Over the years in countless bike shops, I’ve heard the following disturbing phrases uttered to cyclists:
“Get these cleats. You don’t have anything to worry about.”
“These cleats have float you won’t need a bike fit.”
“Get these cleats with float and they’ll take care of everything.”
Unfortunately, phrases and versions of these sometimes false reassuring comments are shared in not only bike shops but in forums, local rides and social media groups. Consequently, it’s time to set the record straight and dive deep into the cleat adjustment handbook.
Today we’re going to tackle the following:
Define cleat rotation and float
Review popular cleat float types and limits
Overview why both are needed and some suggestions
SPOILER ALERT: Below is the 5-minute version of the entire article! If you’re more the visual type, this is your jam.
What is Cleat Rotation?
Cleat rotation is the physical movement of the cleat either clockwise or counter-clockwise to allow the foot to rotate in alignment with its natural orientation. Basically, allow the foot to point in the direction it would like to point. Generally speaking, the rotation of the cleat is similar on and off the bike. For many professional bike fitters, an off-the-bike assessment can provide an indication of the rotation required. For example, if you naturally walk with your toes out, you’ll likely require a similar setup on the bike.
For 3-hole cleat users of Look or Shimano road, if you have a “toe-out” natural gait, your setup will look similar to this photo below (bottom-right).
Photo left: cleat setup without rotation. Photo Right: cleats rotated for toe-out setup.
On the other hand, you may walk with your toes out but your cleats are set up what we refer to as “pigeon-toed” with your toes facing inward toward the bike. This can potentially cause significant discomfort or even pain, especially after thousands of pedal strokes.
Toe-in or “pigeon-toed”
To the original point in the article and to keep you on your toes, the logical question is, “Doesn’t cleat float solve this issue of toe-in or toe-out without requiring cleat adjustment?” The short answer is not always. Like any other bike adjustment, some people contain the innate and amazing trait of adjustability whereby the individual adapts to position changes. In most cases, the float is impacted by the rotation. If a cleat is not rotated properly, the foot may not be able to achieve the required, rider-dependent, foot position resulting in pain, discomfort, or injury.
What is Cleat Float?
Cleat float or pedal float is when the cleat rotates freely inward or outward while clipped into the pedal. The movement is categorized in different cleats by a number of degrees. For some companies like Shimano and Look, you can purchase cleats with varying levels of float or “fixed” cleats which meaning they are devoid of float. Float allows a person who toes in or out move the foot to a more natural position during the pedal stroke. Yet, float doesn’t necessarily solve all issues or allow enough range to meet the specific needs of an individual. More on that to come!
Shimano Cleat Float: 6 Degree, 2 Degree, and 0 Degree
Sam expresses some significant warnings about less float requiring a bike fitting. While more float is safer because it allows increased space for the foot to function in a natural position and also may forgive cleat placement of a slightly less accurate rotation adjustment, float does replace a full bike fit (using the 5 main adjustments of the foot/pedal interface). An interesting note is the amount of float may be somewhat deceiving. Below is a diagram noting the specifics of Shimano float.
Contrary to some cycling lore, 6 degrees of float does not mean 6 on either side but 6 degrees total (3 in and 3 out). In addition, as you can see from Chad’s drawings the amount of movement affects the forefoot more on the 6-degree than the 2-degree. This is due to the change in the pivot point between both and also due to the amount of float provided. Shimano discusses this at length on their site as well. This prooves how increased float can provide a larger margin for error in natural foot movement.
Look Cleat Float
Look cleats provide an increased range with their 9 and 4.5-degree model but still sells a 0-degree. This again means for example in the 9-degree model that the foot can move up to 4.5 degrees on each side–not 9.
Speedplay provides the most amount of float (7.5 degrees in each direction for a total of 15 degrees) and it’s also adjustable. This higher level of float is imperative for Speedplay pedals since they do not allow for cleat rotation. Therefore when adjusting Speedplay cleats, it’s important to be aware of both the “heel-in” and “heel-out” settings as you can adjust both via the limit screws. Depending on the orientation of your feet, you may not be to utilize the full 15 degrees in each direction. Much like the drawings shown earlier in rotation, if the float is left open (maximum in both directions), the foot will travel where it wants to go but there’s a limit depending on the individual.
MTB, SPD and 2-hole Cleat Float
2-hole cleats like SPD (Shimano Precision Dynamics), Crank Brothers or Time Atac contain an area of float prior to disengagement. Each type provides different levels of float but again be cognizant of the total amount of float advertised is split between heel-in and heel-out. For example, the Crank Brothers cleats below show the range of their 6-degree float cleats.
Why is Cleat Rotation Important if Cleat Float exists?
Yes, I’ve been alluding to this throughout the article so here’s the point. As I pointed out in the video, just because there’s lateral float, does not mean a person won’t still experience pain or issues. If a cleat is not properly rotated, then it’s possible that the float will not allow enough foot rotation to achieve optimal foot position. For example, if you are a natural toe-out walker and your cleats are rotated inward, float alone is unlikely to solve the issue (especially with 3-hole and 2-hole cleats).
If this is the case, you’ll likely experience knee pain while riding most likely on the inside of the knee but more toward the back (see image). In order to avoid this pain, BikeFit Professionals are trained in the process of examining the cleat from a rear position and testing rotation to find the best rotational position. While this process is outlined more specifically in our BikeFit manual and courses, it’s imperative to recognize that float and rotation both need to be taken into account during proper cleat setup and alignment.
If you’re curious about the process that trained foot/pedal professionals use to assess proper cleat rotation, here are a few pictures of fitters performing the task.
I’ve love to give you the easy answer to purchase a cleat with float and be done with it, but unfortunately, I’ve seen too many uncomfortable cyclists over the years with float who require proper rotation as well.
Enjoy your ride!
-Paul and Damon
How do you choose the right saddle? Bike shops, saddle manufacturers, bloggers, and cycling periodicals have relentlessly tackled this topic for years. While there are resources that offer positive tips, there is one methodology for saddle selection that we’d like to discuss today: sit bones measurement. Is it a good indicator of proper saddle width? While we’d like to remain entirely unbiased, but that’s incredibly unlikely.
The Sit Bones, “Sitz Bones” Sitting Bones or Ischial Tuberosity
The Ischial Tuberosity is commonly referred to as the “sit bones,” “sitting bones,” or “sitz bones”(“sitz” literally translates to “seat” in German). In many cases, they are measured to potentially find your optimal saddle width. This seems, at the outset, to be logical as the bony part of the sit bones will experience undue pressure when pressed against a minuscule surface area such as a bike saddle. The cycling industry hypothesis: if your bones are spaced further apart, you’ll require a wider saddle for a luxurious rear-cradling experience.
The Sit Bones Measurement
Many bike companies and manufacturers constructed a plethora of possibilities on how to measure your sit bones. We even use one as a starting point on the BikeFit Edition BiSaddle Instructions. Without purchasing anything, some companies even will send you a kit that’s similar to the home method below. Let’s explore the home and dealer methodologies for sit bone width measurement.
The Home Measurement Methods
The Cardboard Impression
This method involves sitting upright on a piece of corrugated cardboard for a designated period of time. After that point, you’ll mark the main impressions of the sit bones, find the center point of the two impressions, and finally measure the distance between the two points with a ruler or tape measure.
The Wet Measurement or “Damp Spot” Method
There are similar methods involving paper without the damp posterior result, but now that you feel uncomfortable, you’ve properly ingested this idea.
After measuring the sit bones distance, most companies provide either a “finder” online system on a chart where your measured sit bones width correlates to certain saddles. Many suggest adding about 20mm, as signified by the Road Bike Bros above, which would then land you on the ideal saddle. For example, if your sit bones measured 130mm, you add 20mm and voila, a 150mm saddle width will fit perfectly! It’s interesting to note that the Road Bike Bro measured 110mm, added 20mm, but choose a 145mm width saddle which in his words, “provides more support and I find it more comfortable.”
Some selection tools will also incorporate riding style, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before we move on to the effectiveness, take a moment to observe the sit bone measurement methods proposed by some of the powerhouses in the cycling industry.
The Industry Methods: Giant Peanuts and Gel Pads
This is certainly not an exhaustive list but many others utilize similar methodology. The process, though, is exactly the same as the home methods provided above. Below is a picture of the sitting position well described in an article by www.cyclingabout.com. The eager cyclist sits at a 90-degree spine position on a more professional looking apparatus, the sit bone impression is apparent on the device, it’s then diligently measured and the match process begins. Width of sit bones + X (Defined as added width by manufacture) = the saddle made for you.
Sit Bones and Cycling Position
Now that we’ve properly defined the sit bones measurement, let’s discuss it. What’s your riding position? Cycling is one of those odd sports where the type of cycling, goals, intensity, and volume will likely affect body position and invariably, your saddle choice. To learn more, take a look at this video from BikeFit founder and master bike fitter, Paul Swift. If you ever have the pleasure of talking to Paul or taking one of his bike fitting courses, this is his baseline level of passion and energy.
While some commuters and leisure cyclists sit at the 90-degree position, the majority of cyclists will have some type of pelvic bend (as Paul mentioned). Consequently, the sit bones would not be your main pressure point or measurement point for potential saddle comfort. Take a look a the position below of three different types of cyclists.
Depending on the discipline, the pelvis is clearly in a different position but the instructions for sit bones measurement for saddle selection focus on a 90-degree spine angle. If the majority of cyclists ride at some type of angle, what part of the pelvis takes the brunt of the pressure in different body positions?
The two diagrams above provide a much clearer picture of pelvic position and which bones receive the most pressure depending on the amount of rotation or position of the rider. We did not quantify this to a degree of angle as this is rider dependent. Yet, our friends at BiSaddle (image to the upper right) pointed out that the pubic Rami may be a much more common pressure point measurement vs. the sit bones. If you are a triathlete, racer or a more “aggressive” positioned rider, measuring your sit bones for saddle width provides an improper account of what’s actually in contact with the saddle. This does not incorporate the fact that in a more aggressive position, you’re also encountering more sensitive organs and tissue beyond the bones of the pelvis.
Industry Sit Bone Research
In 2015 the Selle Royal Group in collaboration with the German Sport University in Cologne (to make it legit) performed a study(mostly to sell saddles) to discover the optimal shape saddle considering male and female differences and rider position. They broke this down into 3 separate studies: sit bone width, gender differences, and optimal saddle shape. We will summarize the findings, but if you want more information about it, there was an excellent write up constructed by Total Women’s Cycling or on the Scientia site. Below you can see the saddle selection online tool they created based on their research.
Ischial Bone Study (sit bone width): Selle found a wide variation of sit bone widths from their 240 participants and subsequently created 3 saddle widths based on the averages in the study. The width was measured at the 90 degree spine angle and they created another device (seen above with the teal gel pad) to assign a saddle based on sit bone width. The most interesting part of this study was this precious gem mentioned in their research, “Ischial (sit bone) distance varies according to riding position due to the v-shape pelvic anatomy. In the more inclined spine angle, the distance will become shorter as the contact points move from the seat bones toward the pubic bones.” Result: if you ride with a 90 degree spine angle, then the sit bone measurement may be somewhat accurate (more on this later). If you ride in any other position(most cyclists) it’s likely that the contact point will move forward away from your sit bones, which, they do not mention, renders sit bone measurement (in the 90 degree form) for most enthusiast and competitive cyclists completely irrelevant.
Gender and Shape Study: Although this does not connect specifically with sit bone measurement, it does impact our point about spine angle. 66 participants were tested using specific pressure mapping with 64 different sensors at the 30, 45, and 60 degree angle.
Selle assumed that the pelvic position on the 60 and 90-degree would have the same result. This is likely debatable depending on the rider but certainly, individual preference and riding style will impact saddle comfort. Therefore, when considering an incredibly sensitive decision such as the saddle, why make a conclusion without doing the testing? Selle already invested the money so it would have been helpful to test and rule it out.
The differences between male and female average and maximum pressure was minimal at the 60 and 45 degree angle but at the 30 degree angle it was significant, which they concluded was due to the anatomical differences between male and female. Considering that Selle’s line of the Scientia is based on the upright rider vs. the road, gravel, cross, mountain, tri…etc. rider, they clearly avoided the area where there is significant sensitivity and variance among males and females. We are not inside the board room of intricate decisions of the Selle Royal juggernaut, but if they found significantly reduced pressure and gender differences at a higher spine angle, it makes sense that they would potentially avoid saddle selection that would disprove the sit bone width method.
How to Find the Right Bike Saddle
Without being redundant (which means this is redundant), it’s clear that unless you are riding upright on your saddle, a sit bone width measurement and saddle selector tool based on that idea is likely irrelevant based on your spine angle, pelvic pressure, gender, and/or riding style. Yet, let’s take this a step further. There’s no guarantee that a sit bone measurement based on the 90-degree riding position will provide you with a comfortable saddle. There could be a comfort issue based on the external material of the saddle, the density, the type of foam used, your weight or the clothing you wear (we won’t go into this one here). Consequently, the only way to truly find your perfect saddle is to personally test the saddle. Granted it was helpful of Selle to embark on research regarding shape, gender, and body position’s impact on saddle selection but there’s no online bike saddle match or finder that will tell you how it feels. There’s another company that offers a selection tool based on your flexibility but regardless of how or if you can touch your toes, that doesn’t tell you how the saddle feels after a 60 mile gravel ride.
To continue with the concern about the “sit” measurement, a static measuring process does not assure comfort in a dynamic sport. How often do you sit on the saddle without pedaling while riding? For most disciplines, you pedal and pedal often. As a result, your comfort on the saddle is based on how you feel pedaling vs. the static measure of your seat area. Even if you were bent in the proper pelvic position to measure pressure, that pressure would likely change based on your pedal stroke.
Here are the BikeFit suggestions to finding the perfect saddle for you:
1.) Test the saddle at your local bike shop or bike fitter. Most shops carry multiple saddles and if they don’t offer a way for you to test them, turn around and leave. You’ll need to know first hand how it feels in your specific riding position. It just so happens (shameless plug) that the mastermind behind BikeFit created a tool to make this process easy and efficient.
If you’re a bike shop reading this, the Saddle Changer streamlines the saddle fitting process and helps a customer test multiple saddles in minutes without the time-sucking process of tightening and removing bolts or fiddling with finicky seat posts. If you’re a cyclist reading this, how great would it be to test out 20-30 saddles? Many shops use this awesome tool so feel free to ask them when you call, e-mail, or shadily DM about testing new saddles.
2.) Saddle Demo. The Saddle Changer is an amazing tool but riding a saddle for 30 seconds is not the same as an experiencing it for 2 hours. Yes, you can narrow down the choices with indoor testing but to truly discover the best saddle for you requires taking it for a ride. Most cyclists move on the saddle while riding as the road or terrain changes and undulates. As a result, you’ll want to test it in those conditions and in the volume and intensity you experience while regularly riding. Many shops offer a demo program where you can test a saddle for a certain period of time (usually with a deposit) and there are also some manufacturers who now offer a satisfaction guarantee where if you try the saddle and it’s not for you, you can return it. This may take much longer so our suggestion is to visit your local dealer or dealers and ask about their saddle testing programs. Some may even delve into some new technology like adjustable shape and width saddles which provides you with multiple options on a single saddle.
Unfortunately, if you were hoping there was a correlation between measuring sit bone width and simple saddle selection you were wildly let down by this article. Yet, if you’ve made it this far the truth is revealed. At the end of the day, the goal is to enjoy cycling and an uncomfortable saddle likely will render that mission futile. Do you love your saddle? If you don’t, visit some of your local shops and keep testing until you find the right seat.
You may already know that BikeFit sells the most amazing saddle fitting and sales tool on the planet. Yet, many potential customers ask us the same thing, do you mount the Saddle Changer directly to the customer’s bike?
The answer is yes and no.
You can mount the Saddle Changer to a customer’s bike and we do have many successful clients who’ve used this methodology with fabulous results. The problem: stack height is a considerable factor since the Saddle Changer adds 9cm, and you have to adjust the seat post to the original position after fitting. This works (although it adds time) if you are doing a bike fitting, but the Saddle Changer provides a perfect opportunity for customers to demo multiple saddles in seconds. Why utilize it only for fits when you can display and use it daily?
Therefore it works great for fitting, but we’ve found that customers find much more lucrative and less tedious applications.
Super Ingenious Saddle Changer Mounting Methods
Method 1: The Indoor Cycle
Indoor cycles are ubiquitous in the industry and if you are looking to save some money, there are used ones floating through cycling message boards. If you want to go Cadallic, high-level indoor bikes measure power while the customer searches for that elusive perfect saddle. Bonus points for the pro touch–matching your indoor bike knobs to your tool chest (see pic above) satisfies the detail-oriented personality of the fitter.
Method 2: The Fit Bike
You already made an investment in a fancy fit bike, why not capitalize on it as a sales tool? Although a fit is a perfect time to discover saddle bliss, a fit bike with the Saddle Changer attached and strategically placed in front of a plethora of seats provides customers with a custom saddle-testing experience!
Long of the short, there are many applications for mounting the Saddle Changer and there’s technically not a “wrong answer.” This article is meant to help you obtain the most out of your investment.
Feel free to send us your Saddle Changer photos (e-mail [email protected]) and we’ll post them on social media!
Pedal extenders (also know as pedal spacers) are used by thousands of cyclists throughout the world to optimize alignment, reduce pain, and increase efficiency. Yet, not all of these are created equal. Some companies choose to construct their pedal extenders out of sub-par material. As a result, they may wear significantly, corrode, or force you to buy another pair over the life of your bicycle.
Why Stainless Steel?
BikeFit Pedal Extenders are made of 100% stainless steel due to not only its strength but also its resistance to corrosion. Over time, pedals, shoes, extenders, and your bike will encounter water, debris, ice, snow, road salt (if you don’t have this then other riders envy you), grass, mud, occasional squirrels, and many other riveting road elements. These road irritants (with potentially the exception of squirrels) are abrasive to non-stainless steel pedal extenders. See the black-colored knock-off shown to the right. Since most pedal extenders are utilized for the life of a bicycle, you need an extender that is corrosion resistant and functions well from the first use to the last.
BikeFit Extender Chrome-Moly Knock-Off
In addition to corrosion resistance, a stainless steel extender will structurally and physically survive the massive miles you accumulate. A century ride (100 miles) contains about 20,000 to 24,000 pedal strokes per leg. If you plan on training for a century this year, think about the number of miles that you’ll likely travel. If you complete 20,000 pedal strokes per 100 miles and you ride 5,000 miles per year, that’s a total of 1 million strokes per leg, per year! Therefore, you need an extender that can handle not only the road conditions but also the general wear and tear of daily use.
Good to the Last Revolution
Other companies use aluminum (malleable) or chrome-moly which corrodes and shows wear over time. While our extenders will likely cost more, if you want your comfort-inducing investment to last physically and aesthetically, choose the extender that looks great from the first pedal stroke to the millionth.
Wheelset that costs more than my monthly food bill–check.
Leave it to us at BikeFit to focus on the small things but sometimes, those are the ones that have the most significant impact. If you’ve ever managed to unclip at top speed and lived to tell the tale, then you understand the imperative nature of simple cleat maintenance or you’re Robert Forestermann and you literally double strap your clipless cleats to absorb your massive, cleat-disengaging watts. Now that you’ve returned from watching Quadzilla crush it, here are some simple tips to help you care for your cleats.
So Fresh and So Clean Cleats
Although changing your cleats every 6 months would provide you with a fool-proof method of riding with well-functioning cleats, you can easily extend their life through some simple maintenance.
We recommend periodically checking your cleats for debris, especially if you walk often on your rides. Dirt and dust quickly build up from road and trail debris. These impediments can interfere with the ability to click-in and release from your pedals.
The BikeFit Cleat Screw Pick is an ideal solution. Some people have used a knife or a small screwdriver but the specifically designed screw pick will help you dig out miles of caked on dirt and grime without the risk of lacerating your fingers.
Fasten your Cleats
Cleat screw fasteners and the screws themselves can potentially loosen over time. There may or may not be a story of a BikeFit employee that did not check his screws often and found himself pulling out of a criterium race due to his epically loose, rattling cleat almost falling off. Be sure to check that they are tight. If you are riding Speedplay pedals, check the base screws as well as the cleat screws.
Secondly, screw heads attract some of the worst immovable debris and get worn down to the point where you may be unable to remove them without some serious hacksaw interventions (see described hacksaw interventions to thy right).
If the cleat wear impacts your ability to clip in, release, or you feel wobbles or an unsteady connection with the pedal, it’s time to replace the cleats. If not, you may only need to replace the screw heads themselves. While we carry a Screw Kit (contains the aforementioned Screw Pick) and a Walkable Screw Kit (Speedplay), you may not need bulk screws. Therefore we suggest visiting your local BikeFit Pro or dealer, with your favorite sharable adult beverage, and they’ll be able to sell you some replacements.
It Takes Two
Cleats materials have a limited lifespan depending on the usage. They will eventually wear out and when you replace them, pick up a spare set as well. Heck, you could go out tomorrow and pick up a second set even if your cleats are impeccable. You’ll need to replace them eventually and again, your local shop loves when you visit with liquid hops-o-plenty and a need for new cleats!
Having a second pair of cleats allows you to inspect the excessive wear and tear from riding all those grand tours. Use these spares as subjects to compare against the used ones. Do they look like the cleats to the right? Too much wear (1mm or more) and it’s probably time to consider replacing cleats.
For Cleat’s Sake, Cover Up!
Depending on your cleats, some handle the grit and grime better than others. Regardless, if you want to extend cleat life, consider cleat covers. Speedplay recognized that numerous riders were shredding their cleats and now they offer some incredibly functional and aero Walkable Cleats. Kool Kovers provide riders with multiple options of protective cleat covers for Shimano, Look Keo, Look Delta and Speedplay. Yes, it may take you all of 8 seconds to remove them and reinstall after each of your 4 coffee stops, but extending the life of your cleats not only saves you money but also could prevent a potentially painful and skin-removing crash.
You’ve decided to upgrade to some shiny, new, potentially bike-matched pedals, and you would like to tackle the intricate installation yourself. Now you’re likely asking yourself something you may not admit to your cycling friends, “How do I loosen or tighten bike pedals?” We can assure you that this will be easier than building Swedish furniture or attempting to install a new bottom bracket. Prepare yourself for a few minutes of grease-filled fun and those new pedals will be ready to tackle the Alps (or the local 3-minute climb)!
Tools and Supplies
Pedal Wrench (15mm)
6mm Allan wrench (some pedal models)
8mm Allan wrench (some pedal models)
Grease for threads
Pedal threads are different on the left and right sides. The right drive side pedal has a right-hand thread (removes counterclockwise, installs clockwise). The left, non-drive side pedal, has a left-hand thread (removes clockwise, installs counterclockwise). Many pedals are stamped “L” and “R” for left and right.
Popular mythology dictates that the Wright Brothers (arguably the inventors of the airplane. Unless you are un-American and believe that clearly, Richard Pearce was the first in flight) originated left-handed pedal threads to keep pedals from unscrewing while riding. It is a good practice to screw pedals in tightly after final fit adjustments. Pedal threads, like most component threads on a bicycle, should be lubricated lightly with grease.
Tighten: Turn towards (over the top) the front wheel.Loosen: Turn towards (over the top) the back wheel.
Tighten: Turn towards (over the top) the front wheel.Loosen: Turn towards (over the top) the back wheel.
Tips and hints during installation or removal
Shift the chain to largest chainring to protect your knuckles against greasy abrasions, if the wrench were to accidentally slip. This accident may or may not have happened to employees at BikeFit.
Try different wrench positions to gain a quality mechanical advantage between the wrench and crank arm. Pedals are often fastened very securely and can require some extra effort to remove. If possible, hold the opposite crank arm as another point of leverage.
Pour yourself an adult beverage of choice after completing the installation and removal. Pre-pedal installation imbibing can result in potential injury, increased frustration, or futile questioning of the stalwart “lefty loosey, righty tighty.”
As a cyclist, it’s imperative to familiarize yourself with the differences between bike fitting and bike sizing. These terms are used by bike shops and professional fitters for the following reasons:
New bike purchase
Pain or discomfort
Desire to increase power and efficiency
Often bike fitting and bike sizing become intertwined, but they are completely different. With that said, fitting a road bicycle works best when you start with the right size bike or at a minimum, a bicycle that is close enough to your right size. As a result, both contribute to a comfortable, powerful and efficient ride.
Sizing a bicycle is not as complicated as you may have been led to believe, in part due to the reality that a good bike fit actually has little to do with the bicycle per se. Yet, we will touch on that part more in the fitting section.
Bike sizing is the process of taking the measurements of an individual and applying those specific measurements to match a person to the correctly sized bike frame. Depending on where you go to get measured (or if you are doing this at home), you may find that shops, fitters, or a multitude of websites provide you with numerous ways to discover the correct bike size. One of the earliest methods was a formula applied by French Coach and former pro cyclist, Cyrille Guimard based on the inseam. Greg Lemond later used and popularized this method of multiplying the inseam measurement by .883 to determine saddle height and frame size.
A similar methodology remains in use today by some bike shops who will measure your inseam and have you stand over a bicycle top tube to obtain the proper frame size. If you use the ubiquitous Google search method, you’ll likely find a chart that suggests the best size for you based on a few measurements like you were purchasing a t-shirt or a hat (you are less likely to experience an injury from hat or t-shirt which is why bike fitting is vital).
Other sizing resources or formulas will use multiple measurements (see the image to the right) to match you with the perfect frame. Considering the plethora of options with seat posts, stem lengths, riding positions and cycling disciplines, it’s vital that the shop or fitter ask you about what type of riding you’ll be doing to pick out the correct frame. This goes without saying that this process should be completed in order to ascertain your frame size before fitting.
Bike sizing has also become much more elaborate than the early methods of formulas and measurements. Some companies use specially designed tools to establish body measurements via a sizing cycle or a laser system. Yet, even these advanced systems don’t always account for intricacies of the human body. Renowned expert fitter, Happy Freedman, reminds us in his talks that the human spine compresses throughout the day. Consequently, you may be a different height in the morning vs. the evening.
Finally, there are numerous body types in the world. Bikes are beautiful and incredibly symmetrical; the human body is not. Someone may have a short inseam and a long torso or vice versa. Therefore a person who is 5’10” could ride a frame size ranging from 52 to 58 (S-XL depending on the brand), in theory. These human differences need to be taken into account in a good sizing and fitting process.
Once you’ve completed the sizing process, fitting a bicycle comes down to the contact or connection points between the cyclist and their bicycle and adjusting those moving parts on the chosen bicycle. These five connection points (9 on a time trial or triathlon bike) are the right and left foot, the pelvis, and right and left hands. Even if your bike is not the correct “size,”(barring a significant difference) as long as you get the connection points in the ideal place, you can still achieve a good and comfortable bike fit. Considering the vast different bike geometries and the fact that a significant discrepancy in size will make fitting extremely difficult, we do recommend starting with the proper size first before fitting.
A proper bike fit has more to do with the saddle, handlebars, brake levers and hoods, stem and, most importantly, shoes, cleats, and pedals. It should also be mentioned that a proper fitting will incorporate the unique needs, goals, and type of riding of the individual cyclist as well as solving problems presented. We talk more about this in our bike fitting expectations article.
Although we mentioned earlier that these two processes are completely different, bike sizing and bike fitting are both crucial aspects of cycling comfort. First, start with sizing and then move to fitting. Below is a quick reference chart describing both.
Determining the most appropriate size frame for the cyclist:
sizing machine/size cycle
stand-over and height
compare to their old bicycle
The art and science of adjusting the moveable parts of a bicycle to fit the individual needs of the cyclist:
I’ve noticed that my bike saddle is worn only on one side. I found some information on web talking about a leg length issue or how I sit on the saddle being the source of the problem. What do you think?
We’ve received this question from numerous riders and would be happy to shed some light on the situation. In regards to what you found on the web, finding a saddle is extremely important and a difficult part of achieving cycling comfort, but we’ve seen uneven wear on a variety of saddle types. It’s possible for a rider to favor one side over the other and unfortunately they’ve potentially acclimated to an off-center position. This is where we strongly recommend that you visit with a professional bike fitter or BikeFit Pro in order to analyze your riding style and get a full bike fitting.
Are your legs different lengths?
Regarding the potential leg length discrepancy, this could also be the culprit. If you visited a professional fitter, they would hopefully ask the following questions to pinpoint if a leg length issue is an origin of the saddle wear.
1.) Do you have an x-ray or medical information diagnosing a leg length difference (considered by many as the Gold Standard, the STANDING AP Scanogram Full-Length X-ray used by clinicians is the most accurate way to diagnose a Leg Length issue)?
2.) Have you been told you have a leg length issue?
3.) Do you get saddle sores, but only on one side?
4.) Does the saddle show uneven wear (your original question) or even tilt lower to one side?
5.) Does one knee have more bend than the other when pedaling?
6.) Do you rock lower to one side than the other when pedaling (viewed from the rear)?
7.) Do you sit off-center or side-saddle?
8.) Is it obvious or observable (perhaps others have mentioned something to you)?
9.) Do you have lower back pain or discomfort on one side?
Even with all these questions from a fitter, we would recommend that a medical professional would be the best person to diagnose you with a leg length discrepancy. If that is the diagnosis, leg length shims could be a possible remedy. We do not recommend cleat stagger if you are looking for a quick fix.
Often, the problem starts with the foot/pedal interface
We’ve noticed that many riders are misaligned due to the inherent tilt in their feet. Using a Cleat Wedge can help align the foot in its connection to the pedal and improve the alignment of the kinetic chain up the leg, through the knee, and up to the pelvis.
The image on the left displays the knee collapsing inward as the foot is forced flat to meet the pedal. This knee collapse causes the leg to push inward, which then rubs excessively against the saddle. You likely also noticed that your cycling shorts may show significant wear on one side vs. the other.
Did you happen to lose them or would you like to find out how to best use our products?
Often, our customers search for the instructions for our products if they happened to misplace them or are looking for more information. If you purchased Look Cleat Wedges, you’re in luck because the instructions are already printed on the package!
If you are looking for instructions for any other products, go to the specific BikeFit product page. For example, let’s say that we are looking for the instructions for Hex+ 20mm Pedal Spacers. Navigate to the Hex+ page (use the link in the last sentence) on the BikeFit website:
Scroll down to the bottom of the “description” of the product.
Many of our products will also contain an “info” link as well to provide you with detailed product information, uses, application and how it can help you. If you are unable to find more information, feel free to see our other blog posts or contact us!
Do you experience cycling knee pain? Do the images above look familiar? Are your knees going outward when you pedal? If not, you’ve likely noticed this when riding with others. The origins lie in an under-discussed topic in cycling: stance width.
Here’s a fun exercise to find out what we mean by “stance width.”
Take a few steps.
Stop and stand in a comfortable position with your legs side-by-side.
Look at your feet. This is your natural stance width that your body selects when you are not clipped into the pedals. Now, for fun, clip into your pedals on the bike and observe how your normal stance on your feet and your bike setup may be different.
We are not suggesting that you mimic the exact comfortable standing stance to your bike setup, but it does give you an idea of why many people experience discomfort on the bike. When you performed the exercise above, you may have noticed that your feet are wider apart than on your bike or that your feet “toe out” to the side.
Clipping into a pedal may limit your natural position, but we promise you don’t have to quit cycling and sell your bike.
The knee followeth the foot
Going back to our illustrations above, when you clip into the pedal, the foot does not have a choice to move. Consequently, the knee kicks out at the top of the pedal stroke (going where it wants to) and then, because it is attached to the foot, follows it inward at the bottom of the stroke. After thousands of revolutions (a 2-hour ride could have 10,000 depending on how fast you pedal), you may develop some significant knee pain.
Solution #1 – Cleat in = foot out
In the earlier days of cycling, the default was to tell the rider to bring their knees in to meet their feet. Sadly, this may cause even more knee pain. The best solution is to move your cleat in, which in turn, will move your foot out to meet your knee. This simple change will help with your knee alignment and potentially alleviate cycling knee discomfort.
Solution #2 – Pedal Washers or Pedal Spacers
If you’ve already moved your cleats in completely but your knee continues to push outward, try adding 1.5mm washer (only use one) to the pedal spindle where it attaches to the crank arm.
If you have a wider stance width (many riders do), you may require more lateral (foot out) adjustment. 20mm Pedal Spacers provide the extra length. 20mm spacers require a 15mm pedal wrench but we also provide Hex+ 20mm Pedal Spacers for pedals that install using a 5mm or 6mm hex key wrench.
Now that you’ve moved the foot outward, you likely increased your comfort, alleviated knee pain, and aligned your feet to your knees. Your pedal stroke should look more like the image below:
Eurika! You’ve maximized your ability to apply power to the pedals and now can ride off into the sunset (without having to ice your knees or visit an orthopedist when you arrive home). Remember that bikes are symmetrical and people are not. Take this into account and assure that you and your normal, asymmetrical human parts are customized to fit your bicycle.
Most cycling shoes are designed to work with clipless pedals and feature holes drilled in the soles for attaching cleats. The bicycle cleat engages with the pedals to create a secure connection. Cleats are supplied with your pedals, and they should match the type of cycling shoes, whether road-specific or off-road/multi-use-specific.
Some cycling shoes are drilled to accept both 3- and 2-hole bicycle cleat designs, but most will accept only one or the other. Shoes made for use with 2-hole systems cannot be modified to use a 3-hole cleat. The 4-hole Speedplay® pedal system can be adapted to fit 3-hole shoe styles. There are a few shoe brands/specific models drilled with 4-hole Speedplay-specific bolt pattern.
What’s the difference in functionality?
The 2-hole system is commonly known as the SPD system (SPD = Shimano ® Pedaling Dynamics). The 2-hole system can be used for all types of riding, including road cycling, mountain biking, touring and commuting. When paired with some shoes, the recessed cleat design allows easier walking. Most off-road racing, where a mud shedding cleat design offers an advantage, is where a small two-hole cleat is popular. There is a road-specific version known as “SPD-SL” (3-hole bolt pattern). Get SPD Cleat Wedges.
The 3-hole system is also known as the Look-style system (for the pioneering manufacturer/brand, Look Cycles). The 3-hole system is most often used for road cycling because it offers a stable platform for energy transfer while riding. The soles of many performance oriented shoes are often made more for riding than walking with stiff soles and little tread. The larger cleat design incorporates a three-fastener connection, which is much more secure connection than with two fasteners like the ones found with the 2-hole type. Popular brand names of 3-hole bicycle cleats are; Look ®, Shimano SL, Time ® Road and others. Get Look Cleat Wedges.
The 4-hole system is associated with the Speedplay® pedal/brand. Speedplay design has the clasping mechanism on the cleat, rather than on the pedal, like with SPD and Look systems. In this system, the shoes are made more for riding than walking. The system with a four-fastener connection, generally offers more adjustability options in the foot/pedal connection, often making it a favorite of bike fitters. We offer these in both the Walkable™ style (shown below) and regular road cleat style.
Please feel to e-mail us with any questions regarding how your pedal/cleats fit with your wedges. Contact us!
As long as you are talking about BikeFit branded wedges, this is not one wedge against another. Both of the wedge styles offered from BikeFit work extremely well. Each wedge, however, has its place. In most cases, it’s preferential to use the Cleat Wedge.
When to Use In-the-Shoe Wedges
1.) Cleats not compatible with Cleat Wedges
The In The Shoe (ITS) Wedge often is a “fill in” product for types of cleats that are not compatible with Cleat Wedges like Crank Brothers. However, Crank Brothers provide a shoe shield (seen on the left) where you can use Cleat Wedges with their cleats.
2.) Hyper-Mobile Feet
A hypermobile foot would be a good place to use an ITS in combination with a Cleat Wedge. This type of foot needs more support. A more rigid foot tends to be more responsive with less wedging and the Cleat Wedge is a better solution for most rigid feet. This also may be a great option for those who have room in their shoe and would not be affected by the change in volume inherent with the addition of In The Shoe Wedges.
In-The-Shoe Wedges are also great for diagnostics. If you are looking to determine the effects of wedging on cycling mechanics, ITS Wedges provide the ability to make quick changes. This also holds true if you are testing out comfort but do not want to take the time to remove your cleats, add cleat wedges, and realign (time saver). We should mention that this is usually a temporary change. Once the comfort or mechanics are confirmed, the first choice to correct your foot’s natural angle/tilt is almost always cleat wedges.
4.) Fine Tuning
In-The-Shoe Wedges also offer a fine-tuning option for cyclists “in-between” wedge levels or it is tough to tell if 2 cleat wedges or 3 cleat wedges is the better solution. In other words, if 2 or 3 cleat wedges help correct your mechanics and reduce foot pain, try using 2 cleat wedges and add an ITS as the 3rd wedge. Go out on a ride and spend some with the ITS in the shoe and some time with it in your back pocket. Over a period of time, you will usually discover the preferred amount of cleat wedging. For many cyclists, you may require more than 3 Cleat Wedges. Since we do not recommend using more than 3, the ITS wedge provides the extra bit of tilt needed!
When the cleat on one bike shoe is shifted forward and the other one positioned to the rear, rather than symmetrically aligned (see the photo above).
We tend to hear more about cleat stagger when it accompanies a comment suggesting that a particular anatomical leg length difference is located at the femur. With that information in mind, many fitters and cyclists consider staggering the cleats. Is this the right answer?
Things to Consider:
How can you be sure the leg length difference is only in the femur?
Are you sacrificing optimum cleat fore/aft position with cleat stagger?
What other aspect(s) further up the chain is/are compromised by cleat stagger? Are you sacrificing too much in order to avoid a simple solution?
We noticed that by addressing almost all leg length differences as a leg length discrepancy, you will most likely discover the best solution: a Leg Length Shim. This also tends to minimize other complications from the foot up that can possibly occur via cleat stagger. Some of these sacrifices can include injury, pain, imbalance or loss of power.
Find our for yourself! Try both a cleat stagger and a Leg Length Shim separately. In most cases, a bike fitter or BikeFit Pro will be able to observe better symmetry from the rear view. For the individual, you will likely feel a distinct difference between the two. Which one felt better? In our experience the preferred solution usually, if not always, includes the Leg Length Shim as the primary adjustment. Some cyclists expressed that the cleat stagger drives them absolutely bonkers (medical expression).
Lastly, remember with all leg length issues, it is best to have a bike fitter or BikeFit Pro check your posture on multiple shaped saddles. Some different saddle shapes mask the potential asymmetrical movements often associated with a leg length issue. Only by checking your posture on a few different saddles can you assure you have indeed addressed the difference as well as possible.
At BikeFit, only after installing the shim is staggering the cleat ever-so-slightly a consideration we make in order to fine-tune. Even then, it is rare at best.
“I have been indoor cycling (spinning1) for a year. I love it and do it 2 times a week sometimes 3 or more. Unfortunately, I’m experiencing problems with my SIDI bike shoes. I love them but I noticed well into the class that I started to develop a pain/soreness etc. As a result, I placed insoles in my SIDI bike shoes and they didn’t provide relief. The soreness resides on the outer side of both my right and left foot–more on the fattier side of your foot aligned. I’m desperately looking for a solution. If you could help me with some information I would really appreciate it. Thanks.”
Many customers contact us complaining of discomfort or pain on the bottom, outermost part of their foot. The illustration on the left below shows the location of the MOST common “hot foot” or foot discomfort. This seems to hold true with the description mentioned in the question.
The illustration on the right displays even pressure across the entire ball of their foot. Cyclists often describe this as feeling better connected, more stable, even-feeling…etc.
There are 2 ways to look at your own feet and see why there is often more pressure toward the outside of the foot.
With your knees on a chair, ask someone to hold a book or ruler across the balls of your feet. Are they angled up toward the inside?
Foot Fit Calculator
Download the FREEFoot Fit Calculator at the Google Play Store. The App will walk you through the process (you still need a friend to help) to measure your foot tilt. Not only will it help you determine foot tilt, but it will also provide you with the solution to your foot pain! This method is preferred to the manual measurement do to the ability to provide you with the number of cleat wedges you may need to alleviate foot pain.
BikeFit provides the solution for you called Cleat Wedges. They accommodate for your foot’s natural position by creating an angle on your cycling cleat(s) where it connects to the pedal. The number of Cleat Wedges on one shoe in no way dictates the proper number of Cleat Wedges you’ll need on the other shoe.
Each Cleat Wedge contains one degree of slope (or angle) and can be stacked based on your needs (see below for an example of “stacking”).
You also mentioned the insoles you tried did not provide relief. That does not mean your insoles are bad but, insoles rarely (if ever) address the tilt of the foot as described above. Consequently, SIDI bike shoes are not the culprit. Rather (from what you just learned), cyclists experience foot pain in most cycling shoes.
Taking into account pedal and cleat wear is often an overlooked aspect by many cyclists and bike fitters. In this article, we focus specifically on Speedplay cleat wear.
This information is static (will not be seen with motion capture or data capture during a bike fit). In other words, if your fitter only looks at dynamic (on the bike) data, they miss important information. Why? Although extremely important, dynamic fitting is just one aspect a fitter must consider.
The ultimate bike fit includes both dynamic AND static analysis (the cyclist and the bike or equipment) as well as consideration for how the cyclist feels. Keep in mind, how you feel is as actually more important than how you look on stick-figure printouts or a picture of you in a video.
Your Equipment Tells a Story
Take a look at your shoes. Turn them over and look inside the circle area of your Speedplay road cleat. MOST people notice uneven wear.
Do not be surprised when you see this. There is something you can do to alleviate the problem.
Next, look at the springs. Uneven wear inside the red circles is the norm–not the exception.
Why? The foot is naturally tilted and it wants to stay that way even if the equipment initially forced it flat. As a result, equipment wears out uneven.
Let’s also look inside of your shoe. One of our most popular illustrations is the one on the below where people say they feel more pressure on the outside of the foot. Why? The pedal and shoe are flat but the foot is tilted.
The Uneven Wear Culprit
Is this Speedplay’s fault? Absolutely not. All pedals are flat and wear out unevenly. For example, unlike running, in cycling, you can only buy shoes that function one way. All cycling shoes function the same regardless of price or brand (there is one brand that purports to include added tilt to the shoe but all of the shoes within that brand function the same). In running, even within one brand, you purchase shoes for different body architecture (stability, support, neutral…etc). In cycling, you only buy shoes that are flat at the forefoot. Consequently, you can now diagnose these problems, take a look at possible solutions, and connect with a BikeFit Pro to make your shoe/cleat fit the pedal properly.
Remember it is normal to see uneven wear, but normal does not necessarily mean right. It is also common to see the foot in a relaxed position hang with a tilt or angle to it.
First, you must flatten the foot or it won’t even clip into the pedal. We as cyclists learned to master this skill of leveling the foot to get into the pedal but we are hardly aware of it. Once clipped in, the foot tries to go back to its natural tilted position. Hence, uneven pedal wear.
The Solution: Cleat Wedges
Knee on a chair and ask someone to hold a straight edge across the bottom of your feet. They will most likes look like the figure on the right.
We have never seen a broken Speedplay spring from a cyclist that has a flat forefoot. However, a flat or neutral forefoot is rare, to say the least. This comment is not coming from Speedplay but it is absolutely our belief that the correct use of cleat wedges will prolong the life of your Speedplay cleat springs. Remember it is important to follow the manufacturer’s suggestion for upkeep and maintaining your equipment.