Category Archives: Articles

1. You are accountable for yourself and your decisions.

 2. Compliance with traffic laws is your responsibility. It’s your responsibility to ride safely and obey the law regardless of what other people do.  This includes blindly following someone through stop lights and stop signs. 

3. You are responsible for your front wheel and where it goes. Don’t overlap wheels with the rider in front of you. Leave adequate room between yourself and the rider in front to avoid hitting them if they stop suddenly.

4. You are responsible for the rider behind you.  Be predictable, hold a straight line (don’t weave around), don’t slow down and speed up.  Let the rider behind you know if you’re are pulling over to stop, pulling out of the group, or slowing down.

5. Don’t feel comfortable riding close to someone for whatever reason?  Pull out of the group and talk to the ride leader.

6. Call out hazards and point to them!

7. Never assume that when someone calls out clear that you can act safely.  Always look and verify that the road is clear.

8. Ride single file and don’t pace-line if you’ve never done it before.

9. Ride defensively: Be Visible, Alert, Assertive and Predictable

10. Respect motorist………….they are bigger, heavier and more deadly than you……..duh!

11. No passing on the right, call out passing on left.

12. Don’t even think about talking on your cell phone while riding a bike!  If you have to take a call pull off to the right of the road to do it.  If not, you may find your phone stuffed in your water bottle!

13. Headphones. If you’re wearing headphones for anything other than a hearing aid you pose a risk to everyone around you….did you hear that?

14. Bring a spare tube, pump, water and food

15. Inspect your bike and ensure that your tires are safe, the wheels secured properly and your brakes are operational.

by Ron Rogers Mt. Diablo Cyclist
Pace lines are those neat single file lines you see going down the road. And it’s a great way to cover a lot of distance fast, with much less energy expended by everyone in the group. The concept is that wind resistance is your enemy (as much as 40% of your energy is spent overcoming wind resistance) and by following someone close behind you can use less energy. Of course the person in front will be doing most of the work so you trade off turns at the front so that everyone gets a break.

A word about risk. The efficiency of riding in a pace line comes at the cost of added risk. Riding in a pace line is not as safe as riding by yourself. If the rider ahead of you (or behind you or on either side for that matter) does something unexpected, you could find yourself on the pavement in an instant. Don’t ride in a pace line unless you’re willing to assume these risks!

There are three basic rules to Pace line riding:

Don’t do anything suddenly!
DON’T DO ANYTHING SUDDENLY!
DO NOT DO ANYTHING SUDDENLY!!

This may sound obvious but it is the key to a good pace line. The best way to start out pace line riding is with a partner you trust who is a smooth rider (i.e. as smooth or smoother than you). Start out following him or her with about 2 feet of space between your bikes (or greater if you’re not comfortable that close). Gradually close the distance to whatever your nerves can stand. Ideally you want to be 6″-12″, as you can see in Fig 1, away you can get a good draft a wheel’s length away, so getting too close is not absolutely essential. It is also important that you do not ride up along the side the rear wheel of the person in the pace line ahead of you, this is called “overlapping wheels” and can cause a fall if the person ahead of you swerves to avoid an object in the road.

The Effect of Drafting
Wheel Gap in Feet/Decrease in Resistance
0.5 / 44%
1.0 / 42%
2.0 / 38%
3.0 / 34%
Start out riding a pace line with just two riders and do it on flat ground. It is a good idea to split your attention between watching the rear wheel of the rider ahead of you and glancing over his or her shoulder to see what’s ahead. The lead person should be watching ahead and giving verbal cues along with GRADUALLY moving over for runners in the bike lanes. Later, as you develop more confidence in your (and the rider in front’s) ability you can begin to reduce the distance between you. Be sure to “guard your front wheel” as it is the key to stability. If you do bump another rider, don’t panic or make a sudden swerve, just move away from the interfering rider. One of the drills practiced at bike clinics is bumping and riding arm-in-arm on a grassy field. It’s fun and teaches you that just because you bump or are bumped, doesn’t mean you’re going down.

Here are some guidelines just as important:
Pedaling
Don’t stop pedaling (see rule 1). If the speed of the pace line slows just pedal around slower (”soft pedaling” — pedaling without applying a lot of force to the pedals), this keeps your pedaling motion going and prevents you from unintended acceleration when you go from motionless to pedaling again. It also prevents the person behind you from being startled. You can also reduce your speed without braking by raising your body to create more air resistance or moving over slightly out of the draft of the person ahead of you, but don’t rise up off the saddle!

Braking
Basically, DO NOT (see rule 3). The person ahead of you must let you know about upcoming obstacles and if you are at the front you should give plenty of warning if you are going to stop for a signal. If you have a problem (flat, chain came off, etc.) just yell “chain, flat, stopping, etc.” and pull out of the pace line and coast until you are clear and can stop without endangering other riders.

Gear Changing
Try and stay in a gear that you can spin around at 80-100 RPM. The brake lever shifters (STI, Ergopower) are nice because they allow you keep your hands on the bars and shift which doesn’t cause wobbles like the down tube shifters do. If you have down tube shifters you may have to refrain from changing gears as often as you would when riding alone.

Hills
Generally pace line and hill should not be used in the same sentence. Everyone has a different climbing style and unless you are familiar with the rider ahead of you may end up in a ditch from an overlapped wheel. Gradual hills are fine, just increase the distance between you and the bike in front of you and try not to accelerate up the grade (it’s OK for your pace line speed to drop 2-3 MPH or more on an uphill drag). Oh yeah one more thing NEVER GET OUT OF THE SADDLE IN A PACE LINE!!! When you get out of the saddle you tend to throw you bike back 6″-12″ which will definitely cause a crash! If you must stand up to make it up the hill and someone is close behind you, an advanced technique is to push down hard on the pedal as you rise up off the saddle. This compensates for the tendency of the bike to move back as you rise up. Practice this riding along side someone going uphill before trying it out in a pace line. Likewise, give an extra hard stroke as you sit down to avoid slowing during the transition to seated climbing.

Unintended Acceleration
Another thing to watch for is unintended acceleration. First made popular by Audi in the late 70’s, it was actually first used to describe the phenomena of being “off the front” of a pace line which generally irritates everyone in the pace line. It happens when you get to the front and subconsciously you feel that you are not moving fast enough so you pick up the pace without realizing it. At some point you look back either to see no one, or a bunch of really annoyed riders. Everyone has done this accidentally at some point (yes, even our editor) [That’s a lie, I do it intentionally. -ed.] and you can avoid it by looking at your computer and noting the speed before taking a pull at the front. Stay within 1.5 MPH or less of that speed and avoid looking like a wanker!!

Multiple Riders
Once you feel comfortable riding with another person in a pace line you can graduate to multiple riders. This gets a bit trickier since you are dealing with more than just two people. Everyone has a different comfort speed and this really shows up in multiple rider pace lines. Again, watch your computer and try to keep with 1/2 MPH of the last leader’s pace. If you find the pace too fast, take a shorter pull at the front, or better yet “pull through” and off which means when you get to the front just pull off without taking a pull at the front. When pulling off the front of the pace line ease up on your pedaling but don’t stop, the idea is to get to the back of the pace line as fast as possible in order to get a break from the wind. As you get toward the back of the pace line, gradually increase your pedaling speed to match the pace line speed and pull in behind the last rider. Be careful to make sure that the rider you pull in behind is the last rider. More than one crash has been caused by someone pulling into another rider thinking they were at the end. (Another reason to keep the gap between you and the next rider at 6″-12″). Even good riders have trouble in multiple rider pace lines, the best remedy is practice.

Echelons
Echelons are used extensively in team time trials and you may have unconsciously used them in your daily riding. Usually the wind is not head on to the riders in the pace line and may come from one side or the other to the direction of the pace line. In this case you will see the riders following to the side of the rider in front of them. The technical explanation is termed “relative wind” but is best explained by experimenting with a friend the next time you are in a crosswind. If you notice you are still feeling a headwind when following another rider pull off slightly to one side (away from the wind) and see if this helps block the wind. Remember to stay out of traffic and don’t overlap the wheel in front of you, even if you are off to the side the front rider can still swerve over and take you out.

Dual Pace Lines
Dual pace lines are used with larger groups (8-15 riders) as a way of keeping the group from stringing out too far behind. It also has a pleasant side effect of enhancing communication within the group. It is really just two singlefile pace lines put side by side. The rotation can be done two ways. Normally the lead rider pulls over to the side away from the wind, and the rider at the end of this line moves over into the end of line on the wind side. This has the effect of creating a continuously rotating pace line. Where there is lots of road and no traffic, this can also be done by having both the riders at the front come off the front to the outside of the dual pace line and drift to the back. Note that the California Vehicle Code requires riders to stay to the right unless they are passing another vehicle (bike or car), or avoiding debris in the roadway.

Duties of the Lead Rider
In a smooth running pace line riders do not have time to see and avoid obstacles, such as rocks, holes, cracks in the pavement, old muffler pipes, cans of Bud, etc. The riders depend on the lead rider to be the eyes of the pace line and to either point out or shout out a warning, (rock right, runner right, car up, etc.) These warnings should be passed down the pace line by each rider. If you don’t feel comfortable taking your hands off the bars to point out a rock, just shout “rock right (left)”. If the pace line needs to slow down because of a stop sign, car turning ahead, or whatever reason, the leader must shout out a warning, “light up”, “car up”, etc., and the following riders must pass the word.

Drinking and Foreign Substances
It’s probably best to get a drink when you’re at the back of the line, so you won’t mess someone else up if you swerve while swigging you favorite tonic. The same goes for spitting or blowing snot rockets, this is best done when you’re the last rider. Projectile vomiting and expectoration in the pace line is discouraged.

Problem Riders
Occasionally you may be troubled by other riders who don’t hold their line, stop unexpectedly, etc. Don’t ignore this, often it’s just a matter of education. Please talk to the offending rider in a polite way, asking him or her to refrain from the problem behavior. If you are reluctant to do this, ask one of the ride leaders to handle the problem.

Being Smooth
The best pace lines have the smoothest riders and the smoothest riders got that way in one of two ways. Either by riding the track or by riding rollers. I do not recommend riding the track right off because it is just downright scary, they won’t fit in your living room, and they are rather expensive. This leaves rollers. (Not the same thing as a wind or mag trainer!) Rollers are three drums 6 inches in diameter, Your rear wheel sits between the two rear rollers and your front wheel sits on the front roller. The middle and front roller are connected with a belt. There is nothing to physically attach to your bike to hold it up, therein lies the secret to being smooth. When you ride your bike on rollers the wheels spin and it is this action that accelerates the wheels and creates a gyroscopic effect that gives your bike (and you) stability to stay upright.

The reason rollers are good at making smooth riders is that they amplify any movement or steering on the bike. Subtle shifts of body weight while riding rollers will cause wobbling, likewise steering input to the handlebars. It takes about three or four hours for a reasonably coordinated person to ride the rollers without assistance from crash pads, pillows and friends, and you will fall down (at least once). The best advice is not to try this on a hard surface. Once you have mastered riding rollers on your own you will be amazed at how much smoother you are on the road. This will translate into a much more enjoyable and confident pace line rider.

Remember safety is every one’s concern!
Simple Pace Line Guidelines
1. Don’t OVERLAP WHEELS!! This is especially important with some riders — it can be a formula for disaster. Unless you are an exceptional bike handler riding behind a remarkably steady and predictable rider, the advantage gained by close following is not worth the risk of crashing.

2. When on the front, KEEP YOUR HEAD UP, CALL OUT THE JUNK, and WATCH THE LIGHTS. You are responsible for the safety of many riders. Don’t let them down. Don’t worry about what gear you are in or if you have an acorn in your cluster. Anticipate stoplight changes (It is your responsibility to get the entire group through the intersection safely). Go easy off the lights or around corners, give the back time to get going without getting the “whip syndrome”.

3. If you MUST chit chat in the pace line – SKIP THE EYE CONTACT. WATCH THE RIDER IN FRONT OF YOU AND THE TRAFFIC ON THE ROAD – ESPECIALLY AT THE FRONT. When on the front, don’t talk: you have too much responsibility.

4. Watch the rider in front of you, constantly. Depending on who it is, back off, especially when approaching a challenging rise in terrain or jump in pace. Some people, even on the best of days have an inconsistent speed that causes the bike to go back and forth. Other people brake suddenly or excessively. Know who these people are and stay back from them. When in town look ahead for stoplight changes.

5. Ride in a straight line at a consistent and predictable pace. If you have to wipe your tires don’t slow down or stop pedaling. Remember there are a bunch of riders behind you.

6. When moving from a seated to a standing position, stay on the power so you do not fall back into the bike behind you. Even some really strong riders tend to do this so be forewarned.

7. Never pass on the right unless you are ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN there is: PLENTY OF ROOM. The rider in front absolutely knows you are coming around…(because you YELLED “COMING BY ON YOUR RIGHT” and saw a visible reaction). Some riders disapprove of this under any circumstances – it depends on your bike handling skills and who you are passing.

8. If you find that you can’t hold with the paceline that you’re in, signal, then pull out of the pace line and back off – don’t start thrashing, weaving or gapping. If you are smart, you can jump back on AT THE REAR and get a break too. Unless you are at the tail end of a fast group who is determined to drop you (or you are about to be tandemectomized), back off on the steep or twisty descents.

By Ron Starkey SLO Velo

On a recent ride the topic of lubricating your cables to improve shifting came up so I ran home to verify what I had been using.  The product is Bike Aid Dri-Slide and it’s used by both cyclist and motorcyclist to lubricate cables.  I’ve used it on both and have had great success.

Dri-Slide® Bike Aid® Multi-Purpose Lubricant is ideal for lubricating control cables and lever pivots. The unique needle applicator allows lubrication of cables without disassembling the housing. Dri-Slide® is applied wet. When lubricating cables, gravity distributes the lubricant within the cable sleeve thoroughly over the cable and leaves a dry lubricant bonded to the cable surfaces. It repels moisture and doesn’t attract dirt, sand or dust, so your cables run smoother longer. Apply to front and rear quick release nuts, derailleur cables, shift controls, front and rear brake pivot points, chains and any other points where friction producing wear may take place.

If you can’t get DRI SLIDE use Tri-Flow®

Tri-Flow®  Superior Lubricant is the superior, light viscosity lube that allows for deep penetration into hard to reach moving parts. The drip bottle application, with a convenient straw, allows for deep penetration in hard to reach moving parts. High-grade petroleum oils provide optimum lubrication under extreme temperatures (-60 to 475°F) and humidity. Formulated solvents soften and remove dirt and contaminants, while special additives displace moisture and prevent rust and corrosion. Formulated with P.T.F.E.

 

And remember NEVER use WD40 to lubricate anything.  WD40 was developed in 1953 for rust prevention hence its name WD (water displacement).  It’s a poor lubricant and typically dries sticky gumming up any moving part you spray it on.

Knee and hip pain are the most common cycling injuries. The most common cause of knee (and hip pain) in cyclists is iliotibial band (IT band) syndrome. The IT band is a thick fibrous band of tissue, which runs on the outside of the leg from the hip to the knee. Pain is caused when the band becomes tight and rubs over the bony prominences of the hip (greater trochanter) and/or the knee (lateral epicondyle). Tight inflexible lower extremity muscles may worsen the condition.

As injury is generally a problem of overuse, it is often seen in the cyclist just beginning a training program or early in the training season when the temptation is to do too much too fast. In order to minimize knee and hip pain in the early season, take it easy for the first few weeks – pedal with low resistance and keep that cadence up to at least 80-90 rpm allowing your body to adjust again to road riding. (Likewise with any change that leads to a slightly new bike position.) Minimize hard riding or hill work for the first few weeks. Add in a stretching program for your lower extremities, especially for the gluteus and IT band to help transition you into your riding season.

The most common causes are:

  • Faulty saddle height or position
  • Crank too long – especially if you have chondromalacia
  • Pushing excessively high gears (slow cadence in cold weather)
  • Too much leg work in the gym
  • Cleat alignment
  • Individual cyclist anatomy

And finally don’t forget about the low back as playing a role in leg pain – especially the back of the leg and hamstrings. All leg pain is not from problems “where it hurts”.

Q. I have a question about lower back and leg pain that I sometimes experience while riding. Sometimes when I am riding my legs will become so racked with pain that I can no longer pedal. I know I have lower back issues from years of heavy Olympic style weightlifting, but this is ridiculous. Sometimes I cannot climb even the smallest hills without stiffness and pain so bad that I almost black out. Any ideas? SG

A. A lot of leg pain is really back pain. So if you have a history of low back problems from the past, I’d start with a good massage therapist that deals with sports injuries combined with a program of back stretches.

Knee Pain

Knee Pain Location

One way to classify knee pain (and identify possible solutions) is to look at the location of the pain.

  • Anterior (see chondromalacia below)
    • Reasons
      • patellar tendonitis
      • patellofemoral syndrome
    • Causes
      • pushing BIG gears – cadence too low
      • saddle too low or too far forward
      • foot too far forward on the pedal
      • crank arms too long
      • leg length discrepancy with seat set for shorter leg
    • Possible solutions
      • ride at 75 rpm or higher
      • raise seat (in small increments of less than 5mm) or move seat back
      • move cleat forward 1 to 2 mm
      • shorten crank arms by 2.5 cm
      • set seat for longer, not shorter, leg with correction for the shorter leg
  • Posterior
    • Reasons
      • hamstring/gastrocnemius
      • neurovacular bundle
    • Causes
      • saddle too high or too far back
      • too much pedal float
      • leg length discrepancy with no correction for shorter leg
    • Possible solutions
      • lower seat (in small increments) or move seat forward
      • limit float to 6 – 8 degrees
      • set seat for longer, not shorter, leg with correction for the shorter leg
  • Medial (inner side)
    • Reasons
      • medial collateral ligament
      • pes anserenus
    • Causes
      • cleat position too wide – foot held externally rotated (toes point out)
      • excessive knee frontal plane motion
      • too little pedal float
    • Possible solutions
      • narrow foot position by moving cleat towards the outside of the foot (thus your foot moves nearer the bottom bracket)
      • orthotic or wedge to correct foot alignment
      • pedal float should be 6 – 8 degrees
  • Lateral
    • Reasons
      • iliotibial band
      • degenerative lateral meniscus
    • Causes
      • cleat position too narrow – foot held internally rotated (toes pointed in)
      • too little pedal float
      • excessive knee frontal plane motion
    • Possible solutions
      • widen foot position by moving cleat away from the bike
      • pedal float should be 6 – 8 degrees
      • orthotic or wedge to correct foot alignment

Saddle Adjustment

A simple seat height adjustment may ease the forces placed on the knee. If the seat is too low, stress is placed on the knee from the patellar and quadriceps tendons and is generally felt anteriorly below the patella where the tension inserts on the tibia. If the seat is too high, pain may develop behind the knee.

There are several different ways to determine proper seat height. The easiest way is to allow one pedal to drop to the 6 o’clock position and observe the angle of the knee joint. There should be a 25-30 degree flexion in the knee when the pedal is at the bottom most point. Another is to measure your inseam (in centimeters) and multiply this measurement by 0.883. This should be your distance from the top of the seat to the center of the bottom bracket. If you place your heels on the pedals, have someone else hold the bike, and pedal backwards, your hips should not rock back and forth. Likewise if your hips rock when you are riding lower your saddle until you achieve a smooth pedal stroke.

Seat fore/aft position and cleat position may also contribute to knee pain. Saddles that are too far back cause the cyclist to reach for the pedal and stretch the IT band with resultant knee pain. Saddle position can be evaluated with the “plumb bob technique”. Seated with the pedal in the 3 o’clock position, a “plumb” hung from the most forward portion of the knee, should intersect the ball of the foot and the axle of the pedal.

Cleat Position

Thanks to Chad Asplund and Chris Carmichael (“The Ultimate Ride”) for the following. These comments are meant for those using fixed cleats systems as the newer systems allowing internal and external rotation of the shoe, or “float” (such as the Speedplay system) have minimized cleats as the issue in knee pain.

Cleats that are too far internally rotated may cause increased stress to the IT band as it crosses the outside of the knee. This can be caused by a narrow stance width on the pedal (cleats too near the bottom bracket) and generally the toes will point in as you look down from above. The solution is to return the cleat to a more neutral position (let the toes point more fore/aft) and/or widen the stance on the pedal. Remember to make these adjustments in millimeters as a small movement on the cleat can translate into major changes at the knee and hip level. Rotational cleat position can also be evaluated by use of a commercial/bike shop “fit kit” or rotational adjustment device – this is more important for cleats with less than 5 degrees of float.

Medial knee pain can result from external rotation (toes pointing outward) and/or stance too wide on the pedals. As you might surmise, the remedy is to align cleat toward neutral with the toes more forward) and perhaps narrow the stance on the pedal (move the cleat towards to bottom bracket). Cleats should be positioned fore/aft so that the ball of your foot is directly over the axle of the pedal.

Relationship of Knees and Top Tube

Should My Knees Be Closer to the Top Tube? (excerpted from www.roadrider.com)

Question: I recently rode with an experienced racer. He said my knees are too far out to the side as I pedal, and I would benefit from bringing them closer to the top tube. “Think of holding a ball between your knees,” he said. I’m quite bowlegged (thanks Mom) so for me to make my knees touch the top tube is almost impossible. Should I work on keeping my knees closer to the frame? — Randy S.

Answer: I see quite a few riders with knees splayed outward. This can be caused by anatomical characteristics or bad bike fit — or a combination. Narrower knees are certainly better in terms of aerodynamics. Watching the Tour de France this summer, head-on camera shots made some riders look knock-kneed. But it’s a common misconception that pedaling with knees nearly brushing the top tube increases power.

Knee position is determined by your anatomy. Ideally, your knees will be directly over the pedals. But if you’re bowlegged, they will tend to be fairly far from the top tube. Trying to pull them in is likely to strain and ultimately injure ligaments and tendons. If you have had a professional bike fit, let your knees do what they want to do, naturally. That’s the best way to avoid injury and produce the most power your body is capable of generating.

Chondromalacia

The knee joint is basically a ball-and-socket joint, with the ball at the bottom of the femur and the socket at the top of the shinbone or tibia (although a very shallow socket – unlike the hip joint for example). Protecting the front of the relatively unstable knee joint is a third bone, the patella, which is embedded in the quadriceps tendon and which slides in a shallow groove on the femur and tibia. A common cycling-related injury is called chondromalacia, and has to do with irritation of the cartilage behind the patella.

This is more commonly seen in women – perhaps because of the angling of the knee related to their wider pelvis. When asked “where does it hurt” the patient often cannot point with a single finger to a specific location but will classically move their palm over the entire anterior knee or patellar area. Another clue is that the knee will often hurt after prolonged flexion (the theatre sign).

Chondromalacia is often blamed on lateral movement of the patella which may not “track” smoothly in the patellar groove as it moves. A common prescription to reduce discomfort is strengthening the quadriceps muscles which run along the front of the thigh and help to stabilize the kneecap and counteract or correct this mis-tracking which, with repeated knee bending causes irritation of the tissue behind the patella.

One exercise which will strengthen the quads and decrease this lateral movement is to sit in a chair holding one leg at a time out straight, unsupported. Sometimes it is suggested you place a pillow or other weight (such as a sock filled with pennies) on the extended foot. Making a conscious effort to avoid lateral knee movement during your pedal stroke (by watching your knees as you ride in a low-traffic setting) can help you retrain your pedal stroke. The knees should move up and down as you pedal, with no sideward motion. Many cyclists have a sideways hitch in their pedaling motion, which may be a major contributor to chondromalacia. Two other suggestions:

  • Shortening your crank length. Women, in particular, often have a crank that is too long for them, which then places an increased load on the patella when the pedal is at the front of its stroke.
  • Spin at a higher RPM. Pushing big gears at a low RPM puts a tremendous load on the knee.

Patellar Tendonitis

Tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon, usually from overuse. With repeated irritation and thus inflammation, scarring can occur. The tearing and resulting scarring increase friction as the tendon moves. As a result, the tendon might squeak like a rusty hinge or piece of dry leather when you bend your knee. This is called crepitus and reflects both the inflammation and the lack of normal lubrication of the tendon. The result is pain.

The patella is the kneecap. It’s surrounded by the tendon structure itself, which connects the quadriceps muscle group to the tibia or lower leg. Your patella is a triangle. If you look down at it, the pain is usually centered on the lower tip (inferior pole) where it connects to the tendon. If the tendinitis is severe, you may get localized swelling. It might look like a little bump or nodule at the lower end of your patella.

You will feel pain in the front of the knee, below the patella, when you pedal or walk upstairs, and it will probably be even worse descending stairs. It also hurts when you palpate, or press, on the tendon itself. There may be some swelling.

Patellar tendonitis often appears after hard sprinting, big-gear climbing, or off-bike jumping activities. It also can flare up after hard leg presses or squats. Many times it is simply doing too much, too soon in your training program.

Treatment includes applying ice up to three times a day and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) with food. Consider raising your saddle height if this is biking related, and pedal easily or stop riding for several days to allow the inflammation to quiet down.

Individual Anatomy

(Leg length discrepancies; flat feet)

Per Chad Asplund MD “individual cyclist anatomy may contribute to knee and hip pain. Cyclists with leg length discrepancies may develop knee pain as only one side is correctly fitted to the bicycle. This leads to increased stress inside the knee and hip joints on the improperly fitted side. Cyclists with flat feet may be more prone to excessive pronation (internal rotation) of the lower extremity causing greater stress on the IT band at the knee. Orthotics (anatomic shoe inserts crafted by podiatrists) may correct the alignment of the knee and decrease or prevent medial or lateral rotational stress on the connective tissue of the ankle, knee or hip, thus reducing the pain.”

Almost everyone has a small leg-length inequality, but a difference of 1/8 inch (3 mm) or so shouldn’t affect your cycling. When the difference is greater, however, it can open the door to a host of leg and back problems. The solution involves either cleat repositioning or, when the inequality is 6 mm or more, a shim under the cleat of the short leg.

Here’s a quick way to get a ballpark idea as to whether you might have a problem.

  • Remove your socks and lie on your back on a firm surface. Straighten your spine as much as possible.
  • Have a friend pick up both legs by the heels, shake them gently, stretch them forward and set them down with anklebones (malleoli) touching.
  • Have your friend can see how your ankles match. If the bones are offset (AND you’re experiencing leg or knee problems) it may be worth getting a more precise exam from an orthopedist or sports medicine practitioner.

 

Treatment of Knee Pain

Knee pain generally develops slowly over a number of days and is not an emergency. Immediate care is always available at a walk in clinics, but it is more productive to see your primary care physician or a sports medicine physician as the first step.

Dealing with yourself will be the biggest issue. Competitive athletes have a “fear of rest” – yet rest is probably the single most effective treatment. Peer pressure to continue to ride doesn’t help when you are trying to do the right thing for yourself (and your knee).

  • First Aid

As in any musculoskeletal injury, ice, elevation, and resting the knee are all helpful.

  • Rehabilitation

Take a few days off and then begin a limited riding program – cut back mileage by 20 – 30 % and spin at a high rpm and in a low gear for a week or two. And the same goes for leg work in the gym. Remember, if you push too hard, you just get to start over again. Mild stretching before and after the ride keep the muscles loose, and icing the knee after the ride may be beneficial as well.

  • Drugs

Tylenol or NSAIDs such as Motrin are a good start. Motrin can be taken up to 800 mg 3 times a day for a few days, but then drop back to the recommended dose on the bottle. If you have a history of ulcer problems or develop GI side effects, either switch to Tylenol (it helps pain but is not as good an anti-inflammatory) or see your physician for one of the newer medications.

  • Prevention

And finally, don’t forget about prevention. Why did the pain develop in the first place? Overuse is the big one, but also consider these possibilities:

    • Correct biomechanics – follow suggestions above
    • Consider a complete bike fit
    • Choose gears that allow a cadence of at least 75 – 80 RPM
    • Don’t make big changes in your training program – increasing mileage by more than 10% a week is a risk factor for injury as is over zealous interval training.
    • Keep your legs covered in cold temperatures – there is no scientific proof, but plenty of individual experience that suggests this will decrease injuries. (And the hassles of knee or leg warmers are reasonable insurance if you are prone to knee pain or leg strain.)

For those interested, here is another excellent article on knee pain reprinted from the The Physician and Sports Medicine

From Cycling Performance Tips

 

Although water does not provide Calories, adequate fluid intake and hydration is at least as important as Calorie replacement in maximizing your athletic performance. The single biggest mistake of many athletes is their failure to replace their fluid losses during training and competitive events. And this is especially true in cycling where evaporative losses are significant and can go unnoticed even though sweat production and loss through the lungs can easily exceed 2 quarts per hour. To maximize your performance, it is essential that fluid replacement begin early and continue throughout a ride. A South African study comparing two groups of cyclists (one rehydrating, the other not) exercising at 90% of their maximum demonstrated a measurable difference in physical performance as early as 15 minutes into the ride.

Fluid losses during exercise result in a decrease in the circulating blood volume as well as the water content of the muscle cells. And the impact on performance is directly related to the level of hydration (or dehydration). Dehydration is defined as a >1% loss of body weight as a result of fluid loss. Unreplaced water losses equal to 2% of body weight (about 3 pounds for the average rider) impact heat regulation, at 3% there is a measurable decrease in muscle cell contraction times, and when fluid losses reach 4% of body weight, there is a 5 to 10% drop in overall performance which can persist for up to 4 hours after rehydration takes place. Thus it is essential to anticipate and regularly replace fluid losses. And thirst is not be a reliable indicator of dehydration as it takes 0.8 – 2% (of body weight) fluid loss to trigger thirst. Maintaining plasma volume is an important strategy to optimize your physical performance.

How much water do you need to maintain a normal state of hydration at baseline (without your daily period of exercise)? For a 70 kilogram adult, about 2500 to 3000 cc per day. This is about 4% of your body weight or in terms of energy expenditure, about 1 cc required for each Calorie of energy expenditure per day. If your diet is well balanced, about 1000 cc (4 cups) will come from fruits, vegetables, and other foods eaten. Another 1 cup will be from the metabolism of carbohydrates, and the balance, about 7 cups, should be from fluid you drink.

And if you exercise for an hour or two, add in replacement for losses from sweat and respiration. Under normal environmental circumstances, you will lose 1 – 2 liters of sweat per hour, and in the heat this can be as high as 4 – 6 liters per hour. And respiratory fluid losses are not insignificant. Up to 60% of overall fluid loss can be via the lungs – which means that even swimmers can get dehydrated.

What are other factors, besides exercise, that can influence your fluid needs (and if not replaced, exacerbate dehydration)?

  • Caffeine – if you are a regular, daily caffeine user, your body will adapt to its diuretic (water losing) effects. On the other hand, if you have been caffeine free for 5 days, and then drink the equivalent of 6 cups (642 mgs of caffeine) over a 24 hour period, you will induce a negative fluid balance of nearly 0.8 kg (equivalent to 3 cups of water).
  • Alcohol – this will decrease ADH secretion and allow increase loss of water via the kidneys. For every 2 drinks, you should take an additional 1 cup of fluid per day.
  • Environmental factors – heat, humidity, and altitude

For those who practice the philosophy “if a little is good, a lot is better”, it should be mentioned that there are risks associated with over correcting the fluid losses of exercise. There have been reports of hyponatremia (low blood sodium concentration) leading to seizures in marathon runners who over replaced sweat losses (which contain both salt and water) with electrolyte free water alone. This is rarely a problem for cycling events of less than several hours duration (except under extreme environmental conditions of heat or humidity) and becomes an issue only for events lasting more than 5 hours.

Under normal conditions, you should be drinking a minimum of 4 to 5 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes and should aim for 1 to 2 standard water bottles per hour. When extreme conditions of heat and humidity are anticipated, the following strategy may be of additional benefit:

  • drink 20 oz of cool water 2 hours before exercise
  • 8 to 16 oz 30 minutes before
  • and then 4 to 8 oz every 15 minutes on the bike

If you want a simple measure of the effectiveness of your personal hydration program, weigh yourself before and after a long rides (without clothes to avoid inaccurate weights from sweat soaked clothing). A standard water bottle (20 ounces) weighs about 1 1/4 pounds – or a pound of weight equals 16 ounces (1 pint;2 cups) of fluid; a quart (4 cups) is 2 pounds. This will enable you to tailor YOUR OWN replacement program.

Additional tips:

  • Hydrate before, during, and after the ride – force yourself to drink as thirst alone will not reflect complete rehydration, so learn to drink before you are thirsty. Using a CamelBak or similar device on long rides will eliminate worries about stopping and possibly losing your group. Watch the color of your urine, if you are doing a good job on replacement it should be colorless.
  • Don’t skimp when using a sports drink – don’t assume that because they contain electrolytes and carbohydrates you don’t need to drink as much. And the sweet taste often keeps you from drinking, so take an extra bottle of plain water to alternate.
  • Keeping liquids cool has been shown to increase intake on a ride – either add ice the day of the ride or freeze half a water bottle of fluid the night before and top it off with water from the tap or extra sports drink just before the race.
  • Weigh yourself before and after the ride – most of your weight loss will be fluid (2 pounds equals 1 quart or “a pint’s a pound”). A drop of a pound or two won’t impair performance, but any more and you need to reassess your personal hydration program. A gain of more than 1 or 2 pounds suggests you are compensating. This is an especially important strategy in hot weather where fluid losses can easily be several quarts an hour.
  • Wear the right clothing – light colored to reflect heat; a loose weave jersey; shorts made of one of the new “wicking” materials.
  • Wear your helmet – modern well vented helmets funnel the wind onto your head and are actually cooler than your bare head, and the helmet material can act to insulate your head from the heat of the sun’s rays.

Do electrolyte drinks (those containing minerals such as sodium and potassium) provide an advantage over pure water alone? Not for rides of 1 to 2 hours. When two groups exercised for 2 hours at 67% VO2 max (with average fluid losses of 2300 ml) there was no advantage to rehydrating with electrolyte drinks versus water alone. But as large volumes are needed for rehydration in long events, palatability and digestive tract tolerance are important in the selection of your replacement fluids. And for some riders electrolyte drinks are easier to consume. For longer rides, especially over 5 hours in duration (100 miles) or in conditions of extreme heat and humidity, using electrolyte containing sports drinks for sodium replacement helps to prevent dilutional hyponatremia.

In extreme conditions you might consider adding a pinch of salt to each water bottle of electrolyte replacement drink. For example, gatorade doesn’t contain much sodium. This will help to prevent hyponatremia. In the same way, salting your food liberally the day before a hot-weather ride can help and may prevent cramps in susceptible individuals. But if you are any type of sodium restricted diet, check with your physician to make sure that adding salt isn’t a health hazard for you.

How about carbohydrates? Two hours is the point at which carbohydrate supplements will consistently improve your performance by supplementing your internal glycogen stores. Cyclists can drink large volumes while competing and in extreme events, such as the Tour de France for example, competitors have been able to replace up to 50% of their energy expenditures drinking 20% carbohydrate solutions at a rate of 2 to 4 quarts an hour. If you’d like, you can calculate your exact Caloric replacement needs based on the duration and average speed of you ride. For a rough estimate, you need approximately 1/3 gram of carbohydrate per pound of body weight per hour to replace Calories expended.

Certain carbohydrate containing liquids are more quickly emptied from the stomach and thus the sugar they contain more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream to be delivered to the muscles as an energy alternative to muscle glycogen. Drinks using glucose polymers can deliver additional Calories per ounce of fluid while remaining iso-osmotic) .

The temperature of replacement fluids MAY impact the rate of stomach emptying – colder liquids empty more slowly and increase the potential for nausea and delay in getting the electrolytes, water, and glucose into your system. On the other hand, in certain situations, cooler fluids may be more palatable and help to keep you cool (a positive for a ride in extreme conditions). The balance point for drink temperature depends on your personal physiology and the ride conditions, so no absolute recommendations as to the “best” temperature can be made.The same considerations apply to post ride drinks. If you are under time constraints to get back to work, a cool fluid can help you cool down more quickly and cut down your “sweat time”.

NO studies have confirmed a benefit of fruit drinks (which contain fructose) over glucose drinks. Although fructose requires less insulin to enter muscle cells, it does not appear to provide a performance advantage for cycling. Taste alone is the only advantage.

For many years it was believed that a 2.5% concentration of glucose or glucose polymer molecules was the maximum tolerated without delaying gastric emptying and causing nausea. However a recent study, in cyclists, demonstrated normal gastric emptying with 6 to 8% solutions, and nausea occurred only when concentrations were pushed above 11%. The old standbys – apple juice and cola drinks – have a sugar concentration of around 10%. Although glucose polymer sports drinks can provide more Calories per quart (concentration being equal) studies have failed to demonstrate a performance advantage of complex carbohydrate drinks over the simple sugar drinks alone (assuming the same total Calories were ingested. The advantage of the polymers is the absence of a sweet taste and nauseating properties of high concentration glucose drinks, which can be a barrier to maintaining an adequate fluid intake.

The stomach does have volume limits which for most riders is around 800 ml (approximately 1 quart). this is particularly the case when pushing aerobic limits (gastric emptying diminishes as exercise approaches 100% VO2 max). If larger volumes are forced, nausea and abdominal distention can result. For reference, a regular water bottle is 1/2 quart, 16 ounces, or 480 ml.and the large ones are 3/4 quart. You should be able to drink at least 2 bottles per hour.

In summary, drinking 1 to 2 quarts per hour of plain water is adequate for rides of 1 1/2 to 2 hours. For longer rides, where the body’s glycogen stores will be depleted, carbohydrate containing fluids take on increased importance (glucose containing liquids can deliver Calories from the mouth to the muscles in as little as 10 minutes as compared to solid foods and energy bars which empty more slowly from the stomach). In most individuals, an 8 to 10 % concentration is the optimal. Glucose polymers provide the ability to increase total Calories per quart without risking the side effect of an unpalatable, sweet taste. Aside from palatability, there is no proven advantage over simple sugar (glucose) drinks. Although there are many commercial drinks available, the old standbys such as apple juice and cola drinks are probably the least expensive per Calorie provided. In the pre and post ride period, the high Calorie, easily absorbed, glucose polymer sports drinks do offer an advantage for rapidly building (or restocking) glycogen stores.For those of you interested in saving a few $$, take a look at this site for some ideas on homemade energy drinks.

For longer rides, don’t forget the risks of overdoing rehydration with pure carbohydrate (electrolyte free) drinks alone. If you plan to ride more than two or three hours, it’s worth considering a commercial electrolyte containing drink, and if you are going to be riding 5 hours or more, it is essential to pace your fluid replacement rate (and keep an eye on your weight during training rides to be certain you are not overcompensating).

SPORTS DRINKS

Commercial sports drinks are the easiest, but are pricey. Often times complex carbohydrates can be purchased in a health food store and mixed at home with a flavor of your choice or used to supplement a current favorite drink.

Maltodextrin is a corn starch molecule which has been broken down into glucose polymers (chains of glucose molecules). When added to water or other drinks, it increases the energy content without the disadvantage of an overly sweet taste and a highly concentrated solution which will delay gastric emptying. It is useful during exercise or as a post ride supplement, but does not make provide any advantages to breads, cereals, grains, etc. as a regular daily energy source.Directions are usually available from the container, but can vary from 1/2 cup in 8 pounces to 3/4 cup in 32 ounces. You may need to experiment to find the best concentration for your personal physiology.

A 16 ounce water bottle (480 cc) of a 7% sugar solution at 4 Cal per gram of carbohydrate will contain about 136 Calories. If you add 1/2 cup of Carboplex (a commercial maltodextrin) you will add another 220 Calories almost tripling the energy density (concentration) of your drink with minimal chances of nausea or other side effects.

Here are some HOMEMADE SPORTS DRINKS.

OF ADDITIONAL INTEREST

There have been some encouraging studies on the use of glycerol to minimize the negative impact of dehydration on performance. For those interested in a commercial product, try the internutria website.

Except under extreme conditions, electrolytes (particularly sodium chloride or salt) do not need to be replaced along with fluids.

READER’S QUESTIONS

Q. I currently average about 225 to 250 miles a week with a metric century or a full century on the weekends (and 1 or 2 rest days and recovery ride during the week). I have been weighing myself before rides and after and its a little alarming, on average I lose about 4-6 pounds on every ride I take! I just completed a 70 mile with 3 big climbs, in 4:00:59, when I started I weighed 148 lbs when I finished I weighed 142 lbs! I Drank 4 24 ounce water bottles with Gatorade Endurance formula, had two Gels and a cliff bar (oh yeah and had a cliff bar to start for Breakfast at 6am). I drank so much I feel a little gassy toward the end and did not feel better until i burped many times. Is this weight loss normal for a rider my size? Our average temperature in Phoenix when I ride is 92-95, with a little humidity in July-Aug (30-50%); should I be alarmed? Do I need to rethink my whole hydration plan for the whole ride? – C.H.

A. When you lose weight on a ride, you can assume it is water weight – so you were 6 pounds or a quart and a half behind in fluids (a quart or 4 cups = 2 pounds)at the end of the ride. (In ounces, that is 16 x 6 or 96 ounces.) That is 4% of your body weight – which will impact your performance. The bottom line – you do need to rethink your hydration plan.

Over the four hours, you drank 96 ounces or 24 ounces per hour. I think that is about the maximum you can take in per hour (and empty from your stomach). But you may get some additional benefit by drinking 20 oz of cool water 2 hours before exercise and another 8 to 16 ounces 30 minutes before exercise to assure that you are fully hydrated when you start. You might consider trying other sports drinks as sometimes one will agree with your physiology better than another and thus empty a bit more quickly from your stomach. Other strategies would include proper clothing (white to reflect the heat), and I’d also think about switching to a completely liquid diet for the few hours before and during the ride – even the cliff bar may be enough to lengthen gastric emptying time and contribute to the bloated feeling.
Q.Do you know of any recipes for sugar free sports drinks?? My daughter is rotting her teeth, partly because of the dehydration from running, and partly because of sports drinks.? We’d like to mix up something ourselves. – T.

A. Sports drinks provide four things:

  1. Water (this could come right from the tap as well.
  2. More palatable (so one does adequately rehydrate) – any flavoring would do
  3. electolytes (salt being the most common, then perhaps potassium). But unless she is running 5 hour marathons, probably not a big deal.
  4. carbohydrate – to replace what is being metabolized anbd which is what works to promote tooth decay. A complex carb migh be less of a problem (carboplex) but anything with simple glucose or sucrose is going to be a problem with a sugar film on the teeth to aid the bacteria which cause decay.

Any flavored water (may are commercially available) would work to provide the fluid and a better taste than just water alone. But if she is exercising more than 2 hours she will start to run out of carbs. How long does she run?? Does she brush immediately afterwards (which might help a bit to eliminate the sugar rich coating on her teeth).

 

Heat exhaustion: This condition often occurs when people exercise (work or play) in a hot, humid place and body fluids are lost through sweating, causing the body to overheat. The person’s temperature may be elevated, but not above 104°F.

Heat stroke: This medical condition is life-threatening. The person’s cooling system, which is controlled by the brain, stops working and the internal body temperature rises to the point where brain damage or damage to other internal organs may result (temperature may reach 105+°F).

Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke Causes

Heat exhaustion is typically caused when people who are not well adjusted to heat exercise in a hot, humid environment.

·       At high temperatures, the body cools itself largely through evaporation of sweat.

·       When it is very humid, this mechanism does not work properly.

·       The body loses a combination of fluids and salts (electrolytes).

·       When this is accompanied by an inadequate replacement of fluids, disturbances in the circulation may result that are similar to a mild form of shock.

·      Heat stroke may often develop rapidly.

·       Medical conditions or medications that impair the body’s ability to sweat may predispose people to this problem.

Heat stroke happens in the following two ways:

·       The classic form occurs in people whose cooling mechanisms are impaired.

·       The exertional form occurs in previously healthy people who are undergoing strenuous activity in a hot environment.

·       Infants and the elderly are more likely to have this problem,as are those who are taking antihistamines and certain types of medication for high blood pressure or depression.

Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke Symptoms

Heat exhaustion symptoms

·       Often pale with cool, moist skin

·       Sweating profusely

·       Muscle cramps or pains

·       Feels faint or dizzy

·       Vertigo

·       May complain of headache, weakness, thirst, and nausea

·       Core (rectal) temperature elevated-usually more than 100°F-and the pulse rate increased  Note: Ride leaders don’t carry or use rectal thermometers……everJ

Heat stroke symptoms

·       Unconscious or has a markedly abnormal mental status (dizziness, confusion, hallucinations, or coma)

·       Flushed, hot, and dry skin (although it may be moist initially from previous sweating or from attempts to cool the person with water)

·       May have slightly elevated blood pressure at first that falls later

·       May be hyperventilating

·       Rectal (core) temperature of 105°F or more

When to Seek Medical Care

As with all other medical problems, a doctor should be called if you are not sure what is wrong, if you do not know what to do for the problem, or if the person is not responding to what you are doing for them.  Call a doctor for heat exhaustion if the person is unable to keep fluids down or if their mental status begins to deteriorate. Symptoms of shortness of breath, chest pain, or abdominal pain may indicate that the heat exhaustion is accompanied by more serious medical problems.

Suspected heat stroke is a true, life-threatening medical emergency. Call for an ambulance and request information as to what to do until the ambulance arrives.

·       A person with suspected heat stroke should always go to the hospital (or call for an ambulance) at once.

·       For heat exhaustion, a person should go to the hospital if any of the following are present:

·       Loss of consciousness, confusion, or delirium

·       Chest or abdominal pain

·       inability to drink fluids

·       Continuous vomiting

·       Temperature more than 104°F

·       Temperature that is rising despite attempts to cool the person

·       Any person with other serious ongoing medical problems

Exams and Tests

For a heat exposure emergency, the treating doctor needs some important information:

·       Past medical history

·       Medicines the patient is currently taking (prescription and over-the-counter)

·       Symptoms the patient is experiencing

·       Blood tests to check for organ damage may be indicated, however, no specific radiologic (imaging) tests are necessary.

·       Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke Treatment

Self-Care at Home

Home care is appropriate for mild forms of heat exhaustion. Heat stroke is a medical emergency, and an ambulance should be called immediately.

·       For mild cases of heat exhaustion

·       Rest in a cool, shaded area.

·       Give cool fluids such as water or sports drinks (that will replace the salt that has been lost). Salty snacks are appropriate as tolerated.

·       Loosen or remove clothing.

·       Apply cool water to skin.

·       Do not use an alcohol rub.

·       Do not give any beverages containing alcohol or caffeine.

Heat stroke (do not attempt to treat a case of heat stroke at home, but you can help while waiting for medical assistance to arrive.) 

·       Call 911 immediately

·       Move the person to a cooler environment, or place him or her in a cool bath of water (as long as he or she is conscious and can be attended continuously).

·       Alternatively, moisten the skin with lukewarm water and use a fan to blow cool air across the skin.

·       Give cool beverages by mouth only if the person has a normal mental state and can tolerate it.

·       Medical Treatment

·       The treatment is directed at cooling the patient in a controlled fashion while making sure that the patient stays hydrated and that their blood flow is normal.

Treatment of heat exhaustion

·       Because heat exhaustion generally develops gradually, a person will often be dehydrated. Usually they may be given something to drink, and a cool sport beverage (with 6% or less glucose) should be used. IV fluid may be used if the person does not tolerate oral replacement (if he or she cannot keep anything down).

·       The patient should stay in a cool environment and avoid strenuous activity for several days.

Treatment of heat stroke

·       Treatment is aimed at reducing the patient’s core temperature to normal as quickly as possible.

·       The doctor may use immersion, evaporative, or invasive cooling techniques.

·       In the evaporative technique, cold or ice packs may be placed in the armpits or groin. The skin is kept moist with cool fluid, and fans are directed to blow across the body.

·       An IV will be started and fluids are given rapidly.

·       The patient’s urine output will be monitored.

·       Treatment will continue until the patient’s body core temperature is 101.3-102.2°F (38.5-39°C) and then stopped to keep from making the patient too cold.

·       The patient most likely be admitted to the hospital for further blood tests and observation.

·       Follow-up

·       Before leaving the doctor’s office or hospital, be sure the patient understands the instructions that are given by the physician, in particular the information regarding work and activity restrictions. Make sure the patient has a cool environment and plenty of suitable beverages (without alcohol or caffeine).

Prevention

·       Avoid heat exhaustion by not engaging in strenuous activity in hot, humid environments. People who are not used to the heat should be particularly careful. Intersperse periods of rest in a cool environment with plenty of available fluids to drink. Avoid strenuous activities during the hottest part of the day.

·       Heat stroke often occurs in people who are unable to modify their environments: infants, the elderly, and bed-ridden people. People who are taking many types of blood pressure, allergy, or depression medication may also be particularly at risk and should avoid hot environments.

·       People in supervisory positions such as coaches, trainers, and lifeguards should be trained to specifically recognize signs of heat illness and what preventive measures to take.

Outlook

The prognosis is related to the severity of the heat exposure and the patient’s general medical condition. The very young and the very old have the worst outcomes. In general, the prognosis with heat exhaustion is excellent, with full recovery expected. However, with heat stroke, permanent nerve, heart, liver, or kidney problems, or even death, can occur.

http://www.emedicinehealth.com/heat_exhaustion_and_heat_stroke/article_em.htm

From RoadBikeRider.com

 

As cyclists we’re responsible for knowing the state of our equipment. Periodic bike inspection is an absolute must. A crash demands an immediate exam — especially when there’s been an impact involving the front end.

 

The fork is probably the strongest single element of a bike. It takes a lot to damage one, but you must be absolutely sure all is well. After all, not much in life is scarier than a fork failure, and you don’t want that on your mind — like at descending speed. Let’s look at two main ways forks get broken:

 

Front Wheel Impacts. This includes riding into a curb, into a nasty pothole, or into any other immovable object. You don’t need to be going fast or even crash to ruin a fork. If you suspect it was damaged by a hard hit, get on the cell phone and call for a ride. Yours is over.

 

With a carbon fork, the damage may be internal and unseen. The fork must be pulled from the frame to check for injury to the steerer tube, the fork legs or the crown. A simple look while it’s still in the frame is not enough. Take it out and put it under a bright light.

 

You’re looking for cracks, dents, dings and bent or loose dropouts. Gouges, discoloration, peeling, delamination — all spell impending disaster. So do buzzing sounds from inside the legs during riding. And then there’s the tell-tale sensation that the bike doesn’t steer or behave like it used to. If you lack the experience to do this kind of inspection, take your bike to the most experienced mechanic at your Local Bike Shop. He/she might just save your life.

 

With a steel fork, a big frontal impact will generally bend the fork (or more likely the frame). I have seen steel forks bent to ridiculous angles, but I’ve never seen one fail catastrophically under a rider. That’s a testimony to steel’s ultimate strength and forgiveness.

 

If you’re riding on an aluminum fork you should have replaced it eons ago. Aluminum forks become mushy and flexible over time. I’ve never thought aluminum is a good choice for a fork. The only time I had a bike with one, I worried so much that I got rid of that rig after only two months. The fork was way light and it was good on rough pavement, but it seemed like an accident waiting to happen.

 

Garage Calamities. I hope this has never happened to you, but it’s happened to plenty of tired riders driving home with the bike on top. One push of the garage door’s remote button and in a nano-second . . . disaster! After calming down, you need to take the bike (and what remains of the roof rack) to the LBS. It’s going to take time to check everything that could be damaged. If it’s only the fork you were lucky in the extreme. Make your next stop at the auto body shop, then drop by the local construction contractor to arrange for a repair estimate. Don’t forget to mention that the garage door no longer works.

 

Never, ever take a chance on fork failure. Sure, a good bike’s fork is expensive to replace. But that pales in comparison to the pain of a crash and cost of an ER visit.

 

It’s like the lady told me when I was looking at a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy for $400: “If you can’t afford to buy the puppy, you can’t afford to own the dog.” She was right. Over the lifespan of that dog, 400 bucks was nothing.

 

With our bikes it’s the same. We must maintain our equipment and spend what it takes to replace anything that’s questionable. Especially the fork.

                                   

                                   

NOTE: Good technique equals confidence that will increase your downhill speed. High speed without good technique could lead to disaster.

Some people like climbing, some people just love to climb, and there are those who see climbing as a means to an end. I am of the latter group. I climb hills for two reasons, first the hill is in my way of where I want to get and second is my love for the reward of descending. To quote John Swanda “a good descent is where I can reach 50 mph or more.” As I grow older my need to streak down a hill at 50 mph has lost some of its appeal but I still love the thrill of a fast technical descent. So, let me delve into what it takes to descend with utter confidence and skill.

 

Where to Look: The first thing, and perhaps one of the more important techniques, is where to look while descending. Many new riders have a propensity to look about 5 feet in front of them which is just about the worse place you should look. The reason is, at just about any speed, if you see any hazard just 5 feet ahead you will almost certainly hit it. We know “You Steer Where You Look,” therefore, it would be best to focus your gaze at least 20 feet ahead and further when possible. Doing this gives you time to react to any hazard you see and avoid it with time to spare. Once I see a hazard and have chosen a path around it I no longer look at it but keep my focus forward and allow my peripheral vision to keep me safe from the hazard. One phrase comes to mind and that is “Keep Your Chin Level with the Ground.” In other words always look way ahead.

 

Body Position: Body position is another technique to practice. If possible keep your hands in the drops with one finger on each brake lever. The one finger near the bottom of the brake lever will give you plenty of leverage to apply as much braking as should be necessary. You will have more leverage for braking as opposed to having your hands on the brake hoods where your fingers rest near the top of the brake lever. Scooting back on the saddle about an inch not only lowers your center of gravity but it makes reaching the brake levers easier. Always look up the road keeping your chin level with the ground.

 

Another very important element regarding body position is where we have our feet/legs for each turn. Always have the outside leg down and apply pressure on that leg. If you are making a left hand turn the right leg becomes the outside leg, for a right hand turn the left leg becomes the outside leg. Make this move before you reach any given turn. Applying pressure helps to lower your center of gravity and really stabilizes the bike during the turn. When doing this correctly I have about 80% of my weight on the outside pedal and if I hit a bump I can feel the saddle bump against my rump. As for what to do with the inside leg (the one that is up) some like to point the knee towards the turn and others like to keep the knee against the top tube. Try both and see which you like. I prefer to have my knee against the top tube but it took a while to get comfortable with that position.

 

Choosing A Line: The term “Outside-Inside-Outside” refers to the technique that uses the entire lane for a safe descent. For a right hand turn you should start your turn near the center line (outside), then drop the bike towards the apex of the turn or fog line if there is one (inside), then exit the turn allowing your bike to drift back near the center line (outside). A left hand turn starts near the fog line or right side of the lane and uses the center line as the apex of the turn. What you are doing is using the whole lane while you essentially straighten out the turn. Also, taking the lane allows you more options in case of an emergency. If you hug the right side of the road and are faced with a hazard you only have one direction of escape; not a comforting thought in my opinion. An old friend of mine used to say we are “Dancing with the Bike.” Riding down a technical descent is a beautiful dance with just you and your bike and you get to lead!

 

Braking: If you must always try to brake before you start your turn to scrub off enough speed to make the turn safely. If you happen to go into a turn faster than is comfortable your first focus should be to look where you want to go. The tendency is to look at the cliff, which you are trying your best to avoid, but we steer where we look. Don’t look that way! You can feather your brakes (lightly applied pressure) in a turn to help slow the bike down but don’t hit the brakes hard, disastrous things can happen. Hitting the front brake hard will straighten your bike up and hitting the rear brake hard will cause the rear of the bike to want to come to the front which will make your bike go sideways. This sideways maneuver usually pretzels the rear wheel and down you go.

 

Auto Traffic: On any descent we must share the road with auto traffic. When traffic is going faster than I am I prefer to move to the right side of the road, slow down and wave the car past. Then I can go back to using the entire lane for my own safety.

 

Passing and Being Passed: Try to always pass on the left but if someone is hugging the center line you may have to pass on the right. Call out “Passing on your Left/Right” before you reach them, use a bell if you have one. If someone is passing you don’t change your line, keep whatever position in the lane you are in and let them pass.

 

Miscellaneous Techniques: On a technical descent, as soon as I select the apex of each turn and aim for that, I look ahead to see what I have to do next. I no longer have to look at the turn I am in because I know I have made it and want to know what I have to do next to set up the next turn. On a straight descent I stay just to the left of the fog line (the white line on the right side of the road). This gives me room both to my left and right to maneuver if a need arises. I also keep my feet parallel (3 and 9 o’clock) so I can “post up” if I have to absorb a pot hole or whatever. If I keep one foot down then my weight is shifted and if I need to get my rump off the saddle (post up) then the bike becomes less stable.

 

On your next descent don’t try to do all these things at once. It will only frustrate you and slow you down. Instead take one technique and focus on it all the way to the bottom. When you have that technique dialed in then move to the next one. The order I teach is first learn to keep the outside leg down (this should be done on the flats as well as a descent). When that becomes second nature then focus on looking as far ahead as you can while using your peripheral vision to get you past an obstacle. Followed by adjusting your body position for optimal safety and comfort (this may take some time). Then start working on the best line through a turn (outside-inside-outside). Remember to practice on every descent and stay focused. Descending is probably the one place in my life that I am totally focused. All my thought is directed to a fun and safe descent. And if you get nervous Smile! It’s hard to be nervous when you are smiling.

 

Have fun and remember to say “On Your Left” as you pass me.

 

the RoadBikeRider.com Newsletter

By Carol E. Torgan, Ph.D., FACSM National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Cramps are miserable. I’m an exercise physiologist who specializes in skeletal muscle, so let me give everyone a little background about cramp causes and prevention.

A cramp is an intense, involuntary contraction of a muscle that usually occurs during or immediately after exercise. Cramps were traditionally thought to stem from fluid or electrolyte imbalances, but they are not always the reason. Cramps may occur following chronic muscle use by individuals, such as musicians, who are not sweating.

Cramps have also been attributed to extreme environmental conditions or metabolic abnormalities, but again there are examples where this doesn’t hold. Cramps typically occur in situations that cause muscle fatigue, such as toward the end of long, strenuous or intense rides.

A current theory suggests muscle cramps result from fatigue that triggers abnormal neural activity. There’s an increase in neural input telling the muscle to contract, and a decrease in signals telling the muscle to relax. The result is a vigorous contraction of part or all of the muscle.

The presence of dehydration is thought to accentuate muscle fatigue, adding insult to injury.

Cramps are most common in muscles that span two joints. The hamstrings are a great example. Other two-joint muscles include part of the quadriceps (thigh muscle) and the gastrocnemius (calf muscle).

Here’s a checklist for every cramp-afflicted person to think about.

People most prone to cramps are older, have a family history of cramping and have poor stretching habits.

 Do you get cramps in muscles that are not working very hard during cycling (such as the biceps)? If you do, this suggests a systemic factor is the main culprit (e.g., an electrolyte imbalance or dehydration). However, if cramps only occur in the muscles doing all the work, then fatigue is probably to blame.

 Do cramps occur only in hot conditions, or do you get them if you ride hard on mild days? Review your training diary and look for patterns a la Sherlock Holmes. Check weather conditions, type/length of ride, eating/drinking patterns the day before, during and after the ride, location(s) of the cramps, etc.  For example, if your cramps always occur in the same muscle when you ride a certain bike in a certain position (i.e. aero), then you can pinpoint it to local muscle fatigue and train accordingly.

 What Cures Cramps? Take Your Pick! By RBR Newsletter Subscribers

Because different riders cramp for different reasons, somewhere in the following collection of cramp remedies you might find the one that’ll work for you.

Tums

ALAN E.:  Tums help prevent cramps. On long, hard rides, I take a roll and chew down a few at the first signs of cramping. Tums helped me get through my first double century.

KERRY I.:  I have used electrolyte drinks, but they didn’t seem to make much difference. However, I have popped a Tums and felt much better — no threat of cramps and a generally better “body feeling” with more pedaling comfort. Tums are low sodium, and I’m generous with the salt shaker in my diet, so sodium is not the factor. Calcium seems to be their mystery ingredient.

PAUL B.:  Apart from the obvious solutions of water, a quality sports drink and plain old potassium supplement pills (pop one before and a couple during a potentially camp-producing ride), try chewing a few Tums with calcium every now and then. The fruit flavored ones taste pretty good, and you can buy them at almost any roadside convenience store or gas station.

 

Endurolytes

RON M.:  I live in the great San Joaquin Valley of central California where it is not unusual to be out there grinding away in 100F+ degrees. I’ve been cycling for about 15 years and for 13 of them I suffered with more cramps than I would like to remember. Two years ago I started using Endurolytes by E-Caps. I’m a 56-year-old cyclist who now enjoys cramp-free riding.

J.S.:  I can almost assure you that a product called Endurolytes will prevent cramping. And your legs will be a lot less sore after hard rides, too. I’ve “fixed” countless people who had chronic cramping with this product. Also, keep note of your weight before and after rides. As time goes by, you will get a read on how well you are managing hydration. If you lose more than 2% of your weight, you are not drinking enough.

ELI M.:  Endurolytes is the best electrolyte replacement supplement I have ever tried. Take a few before riding, then 1-3 every hour during. Great for hot days or any long ride.

RICHARD M.:  On the toughest 65 miles I’ve ever ridden (95F degrees, high dew point, many steep climbs) I took one Endurolyte per hour and had no cramps. Perhaps the stuff worked, or perhaps it was just a coincidence.

DREW C.:  Try Endurolytes from Hammer Nutrition. Much of their stuff is a tad placebo-ish for my tastes, but I have found these to work well in the heat.

 

Better Riding through Chemistry

TOM B.:  I take Hammer Nutrition’s E-Caps first and often, way before I need them — 2 or 3 every hour after the first three hours. Plus Tums. On a double century, I will start with Tums by midmorning and then have 2 or 3 at lunch. More in the afternoon, maybe 8 or 10 total for the day. It’s the same or more for the E-Caps.

I keep these products in a box on my top tube, in sight and in mind. When in doubt and heat is a factor, I eat a couple extra of each.

I also like guarana for my afternoon caffeine, but that has nothing to do with cramps. Plus, a couple Advil helps, but no more than 2 or 3 all day.

I drink a lot of Gatorade, carried in my water bottle. I also mix it with Hammer’s Sustained Energy in my CamelBak for my primary hydration resource.

I drink 12-18 oz. of tomato juice or V8 at any stop that has them. This stuff is magic for me on the afternoons of long rides.

I finish up a rest stop with an extra glass of water or Gatorade right before jumping on the bike. I have found that shorter is better at rest stops for cramp elimination.

SPIZ

RANDY I.:  No one who has used SPIZ for any event of any kind lasting more than three hours has ever cramped (that I know of). In 2002, Dr. Bob Breedlove set the over-50 U.S. transcontinental record obtaining 95% of his calories from SPIZ and had no cramping, even in the 110F-degree California desert. SPIZ has 600 mg of sodium per serving, enough that if you down a bottle every 60 minutes or so, sodium is replaced faster than you can lose it.

Salt

FRANK D.:  I mix up a custom blend of “lite” salt — half sodium chloride and half potassium chloride, Extran and Accelerade. I use a huge backpack-style hydration system, around 4 liters, and fill it for a long summer ride. The salt varies from a tablespoon in the winter to two or slightly more in the summer. The terrain here in SoCal is reasonably steepish where we ride, so my 52-year-old legs get hammered pretty good.

I believe since I don’t add salt to my food, nor do I eat many packaged salty things, I’m probably sodium shy. The addition of the potassium chloride seems to be beneficial also. Before I added it to the brew, I had everything from tingly cramps to outrageous cramps and seemed to retain fluids.

This is all anecdotal, of course, but I’ve honed my mix over the last couple years. Since the addition of Accelerade some time ago, I am happy to say I haven’t had one cramp. Maybe it’s the protein (who knows?). Your mileage may vary.

AMY R., M.D.:  One key is in eating a well-salted breakfast, such as one little salt packet on each — the eggs, the hot cereal, the potatoes. I haven’t gotten a headache or cramp since I started this pre-loading.

Another key on a hot, sweaty day is to drink V-8 juice, a veritable liquid salt pill, containing lots of sodium and potassium. If it’s too strong, water it down some. One four-ounce can at noon is a great booster for me, and light enough to carry behind my saddle. When I start thinking that licking my salty, sweaty,  sunscreened arm is a tasty-sounding idea, I know I’m behind. Get out the V-8!

A caveat: I was on a nine-day ride in hot southern Utah. We all got into downing lots of V-8. Fine, until the ride was over. The day after, my salt load began to show in swollen legs, which I’d never had, and it took days for them to come down. That was educational. Next time, I’ll back off the last day or so, which shouldn’t hurt performance. Hypertensives beware!

Also, have you noticed how much sodium there is in Fig Newtons? Mercy! They’re better than pretzels as a salty snack. I like beef jerky, too, sometimes. Read the small print on snacks. It’s illuminating.

Besides true-riding experience, my only other credential is that I’m an M.D. (anesthesiologist). For what it’s worth!

LEE R.:  I’ve got a couple of methods that I employ for 6-hour endurance races. First, eat a small can of Pringles (pizza flavored is my favorite) an hour or two before the start. Second, add a pinch of kosher salt per bottle to enhance your sports drink. I wouldn’t recommend using regular iodized table salt as it adds an unpleasant “tinny” taste.

 MIKE B.:  Do as the tennis pros do. They keep salt in a baggy, and between sets they consume a tablespoon or so with their drink. I’m careful to take in as much salt as I can. I’m a triathlete, and salt deprivation is probably the leading cause of spectacular blowups!

KENT W.:  In the Death Ride here in California, at most of the rest stops they have boiled salted red potatoes. Real food for the long ride, with lots of salt to help prevent cramps.  Also, Mexican food the night before a hot, sweaty ride gives you lots of salt.

 BEN C.:  If you’re like me, your helmet straps get crusty with salt. Your face gets gritty with salt. And it’s not uncommon to have bands of salt marks on shorts and jerseys.

Forcing yourself to consume water even when you don’t want to drink more is only part of the solution/problem. Replenishing the electrolytes that you sweat out is also key.

Now here’s the trick: replenishing the electrolytes in the same concentrations you are losing them!

It’s not good enough to consume lots of water and lots of salt and potassium. If you consume too much salt, you can make yourself sick. If you don’t consume enough salt, you ultimately will “hit the wall.”

If you consume only half as much salt, for instance, as you have lost but consume an equal amount of water as you have perspired, then you have diluted your salt replenishment. Over time, this will do you in.

I don’t have a foolproof way for being certain that you are consuming enough salt and other electrolytes to offset this loss. But by being aware of the need to maintain a balance, it may help you come a lot closer.

HANK G., M.D.:  I’ve done many centuries and always seem to cramp. When I heard Arnie Baker speak, he recommended taking more salt to prevent cramping. So before a 200-mile ride, I ate potato chips and a couple of Snickers, in addition to lots of peanut butter on a bagel. It was the first time I didn’t cramp on a long ride, and it was the longest one-day ride I’ve ever done. I’m convinced that the salt in those foods made a difference.

Magnesium

GILLIAN M.:  Magnesium is the “anti-spasmodic mineral.” I work with many people in my practice who suffer from cramps. If they get good levels of potassium, magnesium and calcium, the painful problem may subside. I prefer liquid forms of these minerals because they work so much faster and are absorbed better.

A supplement with a 1:1 ratio of calcium/magnesium brings some relief after a week or so of using it. For some people extra vitamin E is helpful, and so is Aangamic DMG (used to be known as B15), which cuts down lactic acid buildup.

Potassium

PAT C.:  Since taking 550 mg of potassium a day, I can’t seem to get myself to cramp during swims, bike rides, runs and two hours of karate a day.

Kool ‘n Fit

PETE K.:  Try Kool ‘n Fit, a liquid pain reliever. This stuff is magic! I’ve had a cramp the size of a golf ball just above my knee, sprayed on Kool ‘n Fit, and watched it release. It doesn’t solve the cramping indefinitely, but it will get you back on the bike and rolling again.

It comes in a large bottle, so I put it in a little travel pump hairspray bottle for rides. It also takes away the my-legs-are-made-of-wood feeling that you get late in a ride, even when you aren’t cramping. Magic, I’m telling you!

E-Lyte

DAVID F.:  I’ve been a long-time sufferer of cramps, some of which have been immobilizing. Recently I have been using a product called E-Lyte, and my cramping has stopped.

A number of my teammates had been bugging the rest of us to use E-Lyte, which

became a sponsor of our team. I ignored them, but after sweating buckets and suffering one horrible bout of cramps on the indoor trainer, I decided to try it. Since then, remarkably and to my surprise, I have not had cramps. The stuff works.

Hydra Fuel

GENE P.:  I have successfully prevented cramps by drinking dilute Hydra Fuel from TwinLab. My computer has an interval function, which I set to beep every 10 minutes to remind me to take a drink. Every other beep, I also eat a bite of an energy bar or some gel. I recently completed a double century feeling great with this formula.

HCH Cramp Stop

CLIFF K.:  Here in New Zealand, there is a product called HCH Cramp Stop. It’s sold via a website and works for everyone that I know who has tried it. It comes in a small plastic spray bottle that’s hardly noticed in your jersey pocket. When cramps start, a couple of sprays under the tongue is all it takes for everything to be back to normal between 30 seconds and two minutes The time seems to vary from person to person.

RendiMAX

GREG C.:  RendiMAX is available in drug stories, like Medicine Shoppe, that specialize in homeopathic medicines. I keep a few pills in a sandwich bag on long rides and dissolve them in my mouth at the first sign of cramping. That and Cytomax, plenty of liquids and a salty pretzel or two pretty much keeps me cramp-free.

Thermotabs

TOM G.: I had cramping until I started taking Thermotabs, available in drug stores. Now I do not cramp due to heat and decreased minerals/electrolytes.

 Tonic Water

GRAHAM F.:  I had suffered from cramps for years. When I was racing in England, my coach told me to drink a liter of tonic water the night before every hard day. Tonic water contains quinine, which doctors added to water for British soldiers when they were cramping during fighting in the heat of the northwest frontier in India. Now I race in the U.S. and always drink tonic water before a hard day.

Pickle Juice

MARGIE B.:  I know this sounds crazy, but my husband is an avid tennis player and one of his partners swears by pickle juice for cramps. He keeps a flask during long matches.

TERRY M.:  I live in Louisiana where the heat is almost relentless.  It’s not uncommon for us to have a heat index of 110-115F degrees, and of course the humidity is never under 70%.

One thing that prevents cramping is pickle juice. Yep, plain ole pickle juice. I learned this trick years ago when I played football in college. Some of the NFL teams use it also, especially when playing in the South. I don’t recall all the why’s and how’s of it working, but it has worked for me many years. Just a couple of ounces, and it isn’t bad tasting, either.

Train More!

JAMES W.:  I had brutal cramps on TOMRV, a two-day ride up the Mississippi River Valley and back. I cramped so hard at the end of 110 miles on the first day that I could not walk, stand, sit, bend over, or anything. I had competing cramps on opposite sides of my legs!

I did everything I could think of to ward them off, but to no avail. I tried eating bananas, kiwi, oranges. I drank 140 ounces of Cytomax and 60 ounces of water. I ate pretzels and trail mix for the salt. Nothing worked.

My conclusion was that the cramps were not heat or exercise induced so much as undertraining induced. Not much I could do about that except train more for the next time. Lesson learned.

This article is a reprint from http://www.jimlangley.net/

Level and center the seat: Start adjusting fit by placing the bicycle on a level Start with a level seatsurface and checking that the seat is level . A good way to check is to place a carpenter’s level on top of the seat. If you don’t have this tool, place a yardstick on top of the seat and compare the edge of the yardstick to a horizontal sight line, which you know to be level such as a windowsill or the top of a building. While adjusting, ensure that the seat is centered on its rails over the seat post, too.

Notes

· A level seat supports your full body weight, offers optimum pedaling efficiency and makes it easier to move around on the seat when necessary. (It’s logical to think that tilting the seat down will ease pressure on sensitive areas. But, when you do this, it causes you to slide forward when riding, which puts extra pressure on your arms, hands and knees, which can lead to injury.)

· Most riders do fine with level seats. If you experience discomfort, tip the seat slightly (no more than 3 degrees) up or down. Women typically tip it down; men tip it up.

· If the seat won’t move after loosening the bolt(s), the parts are probably stuck. Tapping the seat with the heel of your hand should free the parts.

Adjust seat height: The easiest do-it-yourself seat-height adjustment is done on a trainer or indoors in a doorway and requires a friend or spouse to help. Put on your cycling shorts and shoes, mount Take the time to get this right!your bike in the trainer or place your bike in the doorway, get on and hold onto the doorjamb to support yourself. Have your helper stand behind.

To find seat height, place your heels on the pedals and pedal backwards. You’ve found the optimum seat height when your legs are completely extended at the bottoms of the pedal strokes with your heels on the pedals. Have your helper watch for rocking hips, the sign that the seat is too high. Now, when you’re actually pedaling, you’ll have the perfect bend in your knees (photo B).

Notes

· This is a starting position. If it feels too low or high, adjust the seat up or down. But, only slightly to fine-tune the adjustment.

· When you’ve found the perfect position, mark it with an indelible marker (or wrap electrical tape around the post to mark it) so you won’t have to go through the fitting process again.

· Consider memorizing the measurement, too (measure from the top of the seat to the middle of the crank).

Adjust the shoe cleats: If you’re riding in cycling shoes, it’s important that the cleats on the soles are positioned correctly. There are two important adjustments, fore/aft and angular. The former isCleat alignment will save your knees! easy to find, the latter takes some careful trial and error.

Fore/aft
The cleat should be positioned so that the balls of your feet rest over the centers of the pedals (the axles) when you’re pedaling. Sight from the top when you’re on the bike to check this (hold your feet level). The balls of your feet form protrusions on the insides of the shoes and these should rest right over the axles. If not, adjust the cleats as needed.

Angular
Ideally, your cleat position allows resting your feet in a natural position on the pedals. Otherwise, you could injure your knees. Usually, aligning the cleats with an imaginary line that bisects the soles provides a safe starting position. But, go for some very easy rides to check the position and ensure its right for your knees. If you feel any stress or strain, change the angle slightly to eliminate discomfort.

Notes

· When you’ve found an ideal cleat position, trace lines around the cleats so you can easily replace a worn cleat and reposition a loose one.

· Use quality tools and work with care so you don’t strip the cleat bolts. Also, check your hardware to make sure it’s still tight after about 5 hours of riding.

· If you’re using toe clips and straps, make sure the clips hold your feet in the optimum position (balls of the feet over the centers of the pedals). If not, get different-size clips. If you’ve got huge feet, place spacers between the clips and pedals to “lengthen” the clips.

Find fore/aft seat position: This adjustment requires a helper, too. Place your bike on a level surface next to a wall or post so you can hold yourself upright (or put it on a trainer, but be sure to Find your sweet spotlevel the bike). Put on your biking shorts and shoes, get on and pedal backwards until you’re sitting in the “sweet spot” on the seat.  The forward crank arm and pedal must be level with the ground. The fore/aft seat adjustment is correct when a plumb line (any piece of string with a weight on the end) hanging from the bony protrusion just below your kneecap, bisects the pedal axle.

Notes

· As with the other adjustments, this is a safe starting position.

· If you’re over 6-feet tall, ride long distances, climb a lot and pedal at about 90 rpm, you may prefer to be as much as 1 to 2 cm behind the pedal axles.

· If you’re less than 6-feet tall, spin at 95 rpm or faster and like to sprint, you’ll probably prefer to be directly over the axles.

Check handlebar height: Changing handlebar height can require know-how and parts you may not have. So, I recommend using these tips only to gauge adjustment. If you discover that youThis seat is angled too far down! need a change, you should visit your local bike shop to check what parts you need.

The first bar-height check is comfort. If you’re sore during or after rides particularly in the lower back and/or neck, the bars may need adjustment. Inspect bar height by standing your bike on a level surface and viewing it from the side comparing the height of the seat to the height of the bars. For road riding, a difference of 1 to 4 inches is optimal, even slightly more, if you’re a flexible racer. For off-road use and recreational riding, bar height should be equal to or up to 2 inches below the seat height. Keep in mind that these are guidelines that work for most people. Sometimes it takes a little experimentation to find the most comfortable position.

Notes

· If you’d like to measure the difference between your seat and bar height, rest a straightedge on the seat (if the seat’s not level, level the straightedge) so it extends over the bars and measure the difference with a ruler.

· It’s important to realize that there’s a limit to how much you can raise the handlebars. The amount of adjustment depends on the frame and component design. In some cases, it may be necessary to install longer cables and housing to raise the handlebars, too.

· Tall riders (long arms and large hands) usually favor lower handlebars and short riders prefer higher ones.

· Achieve a comfortable back angle of approximately 45 degrees (depending on your degree of flexibility).

· When the bars are the right height, it should feel natural to look ahead (no neck craning).

· Another way to “raise” mountain-bike handlebars is to replace your flat bars with a riser model. These can be an inch or two higher than flat bars.

· It’s usually not a good idea to raise the handlebars too much. Once they’re higher than the seat, your body weight is shifted more over the rear of the bike, which can mean greater jolts from bumps in the road. This can lead to discomfort and pain.

Check handlebar reach: A proper reach to the handlebars is the key to enjoying comfortable rides. If the bars are too close or too far away, you may experience neck, shoulder, back andYour elbows should be bent naturally hand pain. And, it can cause you to scoot backward or forward on your seat all the time. On most bikes, to change length, you must replace the stem. And stems come in a variety of types and diameters.

To check reach at home, put on your cycling clothes, mount your bike on a trainer and make sure the bike is level. Get on and pedal until you’re comfortable with your upper body relaxed. Look ahead as if you were looking down the road. For dropped handlebars, rest your hands on the tops of the brake levers. For flat bars with bar ends, use the regular grip position. Now, have a helper look at you from the side to gauge where a plumb line dropped from the tip of your nose would fall. Optimally, there should be about an inch between the plumb line and the center of the handlebar.

Notes

· If you don’t have a helper, photograph/video yourself from the side and check the picture.

· If you feel the need to scoot forward on the seat while riding, your stem is probably too long (and vice versa).

· Indicators of proper reach include: being able to always comfortably bend the elbows while riding, no hump in the back, a natural neck angle and equal pressure on the hands and seat.

Check handlebar size: Most bicycles today come with handlebars that suit the person who fits the bike. So, it’s likely that your handlebars fit adequately. There are lots of different handlebar sizes Bar width equals shoulder widthand shapes, however, and changing might fine-tune your fit providing additional comfort.

Width
Check width first. For optimal control and efficiency, drop handlebars should be about the same width as your shoulders. These bars come in sizes ranging from about 38- to 44-cm wide. So, if the distance between the bony protrusions on top of your shoulder blades is 42 cm, that’s what the handlebar width should be.

Flat-bar widths vary, too. Usually, riders who enjoy demanding, technical trails appreciate a little additional width (24 to 27 inches), especially if they’re using dual-suspension frames. All-round riders prefer a more standard width of about 22 inches. Also, if the trails you ride cut through tight spaces such as neighboring trees, you’ll want to be sure the bars aren’t too wide to clear the obstacles.

Shape
Handlebars come in various shapes, too. Flat bars have different bends and may include rise to help you sit more upright. Drop bars often feature anatomic bends in the hooks for more comfort. And they’re sometimes bent differently on the tops to accommodate your wrists. Another consideration with drop bars is reach, the distance between the bar tops and bottoms. Usually, taller riders appreciate more reach.

PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS

if this most-efficient machine isn’t properly adjusted, you could suffer serious discomfort such as a numb bum, burning feet, stabbing knee or back pain, sore hands, achy shoulders and a stiff neck. Yikes! And with these afflictions, instead of zipping down roads and trails effortlessly, you may well wobble along like a top-heavy wheelbarrow.

Don’t panic, though. Just check my handy-dandy troubleshooting chart for solutions to your bike-fit problems, dial in your ride and you’ll be spinning along the way in no time.

Symptom

You’re always having to scoot backwards on the seat

  •   Stem is too long so you pull yourself forward when you’re riding without realizing it; saddle nose may be tipped down too much
  •   Install a shorter stem; level saddle

You’re always having to scoot forward on the seat

  • Stem is too short so you feel cramped and push yourself back when you’re riding without realizing it; saddle nose may be tipped back or the seat may not be far enough back on the rails
  • Install a longer stem; level the seat and center it on the rails

Lower back hurts

  • Stem too low or too long; must strain back to reach bars; or seat may be too high causing rocking when pedaling
  • Try raising the stem/handlebars; still hurts?; try shorter stem; check and adjust seat height

Neck hurts

  • Stem too low; must crane neck to see
  • Raise the stem/bars

Hands hurt

  • Stem too low; too much weight on hands
  • Raise the stem/bars

Front of knee hurts

  • Seat too low, straining knees
  • Raise the seat

Back of knee hurts

  • Seat too high, overextending legs
  • Lower the seat

Numb bum all the time

  • Too much weight on the seat
  • Try a lower handlebar position; check seat height as it may be too high

Achilles tendon hurts

  • Pedaling too much on your toes; cleats too far forward on your shoes
  • Keep the balls of your feet over the pedals when you’re riding; move cleats back