Friday, November 16, 2007

Using Something Called "A Laser"

Ahhh, let's see, where to start.....the quality of training this week has been shoddy at best, not quite up to what I had been doing the past couple of weeks after work on the trainer. It's not because my motivation has waned, far from it, I am amped right now to keep up my time on the bike and put in as many miles as I can. It's been shoddy for a couple reasons, one is that Wednesday night I had to work until 8:30 so by the time I got home and ate it was too late to ride. The other reason has been the issue I've had for a while with my biomechanics and how that makes me feel on the bike (unbalanced), and how it affects my knees (pain!), so the trainer rides that I did on Tuesday and last night were less than ideal. I spent a lot of time getting on and off the trainer as I was riding to fiddle with my seat, change my cleat position, I even tried extra padding on one side of the seat to even out my sit bones. I've known the left leg has a tendency to pull in, from the hip to the knee, which causes me to rub the leather completely off the left side of my seat, it also puts a lot of strain on the right arm as I'm constantly pushing against my body to the left to counteract that. Every ride seems to end with my right tricep and forearm just as sore as my legs. It's also caused considerable left knee pain in the past and makes me feel like I'm sitting crooked on the bike. So, I spent some time at the Bike Doctor getting fitted early this year and he did add some shims under my left shoe to try to counteract some of that supponation and it did seem to help. He raised my seat a bit, and pushed my seat forward as well. Things seemed a little bit better but I still never felt 100% this year, not even 90% for the most part. I realized last night there is one very important thing that the Bike Doctor never checked or asked me about, and I will get to that later. Sooo, this week after jumping on the trainer on Tuesday and feeling completely cockeyed I was fed up and decided to work on my position all week no matter what it took. I started on Tuesday with raising my seat a bit and pushing it back to the position that I always had set for in the past, which was really far back and stretched out. That didn't help the part about feeling unbalanced but it gave me a starting point back to the position that I always used to ride with, so that is where I ended up after Tuesday evening's ride. Last night I went all out and got out my laser level, the video camera and more shims for my cleats. I used the laser level on a vertical plane to see how my leg was tracking and I recorded that as I rode. It turns out my right leg was tracking almost dead straight, the laser line went through the center of my shoe, and the line was centered all the way up to my hip. It showed what I already knew about my right leg, nothing was wrong there. My left leg on the other hand, was all messed up. The laser line started at the center of my shoe but by the time it got to my hip, the line was almost on the outside of my leg because my upper leg tracked way in towards the seat. I already knew that as well, but I didn't realize how much it tracked in so my goal was to get my leg tracking out so that the line was right down the middle, the same as my right leg. After assessing the video and doing some visual assessment of how my legs naturally hang when I lift myself off the ground, I came up with a couple of solutions. The first problem is that when my left leg is hanging naturally it pulls itself in and up, causing my left toe to point in and my leg to be pulled towards my right leg. When my right leg hangs naturally it points dead straight and my toes are straight ahead, as I would expect.

Cause/Solution #1 - Hamstrings and groin muscles in my left leg were way to tight and were basically pulling my leg in and not allowing it to hang naturally and track naturally on the bike. I stretch pretty regularly and have always noticed that it takes a lot more work to stretch out my left leg and when I feel uncomfortable stretching it I just back off. Last night after my assessments I stretched it past the point of being comfortable, really cranking on the hamstrings especially and my glutes and hip flexors. I was in pain but after I got done I could tell that my hammie was really stretched out, not like my normal stretch. Sure enough I sat on my seat and let my legs hang and this time my left leg hung almost straight ahead. I could feel the muscles tightening up again so I know that it is going to have to be a regular practice to stretch my left leg 3-4 times a day. Now, to what I mentioned earlier about the Bike Doctor....I was never asked once in my fitting about my flexibility or if I stretch regularly and how that could come in to play with my bike fit. I think he saw that there was a problem but instead of finding the cause of the problem or asking about it, he just tried to remedy what he saw with positional changes. I'm not trying to say anything negative, but if there were some mention of the possibility of tight muscles or how I stretch or about my flexibility at the time, in addition to the positional changes, then maybe that would have helped him in the fitting.

Cause/Solution #2 - Shimming the left cleat. During my fitting it was also noted that I have a supponation problem with my left foot so shims were installed under the cleat to help with that. Basically the shims are wedge shaped so that you can have the thicker end on one side of the cleat to deal with pronation or supponation. After stretching I looked at some more things and realized that my foot was also leaning in a bit to the right on a horizontal plane towards the crank and that although I had some shims under the cleat already, I realized I just needed a few more to solve that issue.
After a good stretch and the installation of the shims I turned on the lasers again and started the camera up to record how my leg was tracking after the adjustments. I sat on the bike and clipped in and didn't even need to look down to know that my left leg was straighter now, I was actually sitting straight on the bike I didn't automatically start tilting like I did before, and I didn't feel that pressure of my right arm pushing me back to the left. So I started pedaling and recorded a minute or so of video. I got off and hooked up the camera to the big TV and watched the results, sure enough the laser was now straight down the middle of my leg, an amazing difference. I didn't need to watch the video to know I was already sitting straight on the seat again, but the video definitely confirmed that. I got my wife away from her Nursing studies to take a look and after watching the before and after videos she couldn't believe it either. She has been saying for quite a while that I had to see a physical therapist and that my body was just plain messed up. I think she was surprised to see that I figured this out on my own and she was pretty impressed by my laser setup as well. So, tonight I will ride some more on the trainer to just confirm that I'm good and then tomorrow I'll be getting outside as normal. Now that I rambled forever, here is a quick preview of what I'm doing this weekend. Tonight, one hour on the trainer and weights, Saturday will be a 4.5 hour ride outside, Sunday will be 3 hours outside and a hiking trip to Minooka Park in Waukesha. O.k., that's it for now, but tonight I'm transferring the video to the PC at home and I'll be posting short segments of the before and after videos with lasers and all for your viewing enjoyment so that you don't have to take my word for it, you can see for yourself! Until next time......

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