Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear???

Showing 1-23 of 23 messages
Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? Carl Robinson 1/15/96 12:00 AM
Why do we ride with the balls of our feet over the pedal axle?
It seems to me that this creates higher pressure than if the axle
were closer to the midpoint between the ball and the heal.  
This high pressure probably contributes to foot numbness.  
The stiff soles used in bike shoes could probably carry the load
in the center and distribute it more evenly across the foot.

Is this position primarily to avoid interference with the front wheel?

How much work do our lower leg muscles really contribute thru
rotation at the ankle?

Have any studies been done on this subject?
Does anyone know the history on this subject?
Are we using the most efficient foot position?


Carl Robinson             Charlotte, NC

Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? robert l canon 1/18/96 12:00 AM
One thing I forgot to mention.  The "foot forward" (tm) position is so
radically advanced, some people may find you personally threatening.  Do
not be overly concerned.  Many true visionarys get this response from the
less enlightened, unwashed masses.  In order to be less threatening it is
good to cultivate an air of modesty.  Consistent with another truly
enlightened thread currently circulating in the rec.bikes news groups,
underwear in your cycling shorts will effectively facilitate a modest
demeanor.

Dr. Bob, no really...


Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? Bruce Frech 1/18/96 12:00 AM
Here is the first (clumsy) reply to explain why we pedal on
the ball of the foot:

Our legs are optimized to use all the muscles best by pedaling
that way.  With the pedal back (in the middle of the arch) the
calfs are not being used much and the moment arm (length of
the lever) is shorter.  

Putting the axle behind the ball-of-the-foot would make the
leg (and lever arm) even longer and make even better use of
all the leg muscles, but would probably put too much stress on
the ankle and Achilles tendon.

(Sheldon: so you had Achilles problems with the pedal too far
back, in the middle of the arch?  My guess is your seat was
too high.  When the seat is too high the Achilles must be
stretched more and the ankle flexed more at the bottom of the
stroke.  Did the pain go away when you lowered the seat?)

If we were horses we could pedal with our toes.  They can do
that by spending generations modifing the leg to work best by
walking around on their toes.  We run best when running on the
balls of the foot.

(waiting for a refinement of this theory or an alternate
one...)


Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? Joshua_Putnam 1/18/96 12:00 AM
In <30FDD8...@sheldonbrown.com> Sheldon Brown <Capt...@sheldonbrown.com> writes:

>Carl Robinson wrote:
>>
>> Why do we ride with the balls of our feet over the pedal axle?
>> It seems to me that this creates higher pressure than if the axle
>> were closer to the midpoint between the ball and the heal.
>> This high pressure probably contributes to foot numbness.
>> The stiff soles used in bike shoes could probably carry the load
>> in the center and distribute it more evenly across the foot.

>I will contribute my personal experience that having the pedal
>_forward_ of the ball of your foot can do a nasty job on your
>Achilles' tendon; I injured myself quite severely this way when
>I was in high school.  I went on my first ever bike tour with my
>brand-new toe clips, and really racked myself up.

>But why not pedal on ones arch?  Inquiring minds want to know!

My first impression is that toe-clip positioning just helps
keep your foot where it would be anyway -- pedals came
before clips, and even with flat rubber block pedals, it
simply feels better to pedal with the ball of the foot than
with the arch.  Look at pictures of riders before toe
clips, or look at most casual riders without clips today.

Exact positioning is definitely variable -- I find I get
knee pains on rides of more than four or five hours if I
use the classic ball-over-spindle position, but allowing
the ball of my foot to move forward to between the spindle
and the front cage eliminates this problem completely.  I
tour and commute in uncleated touring shoes, and when I put
cleats on my cleated shoes, I locate them using the wear
lines on my touring shoes' soles.  From the wear lines I
can tell that there's more force on the rear pedal cage
than the front, and also that my feet are far from
identical in their preferred positioning -- my right foot
tends to have more toe-in and rotate less than my left.

Putting my foot much further forward than that, say with
the ball over the front cage, definitely produces knee
discomfort of a different sort, along with ankle pains.  I
haven't done this enough to figure out why it hurts -- as
the doctor says, if it hurts when you do that, don't do
that!

--
 Josh@WolfeNet.com  is  Joshua Putnam / P.O. Box 13220 / Burton, WA 98013
                       "My other bike is a car."                  
New & used bike parts for sale: finger Joshua_Putnam@WolfeNet.com for list.
              Suntour XC Pro 7/8sp thumb shifters, new, $35

Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? robert l canon 1/18/96 12:00 AM
The original poster is on to something, he just didn't carry the concept
to it's logical conclusion.  I have developed "heel clips" that require
the foot to be inserted in a front to back motion and securely position
the foot so the heel is over the pedal axle.  This allows the power
generated by the leg muscles to travel straight down the lower leg to the
pedal.  By eliminating the flexible foot from the power path, there is
much more direct power transfer.  We all know about the power losses in
flexible frames, but how many of us have been woefully ignorant of the
power loss in our flexible feet?  The original post mentioned the
possibility of interference between the feet and the front wheel with the
more efficient "feet forward" (tm) position.  This isn't a problem, it's
a feature!  The drastic increase in power transfer can make control of
the bicycle difficult.  The forward positioned feet contact the front
wheel if it is turned too much and facilitate control of the bicycle.  
If you, the reader at large, are as smart as I give you credit for,
you'll be on your bike this afternoon trying the "foot forward" (tm)
position.  You may notice that your seat feels too high with your foot
properly positioned with the heel over the pedal axle.  DO NOT LOWER YOUR
SEAT!  It takes several thousand miles to adapt to the more efficient
position.  As you put in the miles, pay no attention to well meaning but
misguided "experts" who try to tell you that you look like a moron.  Ride
on, hips rocking on the saddle, feet rubbing the front wheel, secure in
the knowledge that you are in the vanguard of the cycling elite and
riding in the most bio-mechanically efficient manner known.

Dr. Robert, Ph.D.
(Really, I do have a Ph.D.  I just got it.  Now if I could just get a job...)

P.S.  I have suggested to Shimano that next years SPD shoes have the
cleat in the heel position.  They said, and I quote, "What the hell, Bio
pace sold pretty well for a year or two."

Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? Eric P. Salathe, Jr. 1/18/96 12:00 AM
> Carl Robinson wrote:
> >
> > Why do we ride with the balls of our feet over the pedal axle?
> > It seems to me that this creates higher pressure than if the axle
> > were closer to the midpoint between the ball and the heal.
> > This high pressure probably contributes to foot numbness.
> > The stiff soles used in bike shoes could probably carry the load
> > in the center and distribute it more evenly across the foot.
> >
> > Is this position primarily to avoid interference with the front wheel?
> >
> > How much work do our lower leg muscles really contribute thru
> > rotation at the ankle?
> >
> > Have any studies been done on this subject?
> > Does anyone know the history on this subject?
> > Are we using the most efficient foot position?
> >

OK, I'll bite. I think we should consider that the leg has evolved around
exerting force at the ball off the foot during walking and running. Thus, the
standard pedal position most nearly approximates the mechanics of gait. Just try
pedalling with your heel, and it feels darned awkward! Balance and  shock
absorption rely on placing our weight on the balls of the feet. Thus, moving our
weight around to accomodate bumps etc. can be done in a natural and intuitive
way.
--
              ,
Eric P. Salathe, Jr.
Dept of Atmospheric Sciences                  sal...@atmos.washington.edu
University of Washington              http://atmos.washington.edu/~salathe

Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? Stefan Burde 1/18/96 12:00 AM
rlc...@ccwf.cc.utexas.edu (robert l canon) wrote:
>[snip]  This allows the power generated by the leg muscles to travel  >straight down the lower leg to the pedal. [snip]

This would be great IF the pedals moved straight up and down.  However, due to the rotary motion of the pedals, placing the ball of =
the foot over the pedal axle allows the flexible ankle joint to redirect the downforce vector toccommodate the ACTUAL motion of the =
pedal, i.e. forward to the mid-point of the downstroke, then backward...
Just my thoughts
Stefan

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Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? Doug Milliken 1/18/96 12:00 AM

In a previous article, Capt...@sheldonbrown.com (Sheldon Brown) says:

>Carl Robinson wrote:
>> Why do we ride with the balls of our feet over the pedal axle?

<snip>

>I will contribute my personal experience that having the pedal
>_forward_ of the ball of your foot can do a nasty job on your
>Achilles' tendon; I injured myself quite severely this way when

I number of Ultra-distance cyclists position the pedal spindle toward the
heel -- my understanding is that they go a half inch to an inch back from
the ball of the foot (under the arch, but toward the toe-end).  I believe
that Lon Haldeman (RAAM legend) was the first to publicize this, and it was
to save his Achilles' tendons.  

Anyone considering doing this might want to ask the ultra mail-list.
Send a message to:
                Majo...@cycling.org

with no subject text and the one line message:
                subscribe ultra

At least this is how it used to work...  It's a pretty active list,
several messages a day, and a number of the RAAM contestants on the
list.

-- Doug Milliken
--

Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? Conrad Wang 1/18/96 12:00 AM
i second that, this is an interesting question!  
after kicking it around w/ some people here at work,
we couldn't figure why the heel couldn't also be used
to push on the pedal...
when it comes to really grinding, power comes from the
quads, and your calves are busy just trying to keep your
foot from plantar flexing (up)
someone suggested that using the ball allows for some
variation in applying power when turning at less than
full steam--e.g., using lower leg muscles to give the
uppers a break?  that is, if you used your heel, you'd
essentially be taking your lower leg muscles out of the
action.

however, i can't see why you'd want to use your arch.
it's rather sensitive to undue pressure compared to the
heel and ball...a stiff sole would compensate, but why
not place pressure where it's designed to be placed?
i guess if you really wanted to, you could use a stiff
sole and pedal at the arch; but then you would be reducing
the ability of lower leg muscles to contribute power
(a shorter lever arm, in effect)

anyone else have ideas?  i'd try to read up on it, but
i gots no time!

my $0.02
conrad wang
c...@bihobl2.bih.harvard.edu


Sheldon Brown <Capt...@sheldonbrown.com> wrote:
>Carl Robinson wrote:
>>
>> Why do we ride with the balls of our feet over the pedal axle?
>> It seems to me that this creates higher pressure than if the axle
>> were closer to the midpoint between the ball and the heal.
>> This high pressure probably contributes to foot numbness.
>> The stiff soles used in bike shoes could probably carry the load
>> in the center and distribute it more evenly across the foot.
>>
>> Is this position primarily to avoid interference with the front wheel?
>>
>> How much work do our lower leg muscles really contribute thru
>> rotation at the ankle?
>>
>> Have any studies been done on this subject?
>> Does anyone know the history on this subject?
>> Are we using the most efficient foot position?
>>
>Hey, folks, this has been sitting here for over two days with no
>responses, and it is a GREAT question.  
>
>I have to admit, I haven't
>a clue myself, doesn't anybody on this list have an opinion, or
>even a guess to offer?  C'mon, the worst that can happen is somebody
>will call you a nasty name, take a chance!

>
>I will contribute my personal experience that having the pedal
>_forward_ of the ball of your foot can do a nasty job on your
>Achilles' tendon; I injured myself quite severely this way when
>I was in high school.  I went on my first ever bike tour with my
>brand-new toe clips, and really racked myself up.
>
>But why not pedal on ones arch?  Inquiring minds want to know!
>
>Sheldon "XL Toe Clips, With Spacer Washers" Brown
>Newtonville, Massachusetts
>
>http://www.sheldonbrown.com/biz/hub/
>Harris Cyclery, West Newton, Massachusetts
>(617) 244-1040  FAX  244-1041


Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? Carl Robinson 1/18/96 12:00 AM
(robert l canon) writes:
>I have developed "heel clips" that require
>the foot to be inserted in a front to back motion and securely position
>the foot so the heel is over the pedal axle.  This allows the power
>generated by the leg muscles to travel straight down the lower leg to the
>pedal.  By eliminating the flexible foot from the power path, there is
>much more direct power transfer.  We all know about the power losses in
>flexible frames, but how many of us have been woefully ignorant of the
>power loss in our flexible feet?  

The way I see it, the center of area of the heal is behind
the ankle (pivot point). Transmitting power at this point
will most likely require the rider to provide an effort to
keep the toes from dropping down.  
With the load point directly under the pivot of the foot,  
I would be concerned about the sensitivity to foot angle.
The direction of the reaction torque on the foot due to pedaling
forces would be dependent upon the foot to leg angle.
This would probably cause one to ride with a tense lower
leg for quite some time before being able to react correctly
to the small forces attempting to make their toes flop up and down.

I still believe the optimum point should be forward of the ankle
just under the arch of the foot.   This would produce the lowest
pressure on the foot and the moments (torque) generated
on the foot would be roughly 40% of what we see with the ball over the axle.

I have just started to look at this so my analysis may be flawed.
I have modified a pair of older shoes with the beechwood soles
to have a pair of Look cleats about one inch behind the normal
position.  I will try these before going any farther back with
the cleat.

I am curious about the interference problem with the front
wheel.  Has anyone actually done extensive riding with
this situation?  Is it a problem or not?  

Carl Robinson    ---   Charlotte, NC


Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? Peter Thorsness 1/18/96 12:00 AM
In article <30FDD8...@sheldonbrown.com> Sheldon Brown,
Capt...@sheldonbrown.com writes:
>But why not pedal on ones arch?  Inquiring minds want to know!---

I have no biomechanical insights to offer, but my guess is the "ball of
the foot over the pedal axle" comes from "high performance cycling" (i.e.
racing).  As I slog around in the snow on my commute bike (no clips), I
often find myself placing my foot so that the arch is over the axle.
However, as soon as I stand up to fight my way into a 40 mph head wind (I
am in Wyoming after all), I instinctively place the ball of my foot over
the pedal axle.  I tried riding home last night with the arch or heel of
my foot over the pedal axle and felt quite inefficient -- hips rocking
from side to side, that sort of thing.  Perhaps that's simply due to
inexperience with those foot positions -- I don't know.  Clearly, a
strong attachment to your pedal improves performance and if you locked
your foot to the pedal in such a way as to interfere with efficient out
of the saddle riding (e.g. - your arch or heel locked down) you would
lose a significant advantage in a race during sprints and hill climbing.
Personally, I don't even do my 2 mile commute on relatively flat terrain
with getting out of the saddle at least once.
----------------------------------------------------------------
Peter Thorsness                              __o      
Dept. of Molecular Biology                 _ \<._  
University of Wyoming                     ( )/ ( )
Laramie, WY  82071-3944
Tel. (307) 766-2038  Fax. (307) 766-5098  Email: thor...@uwyo.edu
http://plains.uwyo.edu/~thorsnes/ptbike.html
http://plains.uwyo.edu/~thorsnes/ptwebpage.html
-------------------------------------------------------------------

Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? James Anderson 1/19/96 12:00 AM
On Thu, 18 Jan 1996 00:19:03 -050, Sheldon Brown wrote:
: Carl Robinson wrote:
: >
: > Why do we ride with the balls of our feet over the pedal axle?

: Hey, folks, this has been sitting here for over two days with no

: responses, and it is a GREAT question.
: doesn't anybody on this list have an opinion, or
: even a guess to offer?

OK, you'll get a hundred responses now.  I'm no physiologist, but it seems
pretty self-evident to me that nearly all the muscle below the knee is
used to flex the ankle, so with your arch on the pedal, a lot of calf
muscle goes to waste.  (Don't underestimate that muscle when pedaling; try
jumping without flexing your ankles.)  The ball of your foot is the end of
a lever whose fulcrum is the ankle, so it's the ideal spot to apply force.

Jim Anderson                            Department of Philosophy
jand...@pwa.acusd.edu                  University of San Diego


Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? Garry Lee 1/19/96 12:00 AM
Your hips rocked because you now had to reach more
with your legs.
Using the ball of your foot gives you a little more
leverage. That's the simple answer.Putting your foot
back and cycling with your toes will strain your achilles
tendon. (Too much calf).
Cycling with the arch will mean lowering your saddle a little
in order not to rock and get numbumbumbus horribilis.


Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? Bruce Frech 1/19/96 12:00 AM
First, we position our foot on the pedal because it is the
most effective there.  (Apparently Robert Canon's humor was
missed by some readers).

So the real question is why is that position the most
effective.

It has been observed that long distance riders use a slightly
rearward position to reduce strain on the Achilles, but for
the rest of us who do less than 1000km /week the 'centered
over the spindle' placement is close to optimal.  Track riders
tend to move the opposite direction, creating an even longer
lever arm, but increasing the stress on the Achilles.

Note that the ankle does not flex signifanctly, so the lower
muscles don't contribute much to power generation beyond
maitaining the angle of the ankle.  

So the main reason to use that position must be to make the
flexing of the hips and knees optimal.  It does this by
lengthing the lever arm.  It also changes the direction of the
vector from the knee to the pedal.

Take at look at the muscles in the upper leg and observe quads
extend the knee and the hamstrings extend the hip.  Both
actions are more effective with a longer lower lever segment.


Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? Rinards 1/19/96 12:00 AM
I ride the track, and so I tend to spin more than I did when I rode the
road (hey, they rhyme!)  I've noticed that often, about this time of year,
when I get back on the velodrome and start really spinning again, that the
muscles in the front of my lower legs get tired and sore.  I've noticed
this each spring for several years.

I assume the soreness in this muscle is an indication that I am using it
more on the track (duh).  I wonder if I flex my ankle more at high RPM?  

I can't imagine being able to spin at max RPM without flexing my ankle.  I
may be going out on a limb with a strange theory here, as I've never
talked about it before, but here goes:

I picture the ankle as another joint which, by flexing naturally (I'm not
advocating the "ankling" one is sometimes taught by well-meaning
"experts", just the natural flexing we do without thinking about it),
anyway, the ankle's flexing allows the thigh to limit its range of angular
motion, thereby allowing it to reverse its direction (up/down) more easily
by decreasing its angular velocity (for a given RPM) and I'm about to run
out of ways to explain this convoluted idea...there!  (Whew!  If that
makes any sense...well, _I_ understand what I mean.)

Perhaps the ability to spin more easily is a reason to place the ball of
the foot over the pedal spindle?

Not sure if this helps,

Damon Rinard

Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? Warblwarbl 1/21/96 12:00 AM
In article <4dlq7c$7...@piglet.cc.utexas.edu>, rlc...@ccwf.cc.utexas.edu
(robert l canon) writes:

> I have developed "heel clips" that require
>the foot to be inserted in a front to back motion and securely position
>the foot so the heel is over the pedal axle.  

snip

> You may notice that your seat feels too high with your foot
>properly positioned with the heel over the pedal axle.  DO NOT LOWER YOUR

>SEAT!  It takes several thousand miles to adapt to the more efficient
>position.  As you put in the miles, pay no attention to well meaning but
>misguided "experts" who try to tell you that you look like a moron.  Ride

>on, hips rocking on the saddle, feet rubbing the front wheel, secure in
>the knowledge that you are in the vanguard of the cycling elite and
>riding in the most bio-mechanically efficient manner known.

I have seen people get back pain from having their hips rock from having
their saddle too high.  Putting the spindle under your heel effectively
shortens your leg (Assuming your ankle isn't 90 degrees to begin with.)
There is no reason not to lower your seat a cm or two if you try the heel
thing.  It might be better than several thousand miles of discomfort
before you "learn" to ride with your hips rocking.

I am not so sure how efficient it would be to have the heel directly over
the spindle.  You may not be able to pedel very fast if you have to think
about whether your toes will go up or down.  I would place the spindle in
front of the ankle joint.  (The axis of the ankle joint is really close to
a line connecting the inner and outer ankle bones)  The reason for this is
that its much more comfortable knowing what force on the bottom of our
foot will tend to do to the foot.  (The force you apply to the pedal has
an equal and opposite reaction on your foot)  Force on the front of the
foot will push toes toword your nose and this force is resisted by tension
in the achilles tendon.    The direction of force on the pedal changes
throughout the downstroke.  This change in direction would make the ankel
feel unsteady if the spindle were directly under the ankle.  The muscles
that insert through the achilles tendon are much stronger than the muscles
in front of the ankle that lift the toes up.  If you knew that the pedal
would always push your foot up you would feel more secure and you would
never have to use the muscles in the front of your leg during the down
stroke.  The muscles in the front of your leg would fatigue much faster.
This is also the reason for not putting the spindle behind the ankle.

If you put the spindle under the arch get a stiff shoe because the weight
bearing areas of the foot are the ball and the heel.  If the pedal is not
under one or the other the force applied by the foot will bend the shoe
over the pedal.  The midfoot is not really designed to take a lot of
force.

Eric Fuller, DPM

Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? Doug Milliken 1/21/96 12:00 AM

In a previous article, LRT...@prodigy.com (Denis Drew) says:

>Just to add one more complication to this already esoteric discussion:
>
>I just read in Greg LeMond's book that you should push backward on the
>bottom half of the stroke and forward on the upper half: for complete
>efficiency.

Easy to say, but every cyclist that we measured with our dynomometer (well,
I suppose it was really a computerized _ergometer_), produced markedly less
torque at top- and bottom-center.  Best were track spinners, these people
did produce _some_ positive torque all around the circle.

Maybe LeMond can do it -- we didn't measure him...
--

Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? Warblwarbl 1/21/96 12:00 AM
In article <4dog29$k...@newsbf02.news.aol.com>, rin...@aol.com (Rinards)
writes:

>I ride the track, and so I tend to spin more than I did when I rode the
>road (hey, they rhyme!)  I've noticed that often, about this time of
year,
>when I get back on the velodrome and start really spinning again, that
the
>muscles in the front of my lower legs get tired and sore.  I've noticed
>this each spring for several years.

The muscles in front of your lower leg lift your toes up.  My guess is
that you are doing more lifting on the upstroke so that the downstroke leg
will have less resistance.  Some papers, that I have read, note that more
experienced cyclists have less force on the pedal during the upstroke than
inexperienced cyclists.  Also experienced cyclists tend to pedal at higer
RPMs.  This is probably the real reason for toe clips.  The decreased
force on the pedal makes you more likely to slide off of the pedal.  Only
very rarely do you actually lift the pedal on the upstroke.  Maybe at
really high RPM you are actually lifting on the upstroke.

Eric Fuller, DPM

Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? Tom 1/22/96 12:00 AM
In article <4dt38h$l...@newsbf02.news.aol.com>, warbl...@aol.com
(Warblwarbl) writes:

>I have seen people get back pain from having their hips rock from having
>their saddle too high.

You can add me to your list.  Spent the best part of the summer off the
bike (two weeks off of my feet) because I experimented with saddle height.
 An angry sciatic is no fun at all.  :(

BTW, I don't think this started as a serious posting.  

Tom Gibb (TBG...@aol.com)

Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? Matt Guenther 1/24/96 12:00 AM

>Carl Robinson wrote:
>
> Why do we ride with the balls of our feet over the pedal axle?
> It seems to me that this creates higher pressure than if the axle
> were closer to the midpoint between the ball and the heal.
>[...]
> Is this position primarily to avoid interference with the front wheel?

I figure that it could be because it is the most natural part of the foot to
balance on.  Whenever I stand on the pedals on a mountain bike, I find it
difficult to imagine my feet anywhere else on the pedal, the balls of the feet
seem so natural to balance on.  It could also be due to interference with the
front wheel, but that would only apply on smaller bikes.

Just my two cents.

        -Matt

 ______________________________________
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 #########  _|-\ |####| /-|_  #########   ma...@canuck.com
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Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? Joshua_Putnam 1/24/96 12:00 AM
In <4dmgm9$i...@rtpnews.raleigh.ibm.com> cwrob...@vnet.ibm.com (Carl Robinson) writes:

>I still believe the optimum point should be forward of the ankle
>just under the arch of the foot.   This would produce the lowest
>pressure on the foot and the moments (torque) generated
>on the foot would be roughly 40% of what we see with the ball over the axle.

>I have just started to look at this so my analysis may be flawed.
>I have modified a pair of older shoes with the beechwood soles
>to have a pair of Look cleats about one inch behind the normal
>position.  I will try these before going any farther back with
>the cleat.

>I am curious about the interference problem with the front
>wheel.  Has anyone actually done extensive riding with
>this situation?  Is it a problem or not?  

I rode in a similar position for a month or so while one ankle
was in a cast -- no ankle flex, so standard pedalling was out of
the question.  There was significant overlap, but it wasn't
really much of a problem.  Pedalling this way did require
lowering the saddle to make up for the lost articulation at the
bottom of the stroke, and that made the top of the stroke
proportionally higher as felt by my knees, resulting in sore
knees.  Perhaps that would pass as one adapted to the new
pedalling position, but it still bothered me at the end of the
month.

Riding with an ankle in a cast is still easier than riding with
one elbow and the opposite wrist in casts....

--
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                       "My other bike is a car."                  
New & used bike parts for sale: finger Joshua_Putnam@WolfeNet.com for list.
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Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? Sheldon Brown 1/28/96 12:00 AM
> >Carl Robinson wrote:
> >>
> >> Why do we ride with the balls of our feet over the pedal axle?
> >> It seems to me that this creates higher pressure than if the axle
> >> were closer to the midpoint between the ball and the heal.
> >> This high pressure probably contributes to foot numbness.
> >> The stiff soles used in bike shoes could probably carry the load
> >> in the center and distribute it more evenly across the foot.
> >>
> >> Have any studies been done on this subject?
> >> Does anyone know the history on this subject?
> >> Are we using the most efficient foot position?
> >>
There have been several good responses to this, I have been giving it
some thought, here is what I have come up with.

History: In the days of high-wheelers, the "gear" of a bike was limited
by the rider's leg length.  If the wheel was too large, the rider's foot
could not reach the pedal when it was in the bottom part of its arc.  

A man of medium height would ride a bike with something like a 50" wheel,
a gear quite a bit lower than would normally be chosen for a single-speed
bicycle.  Pedaling on the ball of your foot would effectively lengthen
your leg, so you would be able to fit on a larger wheel than you would
if you pedaled on your instep.  I believe that this is the reason for the
developement of the custom of pedaling on the ball of the foot.

When the chain-driven "safety" bicycle came in, there was no obvious reason
for people to change their habits.  With the invention of toe clips, the
advantage of the clips was so obvious for performance-oriented cyclists, that
there was no question of going back to pedaling on the arches.  (I don't think
that it would be too easy to develop a type of toe clip that would permit pedaling
on the arch.

Casual cyclists, who did not use toe clips, did and do pedal on their arches.
When most people wore hard-soled leather shoes, this was quite convenient, the
foot would sit on the pedal with the front of the (raised) heel bumping against
the back of the pedal, helping to keep the foot in place on the pedal.

Now: Reasons suggested for preferring ball-of-foot pedaling are mainly the
assertion that the arch is too soft and sensitive to pedal on, and that the
foot would interfere with the front wheel while turning.  

The question of the softness of the arch is answered by the use of shoes with
stiff, rigid soles.   The question of front wheel interference is, in my mind,
not a really good reason for determining the biomechanics of pedaling.  

This winter, I put together an old junker bike for commuting on snowy days (of
which we have had our share this year).  On this bike, due to a too-short
seat post, the fact that my snow boots are too tall to fit into toe clips, and
the desire to be able to get my feet down in a hurry, I have been riding this
way, with no obvious ill effects.  A serendipitous aspect is that this pedaling
style lets me keep the saddle low enough that I can stop at a traffic light and
put a foot down while remaining on the saddle.  This is not possible with a bike
that has the saddle adjusted properly for balll-of-foot pedaling.

If one were to build a bicycle designed for pedaling on the arch, instead of the
ball of the foot, it would be reasonable to use a rather steeper seat tube to
move the bottom bracket back a couple of inches, so as to preserve the desired
angle of the legs (knee-over-ball-of-foot, regardless of where the pedal spindle
might be).

Some posters have posited pedaling on the heel, others have suggested pedaling
at or near the pivot point of the foot, i.e. the part of the foot where you can
apply pressure without the need for muscular effor to keep the toe or heel from
moving upward.  I agree with the latter.

I plan to try attaching a pair of SPD-type cleats to some pair of shoes in the
arch area to try this out.  I would do this on a bike that has a top tube a bit
too long for me, and move the saddle forward by the same amount that the cleat
moves backward.  This may not actually get done for a couple of months, but when
it does, I will get back to the newsgroup on how it seems to work.  

I urge other inquring minds with the resources to try the same experiment, see
how it works!

Sheldon "Arch Supporter" Brown
Newtonville, Massachusetts

+------------------------------------------------------------+
|        To stay young requires unceasing cultivation        |
|          of the ability to unlearn old falsehoods.         |
|                                      --Robert A. Heinlein  |
+------------------------------------------------------------+
--

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/biz/hub/
Harris Cyclery, West Newton, Massachusetts
(617) 244-1040  FAX  244-1041

Foot Position on Pedal, Front to Rear??? Eric P. Salathe, Jr. 1/30/96 12:00 AM
> > >Carl Robinson wrote:
> > >>
> > >> Why do we ride with the balls of our feet over the pedal axle?

Sheldon Brown wrote:
> There have been several good responses to this, I have been giving it
> some thought, here is what I have come up with.
>
> History: In the days of high-wheelers, the "gear" of a bike was limited
> by the rider's leg length.  If the wheel was too large, the rider's foot
> snip

> Casual cyclists, who did not use toe clips, did and do pedal on their arches.
> When most people wore hard-soled leather shoes, this was quite convenient, the
> foot would sit on the pedal with the front of the (raised) heel bumping against
> the back of the pedal, helping to keep the foot in place on the pedal.
> snip

> Now: Reasons suggested for preferring ball-of-foot pedaling are mainly the
> assertion that the arch is too soft and sensitive to pedal on, and that the
> foot would interfere with the front wheel while turning.

I'll stand by the suggestion I posted earlier that the foot is a shock absorber
(see Salathe et al, "The foot as a shock absorber", J. Biomechanics, 1990). In
cycling, the foot works best when loaded at the ball of the foot. "Casual cyclists"
do not actively absorb road shock with their feet, but with their butts. "Casual
cyclists" also do not make quick balance adjustments. This is why they can get away
with pedalling off the balls of their feet with their weight squarely on the
saddle. Sure, one can generate force anywhere on the foot, and the heel is good for
kicking in doors and other brute tasks, but fine control is found by using the
whole foot, just as in gait, and applying force at the ball.
__________________________________________________________________________


              ,
Eric P. Salathe, Jr.
Dept of Atmospheric Sciences                  sal...@atmos.washington.edu
University of Washington              http://atmos.washington.edu/~salathe

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