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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Went to my sports doc to discuss doing the 508 on a fixed gear, and get a general assessment of my knee health. The doc looked a lot, felt the knees while bending, then did xrays.

I got sort of a quick education on knee health, at least the part relevant for cycling. Assuming the joints are otherwise healthy, the cartilage (meniscus) between your femur and tibia tends to break down over time and use, with several stages of disrepair. It starts with a lack of lubrication and then cumulative softening, then splitting, then tearing of the cartilage. This can happen with trauma, like doing a really heavy leg press, all at once, or cumulatively over the years of excessive stress on the joints. He said that my knees (at 43 years old and having run marathons since age 15 and plenty of cycling the last 8 years), are about 1/3 of the way long that cumulative degeneration continuum, such that I need to start being careful, but there is no immediate concern.

Keeping everything inside the joints aligned so that the parts meet up where they should is critical. If you have weak muscles that affect the alignment, then injury can be hastened. This is a critical fact. In cycling, we don't tend to strenthen the muscles that affect this alignment, because we exercise the legs with fairly limited ranges of motion, and really don't (at least I don't) exercise the leg to full extension (mine are always slightly bent at "full" extension). Also, the more fatigued you get as you ride, the less able the muscles are to maintain proper alignment. Xrays showed the alignment to be excellent right now, though.

So, apparently while my quads are fairly strong (well, for perspective, I can ride a fixed gear at 25 rpms up 10 % grades for 8 miles standing continuously), the muscle just above the knee cap on the inside of the thigh (vastus medialis), which typically buldges a bit is relatively weak. This muscle plays a major role in maintaining alignment, but is largely exercised when the leg is near full extension (straight). So, he told me to do some limited range knee extensions at near full extension, and some other exercises, to build these muscles to help out. If misalignment is part of the problem, then stregthening can either cure or lessen the risk. This is good.

What was also interesting is that the pain I've experienced when over doing it on the fixed gear is not the cartilage (can't feel pain there), and likely not ligaments or tendons, but probably the bone itself, either from friction or pressure for the extreme number of repetitions involved in the fixed gear climbing. He said typically you won't feel pain there during the exercise, but a day or two later. Yup.

While the injury can be cumulative, and you don't really heal the cartilage once it's damaged (the bone is better at healing), he noted that largely if there is no pain involved, either during or after the riding, then things are probably ok, or at least at acceptable risk levels. However, if there is pain, that's very bad, and a sure indication that you should stop doing what you're doing. (He did say, though, from a strictly medical perspective the best thing would be to stop riding altogether, but then I would not be talking to him if that were an option. He said that cycling is much better than running, too.)

He also said that glucosamine/chondrotin/MSM complex is very good. He recommended it wholeheartedly, but cautioned that it can take several months of consuming the recommended dosage to see results. I'm maxing out on the stuff.

He said that spinning at extreme rpms down the hills is likely not a problem at all, unless there is unusual loading. I told him that there is almost zero load, it's simply a matter of making the legs keep up. I brake down hills, if necessary, and don't use the legs to slow the bike much at all.

While his preference would be not to do this type of event at all, he said that to minimize the risk of long term injury, do the exercises, then use pain as a guide. Experiment with lower gearing, then test by riding up similar slope hills for longer and longer durations. If there is no pain, then I should probably be ok during the event. However, if I can't ride 100 miles of similar hills without pain after a few months, then give it up.

Does that appear to be sound advice? Thanks.
 

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aka Zonic Man
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Whew. Sounds like your doctor really filled you in. I doubt (highly) you're going to get any more/better information here than from your doctor.

FWIW, I still think you should go up to have a consultation with Dr. Testa. It would probably be the single most beneficial thing you can do for your cycling for 2004.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
might

Jed Peters said:
Whew. Sounds like your doctor really filled you in. I doubt (highly) you're going to get any more/better information here than from your doctor.

FWIW, I still think you should go up to have a consultation with Dr. Testa. It would probably be the single most beneficial thing you can do for your cycling for 2004.
I think I might well do that if I try this for another few months and still can't climb what I want to pain free. There may be other issues we've missed, like leg length/alignment type things. Thanks.

Doug
 

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Misfit Toy
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It sounds pretty close to what my doc told me when I had my knees checked, except mine are in a whole lot worse shape than yours. (You can hear the cartilage crunch in one knee, both are out of alignment) Good to hear about the Glucosamine supplements - I max out on them too. Exercise, and strengthening the surrounding muscles has kept me going.

The one difference, my doc said cycling was the best thing I could do, but then he is also a cyclist, and I have NO plans to try the 508, either fixed or road bike! ;)

Good luck to you,

Janet
 

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lyleseven
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The 508 on fixed gear????

I would definitely have concerns about any doctor that did not forewarn you of the risks of doing this ride on a fixed gear. Whatever condition your knees may be in when you start this race, I can assure you that they will be in worse shape if you do it on a fixed gear by the time you finish it, if you finish it. Maybe if you were 15 years younger........but good luck.
 

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BS the DC
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I've got a Porsche. It's got a nice six speed transmission, but I like to drive all over town in 4th gear. Lately I've noticed some smoke coming from my car. I decided to take it to a mechanic. He explained all the workings of my car. We discussed proper maintenance and care of my car. We discussed all the workings of the clutch and transmission. He suggested using all of the gears in my car. Ha, if I wanted to use the gears in my car, why would I be talking to him. So he suggested trying 3rd gear. He also suggested feathering the clutch a little more while keeping the engine reved. He said if it quit smoking, I should be OK. If it keeps smoking, then give it up.

You want sound advice? Use your gears!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
good points

bsdc said:
I've got a Porsche. It's got a nice six speed transmission, but I like to drive all over town in 4th gear. Lately I've noticed some smoke coming from my car. I decided to take it to a mechanic. He explained all the workings of my car. We discussed proper maintenance and care of my car. We discussed all the workings of the clutch and transmission. He suggested using all of the gears in my car. Ha, if I wanted to use the gears in my car, why would I be talking to him. So he suggested trying 3rd gear. He also suggested feathering the clutch a little more while keeping the engine reved. He said if it quit smoking, I should be OK. If it keeps smoking, then give it up.

You want sound advice? Use your gears!
Of course you make an excellent point. We all draw the line between risk/benefit in different places. Those who feel a need to compete, seek adventure, do something different, push themselves beyond their limits, for whatever reason, no doubt draw that line closer to the risk end of the equation, and maybe derive different benefits (in type, not just quantity) than others.

I like to push things to my endurance limits, and derive more pleasure from doing something I've not done before than from merely doing something again and trying to do it faster. I was running marathons at age 15, and that not being enough, did a 50k (31 miles) shortly after the first marathon. Just who I am.

Now, the trick here is to determine whether this can be done without unacceptable risk of injury. If we determine it can't be done, I'll back out in a heartbeat.

I have plenty of friends and family that would say, rather than merely "use your gears," to "use a motor." Wouldn't that be even better?

Thanks. :D
 

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Roll Out Jeremy
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Wait a minute...

I can think of all kinds of analogies for this effort. Like "give a kid a pocket knife and tell him not to cut himself". But, do you think you can do this without any pain??? Come on Doug, it's gonna hurt like hell. The training will hurt and the ride will hurt. Isn't that the reason nobody (to my knowledge) has done it before? I can just hear it, "Hey Doc" will it hurt my knees to do a 508 mile trip on a fixed gear bike? I bet he's still shaking his head. He also knows you will probably do it anyway.
Go for it!
 

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BS the DC
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DougSloan said:
Of course you make an excellent point. We all draw the line between risk/benefit in different places. Those who feel a need to compete, seek adventure, do something different, push themselves beyond their limits, for whatever reason, no doubt draw that line closer to the risk end of the equation, and maybe derive different benefits (in type, not just quantity) than others.

I like to push things to my endurance limits, and derive more pleasure from doing something I've not done before than from merely doing something again and trying to do it faster. I was running marathons at age 15, and that not being enough, did a 50k (31 miles) shortly after the first marathon. Just who I am.

Now, the trick here is to determine whether this can be done without unacceptable risk of injury. If we determine it can't be done, I'll back out in a heartbeat.

I have plenty of friends and family that would say, rather than merely "use your gears," to "use a motor." Wouldn't that be even better?

Thanks. :D
I hear you. Good luck and good health on this and future adventures! Bradley
 

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strength training

One of the reasons why I try to do squats and deads with as full of a range as possible (and using free weights instead of machines) is the point your doctor made about putting your muscles through a full range of motion helping prevent knee injuries. Contrary to popular belief, a full range squat (assuming you have the flexibility to do it) is better than one done only to parallel or less. Using free weights you also use way more muscles than with machines that can isolate and create muscle imbalances that often lead to injury.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
but Daaaaad...

Fordy said:
I can think of all kinds of analogies for this effort. Like "give a kid a pocket knife and tell him not to cut himself". But, do you think you can do this without any pain??? Come on Doug, it's gonna hurt like hell. The training will hurt and the ride will hurt. Isn't that the reason nobody (to my knowledge) has done it before? I can just hear it, "Hey Doc" will it hurt my knees to do a 508 mile trip on a fixed gear bike? I bet he's still shaking his head. He also knows you will probably do it anyway.
Go for it!
I think the primary reason it's not been done is that it's slower on a fixed gear. While you can get close to the same speed on the windless flats, climbing will be less efficient and slower, and descending is waaaay slower (lucky to descend half as fast).

Note, it has been done on a single speed, though. This tells me that if you gear low enough, despite having only one gear, it's doable, but now instead of coasting at 60 mph down the hills, it will be spinning at 25 mph. So, pick the right gear, climb without destroying yourself, then just get ready to spin your butt off, ride the brakes, and take a long time on the descents. Right?

The main problem is what gear to choose. The steepest hills average about 10% grade. On that kind of grade, I can average about 8 mph; with a 41x17 or 39x16 gear (about 64 gear inches), that's about 42 crank rpms, not nearly as bad as the 25 rpms I was hitting in taller gears in earlier experiments or on steeper (18%) climbs. I think getting that up to about 50 rpms approaches acceptable cadence for risk of injury, assuming there's no sprinting involved. With improved fitness and dropping 25 pounds off the bike and my body (yes, I'm 20 pounds over weight right now), I think not only will the climbing be faster at a higher cadence, but with less stress on the knees, too.

Stupid rationalization or reasonable plan? I don't know.
 

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Glucosamine

Take it and keep taking it. Don't wonder if it's working, don't think about it at all, just do it, it takes a fairly long while for it to start building cartilege, but it does work. And don't make the mistake down road the of saying oh I'm fine I don't need it many more. I did and three months later I was gimp again.

It's terrific stuff.
 

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Roll Out Jeremy
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Longer efforts

When I have done longer rides (200+ miles) I always have a tendency to push a bigger gear late in the day. This is my take on it and only for your consideration. I would option for the gear inches that push the high end, something above 64. I would also set up more than one bike. Don't let your body fat go below 10%. Your age is perfect, you are in your prime for ultra marathon.
 
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