguely
remember, in an interview, him mentioning that he was able to take care of
his needs, even during the Tour. (He also reportedly played golf on his rest
day and liked ice cream).
Ali, the "bad man" that he was apparently took the other approach. No sex
prior to events. Way before events actually.
You are young. EXPERIMENT. Do not let it get in your head that it will make
a negative impact and see what happens.
I have only read a couple studies and there seems to NOT be any evidence
that it will impair you. If fact, so think it may help.
See this National
Let're rip kid!!
Bike fit & cleat placement
I am a 6'1', 48 year old, 185 lb., 16 year veteran mountain bike racer who
also does well at a few road time trials. I ride roughly 5000 miles a year combining
outdoor and indoor training. I ride a new 59cm 2008 LeMond Tete de Course on
the road and a 21" 2005 Trek Top Fuel off road. In addition, for my height I
have an extremely long inseam; about 36" to the floor when I "really jam the
book up there". Thus, my torso is relatively shorter than others my height.
My shoe size is a typical 44--44.5.
Throughout my cycling career I have always had trouble positioning my cleat
comfortably on my left side. I have always felt a subtle twisting or binding
sensation in my lower leg as if the optimal position of my foot on the pedal
was being restricted. This sensation has been with me from the start but seems
to be growing as I age. It is never so painful that it forces me to stop, but
is annoying enough that I know it is restricting my power output. The biomechanics
on my right side are near perfect-hip, knee and ankle all rotate in the same
plane, toe slightly in, and virtually no wobble in my right knee. On the left,
however, it appears as though my knee wants to wobble through the pedal stroke
to compensate for the restriction in my foot placement. At first I thought the
sensation was due to my foot wanting to be wider; hence I moved my red Look
Keo (it was the same with previous Shimano pedals and shoes) cleat to the inside
of my Specialized pro carbon shoes to maximize the q factor, but that didn't
work. Although it seemed completely counterintuitive, I moved it opposite thereby
moving my foot inward. I feel a small amount of relief, but my cleat adjustment
is maxed out. In addition, my heel wants to rotate outward even further at the
bottom of each peddle stroke but is prevented from doing so by the limits of
Now here's the kicker: when I ride my mountain bike with my Eggbeater pedals,
my foot settles in to a toe-out, heel-in position opposite my road bike and
the twisting sensation vanishes! Seat height and fore-aft saddle position are
identical. The only difference I can discern is a fractionally wider q-factor
by a few millimetres on my road bike. When I forcibly duplicate this position
on my road bike, my foot will immediately wander back to the previous position
and the restrictive sensation returns. My chiropractor tells me I have a tiny
leg length discrepancy with my left being fractionally shorter. Can you offer
me any guidance as to what to consider next, short of riding Eggbeater pedals
on my road bike? I did, in fact, try Crank Brothers Quattro's but really didn't
care for them. The cleats squeaked badly and the stack height was noticeably
greater. The Looks work well for me, aside from the issues noted above.
Steve Hogg replies:
The most likely cause of your problem is simple. You are dropping your right
hip and/or rotating it forward on each right side pedal downstroke. This challenges
the plane of movement of the left leg and what you describe is typical of
a moderately severe tendency to this. This scenario is the most common functional
asymmetry in cycling and 95% of riders do it at some level, great or small.
The other 5% perform the left side dominant version of the same thing. If
there was a text book, you have given a 'text book' description of common
issues resulting from this.
The reason it has got worse as you have aged is that you are becoming less
flexible and more fixed in asymmetrical patterns of movement, and if you stretch,
you are either not stretching enough or are have a stretching regime that
doesn't address your particular issues.
The reason that this problem is not apparent on the mountain bike or probably
more accurately, is less apparent; is that the more upright torso position
on the MTB provides less of a challenge to your on seat pelvic stability and
So what to do about it?
Here are some boxes to tick:
1. Have a podiatrist or good bike positioning person check you for forefoot
varus. It is likely that you have either a greater right forefoot varus and
your neural pattern of motor control 'protects' the favoured right side by
sacrificing the left side in the process. Again, very common. If you find
this is the case, use some Bicycle Fitting Systems cleat wedges (used to be
LeMond wedges) to compensate for the forefoot varus. This won't stop you dropping
your hip as there are likely to be differences in flexibility between left
and right hips and the muscles that bear on them, but it will remove one stressor.
If you find that you have a noticeable left forefoot varus, wedge it to, but
for starters, try using one less wedge than is 'recommended'. This is because
your right side dominant pedalling style is dragging your body to the right
and if you wedge your left cleat to much, it will cause additional problems.
2. Have a good physio or someone else appropriately knowledgeable globally
assess you structurally and plan a flexibility and core strength regime to
allow you to function more symmetrically in general. The more functional and
symmetrical you are off the bike, the more functional and symmetrical you
will be on the bike.
3. Consider raising your bars in the short to medium term. It is the forward
lean to the bars that is exacerbating your tendency to favour the right side.
4. It is really important that you have a good cleat position. Cleat position
plays a huge part in our stability on the seat of a bike and if our feet aren't
stable on the pedals, we will feel the effects on the seat. Have a look at
these links regarding cleats
and the ball
of your foot.
Threaded sole inserts to increase cleat adjustment
I spied somewhere a couple of months ago in a discussion about pedalling with
the middle of your foot, a suggestion for how to move the cleat fixing from
its normal position and referring to a Shimano part number for the new threaded
inserts which would be required. (Look fixing).
I've looked and I've looked since but I can't find this reference any longer.
I don't want to change to mid-foot pedalling; because I have one foot which
is fully one size longer than the other, I simply want to be able to push the
cleat on one of the shoes further forward than the present positioning of the
threaded inserts will allow, despite having routed out the elongated slots in
the cleats to their maximum. I'm almost there but not quite! I need another
couple of mill. and the only solution is to put in another set of threaded inserts
just ahead of those positioned by the manufacturers. So, if you could let me
have the Shimano reference again, I'll try to find someone who can supply me.
Curiously enough, despite my feet being odd sizes, I find they are equally
comfortable in the shoes which are both a 47 (Sidi Genius). It's just one of
the cleat positions which is a tad wrong. Nor is the solution it seems, to buy
odd-sized shoes. I've already tried that with 2 different sizes of Time and
the positioning on both the 46 and the 47 is identical. I could go on experimenting
with shoes from other manufacturers but good cycling shoes aren't that cheap
and I don't have a bottomless purse.
The other solution would be of course, for someone to start manufacturing
cleats with scope for extra length adjustment. I've not heard of anyone doing
this although I'm nothing like as up to date as you gentlemen. I'm sure there
must be a lot of cyclists out there who have odd feet, just like me, to whom
this would be a blessing.
La France Profonde
Steve Hogg replies:
The part what Shimano call an SH - R121 Cleat Nut. The part no. is Y4YN01000.
It is the 3 hole, Look compatible metal fitting that you are after. They make
several others but I don't have the part numbers for those.
On August 7, Scott Saifer and I will embark on a shoe modification project
to make my shoes compatible with arch cleat position.
Second, an additional benefit of arch cleats is more aerodynamic position.
Since moving the cleats will require lowering of the saddle, it would be reasonable
to lower the bars also. Lower saddle and lower bars obviously result in a lower
rider profile. Sorry if this has been addressed already.
Steve Hogg replies:
You're correct but will likely find that you can't drop the bars to quite
the same extent as you will need to drop the seat. A typical seat drop when
moving from forefoot cleat position to midfoot cleat position is 30 - 40 mm.
A lot depends on what the arch shape of the shoe that you are modifying is
like and how much it has to be 'filled' in. You will find that the greater
hamstring (and quad) enlistment will limit how far you can drop the seat.
If you are reasonably flexible in and around the hips, you should be able
to drop your bars 2/3 of the distance that you drop your seat. If you are
not reasonably flexible, expect to drop the bars about half of the amount
that you drop the seat.
Many people (not all) need to move their seats further forward too, though
the degree varies a lot as it depends on what their previous position was.
Rejig your position using the balance test and you should be in the vicinity.
There is a bit of trial and error involved in moving to arch cleats. Scott
is a thinker so you shouldn't have any real problems. It will feel weird at
first but if you ride 50kms with midfoot cleat position and then return to
your previous position you will get a shock! Try it.
I would be interested to hear how you get on.
Other Cyclingnews Form & Fitness articles