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Bike shoes & cleat positions

Updated: Jun 24, 2021

Since working with Age Group athletes it is clear that they usually want to know about the specific, technical parts to our training.

Unless we’re talking the bike. On the bike questions usually come down to the mechanical side and why we use specific equipment. The three most commonly asked questions in order ​of popularity:

1) Shoes & Cleat positions 2) Size of Cranks 3) Seat position on the bike

It doesn’t matter in which country, these are the hot topics. Let’s address the first today.

With Daniela Ryf’s explosive performances this year and the wearing of the Biomac ‘ballet shoes’ early in the season, it has created the buzz around the fact that the shoes are in fact are custom made for mid-foot cleats. Thus giving a completely different position on the bike.

While this position was new for Daniela, several squad members have been using a compilation of different cleat positions since 1993.

Our Trisutto Coach, Jo Spindler used them for 10 years while racing extremely successfully and running off the bike with times equal to the sport’s superstars. I will ask Jo to follow up on this blog with his take on the topic in more technical detail. However, for now I will point out why we incorporate them into some of our athletes’ programs:

The number one point is we do not use them primarily to help bike speed. I am in the business of training triathletes. Not cyclists. We use this set up primarily to enhance the run component of our ​triathlon.

While remembering our bike set up is a total package. Pedal placement does not take place without crank length and seat angle position being accounted for. We don’t just change the shoe position, we break it down in finite parts just as we do with the swim.

There must be a reason for any change and it must not fit just what is best for the bike, but what will work in harmony with the run.

Mid-foot in my opinion is superior in time-trialling and running off the bike if one pushes bigger gears and does not rely on the spinning motion. There is a view that it can be beneficial to higher cadences​also, but I personally use it for the less spin inclined.

We do not advocate it for the drafting races.

While it may be easy to assume it works for Daniela Ryf because of her superior size plus talent – as an example I would prefer to look to Diana Riesler, who had a breakthrough year in 2015 with Ironman 70.3 and Ironman wins. Diana has ridden at least 10 Ironman performance with a sub 5-hour ride. What makes that so impressive? She weighs 52kg. A pocket rocket on the bike who has improved her run greatly with each season.

Diana’s customised cleat position.

Diana also rides more forward and deep, just as the Angry Bird. Size and power of the athlete is not the main ingredient to the sub 5-hour club.

Conclusion: We use the shoes on very few athletes because they must be able to cope with the psychological aspects of using a technique that is not espoused through the triathlon community. However, if athletes can and are willing to change their position on the bike it is our opinion that it takes away some of the workload off specific calf muscles, that in turn allows the athlete to run faster and

further off the bike.

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