Hooven Hollow and leg cramps

Yesterday the East Side gang rode from Camp Cadiz to Hooven Hollow.  For me it was 17 miles of suffering.  Things felt pretty good at the beginning. but about 8 miles in I was starting to struggle a bit with the constant hill climbing.  The ride was essentially up and down the entire time with very little flat space and the climbs were challenging.

There are no pictures from this ride because it was too cold to mess with a camera so I didn’t even bring one, you’ll just have to let your imagination fill in the blanks.  Speaking of cold, it was around 28 degrees yesterday and there was a wind chill factor of mid teens.  I bought a heavy wool pullover from the Goodwill store the other day and decided to try it on the ride.  Normally I’d wear about three shirts of varying thickness and a jacket on a ride like this, but yesterday I went with one very thin shirt, a summer jersey, and the wool pullover.  I was warm, actually too warm.  On every hill climb I began to sweat profusely, my heavy gloves prevented me from unzipping.  Near the top I would unzip and then freeze going back down the hill.  I think this wool pullover will make an excellent cold weather road biking shell, but for mountain biking it was too hot.

About nine miles in I had a flat.  Usually flats are unfortunate random occurences that can hardly be prevented but this flat was just from stupidity.  A few rides ago I had tube that blew out leaving a large hole.  These usually can’t be patched but I tried anyway.  It seemed to hold, but I realized the next week it was losing air slowly, about 5 psi a day.  I just decided to air it up.  The leak became much more significant and had to be fixed.  I would have been much more comfortable changing a flat when I could feel my fingers. 

Eventually we made a little loop around the very scenic Hooven Hollow and started back to Camp Cadiz.  On the return trip the climbs were getting to me, I couldn’t hold the pace and when I tried my legs began to send warning signs of cramps.  I’m sure every cyclist has experienced cramps before.  I’ve been pretty lucky and only had a few and usually not too extreme.  These cramps were in strange places up and down the sides and back of my legs and seemed to have more to do with the upstroke of the pedals then the downstroke. 

Then my chain broke, again completely my fault. Before the ride I reassemble a chain by pushing a link back through a plate.  I used to do this all the time with 7 speed chains, but when bike chains went 8 speed the chains got narrower and the pins were riveted since they had less plate to hold on too.  This means you have to reassemble them with a special pin, or a master link.  Fortunately I’d brought a master link, but this repair would have been much easier if I could have felt my fingers. 

About 2 miles from the end my legs completely shut down.  I had to get off my bike, and when I tried to lift my leg to walk any lifting movement brought a wave of cramp pain.  I was beginning to think I might be in trouble, but after a few minutes of rest I was able to finish the ride, very slowly. 

I’ve got an idea about what caused these unusual cramps, this morning I measured the distance from the center of my crank to the top of my saddle, it was 72.5cm.  I checked all my other bikes and found them all between  76 and 77 centimeters.  I don’t usually use measurements to set my saddle height I just adjust until it feels right, but  I’m sure this saddle was at least  a few centimetres higher.  The lower saddle height was robbing my down stroke of power and forcing my upstroke to do more work, and the cramps were all coming during the upstroke.

I’ve had a problem with the seat post slipping with my bandersnatch the whole time I’ve owned it, but what really ticks me off is that a 3 minute adjustment would have probably made yesterday’s ride much more enjoyable.   I actually thought about making the adjustment but the ride was cold, and I had already held the group up twice, and I was constantly trying to hang on.  Stopping didn’t feel like an option.

Mountain Biking is hard and I have to admit that on more then one occasion during this ride I yearned for warm spring days on the road.

About Matt Gholson

Cycling, school teaching, husband.
This entry was posted in Bikes and components, Mountain BIking, Rides, Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Hooven Hollow and leg cramps

  1. Steve says:

    That’s a lot of mechanicals – way to hang in there! I’m not an expert on cramps, but I would think they would have more to do with dehydration than fatigue from improper seat height. I would think the seat issue would just make you tire more quickly – not cramp. But what do I know about seats and/or cramps. Not much.

  2. James C Wise says:

    repeat after me: “correlation does not equal causation”. look it up. a too low seat on a mountain bike would have little effect. a too high seat on a road bike would possibly damage your hamstrings due to over stretching.

  3. Matt Gholson says:

    OK, muscle cramps are brought on by electrolyte imbalance, and I sweat like crazy on this ride due to my wool pullover so I know that’s the root cause, but you guys aren’t following my reasoning here.

    For the entire ride I felt like I was pedaling strangely like I had to lift the pedals, I was sure my seat was too low. I could tell I was pulling on the pedals way to hard instead of pushing. When the cramps started they were on the upstroke.

    The muscles that suffered the electrolyte imbalance are the ones that were being overworked, at least thats what it felt like.

    I think there is more to seat postion then you realize JC.

  4. JC Wise says:

    you’d be wrong.

  5. Matt Gholson says:

    Your right, I’ll drop my saddle another inch or two and see if that helps.

  6. luke ragan says:

    I’m going with saddle height plays a big role in enjoyment. If its to high or to low it can cause much knee pain..

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