My quads are knackered too quickly...

Sloth

Active Member
I have been running on/off for many years. I'm not great at it and do it for fitness not to be competitive.
I am 5'8" and around 12.5 - 13st in weight, so yes a little over weight at present.
However, due to a repetitive lower Achilles strain on my left side I have tried to take up cycling to stay fit without aggravating and buggering up my Achilles.

I ride a CB Cape Wrath (2002/3) MTB with Schwalbe Marathon Supreme road tyres on, and have tried to set the front suspension as hard as possible (no option to lock it out completely I'm afraid).
I have also fitted Ergon grips and risers and a Selle SMP saddle. The saddle helps a lot compared to the factory fitted one.
My riding position is such that when the pedal is in the lowest position, my leg (with my foot fairly flat on the pedal) is still slightly bent and not fully extended. I was told that was correct?

Anyway, there's the background, if relevant.

My issue is that although I like to think I'm fairly fit, having been a runner for years, I really struggle with leg fatigue after a very short time in the saddle, especially (and disproportionately so) on hills, even slight ones.
Basically my quads hurt like heck and run out of power very quickly and I often really struggle up hills.
My calves and glutes don't give me any issues, yes I feel it, but not a problem like my quads.

It's like I hit the 'wall' or as they say in cycling circles 'bonk' when going up hills.

I am only doing between 6 & 12 miles max and more often than not between 6 & 8 miles.
However, it seems that my quads just do not want to play nicely and let me down on hills, even fairly early in the ride, I often have to change right down the gears to where my legs are spinning rapidly but the bike is barely moving!!! Even then I often have to stop as my legs simply run out of power.
Once I was literally barely keeping pace with two people simply walking up the hill...embarrassing!!!
I have even tried standing on the pedals to pump up hills but when my legs are tired, that hurts as much as sitting on the saddle and my legs still run out of steam very quickly.

Is it me?
Is it just a matter of perseverance due to using different muscles or in a different way to running?
or... have I got a rooky error thing going on I need to address? (i.e. riding position or technique?)

Can anyone advise as it is taking a lot of the pleasure out of my rides.
 
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Mo1959

Legendary Member
Only thing that comes to mind is a saddle that's quite a bit too low, but you sound quite experienced so presume you have it set up properly? Just the faintest bend in the knee at the bottom of the stroke?

It is definitely different muscles from running though, so maybe it will get better if you build up slowly.
 

roubaixtuesday

self serving virtue signaller
Thoughts...

1. Persevering will improve massively. The best way to improve on hills is to ride more of them.

2. Could be that your saddle is too low. Leg straight with heel on the pedal is a good guide. Many relatively inexperienced cyclists have the saddle far too low.

3. Spinning in a low gear is good. As is going good and slow to start with, push it towards the summit rather than the other way around.

There is nothing better than feeling fit enough to really go for it up hills. You'll get there - enjoy it!
 

Paul_Smith SRCC

www.plsmith.co.uk
Location
Surrey UK
'Bike fit' is the first thing I'd look at, there are quite a few online tips (click) plus many bike stores offer bike fitting. You'll be amazed how many have the right type of bike and in the right size yet set up incorrectly interms of bike fit.
 
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OP
Sloth

Sloth

Active Member
Thanks guys, I will definitely take a look at my saddle height and perhaps play around with it.

Does leg length/body length ration come to play in how high the seat should be? I have fairly short legs although probably not disproportionate to my body so perhaps I'm barking up the wrong tree there.

Is there any particular reason why I find it just as hard to stand up on the pedals up hill when others seem to indicate that it should make it easier?
I'm OK for a few 'pumps' so to speak but then my quads/legs still run out of power and I still often have to simply stop.

I'm hoping to buy a better bike, more suited for road cycling and wonder if that would make it a little easier or even harder?

I know my front suspension absorbs energy that would otherwise go into moving me forward and I suspect my tyres are not as hard as they should be as the front in particular does seem to flatten out al little (it's not flat as such, it just flattens a little where it touches the road) (I only have a small bike mounted pump which does not go to the psi needed for my tyres i.e. 80 +/-)
The tyres were pumped to around 80psi when they were fitted bt that was a couple of months ago and the bike does stand on them in the garage for long periods.
The tyres don't feel too soft when I prod them with my fingers when not on the bike but that's probably not any indication as I am nearly 13st.
 

roubaixtuesday

self serving virtue signaller
I'm hoping to buy a better bike, more suited for road cycling and wonder if that would make it a little easier or even harder?
Easier for sure as long as gearing is low enough. But fitness makes far more difference than bike!


I suspect my tyres are not as hard as they should be as the front in particular does seem to flatten out al little
Buy a track pump with a gauge on it. Use it weekly.
 
OP
Sloth

Sloth

Active Member
Easier for sure as long as gearing is low enough. But fitness makes far more difference than bike!

Understood, thanks I will of course keep trying in the meantime.


Buy a track pump with a gauge on it. Use it weekly.

Agreed, will do as soft tyres will not help and will absorb energy I presume?
 
OP
Sloth

Sloth

Active Member
I don't have clip in's, I just ride wearing trainers onto the standard pedals?

Does that in any way account for the problem?
 

vickster

Legendary Member
I don't have clip in's, I just ride wearing trainers onto the standard pedals?

Does that in any way account for the problem?
No.
start doing some quad strengthening Exercises (paying attention to form for the sake of your knees) and stretching / conditioning of all the other muscles in and around your legs 👍
 

raggydoll

Über Member
It takes time for your legs to get used to cycling. You will be using different muscles when cycling rather than running (or at least using them differently).

Could also be that you are in the wrong gear.

Being in too low a gear will tyre out your legs much quicker.
I often see people on bikes who are in the easiest gear the bike has and their legs are spinning so fast yet they are hardly moving....on the flat.

It's about finding a steady cadence that you can comfortably keep up.
When the road starts to go up, you can drop down the gears to compensate for the hill and try to keep the cadence roughly the same.
 
OP
Sloth

Sloth

Active Member
I agree that perhaps my technique may require some tweaking.
It's not easy to maintain a smooth circular motion though without being clipped in, not for me anyway.
Is there a trick to it?
 
I recall an old adage that cycling's good for running, but running's not good for cycling. Probably some BS from an old coach, but generally running will make you fit, but doesn't give you everything you need for cycling, including leg strength, unless you're running up steep hills all the time. The length strength will come with more miles on the bike, and you can accelerate with some specific leg work. Something simple as unweighted squats can help. If you struggle to do 10 unweighted squats without pain, that may be your problem. Work on building that strength. If 10 squats are easy for you, then maybe it is something to do with you bike, fit, tyre pressure, poor drive train.
 
If you have a chronic achilles tendon issue, do you have a physio you can ask for advice? If not, get one!

You may have a local self-referral service through the NHS, but a friend of mine in an area ill-served for such a service found that a few appointments with a private physio were affordable, and set them up with exercises which helped overall leg strength and stability for different sporting interests.

I ruptured my Achilles tendon very badly a few years ago - full 999 ambulance call-out, very exciting! - and it will never be 'right' again - one simply does not heal as well when in one's 70s. However, specific physio advice and exercises have been incredibly helpful and when I decided I was going to (re)take up cycling, I phoned the clinic again for advice. They pulled out my file and advised me to increase certain specific quads exercises significantly. I did so in earnest. My bike recently arrived; I am riding it short distances on the level and as a bonus, the increased quad strength I've been working on has improved my walking gait too - so fewer twinges of back pain from wonky walking!

I really feel that ongoing physio advice would be invaluable for you.
 
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