Daily Mobility Exercises by Dr. Kelly Starrett Forums General Road Bike Cycling Specific Q: Cleat Posiiton through a mwod perspective

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    • #70196
      AvatarKent Zelle

      Cycling leads to me so much joy…and pain. MWOD saved me. I got off the bike and am fixing my business.

      I also am learning to Pose run for crosstraining and adding in mobility to begin fixing the problems cycling/years of bad movement have caused and in order to begin category 1 movements in KStar’s book.

      I’ve avoided the bike after a few re-introductory rides because I feel malaligned and asymmetric afterwards for days. Big shocker!! My cleats and bike fit is to my “old” pre-mwod body. I’ve learned enough to do basic bike fit myself and keep a much better position that most “cyclists” but I’m not sure what to do about my cleats. Obviously they can’t stay where they are right now.

      I’m inclined to reset them to a neutral position and then align them with my current mobility…or should I only ride to the point that I can meet/adapt to neutral position without tearing up my body too much? My flexibity, strength, hip, tspine, shoulder and ankle ROM have changed in the last 3 mon. It’s time to update my cleats to my new body.

      Q1: Through the lens of knowledge of what mwod teaches, I feel that I should not fit my bike to my weaknesses but to the proper position of a body on a bike- not many bike fitters are going to do this or even have a clue about the “rebellious practice of mwod” or why cyclists need it so I need a fresh opinion. Where should my feet/cleats be now?

      Q2: Does Doug Katona have any vids about this? I think I just saw a mwod pro video about cyclist’s hips. A MUST WATCH for me!

      Thanks in advance for any tips or suggestions!

    • #71965
      AvatarTyler Lindon

      I think you should go with your gut on this.  I remember reading/hearing many times that faulting into a bad position is not best practices.  I’ll be facing this same problem when I get back on the mountain bike however at this time, I won’t even go back to the box until I can get and hold a neutral spine.

      As for fitting, I don’t have any info but I’ll check back here in hopes that others do.  Good luck to you.
    • #71970
      AvatarKent Zelle

      True, true. If I go with my gut feeling, then I will put the pedals in neutral and take small pedaling skill/drill rides to allow my body to adjust without trying to outride my ability and pull something out of whack.

      I’m concerned how q-factor affects foot lateral tilt & foot position. I have bow legs from what I believe is a rotational issue mostly- and is correcting itself with proper hip range of motion and spine position (versus anterior pelvic tilt/overextended & tight hip flexors/quads) I still have space between the knees form q-factor though. I’m just happy my legs are working better and I don’t want pedaling to mess that up.

      I ride flat pedals on my mtb and I have such a different experience, including the more upright position.

      To add to the mess, my right leg is what I would like to call “gimpy”. It fatigues differently, it seems to be weaker and gets more of a pump, but is smaller than the left leg, I get toe numbness in the right leg but not left, I cannot pedal one legged smooth circles with the right leg like the left either. My bike fitter said my right leg is different from the left and had a separate cleat fit. I’m not interested in enabling my asymmetry so I say put both cleats the same and work on the weakness and causes. I also get the same problems with I ride flat pedals but I believe that because it’s forced to work harder.

      My right leg has a seperate set of limitations with mobility off the bikes too. I have trouble contracting my vmo on my right when it’s not under load, it fatigues differently when I run, etc. I think this comes down to driving a car alot. I’m much more aware of what my legs, hips, feet, and shoulders are doing when I drive now and it seems to be helping.

      I feel much more comfortable with a more upright position compared to other cyclists that are hunched over like a racer. My hips stay better aligned and my shoulders and t spine feel better. I presume this is directly related to lack of hamstring flex. or strength of my posterior chain? I’d like to get lower as long as it’s correct- or maybe that’s not needed at all. Better breathing room, right?

      Here’s an interesting thought- Does cleat position create torque during the pedal stroke? Should it? Could it? Bad or good?

    • #72391
      AvatarJorge Branco

      If you are still struggling with these issues, I know certified Wobble Naught fitters are taught to fit you to proper position as opposed to fitting to your weakness. They spend a lot of time on cleat position because where the ball of your foot is relative to your pedal does matter in terms of transfer of power- they are all about direct transfer of power; i.e. no wobble or as they say wobble naught. Lots of fitters position the cleat slightly ahead of the ball of the foot to accentuate the heel drop, which is not the best place to have your cleat. With respect to wanting to go lower, Wobble Naught also factors this in to ensure that your breathing is not compromised.

      If you read through the wobble naught blog, you might find the answers to your fitting questions as the founder of the fit raises many of these issues. He has fit many top pro mountain bikers, including the Cannondale Sho Air team, Amanda Carey, Rebecca Rush….  http://wobblenaught.blogspot.com/

      As an endurance athlete, tris, endurance road and mountain, I have struggled with all the issues identified in the cycling videos. Before I had a Wobble Naught fit, I had retul and a Serotta/FIST fit. All those fitters fit to my weakness and to make me more aero, which seemed great at the time. Unfortunately, after years of being in a bad position, I have had to pay the price with extensive time off the bike. Learning to ride the right the way takes practice and you constantly have to think about your posture. While not as easy as sitting back on your comfy saddle and hunching over to be more aero, you will be thankful in the long run because your spine and hips will stay healthy and you will also be able to tap into your powerful glutes!!

    • #72396
      AvatarKent Zelle

      Thanks for the input! I will definitely look into that fit process. It sounds interesting.

      As far as an update to the previous posts I made, I’ve made some non-traditional changes to my bike setup with lots of warning from peers, of course. Here’s what I’ve done and noticed from it:

      Insoles: I have put firm, high arch foot soles in my shoes but still need to get custom orthotics to give proper foot support. I’ve noticed that my right leg, especially, has stopped caving inwards and collapsing at each pedal. I also removed the cant wedge from this cleat. The arch supports give a much more connected feel from the leg to the foot to the pedal. I also use them when I ride on flat pedals on my mountain bike. I’m much happier with the feel of power to the pedal and dont feel my legs caving in (valgus) when I stand either. This was a HUGE improvement for me and I would recommend, as Kelly and Nate have, for all cyclists to get orthotics to prevent arch/valgus collapse since it’s impossible to create proper torque while pedaling.

      Cleats: I have put my cleats farthest back on the shoe so that the spindle of my pedal is slightly behind the ball of my foot (closer to midfoot, as its described). Besides feeling more natural under the foot, its also much easier to clip in and out this way! I haven’t had problems with my toes going numb or my shoes twisting on my heels, as before. I have speedplay zeros and am limited on how far back I can move the cleat, plus it sometimes loosens and slides forward during a ride. I may switch brands to one that can not do these things. Any suggestions on a cleat brand/system that promotes a rearward position?

      Q-Angle on cleats: At first, I put both cleats to the farthest outside on the shoe so my legs would be closer together while pedaling. I took a few rides and decided that it was slightly tight, as I was getting just a bit of figure-eight torque on up stroke of my right leg so I moved both cleats in just a hair, equally. Ahhh. Perfect. My legs drop without twist or flare in or out. I realize that this torque issue could have changed as my legs adjust so I will move them back in to see how it feels again in a few weeks. To compare, I ride with my feel touching the cranks on my MTB but they are still just a bit wider than the road bike. My feet no longer swivel and have play inward or outward at the ankle now. My heel used to move all over the place. I ride in free float and now my feet are finally quiet, even when I get tired.

      Seat: I ride an Adamo Breakway (amazing road saddle!!!) and pushed that baby all the way forward on my seat post to put my hips over the bottom bracket in order to utilize my body weight on the pedals better. I raised my saddle because of this but kept it slightly on the low side to make up for any hip drop or leg length difference that I may have been compensating for. Not only did this place my knee over the ball of my foot at 3 o’clock and a real sense of balance and control over the bike, but I feel much more powerful in climbs and in general more fluidity in my pedal stroke. I’ll admit that I follow the Pose Cycling method of pedaling technique and fit as it’s decribed by Dr. Romanov (I Pose Run too) and am very happy with the changes I’ve individually noticed. I like my saddle height and have noticed improvements in my cadence, and being able to stay seated without adjusting every mile for discomfort. When I do move on my seat, it’s because I’m changing my technique to either climb, descend or turn and it all feels better. I also am sure that my seat is perfectly level and flat, although on my MTB, I like it just a little dropped. I may need to get a straight seat post and move my saddle even further forward to get over the bottom bracket as I tend to sit on the nose of the saddle more becuase I like the way my legs feel over the pedals, but then get sore from that sitting area. Yes, I’m noticing using my glutes more and I like it!

      Handlebars: I raised my handlebars all the way up on my road bike and mtb. I was unable to acheive a neutral spine with my handle bars dropped at seat level of below. Now they are about 1in or so above the seat. My hands no longer hurt and- I can actually breathe now! My hips are much more opened up and I no longer have low back or upper t-spine pain. My t-spine still gets fatigued but I’m working on keeping my shoulders down and back, using my lats and not pressing out my back when I get tired. I also am careful to notice where my head it. I tend to overextend my neck and now I focus on changing where my eyeballs are, not moving my head up, and keeping my chin down and head aligned. This is hard but it’s keeping the pain away. I don’t need to be aero and I don’t care about looking cool. When my core and shoulders are stronger and if it’s comfortable, I’ll lower them and see how I like it. I do want to experiment on an aero position for time trialing but at this point, this bike doesn’t have the geometry to get laid out and keep a neutral spine. I’d need a whole new bike.

      Strength Training:  I spend alot more time doing mobility work and yoga, using weights and cross training than I do on the bike now. I ride low and slow as recovery and for fun instead of just blasting in zone 3. As for MTB, I also ride for recovery and just enjoy the sport. When I’m off the bike thought, I try to stay consistent on doing core work, and crossfit-style strength training/movements. This has made me fitter and stronger than any day of bike riding did. Now when I ride, I am barely pushing it but still giong faster than when I used to. As for running, I’ve gone from a 9:30 mile to 7:50 and still getting faster, so I feel that is helping too. I am not a runner. I can now get into a proper squat and dead lift. My hunched shoulder and poor posture are improving and my core strength is really improved. Breathing exercises are making the most difference and I don’t huff and puff at every climb now. I train dogs and work them soley ont he left side of my body. My left shoulder is cocked about 1in higer than my left and it’s noticable. I’ve begun working dogs on the right jsut to see if it’s related- bingo. Major neck and shoulder and hip soreness after a few days of using the right side- but atleast I know what my be contributing to imbalance now. My left shoulder/collarbone & right leg is still asymmetrical, slowly improving and it puzzles me but I will just learn something from it so I continue the journey…

      This is what I’ve learned so far. Any tips or comments?

    • #72397
      AvatarJorge Branco

      I have experienced similar issues with getting my cleats back far enough
      and it was solved by changing shoes both the type and size. Bont shoes
      are amazing and worth checking out. They are incredibly stiff and
      moldable to your foot and I have had no issues getting cleats back on

      Interesting journey you have had with your cycling and congrats on the big run improvements. I have done the Pose running clinics but don’t know as much about the pose cycling. I’ll have to look into it a little more.

      With respect to getting lower, one thing you might want to check is how you sit on the saddle. I know one problem many people have, especially females, is that they don’t sit on their sit bones. Instead, they sit back on their butt which forces them to come upright to maintain a flat back. Just a suggestion.

    • #72858
      AvatarKent Zelle

      Thank you for the encouragement! I’ll check out those shoes!

      Headed to a Pose Cycling instruction so I’ll update some key points that I learn.

      Not sure on how to sit better. I have to stay upright to keep on my sits bones or my spine falls apart if I get lower and then I’m on my pubic bone (not fun- taco fuego!) I still have alot to gain in hamstring flexibility and hip flexors. My shoulders and upper back (both need better function and strength) like the upright posture. It looks a little dorkier than I’d like though 🙂 hehehe

      To update, I’ve taken a huge jump into hiking (thanks husband 🙂 ) and after carrying 25-30lbs over 50miles or so, I’d say that carrying heavy stuff on your back is a supreme way of fitness. I’ve strengthened my hips, legs, back and shoulders, abs, etc… all by just walking up and down with heavy stuff on my back. not exactly the most fun of activities at first, but then I got a pack that fit like a dream (Boreas brand) and I loaded that sucker up and had a blast. I’m actually using it as part of my training daily health and fitness- 10lbs on short road rides, lunch on mtb and walks to the school bus for the kiddo. Haven’t hiked? Do it. Do it now! My posture on the bike has improved a ton after gaining certain strengths from loaded hikes. It feels almost too easy now 😉

      Still A-OK with insoles, rearward cleats, and position. Not having a huge issue with asymmetry on the right leg and left shoulder. Changing how I use my body on a daily basis and focusing on flat pedals on the mountain bike for awhile helped. Maybe I’ll go back to flats on the road bike? (gasp!) Science says we can’t pull up right? That’s poor muscle chaining anyway, right? (take the bait!)

      Working deeper into stretching the hip flexors- couch stretches are actually paying off now. Mobility work and yoga is a daily must and post-workout thing. I can look back for traffic now better and really know my joints and muscles like they are my friends (on most days…).

      Read a book called Squat Everyday and went with their suggestion of keeping out of the adrenaline response and doing more volume at a lower intensity and hitting it hard when I feel ilke it instead of just getting more tired. I’m responding MUCH better to this training instead of the “go hard and only go hard or go home” attitude. That put me out for DAYS. Now, if I don’t engage in physical activity and sweat, then I can sleep. Literally. I just lay there for hours and get this horrible sluggish thing the next day if I stop exercising for a few days. I eat like mad now, I have to exercise and then I can sleep. What all this about?! I like it.

      Cheers to my fellow cyclists out there!




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