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Cycling Cleats: Easy Ways to Set Them Up or Angle Them Appropriately

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The very first thing that would come to your mind as a cyclist when you think of a proper bike fit would perhaps be the handlebar reach and the saddle position. However, the positioning of the cycling cleats is also important and can, in fact, make a huge difference to the pedaling efficiency and aid in preventing injuries. Bike maintenance is, of course, something that should be taken seriously and every time you get on the road you would want to ensure that your bike is in proper condition.

Whether you are riding trails in the mountains or on the road, you would want to enjoy the best cycling experience. This is the reason why each and every part of the bike needs to be in perfect condition.

The cycling cleats that are badly angled can lead to knee or ankle pain if not rectified. However, just a few adjustments are all you need to find a position that works perfectly for you. Let's check the ideal way to find the perfect position of the cleats and angling the cleat.

Easy steps to set up your cleats

It is usually accepted that the cycling cleats positioning must be in such a way that the ball of the foot is in line with the pedal axle’s center.

Cycling cleats
How to set up cycling cleats

This is in fact biomechanically, the ideal position for optimum transfer of power and efficient pedaling.

In order to ensure that your cleats are absolutely in perfect position, follow the steps mentioned below.

Materials and Tools Required:

  • Screw Driver

  • Cleats

To Begin:

Step 1:

Remove the cleats from the shoe. Also, while you have removed them, check their condition. You might also consider new ones as they are considerably inexpensive and tend to wear out quite easily.

Step 2:

Wear the cycling shoes that you wear normally and then tighten them. Then sit down with both your feet on the ground.

Step 3:

Along the inner edge of the shoe, feel by pressing your finger or thumb so as to locate your foot’s ball. This is basically the bony knuckle that protrudes sideways at the bottom.

Step 4:

Once done that, begin to mark the shoe’s side right at the center of the ball as accurately as you possibly can. If required, get someone to help you. Do the similar thing with your other foot as well.

Step 5:

Now, take your shoes and place them on a flat surface. Hold a perfectly straight edge along the mark made on the shoe and then transfer this line down to the exact similar point present on the shoe’s sole.

Step 6:

Turn over the shoe and ensure that this mark is accurately visible perfectly on the sole.

Step 7:

Once you have clipped yourself in, align this mark with the given point present on the cycling cleat exactly where the pedal axle’s center would be. Most of the cleats would offer a marker present on the side by either a line or a notch so as to indicate the pedal axle’s center.

Step 8:

Once both of the cleats have been attached properly, lay the shoes on the ledge and press the cleats against it. Ensure that the toes are even which would ensure that the cleat positioning is even.

As a general rule, when the cleats have been mounted onto the shoes, there should be a difference of about two centimeters between the shoes’ heel when they are passing the crank arm through the stroke of the pedal.

Your feet must be placed close to the crank arm without letting the ankle hit it during the pedaling stroke.

Riders with wider hips might be able to benefit by pushing the cleats towards the center or perhaps as far as the shoes’ inside in order to push their feet out further.

To know more, check out all about How to Remove a Bicycle Cassette

Important Things to Consider When Adjusting the Cleats

Before you begin to adjust your cycling cleats or set them up, it is crucial to understand that the positioning of the cleats is an essential part of the overall fit of the bike.

In order to avoid any kind of overuse injuries and to promote an efficient and comfortable pedaling technique, one needs to make sure that all of the other elements in a bike have been properly taken care of as well.

Adjusting cleats on your cycle
Cycling cleats

You might also need to make certain minor adjustments to the positioning of the cleats depending on the pedaling motion and your body type.

While you are setting up your cleats, there are two things which are essential to be taken care of:

  • The angle of the cleats

  • The aft/fore cleat positioning

Understanding the Importance of the Cleat Angle

The way your feet move naturally while you are pedaling would eventually determine how much you would need to angle the cleats. As most cyclists do not tend to pedal with their feet pointed straight, a lot of manufacturers design pedals and clipless pedals that come with floats. The floats allow a rotational movement from side-to-side while you are pedaling so as to mimic the natural movements of the foot.

The amount of float is dependent on the pedal’s brand but would usually range somewhere between five and fifteen degrees. The speed play pedals are the ones that are known to create a huge amount of float and can range approximately up to 30 degrees. In case your pedal system does have a float and you do not tend to move your heels excessively in and out while pedaling, setting up the cleats in a non-angled and neutral position should work absolutely fine.

In case you are making use of a pedal system that’s fixed or is one which doesn’t offer rotational movement while you are pedaling, you might be required to make minor adjustments that would mimic the natural position of the foot.

One of the easiest ways to test whether or not angling the cleat would be required would be by sitting on a table’s edge and taking your feet off the ground.

Now, make sure that your legs are relaxed and look down to check if your heels assume a natural position or tend to be a bit angled towards the body’s center.

Check out All about Bike Pedals (A Quick Guide for Cyclists)

Understanding the Importance of aft/fore positioning

For setting up the aft/fore position of the cleat, you would at first be required to locate the ball of your foot. This is basically the widest area right at the base of your foot’s big toe. Identify this region and then put on your best cycling shoes to place a tiny dot on the ball of the foot area with the help of a laundry marker.

Your main aim here is to line up the foot’s ball with the pedal axle.

If the mark present on the shoe is hardly ahead of the axle while you are clipped in, this means that the cleat has been correctly lined up.

Using cleat markers is also another intelligent way of finding the position of the cleat properly.

But what is a cleat marker?

Well, it is basically a vertical line present on the inner side of the cleat. As you locate the ball of the foot earlier, do the similar thing again and place the cleat marker in such a way that it is barely behind the mark present on the shoe.

Once everything has been bolted down, clip it in and double-check the mark present on the shoe. If you are successful in doing it properly, it should be exactly in front of the pedal axle.

Also, check all about Bike Maintenance: Basic Guidelines Every Cyclist Will Need

position of the cleats
The position of the cleats

What is Float and Tension?

Tension is basically how easily you can get out and then into your pedals. A lot of them have an adjuster screw of some kind which gives the wearer the chance to decide as to how tight or loose they wish it to be clipped in. The setting that is the lightest would be ideal initially however, you must remember that when clipping in and out becomes second nature, more tension would be just as comfortable and rather secure too.

Most of the cleats and the clipless pedals have some float degree so that your feet can rotate slightly while you pedal. The degree is generally used to calculate the float and is the total amount by which you can basically move the foot before it is released from the cycle’s pedal.

Now just angling the cleats wouldn’t really be of much help if your pedaling technique isn’t good. Plantar flexion or pushing the forefoot down during a downstroke is a good pedaling style. Also, using the ball of the foot to pedal is considered to be good.

In case you find that you are facing any kind of discomfort in the ankle, foot or the knee, opt for a professional bike fit. As of now, it may seem like a huge investment but a professional can ensure proper fit and that would thereby aid in preventing injury and make the entire riding experience a lot more comfortable and pleasurable.

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