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Form & Fitness Q & A
Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Severe anemia-myelodysplastic syndrome
I have recently been diagnosed with this condition. I am female, 57, ride approx 150 miles/week and have been riding for fitness for more than 15 years.
I would like to know any information on how and when I could return to riding. I live where it is very humid - Florida. Any suggestions? I might need a bone marrow transplant as well.
Could I be stronger when I get back to riding?
Scott Saifer replies:
I'm a 53 year old male who trains 5 days a week and races a few times a year. A couple of years ago I picked up an older LeMond Poprad cyclo-cross bike as an early season/poor weather ride, to spare my LeMond Zurich some wear and tear. I re-geared the Poprad for the road, changed tires, matched its rider position to the Zurich, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the ride was buttery smooth compared to the stiffer Zurich. As time has gone by, I find myself training almost exclusively on the Poprad, reserving the Zurich for fast weekend group rides and races. The smoother Poprad ride lets me train longer and harder without beating up my body on the rough local roads. The Poprad weighs about 4 lbs more than the Zurich. This seems to give me a strong psychological boost whenever I ride the Zurich as it seems I can fly uphill and accelerate quite quickly. This boost is very useful when I race.
Is training on a heavier bike a recognized training technique? Are there any cons to this that I should be aware of?
Scott Saifer replies:
I bought a pair of Scott Clip on aero bars but the handlebars on my road bike are too wide for the brackets. Is this a common problem or are all new bikes now using wider bars? To fit them I have to look at either machining the brackets or making brand new brackets.
Scott Saifer replies:
I'm a 43 year old male cyclist, riding in mainly crits and road races. My overall power is good as shown by lactate threshold power tests. I recently installed a Polar CS600 w/ power, and it indicates that I'm producing about 8% more power in my left leg than in my right, on average.
I can't help but think that if I could correct this by bringing the power in my right left up to match that in my left leg, my performance would improve, especially in stamina at race pace, which is currently my biggest weakness. Any tips on increasing the power in my right leg? Or could this be a problem in my fit or elsewhere? I've had my fit professionally analyzed, and no problems were found. However, that fit session did not include leg length checks, pedaling analysis, etc.
Steve Hogg replies:
Hi, where do I start? I am a 30 year old 6'2" cyclist with foot stability issues. My inseam measure 95cm and I ride both a Felt & a Cannondale 60cm road bike. The problem I experience is that my right leg/foot are just not working right, my right knee want to hit my top tube on the way down and it just feels like I cant put full power down through my right foot. I have Sidi Genius 5 road shoes with SPD-SL cleats jammed as far back as they can go.
First off a little history. When I got my Cannondale years ago I was riding around with no problems, then I decided to "optimize" my position on the bike and video taped myself on the trainer and WOW I pedalled heel down all the way down through to the six o'clock position. I also had my seat setback to about 13-14cm behind the BB.
So I started reading. Reading about fit theory and all that jazz. I moved my seat up to about 103cm and about 8cm behind the bottom bracket. It felt great when I first started then when I got tired or when I had to pedal into the wind I notice my right leg wanted to slam into the top tube on the way down and sometimes I got a sharp pain in the front left side of my right knee. It feels like I have to use quite of bit of my quad right above my right knee (or pedal toe down using my calves) just to stabilize the leg and it feels like I am losing power doing this. The best fit I had was when I had the seat down to about 101cm and 10cm behind the BB with my right foot turned out a bit and saddle turned left a bit. I was doing centuries and had a FT of 320 but I remember that my right leg was still brushing my top tube and I just felt there must be a better way because everything I read says that higher=more power. I do have superfeet insoles coming and am hoping this helps but was wondering if you might have any ideas.
Phew, sorry for being so wordy!
Steve Hogg replies:
This email relates solely to my recent purchase of a K-Force Seatpost with Data Head.
After asking two other road riders I know who are using K-Force Data Head seatposts to help either correct functional pelvic differences or just natural tendency leg-favouring differences, I was confused about exactly which way a person should be adjusting the Data Head seatpost in the horizontal plane. Moving it left or right given they have one leg shorter than the other and thus have pelvic asymmetry.
If a person's one leg is shorter than the other (and all other bike variables are maintained constant), would it be correct/logical to say that the Data Head seat is going to be sliding sideways toward the shorter leg by an ever so small amount?
Or is the other way around, sliding away from the shorter leg, to bring them the stability on the seat and thus stability in the bike position they are looking for?
I am trying to think in terms of the pelvic bones and my two feet making a triangle, and thus the seat being the pivot point underneath the top of the triangle.
In my case my left leg is 6mm shorter than my right, verified through Xray; I do seem to drop my left hip when powering in the drops but weirdly my left heal flares out away from the bike.
Also, my left pelvis bone versus my right pelvis bone, for years now, has felt like it is sitting the hardest on my current seat (though, for years I've had the nose of my saddle slightly pointed to the right, which eliminated all saddle sores, brought my left hip forward, and seemed to help matters).
I've never had thigh/knee/feet pain. The pain I am developing is right hamstring pain but more worrisome, I am getting inner hip/groin pain which is causing me discomfort. I do extensive daily core conditioning and stretching, and can combat much of this pain through these those two endeavours.
I thought the K-Force Data Head seatpost would help me much more in fighting the pain I am developing than only having my seat slightly pointed to the right and trying to play around with seatpost height and/or cleat inserts.
David P Whetzel
Steve Hogg replies:
I recently completed my first duathlon which consisted of a 5km run, followed by a 30km bike, followed by another 5km run. I have an extensive mountain bike racing background and recently added running to the mix.
I had no pain during or after the race, or the next morning, however when I went out for a road ride the day after the race, I had a dull ache in the general vicinity of my ischeal tuberosity. It got worse very slowly and I was over 1hr out by the time I decided to "return to base". I found that I could almost eliminate the pain by spinning at a high cadence but lower cadences brought it back on. Later in the day it also hurt a bit to climb stairs.
For the race, I ignored the rule about not making last minute changes to my bike, and threw some aero bars on my road bike. I also moved the seat up a bit, but not too far, because it was already at near to its most fwd position. In retrospect, I also believe that I was also pushing a fairly high gear (low cadence) on the bike, compared to the other duathletes. Finally, I know that I have poor hamstring flexibility, tight hip flexors, and have had back problems in the past. My body type is tall with long legs and arms and a medium torso.
Any idea as to what I might have injured and how I might adjust my bike setup to accommodate my body type and cyclists background? I have read that the very far forward seat position triathletes use is more beneficial for runners, who have less of a quad/hamstring strength imbalance than do cyclists.
Steve Hogg replies:
I'm a 48 year old avid male cyclist, about 5'6" in height and weigh about 150lbs. My concern is that I have difficulties when standing on a climb as I feel like my left knee is giving when I do so.
I get the same feeling when I'm climbing stairs or when squatting and I feel a slight pain on the side of my left knee. My riding buddies noticed that my left foot is moving towards the centre of the bike when I'm pedaling seated. I also noticed that my left foot is nearer the crank arm when I'm pedaling in comparison to my right foot which is away from the crank arm (I'm using Time pedals). When I notice this during a ride, I try to move my right foot nearer the crank arm but after a while, my right foot is back away from the crank arm. I've also changed 3 saddles the past 3 years as they get worn out on the same spot- right side.
On rides more than 1 ½ hours, the lower left side of my back also start to ache and I'm wondering if all these have something to do with leg length discrepancy. Your advice will be most helpful.
Steve Hogg replies:
Hi I'm a mountain biker that occasionally trains on the road and mostly races enduro.
I had a terrible flop in my last 12 hour which saw me pull out for a while with a sore lower back, ever since I have attempting to fix the problem.
I've been playing around with my bike position for couple of weeks now and after reading some of the stuff here I have moved to a mid foot cleat position and am starting to see some benefits, so thanks for the advice!
I'm currently experimenting with moving my seat rearwards as per recommendations in some of these threads. What I would like to know is roughly how far behind the bottom bracket should I be; is there a limit beyond which I shouldn't go? What is there a general range in which people sit?
Although I realise that it will be hard to tell anything without seeing the seat and bike (I'm 167cm and ride a medium Cannondale Rush if that helps any), I am currently trying my seat set up so that the centre (which is approximately where I sit, but I would creep forward when tight) is 20cm (in the horizontal) behind the bottom bracket. Is this too far back or within a normal range?
Steve Hogg replies:
I am female 34yr old, 58kg, 164cm height mtb'er racing at national level for the past three of years. I also use the road bike for endurance based training. As level and intensity of racing/training has increased year on year I suffer a blip in training and racing every year, coming from resultant back/hip/leg pain.
In 2005 this came to head resulting in me losing a winters training and the first half of 2006. A trip to the docs and MRI scan later I was diagnosed with L3/L4 disc herniation and proceeded with physio treatment over a three month period, but with no real improvement. A later trip to a recommended osteopath identified a "twist" in my spine along with pelvic rotation, and dysfunction at thoracic-lumbar junction, slight LLD with shorter right leg, left hip/leg musculature tight, right hip/leg musculature, flexible but painful, pain in right QL and erector spinae.
After adjustments and recommended core stability exercises and stretching, I also placed an extra insole in the right mtb shoe around the ball of the foot, and things calmed down quite a bit to allow me to continue competing moving into national elite mtb category, until mid last year, after an extremely busy start to the season and heavy work load my body gave up and became overtrained reverting back to its painful asymmetry. Very painful right hipflexor/psoas, knee, ITB, QL, erector spinae and even shoulder girdle pain. Left leg some ITB issues but minor in comparison. The original set of exercises' and stretches no longer helped ease the pain.
I visited a local physio who carried out on the bike video assessment (MTB) and was informed that my bike set up was fine, however there appeared to be a very slight LLD this time with left leg shorter, and that I also appeared to rock my hips a lot while pedalling but not too sure why. Was given orthotics to adjust slight pronation on both feet and core exercises' to aid with LLD and hip rocking. However this did not seem to improve matters in fact the orthotics made things worse, especially on the right knee. I recently carried out my own video on the turbo (road bike) with the following observations: No observed difference with leg distance from seat tube; hips still rocking; shoulders rock side to side under pressure; a lot more power/force on downstroke with right leg (possibly causing a lot of the rocking); right leg upstroke higher than left; not clear as to whether one side/hip drops.
After spending much time and money on various chiros/osteos/physios I have eventually found a physio who appears to have a good structural focus as a Pilates instructor, but with little cyclist experience. Initially a series of strectching and strengthening excercises were presecribed and when no improvement was evident, again the thoracic lumbar junction has been identified as being a culprit in the hip pain, particularly in reference to the hip flexor/psoas. There appears to be a weakness in this area which I think forces me to rotate my pelvis to the right when under pressure. This is evident when i crouch down to pick something up. I also recently requested that we look at the LLD again and this time I have been told that my right leg is shorter by 1/2 inch (10mm?), measured, no x-ray/scan.
Certainly over the past six months I feel that the right leg pain is due to an overuse of this leg perhaps due to dropping the pelvis to the right, there is a greater muscle bulk on this side. Core work (i.e. bridging exercises) indicate that my left glutes/hamstrings are weaker than right. Another feature on the bike, I rotate my right ankle into the crank arm more so than left and also badly roll out (supinate?) at the bottom of the downstroke with the right foot and I get the feeling as if my cleat is too far back on the shoe. When stretching the left side is definitely tighter in the glute region and also hamstrings. Right side while painful when stretched is actually more flexible, except for priformas and adductors. A look at my mtb saddle (have just replaced road bike saddle), the left side has "collapsed" i.e lower than right. My shorts show more wear in the right upper inner thigh region, none on the left side. I wear specialized body geometry mtb shoes on both bikes. I found that if i put a either of the specialized varus/valgus wedges into the right shoe this resolved the foot/ankle roll out, while using the varus wedge resolved any knee movement so I've kept that in. I have also moved the right cleat forward a couple of mm in order to feel more comfortable at shoe/pedal interface. This has all helped very slightly but I still cannot tolerate more than 2hr ride on mtb or 1hr ride on road bike and certainly no more than 2 - 3 sessions a week.
My question is what is the best way forward? There seems to be a number of factors at play here. I have discussed with the physio the possibility of using shims/insoles to correct LLD, surely if my right leg is shorter it should be the left leg that is doing all the work or should I focus on pelvic problems instead? My goal at the moment is to get to a position that I can be comfortably "square" on the bike with whatever mechanical aids available in order to allow me to relieve the muscular pressures enough to concentrate on working on core/flexibility and other asymmetries while also keeping a good level of fitness on the bike. Now that I have the attention of a good physio, what are the important issues which should be addressed?
Any suggestions would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance
Steve Hogg replies: