By Nick Legan
As any cyclist who has experienced sore knees can tell you, dialing in the fit of your bicycle is extremely important. A professional bike fitter can help avoid injury, provide you with a more efficient pedal stroke and a more comfortable, sustainable position. The foundation of any good fit starts at the pedals. But dialing in the position of your cleats, finding a pedal with the appropriate amount of float, and perfectly aligning your pedal stroke is no easy feat. Here are some products we’ve found helpful in recent months.
For all my touring, I use mountain bike clipless pedals. In most cases I use Shimano SPDs, but recently I’ve tried the latest offerings from French company TIME. With a light action and TIME’s unique lateral float, the double-sided ATAC XC8 has been great for general riding and mountain biking. The engagement is slightly different from other clipless pedals but takes no time to learn. The included cleats can be installed one of two ways offering either 13 or 17 degrees of float, far more than many mountain pedals. If you’ve had knee problems with other, more fixed clipless pedals, TIME may be the solution you’re seeking. If you’re interested in a version with a larger platform, check out TIME’s ATAC MX or Speciale pedals. For a single-sided option, the TIME Link might fit the bill.
After repeated bike fits, I finally came to understand that despite my featherweight build I have fairly widely set hips. Each time a bike fitter set up my cleats to increase the distance between my feet as I pedal, my knees got happier. While there are several road pedals with longer spindle options for narrow road cranks, few pedal manufacturers think that mountain bike pedal users have the same issues (perhaps because MTB cranks are wider than road). Fortunately iSSi produces a line of double-sided, SPD-compatible pedals available in three spindle lengths, two of them longer than normal. I’ve ridden the Flash III, with a series of durable, internal bearings, for several months with no problems. Less expensive versions, which use bushings in lieu of bearings, are also available. Likewise iSSi produces its larger-body Trail model and the Flip, a single-sided clipless with a platform on one side perfect for commuting and touring. Fashionistas will love accenting their bikes with one of 12 color options available.
If you ride radically toe out or toe in, getting SPD cleats sufficiently rotated on your cycling shoes can be tricky. VP Components has a solution. Its C51 and C56 cleats offer an additional 14 degrees of rotational adjustment thanks to a clever recess that allows for the extra movement. The C51 is a single-release cleat similar to Shimano’s black SH51 cleats while the C56 mimics the action of Shimano’s silver, multirelease SH56 cleat.
The odds that a pair of cycling shoes, as sold, will fit your feet perfectly are slim to none. Take the time to experiment with different insoles to find better support and comfort. SOLE produces insoles with various materials and thicknesses. The Active Thin with or without the metatarsal pad is a great option for cycling shoes. They are made in women’s and men’s versions and both are heat moldable. The base uses recycled cork, and they are latex-free and vegan friendly. Riders with low-volume feet can also use slightly thicker insoles to take up space inside their shoes. SOLE also makes its Active insole in a medium thickness.
Many cranksets and complete bikes arrive with a pair of pedal washers. In most cases they aren’t installed. Hopefully bike shops aren’t throwing them away though. If you need to add a bit of extra width to the stance of your pedal stroke, these are a great way to do so incrementally. Just be sure you don’t overdo it. Install too many and you won’t have enough threads engaged to safely keep your pedals attached. This is about small changes — not a large increase in pedaling stance.