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The right pedal for long distance?

Old 08-06-08, 08:35 PM
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dlstoltz
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The right pedal for long distance?

I bought my first road bike in March (Trek 5200) and followed the bike shops recommendations in choosing shoes/pedals (wellgo mag mg-8 SPD's and Nike Medora Mountain Shoe). I had no issues for the first few hundred miles, even through two metrics, but recently I completed my first century and experienced an extreme pain in my knee (the large tendon behind the outside of the knee). Through casual conversation with an experienced rider/ racer/ bike shop pro he was pretty disgusted that a shop would recommend these pedals for my type of riding and blamed my knee pain on the fixed pedal. What exactly makes them fixed pedals? He suggested sidi shoes and different pedals but didn't specify the pedal type. He was using a large platform pedal, shimano type?. I searched and read dozens of threads but didn't really find the answers I need.

I really just need to know what type of pedal/shoe will work best and what the difference is between what I have and one that's not 'fixed'. I would also appreciate any recommendations on pedals or shoes (preferably ones I can find at a good deal). Budget isn't much issue as I plan on doing a century ride about every 3 weeks for the rest of the year and want this pain to go away, but I would like to make the right decision this time and not play trial and error. I'm hesitant to go back to the shop I bought the bike at because it seems like they gave me bad advice in the first place. I appreciate any insight or help.

Dustin
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Old 08-06-08, 09:10 PM
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I hate to say it, but your experienced buddy may not be very experienced.

Almost any kind of pedal will work for long distances; the Wellgos look fine. I use SPD's all the time for long distances. I have no idea why that guy would be "disgusted," unless he's a roadie snob.

Normally, knee pain is associated with cadence and saddle height. First and most likely culprit is that you aren't spinning your pedals fast enough; you want to spin rapidly, even (especially) when climbing hills.

Next step is to check your fit. Your knee should have a little bit of play when the pedal is fully extended. I would go back to the original LBS, let them know your issue, and have them tweak the fit.

Third issue is "overuse." If you went from 60 miles to 100 miles without proper training, you almost certainly have an overuse injury. Use a RICE technique (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and find a proper century training method.

As to his "fixed" comments, he may mean that your pedals don't have enough float (i.e. you can't rotate them a lot without disconnecting from the pedal. That can cause knee pain, but it's not the first thing that leaps to mind.

The major advantage of the road-style pedals is that they spread the force of the downstroke over a larger area, and lock you in tighter. But even an expensive road pedal won't have more float than your current pedals.
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Old 08-07-08, 09:26 AM
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Wellgo's are anywhere near as good as the real Shimano spd's.

My son had lots of knee pain riding on some cheap spd pedals and Wellgo cleats. I put Shimano m520's on his bike, replaced his cleats with shimano multi-release ones; bingo, knee pain gone.

I think that the fit and shaping is more precise (and considered) with the shimano originals. This allows for more float and more reliable releasing.
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Old 08-07-08, 09:12 PM
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If you've been able to do metric centuries without knee pain, then you most likely suffered from overuse injury when you did your 100 mi ride. It's not likely to be the pedals.

Many randonneurs, including me, use SPD pedals without problem.
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Old 08-07-08, 09:29 PM
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I second what others have said about checking your fit: saddle height and fore-and-aft are probably the first things you should be looking at. Try to get a professional fit.

To answer your question in particular, however, I am a fan of mountain bike shoes (Keene or Shimano sandals are amazingly useful in my part of the world, even in the winter). They have recessed cleats, which make much more sense if you occasionally have to dismount and walk around.

In terms of pedals, a lot of us are really fond of Speedplay Frogs. They have a lot of float (read: it's like pedalling on greased banana peels), which IMHO means you can avoid some of the evils of repetitive stress syndrome by varying your heel position a bit over time. Frogs also have really bulletproof pedals (no moving parts in the cleat mechanism), and the cleats also last along time.

My biggest complaint about SPD's is that the failure mode for worn cleats is backwards; it gets harder to unclip as the cleats get more worn.
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Old 08-07-08, 09:49 PM
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My knees are really sensitive to the angle of my feet. I don't need a lot of float, but I need the range of angles from straight on to heel a bit in to be available, or else my knees start to hurt very quickly.

It can be easier to get this from road pedals, but for me, at least, SPDs will work. I've had a couple pairs of crappy ones that didn't float at all, so those are now gone, and the ones I have on my two commuters float enough for my purposes (now that I've got the angle of my cleats just right so that they float over the right range).

So do get some float in your pedals, but that might be no harder than loosening the release tension on the ones you have. And the comments above are right that other positioning problems could contribute. Also, stretching can help a lot with knee pain (IT band stretching helps for me--the one I use is to lay on my back and lift my leg up and across my other leg, keeping the knee straight).
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Old 08-07-08, 10:18 PM
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my knee's like the float,,,but getting the correct angle may help too.


I got frogs
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Old 08-07-08, 11:15 PM
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Originally Posted by dogbreathpnw View Post
My biggest complaint about SPD's is that the failure mode for worn cleats is backwards; it gets harder to unclip as the cleats get more worn.
I disagree with you. I've had the same Shimano pedals and cleats for over 5 years now and they are getting easier and easier to unclip, not the other way around. As for the original poster I think that the pedals aren't the problem at all. Where the cleat is placed on the shoe and how high your seat is are likely problems. They make the cleats adjustable for a reason, you should try to move them around until you find something that works for you. Personally I have my cleats all the way to the inside of the shoe and almost as far back as they will go, this has worked for almost 7 years so why mess with it? Also, like other posters mention, you may have just gone too far too fast. You have to work up to doing longer distances. A few summers back when I was riding almost every day, I would think nothing of doing 125miles or more on a weekend ride, now that I have a newborn kid and riding is limited to commuting to work, that is something I wouldn't even consider in my current shape. Don't be worried about speed right off the bat too, that will come automatically as your miles pile up. Good luck and please don't be discouraged...
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Old 08-08-08, 06:50 AM
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Thanks for the replies guys, it seems everyone has their own take on things. I will admit a few things and give some more background:

I do sometimes like to ride at what I believe is a lower cadence (I don't have a cyclometer that reads cadence) because I find myself a little out of rhythm and the frame starts to flex at high cadence.

I do have some float I'm clipped in.

My shoes only have two options for attaching the clip, front and back, and I have mine closest to the toes.

I find 60-70 miles a nice ride, so 100-110 isn't really stretching much for me physically. If I wouldn't have had the knee pain in the last 30 miles of that century ride my avg pace would have been around 17 mph.

The bike shop fit me to the bike when I bought it, but I did also experience lower back pain and a pain across the top of my shoulders during that last century (I think they call this craning?). I feel about as comfortable taking advice here and making small adjustments myself than going back to them for another fit.

I have no idea what for-and-aft adjustment is or which way to start with a seat height or saddle adjustment. Is there a beginners guide to this somewhere? My engineering sense says one tiny adjustment at a time, I just don't know where to start.
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Old 08-08-08, 01:02 PM
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Originally Posted by dlstoltz View Post

I have no idea what for-and-aft adjustment is or which way to start with a seat height or saddle adjustment. Is there a beginners guide to this somewhere? My engineering sense says one tiny adjustment at a time, I just don't know where to start.
You might want to check out this fit calculator

Speedplay makes pedals that have lots of float (like the Frogs mentioned above) which are great for people who have had problems with knees in the past.

HTH
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Old 08-10-08, 03:03 AM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by hairytoes View Post
Wellgo's are anywhere near as good as the real Shimano spd's.
I've done 2 Paris-Brest-Paris events (1200 km in less than 4 days) on Wellgo pedals, 1 on Shimano SPDs and haven't noticed much difference. It seems like the majority of randonneurs use MTB pedals/shoes of various sorts, rather than road-style systems. A fixed cleat position gives me much less knee pain (compared to tons of float) but plenty take the opposite view.

distoltz, get your adjustment right (saddle, handlebar and cleat positions) and you should have good, comfortable riding. Overuse injury is a possibility though. Find somebody knowledgeable who can actually see you pedal (difficult to diagnose over the net) to give you personalised advice.
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Old 08-10-08, 09:24 AM
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The knee pain can often be eliminated by proper spinning. Often times it is natural to have a "hammering down" type of pedal stroke where you focus your energy on the down stroke of the pedaling cycle because this is the most common form of pedaling for beginners. But if you are the larger gear, slower cadence type this will usually cause knee pain.

It is far more efficient to concentrate on pushing and pulling the crank simultaneously at the top and bottom of the stroke. This will relieve a lot of knee pain. Since the down stroke is naturally assisted by gravity and the weight of your leg it does not make sense to focus energy on the pedal stroke at this time. And when you focus your energy at the top and bottom of the stroke opposite muscles are used in alternating fashion which seems to cause less fatigue and less tightening up of the leg muscles.

The pros attempt to spin the pedals instead of hammering down. Hammering technique should only be used occasionally for a quick acceleration or to get up a short steep hill. But even then it is better to focus on pulling up on the pedals (assuming you are clipped in) if you are in a standing position because you can generate more force that way. And pulling exercises naturally stretch the muscles and tendons where pushing motions to not.

Another effective technique is to stop and do a hurdlers stretch on both sides as it stretches the backside of the knee when it gets tightened up. This can help to relieve some knee pain.

Last edited by Hezz; 08-10-08 at 09:30 AM.
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Old 08-11-08, 05:07 AM
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Originally Posted by dlstoltz View Post
Thanks for the replies guys, it seems everyone has their own take on things. I will admit a few things and give some more background:

I do sometimes like to ride at what I believe is a lower cadence (I don't have a cyclometer that reads cadence) because I find myself a little out of rhythm and the frame starts to flex at high cadence.

I do have some float I'm clipped in.

My shoes only have two options for attaching the clip, front and back, and I have mine closest to the toes.

I find 60-70 miles a nice ride, so 100-110 isn't really stretching much for me physically. If I wouldn't have had the knee pain in the last 30 miles of that century ride my avg pace would have been around 17 mph.

The bike shop fit me to the bike when I bought it, but I did also experience lower back pain and a pain across the top of my shoulders during that last century (I think they call this craning?). I feel about as comfortable taking advice here and making small adjustments myself than going back to them for another fit.

I have no idea what for-and-aft adjustment is or which way to start with a seat height or saddle adjustment. Is there a beginners guide to this somewhere? My engineering sense says one tiny adjustment at a time, I just don't know where to start.
Most SPD style cleats only go forward or backwards, some you can adjust the angle slightly but nothing dramatic. I would recommend putting the cleat all the way back and not forward. It's better to have it under the ball of the foot or even behind it if you can get it that way almost all shoes do not allow this much adjustment.

Speedplay pedals are excellent as far as float goes and are super easy to set up since it is unlimited. The x2 model is probably what you should check out. I use these on my road bike and have ridden very long distances on them with no issues. I do use an adapter made by speedplay to allow them to sit back further on the shoe so it's more under the ball of my foot. This was recommended by my bike fitter and made a very big difference with basically everything involving pedaling...power, efficiency, comfort, etc.

But, I don't really think it matters what pedals you use as long as what you are using is setup right. I've also never used really cheap or what some people may consider bad pedals so perhaps I"m wrong. Crank brothers egg beaters worked fine for me over long distances however I like Bebop SL pedals far better if you want to stick with SPD type pedals so you can keep your shoes. Bebop has unlimited float like the Speedplay and are very simply to use.

Again, like others have said, if you are having that great of pain you should probably have a fit done perhaps by someone more specialized in fitting. you said your bike shop did a fit when you bought the bike...what did that fitting involve?

40 to 50 miles is quite an addition and could very well be the culprit. Especially when you mention lower back pain - something that is often cause by pushing big gears for too long without the stomach and back strength to handle it. Of course, the pain is not always caused by this but most the people I know who've experienced this is because they were not strong enough in the core. Doing crunches and/or pushups 3 or so days a week and also some lower back exercises may alleviate pain. Also, like others have said, spin higher, in circles, and don't hammer all the time. 90rpm's is a good average to shoot for. I don't really understand your frame flexing issue at a higher cadence...

fore/aft saddle adjustment means sliding it forward and backward on the seatpost so you feel the most comfortable. many like to use a string with a weight attached to the end and hang it from the kneecap and have it hitting the spindle of the pedal.

for seat height try raising it until you feel yourself stretching too much then lower it back down a bit. if you see yourself dropping your toes near the bottom of the stroke to make it around the saddle might be too high - then again some people like that type of pedaling. there's really no good formula for seat height.

Last edited by Spookykinkajou; 08-11-08 at 05:20 AM.
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Old 08-11-08, 05:33 PM
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Well I went for about a 50 mile ride yesterday, trying the higher cadence technique, and it seemed to work. I made no adjustments to the fit and after finishing the ride my knee hurt no more than when I left. I noticed when I ride I tend to point my toes inward so I consciously tried to keep my feet straight. One pain that did come back during this ride was the pain across the shoulders. I'm guessing a seat adjustment might resolve that, I'm just not sure which way to try first.

When I bought the bike they did a fit measuring my flex angle on the bike (I believe 30 degrees) and using a string with weight on it (I forget what it's called). They also looked at how I sit and swapped the step with one to get me in a better position.

I've been doing the hurdlers stretch for 2 days now and I can already feel a difference.

I'm going to try another 50 miler thursday at a faster pace and see how it feels, I'll have a friend around this weekend to help me take my measurements and maybe I'll try adjusting some stuff... probably moving the cleat position back one first and readjusting the height.

Thanks for the advice and input, you guys are a lifesaver!
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Old 08-11-08, 05:50 PM
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If you're not getting pain while pedaling, but feeling discomfort in the shoulders, the culprit is likely in the position of the bars - not the saddle. If you don't feel uncomfortably far forward or back, the likely change needed will be raising the bars a bit.
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Old 08-12-08, 08:43 PM
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Originally Posted by dlstoltz View Post
Well I went for about a 50 mile ride yesterday, trying the higher cadence technique, and it seemed to work. I made no adjustments to the fit and after finishing the ride my knee hurt no more than when I left. I noticed when I ride I tend to point my toes inward so I consciously tried to keep my feet straight. One pain that did come back during this ride was the pain across the shoulders. I'm guessing a seat adjustment might resolve that, I'm just not sure which way to try first.

When I bought the bike they did a fit measuring my flex angle on the bike (I believe 30 degrees) and using a string with weight on it (I forget what it's called). They also looked at how I sit and swapped the step with one to get me in a better position.

I've been doing the hurdlers stretch for 2 days now and I can already feel a difference.

I'm going to try another 50 miler thursday at a faster pace and see how it feels, I'll have a friend around this weekend to help me take my measurements and maybe I'll try adjusting some stuff... probably moving the cleat position back one first and readjusting the height.

Thanks for the advice and input, you guys are a lifesaver!
I'm definitely not an expert so take this for what it's worth, but I really don't think you should have to actually think about which angle your toes are facing while pedaling. This should be natural and no amount of forced straightening, etc is going to make a difference. This is one reason many here have suggested float pedals like Speedplay which simply allows the natural position you need. Some people have a left foot that angles out or in while the right is perfectly straight, etc.

The fit your bike shop gave you is no where near as comprehensive as what you would receive from an experienced professional fitter. The fit I had took nearly 3 hours and started with a discussion on what I wanted to achieve on the bike and went from testing flexibility to measurements to feeling bones in various places to having me pedal for a really long time changing this and that until everything seemed just right. It really made a big difference afterwards...

Saddle to bar drop could be a reason for the pain you experience in the back. Another could be the width of the bars? Consider measuring from the top of the bar to the floor as well as the top of the middle of the saddle to the floor. use a level to make sure it's accurate. If you have a really huge drop it may be worth raising. this is tricky though because many people are fine with huge drops others with none and some with moderate. This goes back to the fitting. if you plan on spending many hours on the bike what's 2 or 3 hundred dollars to make you feel really comfortable?
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Old 08-12-08, 10:36 PM
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eggbeaters and spd shoes work great on my fixed gear.
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Old 08-13-08, 09:50 AM
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i'm currently a fan of time rsx pedals. enough float and adjustment to get my feet pointed in the right direction without strain on my knees, and walkable cleats.

i use time atac's on my fg and mtb - they are really floatie and don't like them for ld rides.



a pro fit might help. some of the best money i spent. i had custom insoles made that took care of some knee wobble...

shoulder strain? are your bars too wide or too narrow?
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Old 08-13-08, 10:34 AM
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For long rides with spd cleats, I like THIS pedal. If you're getting uncomfortable or having weird pains, flipping these pedals over and riding "free" for a few seconds sometimes does the trick. And every once in a while it's nice to ride without being clipped in.
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Old 08-13-08, 10:54 AM
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Sometimes I think the ideal long distance riding pedal is the Shimano with mountain SPD on one side and ordinary pedal on the other. That way, you can use the SPD side whenever you want, but you can also just ride unclipped on the other side for those more relaxed stretches (which would also be great to relieve hot foot or numbness if you get it). Also great for a bit of local riding when you want a break from your cycling shoes. I use double-side SPDs for my riding, but I still keep the 323's around for future use.
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Old 08-17-08, 11:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Longfemur View Post
Sometimes I think the ideal long distance riding pedal is the Shimano with mountain SPD on one side and ordinary pedal on the other. That way, you can use the SPD side whenever you want, but you can also just ride unclipped on the other side for those more relaxed stretches (which would also be great to relieve hot foot or numbness if you get it). Also great for a bit of local riding when you want a break from your cycling shoes. I use double-side SPDs for my riding, but I still keep the 323's around for future use.
Shimano a530's. They look good on a road bike also.

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Old 08-21-08, 02:48 PM
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Cycling News has a great weekly column on Form & Fitness. There's excellent advice on basic bike setup, pedals/cleat positioning, unusual issues, and health & wellness.

http://www.cyclingnews.com/fitness/

Go through the archives and you'll find some ideas on how to work on your problems, or send an email in and you might get someone to answer.
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Old 08-26-08, 07:27 PM
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Thanks guys. Last weekend I did a metric using the high cadence technique and got no knee pain at all (although the shoulder pain still appeared). This past weekend I did the LiveStrong Challenge century and knee pain started to set in around mile 90, but a few stretches and it's gone already. Maybe it was over use. I'm thinking about experimenting with the speedplays next year. I'm going to wait until I get a new bike in a year or two to get a pro fit, I keep seeing Kestrels and Pinarello's that catch my eye. I'm taking the trek in for a tune-up and fit soon so I'll see what they can do about that shoulder pain.
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Old 08-28-08, 11:13 PM
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For pedals I use Time ATACs and they have enough float and I care less where my feet end up pointing, it doesn't matter - fit the bike to you, not the other way around. I ride with folks who use no retention at all and do fine. Might be worth a try to use PowerGrips on a standard flat pedal.

I've ridden everything from 1200s to short club rides and the issues of neck/shoulder pain can be generally attributed to either bar height, flexibility or upper body strength. No that I've gotten back to XC skiing and stretching more often, the upper body issues are far less noticeable.

Cadence is over-rated - some have low, some high, you need to find what feels comfortable. There is no perfect cadence. If it's lower, so be it. Gear appropriately. Again - fit the bike to you, not the other way around.
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