All posts by Cassie

Cycling and knees – Part 1

 Is cycling good for my knees?

This is one of the most frequent questions I get asked, both in my PT practice and in my work as a bike fitter. I hope to answer it here and in Cycling and knees – Part 2.

First, it’s important to understand what makes joints happy.

We were meant to move!

Movement creates rhythmic compression and decompression of joints that helps to circulate joint fluid, improves the supply of nutrition to cartilage  and provides a stimulus that is important for maintaining cartilage health. But too much compression (particularly if quickly applied) on cartilage that isn’t healthy can increase pain and inflammation.

Knees are made up of two main joints that work together. Your primary weight bearing joint, the tibiofemoral, and your force redirector joint, the patellofemoral.

Knee anatomy insituKnee anatomy

In general, the tibiofemoral joint is really happy on a bike. When pedaling it is being compressed and decompressed regularly at forces much lower than what it has to endure when bearing your body weight. Cycling is excellent for people with arthritis in the tibiofemoral joint portion of the knee as it is essentially non-weight bearing rhythmic motion.

On the other hand, the patellofemoral joint is under the greatest amount of compressive stress when the quadriceps contracts with the knee flexed between about 70 and 100 degrees. It just so happens that is when you get strong quads contraction during the pedal stroke. The stronger the quads contract, the greater the compression. These forces are also increased if the quads are tight. For this reason, many people with patellofemoral issues are often not happy on the bike due to the significant compressive forces through the joint during the pedal stroke. Fortunately there are ways to adjust fit to make the forces through this joint less and decrease pain, like saddle position (height and fore/aft), cleat position, pedal axle length, crank arm length…  Pedaling mechanics are also important and can be addressed with exercise.

Having your bike fit done by a professional who understands joint mechanics and physiology is a great way to address knee pain when cycling.

In subsequent installations, I’ll be talking about the effect of cadence on joint forces. We’ll even talk about the good and bad of singlespeeding and fixie riding.

Happy riding.

Ellen, I’m Sorry.

An active member of our Gorge community was killed today. She was riding her bike in the shoulder of I84 heading west when she was struck from behind by a driver who admits to being fatigued.

The driver is at fault. The end. There is no reason why a person should fear for their life riding in a 5 foot shoulder no matter how busy a road or how fast the traffic is going. Unfortunately, our culture seems to think that it’s the cyclist’s fault for riding on that road. That they had no right to be there. Well fuck you if that’s what you think.

Ellen was a spark. She was full of vibrant energy. She changed the room the moment she walked in the door. Now her energy has dispersed back into the universe to morph into something else. Trust me, there was a lot of energy there to morph, I’m sure we’re all going to feel it for a long time.

I had the pleasure of sharing a lane with her at masters swimming and enjoying many a night at tri club. I was a mentor sorts for her, as a triathlete, runner, cyclist and a physical therapist. So earlier this week, when Ellen announced her plan to ride from Rowena crest to Crown point I thought for a moment about discouraging her. I knew that the ride would require her to travel on I84, a busy interstate with a speed limit of 65 mph, for approximately 10 miles. I thought about it and said nothing. I said nothing because I had already hounded her for 90 min or more to not do an aggressive hilly 20 mile hike she had planned. I discouraged her because as a PT I knew without a doubt this would be a problem for a knee injury she had discussed openly in the tri forum. I didn’t have the energy for another head to head battle with the force that was Ellen and I let it go.

This morning on our way to the  Kruger Kermesse, we got stuck in stand still traffic on I84 and later passed the scene where we saw crumpled bike wheels at the side of the road. I thought of Ellen and immediately dismissed that thought as paranoid. I was crushed to know that a cyclist was obviously involved in the incident but having a race to get on to, it left my mind quickly. We were late for my start. No big deal, I rode singlespeed and relay only, (I really didn’t want to ride 3 races anyway), and had a great day. It was on our way home that we found out it actually was Ellen.

Ellen, I’m sorry. Perhaps if I had said something about how dangerous I think it is to ride on I84, you would still be here. But somehow I think you would’ve done what ever the hell you wanted anyway, cuz that’s the kind of person you were. May your energy continue to send ripples through the universe the way it always has.

With love.



Road Biking Skills 101 – Upcoming classes

In the years that I’ve lived here in The Gorge, I’ve watched the popularity of road riding increase substantially and for good reason; we are blessed with beautiful roads that have relatively little traffic and fantastic views. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of well organized group rides where people without a lot of road riding experience can learn from those of us with more experience who could act as mentors. As a result, it seems like I end up in “group” rides with people who haven’t had much mentoring and exhibit behaviors on rides that are downright dangerous. I have often left these rides very upset and with my adrenals all jacked up. Road riding should be fun, not anxiety provoking.

I’m fortunate enough to live with a roadie that grew up racing out east and he has mentored me a great deal. Most people here don’t have that resource available to them. So here’s my attempt at changing things, even if it’s just a bit…

Road Biking Skills 101

Tom and I are hosting a series of classes to teach bike handling, group riding and very basic bike maintenance skills.


Wednesday evenings at 6 pm through August.

Aug 6 – Individual bike handling skills meant to improve balance, control, confidence and efficiency. Part 1.

Aug 13 – Individual bike handling skills meant to improve balance, control, confidence and efficiency. Part 2.

Aug 20 – Group riding skills. How to safely position yourself on the road and relative to other riders to prevent accidents, improve confidence and efficiency and share the road politely.

Aug 27 – This class will be driven greatly by the questions that people bring to the class. We will definitely cover tire care including tricks to make changing flats easier and basic safety checks to make sure your bike is sound.

Where – Please note recent changes made to location.

Classes 1 and 2 will meet at the Hood River High School parking lot, north section closest to the main entrance. Class 3 location TBA, likely the Hood River end of the tunnels trail. Come ready to ride.

Class 4 will be at our house, up the valley a bit, not far from Cascade Pet Camp. I will send out my address to people who email with the intention to come. Bring your bike if you like.


$15/class or $50 for all 4. Each class will be beneficial as a stand alone learning experience but I do think the overall benefit of taking the 3 skills classes together as a group will be that much better.

The Rules – Do Not Register Until You’ve Read This

1 – Leave your ego and testosterone at home. I mean this for women as much as men. This is intended to be a supportive group experience. You will get called out on any behavior that I perceive as detrimental to the group dynamic.

2 – No tri bikes!!! Road bikes with clip on tri bars are OK for classes 1 and 2 although you’ll find it much easier to work on the skills if you take them off. If you need help with this, Tom or I can help you before the first class. Clip on tri bars are not allowed for class 3. The tri bikes/bars issue is a safety concern, particularly when group riding.

Have Questions or Want to Register?

It’s as simple as filling out the contact form below and I’ll get back to you.


Class Questions/registration



Fueling during racing

The following is some advice I recently sent a newcomer to triathlon. She’s about to do her first Olympic distance race and has been recently having problems with hypoglycemia. I thought my advice might be useful to share here.

Please keep in mind that I am not a dietician. The following information is based on a lot of reading from many sources and my own experimentation on myself.

Here it is…

So, you want to shoot for 100 to 200 cal per hour. Have a decent breakfast (200 to 400 cal easily digested like a bagel with peanut butter and/or jam) about 2 to 3 hours before race start. Start fueling 10 to 15 min into the bike leg with a gel. If you’ve tried Gu and tolerate it well, stick to that. You want to shoot for 100 to 200 cal per hour up to 30 min left in your run. There’s no point in taking in anything else after that, it won’t hit your system in time to help you finish.

If it’s hot, you will need some additional electrolyte replacement, like Endurolytes.

Here’s an example of my typical race plan.

Oven roasted potatoes with butter, salt, pepper and parmesan for breakfast.

One gel within 20 min of starting if I’m feeling shaky or hungry.

Perpetuem and/or gels during the ride and run, 100 Cal every 45 min. If hot 2 to 3 Endurolyte capsules per hour.

Stop eating glucose based stuff after halfway point on the run (for an Oly). Keep taking in light electrolyte drink like Heed.

Keep in mind that your body can’t absorb sugars/carbohydrates without sodium present.

That would be plan A.

If my stomach gets bloated and feeling like things aren’t digesting then I decrease the amount of carb stuff (gels and perpetuem) I take in until it sorts itself out. This is a real possibility if you have not been maintaining your eating plan during training. So definitely may be a problem for you.

In general, it is better to eat on the light side than to over eat if you’re racing hard and uncertain of what you can tolerate. You’re much more likely to have stomach issues with hard efforts, especially in the heat. Once your stomach knots up, you won’t be able to digest fluids, even water, as well and the probability of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance is much worse. That’s a much more serious situation that hypoglycemia.

So be prepared to deviate from race plan A, either by lowering your effort so you can digest better and/or decreasing your caloric intake depending on how your body is handling it.

I hope that helps.


Stack and Reach

Like it or not, virtual bike shopping is here to stay. The difficult part for the consumer is finding a way to reasonably compare frames in terms of true size. Since the cycling industry does not have standardized ways to measure frame sizes a 54 cm frame from Felt, does not necessarily equate to a 54 cm frame from Cervelo. This is like the phenomenon where you’re a size S (I wish) in clothing from SheBeest but a size L in Exte Ondo. Heck, a 2012 Trek Madone 6 series has 3 different fit profiles in one size. Using stack and reach has simplified the frame comparison process somewhat but what I hope to explain is why you should not look at stack and reach in isolation when purchasing a road bike.


What are stack and reach?

These measurements reflect the functional height (at the front end) and length of a frame, in that order. They are also referred to as X and Y. Both measurements look at the relative position of the top of the head tube to the center of the bottom bracket, reach (X) is the horizontal measurement, stack (Y) is vertical.

Diagram illustrates stack and reach

Looking at stack and reach is a very simplified way of telling if a bike is in the fit ball park for a person. What it doesn’t take into account is where in those 2 dimensions is your saddle and therefore your bum if you’re seated.

 Looking at stack and reach is a very simplified way of telling if a bike is in the fit ball park for a person.

Why Tube Angles Matter

If I take the same frame that I mocked up in the diagram above and over lay another frame with the same reach and stack but with a steeper seat tube, you can see how the real world reach (distance from the top of the seat post to the top of the head tube) changes. That means that the distance from one’s bum to the hanblebars changes if you are riding seated, which on a road bike, should be most of the time.

Diagram showing how seat tube angles effects fit but not reach and stack.

That change is not insignificant. A 6 cm difference cannot easily be made up for in stem length and saddle position fore and aft without compromising other aspects of fit or bike handling.

So why use stack and reach at all?

The use of stack and reach started being used widely in time trial and triathlon bikes. The advantage was the ease of comparing handlebar height which is of the utmost importance in these riding groups. The lower the handlebars, the more aero you are. Unfortunately, we don’t all possess the flexibility to go as low as  ideal aerodynamics might dictate and we need a higher stack. Since most TT and Tri bikes have the same seat tube angles the whole process could be simplified and frame height would be accounted for by using reach and stack.

The mountain bike industry is also catching on to stack and reach using the argument that feet relative to hands is what’s important for technical riding since much of the time your bum’s not in the saddle anyway. Mountain bikes vary a great deal in tube angles, so again you have a fairly functional simplification that will work more often than not in that arena.

In road biking, stack and reach can be very useful for narrowing your bike search down. Just keep in mind that seat tube (and to a lesser degree, head tube) angles will affect your fit. If tube angles are the same, no problem. If they are different, you need to mentally account for that as you make your decision.


Stack and reach can help you quickly narrow down frame options to those that are within your fitting ball park but these measurements have to be considered in context of stand over and tube angles to truly pick out the right bike for you.