Over Arching Concerns

I’m a longtime fan of Rivendell Bicycle Works’ President and Chief Technical Guru, Grant Petersen. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Petersen, you can read a little background at this link. Among all of the other things that must be involved with running a successful bike company, Grant posts to Peeking Through the Knothole, the Rivendell blog. He’s not what I’d call a prolific blogger, averaging only 3-4 posts per month, but his posts are always intriguing and insightful.

His most recent post directs us to a Cycling News article about Biomac’s “arch-pedaling” shoes. The article is essentially a review of a set of cleated shoes that have the cleats mounted under the arch of the foot, rather than in the more usual position under the ball of the foot. Cleated shoes no longer hold any interest for me, but arch-pedaling is something I’ve been doing for years.

I started arch-pedaling as a way to keep my feet on the pedals back when I was doing a lot of technical single-track mountain biking on platform pedals. Today, many gravity MTB riders naturally adopt this position for the same reason. It’s also not a bad way to pedal if you’re a bike commuter who wears street shoes with platform pedals. The arch-pedaling position provides a more secure connection to the pedals and reduces strain on the calves and hamstrings.

If you decide to try arch-pedaling, be aware that ankling will no longer be effective, so you may need to drop your saddle a bit to compensate. Depending upon where your saddle is set now, this may be as little as a couple of millimeters to as much as 2 centimeters. A large majority of bicyclists already run their saddles too low, so you may not have to move the saddle at all if this is true in your case.

There’s a tendency to mash the pedals while arch-pedaling; you’ll want to avoid this at all costs as it can wreak havoc on your knees. It’s definitely more difficult to spin with the pedal under your arch, but with practice it’s not impossible to develop a good spin while arch-pedaling.

The idea of moving the cleat rearward is not new; for years it’s been common practice among recumbent cyclists to move their cleats as far rearward as possible. I can’t say why this practice is widely accepted within the recumbent community while being less common within the upright community. Perhaps it’s because recumbent riders are more willing to shun cycling’s conventions, while upright riders tend to follow the long-established Rules of Cycling.

Peeking Through the Knothole
Cycling News Biomac Review
Grant Petersen’s Shoes Ruse

4 Responses to “Over Arching Concerns”

  • brad says:

    Arch pedaling is also pretty much a necessity for people like me who have big feet (bizzarely they’re still growing at age 50, I am now up to size 15 after wearing 14 from my mid 20s until this year, and 13 from my late teens to mid 20s), and who carry rear panniers.

    Some high-sitting panniers can clear my feet if I pedal on the balls of my feet, but for low-riders like the Arkel Bug I have to do arch pedaling to avoid hitting the bag with my heel.

  • Robert Frith says:

    I like it both ways :-)
    For short rides to the shops or the beach I’ll go with anything from bare feet to sneakers. I’ll head out to a party or a gig in something dressier too.
    For my work commute I like to be cleated in. My one bike has pedals with a cleat on one side and a platform on the other – heaven!

  • cafn8 says:

    Interesting. I do use cleats, and I can imagine that a cleat would be easier to recess into the arch of a shoe than on the ball of the shoe, for somewhat easier walking, once off the bike. Given that I also sport fairly large dogs, I can appreciate the heel clearance issue. On the other hand, even with the ball of my foot on the pedal, I sometimes bump my front fender when balancing at a near-stopped speed. This condition would likely go from an occasional awkward little bump to a real hazard if my foot was an additional 4″ (the distance between the ball and arch of my foot) forward. That said, I’m considering simplifying my riding experience by going clip-less-less, so I’ll probably keep this in mind.

  • Joel says:

    On my short-distance bike (70s-era Schwinn Speedster 3-speed) I almost always arch-pedal. It’s an upright with smooth platforms and I used to commute in dress shoes on it – they tend to slide on the pedals so I would end up moving my feet forward until the heels caught on the edge. I do like my cleats for long rides (10 mi +) though.

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