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Today we talk about bikes and cycling, going back to the classic @sportstalksocial topics, adding the @build-it ecosystem. One of the first steps that a person finds himself taking is the purchase and assembly of specific shoes to practice this sport. In fact, there are devices that allow constant anchoring to the bicycle pedals. This is made possible by a very efficient and equally simple mechanical system: a cleat mounted under each of the 2 shoes. This cleat will be inserted into a specially carved cavity in the bike pedals, designed and built for this purpose.
There are various fixing systems that change according to discoverers or according to the companies that have marketed them. Let's see in detail what we are talking about. As examples, I will take 2 very similar fixing systems marketed by the French company Look and by the one made in Japan Shimano.
I recently bought a new pair of shoes and used my old pair to show you the anatomy of this system: it is based on some threaded holes carved into the shoe. The system then consists of a cleat in composite material, some metal gaskets, and a series of lockable screws thanks to a hexagonal key.
In the figure, you can see how to roughly position the cleat and how to insert the rectangular metal gaskets. You must make sure that the holes in the shoe remain clearly visible because the screw will be inserted inside them. Once done, thanks to the hex key, you will have to tighten it firmly.
The cleats must be firmly anchored because the method to engage and release them from the pedals during our outings in the saddle will be to exert lateral force with the rear end of the foot. If the screws have not been tightened well, the cleat will move, and we will not be able to release the foot from the pedal. With a series of repeated releases in these conditions, we will lose the cleat along the way, and we will no longer be able to pedal with only the shoe. Types of shoes such as the one for bicycles do not in fact have a rubber sole, but are very solid and rigid, often made of reinforcements in composite materials.
But you are wondering: how to mount the cleats on the shoes? Yours is not a trivial question, let's see in detail the criteria to be met.
To begin with, I invite you to contact the store where you purchased the shoes, in order to obtain a professional opinion. In case you need more in-depth consultations, you can also be redirected to a biomechanical. But if you are a beginner and want to understand how to roughly position the cleats, here is the method I used.
With the help of any type of marker, even a simple piece of post-it or tape like the one I used in my case, you have to mark some anatomical limits: in reality, two.
First, put on your shoes. Then take tape or other marker and begin to feel the lateral edge of the shoe starting from the tip. On the right side, after the profile of the fingers, you will find a bone edge: mark this point on the scotch tape, as in the figure.
Repeat the same operation for the left side: you will find a second bone edge at the end of the profile of the fingers that you will have to mark.
Done. But what are these edges?
The edges marked on the outermost side of our shoe correspond to the metatarsal bone, in particular the 5th metatarsal. The edges on the internal side correspond instead to the 1st metatarsal. The 2 points must be joined by means of an oblique line.
Now, we take our shoe, turn it over, place the cleats and insert gaskets complete with screws. We tighten a little with the hexagonal wrench until the force exerted by the fastening system does not allow the cleat to move itself (but which must allow it to move if we exert pressure: this will serve us to move it into more correct position).
Now that we are ready, we need to move the cleat so that the point just behind the most anterior coupling (which will correspond to the central axis of the pedal) falls in the middle of the diagonal joining the first and fifth metatarsal heads. In some cases, it can be moved back a few more millimeters. At this point, we must tighten the most advanced screw and act on the rotation of the cleat. To do this roughly, it is useful to draw an ideal line between the most advanced point anteriorly and the most advanced posteriorly, and then draw a perpendicular to it: the rear edge of the cleat must be positioned parallel to this line. By doing this step, we will have a shoe positioned on the pedal in line with the major axis of the crank arm and of the bicycle itself. We can then find the right compromise once back in the saddle and tried on the shoe.
The triangles are the point of the metatarsal; the red line is the line between the metatarsal bone edges; the red circle is the center of the pedal axis; the bluish lines are the major axis and the the axis perpendicular to it.
The last step, also to be evaluated after a short test in the saddle, is the laterality position of the cleat: we can slightly loosen the screws and move the cleat more externally or internally. If you have some knee problems like me, with a knee approaching the top tube of the bike during the pedaling cycle, you can opt for a shift of the cleat inwards, so that the foot moves away from the crank and you can gain a little bit of space.
It should be emphasized that the adjustment of the cleats must be done individually for each foot, as there may be postural asymmetries. The anatomical points for each of the 2 feet are thus marked and the cleats adjusted accordingly.
It is essential to maintain anatomical limits for one simple reason. While pedaling, we release a force. This force will be expressed and transmitted to the pedals through the contact point between the foot and the pedal. If we set the cleat incorrectly, we can run into unwelcome phenomena. We might run into:
- inflammation, in the simplest case of a too advanced cleat, when the load is transmitted from portions of the toes and not from the part immediately behind them;
- loss of pedaling effectiveness, in the case of cleats that are either too advanced or too backward;
- release of the pedal during more intense rides,
The method illustrated here allowed, in my case, to obtain an approximately well-positioned cleat. Having some asymmetry, I am now looking for a more comfortable position by acting on rotation and laterality from time to time. I advise you not to settle for the first positioning but to adjust them several times according to the sensations during the pedaling cycles. Only in this way will you be able to achieve a good balance between the position on the pedal and your posture on the bike.
At the end of this post, I still invite you to ask your store or professionals in the sector for information, who will be able to better show you how not to run into any of the problems indicated above. In addition to anatomical knowledge, their work is also based on research that can help you not only get a good ride but how to drive its effectiveness to its full potential. Modern technologies allow to make a direct evaluation of the sole of the foot and to understand which portion is the most suitable to withstand the efforts and maximize performance. It will then be sufficient to report these data on the shoe to position the cleat.