Achilles what? Achilles tenacity, yes. That is, persistent determination to ride a bike despite the obvious presence of achilles tendinitis. That is why I went to physical therapy in April 2012 after completing my first 400k. That is why I am back in PT this April. Well, more accurately... I am back in PT because of my tenacity and ability to tune put pain and discomfort. Hoping it will just go away... because I am strong enough... paying no attention to why these things are occurring.
First of all, let's start with warning signs...
When your achilles starts to feel like a dried up piece of leather that's being over-stretched every pedal stroke, you got it.
Weak muscles. I only have achilles tendinitis in my left leg. Why? My right leg is much stronger. The left leg gets tired, the muscles are tight, they stop working. The muscles are too tight (because you NEVER stretch) and therefore something has to give every time the pedal is extended. If the muscles can't stretch, then what does? The Achilles tendon. Enter achilles tendinitis.
Saddle height too high. Yup. The first time I contracted this nasty disease, I had somehow managed to have my saddle ~5cm too high. I had been using Grant Peterson's method of approximate saddle height:
If you aren't familiar with how to measure your Pubic Bone Height (PBH), here's a good tutorial by Rivendell
Rivendell's chart didn't fail me, my PBH height measurement (or memory) did. For some crazy reason, I thought I had a 91-92cm PBH. Wrong, it's 87. No wonder I had to have my bars SO high up to be level with my saddle. doh.
In January 2013, I got a Ritchey Breakaway Cross. This was to be my travel bike. It was super affordable considering travel bike options. It seemed like a no brainer. The geometry worked... or so I thought. I was sure not to make the same mistake this time... I set my saddle height (center of BB to top of saddle) at 77cm and set out. First ride was to the top of Mt Pisgah with my buddy Andy; no problem. Next ride was a 300k in the first week of January. "Hmmm, something feels off..." I thought the next day... nah! Couldn't be. Let's go ride Andy lunch loop, the Lake Lure 100k populaire with Andy. After the 100k, I was sure there was a problem. I did my research and realized the differences in geometry from my Rivendell to the Ritchey... the Ritchey has a 73 degree seattube angle and my Rivendell has a 72 degree seattube angle. The more forward seattube angle put me further forward over the bottom bracket even though the saddle height was the same and I was using the same post and saddle with the saddle slammed all the way back on the post.
I did some research in trying to determine whether or not I could get the Ritchey to work and determined it wasn't gonna work. I was already using the seatpost with the most setback that I could find (Velo-Orange 30.2mm setback post). I could have tried a different saddle with more clampable rail length but... saddles are a very personal thing and I wasn't about to toss my Brooks B17 aside. I even talked with an experienced framebuilder who recommended trying a setback post but there weren't any better options than what I had. So, I sold the Ritchey and put a deposit on a new custom frame that I will have soon.
While a new bike will be welcomed and I believe is a part of the solution, it's not the solution, darnit. Don't you hate when solutions to life's problems are not always bike related? The real solution is strength training + stretching. More to come on that later....