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Old 09-06-10, 08:58 AM   #1
fianchetto
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Is it normal to have a certain level of discomfort when first starting?

Hello everyone.

I just got a bike a week and a half ago. I'm a big guy but I am in what I would consider above-average aerobic condition from rowing. I've never really ridden a bike before, especially not for distance or exercise.

So far I am loving it. I have done a 50 miler and am going to do a metric century and then train for a real century.

My question has to do with discomfort/pain, and whether or not they are expected for a guy like me (I expect that I'm jumping into extremely high volume for a true beginner), or if I should look into my fit.

Specifically my feet are going numb and my elbows hurt on the inner side. My low back hurts a little bit too. I was getting some pain above my knee cap on one leg but after jacking with my cleat a bit that seems to have gone away.

Mostly it all goes away within minutes of getting off the bike. There may be some residual pain in the elbows for a few hours but everything is 100% the day after.

The feet are the primary concern. Everything else I think I can deal with. The numbness seems to go away within 5 minutes of getting off the bike. For now I just stop every 10 miles. But I would like to be less frequent with stops.

When I bought the bike, the guy set it up on the trainer and had me ride it and made fit adjustments. It took a long time and he seemed to know what he was doing. Particularly I had an issue with knee alignment and specialized Body Geometry shoes were selected, which have some kind of wedge in them that puts stuff back in the right place.

In case it matters I have:

This bike
Specialized BG Comp Mountain shoes on SPD pedals adjusted to 50% float
padded lycra shorts and gloves (not sure if this is relevant to the issues)


Basically I'm just wondering if it is normal to expect things like this after going from zero to 50mi in a week and a half, or if I should look into fit issues? Is this a stupid question?

Last edited by fianchetto; 09-06-10 at 09:12 AM.
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Old 09-06-10, 10:54 AM   #2
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The lower back and elbow pain sounds like the normal consequences of doing too much too soon. Are you keeping your elbows bent slightly, to absorb shocks? You shouldn't be riding with your elbows locked, since that transmits shocks through the joints. Try backing off a little on your mileage and allow some rest days.

The foot numbness is more serious, since it indicates that something, somewhere, is putting too much pressure on a nerve; that's not good in the long run. It could be that your shoes don't really suit you. I don't use clipless pedals because my feet are oddly shaped and I have trouble finding cycling shoes that fit properly but don't produce numbness. I went cycling in some new Keen sandals on Saturday and found that after a few miles my left foot would start to get numb in the toes. When I shifted my position on the pedal the numbness went away. You might want to try another pair of shoes and see what happens. They don't need to be biking shoes with cleats; you can get an SPD platform pedal adapter (Google the phrase for several options) or swap your SPD pedals for an inexpensive pair of platform pedals.

Disclaimer: I am not a physician; therefore, I am not your physician.
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Old 09-06-10, 01:53 PM   #3
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Biking uses some muscles in ways that other activities don't so a moderate temporary discomfort would be normal when you start out as hard as you did. For the foot pain, I might try platform pedals until you find out where your feet want to be on the pedals and then set up the clipless to match that.
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Old 09-06-10, 03:36 PM   #4
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I actually started out on platforms, and had the issue immediately (though I was in Nike Free running shoes), and went back to the LBS and they suggested I go clipless. It seems to be less of an issue with the clipless (most likely because of the shoes moreso than the pedals), but still enough that it's really bothersome.

Actually, shortly after posting I read something about Lemond Wedges, and made my own set of homemade pedal shims out of old dress shirt collar stays. After a short 45 minute session on the trainer the numb feet condition didn't show up. Will try it out on a proper 90 minute+ ride tomorrow but it seems promising.

Thanks for the help guys.

Last edited by fianchetto; 09-06-10 at 03:39 PM.
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Old 09-07-10, 06:56 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fianchetto View Post
Actually, shortly after posting I read something about Lemond Wedges, and made my own set of homemade pedal shims out of old dress shirt collar stays. After a short 45 minute session on the trainer the numb feet condition didn't show up. Will try it out on a proper 90 minute+ ride tomorrow but it seems promising.
That does sound promising. I hope it solved your problem.
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Old 09-08-10, 10:44 AM   #6
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I get some foot pain on long rides. It is often caused by not lifting up my foot on the return stroke. I think if I push up my none power leg with the power stroke, the foot has constant pressure on it and that causes some pain. The pain is always worse on my left foot (which I never clip out). I clip out my right foot and balance on it on stops. So the right foot gets a rest from the pedals. You might be having a similar action going. It is pretty transient. It will go away, if I am careful with my cadence or I get off and walk a bit.
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Old 09-08-10, 01:37 PM   #7
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OP,
You're a big guy and a rower so based on my college rowing experience your legs are enormously strong already putting a lot of pressure on your foot. It's possible the nylon sole of your cycling shoe is not adequately distributing the pressure and SPD pedals may not provide a very large "platform". Consider
  1. per Pat's suggestion lift your off-leg enough to eliminate the pressure on your foot on the upstroke. You don't have to pull aggressively, just pull up enough so your not lifting this leg with the power leg
  2. Cadence - lots of posts on this topic, but you may well be cycling at a unnecessarily low cadence. You've got the leg strength to do so, but it's darn hard on feet and knees. Cadence is very individual, but I would think 80+ would be great if you could start there.
  3. Try a set of insoles, gel or otherwise, if they fit in your shoe.
  4. If your using mountain bike SPDs you might consider road SPDs which, I believe, offer a slightly bigger effective platform. I have mtb SPDs on the tandem and road SPDs on my single and don't notice much difference
  5. While I wouldn't rush out and buy different pedals and shoes it may be that certain road pedal/shoe combinations provide a better platform
  6. A platform pedal that provides a true, flat platform would better distribute the pressure if such exists. I wouldn't rush in this direction, however, as clipless IMHO is so much better.

Experiment as inexpensively as possible and you'll figure it out. Congratulations on having picked up this fantastic sport. There are a lot more roads than there are shell-navigable bodies of water
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Old 09-08-10, 02:04 PM   #8
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I fixed foot numbness by moving the cleats back. There were 3 pairs of holes that the cleats could screw into. I use the rear pair and have the cleat almost as far back as it can be moved. Lower back pain can be reduced by doing push-ups, which could also increase core body strength, so reducing the arm's contribution to supporting the upper body. You could make some small adjustments to the brifter direction - I like mine pointing inwards slightly.
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