I’ve written before about the importance of saddle height, of bike fit, stem length, bar angle and the lot but I ran into an interesting one last week that had a huge impact on my cycling and running…
Now, I should listen to Matt at the bike shop when he encourages me to try to fix and fit things myself. His theory is that it’s really tough to break a bike component when you’re simply adjusting it, so adjust away – if it gets worse, put it back, if you mess something up so bad that you can’t figure it out, bring it in and we’ll get you fixed and explain where you went wrong.
So over the winter while I’m riding on the trainer, I look down and notice that my left heel toes out just a bit. My Look cleats have a 4.5 degree float (this means that your foot is not locked in to a set position, the cleat will ‘float’ just a bit to the left and right). For some reason I naturally used up the float, to the left, on that foot. When I’m on the road I’m not looking at my feet so I didn’t know it was happening until I had some time on the trainer.
I hemmed and hawed over whether or not I should make the adjustment myself for at least a couple of months before I finally bit the bullet and made the change two weeks ago – just a millimeter or two on the cleat meant a centimeter at the heel and now both feet are dead straight when I pedal.
Here’s the reason for the hesitation: The equipment used to line my cleats up was extensive, blocks on the pedals with rods sticking out of the blocks, angles and measurements and probably 45 minutes… It was a pretty big production, so I hesitated, thinking “who am I? I don’t know my ass from a hole in the ground as far as cleat alignment goes. Truthfully this is the one problem I find with going to the bike shop to get things fixed: Relying on the shop can lead to paralysis for simple adjustments. Of course, not knowing what you’re doing can end a lot worse, so there’s that too.
There are ramifications too… Over the winter I complained of a hamstring issue, the left hamstring to be specific. I thought the pain was from ramping up my running miles over the winter and running on snow covered roads (I wrote a couple of posts about this). So I pulled back on my running miles thinking I just needed to rest the hamstring and while it’s gotten better, there was still quite a bit of tightness during a run. Afterward there was a little soreness… After the cleat adjustment though, the hamstring pain is starting to fade away – even yesterday after all of the miles I put in over the last week or so, while there is muscle soreness to recover from, my hamstring is feeling a lot more “normal”.
Lesson learned, while I had my cleats fitted by one of the best guys in our State, with professional equipment that I didn’t have access to, that last final adjustment made all of the difference in the world. I’m getting a much better push from my left leg and the proper muscles are now taking the hit rather than my hamstring.