In Part 1 of this 2-part series, we covered finding an efficient, safe, neutral cleat position using a four-step process, and explained some different cleat positions for different types of riders/riding.
We’ll finish up with a look at cleat positioning for recumbents, cleat angle adjustment, ankle clearance, marking your cleat position, and a few additional bonus tips.
Cleat Positioning for Recumbents
I’ve never needed a different cleat position for riding the recumbents I’ve owned. However, there are many different possible crankset positions on different types of recumbents, and that could necessitate moving the cleats to become efficient and comfortable.
I recommend trying the neutral position first and then changing if you’re not comfortable or feel a lack of power. Be sure to mark your cleats first so that you can always return to the starting position.
Also, there’s a strong camaraderie among ’bent riders so you should be able to reach out to others on your bicycle model to get suggestions on the best cleat position. Just remember that cleat position has as much to do with the bike design as it has to do with your body geometry, so you’ll need to dial it in to be right for you.
Cleat Angle Adjustment
Most clipless systems include some "float," the ability of the cleats to move slightly while locked into the pedals so that you will automatically find a natural angle to hold your feet when pedaling. However, it's important to get the cleats close to the right angle position when mounting them.
If they're angled incorrectly there might not be enough float in the system to allow you to correctly position your feet, which could result in pain when riding, or even a knee or foot injury. It can also make it harder to get in and out of clipless pedals.
From experience fitting hundreds of riders, I’ve found that a good ballpark neutral starting position that works for most riders places the cleats so that when the pedals are mounted in the shoes, there is space between the heels of the shoes and the crankarms that's about 3/4 of an inch (2 cm), or about the width of an average man's index finger.
If you experience any discomfort when cycling that's associated with your cleat position and these basic adjustments don’t work, I recommend visiting a shop with an experienced cleat fitter and paying a professional to dial in your position.
Two tricks if you need ankle clearance
Two tricks that help some riders: If you adjust your cleats carefully and still find that your ankle(s) is too close to the crankarm and sometimes brushes it (or worse), a simple fix is to place an automobile spark plug washer(s) between the pedal(s) and crankarm(s). The washer(s) will slip right over the pedal, not affect the threaded connection to the crankarm, and will provide a couple of mm of clearance.
If you need more clearance, a great solution is SCOR Productions’ KneeSavers http://www.kneesaver.net/. These are custom pedal extensions that allow you to add 20, 25 or 30mm between your pedals and crankarms.
Mark your cleat position
Once the cleats are perfectly positioned on your shoes, be sure to mark them so that when they need to be replaced, it's easy to find the perfect position. Some shoe soles have grid marks on them for this purpose, and some cleats come with marking stickers, etc. Or, you can just trace a line around the shoes in indelible ink (a Sharpie works great). Or try a gold paint pen for carbon-sole shoes.
Be sure to lubricate your cleat bolts before installation, which will ensure you can get them tight enough to remain tight. And, be sure to check the bolts/screws after a few rides to make certain they are still tight.
If you keep a spare set of cleats on hand, you will always have them if the cleats on your shoes become too worn or break. Spare cleats also come in handy for comparing with your used cleats to determine if they're worn enough to replace them yet.
Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to replace both cleats at the same time. It’s not uncommon to wear out the cleat on your “click-out foot” much faster than the opposite cleat. So, just replace the cleats individually as they wear out. That will give you additional value from your cleats.
Speaking of cleat wear, you might look into rubber covers for your cleats, which are offered by a few companies. You carry them on rides and slip them over the cleats when you stop and will be walking around – both for protection of the cleats and for additional traction when walking. Here are the unique Keep on Covers that I use for my Speedplay cleats. They go on and stay on the cleats so I never forget to bring them along: http://www.keeponkovers.com/Product.html
Be sure to keep your clipless pedals and cleats lubricated where they meet each other to prevent clicks and creaks. Finish Line now offers a pedal and cleat lubricant. Another good cure is the car-care spray Armor All, which you can find in any hardware or auto parts store.