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Bad knees, float and pedal selection

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Bad knees, float and pedal selection

Old 02-23-18, 09:56 AM
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Explosive
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Bad knees, float and pedal selection

So I'm a guy in my mid-late 20's who's had knee issues for pretty much my entire life. I havent had one fail/dislocate but lots of pain and noise. I had one fill with fluid and swell/lock up a few years back and it did go down on its own- nothing like that since. When the doctor reviewed the x-rays she asked if i was a retired pro athlete, and pretty much said expect replacements when your old enough. So I've always cycled, and so long as i dont burn myself out i can cycle on flats without any real serious problems but i dont want to accelerate the issue by locking my feet in a specific spot with standard clipless pedals. I was told i could probably have a surgery to clean things up for now but I'd like to hold out to my mid 30's or so if possible on that.

I want to switch over to a proper cycling shoe and pedal, everything i found said that the speedplay frogs are great for bad knees as they offer the unusual amount of float. I picked up a cross bike last season and am currently setting up an extra wheelset with slicks as i'd like to try some road/road group rides this year. I'm wondering how much float does one really need though ? I did purchase the frogs but have not installed and could easily return for another pedal. For instance i see the Zero aero which comes in a walkable flavor and has 15 degrees of float adjust. Or the SYZR which has a 10 degree adjustment. The issue is i have flat wide feet which limits my shoe selection and if i went to pedals that would take a 3/4 hole mount shoe it would open a lot of doors regarding footwear. With the frog im pretty limited based on the 2 hole mount and needing a wide shoe.

So i guess what I'm getting at would be is 10-15 degrees still a pretty significant range ? I want to get more out of my pedaling and on my cross bike i really want to be sure my foot is not sliding down the pedal as it can on flats causing issues in tight turns.

Thanks
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Old 02-23-18, 11:00 AM
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Get one of the various straight-up Speedplay road pedals made for road riding/shoes. Plenty of float, I love mine.

As for the knee thing, conventional wisdom suggests that you will want to focus on a spinning style as opposed to a mashing style to minimize the hard efforts surrounding the knees.
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Old 02-23-18, 11:09 AM
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I use SPDs which have about 7° which is way more than enough for me. Sometimes knee problems are muscular imbalance problems. Have a rider follow you and watch your knees. They should follow a straight up and down path, staying over your pedal and following the same path while going up and down. If they don't, you should talk to a PT about exercises to strengthen whatever muscles are weak or not firing.

If you're riding flats, you are already locking your knees into a zero float situation. Clipless will be much better for most people as a very little float is desirable for most. However, that said, there are some people who do better with zero float. A few pedal/cleat systems are available with zero float, but it's uncommon.

Anyway, watch your feet as you pedal. Does your foot angle on the pedal wag back and forth? It is does, then that amount of float will feel better. You'll see it's only a very few degrees. However most folks feet just point the same direction all the way around the stroke.

Interesting problem for one so young. I wonder what the cause was/is.
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Old 02-23-18, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by goenrdoug View Post
Get one of the various straight-up Speedplay road pedals made for road riding/shoes. Plenty of float, I love mine.

As for the knee thing, conventional wisdom suggests that you will want to focus on a spinning style as opposed to a mashing style to minimize the hard efforts surrounding the knees.
I'll take a look at the road pedals they offer

Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
I use SPDs which have about 7° which is way more than enough for me. Sometimes knee problems are muscular imbalance problems. Have a rider follow you and watch your knees. They should follow a straight up and down path, staying over your pedal and following the same path while going up and down. If they don't, you should talk to a PT about exercises to strengthen whatever muscles are weak or not firing.

If you're riding flats, you are already locking your knees into a zero float situation. Clipless will be much better for most people as a very little float is desirable for most. However, that said, there are some people who do better with zero float. A few pedal/cleat systems are available with zero float, but it's uncommon.

Anyway, watch your feet as you pedal. Does your foot angle on the pedal wag back and forth? It is does, then that amount of float will feel better. You'll see it's only a very few degrees. However most folks feet just point the same direction all the way around the stroke.

Interesting problem for one so young. I wonder what the cause was/is.
Thats interesting, i guess i always envisioned flats to essentially offer unlimited float/movement as they are just sitting on top. I never really considered the fact that they really dont have the ability to "float" as for movement i dont think my feet move much at least on the toe end. I just find they will slowly slide forward on the pedals over time. I'd like to see a specialist and get an exact diagnosis on my knee issues just so i know. Based on my feel i would assume i have a torn meniscus as the worse off knee when acting up tends to have pain on the outside and twisting motion is what does it. Pedaling tends to be pretty up and down and doesnt irritate it too badly. I have some friends who had life long hockey careers as well as through college and most all of them have the same issue and found physical therapy helped a lot. I was prescribed the same by my primary but just didnt have the time for it at the time.
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Old 02-23-18, 12:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Explosive View Post
I'll take a look at the road pedals they offer



Thats interesting, i guess i always envisioned flats to essentially offer unlimited float/movement as they are just sitting on top. I never really considered the fact that they really dont have the ability to "float" as for movement i dont think my feet move much at least on the toe end. I just find they will slowly slide forward on the pedals over time. I'd like to see a specialist and get an exact diagnosis on my knee issues just so i know. Based on my feel i would assume i have a torn meniscus as the worse off knee when acting up tends to have pain on the outside and twisting motion is what does it. Pedaling tends to be pretty up and down and doesnt irritate it too badly. I have some friends who had life long hockey careers as well as through college and most all of them have the same issue and found physical therapy helped a lot. I was prescribed the same by my primary but just didnt have the time for it at the time.
I had a torn meniscus about 15 years ago. I had arthroscopic surgery, fixed it right up, no trouble since. But there are many varieties of meniscus tear. Only an MRI can tell what the problem is. Xray is no help. I suggest seeing a orthopedic surgeon, whatever sort of referral that takes. There are long term statistical studies which show no difference in outcomes for surgery or PT. However in my case, I wouldn't be able to walk without the surgery, so I don't know about that. Ask the surgeon.
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Old 02-23-18, 12:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
I had a torn meniscus about 15 years ago. I had arthroscopic surgery, fixed it right up, no trouble since. But there are many varieties of meniscus tear. Only an MRI can tell what the problem is. Xray is no help. I suggest seeing a orthopedic surgeon, whatever sort of referral that takes. There are long term statistical studies which show no difference in outcomes for surgery or PT. However in my case, I wouldn't be able to walk without the surgery, so I don't know about that. Ask the surgeon.
I feel its worth finding out, the last few years i've been dealing with bowel disease so i've been occupied. I can definitely walk, sometimes stairs will cause a little pain but its usually a twisting motion that is my issue. I can still crouch down and such sometimes i get a pop when it extends completely. I've got a good pain tolerance so its not been anything i cant grit my teeth and get past. Aside from the time it became swollen and locked in the extended position. That was awkward lol
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Old 02-23-18, 01:07 PM
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You have to start somewhere to get a feel for things. The Frogs you have is as good as any starting point.
Been happy with Speedplay X/2 on my roadbike(s):
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Old 02-23-18, 02:04 PM
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+1 on Speedplay X2.
OT question sorta.. I've only ever ridden Speedplay clipless, which have a lot of float (I don't know what the actual degrees are). What does it mean to have a pedal with zero float? I'm picturing that if I tried this, I'd be scared of moving my heel even 1-2 degrees, for fear I'd keep unclipping my feet from the pedals while I'm trying to cycle.
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Old 02-23-18, 02:40 PM
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I had bad knees. Speedplay Frogs were the main reason I no longer have bad knees.
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Old 02-23-18, 03:55 PM
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For me, finding the correct starting point was as effective/important as having some float. I use Crankbrothers, and have been fine with those once I figured out which angle to use.
Which turned out to be more heel-in than I’d expected.
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Old 02-23-18, 06:06 PM
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My visit to a specialist had the same outcome..eventual knee replacement, prescription for celebrex, orthotics and a knee brace. The outcome I wanted was to walk without a noticeable limp. Figured out most of my problems started with bad feet(flat footed and toes toes arch in) resulting in muscle imbalance which caused patella femoral and eventual joint destruction.
I picked up a tens machine, started doing exercises to balance out the muscles, and started cycling. I use looks with 9% float and try to spin, but I do occasionally mash.
My knees aren't fixed but for the most part their functional. Running will never be an option but I can walk for hours without a limp, and I can sleep without the throbbing pain I once had.
Good luck.

Last edited by dunrobin; 02-23-18 at 07:20 PM.
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Old 02-24-18, 03:06 AM
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Check your saddle too. I was surprised to discover how much difference another saddle made in reduce leg fatigue and the risk of knee strain. I'm 60 and want to preserve those fragile bone-hinges as long as possible.

My former Turbo style saddle wasn't painful but I was constantly shifting around, trying to find a sweet spot and there was none. By the end of rides in the 30-60 mile range my knees were twinging and legs exhausted.

A couple of weeks ago I switched to a much flatter, narrower Selle Italia with longer nose, mostly because it happened to be discounted. Very little padding but much more comfortable. No more shifting around, which translates to less leg fatigue and less knee strain. I just sit, plant myself and don't shift around much. My overall weight is better distributed between saddle, pedals and bars.
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Old 02-24-18, 09:43 AM
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I had a MCL, LCL, ACL, meniscus replacement on my right knee many years ago.

I wouldn't worry too much about road vs. mtn vs. whatever. They all keep your feet on the pedals.

I use SPD with the right side tension set to one click over minimum. On a really heavy sprint I can pull my shoe out of the cleat. I can do 100 miles without knee pain with this setting, so I live with the looseness. If I set the tension to medium I lose the ability to pedal (due to pain) at about 20 miles. The left knee doesn't care and I have the tension set to the middle of the range.

Which is a long way of saying that the actual pedal branding may not matter as much as the fine tuning and adjustment.

I have a friend with Speedplays and he is always fixing, maintaining, tightening, and lubing the things. I had SPD-SLs for a while and they needed looking after. The SPDs are just dumb stupid and easy in comparison. Which suits me fine.
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Old 02-24-18, 09:57 AM
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How much float you need depends on your own body. Since you have a cross bike, be aware that the frogs are much more tolerant of mud/debris than the other speedplays
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Old 02-24-18, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by pdoege View Post

I have a friend with Speedplays and he is always fixing, maintaining, tightening, and lubing the things. I had SPD-SLs for a while and they needed looking after. The SPDs are just dumb stupid and easy in comparison. Which suits me fine.
Speedplay recommends greasing the bearings every 2k miles, but I've gone over 20k miles without greasing them(and had no problems). i keep them clean, occasionally spray the cleat with silicone, and inject new grease every 3 months or so. Greasing takes about 5 minutes.
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Old 02-24-18, 07:52 PM
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I have occasional knee issues while riding. I've used various pedals and the amount of float hasn't had much effect on my knees. Making sure my knees are straight over the pedal is more important. My natural tendency seemed to hold my knees inwards - almost touching the top tube. Orthotic inserts into my shoes helped with this a bunch, but eventually just strengthening the right muscles and getting the knees directly over the pedals (even without the orthotics) has helped the most.

And it goes without saying that getting the saddle position right - height, fore/aft, angle - is crucial. Much more so than pedal float in most cases of knee aggravation.

Good luck.
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Old 02-24-18, 08:07 PM
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I would be inclined to go with SPDs or other MTB type pedals, because they are the "sloppiest" and won't lock your feet into any plane as much as a road clipless pedal does. That makes them possibly less efficient, but still better than a platform pedal. I just think some wiggle all around would probably be better than being locked in as far as pronation angle and have that angle not be spot on.
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Old 02-25-18, 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Sy Reene View Post
+1 on Speedplay X2.
OT question sorta.. I've only ever ridden Speedplay clipless, which have a lot of float (I don't know what the actual degrees are). What does it mean to have a pedal with zero float? I'm picturing that if I tried this, I'd be scared of moving my heel even 1-2 degrees, for fear I'd keep unclipping my feet from the pedals while I'm trying to cycle.
Zero float SPD-SLs unclip just like any of the other variants. Sharp outward snap of the heel.

Even the zero float ones have a degree or two of play at "normal" tension settings. (they may be true zero float when cranked down to pro level tension settings. Not gonna go there).
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Old 02-25-18, 05:53 PM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
...And it goes without saying that getting the saddle position right - height, fore/aft, angle - is crucial. Much more so than pedal float in most cases of knee aggravation.
It's worth saying. I didn't appreciate how much energy I was wasting and strain I was risking until I swapped saddles a few weeks ago. Huge difference.

Not just the saddle height and position, but the saddle itself. I was constantly shifting around trying to find a sweet spot. The force of shoving my butt backward was straining the top of my knee.

The old saddle was a Turbo style (not made my Selle Italia), wider than I needed, with the slight up-flare in the back. The newer Selle Italia I switched to is flatter with very little up-flare, and only 130mm wide. Turns out my sit bones are much narrower than I'd realized.

And despite my age (60) and limited lower back flexibility, if I'd gone with the Fizik conventional wisdom about saddle design ("Bull", in my case), I'd have selected another saddle with a bit of up-flare in the rear and still been dissatisfied. I only bought the Selle Italia out of curiosity because it was flatter, narrower, with less padding and on sale cheap. Not the sort of thing I'd have purchased at full price since theoretically it sounded all wrong for me. But turned out to be exactly what I needed.

Until now I'd only regarded the effect of a saddle in terms of how it felt to the butt and perineum, not the overall effect on the entire body/machine interface.

Now that I'm no longer fighting the saddle I'm wasting much less energy, not shoving myself backward on bumpy roads to regain the sweet spot, not straining the top of the knee with unproductive energy. Fewer problems with quad cramps on climbs after long rides too.

Yup, the Look pedals and floating cleats helped, but so did the saddle in minimizing knee strain, and overall efficiency.
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Old 02-25-18, 06:04 PM
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Keep an open mind. Not all of us do well with float. I've had a knee condition for 40 years (chrondomalcia patellae). If I do not want to do irreversible wear to my knees, leading to replacements, I need pedals that force my feet to toe in. This means "no-float" pedals and cleats for me. I use the black cleats and LOOK Delta pedals and old fashioned toeclips, straps and aluminum slotted cleats. Not saying this is what you need. Just that everybody telling you you have to have float might not be actually true. I need pedals that force my knees to operate at the angle that works without wear and damage. (And I listened to everybody telling me float was the bee's knees for 15 years before somebody finally listened to me and told me about the LOOK pedals using the black cleats. Until then, I just rode my toeclips in happy ignorance.) No-float pedals have been doing their job for me for 40 years. I still have my OEM knees and they are in good shape.

Ben
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Old 02-25-18, 08:52 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
Keep an open mind. Not all of us do well with float. I've had a knee condition for 40 years (chrondomalcia patellae). If I do not want to do irreversible wear to my knees, leading to replacements, I need pedals that force my feet to toe in. This means "no-float" pedals and cleats for me. I use the black cleats and LOOK Delta pedals and old fashioned toeclips, straps and aluminum slotted cleats. Not saying this is what you need. Just that everybody telling you you have to have float might not be actually true. I need pedals that force my knees to operate at the angle that works without wear and damage. (And I listened to everybody telling me float was the bee's knees for 15 years before somebody finally listened to me and told me about the LOOK pedals using the black cleats. Until then, I just rode my toeclips in happy ignorance.) No-float pedals have been doing their job for me for 40 years. I still have my OEM knees and they are in good shape.

Ben
This is important.

Float doesn't necessarily cure a problem. Sometimes, it just masks it. Floaty pedals can allow a biomechanically bad position or stroke to be ridden without injury, but also without addressing the underlying problem. Can't tell you how many times I've ridden with people whose pedal strokes make my knees hurt just watching them. If your knees are fragile, have your position and stroke evaluated by a fitter you trust, and make sure there's not something else going on that can be corrected.
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Old 02-25-18, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by pdoege View Post
I have a friend with Speedplays and he is always fixing, maintaining, tightening, and lubing the things.
Maybe if he'd just leave 'em alone he could ride 'em like everyone else who owns Speedplays
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Old 02-25-18, 09:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Explosive View Post
I did purchase the frogs but have not installed and could easily return for another pedal.
What's wrong with keeping the Frogs?
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Old 02-26-18, 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Explosive View Post
but i dont want to accelerate the issue by locking my feet in a specific spot with standard clipless pedals....I want to switch over to a proper cycling shoe and pedal, everything i found said that the speedplay frogs are great for bad knees as they offer the unusual amount of float....For instance i see the Zero aero which comes in a walkable flavor...
The big question - with all this risk why would you want to do clipless? They don't make you faster. You can google it. There's some debate on whether there might be a tiny speed advantage in racing - a slightly increase in top sprint speed, or being very slightly less fatigued near the end - but for anyone who's not racing there's no speed advantage. Clipless's function is mostly foot retention, as in keeping your feet firmly attached to the pedal if sprinting wildly.

I switched from clipless shoes back to flat. Five Ten makes cycling specific shoes with stickier rubber that go together with flat pedals with pins on them. The bottom of my feet feel better after a ride with them. I didn't really have any knee problems and I don't know either, so I can't speak on that. I enjoy not having to change in and out clipless shoes to ride though.
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Old 02-26-18, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Ghrumpy View Post
This is important.

Float doesn't necessarily cure a problem. Sometimes, it just masks it. Floaty pedals can allow a biomechanically bad position or stroke to be ridden without injury, but also without addressing the underlying problem. Can't tell you how many times I've ridden with people whose pedal strokes make my knees hurt just watching them. If your knees are fragile, have your position and stroke evaluated by a fitter you trust, and make sure there's not something else going on that can be corrected.
I would agree wholeheartedly with this. Some people, even those with bad knees, don't need float. Some people who have no knee problems at all, do. A friend of mine has no great knee problems, but he has all kinds of other biomechanical issues. His feet are all over the place, and he needs a crank with a low profile to accommodate his toes out pedalling. That said, he has an exceptionally smooth pedal stroke and technique. We both bought Look Keo carbon pedals many years ago at about the same time. At that time those pedals had a plastic/carbon pedal platform. My friend's pedals showed visible wear after only one year. After riding those same pedals for 10 years, my identical pedals show about the same amount of wear. The point is, if you have knees that are doubtful, a few hundred dollars spent on figuring out your perfect bike setup is far cheaper than making uneducated guesses about "float" and paying later in an operating room
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