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Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for March 4, 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.
Back soreness after lowering stem
Arch cleat position
TT power output
Testosterone replacement as a result of bi-lateral testicular cancer
Back soreness after lowering stem
I am a 46 year old Cat 4 road racer. My mechanic recently dropped my handlebars
down about a centimetre because there was a small crack in the carbon stem.
He didn't think I would notice a difference riding, and I thought it might give
me a more aerodynamic position. For short rides (10-20 miles) I don't notice
much, but after longer rides both my lower and upper back are very sore. Is
this something my back will get "trained" for over time, or am I risking long
term back problems by continuing to ride this way? I've been riding in the lower
position about three weeks.
Steve Hogg replies:
Firstly am I correct to assume that it was your fork steerer tube that was
cracked and not your stem?
Working on the assumption that your answer is yes, then after three weeks
if you are still experiencing difficulties don't think for a moment that your
flexibility and ability to extend your spine will increase by forcing it into
a position that it doesn't like. All you will do is load your lumbar spine
more in flexion and that isn't a good thing.
What to do?
I'd suggest these options:
1. If your stem is in the low position, flip flop it to the high position.
Measure bar height prior to doing this as flipping the stem may cause a height
increase of more than 10mm. If it does, you will need to rearrange the head
set spacer stack.
2. Find another stem with more rise.
3. Replace the fork.
Arch cleat position
After reading recent article on arch cleat position from Steve Hogg would like
to know if after moving cleat back towards arch of foot do you need to move
saddle forward at all?
Steve Hogg replies:
The answer to that is as clear as mud. If you have read through the archives
you will note that I am fairly keen on the rider bearing the great majority
of their weight underneath their backsides and not using any more effort than
the minimum necessary to steer and control the bike. The short answer to why
that is, is that it gives the rider the best chance of optimising how their
central nervous system prioritises efficient muscle enlistment patterns for
Still with me?
If so, midfoot cleat position typically causes the rider converting to it
to drop their seat by 30 - 40mm. Dropping the seat height by that amount moves
it forward 10 - 13 mm. In some cases (and I'm one of them) the weight transfer
forward caused by this is enough to unnecessarily load the arms and shoulder
complex of the rider. If that happens, move the seat back until you feel okay.
If it doesn't, and people vary, leave alone.
I am sure I've read something on the subject regarding the variety of rise
in shoe lasts but can't seem to find the article.
Can you explain the pros/cons for flatter road shoes when compared to shoes
that have a greater rise to the heel?
I currently wear Sidi Ergo 2s, but previously I wore Diadora Veloces which
had a relatively flat carbon sole.
Steve Hogg replies:
Most commonly available shoes have low-ish heel lifts in the last at the
moment, though some are lower than others. The basic issue is this. High heel
lift cycling shoe lasts tend to require more ankle movement from riders whose
natural technique is to drop their heels noticeably while pedaling under load.
The amount of torque a rider can exert on a crank arm changes as the crank
rotates and the peak value is at or near the 3 o'clock position of the crank
arm. The 'problem' we are all trying to solve is how to get behind and over
the pedal axle at the earliest possible point in the pedal stroke after top
dead centre (TDC) which is 12 o'clock.
For the heel dropping rider under load, this requires an extra amount of
heel drop because of the high heel lift last induced starting point. This
can't happen until the crank arm is forward enough of TDC for there to be
room for this to occur. That means pressure is applied to the pedals for a
lesser number of degrees of crank arc than may be the case in a low heel lift
To produce the same torque per stroke with a high heel lift lasted shoe,
the peak values need to be higher because pressure is exerted on the pedals
for less time / distance. A higher peak torque per stroke for the same output
means higher peak muscular contraction which in turn should equal greater
That is my feeling, observation and experience which is not the same thing
as an indisputable 'fact'.
The other potential issue is that my experience is that high heel lift lasted
shoes often exacerbate plantar fascia and achilles tendon problems in susceptible
TT power output
I have a question regarding power output during a time trial. I am a 21 year
old Cat 2 at 6'2 155-160 lbs. I have relatively short legs and a longer torso.
Road bike: 172.5 cranks Saddle height pedal to top is 78.5cm and 8.5cm behind.
TT bike: 175 cranks, saddle height pedal to top is 78.5cm and 5.0cm behind.
Saddle to bar drop and reach is nearly identical. I have been doing Z4 efforts
(TT pace) all winter and spring so I have a pretty good idea of what I can ride
at for 20-30 min. I did an 18 min power test in late January at 325 watts and
my coach estimates a FT of 309 (what I could put out for only 20 min a year
ago). I have been doing 3x 10 min Z4 efforts separated by 1 min rest and 20
min Z4 in training at between 315 and 325 watts for the past month or so. All
of this was done on my road bike. I have been working on getting my TT bike
I have always heard that if your position is too extreme that you will loose
power by either over extending, creating too acute of angles or cutting of blood
flow. I progressively made my position more aero until I did a 20 min Z4 effort
and saw some real power loss (295 watts), got a terrible side stitch and had
to stop. Then I went backwards and moved it to a slightly less aero position
by raising the bars up by 5mm. Now I feel really comfortable with the position.
My back seems flat, arms are flat and my knees are tucked right behind my elbows.
This past weekend I did my first in competition TT on the bike and held 323
watts for 28:47 min over 20k. I feel like 323 is close enough to the power I
am putting out in training especially given the time was longer and with less
rest then I do in training.
I have also heard that because the TT position is further over the bottom bracket
that it is possible to put out even more power on the TT bike then on the road
bike, if that is true, then how do you account for that between the two bike
positions? I don't have a wind tunnel so everything I do has to be experimental
on the roads. So my question is how do you better determine if your position
is optimal? Is it a guess and check to see if power is being lost?
Steve Owens replies:
I do have a wind tunnel, so I'll answer this one to the best of my ability.
Thank you for being so descript in your email. There's a good amount of information
in here, and a lot of questions. I think ultimately what you're asking is,
"why can't I be more powerful on my TT bike?" and "how do I determine the
most optimal position on a TT bike?" As I write this, there are also a couple
of misconceptions that I would like to also clear up for Cyclingnews
Form & Fitness Q&A readers out there, so bear with me as I answer your questions.
Power output relative to aerodynamics is important, however aerodynamics
wins every time. 70-90% of the power you're producing to propel yourself forward
goes to overcome wind resistance. In stage 5 time trial of the Tour of California,
we worked with 5 of the Top 9 on the stage. Their results are not only because
they are exceptional athletes, but also because they did their research and
work on their position quite a lot. Aerodynamics, practicing, and adaptation,
in that order, are what matters. Much if it is counterintuitive until you
see the data for yourself. If I had a photo, I could probably estimate wattage
savings for your position, but I'll tell you that on average, we save people
about 30-35 watts in aerodynamics when we work with them. (We describe savings
in terms of watts in addition to time because it's an easy way to understand
it and relates it to power).
To put things in perspective, the most immediate power output loss we've
seen is 12 watts - again, that's the most we've ever seen, and that person
still netted over 20 watts with much greater aerodynamics wattage savings.
Understand also these two things; that this is *initial power loss and that
power loss is not always going to occur with greater aerodynamics. There are
physiological adaptations that will take place if in the case there is a power
loss. This is one of the counterintuitive parts - if you want to be faster
in a time trial - or even in a breakaway or just more efficient on the road
bike or in a sprint - you need to be more aerodynamic and worry less about
power output (for the moment). Put all power output conversations aside and
refine your position relative to aerodynamics (what's more aero? That's a
whole other can of worms). Then once you've attained a position that's more
aero, you'll work on power output. Yes, it's a balance, but within the rules
of the UCI, you're not going to do anything so drastic (in which I can think
of right now) that will be a huge detriment to your power output relative
to the power savings you gained in aerodynamics. I can't go into details,
but it's no surprise to me that Christian VandeVelde (Slipstream Chipotle-H30)
and Tom Zirbel (Bissell) did so well in the TOC TT. Tom is very strong and
he improved his aerodynamics. He's paying attention to these things. Cyclingnews.com
has some great photos of this event you can look at to try and compare.
A misconception that I want to point out is going to really bug a lot of
people because they're going to feel at a total loss on how to find the most
aero position. Each person's aerodynamics are different. What works for one
person, might not work for another. A flat back isn't always best. In fact,
we're finding that a rounded back is good for a lot of people, and it opens
up the hip angle - typically giving you the ability to produce more power.
That's one thing I'd caution people: be careful of how you close the hip angle.
You asked about position relative to bottom bracket. First, conform to any
rules that you need to conform to. It's no surprise that scooting forward
on the saddle is a common occurrence from there because yes, you'll be able
to generate more power as your more over the bottom bracket.
Here's what I say to you...if your threshold is 325 watts, let's say that
80% of those watts go to overcome wind resistance. That gives you 260 watts
that you produce to overcome wind resistance. That's probably more than you
would have estimated. If you reduce your aerodynamic drag by 30-35 watts,
you're saving a lot. Yes, it's hard for someone without regular data to know
what that looks like perhaps, but my point is that you can't use just power
output to get you there. If getting from point 'a' to point 'b' the fastest
is what you're after (and I'm sure that's the case), then think aerodynamics
first. A difference in 30 watts can easily be the difference between teens
and twenties in a race, versus a podium finish.
Additionally, there is almost no argument that if more TT equipment will
be heavier, so I'll go slower. Manufacturers out there make excellent, aero
and lightweight equipment if that eases your mind. Again, aerodynamics wins
over weight most of the time - with the exception of a hill climb time trial.
In this case though, there are slower speeds so weight will swing back in
the direction of importance over aerodynamics.
Try a time trial in standard wind conditions on a marked out course in your
baseline position. Note your power output, average HR and total time to finish.
Then make purely aerodynamic changes and repeat. If you know what changes
to make, you'll see a faster time, and look for similar data. Refinement starts
Testosterone replacement as a result of bi-lateral testicular
I recently saw a question on your forum about a 62 year old man using supplemental
testosterone at his Doctors suggestion to improve energy and libido. You suggested
that it was good that he was doing centuries and not racing, since he wouldn't
be allowed to use this supplemental testosterone and still race, legally.
I am a bi-lateral testicular cancer survivor (lost both of my testicles to
cancer), so my body doesn't produce any where near the normal amount of testosterone
for my age, 30. I take Androgel every morning. It's a gel that I rub on my shoulders
and abdomen. I get my testosterone levels checked regularly to ensure they are
normal and near my naturally occurring level of 610 (taken after the first surgery
and when I found out I'd be losing the second testicle). I understand that my
natural levels can vary for many reasons, time of day, activity level, etc.,
so 610 is just one data point.
Having started cycling about 3 years ago, I finally feel that my fitness is
to the point where I want to start racing at the most basic level. Will I ever
be able to legally race or do I just have to be resigned to the fact that my
cancer history has put me in a position where racing is not an option?
As you probably could assume, my position is that this would seem pretty unfair.
Steve Owens replies:
I would imagine that for you, a very special case, it would be possible to
attain a therapeutic use exemption (or 'TUE') for your testosterone supplement.
I'm not the authority on such things, but since your body does not produce
the testosterone, I would only imagine the anti-doping folks would agree to
let you use the supplement in competition. My guess would also be that if
tested, your testosterone levels would have to fall in line with certain parameters
- probably also outlined in your TUE.
Other Cyclingnews Form & Fitness articles