A schoolboy error - Road Cycling UK

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A schoolboy error

How quickly fortune can change and form can fade. Or even evaporate completely. My first time trial of the season went pretty well, with a respectable 10th place finish that only served to encourage thoughts of better placings still to come.

Well, looks like they’ll have to wait, for a while at least. Sunday produced a somewhat less convincing ride in the Sussex CA Hard Riders 22.8 mile time trial, in which I placed 18th and slowed by somewhere around 90 seconds, going by my time relative to those of several of those “ballpark operatives” against whom I like to test myself.  

So, what happened? Easy; I committed the cardinal sin of riding new equipment without previously testing it properly. I should know better, of course, and indeed am normally so reluctant to depart from the tried and tested that it’s a miracle I ever get to ride anything new in any circumstances.

Actually, that last bit is not quite true but I generally ride new, untried, comfort-relevant stuff such as saddles for a short distance before progressively increasing it once satisfied it is not completely useless. And indeed the new shoes and cleats I decided to trial last week proved both comfortable and effective at transferring power between my feet and the pedals.

At least, they did so on the Friday commute.

Come Sunday, I suffered as usual on the climb that opens the course but felt quick enough on the long flat, then downhill, then flat again leg to Cowfold and on to Ansty. From here through Cuckfield and Balcombe the course climbs and descends several times and, on each ascent, I simply went slower and slower.

I was at a bit of a loss to explain this until I go back to the HQ and sat down, at which point my calves started to ache. This and pain in the Achilles tendon are often signs of poor cleat positioning, where the cleats are positioned too far forwards on the shoe sole. This places the foot too far back over the pedal axle, increasing the effective length of the lever arm formed between ankle and pedal axle and increasing the load on both tendon and muscle.

Sure enough, when I checked the position of the Time i-Clic cleats against those in my regular SPD-type shoes, the cleats were some 7mm too far forward despite being set as far back as the mounting slots would allow (unlike those in the picture).

Result, pain and loss of power. Just how much cleat position can affect the latter may be judged from the time loss indicated above. Which is not to say that every cyclist should whack their cleats back as far as possible…

So, back to riding my SPD shoes in time trials? If only it were that simple. Although I didn’t push that hard on the pedals, the one facet of road shoe performance that really impressed on the Friday commute was power transfer. Now, I have ridden carbon soled shoes before and used them pretty much exclusively until a few years back, so this came as no real surprise. But the reminder was enough to convince me that I now need carbon soles and race pedals for competition. Which means finding a pair of shoes with mounting bolts that let me get the cleats where I want them. Until then I have a ready excuse…


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