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DIY cleat set up – Part 1: The Goldilocks Principle

DIY cleat set up – Part 1: The Goldilocks Principle

DIY cleat set up – Part 1: The Goldilocks Principle

(Thanks to Daina Clark – Senior Podiatrist and Bootcamp Instructor for the article)
As an Adventure Racer or multisporter how are you supposed to set your mountain bike cleats up? Big question really.  There are lots of theories but not one definitive answer.  The shoe pedal interface is crucial for effective transmission of force and can hugely impact on the following run. The reality is that the majority of the cleat position research is based on road cycling, there’s research on triathlon, a little bit on MTB cleats and hardly any on multisport MTB to trail run.
Whilst there is no accepted scientific criteria for positioning of the cleats there are a heap of “views”. Some of the cleat position options include that the ball of the foot is centred over the pedal spindle, that the  base of the cleat is at a distance 43% of the shoe length, others that the head of the 1st metatarsal is 3.6cm in front of the pedal spindle. Another view is dependent on shoe size – for instance a Euro size 43 would have the ball of the foot 9-11mm in front of the centre of the pedal spindle.  Maybe a midfoot set up is the go. Some people follow the mantra “I just whack them on and hope for the best, it’s always worked for me in the past.” Jeepers, I don’t know about you but that is all pretty contradictory and confusing!!
The Goldilocks Principle is where I would start , not too far forward not too far back but just right. And like everything in bike fitting it is dependent on the individual and how they ride. And definitely different for an Adventurethon-er going from a MTB to a trail run.
We’ve talked before about how different road riding slash time trialling is to mountain biking. The key in the bike leg of a triathlon is to keep yourself just “off the boil”   maintaining a steady aerobic threshold heart rate with little variance in power output. Bike cadence also effects muscle activation and mechanical output during the run leg of a triathlon –  so the ideal is to maintain a constant cadence of about 90-100 RPM. Studies have shown that increased variability of power or effort and uneven cadence during the ride severely impairs 10 km run performance off the bike. Therefore cleat set up for a triathlete is to  all about optimising cadence and ability to maintain a steady heart rate and  power output.
Mountain biking is all about aerobic and anaerobic capacities. During a 2 hour MTB ride you will spend 80% of time above your lactate threshold which significantly impacts on your run. For most people their MTB heart rate is 20 beats per minute higher than for a TT on a road bike. The power output spikes super high routinely during the ride and cadence is dictated by the terrain and is therefore always variable. All in all disastrous for a run off the bike. Plus the Adventurethon run is on trails which is a whole different kettle of fish to road running as it requires more technical ability.
So back to the question of cleat set up for the Adventurethon-er. Clearly we don’t want the cleats in the same position as a road cyclist or a triathlete. There is probably also some argument that it won’t be exactly the same as for a pure mountain biker given the need to run off the bike.
So where to start. A forward cleat position can increase load on the hands, increase the lower calf (soleus) activity, increases ankle movement and decrease stress on the ACL and hip. You have more work being done by the ankle and less at the hip.
A rearward cleat position decreases load on the calf and hands and increases load at the hip.
For balance and stability on a mountain bike a slightly rearward position is probably best.
Keep an eye out for part two when we show you how to dial in that cleat position
Train Smart. Ride Strong
Daina Clark

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