Hippy shake

HI, I’m just recovering from my second Birmingham Hip Resurfacing (same op as Floyd Landis), this is my second in five years and now I have two new hips I want to make sure that I get the most out of them. As the technique is new there is no info on how long these will last. As a mountain biker I’m conscious that the type of bike I have will dictate the amount of stress I put on the joints in my hip.
I rode for four years with a short-travel bike with an air shock on my first new hip but I’d like to know whether I would be better getting a longer-travel trail bike with a modern shock e.g. DHX air or even a coil spring. I know that coils are suppler but they are also heavier — do the new generation of air shocks come close to this performance?
I have ruled out hardtail bikes as they really hurt after about an hour in the saddle and I will still try and do as much as my nerve allows in terms of terrain e.g. Wharncliffe and Scotland. Do you think someone like TF Tuned or Mojo would be able to custom tune a shock to provide the best in terms of the shock to reduce stress on the joints?
I guess this sort of enquiry will become more and more common as we get older. I’ve had to deal with this earlier as I’ve had arthritis since I was 25 and biking is a great way of keeping fit without the stress on the joints that can be caused by other sports, such as running.
I’d be interested to know how many mountain bikers have had this op and I’d be more than happy to talk people through the op for the bikers who are contemplating it to get rid of pain.
Hope you can help.
Chris Bray, email

Before worrying about choosing a shock try out a few bikes and ideally get properly bike fitted. This is pretty common now for people buying road bikes and for anyone who has an injury or body imbalance. CycleFit in Covent Garden London is one of the longest standing bike fit centres and they will look at your specific needs and limitations. Specialized are also expected to be rolling out a bike fit programme in the next six months to a year. Many shops offer some sort of bike fitting but it can be hit or miss. Ideally you want a human to look at how you are on the bike rather than just measure you and plug numbers into a machine. For example, have your hip operations affected your hip flexion in anyway? If so you will need your bike to accommodate a more upright position to give a wider angle between your thigh and torso. Getting the bike and the shock set up correctly for you is the most important thing. A well set up trail bike will give you the comfort and protection from vibration you need but should also be easy to handle and not too heavy, you don’t want to create any more stress or effort on your joints than you have to.
Once you’ve got a spot-on bike then consider customising your shock.

Cramp revisited

I did the Merida marathon at Ruthin this September. I was booked to do the 50k but I suffered cramps in the back of my thighs so I wimped out and changed to the mini marathon.
What I want to know is what’s the best prevention for cramps and what’s the best cure for cramps when they hit you in the middle of a ride and it’s a long way home? I was rolling about in agony for what felt like hours before they subsided and even though the ride was mostly downhill from that point I couldn’t pedal nearly as well after the cramps sniper shot me.
Also I would like to thank the dozens of people who rode past me while I was writhing on the ground shreeking with pain and didn’t take a blind bit of notice of me. I would really like to thank the guy who complained that my bike was in the way on the path as he rode past. What did these people think I was doing? Sunbathing?
Only one rider took the time to stop and ask me what the problem was and I would like to thank the guy in the yellow top — I looked out for you at the finish to buy you a cuppa but I must have missed you — cheers mate!
Stuart Burton, Liverpool

No one as yet has the definitive answer to what causes cramp or how to prevent it. There are various potential causes which may have affected you that day. Poor hydration or nutrition causing an electrolyte balance is one of the most common, but also fatigue caused by stressing your muscles more, or in a different way, to they are used to.
As far as the first goes make sure that you are drinking a good carbohydrate and electrolyte balanced drink through out the event. These are pretty cheap in a powdered form, mix them up and stick it in your Camelbak to sip on all day. Bananas are high in potassium which is known to help prevent cramps, eating a couple on the day of the race and the day leading up should help. Quinine found in tonic water is also shown to help and, although the amount found in a glass of tonic isn’t really anywhere near enough, plenty of riders swear by it anyway.
Finally, if you aren’t used to the distance and the terrain in training you are more likely to suffer in the event. Equally, if you are pushing on a bit harder than you are used to, which often happens to people when they put a number on their bike, then your muscles are more likely to start protesting. Work on your fitness over this winter for a better experience next summer. Tight or imbalanced muscles are also more likely to feel the strain.
Regular stretching, Pilates, Yoga or core work can help improve your all-round fitness and posture. If you get cramp there is very little you can do except massage the muscle and try and stretch it out. If cramp has hit once in a ride you may get it again. Try and get some fluids down you as dehydration makes it more likely to strike.

Singlepeed benefits

Dear MBR, a couple of my mates have recently bodged together single speeds for the winter, having been persuaded by another mate who’s been riding one for years. They all reckon that riding a singlespeed makes you faster in the summer because it makes you smoother, stronger and more supple. I can believe it’s cheaper, but I’m struggling to believe the physical benefits they keep banging on about — are they talking nonsense or should I bite the bullet and join their weird one-gear gang?
Trevor, Guidford

Before there was the singlespeed mountain bike there was the fixed wheel road bike. In the winter, any decent old-school roadie will be getting out their fixie to become smoother, stronger and develop supplesse — smooth, even pedalling – just as your mates describe. This has been a standard and well recognised technique for decades.
Of course the difference is your single speed has a free-hub, so you don’t have to pedal like a lunatic downhill the way a roadie on fixed does. Honestly, there is nothing like a fixed wheel on a 20% incline when you are pedalling at 140rpm to help develop a smooth, fast pedal stroke. Anway, we digress, but the point is that riding a single gear is nothing new as far as technique development goes.
Riding a single gear means pedalling very fast to get anywhere on the flat or inclines (don’t free wheel unless you need to) and pushing against big resistance to get up anything meaningful. This does work your legs in two important ways by developing smooth, fast pedal technique that later can be built on to give you the leg speed for a dynamite sprint and by increasing muscular strength when working against the resistance of gradient.
There is also an element of improving your line choice and riding technique. Without a big gear to bash through stuff or a little gear to spin up hills you have to think a lot more about where you are going to put your wheels and how best to conserve energy gained from any downslopes, thus making you a more efficient rider. You will find yourself less inclined to brake hard when approaching a turn or an obstacle because on exiting you won’t be able to go through your gears to rapidly get back up to speed. When you go back to your geared bike this new ability to save energy and ride efficiently will pay you back by allowing you to go faster or maintain speed on less physical effort.
You don’t have to become a fully paid up, card-carrying member of their weird gang. Treat it as a training aid. Gears were invented for some very good reasons.