Pedalling technique - toes down or heels down?
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    Pedalling technique - toes down or heels down?

    Hmm, not sure if this the right forum room or if it's been covered before. Which way should the foot be pointed for smooth cadence or doesn't it matter?

    For years, I understood toes down was good form and recall vaguely that Tony Rominger recommended it. Last week, however, I read the opposite as toes down was said to waste energy unecessarily.

    It leaves me confused and the answer is probably whichever feels right. I do both on the road assuming that alternating gives muscle groups a chance to recover. A bit like climbing out of the saddle which I often do purely as an opportunity to change position, change blood flow round the body, give lower back muscles a rest and so on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by paul l
    It leaves me confused and the answer is probably whichever feels right..
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    What ever feels most natural to you is the correct answer.

    With that said, it seems easier to pedal toes down on the flats/hammering and heels down when climbing in the saddle.
    Voting isn't marriage - it's public transport. You are not waiting for "The One" who is absolutely perfect. You are getting on the bus, and if there isn't one going exactly to your destination you don't stay at home and sulk - you take the one going closest to where you want to be!

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    Whichever way makes you not think about it is correct. IOW, you don't "try" to pedal in any certain way, and that is the best way to pedal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wookiebiker

    With that said, it seems easier to pedal toes down on the flats/hammering and heels down when climbing in the saddle.
    this seems to work for me, though on the flats i find myself bringing my heels down slightly when i'm about to begin my down-stroke at about 12 o'clock, and then flexing my calf and ankle to push my toes back down.

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    duh

    Quote Originally Posted by paul l
    Hmm, not sure if this the right forum room or if it's been covered before. Which way should the foot be pointed for smooth cadence or doesn't it matter?

    For years, I understood toes down was good form and recall vaguely that Tony Rominger recommended it. Last week, however, I read the opposite as toes down was said to waste energy unecessarily.

    It leaves me confused and the answer is probably whichever feels right. I do both on the road assuming that alternating gives muscle groups a chance to recover. A bit like climbing out of the saddle which I often do purely as an opportunity to change position, change blood flow round the body, give lower back muscles a rest and so on.
    You've heard the phrase "wiping the mud off," right? If you're pointing your toes down on the down-stroke, how can you possibly hope to recruit your calf into propelling you forward? If you're toes down, then your calf is simply locked in place and you've turned your lower leg into nothing more than a meta-bone through which your upper leg has to do *all* the work.

    This is not rocket science.

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    Quote Originally Posted by shirt
    This is not rocket science.
    A good thing it isn't, too.

    Don't try to recruit your calf into the action of pedalling. "Ankling" is a waste of energy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by shirt
    You've heard the phrase "wiping the mud off," right? If you're pointing your toes down on the down-stroke, how can you possibly hope to recruit your calf into propelling you forward? If you're toes down, then your calf is simply locked in place and you've turned your lower leg into nothing more than a meta-bone through which your upper leg has to do *all* the work.

    This is not rocket science.
    How exactly does a calf propel you forward in a meaningful way?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnStonebarger
    A good thing it isn't, too.

    Don't try to recruit your calf into the action of pedalling. "Ankling" is a waste of energy.
    I could not disagree more.

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    Quote Originally Posted by shirt
    I could not disagree more.
    "...ankling, much like people's walking gait, is caused by physical individuality rather than any advantage. Typically, some walking gaits are so pronounced that a person can be recognized by it at a distance. Some people raise their heel before stepping off on the next stride while others "peel" the foot from the floor in a continuous motion. To artificially emulate someone's ankle motion or lack thereof, while pedaling, is as useless as emulating a walking gait."

    Jobst Brandt

    http://sheldonbrown.com/brandt/ankling.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnStonebarger
    "...ankling, much like people's walking gait, is caused by physical individuality rather than any advantage. Typically, some walking gaits are so pronounced that a person can be recognized by it at a distance. Some people raise their heel before stepping off on the next stride while others "peel" the foot from the floor in a continuous motion. To artificially emulate someone's ankle motion or lack thereof, while pedaling, is as useless as emulating a walking gait."

    Jobst Brandt

    http://sheldonbrown.com/brandt/ankling.html
    Sheldon was a real mensch, may he rest in peace. Two problems:

    1) We're cycling, not walking.
    2) Sheldon was not an authority on biometrics.

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    Quote Originally Posted by iliveonnitro
    How exactly does a calf propel you forward in a meaningful way?
    Let's see... it's a MUSCLE and it helps PUSH THE PEDAL DOWN which propels the bicycle FORWARD.

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    Quote Originally Posted by shirt
    Sheldon was a real mensch, may he rest in peace. Two problems:

    1) We're cycling, not walking.
    2) Sheldon was not an authority on biometrics.
    With keen insights such as "duh" and "this is not rocket science," you seem to have this all figured out, so I'll just ask: What makes you think ankling is the answer? For that matter, what makes you think pedalling efficiency is even a question?

    P.S. Sheldon didn't like ankling either, but the quote is actually from Jobst Brandt.

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    Quote Originally Posted by iliveonnitro
    How exactly does a calf propel you forward in a meaningful way?
    By putting a harness on one, then tying the harness to the front end of your bike...it's amazing how much a little calf can pull.

    Oh, wait a second...this is about your leg muscle isn't it?
    Voting isn't marriage - it's public transport. You are not waiting for "The One" who is absolutely perfect. You are getting on the bus, and if there isn't one going exactly to your destination you don't stay at home and sulk - you take the one going closest to where you want to be!

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    Jerkhard Sirdribbledick
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    As someone who suffers from endless cramping, especially in the calves, I've found that heel down works best for me.
    "He groaned when we hung the rope over the tree but was relieved to see the white pinata."
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  16. #16
    wim
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    Quote Originally Posted by shirt
    Let's see... it's a MUSCLE and it helps PUSH THE PEDAL DOWN which propels the bicycle FORWARD.
    Got it. Now, how exactly do the calf musles (gastrocnemius and soleus) help push the pedal down?

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    Quote Originally Posted by wim
    Got it. Now, how exactly do the calf musles (gastrocnemius and soleus) help push the pedal down?
    Is "contraction" the word you're looking for?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnStonebarger
    With keen insights such as "duh" and "this is not rocket science," you seem to have this all figured out, so I'll just ask: What makes you think ankling is the answer? For that matter, what makes you think pedalling efficiency is even a question?

    P.S. Sheldon didn't like ankling either, but the quote is actually from Jobst Brandt.
    Sorry if I hurt your feelings John. Duh. Rocket science.

    Thanks for correcting my quote. I don't know who Jobst Brandt is and I don't have an extra 30 seconds to google him. But I have 60 seconds to respond to you. ;-)

    I have no idea what you mean by this: "what makes you think pedalling (sic) efficiency is even a question?" I didn't ask the question. Someone else did. Pedaling efficiency exists whether you question it or not. Mount your cleats on your heels and see if your efficiency changes. Voila: pedaling efficiency is a question.

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    Quote Originally Posted by shirt
    Sorry if I hurt your feelings John. Duh. Rocket science.

    Thanks for correcting my quote. I don't know who Jobst Brandt is and I don't have an extra 30 seconds to google him. But I have 60 seconds to respond to you. ;-)

    I have no idea what you mean by this: "what makes you think pedalling (sic) efficiency is even a question?" I didn't ask the question. Someone else did. Pedaling efficiency exists whether you question it or not. Mount your cleats on your heels and see if your efficiency changes. Voila: pedaling efficiency is a question.
    I remember reading a thorough blog post about mounting the cleats on the heels to get rid of the calf muscles. The author had basically come to the conclusion that the calf was a useless muscle in cycling and that by putting the cleats forward of the heel we were introducing an inefficiency.

    However I know when I climb I use my calf muscles to get some extra bounce at the bottom of the stroke so that my hamstrings don't work so much and so my other quad isn't pushing dead weight. I would assume that I do this in a normal pedal stroke as well although the degree at which I do it might be much lower.

    Therefore it seems to me that the calf has at least some use in the pedal stroke and that the angle at which you pivot your foot can make a difference. And this is where my knowledge ends.

  20. #20
    wim
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    Quote Originally Posted by shirt
    Is "contraction" the word you're looking for?
    I'll take it if that's all you have to offer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by shirt
    Sorry if I hurt your feelings John.
    Don't worry about it, anonymous. You didn't.

    Quote Originally Posted by shirt
    I don't know who Jobst Brandt is and I don't have an extra 30 seconds to google him. But I have 60 seconds to respond to you. ;-)
    Your time would've been better spent googling Jobst.

    Quote Originally Posted by shirt
    Pedaling efficiency exists whether you question it or not.
    That may be true, but mostly in a tree-falling-in-the-woods sort of way. In the real world most times someone espouses a more efficient pedaling method they simply waste everyone else's time. Especially, it seems, when they're as convinced of it as you are.

    Quote Originally Posted by shirt
    Mount your cleats on your heels and see if your efficiency changes.
    Funny you should mention that, as moving your cleats toward your heels is a much more compelling argument for pedaling efficiency than ankling ever was, precisely because it might help take your calves out of the action.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnStonebarger
    Don't worry about it, anonymous. You didn't.

    Your time would've been better spent googling Jobst.

    That may be true, but mostly in a tree-falling-in-the-woods sort of way. In the real world most times someone espouses a more efficient pedaling method they simply waste everyone else's time. Especially, it seems, when they're as convinced of it as you are.

    Funny you should mention that, as moving your cleats toward your heels is a much more compelling argument for pedaling efficiency than ankling ever was, precisely because it might help take your calves out of the action.
    You're a riot. Tell you what, post a video of you sprinting out of the saddle with cleats mounted on your heels and I swear to god I'll mail you a $20 bill. Cash money.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by shirt
    You're a riot. Tell you what, post a video of you sprinting out of the saddle with cleats mounted on your heels and I swear to god I'll mail you a $20 bill. Cash money.
    I'll donate another $20.00 if he can win a field sprint with cleats mounted on his heels...Now that would be freaking funny to watch

    I will say this...If the calf muscles are not used in a pedal stroke, why the H*** are my calves so big, and why do they burn so much when I'm hammering? They are obviously adding something to my pedal stroke and are not a detriment.

    Sprinting...LOL, without them I would be God awful slow
    Voting isn't marriage - it's public transport. You are not waiting for "The One" who is absolutely perfect. You are getting on the bus, and if there isn't one going exactly to your destination you don't stay at home and sulk - you take the one going closest to where you want to be!

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnStonebarger
    Don't worry about it, anonymous. You didn't.

    Your time would've been better spent googling Jobst.
    Okay, I just spent 10 minutes reading through a bunch of Jobst's hooters. He's not a complete idiot, but is definitely a "partial." There's 10 minutes of my life I'm never getting back... Wait, maybe you ARE Jobst! Jobst! Get out of John's body!! Get out, I command thee!

    Who the hell is "anonymous"?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wookiebiker
    I will say this...If the calf muscles are not used in a pedal stroke, why the H*** are my calves so big, and why do they burn so much when I'm hammering? They are obviously adding something to my pedal stroke and are not a detriment.
    It's not that you don't use your calves. It's that you don't need to in any active way -- the calves simply stabilize your foot. That's why Steve Hogg and Joel Friel and many others are now moving people's cleats back behind the ball of the foot. (Of course, efficiency and effective sprinting are two very different animals...) Whether or not that works, I don't know. My point was that there's actually some interesting debate about it, unlike "scraping mud with every stroke."

    Regarding ankling and toe up/down the OP answered his own question -- "the answer is probably whichever feels right."
    Last edited by JohnStonebarger; 09-24-2009 at 01:33 AM.

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