The Five Millimeter Difference: A Bike Coach Experience

Duban Sanchez, former racer with Team Velosport under 23, relates his experience with knee pain during a performance assessment at Bike Fitness Coaching.

A discussion with experienced racer Duban Sanchez

Rick Schultz: I believe you started with Team Velosport? Jeff Shein’s junior development team based out of Irvine, California? I only hear great things about that team. How many years did you stay with team Velosport, and how old were you?

DUBAN: I first became a part of the program in 2013 when I was 17, this was my last year as a junior and I knew Jeff because I did some racing along his son Michael. This was also the first year the team had an elite program. I was also a part of the programs in 2015 as an under 23 rider, and  in 2018 just as a recreational rider and a mentor.

RS: You mentioned that you stayed off the bike for about a year somewhere in that time?

DUBAN: On and off, yeah. At the end of 2016, I got a bad knee problem that forced me off the bike for 4 months. I got back on the bike, but it was a couple of weeks before I had to get off again. It was almost toward the end of 2017 when I was able to ride again, but I couldn’t do it for more than 3 consecutive weeks, as the pain came back.

RS: About a year ago, you came to visit us at the home-studio as a referral from Jeff Shein? What prompted the initial visit?

Duban Sanchez, former racer with Team Velosport under 23, relates his experience with knee pain during a performance assessment at Bike Fitness Coaching.

DUBAN: It all started at the end of 2016 when I was going home from a big ride and I got a sharp pain in my knee. I actually was only able to pedal with my left leg for the last mile. At first I thought it wasn’t a big issue, but I quickly noticed that it was, since I couldn’t ride without pain anymore. I went to my school’s sports department and they helped me a lot. They found that I had a muscle imbalance, my quads were too big and tight, while my glutes were too weak. This imbalance forced my patella to track incorrectly. I went 3 times a week for 6 months for PT.

RS: What size was your road frame?

DUBAN: It’s 52cm (and had 170mm cranks)

RS: We then put you on the bike sizer. Do you remember what crank arm length was ideal for you?

DUBAN: Yeah, 165mm

RS: So, we went from 170mm to 165mm. You came into the studio with severe knee pain then, a week later, raced the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix Pro/1/2. Recently, you placed 12th in another pro race. What were your initial thoughts about shorter crank arms?

DUBAN: It just felt weird at first, but I quickly got used to them, especially when I was in the drops, because my legs weren’t hitting my stomach.

“I always like to keep a high cadence, and using this size of shorter cranks has really helped me with higher cadence. I am now able to spin the cranks easier, especially when the speed is super high and I’m on the lower gears.”

RS: Duban, you have been riding shorter cranks for about a year now. Tell the readers how long it took you to get used to them. Did they feel natural or unnatural?

DUBAN: I would say it took me about 1-3 rides to get used to them, it just felt like it was easier to put the power down while taking a lot of pressure away from my knees. Actually, the other day I rode a gravel bike with 170mm cranks and I quickly noticed the difference, not comfortable at all.

RS: Did you lose any power with the new cranks?

DUBAN: Not at all.

RS: What about knee pain?

DUBAN: It went away. Immediately I noticed that I didn’t have the same pressure on my knees. After a couple of weeks I began to do some climbing and noticed that I wasn’t sore the next day, and that I was even able to ride two big days in a row.

Duban getting assessed in the Bike Fitness Coaching garage

RS: Anything else that you might mention that would convince the readers to use or at least investigate shorter crank arms to help alleviate knee pain?

DUBAN: I always like to keep a high cadence, and using this size of shorter cranks has really helped me with higher cadence. I am now able to spin the cranks easier, especially when the speed is super high and I’m on the lower gears [like in crit racing].

RS: One last item, it has been my experience that shorter crank arms also help to alleviate hip pain. Duban, any last words?

DUBAN: Another cool thing is that I never clip the ground anymore!! 165mm cranks + Speedplay pedals = pedal through every corner. Thanks for all the help, Rick and Bike Fitness Coaching!

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