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Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for November 13, 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.
Compact crank arm length
Recovery from races
Spin Scan analysis
Posterior knee problems
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy risk for cyclists?
New bike fit
Compact crank arm length
My road bike was built with a Campy Record group with a standard double crank
which has served me well for the past five years. I'm looking at purchasing
a compact crank because my knees are not getting any younger and I now live
in a very hilly area. I'm 6'8" and my crank arm on my double is 180mm. Campy's
maximum compact crank arm length is 175mm.
I've talked with many "fit experts" in bike shops and everyone has their opinion
on correct crank arm length. Some say I need to stay with 180mm (which Campy
doesn't make). Others say it's OK to go with the shorter length - 175mm. Some
of these experts say I can mix a Shimano compact 180mm crank arm with my Campy
group (heresy in my book). Others say it is not a good marriage. I've researched
Specialties TA who make a crankset called the Carmina that has 180mm and 185mm
crank arms. The bike shop that sells Specialties TA swears by them, but all
of the "fit experts" either haven't heard of TA (which is surprising) or don't
hold TA in high regard.
What are the physiological and performance issues that I will have to contend
with if I drop down to the 175mm crank arm length? Or is the 175mm length too
short and out of the question? I've been researching this for a long time and
just when I think I've got the right answer someone else gives me their expert
opinion and I'm back to square one again. Any advice/opinion/expertise on this
issue would be greatly appreciated.
Steve Hogg replies:
You are an exceptionally tall bloke and probably with exceptionally long
legs as well. Stick with what you know works for you and get the 180mm TA
Carminas. The only difference you will find between them and your Campag cranks
is that they have a 150mm Q factor measurement when used with the 107mm TA
bottom bracket compared to the Campags' Q factor 145.5mm. If you can move
your cleats a couple of mm further outward on your shoes from your current
position, which will bring your feet inwards on the pedals by that amount,
you will have the same foot separation distance as you currently use.
The Carminas come as two crank arms and have a replaceable chainring spider
and obviously you are going for the 110 mm bcd 'compact' spider. One tip is
for you to request that whoever you buy them from fits the spider themselves
and checks that it is parallel and that the chain rings don't oscillate. I
have seen some poorly fitted spiders when the work was done by the owners.
If you have really large feet, say size 48 Euro or larger, you may want to
consider the Carmina 185mm version. If in doubt, stick with the length that
you are used to.
For all those cyclists considering the idea of a new bicycle for next season
I'd like to pose a question to the bike fitters in the panel.
We all come in different shapes, sizes, and proportions, but most of us fall
within a standard deviation or two. In your bike fitting experience, do you
find that most bodies can achieve a reasonable position on a stock frame (as
opposed to a custom job) from one of the many manufacturers? Are there certain
areas that you are more concerned with (i.e. reach vs. seat-tube length)?
Bike shops can measure, fit, and recommend a frame to a cyclist, but I often
wonder what constraints or motivations might come into play. What would you
recommend to those who may not be able to shell out for a fully custom frame?
Thanks for your thoughts.
Steve Hogg replies:
I would suggest that the way a rider functions plays more part in the position
they should ride than how they are proportioned. That aside yes, the great
majority of riders can gain a good position on a production bike. Probably
2% or so would struggle in the sense that their requirements are not met by
what is available in mass produced bikes. A larger but still small percentage
of riders will be able to gain a good position on a production bike but the
price of that may be less than ideal weight balance over the wheels which
may affect steering and handling.
More people want a custom frame than need a custom frame. A custom frame
has more reasons for existing than whether the rider can fit a production
bike or not. The rider may want the pleasure of owning an item that is designed
for them alone. They may want to move away from the compromises inherent in
production frame design. They may want a bike to steer and handle a particular
way or have an added or lesser degree of frame stiffness than a production
What areas to be most concerned about?
Everything is a compromise. What we all need to do is arrive at the best
combination of compromises for us. Sometimes this is a process rather than
Recovery from races
Hello, my name is Giancarlo Bianchi. I am a 23 yr old cat 3, 5'7" 134 lbs.
While riding back from the morning ride today I was thinking about something
that I knew I could count on you guys to answer.
Let's say you have to compete in two races in one day. Examples include a master
competing in a 30+ and then the pro race later on, or a time trial in the morning
or a RR, CRIT, etc. in the evening, a junior race in the morning and the cat
3,4,5 race later on, a track qualifying and the finals later, etc. I have two
questions regarding this situation so I will number them for clarity.
1. How do you go about recovering for them? Obviously it depends on the time
in between races but what should be the protocol? 24 oz carb drink if its 30
minutes or less? a bar if 30-60 mins? A sandwich? A meal? I imagine that there
is probably a simple line graph that could be constructed...
2. Would you need to warm up for the second race? Again I see how it could
depend on the time in between races, but what should be the protocol? If it's
right after then no need, right? If its 30 minutes then a simple roll around
This would be a great wealth of knowledge for everyone. Thanks in advance and
hope to hear from you soon.
Carrie Cheadle replies:
This is an excellent question. I don't know what you need recovery wise for
nutrition, hydration, and warm-up - but one thing that is often neglected
when people talk about recovery from one race to the next is mental/emotional
recovery. It's imperative that you line up for your 2nd race with a clean
slate from your 1st race. If you are focused on the events of the previous
race your head is not in the moment and where it needs to be to perform in
the present. One way to work on this is to come up with some sort of ritual
for yourself to symbolically choose when you stop thinking about the last
race and focus on the next one. If your race didn't go as well as you had
planned - take time to be upset and think about what you learned from it as
you drink your recovery drink. When you finish your drink - you're finished
with that race.
Using imagery is a great way to transition between races as well. Imagery
can be used to visualize your muscles recovering as you eat and hydrate. You
can also use imagery to ride through the next race - see yourself on the course,
see potential scenarios that may play out and how you will react in those
situations. If you're stuck thinking about the 1st race - this will help you
move forward and get focused on the next race.
Spin Scan analysis
I'm a 25 year old competitive cyclist. I see many bike-fit facilities offer
a Spin Scan analysis to determine accurate seat height and pedal efficiency.
Does it determine correct cleat position as well? I would like to know if the
spin scan analysis is really worth a try, or is it a waste of time.
Ric Stern replies:
There is no exact method of determining seat height, so, Spin Scan
can't do this. I'm not certain what you mean by pedal efficiency (perhaps
the profile of your pedalling style?), but, (thermodynamic) efficiency can
only be measured by determining your expired respiratory gases, and this will
almost always shows that at a given power output a lower cadence is more efficient
than a higher cadence.
On the other hand, if by pedal efficiency you meant how you pedal through
your pedal stroke then, again, Spin Scan does not really measure this.
For that, you need force instrumented pedals to see how you pedal. However,
it appears that there is no particular style that is any better than any other.
All that really matters is that you generate more power.
Lastly, Spin Scan doesn't have anything to do with cleat position.
Dario Frederick replies:
I agree with Ric that Spin Scan does not directly determine a cyclist's saddle height or cleat position. In my experience, the main benefit of using Spin Scan is as a feedback tool for training "physicial intelligence," or improving the awareness of how we use our body - in this case pedaling. Some find it helpful to have a visual model of their pedaling style so that they can better visualize and feel what they are doing with their pedal stroke out on the road, on the dirt or during a fitting. If this increased awareness improves one's sensitivity to changes in saddle or cleat positioning during the fitting process, it can be useful. I find that a rider's feedback is an important aspect of proper fitting, and the ability to provide feedback varies considerably with physical awareness to changes in position and pedaling mechanics.
Posterior knee problems
Hi. I'm a 24 year old, keen, competitive mountain biker riding for around five
years now; however I ramped up my training and was beginning to compete in races
last year to gain my fourth category road racing licence. After a break in September
2006, l started to train for the following season however had to stop when l
injured my left soleus and posterior part of my left knee. I had noticed a slight
weakness in the knee approximately a year previous to the injury, but after
some rest the pain disappeared. The pain came on in a ride where l was pushing
on into the wind, and I admit, pushing too big a gear.
Much to my downfall, I decided to keep riding. The pain persisted, and so I
began to seek treatment through physiotherapy, without much success. Unfortunately
the trouble persists to this day, almost a year later. Due to various commitments
I have been unable to stay with a single physiotherapist, and as a result I
have only recently received a diagnosis that I have flat feet. I have been fitted
with orthotics which seems to have cured the pain I was getting in my soleus
muscles. The sharp pain in my knee is now in two distinct areas, either side
of the centre of the knee as seen from the back. The pain occurs during walking
as well as cycling, and so affects my day to day activities. My current physio
believes the issue is being exacerbated due to my knees, which are able to hyperextend
when walking. This has caused the posterior capsule to become lax, and the popliteus
tendon and ligament to strain.
I am awaiting the results of an MRI scan on my knee, however am now at the
end of my tether due to not being able to ride consistently over the past year,
and not at all over the past month following advice to rest.
Dropping my seat height by around half an inch, and moving it forward, together
with has helped, but do you have any other specific advice that may enable me
to get back riding? I am worried that an injury that has persisted for this
long will not heal at all, and my riding days will be over.
If it helps, I ride a Cannondale R1000, 56cm (c to c) frame, 90mm stem, with
a BB to seat height of 730mm (after dropping the seat). My inside leg is 79cm,
and I am 1.76m.
Steve Hogg replies:
The basic problem is that you are overextending the left leg. The big question
is why? There are a number of potential reasons. 1. A measurably or functionally
shorter left leg. 2. A tendency to favour the right side which will mean a
tendency to drop and / or rotate the right hip forward. This in turn causes
the left leg to reach further as the rider isn't centred on the seat.
The reason that dropping your seat and moving it forward relieved the symptoms
is because you reduced the distance that the left leg had to reach to the
pedals. Equally, moving the seat forward reduces hamstring enlistment and
the hammies and calves work in concert across the knee joint, meaning in turn,
less stress on the calves.
What to do about it?
It depends on exactly what the problem is. The most common pattern of asymmetry
in cycling is a tendency to favour the right side which takes the form of
a perceptible dropping of the right hip. If the rider is reasonably flexible
and functional, this tendency will be minor. But any challenge to the seat
pelvic stability, meaning seat too high, too low, too far forward, too far
back will exacerbate this asymmetric tendency.
Here is what I would do in your position.
1. Have a long leg X ray or MRI to accurately establish leg length. Armed
with the results of that exercise, you will be dealing with facts rather than
supposition. 2. Set your bike up on an indoor trainer and warm up thoroughly
with your shirt off. Get an observer to stand on a chair or stool above and
behind you. What he needs to tell you is whether you are dropping and / or
rotating the right hip forward. If this is the case, get back to me for a
few measures to help.
Once you have the answers to the 2 points above, the solution to your problem
could be anything from dropping your seat to fitting a 5mm shim underneath
your left cleat. Don't give up just yet. Problems of the sort you describe
are not usually hard to resolve.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy risk for cyclists?
I am a 47 year old male recreational road cyclist, typically riding 4-5000
kilometres a year. I ride regularly with a group of friends, ranging in age
from 36 to 60. After the recent and well publicized death of runner Ryan Shay
in the New York City Marathon, speculation has risen that the cause of death
was hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart). Then last week, a friend of
mine who is a strong marathon runner (sub 3 hr) lost consciousness after a 1K
jog from the car to the start line of a local marathon. He suffered a concussion
from falling, but doctors are at a loss as to why he passed out. Early suspicion
is that he may have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. With all the talk of this condition
and sudden death in endurance athletes, our spouses have voiced concern that
we may be putting ourselves at risk.
My question is does hypertrophic cardiomyopathy present a serious risk to cyclists?
It seems to me that the majority of cases of sudden death involve runners. Is
there something inherent in running to exasperate this condition, or is it just
that so many people run compared to other endurance sports?
Scott Safier replies:
The media did a terrible job of covering the death of Ryan Shay. Hypertrophic
cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a genetic disease. You cannot get it by exercising.
Individuals with HCM have a mutated gene for one of the contractile proteins
in their heart muscle. Because of the mutation, the muscle does not contract
as well as it should. As a result, the muscle grows in an attempt to handle
the load it is required to handle. The enlarged heart in HCM has a thickened
wall and reduced stroke volume because the muscle actually gets so big that
it takes up what should be the pump chamber of the heart. There are many different
mutations that lead to HCM. Some of them make the muscle so inefficient that
it grows so quickly that individuals with that mutation all die in the childhood.
Some of the mutations work more slowly and cause deaths later. Some are relatively
benign, leading to a slightly thickened heart wall but rarely death.
The enlarged heart of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is entirely distinct from
the enlarged heart of an athlete. The enlarged heart of an athlete has a thickened
heart wall, but also an increased pump volume. The enlarged heart is HCM is
irreversible. In fact, the thicker the heart wall becomes, the less efficient
the pump leading to yet more thickening. The athlete's enlarged heart will
shrink within a few weeks if the athlete stops training.
People with the deadly varieties of HCM are almost certainly going to die
of their condition. The only question is when. It might be during exercise
or at might be at home later. If you, or your spouse, are concerned about
HCM, talk to your physician. The conclusion from the medical establishment
again and again has been that HCM is so rare that testing for it routinely
in the healthy population is a waste of money and time. Anyone who has a family
history of HCM or other genetically influenced heart disease or who has any
symptoms suggestive of heart disease should be working with a physician to
track his or her own condition.
New bike fit
My team is getting new road bikes for next season, and I need to figure out
which size frame suits my needs best. I am a 31 year old, male racer, and have
been riding for about 2 years. I race both criteriums and road races, with a
slight emphasis on criteriums.
I have been professionally fit on my current Fuji bike. It is a size 58 (seat
tube, C-T), with a 57 cm top tube (C-C). The seat tube angle is 73 and the head
tube angle is 73.5. I have it fitted with a 100 mm stem, making the effective
reach 670 mm.
The new bikes will be Ridley's. Both the size M and L, fitted with different
stems and seat post lengths will give me the needed dimensions, but both have
their advantages / disadvantages.
The size M has a 560 mm effective top tube length (with a seat tube angle of
73 degrees), so fitted with a 110 mm stem will give me the correct reach. But
the seat tube is only 540 mm (C-T), which would require 225 mm of seat post
for my saddle height of 765 mm. The head tube is also only 175 mm, which would
require 40 mm of spacers below the stem to raise the handlebars as high as I
The size L has a 585 mm effective top tube length (with a slacker seat tube
angle of 72.5 degrees), so fitted with a 90 mm stem will give me approximately
the same reach. It would require 195 mm of seat post and the head tube is 205
mm, which would only require 10 mm of spacers under the stem.
My questions are what is preferable: a longer top tube with a short stem, or
a longer stem with more spacers on the steer tube? I have heard that shorter
stems can affect the way the bike handles, and that additional steer tube length
can affect the stiffness of the front end, and thereby affect handling as well.
Steve Hogg replies:
What are the head tube lengths of your existing frame and the two you are
Are you using your existing stem in the lower position of flipped to the
The head tube length on my existing bike is 169 mm, and the new bikes are:
size M - 175 mm; size L - 205 mm. I am using the stem flipped to the higher
position. I have relatively poor flexibility, which is why the need for a shorter
reach and high bars.
Steve Hogg replies:
Given that you are racing on the bike and not cruising slowly around the
countryside, I would suggest the larger frame with the 90mm stem. Not because
it will steer wonderfully, it will probably steer acceptably only, but if
you are adaptable, you will be fine. What concerns me is a 40mm stack of spacers
underneath a stem that is being heavily leveraged by you yanking on the bars
while off the seat.
A couple of things I would suggest is to firstly, to consider a shallow drop,
short reach bar like the FSA Wing Pro Compact. Depending on what you are using
now, a short reach bar like that may allow you to use a longer stem (which
won't change steering characteristics while you are in the drops because your
hands and any weight borne by them will be in the same place as a shorter
stem with longer reach bar.) but will be more aesthetically pleasing. And
secondly, the shallower drop, again depending on what bar you are using now,
may allow you to use a lesser head seat spacer stack or to flip the stem to
the lower position.
If the FSA bar is substantially shallower and shorter than your current bar,
you may want to think again about the smaller of the two frames you are contemplating.
If you do end up with the smaller frame and considering the amount of seat
post you will be showing, I would suggest using an aluminium post as most
carbon posts with that length, flex too much under pedalling forces for my
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