Monday, December 12, 2011

So You've Got a Fat Bike

The wider Q factor of a fat bike can lead to serious knee issues. I've been thinking about what I did wrong on my fat bike last year and I thought I might share my mistakes. You can do what you want with the information.

Fat bikes are a lot of fun and you should ride yours. But not as much and not as hard as you do your summer bike. Make sure to transition slowly to the fat bike. And when you do fully transition, just have fun. This is the off season; you don't have to make every ride a suffer fest. A fat bike is made for floating on snow, not for perfect body mechanics. Your mechanics are compromised by the wide BB, so doing hard efforts every day might be doing more harm than good.

Get a crankset that is as narrow as possible. Look at the gap between your crank arms and chainstays. If there is more than half an inch, get some narrower cranks. My gap was almost an inch on each side. Therefore, my Q factor was two inches wider than it had to be. Even going as narrow as possible, the Q factor of fat bikes is less than optimal for most people. I think the e13 crankset is about as narrow as you can go. Spend the money. And slide your cleats laterally until your shoe rubs on the crank, or damn near if you're concerned about scuff marks.

Shoes, shoes, shoes. You're already on a bike that is totally different from what you've been riding all year, and to make matters worse you're slipping into different shoes as well. Most of us wear the Lake winter boots. These are awesome, and toasty warm, and that Boa system--awesome. But take a look at the insole. Go do it right now. There isn't one. It's a piece of insulation, flat as cardboard. Why does this matter? Pronation. Pronation is what happens when your arches aren't supported. It causes your knees to be pulled out of alignment. Instead of a straight line between hip, center of patella, and second toe, the line will kink at the knee. Pronation pulls the knee joint in towards the top tube. The wide BB of a fat bike, combined with no arch support will conspire to kill your knees. The wide BB is already pulling the knee in towards the top tube; and flat insoles cause the knee to drift even further out of alignment. This is easy to fix, however. Leave the cardboard in your Lakes and put your summer insoles on top. But if you've got an extra 125 bucks, go see Balser at Penn and he will set you up with some custom molded insoles. They will not only save your knees but more importantly they will make you faster.

Pedals. Hmmm. I don't know a lot about pedals, but I know that crank brothers suck. They should be avoided at all costs. Sure they look cool and the don't fill up with mud or snow, but the engagement is so sloppy. This is particularly a problem with the Lake boots because the tread isn't as tall. To see what I'm talking about, try this: clip an empty shoe into your crank bros. Notice how you can rock the shoe side to side. Notice how you can slide the shoe fore, aft, and side to side.This is slop, and slop is bad for your knees. Slop should not be confused for float. If you have speedplay road pedals you know what I mean. This is what pedals should feel like. They have perfect, slop-free engagement, and the smoothest float you've ever floated on. But you can't ride speedplays on your pugsley. Or can you? I heard Speedplay is coming out with a new mountain pedal this winter. They might be available already, I don't know. Anyways, they're supposed to have the best engagement in the world. If I were you I would look into getting a pair of these. If you must stick to your crank bros, there is a trick to get rid of some of that knee-killing slop. Wrap a bit of athletic tape around the pedal where the shoe lugs contact the pedal. Not too much though because you don't want to eliminate all your float.

Lastly, I can tell you that your adductors (your inner thigh muscles) are going to get really tight as a consequence of riding a fat bike. You wont necessarily even feel it. But what will happen is that those tight muscles will pull your knee even further in towards the top tube. All you have to do to prevent this is stretch. Here's a link to a basic adductor stretch. I like to support my weight on a chair while I do it. And don't be afraid to hold it for two, even three, minutes. Like I said, this is a basic one, and you will find a lot more when you google "adductor stretch." If you have a foam roller, you can use than on your adductors as well.

So in review: Start slow, get a new crank, get some decent insoles in your boots, throw your crank brothers in the garbage, and don't forget to stretch your groin.

Hope this helps you stay injury free this fat bike season.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Trek Demos

A fleet of 2012 models will be out at Murphy Oct 1 & 2. Come on out, trade your drivers license for a bike worth more than your car, and ride.

On a personal note, my knee is getting better, but these tendon things take time. I've been riding a lot on my new Cronus CX Ultimate. Doing some gravel. The bike is pretty and sweet, pretty sweet. Not as stiff in the front end as the Focus Mares was, but that is a good thing for rough cross riding and all gravel centuries IMO. When it comes to the BB, the 90mm shell with press in bearings provides a lot of go when you stand up and mash. Another neat feature is the fork mounted cable hanger, which does away with fork chatter.

Will I be out there at the CX races this season? I don't know. I am terribly out of shape, I have lost weight but it certainly didn't come of my belly, and my knee hurts when I ride hard. But, yes there is a but, after every hard ride I do, given a few days rest, my knee feels better than before.

See you at the demo!

Monday, June 6, 2011


Breaking up scar tissue. Tendon gonna be smooth as butter, the good stuff. None of that I-can't-believe crap.

I'll admit, there was a time in my life, not too long ago, when I couldn't believe. Everything tasted like margarine (mainly because I was eating a lot of margarine). But no more. No more, I tell you. Things are changing. Life is starting to taste like good ol' saturated fat again.

What gives? Well let me tell you: blood doping has worked wonders; as well as butter-knifing (as they say [whoever "they" are]); as well as using every possible punctuation mark in one sentence.?! But there is one thing, above all else, that has catalyzed my recovery. . .

It was not this non-believer; that's for sure (burn in hell, Fabio). . .  

. . .It was this little dude, reminding us what it's all about.


Monday, May 23, 2011


Fed up with the PT I was seeing, I saw an actual sports doc last week. An MRI the same day showed that his diagnosis of tendinosis (hey, that rhymed) was correct. He recommended a procedure called platelet-rich plasma. Dr. Moser (that's my doctor) told me all about PRP: hemotobin-this, growth-factor-that, mumbo jumbo, insurance doesn't cover it. . . . The internets, however, told me that PRP is an injection that pro athletes have been getting for years, with very promising results. If the pros do it, then it's got to be good, especially if the internet says so. It didn't sound too painful or anything. It involves having 10cc of blood drawn, which is then spun in a centrifuge in order to separate the super awesome blood from all the other stuff. The super blood is then injected into the tendon. A technique called needling is used during the injection, which is a euphemism for viciously stabbing the tendon in various areas for what seems like 10 minutes. At no point during my brief internet research did it say anything about "needling." No where did it say I would nearly pass out from the pain. Do the pros pass out? My vision went grainy like the picture on an old TV that has a coat-hanger for an antenna. I tried tilting my head in different ways for better reception. The florescent lights were very bright. The ceiling tiles were the kind with the little holes in them. "Almost there," he said. I was breathing as if I were having a baby. The similarities were obvious. I was on a table, and a man was standing between my legs. He coached me on how to breath: "Deep breaths now. That's right. Good." I heard someone start to cry, maybe myself. And then it was over. It was the happiest moment of my life. As I hobbled out, taking those first baby steps, the patients in the waiting room looked up from their magazines, pretending not to be amazed. But they were. I could tell.

Friday, April 29, 2011

What the Physical Therapist Said

One week in PT and I think I'm getting better. Initially she said it was quadriceps tendinitis, which is very rare, and she has never seen it in 15 years as a PT. She gave me a take-home electro-shock therapy kit; told me to do some eccentric exercises--stepdowns with 30lb in a backpack.

I think I am getting better. Maybe. One thing for sure is that the pain has become more localized. What used to be a general ache/burn in the upper knee area, has subsided to an area I can pinpoint on the upper medial portion of the knee. What does this mean? It meant we sat there ($100-an-hour sitting) and looked at an anatomy book for something other than tendinitis. It is not reassuring to hear the therapist say that she doesn't know what to do with me. I don't know what to do with me either. Is there anyone who knows what to do with me?

Keeping my hopes up. I know I'll get back on the bike eventually. Worst case, I'll become an avid canoeist.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What the doctor said

The joint is fine. The pain is coming from the VMO musculotendonis junction. There is a strain where the tendon meets muscle. With physical therapy, it should be a quick recovery.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Getting Good at Being Lazy

It's not easy, this inactivity, this couch-sitting, this watching people jogging outside my window. The trick is you have to be orderly. No dillydallying. You have to schedule your inactivity in order to make the best use of time. Intervals are the key. This is what works for me: (3 hours laying on the couch @ HR of 58) x 3 reps. In between reps, un-rest for 5 min by going to the bathroom, making tea, eating spinach, etc.

I think I have quadriceps tendinitis. People have informed me that the burning sensation I get above the knee cap while driving points to tendinitis. Thinking I had a patella tracking problem, I had been doing exercises to strengthen the quad, which is not what you want to do if you have tendinitis. Currently I am experimenting with intervals of RICE, foam roller, and light stretching.

Advice welcome