Cyclingnews TV   News  Tech   Features   Road   MTB   BMX   Cyclo-cross   Track    Photos    Fitness    Letters   Search   Forum  

Recently on

Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Form & Fitness Q & A

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your age, sex, and type of racing or riding. Due to the volume of questions we receive, we regret that we are unable to answer them all.

The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel

Since 1986 Steve Hogg ( 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 other end.

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 ( 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 ( 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 any geography.

David Fleckenstein, MPT ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 a coach.

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.

Fitness questions and answers for September 5, 2007

Pre-ride Nutrition
Big gears vs. small gears
Fuel for Endurance Rides
Weight Loss/Optimizing Power to weight ratio

Pre-ride Nutrition

Thanks for your helpful and informative answers to some challenging questions. My question relates to pre-ride nutrition. I am 187cm tall and my weight varies from 74kg in winter to 72kg in summer. It has been as low as 71kg in recent years when training more intensively than normal. I am happy with my weight and feel that climbing is a comparative advantage for me. The issue for me is not weight loss but endurance. Riding time is limited due to work and family commitments to 1 long ride (3hours +) per week and a twice daily weekday commute of about 1/2 hour. I have occasionally suffered from hunger flats and more generally from loss of power on rides in excess of 3 hours.

My long rides and it seems most events that I do commence at or before 6am. It is not practical to eat more than an hour at the most before the ride. All the literature I have read suggests limiting food intake prior to a ride. I am wary of hunger flats during the long rides though and am not confident to do away with a last minute carbo intake, typically a bowl of oats. I ride with liquid form carbohydrate and gels and bars on anything longer than an hour. Is this pre-ride meal teaching my muscles not to switch to fat burning?

Andrew Shaw
Melbourne, Australia

Pamela Hinton replies:

Your instincts are correct. If you are suffering from "hunger flats" and related loss of power, then reducing your carbohydrate intake would only exacerbate the problem. Hunger flats, aka bonking, is caused by depletion of glycogen stores. Light-headedness, confusion, and tunnel vision are symptoms of inadequate glucose to maintain normal brain function. Because high-intensity exercise requires carbohydrate, and not fat, be used as the energy source, you lose power when you run out of glycogen.

Unless you are racing or doing high-intensity intervals, you don't need to limit your food intake prior to a ride. As long as you eat sensibly before your ride, it shouldn't be a problem. Obviously, your pre-ride meal should include carbohydrates and you want to avoid foods that are high in fat and protein because they are hard to digest.

Aerobic exercise training increases your ability to use fat for energy. As mentioned above, however, during a ride, it is the intensity that dictates the ratio of carbohydrate to fat. High-intensity exercise requires carbohydrate and low-intensity exercise does not. The reason for the effect of exercise intensity on fuel selection is that carbohydrate yields more energy per litre of oxygen consumed than fat does.

Oats and other grains are an excellent pre-ride breakfast. To prevent hunger flats during your longer rides consume 30-60g of carbohydrate per hour. Most commercial sports drinks are formulated so that you will achieve this recommendation by drinking one litre per hour during exercise.

Big gears vs. small gears

I am 21, cat 4 collegiate racer at 6ft 1 and weigh 155lbs. I have been riding bike tours since age 13 and started to get serious about racing last year. Several older riders have told me that I need to ride the big chain ring more often even when I am just going for a moderately paced ride. I usually ride with cadence in the 90s and don't usually shift to the big chain ring because my cadence works for my speed say 19-21mph. I tried riding bigger gears and standing more on uphills and it seems to be okay but it def. takes longer for me to recover because I can feel it the next day.

Is it okay to ride big gears and have a slow cadence (70s-90s)? Should I focus on riding in the big chain ring in order to boost my muscle mass and Power or can too much of this be harmful?

Kutztown USA

Dave Palese replies:

First, if you don't already know it, you live in/near a hotbed for cycling on the east coast. If you have a desire to improve as a racing cyclist you have more at your fingertips than most. Take advantage of it.

The gear that you ride in at any given moment is determined by a couple of factors. The first two are choice that you make: 1.) the amount of force you prefer to apply to the pedals (do you want to be pushing hard or lightly on the pedals); 2.) Your preferred cadence. The other factor in gear choice is the speed at which you are travelling.

The short answer to your question is pedal how you like if it produces the results you want. If you can pedal a lighter gear, applying less force to the pedals at a higher cadence, and still keep up with the competition, do it. In general, 'spinning' a lighter gear at a higher cadence is a good ability to have as it can often keep you legs fresher longer into an event. That being said, there will always come a time during your racing carrier when you will need to 'push the meat'. So it will add dimension to your riding if you add some training, short hill repeats maybe, where you push a bigger than normal gear, at a lower than preferred cadence. It could help you develop an element of strength in you physicality.


I was wondering how I could fix a problem when I am climbing. When I make an attack on a steep climb my rear wheel bounces off of the ground and my wheel spins out. It happens a couple of times each attack. This takes away from my attack and wastes precious time. I was wondering if you had any tips to keep my back wheel on the ground and to help out my attack.

Ryan Broxterman

Dave Palese replies:

It sounds to me like you have your weight too far forward when you get out of the saddle. It's tough to diagnose without seeing you, but I think and easy way work towards a remedy is to practice your out-of-the-saddle positioning on the bike. Start by doing so at a pace/intensity that is reduced from race levels. Focus on balancing your weight further back on the bike. A good general rule (the key here is general, but it is a good checkpoint to start with) is that you should feel the saddle just brushing your butt as the bike moves under you.Try doing a few efforts, 4-5 repeats, focusing on technique and not speed at the start of a hill repeats workout.

Fuel for Endurance Rides

Hello, I am a 175 lb, 6', 61 year old male rider who has been riding for nearly three years. I ride 3-4 times per week and cover 100-150 miles. I live on Maui, so a lot of those miles are uphill. I usually climb 5-10,000' per week.

I find that on longer rides, exceeding two hours and involving 4,000' or more of climbing I tend to 'bonk' after 2+ hours. I believe the problem is not eating right and have experimented with various approaches but have not found one that works for me. I have difficulty eating while riding (tends to inhibit breathing) so I prefer to go for liquid fuel.

Yesterday I started a 10,000' climb and for the first 2 hours my heart rate was in the 140-150 range, my max is 170. I ate approx. 1000 calories for breakfast and drank 16 oz per hour of fluid containing two scoops of 'Sustained Energy' and 1 scoop of Endurolyte powder. I also sucked frequently from a small bottle containing hammer gel. At 4,000' (2 hrs.) I started to slow noticeably and by 6,000' was experiencing cramps in the inside of my thighs. I persevered but my climbing rate dropped to 1,000' per hour from 2,000 per hour and I had trouble getting my heart rate above 125.

Do you have any advice on adequate pre-ride and during ride fuelling for me?

Maui, USA

Pamela Hinton replies:

Although your symptoms could certainly be due to lack of carbohydrate, I suspect that your fatigue and cramping are not associated with bonking. You are eating a reasonable breakfast, assuming a good portion of those calories are from carbohydrates. If you are consuming 2 scoops of "Sustained Energy" per hour, that's approximately 55g of carbohydrates per hour. The recommended intake is 30-60 g per hour. Exceeding the suggested upper limit is likely to result in gastrointestinal problems. There is one caveat to what I've said so far, if your regular diet is low in carbohydrates, you may be in continual state of glycogen depletion. The recommended carbohydrate intake for endurance athletes who regularly engage in glycogen-depleting exercise (>1.5-2 hours) is 6-10 g/ kg of body weight.

Recognize that having enough carbohydrate is not a guarantee that you won't get tired or cramp. Being vigilant about carbohydrate intake can only minimize the risk of bonking. Climbing 4000 feet in 2 hours is a lot of climbing, even for someone who's in good shape. The cramping of your inner thighs (and not whole body) suggests that you're experiencing fatigue.

Weight Loss/Optimizing Power to weight ratio

I am a Cat 4 road cyclist that has been riding for four years, the last three of which competitively and I would like to lose more weight without sacrificing muscle mass or power on the bike in order to optimize my power to weight ratio for climbing. I am about 6' 1" tall and I weigh about 163 pounds. My waist is 31 inches, and my quads measure 23 inches in diameter at the largest point, and I have a multitude of veins visible on my arms and legs.

I can sustain approximately 5.5 watts per kilogram in a five minute power test, and between 4 to 4.5 watts/kg in a 20 minute test. I lost approximately eight pounds over the winter in an effort to lean up for the hills because I enjoy climbing and naturally perform better on the hills, and I live/train/race in an area with many hills and several extended climbs up to three to four miles. I know that according the BMI, I could lose approximately 20-25 lbs and still be considered healthy, but I have more muscle on my legs than just about all of the riders I train and race with, and I am not sure how much more weight I could or should lose in order to completely optimize my climbing. I am in the best condition of my life currently and I fear losing strength and power if I lose too much weight and becoming more susceptible to sickness. If I should lose more weight, how much would you suggest? I know this is a difficult question to answer without having my body fat professionally measured, but I appreciate any advice you can provide. Thank you for your time.

Pamela Hinton replies:

You are correct, without knowing your percent body fat it is nearly impossible to determine if you have any unnecessary fat left to lose. Even if you were to get your body fat tested, there is so much error associated with even the most accurate techniques you would have only a range of values. At best, the error associated with skin fold measurements, for example, is ± 3%. So if you're measured at 12%, you may actually be anywhere between 9-15%.

Having said that, the most important thing to do is what you're already doing: be aware of the negative consequences of losing too much weight and listen to your body. If you lose power, have trouble recovering from hard training, are always hungry or start thinking obsessively about food, you've gone too far. You may have some fat to lose, but no where near 20-25 pounds.


Other Cyclingnews Form & Fitness articles