Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for February 13, 2008
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.
Heart rate zones
Power meter and speed
Heart rate zones
Whose Heart Rate Zones should I trust? I've been reading Joel Friel's Mountain
Biker's Training Bible which has a set of heart zones set up on a nice table.
Other books, such as Heart Zones Training have different heart zones
laid out. For instance, for my fitness level Joel Friel has his zone 1 as anything
below 143bpm. Heart Zones Training has zone 1 as anything below 130bpm.
As the zones get higher, the differences become even more noticeable. I have
trouble holding Friel's Zone 2 Endurance level (143-151) based on what my RPE
ought to be at that level, but I do fine with Heart Zones Training (131-143).
Who should I trust?
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Scott Saifer replies:
Thanks for this great question. Do you mean "trust" or "trust blindly"? If
you mean "trust blindly", then the answer is no-one's zones at all.
How you define zones really doesn't matter much. What matters is what you
try to do in those zones: how much time, to what endpoint? Your perceived
exertion is equally or more important than the heart rate zone, and any definition
of zone 2 that yields a zone you have to work hard to be in is not suitable
for you. Zone 2 should be a level of effort that you can do for hours comfortably
so long as you are eating and drinking well and recovering between workouts.
Hi, I have an equipment question I am hoping you can help me with.
I'm ready for some new wheels and hoped you could advise which are the best
I'm 5'5" and 140lbs. I'm a cat 3 rider, hoping to make cat 2 at some point
in the next couple of years. I currently use Kysriums SL's with Vittoria Evo
I'd like to buy some aero/carbon wheels, but also want them to be light, or
at least no heavier than my old wheels.
My first choice was the Reynolds Attack, a 32mm deep clincher rim and about
1500grams for the pair, so a similar weight to my current Ksyriums (but I think
the rims are lighter) with the added bonus of being slightly more aero. They
are also quite a lot cheaper than most quality aero carbon wheels.
I could decide to break the bank and go for Zipp 202's which are also 32mm
depth, but just under 1100grams, and very light in the rim. They are tubular
Or Reynolds DV46 clinchers, a deeper and presumably more aero 46mm rim depth
and again just under 1500 grams.
Or finally I could go for the Bontrager XXX-lite, a shallow 24mm deep, but
the lightest clincher at 1300grams.
Or maybe another set of wheels I haven't considered?
Although I want the biggest performance gains to be relevant to the road races
I ride in the UK, which are generally fairly flat to rolling, the odd race has
a decent climb that might take 5 minutes, but then would be followed by 15 minutes
at 20 to 30 mph, or have short steep ramps that take 30 seconds to 1 minute.
I'll still use the wheels on my local chain gangs and yearly trip to the mountains
of Europe. (I don't see the point of having nice gear and only using it for
racing, where it's most likely to get trashed).
Because of this I like the convenience of clinchers. Although I'm sure tubulars
are faster, which is why I would consider the Zipp 202's.
I'm riding the Marmotte sportive this year, which is 5000m of climbing in the
French Alps. I did this last year on my Kysriums (in just under 8 hours). So
I figure 1500 gram wheel weight is ok, plus I'd get the advantages of an aero
wheel for the descents and valley roads.
Obviously I'm not a big guy, so another consideration is using the deeper rims
on windy days due to side winds. I don't want to get blown about to the point
where I'm a danger to myself and others. How likely and noticeable do you think
this would be on the deeper rims I've mentioned compared to my Ksyriums?
Dave Palese replies:
I have my opinion, and that is all it is. So here it goes.
For me, the best bang for the buck is the Mavic Carbone (and they make a
Premium model as well). For an everyday wheel, which it sounds like you want
to have that kind of flexibility, you can't beat them for durability and performance.
I'll admit that if you compare just based on weight of the wheelset they are
not the lightest of the bunch, but the 52mm rim profile makes up for it. And
the alu hoop will hold up better than most on the market. Plus, Mavic's internals
are bombproof, at least in my experience.
I speak from my own experience on this one. So someone who owns Zipp's or
Reynolds might have another slant.
I have SL's that I train on (plus my PowerTap wheel) and then I have Carbones
that I race crits and circuit races on, and use for the odd 'special' occasion.
But I also ride them when I just want the bike to look real cool. I feel very
confident about them in almost any situation.
Just my two cents.
My name is sonny and I'm 35 years old, I ride about 3 to 4 times a week, about
30 to 40 miles each ride. My question is related to a difference in muscle mass.
I noticed that my left quad muscle is bigger than the left and my right calf
muscle is bigger than my left calf. I experience a lot of back pain after about
one and half hour rides. What do you think is causing this unevenness in my
legs? I Hope you have some answers or suggestion on what to do? Appreciate your
help. Thank you.
Steve Hogg replies:
I can't say with certainty what you are doing to have this uneven development
of the leg musculature. What I can say with certainty is that you are not
functioning symmetrically on the bike. Why?
There could be a lot of reasons. To narrow things down a bit, why don't you
see a physio or other structural health professional for a global structural
Once you have the results of that, get back to me with what you find and
I am happy to try and advise further based on what you find.
I am a 20 year old cyclist from Ottawa, Canada. 5'11", race weight=163lbs,
current weight 170lbs. Resting heart rate is around 32bpm. I race quite often
mountain bikes in the summer months. This winter I started to include Power
training in my training. The thing is, that with all the different ways to calculate
threshold power, I seem to be lost.
I did a 30 minute time trial, in which I averaged 340W, at this power my heart
rate was around 165bpm for the last 20 minutes. According to most, this should
be my threshold power. Other than that, I can average over 300W for over 2 hours
without too much difficulty; my heart rate for such an effort would be 145.
Since my max heart rate is 196bpm, these values seem to be low for all the literature
I've read on the subject. (My max heart rate was attained in an incremental
power test done last September. The same test indicated a Z1 of 153-168)
If I ride at what is supposed to be my zone 1, of around 270-300W my heart
rate is in the range of 130-142 bpm.
Also, if I try to push around 400+ watts (should be my zone 5) my heart rate
climbs quite slowly, and it is quite difficult to bring it up past 170. As a
20 year-old male, I feel as though I should be able to push it up to 190 on
these types of efforts, since my friends who are 50+ report that they get their
heart rate above 180 all the time.
It seems to me that my heart rate is messed up with respect to my power output.
Would this indicate that I'm overtrained? I don't feel overly tired, and my
training volume seems to be reasonable. Should I set my zones according to heart
rate or power? Otherwise using both just doesn't seem to add up. Finally, since
I've been mostly doing base training, when I start doing higher intensity work,
will my heart rate vs. power values start making more sense?
Confused about Power
Dave Palese replies:
There are a lot of numbers and different protocols being thrown around here.
What I would suggest is that you pick one protocol, and go with it. All of
the ones I am familiar with all end up with roughly the same numbers for both
power and heart rate (give or take a couple of percent).
Just FYI: If one of my clients had the results that you had from a 30min
time trial, the zones I would prescribe would be as follows:
Recovery (REC): less than 179 watts (less than 112 bpm)
Endurance (END): 180-244 watts (115-137 bpm)
Tempo (TMP): 247-293 watts (139-156 bpm)
Threshold (THD): 296-341 watts (158-170 bpm)
VO2 Max (VO2): 345-390 watts (170 bpm +)
Anaerobic Capacity (AC): 400 watts or more (bpm n/a)
I wouldn't read anything into the numbers you are seeing. The first thing
I would do is pick the protocol you want to use and stick with it. Next, I
would retest, and make sure that your results are accurate. If they are then
get down to business and start training using power. After you have gathered
more data you'll be better equipped to make decisions about your training.
Hope some of this helps.
Power meter and speed
Hey guys, I realize the importance of my power meter when riding outdoors when
they're are variables such as hills and wind, but what about riding my rollers
and just using my speed to measure my power output? Even though I can't equate
it to an exact power reading, how come I can't assume that upon completing an
interval session on the rollers that if my average power is up and my average
heart rate is down I am gaining fitness? Can't I assume a power meter would
merely tell me a different kind of number but basically the same thing?
Scott Saifer replies:
You are 100% right. As long as the resistance of your rollers is stable (no
bearing failures coming on, same wheels, same tire pressure in the same tires
etc) speed on the rollers for a given effort is a fine way to mark the progress
in your fitness. Many people want to be able to compare indoor and outdoor
performance and for that they need some sort of power-measurement device.
I am a male 40 y/o road racer. Try to train 10 -12 hrs per week in season.
I follow a training plan set up for me by a former coach that used to train
me, which works pretty well for me except I don't get any feedback now. I am
looking to get to my next level this year. My neighbour, a certified cycling
nut, has just purchased a brand new scooter and is willing to motor pace me.
My question: when and how do I fit this into my training? What type of workouts?
Dave Palese replies:
First, motor pacing is a great training mode. It recreates racing requirements
like nothing else can. That said it can be very dangerous. And, no discredit
to you friend, but it takes an experienced pilot on the moto to make it and
keep it safe. Also, you might want to check your local law enforcement, as
in many municipalities, motor pacing is not legal on public roads.
All that said there are endless possibilities when it comes to workouts behind
the moto. The only limit is your imagination.
In my experience, the best way to utilize motor pacing is to use it to mimic
race level intensity and situations. You could use it to build muscular endurance
by doing longer intervals behind the bike at race speeds, but I like it most
as a way to push and define your limits.
Sprint workouts at race speed. Speed based repeat workouts and the like.
If you do incorporate moto training, look at demands of your target races,
and simulate those. Then find safe training ground for your and your driver,
and have at it.
I just found out that I got into the Leadville 100 mtb race in august...yea,
I'm a 41 years old male who races mtb expert division in Texas. I usually get
to ride around 7-8 hours a week, my longest training ride ever was 4 1/2 hours
and I only did that once. I usually can do one 3 hour ride a week, with the
rest of the week being 2 hour rides. For Leadville I want to try to do at least
one very long ride a week.
My question to you is:
1. How far in hours should my longest ride be for preparing for Leadville and
when should it be?
2. How often should I do interval training and for how long?
3. When should I start tapering down for this event? I live in the flat city
of Houston where there is no elevation.
Scott Saifer replies:
The usual advice for people targeting completion of ultra-endurance events
is to train at least every other day. Most of those rides can be an hour or
two, but one ride per week should be gradually longer, adding perhaps 30-45
minutes per week until you are at about 80% of the time you expect to take
in the event two or three weeks before the event. The final 10 days or so
don't do anything long or hard.
If you want to go fast rather than just finish, you'll need to train more
Since you live in flat country and Leadville is anything but flat, you'd
do well to plan a few trips to Leadville-like terrain before the event.
I'm 49 years old 5'11", 178lbs and have been cycling seriously for 15 years
and ranked as a Cat 3 on the road and Expert in MTB. I've been diagnosed by
X-rays and a chiro as having a pelvis that is shorter on the right side. There
is an approximately 4mm leg length discrepancy where my left leg is shorter
but I was told this is only significant when I'm seated and the chiro did not
prescribe any heel lift or shoe insert due to his findings.
I put a shim on my left Speedplay X-series cleat that measures about 3mm in
thickness and it has helped tremendously. Formerly, without the shim I would
get spasms or delayed onset of pain in the left glute below the ilium somewhere
in either the gluteus medius or minimus. This pain seemed to originate at this
area and radiate down the leg and give me sharp burning sensations sometimes
in the middle of the gastrocnemius.
I've talked to physios and even spent time in therapy but my condition seemed
to baffle them somewhat since all they did was stretch the piriformis.
So, with the shim and the road bike everything goes fine then I ride the mountain
bike or cross bike with different pedal system (Time ATAC or Crank Bros. with
two stacked insoles inside my left shoe instead of a shim) and after a ride
with some intensity or lower rpm's (climbing or big gear) I get the same symptoms
in the glute and calf starting the next day.
I always ride with good posture and feel my ischial bones in excellent contact
with the saddle and cannot subjectively detect any hip drop. If anything, the
skin in my crotch will irritate more (occasionally) on the right inside portion
of my body's saddle contact area. My shorts all seem to have equal wear patterns
on the outside lycra crotch area.
I used to think my sciatic nerve may be compromised or pinched by the piriformis,
but no one has prescribed any test to determine this. I really don't have any
real idea what is going on. I've considered whether or not the right leg was
doing more work but spent a lot of time focusing on the left so that I didn't
neglect it. It seems to me that it comes down to the difference of the shim
on the road bike vs. the stacked insoles on the other bike.
There must be a better physiological explanation.
Steve Hogg replies:
So your right ilium is smaller, and by this I expect you mean measurably
smaller, not rotated forward or internally rotated. And your left leg is shorter
by 4mm and you have shimmed that cleat by 3mm.
Your questions are:
1. Why was the problem occurring?
2. Is there a solution for your mtb riding?
As far as 1. goes, I expect that the side where you felt the pain was working
harder and reaching further because it is the shorter leg (if indeed that
is where you felt the pain) or there are other functional issues at play (lack
of symmetry?) if it was the longer leg. Your sciatic nerve runs over, under
or through a variety of muscles depending on how you are put together and
there is plenty of individual variation, If those muscles were being overworked,
then conceivably they can pinch the sciatic nerve or other nerves. That's
a guess but if you consult a structural health professional with cycling background
should be able to offer something more concrete.
Re 2, you have found a 3mm shim has worked under your road shoe and so it
is likely that 3mm will work with your mtb shoe. There currently is no reliable
way to shim up a mtb cleat, though I will have something available later this
In the meantime, find a rubber store and buy some rubber sheet 3 - 4mm thick.
Place your shoe insole on the rubber sheet and draw an outline around the
insole. Cut out the rubber sheet in the shape of the insole. Place your foot
on the insole shaped piece of rubber and mark the furthest forward outside
point of the 1st and 5th MTP joints. Now use a pen to place a dot as far back
as you can between the 1st and 2nd, 2nd and 3rd and 3rd and 4th toes.
Remove your foot from the rubber, use the pen to connect up the dots that
you have marked and cut off the rubber forward of your line. Place the rubber
inside your shoe under the insole taking care to make sure that the heel of
rubber 'insole' is pushed hard into the heel of the shoe. Place your foot
in the shoe and ride your bike.
The reason for not taking the rubber 'insole' all the way to the front of
the foot is that usually this will not allow enough room in the toe box for
comfort. The important thing is that the foot is elevated from heel to MTP
joints and this should work in the same way as the shim on your road shoes.
I race mountain bikes yet do most of my training on the road. I'm getting a
new road bike and was wondering if having different length crank arms on the
two bikes would cause problems or difficulties with knees, riding style etc
etc? My mountain bikes crank is 175, and the road bike is 170mm. It can be altered
on the new bike, but is a bit of a hassle.
Steve Hogg replies:
You don't give us much to go on. No info about frame sizes, shoe size, leg
length, flexibility, etc, etc.
I assume you have had no problems with 175's on your mtb in the past?
If not and your road bike riding is basically an adjunct to your mtb racing,
try 175's on your road bike. The potentially lower torso position on your
road bike may make a difference to this recommendation if you aren't particularly
flexible. Your knees will come closer to your torso at the top of the pedal
stroke when riding your road bike with hands in the drops than it will with
the higher bar position on your mtb.
Other than that, why not?
I have a compact (50X34) chain ring set. Are there any manufacturers that make
a Campy compatible 11X26, 11X27, 12X26, or 12X27 cassette?
What would be the best size rear derailleur?
Steve Hogg replies:
You may know this but Campag make 11 - 25 and 13 - 26 cassettes in 10 speeds.
Token make Campag compatible cassettes and one option is a 12 - 27. They don't
shift as snappily as Campag but work well enough. If Marchisio are still up
and running you can make up a Campag compatible cassette in any ratios that
you would like but if you go with Marchisio, make sure that you get instructions
because they are a fiddly set up to use if you are not familiar with setting
There may well be other brands as well.
While working on a bike at my local bike shop (LBS), I watched the proprietor
sell a bike to a woman who was obviously with her husband. Like any good salesman,
he inquired about the interest in cycling of the husband. The husband had returned
early from Iraq. Unfortunately, the early return was due to a severe injury
to his hand.
I seem to recall that some of the endurance riders from the past were able
to modify handlebars for use with only one arm. Does anybody have any idea about
to modify a handlebar for use with only one arm? Or, barring that, how to acquire
a handlebar to facilitate our wounded warriors.
As a soldier, husband, and avid cyclist, I could easily foresee myself in the
same circumstances and would hate to lose something I love and the love of doing
it with my wife.
Eric E Greek
Scott Saifer replies:
There's a fellow in my region that raced expert MTB races with only one arm.
Eric Heiden won a World Championship Sprint medal with his hand in a cast,
and I have a client who is enjoying cat 2 racing again after reconstruction
of a hand crushed under a garbage truck, so hand or arm injuries certainly
don't have to mean the end of a cycling career. I'd want to know what sort
of riding the wounded warrior wanted to do and some of the details of the
wound before saying how I would modify the bars for him. The biggest challenge
is probably getting the brakes and shifters all where they can be operated
with one hand, followed by setting up the bike with little enough weight on
the one arm that it can support the rider and control the bike.
I have to admit that I am a little surprised by the rapid response. I don't
think I have ever heard back from an inquiry with anyone so quickly.
In the case below, the soldiers hand was severely injured by an IED. For all
intents and purposes, the hand is useless from the wrist up. However, this soldier
is far from alone. In just the past week, I have seen or heard of two cyclists
attempting to sell their bikes after being injured in theatre. This is on the
heels of visiting soldiers at Walter Reed, many of whom have similar injuries
to their appendages.
However, there is a dynamic that is taking place in the larger military community.
Cycling is beginning to take hold in the military community at rapidly increasing
rates. On a recent group ride, I unknowingly wound up riding with the Deputy
Commanding General, my Brigade Commander, the Deputy 75th Ranger Regiment Commander,
and the Post Sergeant Major to name just a few. The influence of these leaders
is obvious, as people of all ranks can be seen quite literally all over the
place. In fact, many soldiers who are wounded (though not as traumatically as
an IED injury) rehabilitate by riding a bicycle.
The other aspect is that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq do not appear to
be ending any time soon. That means that our soldiers, who are increasingly
interested in cycling, will continue to be injured. I've seen too many of these
guys giving up on something they love simply because they do not realize there
is an option.
My LBS mechanic is something of a mechanical genius. I can't say that he'll
suddenly sell more bikes if he had access to options for these wounded warriors,
but it would certainly be nice for these guys to have some options before they
give up the sport. At the shop, he sees these guys all the time trying to sell
their bikes and I am positive he would love to offer them something other than
a good deal.
I can also talk to the physical therapists on post, and pass on any options
directly to the soldiers that would most benefit from the ability to stay on
I appreciate your help.
Scott Saifer replies:
Thanks for the response and the extra details about the situations you are
interested in. It's gratifying to know that so many officers are involved
in cycling. The way you describe it, by the end of the current wars there
will be a market for bicycles specifically for one handed riders. So far as
I know there is currently no package that one can simply buy and install to
take care of these riders, but there are several items that would help.
First off, tandem bikes often control two brakes with one lever so there
are several models of brake handle or cable splitters that allow control of
two brakes with one hand. Then if one hand is good and the other arm has full
length but not a functional hand, you might control one derailleur with an
old top-mount MTB shifter, either positioned so it can be worked with what's
left of the wounded hand or just near the other shifter. Just before integrated
shifter-brake levers were introduced, there were also some shifters that mounted
to a bracket that attached near the brake lever and allowed shifting without
moving the hand off the bar. Those could be combined with a modern integrated
shifter. You could also combine an integrated shifter with a bar end shifter.
Any bike with hydraulic brakes should be pretty easy to modify to control
two brakes with one hand since you just need to split the hydraulic line and
make sure the actuator moves an adequate volume of fluid.
The bigger challenge is probably weight distribution and supporting weight
over the bars. The first step of course would be to get the rider far enough
back (seat back) to reduce the weight on the hand(s). Then if there is any
arm left to lean on or attach a prosthetic, I'd work with that: build up the
bar enough that the ride can lean on it. If the injury is near but below the
elbow, the rider could potentially ride with aero bars since they really don't
require the use of hands at all provided that they are set up correctly, with
the forearm support close enough to the rider not to have to reach.
Finally if the arm is missing above the elbow, the rider would simply have
to ride one handed. This can be done on a standard bike, but a recumbent might
also be advantageous.
The bottom line here is that with determination, any rider with injuries
to one hand or arm should, with the help of a knowledgeable and enthusiastic
mechanic, be able to modify an upright bike adequately to keep riding. I'd
be glad to help if any of the injured riders in question happen to be near
enough to me to visit.
Steve Hogg replies:
As well as Scott's good advice there are other measures that can be adopted.
I have worked with a lot of amputees and paralympians and have never seen
a bar specifically designed for those who only have use of one arm. Here are
some measures that have worked in the past.
1. Cover the handlebar of the affected side in velcro. Then stitch the velco
onto the palm of the glove of the same side. With this, the rider can often
'rest' that arm on the bar or make more secure a weakened grip. If that arm
is badly injured this can present some practical limitations like limiting
the rider to on grip position on that side for the duration of the ride.
2. A good machinist can modify the brake lever of the unaffected side to
pull both calipers. Some tandem manufacturers sell brake levers (not STI or
Ergolevers) like this as standard.
3. Use a flat bar mtb shifter or bar con shifter mounted on the bar on side
of the uninjured arm to work the derailleur that can't be controlled by the
4. Push the message hard about gaining and maintaining SUPERIOR core strength.
At one Paralympics, I saw a French competitor who was missing one arm from
just below the shoulder, but still able to descend at 80 km/h on a less than
wonderful road surface and he was rock solid. Talking to him after the race,
he said that Pilates training had made a huge improvement to his cycling ability
as he had only one hand to place in the drops.
5. In some cases, depending on the extent of the disability, a flat bar road
bike is the best answer. I know one gent who rides happily with a prosthetic
left forearm and metal pincer hand and a total of two fingers on the other,
on a flat bar bike.
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