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transferred from the rider to the bike through the foot / pedal inter
phase. Positioning of the cleats is one of the most important
elements of a bike setup. Proper cleat position will improve
biomechanical alignment between the body and the bike, optimizing
efficiency and comfort. Proper cleat placement is essential in
preventing injuries, particularly of the knee. With up to 5,000 pedal
strokes in an hour of riding, repeated twisting through the lower
leg can lead to undue stress and an overuse injury.
The best place to
adjust and test your cleat set up is on a trainer.. This allows you
to concentrate on the foot position without worrying about the road
and putting your bike down every time.
While there are
many variations in preferences between riders, here is a general
guideline to help you set up your cleats properly. There are a number
of adjustments to make when setting up your cleats.
and Aft Position
First, adjust the
forwards and backwards position of the cleats on your shoes. As a
general rule you should be pushing close to through the ball of
the foot as you pedal. This is the position that suits
most riders. Your goal is to get your cleat forward, as close to the
ball of the foot as you can, but not ahead of it. If you are
ahead of the ball of the foot, you will be pushing through your toes.
This effective longer lever will make the calf muscles work harder to
stabilize the foot, which can lead to an Achilles tendon overuse
injury. There are a many
reasons for choosing the ball of the foot:
It is the
widest, stiffest part of your foot, providing a stable base through
which to transfer power.
It provides a
good leaver for your calf muscles to push off of.
clear your toes from the wheel in front (toe over lap)
bring your knees over the pedal axle for better power transfer.
It prevents foot numbness and discomfort.
However, there are
times when you should not choose this position:
Hot spot or burning under the ball of your foot.
Achilles pain/tendonitis. If this is the case, the cleat should instead be moved
back, to shorten the effective leaver arm. This will reduce the work
required by the calf muscles to stabilize the foot on the pedal,
putting less strain on the Achilles tendon.
Find the widest
part of your foot, the ball of the foot, through the side of your
cycling shoe. Mark it with a dot on your shoe. Remove your shoe and
slide the cleat forwards or backwards, to line up the middle of the
cleat with the dot on your shoe. When you clip in, the ball of the
foot and the dot on the shoe, should now be directly over the pedal
axle, which is the middle of the pedal.
Some cleats you
can be adjusted medially (in) and laterally (out). When riding, your
feet should be naturally aligned below your hips. Feet that are set
wider or narrower than your natural stance, can create unwanted
stress on your lower legs and diminish power. Generally, a good
neutral starting position is to leave you cleats centred. Exceptions
to this placement include:
Your heel or
any part of your shoe is hitting the bike.....move the cleats in to
give your foot more clearance. If your shoe is still hitting, then
washers can be placed between the crank arm and pedal axle to
further widen your stance.
position is too wide or too narrow for the width of your hips ....
move the cleats in to widen your stance, or out to bring your feet
closer to the bike.
Simply move your
cleats in or out and retest pedaling for shoe clearance and comfort.
adjustment is the most crucial part of cleat set up. Most clipless
pedal systems offer a certain amount or degrees of float. Float is
the available side-to-side movement of the foot within the pedal.
While this allows your foot to change position as you go around the
pedal stroke, careful cleat placement is essential to allow your
legs to freely follow their natural path. Forcing your legs to go in
an unnatural direction for your body, will create unwanted tension
on muscles and tendons, which over time can cause an injury. A
minimum of 6 degrees of float is preferred. Sometimes more is needed
if you have bad knees or hips. Float can some times be increased by
loosening the tension on the pedal spring. For more information on
float see the previous article: Clipless Pedals.
95% of the time,
how we stand and walk off the bike tells us how to set up our cleats.
Look down at your feet and see which way your toes point naturally.
Are you toed out ( duck footed), toed in ( pigeon toed) or are they
pointing straight ahead ? One foot may be different from the other.
This will give you a starting position to set up your cleat rotation.
Looking at the bottom of the shoe, if you need a toed out/heel in
position, then aim your cleat in and vice versa. It may take a bit of
trial and error to find the exact position that matches your body.
this is the trickiest and most critical adjustment, if you are not
100% satisfied with your position, seek the assistance of a
professional bike fitter to help you dial-in your ideal position.
The true test is
always the road test, so some fine tuning may be required post set
up. In your final position, efficiency and comfort should be
optimized. Your feet should be comfortable and your legs should be
going where they want to go. You should feel no tension or twisting
sensation in your legs.
Once you are
satisfied that you have dialed-in your perfect position, mark it by
drawing a line around it, with a permanent marker or white out pen.
This way, when you cleats wear down and you change them, or if
your cleat has accidentally shifted, you will have your perfect