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  1. #1
    Retired C.O. RandoneeRider's Avatar
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    Correct knee/leg position, feet in cages (???)

    I decided last week to mount the cages to my pedals (I took them off upon bringing my bike home a couple months ago). They're cheap, they're too long, and I decided that I had no idea how to use them (correctly), in addition I found myself questioning the alignment of my knees to my feet.....

    My first hint that my leg/knee position might be wrong, was when a buddy suggested that I shouldn't be riding with my knees sticking out to the sides. In similar fashion, I learned the same thing about riding my motorcycle correctly....

    So I raised my seat-post in an attempt to FORCE my knees to align with the pedals on each downstroke.
    - AND -
    then I noticed my toes splayed to the sides, virtually sticking out of the pedal cages(!?!) I bought some better cages in a size more appropriate to my size 6 1/2 foot (size 7 shoe) and mounted them..... but my feet/toes pointing outwards again.

    Sooooo..... raising the seat post may have addressed my knees splaying out to the sides, but about the cages:
    1) If they are the correct size for the rider's foot, is the foot supposed to jammed deep into the toes of the cage?
    2) Is it best that I make a concerted effort to align my foot parallel to the bicycle frame, rather than the foot sitting skewed on the pedal?
    3) With cages in place, is your foot supposed to follow-through from the initial down-force by kinda scooping through on the up-stroke?

    Help me to understand how to use these cages correctly and efficiently.....
    as I may never see those cool snap-in kinda cletes you guys use. I will NEVER be able to afford custom made shoes in size 6 1/2 EEEEEE.
    Last edited by RandoneeRider; 07-24-11 at 11:49 PM.

  2. #2
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Lots of questions here.

    I agree with your friend about the knees. Obviously your pedalling will be more efficient, with the force you are exerting transmitted more directly to the pedals, if your knees are moving in approximate alignment with the cranks. It'll be better for your knees, too - though clearly I'm not in a position to know whether you have any structural problem that might make it difficult for you. In the absence of such a problem, getting your saddle height correct might do it for you. You'll hear a lot of suggestions for how to do this. An easy way is to take off your shoes, sit in the saddle and place your unshod heel on the pedal. You should just - but only just - be able to keep your heel in contact with the pedal at the bottom of the downstroke. Adjust the saddle accordingly. You'll then find, with shoes on and your foot in the normal position, that there's just a slight bend in your knee at the bottom of the downstroke, which is as it should be.

    Your toes sticking out to the sides sounds like it may be just the way you are - the opposite of pigeon-toed, no doubt there's a name for it. If that's the case, I wouldn't be forcing my feet into a (for you) unnatural position if I were you, doing so might set up all sorts of stresses that will cause you pain. Remember that when pedalling at 80 rpm you'll make more than 9000 revolutions in a two-hour ride. That's a lot of repetitions and it is best that your joints are moving along the line of least resistance. So while it would be ideal were your feet to be straighter on the pedals, don't force them to be so if it is uncomfortable.

    Having said that, the purpose of the cages is twofold. First, they keep your foot in the correct position on the pedal. You should be pedalling with the ball of your foot above the pivot of the pedal. If you look at casual cyclists you'll frequently see them with the pedal under their instep, which is very inefficient and hard work. Equally, if you pedal with your toes, on tip-toe so to speak, your calves will be doing too much work instead of your quads, which will exhaust them and give you cramps. With the pedal forward in the three o'clock position, crank arm parallel to the ground, a plumb-line should ideally go from the tip of your kneecap through the ball of your foot to the pivot of the pedal - or thereabouts.

    Second, the cage allows you to pedal more efficiently. When you say "scooping through on the upstroke" you have the right idea. Pedalling in circles rather than just up and down is the goal. People have different ways of describing it. Some compare the motion to that of wiping dirt off the sole of your shoe, others think of it as pedalling in squares - consciously moving your foot across the top of the stroke as well as down the far side. In practice what you are doing is aggressively "unweighting" the pedal on the upstroke, so that your other foot isn't effectively having to push against your own weight. The cage makes it possible to do this without losing contact with the pedal, by keeping your "unweighted" foot in place.

    I hope this helps. I know it sounds complicated, but that's because I'm trying to describe things that are best experienced by feel, in practice. You can read all you like about the theory and practice of cycling, but it doesn't mean much until you're on the bike. Once you have the bike set up right, I'd recommend thinking like a golfer who keeps one swing thought in their head, to the exclusion of all else. In my case I used to just think about pedalling in circles. It's surprising how much difference that makes, and how soon the motion becomes second nature.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  3. #3
    Starting over CraigB's Avatar
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    Another saddle-height rule-of-thumb, and the one I always go by, is to put your heels (in your cycling shoes) on the pedals and pedal backward. You should just be able to do that without rocking your hips from side to side. If your hips move, it's too high. If your knees and/or feet still splay out to the side after doing that, raising the saddle further isn't going to help, at least not without adding other problems. And that could just be the way your body is built.
    Craig in Indy

  4. #4
    Retired C.O. RandoneeRider's Avatar
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    PERFECT explanations, thank you. Answered all of my (current) questions AND some!

    If it weren't so early in the morning after a night of restless sleep, I would run out to the garage right now and apply the tips offered to see how I'm currently set up. Heck, I even have a plumb-line somewhere (from my days of competitve ******* shooting).

    Regarding the way (my) 'body is built'.... It's been said that I walk like my dad; YEAH... so what, walking is walking, right? But then as I got older, more and more people said that they recognized me from afar simply by the way I walked. I have large bellied muscles, but I don't think that should have anything to do with my skeletal structure. Though I don't want to force my body to do anything that might put unwanted stressors on it, I want to use correct form and adjust it accordingly. So I gotta be careful not to rationalize 'bad form' until I figure out my limitations.

    Thanks sooo much.

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