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Health and Fitness Q&A: Dave Smith answers your health, fitness and training questions

Crank length, wrist problem, first BIG ride and more

Spring has finally sprung so if you haven't already it's time to get out on your bike and ride! ride! ride! But while the spirit may be willing perhaps the old bio-mechanical bit of the deal has gotten a bit rusty or taken a bit of a battering over the winter months. Never fear, Dave Smith's resident health, fitness and training guru is here with a whole bunch of useful training tips and advice.

If you would like to ask Dave a question about your cycling fitness, training or health you can drop him a line at fitness [at] or you can email us at info [at] putting Fitness Q&A in the subject line


I’ve just noticed after a rather embarrassing 4 years that my two road bikes have different crank lengths, one is 175mm and the other 172.5. Should I do anything, other than just ride them?

Dave Smith: As you haven’t mentioned endless injuries, back ache, lack of power or such-like, I’d suggest you do nothing - 2.5mm is rather insignificant, so I’m told. After all, if you think about it, a small movement in your position on the saddle and the 2.5mm difference has been eaten by the padding in your shorts. This is not to downplay the biomechanics of cycling, but you know, it ain’t broke, so…


I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. I can’t shake off infections, feelings of lethargy etc. Blood tests have been clear. I know you’re not a doctor but do you have any suggestions?

Dave Smith: A few coaching clients have had similar situation and more than once it turned out to be allergies rather than illness as such. Trying an over the counter anti-histamine can be a good way to see if this may be the case – symptoms clearing suggest you’re just having an allergic reaction to something. Avoiding illness is also something that diet plays a vital role in. Look at what you eat and ask yourself if you’d tell other people it’s good for them?


After my first cyclo-cross winter, I want to give it a better go next season. How should I structure my summer to be going into the races in better condition? I can do some road races but am a bit nervous about being in a bunch at high speed. Is there anything else worth doing?

Dave Smith: Stay active, keep riding, do a couple of short trail runs per week, 15 min is fine, and work on your bike handling. Ride your cross bike through summer, and when doing race-specific intervals, try doing them on sports fields, through woods etc. Closer to the season ramp up threshold level sessions, power climbs, run-ups and of course the technical aspects. Work on core strength and mobility and quite important for cross riders is flexibility in the calve muscles for steep run-ups. Road racing would be great for your endurance, but not if you’re too nervous and yo-yoing out the back.


I've been off the bike now for the best part of three months due to some ligament damage to the Ulna-Collate ligament in my wrist. The physio and I have deduced this may have been down to a spell of over-zealous cyclo-corss riding and repeated strains on the ligaments as I have hit large bumps whilst riding in the drops.

Is there anything else I could be doing to assist recovery? I am tempted to try some basic heat and ice work, heat during the day and ice in the evening to take down any swelling caused by daily activities, but I am unsure if using heat is a good idea, does improved blood flow aid the healing of a ligament? Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks

Dave Smith: I’d say firstly to do what your physio’ says. Heat/cold can be effective but more by alternating heat for one minute, cold for one minute and so on. Strength and mobility exercises will ensure that you shouldn’t suffer next season, but again your physio’ should have this covered. 


I’ve been asked to do a charity ride which will involve 150 miles in one day. The longest I’ve ever ridden before was a 70 mile sportive and that left me exhausted and sore for days. I have 4 months to prepare, what do you suggest?

Dave Smith: It sounds odd, but a ride like that isn’t so much about fitness as comfort and energy levels. So, firstly make sure your bike fits you and you fit your bike. Work on your low back fitness, shoulder and neck mobility and get decent shorts and chamois cream! Get used to riding for extended periods without stopping and also eating as you ride – it’s harder to get going after you make a short stop. If you must stop, 20 mins is better than 5. Take some weekend days and just see how far you can go on a bike. No rush, just keep moving. And remember the old French proverb, ‘you can travel a long distance when you’re already tired’.  Good luck!



Dave Smith has been involved in coaching cyclists in all disciplines for more than 25 years. A former GB national and Olympic road coach, Dave has trained Tour stage winners and Olympic medallists, world champions and numerous national champions. In addition he has applied his quirky and counter intuitive thinking to help dozens of regular cyclists, polo players and F1 drivers. He rides 250 miles a week on and off-road in all weathers.

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