Tag Archives: cyclo cross

Shoes: What, Where and How

It’s likely in the Top Three questions asked during a fit: What shoes should I buy?

And like all the best and most important questions, there isn’t a simple answer.

In terms of performance, your feet are arguably your most crucial point of contact with the bike.

Bad shoes, or more precisely badly fitting shoes, can mean pain, injury, sub-optimal cleat placement and more pain.

All of those things can cost you power, speed and enjoyment.

Which means I am always surprised by the number of clients – and I’m talking about a significant majority – who buy their shoes online, totally blind.

I won’t preach, because I’ve done it myself over the years.

But while we know they’re cheaper, and we know they look bling bling in that fluoro/pearlescent/whatever, do they fit?

Experience tells us that, regardless of sizing and/or width fitting options, some people just do not suit some shoes.

So, the golden rule: Try before you buy, even if it costs you a few quid extra.

And almost as importantly, find a retailer with a good selection across different brands; that way at least you’re giving your feet some different reference points in terms of feel.

A few more tips.

Take out the insole, place your foot on it; are you spilling over the edge or sitting nicely within its boundaries?

If you know your ideal cleat position, is it achievable? Different manufacturers drills holes in different places and even the best fitting shoe is massively compromised if your cleats are 1cm out of whack.

Think less about the width of the shoe and more about the overall volume. A bigger, taller foot can make even a wide shoe feel narrow as the upper is pulled tight across the foot.

Look at the quality of the insole? Is it thick? Thin? In between? Generally, although not exclusively, stock insoles are pretty poor. So, if you’re using a footbed – like the Sidas available here: http://www.fit2ride.cc/sidas-custom-footbeds/ – or an orthotic, make sure there is room in the shoe to accommodate them.

In terms of the fit of the shoe though, trust your instincts.

If they feel right, and everything else is equal, then they probably are right.

The season is just around the corner

It is hard to imagine as I write this – there’s an inch-thick layer of ice outside the front door – but spring will soon be here. Hopefully.

And by late February or early March, the early season time trials, road races, triathlons and sportives will be popping up on the calendar.

So, if those are your targets – and the New Year training load is about to ramp up in anticipation – it makes sense for the rest of your preparation to keep pace too.FitRideBW-71

In bike fit terms, ideally that means making any potential changes now, rather than leaving it until later in the season.

You can make mid-year alterations to your position – and I see plenty of riders through the summer months – but there are downsides.

In well conditioned athletes there is inevitably a period of adaptation after a fit, especially if significant adjustments have resulted; the body takes time to adjust to new demands.

And to give yourself the best chance to make those adaptations, it is better if they are done during training rather than competition.

Asking your body to deal with a different bar height, cleat position, reach or a pair of new footbeds while riding full gas intervals is not ideal.

It can be done, of course, but, logically, it is not optimal. It might even be damaging.

Which brings me back to a point I’ve made before: Why compromise? Why leave a stone unturned in the search for performance gains?

If you’ve already picked up those carbon tubulars and ticked the boxes on the coaching and training fronts, it makes sense to check your position on the bike.

And the best time to do that is probably now.

Getting fitted for cross

Since the cross campaign kicked off, I’ve had a few discussions about the requirements of cross-specific bikefit.

So here are a few thoughts.

First, a good fit, and the edge it can give a competitive rider, is as relevant in cross as it is in road, TT, tri or track.

The truth is this: If you’re fighting against the bike rather than working with it, you’re going slower than you should be, whether you’re in a muddy field or on a stretch of road.


The core principles of a fit for cross are the same as they are for road; biomechanical efficiency, good foot stability, neutral posture and weight distribution, all built around the physiology of the individual rider.

But there are also subtle differences, resulting from the unique demands of the discipline, that probably make it a more intriguing process than a fit for tarmac.

Starting at the foot, cleat position can be a little more aggressive, maximising leverage for those stop-start accelerations, even if that means slightly compromising spinning smoothness.

Saddle and bar position can vary significantly too.

An aggressive road race fit can pin the rider in one place on the bike; for cross the ability to shift weight on the saddle to cope with the terrain, while maintaining pedalling efficiency, is crucial.

Cross is actually one discipline where you can even make a convincing case for event-specific saddle height when you compare the technical demands of an event like The Three Peaks with a flat, non-technical ‘criterium on grass’.

And where a competitive road fit may see the position optimised for a client to spend long periods of time riding on the drops, how relevant is that for cross, when hands-on-the-hoods is more like to be the default riding position when the hammer is down?

Time to finally slam that stem and get lower? Possibly.

How much difference could it all make? Combined together, over the course of a long, hard winter’s racing?

There are no absolutes, but the little things have a habit of adding up.

And when you’ve got the bikes right, the tubs glued and the training dialled, where do you look next to try and find that winning edge?