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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 Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your age, sex, and type of racing or riding. Due to the volume of questions we receive, we regret that we are unable to answer them all.

The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel

Since 1986 Steve Hogg ( has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, a cycle shop specialising in rider positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable cycling problem.They include World and National champions at one end of the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the other end.

Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.

Scott Saifer ( has a Masters Degree in exercise physiology and sports psychology and has personally coached over 300 athletes of all levels in his 10 years of coaching with Wenzel Coaching.

Eddie Monnier ( is a USA Cycling certified Elite Coach and a Category II racer. He holds undergraduate degrees in anthropology (with departmental honors) and philosophy from Emory University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.

Eddie is a proponent of training with power. He coaches cyclists (track, road and mountain bike) of all abilities and with wide ranging goals (with and without power meters). He uses internet tools to coach riders from any geography.

David Fleckenstein, MPT ( is a physical therapist practicing in Boise, ID. His clients have included World and U.S. champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes. He received his B.S. in Biology/Genetics from Penn State and his Master's degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University. He specializes in manual medicine treatment and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilization musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.

Pamela Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University and is now an assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated changes in menstrual function on bone health.

Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion. Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.

Dario Fredrick ( is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.

Carrie Cheadle, MA ( is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University.

Dave Palese ( is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16 years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl, daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.

Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000. Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows, he races Cat 3 and 35+. He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins, CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural, urgent care, inpatient and the like.

Fiona Lockhart ( is a USA Cycling Expert Coach, and holds certifications from USA Weightlifting (Sports Performance Coach), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach), and the National Academy for Sports Nutrition (Primary Sports Nutritionist). She is the Sports Science Editor for Carmichael Training Systems, and has been working in the strength and conditioning and endurance sports fields for over 10 years; she's also a competitive mountain biker.

Kendra Wenzel ( is a head coach with Wenzel Coaching with 17 years of racing and coaching experience and is coauthor of the book Bike Racing 101.

Richard Stern ( is Head Coach of Richard Stern Training, a Level 3 Coach with the Association of British Cycling Coaches, a Sports Scientist, and a writer. He has been professionally coaching cyclists and triathletes since 1998 at all levels from professional to recreational. He is a leading expert in coaching with power output and all power meters. Richard has been a competitive cyclist for 20 years

Andy Bloomer ( is an Associate Coach and sport scientist with Richard Stern Training. He is a member of the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) and a member of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES). In his role as Exercise Physiologist at Staffordshire University Sports Performance Centre, he has conducted physiological testing and offered training and coaching advice to athletes from all sports for the past 4 years. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for many years.

Kim Morrow ( has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion, and a Fitness Professional.

Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns, a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find a coach.

Advice presented in Cyclingnews' fitness pages is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for individual athletes. If you follow the educational information found on Cyclingnews, you do so at your own risk. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

Fitness questions and answers for June 3, 2008

Training on a heavier bike
TT & stem length
When to rest?
Question about my knees

Switching shoes, adjusting shims

I am writing with a question for Steve Hogg, who responded to me a few years back when I was working on my symmetry issues. I'm wondering if you can help me make sure I'm getting things right. I'm switching from DMT shoes to Specialized s-works shoes. I currently have one Le-wedge on the left cleat and five on the right shoe. Four of them are placed so as to create a shim with the fifth for cant.

I have a flatter arch on my right leg, which is also my shorter leg. I have not had an x-ray or scan done, but my right leg is obviously shorter from the knee down, even accounting for the flatter arch. I'm not sure the current amount of build up is enough on the right, but it's not too little to pay a big price, if that makes sense.

So, with my new Specialized shoes, which have built-in cant of 1.5 mm, and the insole forefoot varus + valgus wedge, that's another 1.5 mm, maybe a tad more--they look slightly thicker than the Le-wedges I had on my DMT's - I am thinking that just 2 Le-wedges will be correct. I'm really curious if there are any other hidden things that I might not be thinking about as I make the switch. Of course, I'll take it slow and add or remove Le-wedges (none on the shoe at the moment, just the 1.5mm stack under the insole) as feels better and makes me sit straighter.

Over the last few years, I've worked consistently to try to even out my flexibility in hip flexors, glutes, and hammies. Things generally feel pretty good until I start to do very intense training and racing with an aim to peak. Things tighten up at that point, and I find my right sit-bone coming forward and both of them kicking off to the left side (toward the long leg). "Core Performance for Endurance Athletes" has some "movement prep" exercises that have been helpful, but I want to do my best to get the shoes right too. The cleats are back as far as they go with feet as close to the crankarm as possible (same as I had them on the DMT's). It is frustrating to still be crooked, but I've accepted that it will be a consistent thing I have to deal with.

Zachary Hoover

Steve Hogg replies:

Trial and error is the best method. I will explain; generally speaking Specialized in-shoe wedges require a greater height of wedge to achieve the same degree of correction as an external wedge like the BFS Cleat Wedges (formerly LeMond Wedges). The reason for this is as follows - When the cycling world speaks of varus forefoot, most of the time this is incorrect and I am as guilty of this as anyone else in an attempt to make my life easy. A true varus forefoot is a relatively uncommon thing. Much more commonly it is the rear foot that needs correction. BFS wedges work well in rear foot correction because as they are external to the shoe, they cant the entire foot.

The Specialized in shoe fore foot wedges achieve the same result, but because they are canting the rear-foot indirectly, almost always need more height of cant to achieve sufficient rear foot correction.

As a 'rule of thumb', the Specialized wedges usually require something around 1.5 times the thickness to gain the same correction as a BFS external wedge. But like all rules of thumb, this can be incorrect to varying degrees in individual cases.

TT & stem length

Normally I ride a 52cm TT bike, with a 110mm stem. I was wondering if there would be any downside to riding a bike with a 54cm top tube and a 90mm stem, given all other factors (seat angle and length, seat position, head tube length) are all the same?

My thoughts are that it would be OK, and the minor wheel overlap I experience now would be eliminated.

Obviously the bike would handle differently, but is there anything else that would be a concern?

Alex Liauw

Scott Saifer replies:

If the seat, pedals and bars end up in the same relationship, the bikes will feel about the same riding in a straight line. You will feel a difference in cornering and sprinting though, and you might not like it. If you current bike is twitchy, the new bike would be more so. If the current bike is stable, the new bike would be twitchy. If the current bike is slow to react, the new one would be stable.

When to rest?

Yesterday I went out for a ride on one of my regular routes (the Mount Royal women's world cup course) and the legs just wouldn't turn over smoothly. My heart rate was normal or slightly higher than normal, but I was using a gear or two less than usual and was much slower.

I'm not concerned that there's anything seriously wrong with me. I think I just had a "jour sans" as they say. That happens once or twice a year. My question is, what should I do on such a day? Pack it in, go home and rest? Go slow and call it a light / recovery day? Force myself to go as hard and as long as I was planning to?

I'm a 49 year old male. I don't race much (unless you count the weekend group hammer fest) but ride 3 or 4 times a week just trying to keep as fit as I can given my limited time to train.


Scott Saifer replies:

If you are a little slow at normal or slightly raised heart rates but have no other symptoms of illness or deep feeling of fatigue, go your normal time, but keep the effort very light. You'll still get some training benefit but start the next day feeling better.

Question about my knees

I have a question about a problem I have with my knees. My left knee does not feel as solid as my right knee and as a matter of fact, it usually aches somewhat. The ache sort of travels throughout the knee. One time I had a gait assessment trying to figure out what was wrong and the pain became sharp enough to stop the session. So at times it can be sharp if I move in a specific way. This sharp pain does not occur while cycling but the travelling ache is always there.

Because of this problem, I have tried just about every single pedal system including road and mountain trying to see if I can find some relief and one thing I have noticed. When my right knee feels fine, the ache in my left knee is there. Now, there have been times, while changing pedal systems that I have set things in a way that my right IT band becomes noticeably tight while riding and the left knee suddenly feels normal!! As I have been riding more on my mountain bike than my road bike, I set it up with a low seat height with the cleats as far back as they would go (Shimano SPD) and for two weeks, my left knee felt as solid as my right knee usually feels but my right IT band felt tight throughout the full two weeks.

Since it was just tightness and not pain, and I was so happy that my left knee felt solid, I rode like that. Since the type of SPD pedals I was using (858's) were so hard to release, I replaced them with 540's with the cleat and the seat height exactly like before but for whatever reason, my knees went back to their previous condition where the right feels solid and the ache is present on the left one.

Does the story help you figure out what could be wrong? I am thinking of going to a chiropractor to see if he could find some problem in my leg mechanics. Would that be a good idea or would a different kind of doctor be better. As far as me, I have flat feet, I am knock kneed (to the point I always tear up the nose of my saddles from pedaling with my legs so close together) and I have scoliosis which makes one of my hips (the right one) be slightly higher than the other.

I am very curious as to what you think of this. I just want to ride my bike without any knee discomfort.


Steve Hogg replies:

Interesting story; here is what I think is happening, Either:

1. You have a shorter left leg.
2. You sit asymmetrically on the bike and drop your right hip.
3. Both

When you have had a 'solid' feeling left knee it has been with a reduced seat height but this has caused ITB problems on the right. This makes me think that the ITB problems on the right are caused by cramping up the hip flexors at the top of the pedal stroke because the seat height is too low for the right leg while at the same time; it is a good height for the left leg.

When you raise the seat, the right side ITB problems disappear but the left leg then has to overextend which causes problems. Here is a plan of action:

1. Find a good structural health professional and have a stripped to underwear, global structural assessment with particular focus on leg length (X ray) and pelvic asymmetry.
2. Get back to me with what you find and I will attempt to advise further.

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