Tech FAQ: Cogs, thru-axles, and nagging injuries

Lennard Zinn addresses a variety of questions in this week's technical FAQ column.

Have a question for Lennard? Please email us to be included in Technical FAQ.

Wide-range cassettes

Dear Lennard,
I greatly enjoyed your recent writings on adapting to wide-range cassettes. I ride a Shimano 11-speed road hub but I’m having trouble finding 11-speed cassettes in the 11-40 or 11-42 range. Can you suggest any candidates/sources?
— Mike

Dear Mike,
A Shimano XT CS-M8000 11-speed 11-42t or 11-40t cassette is the option we most often use. If you want lighter weight with some titanium cogs, you can get an XTR CS-M9001 11-40t cassette. There is also an SLX CS-M7000-11 11-42t or 11-40t cassette in 11-speed. All of those work on road-wheel 11-speed Shimano compatible freehub bodies.
― Lennard

Thru-axle conversion

Dear Lennard,
This may be an off-the-wall question, but is there any way to convert a QR frame to use thru-axles? I know you can get those inserts to convert the other way but my skewers on my e-MTB keep coming loose. I suppose I can change the front fork but what about the rear?

BTW, I just started riding my Haibike hard-tail MTB and it has given me, at age 78, a totally new enjoyment of trail and road riding. And my riding buddies don’t thumb their noses at me — they want one too!
— Ted

Dear Ted,
There is not a simple, inexpensive way to reconfigure a frame to accept a thru-axle rear wheel. If it’s a metal bike, you could, in theory, have a framebuilder weld new rear dropouts on it to accept thru-axles, but by the time you repaint it and reassemble the components, as well as get a new fork and new wheels if yours cannot be reconfigured, you’re talking a big chunk of change. And I suppose Calfee Design or another carbon repair place could conceivably replace both dropouts on a carbon frame, but, again, it would be so expensive that it would be pushing the limits of what makes sense.

I’m glad you’re loving that e-bike!
― Lennard

Hamstring and IT band issues

Dear Lennard,
I have the same exact hamstring problem you have described in the last few tech columns. I’ve been going to therapy and massage and even though they haven’t made things worse, they also haven’t made them much better. Things feel the same.

I’ve also had an IT band problem, which is nothing new to me. I first had a flare-up at around age 18, then later on at 32 or so and now I’ve had another one at age 50. The latest one started in the spring of 2017 and it’s still there.

Because of these two injuries, I haven’t been able to ride any significant amount. It’s actually been months since I last rode.

I have tried many things but I’m curious about what you have found works for both problems. I know you last mentioned doing eccentric exercises for the hamstring and I would like to know how much that has helped and if you have found out anything else since you last discussed this. And if you have found any magic potion for the IT problem, I would also like to hear about that.

Looking forward to your input!
— Manuel

Dear Manuel,
I too have not had a complete cure by any means. Like you, I would also say that therapy and massage haven’t done much to relieve the problem. It is improving when looked at from the perspective of many months, but the progress is so glacial that I cannot notice an improvement week to week or even over one month.

As for IT bands, I do have something to say about that. I realize now that mine has not been bothering me for so long that I didn’t even mention it in this post about chronic injuries.

Regarding my hamstring injury, my pain is no longer focused on my left sitbone like it was. And I no longer have any pain while riding a bike, even when bouncing around on a rough cyclocross course or jumping off for barriers (the first foot strike when jumping off had been excruciating, and the jump off of the left foot back onto the saddle hurt a lot too; now those things no longer bother me). It mostly no longer bothers me doing squats like it used to, and I can ski (alpine and Nordic) pain-free. While it can hurt on my left sitbone from time to time, my major symptom is now soreness over a bigger area of my entire left butt cheek, and only after sitting (in a car or bus seat or chair) for at least a half hour (driving is especially painful).

I had a PRP injection and then lots of physical therapy with dry needling and electrical stim (with the electrodes hooked up to the acupuncture needles), first on the hamstring and then on the piriformis, gluteus medius, and low back muscles. I then switched to doing “counterstrain” physical therapy. I also have been doing lots of hamstring and piriformis strengthening exercises and stretches, including the hamstring curls (which I do on a 75cm Swiss ball). I have also been doing “nerve glide” exercises with my left leg to free up my sciatic nerve; it seemed to have adhesions restricting its freedom. I stopped sitting at my desk; I got a standing desk and do all of my desk work standing — including writing this column. I also do my sitting meditation lying down now.

I went back for another ultrasound three months after the PRP, and it showed that substantial healing has happened and that the nerve was stuck closer to my sitbone than it ought to be.

As for the IT band, have you done anything with your shoes or insoles? In my case, my IT bands are super sensitive to having my foot tipped to the outside (some shoes are made with a thicker sole on the medial side than on the lateral side, and they put me in excruciating pain after one ride). Tipping the foot to the outside puts additional tension on the IT band; try it yourself to see what I mean. When mine flares up, after I rest it until it no longer hurts when not on the bike, I wedge (cant) my insoles dramatically under the lateral side to tip my foot in toward the medial side (I cut the wedges out of old insoles). Over time, I gradually remove the wedges as my symptoms disappear. While I can ride without additional cants on my right foot, I have a thin wedge always under the forefoot of my orthotics in all of my cycling shoes, and I also use custom orthotics in all of my cycling shoes and ski boots, both alpine and Nordic.

I stretch my IT bands nightly. I also roll on a foam roller on the sides of my thighs to maintain as much suppleness as I can in my IT bands. There have been times when my IT band problems were so great I thought I might need surgery or stop riding. But with this regimen, I have not had a significant problem with them in probably 15 years.
― Lennard