Tips from RoadbikeRider.com Newsletter
“Riding out of the saddle is one of the measures I use for knowing whether I’m fit or not. After a lay-off, or when I’m just not that brilliant, my thighs start burning if I stand for any time. Which generally means after just a little time. Then I can stand it longer and longer until finally it’s no longer a problem and what little discomfort I do feel can be ignored.” Can you relate?
It might be a no brainer to say that riding a bike enhances mood. That’s been accepted about cycling and other physical activities for years. But a study at the University of Vermont surprised researchers by determining that the positive effect lasts as long as 12 hours.
Let’s talk about cleat position. It has been standard through the history of the sport to have the ball of each foot centered over its pedal axle. But now some studies show that a more rearward cleat position is more effective.
The reasoning is that the calf muscles don’t contribute to the pedal stroke in a meaningful way. They just function as a cable connecting the foot to the power-producing muscles — the glutes, hamstrings and quads. For this reason roadies are finding that they can move cleats back for greater comfort and stability without sacrificing — and perhaps enhancing — pedaling performance. A rearward cleat position also reduces the chance of an Achilles tendon injury. And it can be effective for eliminating “hot foot” — the dreaded burning sensation in the forefoot.
As for foot angle through the bottom of the pedal stroke, it depends on what your feet and ankles want to do. Throughout history we’ve seen great riders with each foot angle. For example, the great French champion Jacques Anquetil pedaled with toes down. Eddy Merckx‘s feet were horizontal. Greg LeMond dropped his heel at the bottom of the stroke, particularly when pedaling hard. The difference is caused by muscle composition and ankle structure, among other factors. One technique isn’t better than another. Set your cleats correctly, then let your feet do what’s natural.