Which pedal / cleat combo for greatest float?



andy69

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Apr 18, 2011
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Hello, this is my first post on here; after a long knee injury layoff, I've finally been given the all clear to return to training. I really need some advice about which pedal / cleat / shoe will offer the greatest flexibility in terms of float to help my knees out by not restricting their movement during cadence. Any advice from anyone who really knows would be really appreciated as I need to get this absolutely right. I don't want to go back to clips and straps, but if clipless can't offer me what I need I am wondering whether or not it's best to.
Cheers Andy
 

vspa

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Jan 11, 2009
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Originally Posted by andy69 .

. I don't want to go back to clips and straps, but if clipless can't offer me what I need I am wondering whether or not it's best to.
Cheers Andy
clips and straps is 0% float, any clipless pedal with a floating-option cleat will do better, i use Shimano SPD with float and have used Look with float in the past too.
you should also consider riding with Bib Knickers, those cover your knees and keep them warm, they are also stylish :)
 

dhk2

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Aug 8, 2006
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Speedplay have about 30 degrees of free-float; don't know of any others that come close. I use the Zeroes, which have adjustable cleats to restrict the float if desired. Of course, having all that float capability really doesn't mean much to the vast majority of riders since most of us just don't have that much foot rotation when pedaling.
 

tafi

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Jul 31, 2003
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As a matter of course most pedals usually come with cleats with a certain level of float. It usually comes down to a conscious decision from the user to go to a fixed pedal, if they so desire. That means that a significant majority of riders use floating cleats without thinking about it. In terms of set-up it is also usually easier as the floaters have significant margin for error in cleat alignment.

As above Speedplay have the most float, but the ability to actually use that much float is pretty limited. The ubiquitous Look pedals can be had with have 0, 4.5 or 9 degrees of float (depending on cleats). 9 deg is more than enough for me to whack the chainstay with my heel (in other words it would be impossible for me to use more than 9 deg of float - your mileage may vary).

If you have had no medical advice in this regard, don't automatically assume that float will cure your problem. There are a couple of reasons for this:

1) Your ankle and hip can both rotate in many directions, meaning that your knees will go where they want (within reason), irrespective of how much float your pedals have.
2) Usually your muscular balance around the hip has a far greater impact on the tracking of your knees (which should ideally follow a consistent plane of motion throughout the pedal stroke). Gluteus medius in particular.

People who have had knee issues, and have persevered, have found the solution to their knee issues in the form of many different combinations of cleat, shoe, pedal, insole and exercise regimen (to provide the required muscular balance). Most of us have no significant issue so we continue to use the cleats which our pedals came with and whatever shoes we like the look of. Others have found, through testing, that floating cleats are indeed good for their particular issue, while others, still, have found that fixed cleats actually work better for their knees.

The key is perseverance. In other words, whichever system you opt for, and like any other facet of bike fitting, you must be prepared for a certain degree of experimentation.
 
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531Aussie

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Apr 11, 2004
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In my opinion, you want float that actually floats during the stroke, to the point where it might even feel a bit slipery, so that you actually get some noticeable movement, if that's what your knee 'wants'. I've only used Shimano pedals in the last 8 years, but float doesn't seem to be what it was in the 'old days'. The first pair clipless pedals I had were some early '90s red Looks, which were so 'floaty' and slippery that it actually put me off clipless pedals for a few years.

My current Shimanos definitely have float, but I'm not sure my feet actually float at all during the downstroke, even when the tension is kinda light. Perhaps they do move and I just don't notice, but..... The other day I jumped on a bike that I hadn't ridden for ages, and forgot that the tops of the pedals (the plastic body covers) were heavily worn, and with my worn cleats, I had so much noticeble float that I wonder if I should always have so much movement.

Eh, i'm so tired that I don't even know if this makes sense. :)
 

OldGoat

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Nov 13, 2006
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Not about float, but about knee pain and its avoidance. Saddle height and saddle fore/aft position relative to the bottom bracket can greatly impact knee comfort. Q-factor, crank length and position of the cleats on the shoe bottoms may also enter into the equation. My knee pain was attributable to my saddle being too low and too far back; moving it higher and more forward--in my case using a set-back seatpost flipped around to make it a set-forward post (manufacturer-approved use)--virtually eliminated my pain while at the same time greatly increasing my effective power. I'd strongly suggest you invest in a bike fit from a knowledgeable specialist fitter (not from the salesman at your LBS).
 

andy69

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Apr 18, 2011
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Wow guys thanks, such a lot to think about. I'm looking into the Speedlay pedals now; loads of money though........eek! @ vspa (cool Fignon pic!) if you have old school adjustable cleats like I have always used, toeclips and straps can give you unlimited float as referred to by 531aussie. That 'slippery' float at the bottom of the cadence is what I'm looking for, as my knee and big toe need to turn inward slightly at that point. @oldgoat I am certainly looking into my posture right now.
Thanks everyone
 

vspa

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Jan 11, 2009
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Originally Posted by andy69 .

Wow guys thanks, such a lot to think about. I'm looking into the Speedlay pedals now; loads of money though........eek! @ vspa (cool Fignon pic!) if you have old school adjustable cleats like I have always used, toeclips and straps can give you unlimited float as referred to by 531aussie. That 'slippery' float at the bottom of the cadence is what I'm looking for, as my knee and big toe need to turn inward slightly at that point. @oldgoat I am certainly looking into my posture right now.
Thanks everyone
i think you are talking about straps and toeclips but with normal shoes, with old school cycling shoes its 0 degree float, since the cleat was fixed/nailed under the shoe sole,
with clipless pedals and floating cleats the cycling shoe has inward and outward movement (float) from the heel perspective,
with the old system you could move your leg/cycling shoe to the left or to the right before pressing the strap and then it would be fix onto that position, with NO heel movement... No floating
 

andy69

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Apr 18, 2011
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Terrific, I really didn't want a post to turn into a debate, but here goes. I certainly didn't train and race for fifteen years in normal shoes. Below is a pic of my old Adidas Eddy Merckx shoes. If you look on the sole, you'll see that they came along with fully adjustable cleats, purposely developed by him to allow lateral float. Nobody ever kept Toestraps fully zipped up for training rides, they were only ever tight enough to retain the foot, and if you watch old vids you'll see that pros didn't either. Indeed sprinters used to zip up the strap for the finale or maybe an attack. Sean Kelly kept his straps until late in his career just because he preferred the foot to 'feel' loose.
shoes.jpg
 

vspa

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Jan 11, 2009
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well if they work for you there is no obligation to shift into modern pedal / cleat systems,
i often miss my downtube shifters for example,
i know some people from this forum still use them,
 

531Aussie

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Apr 11, 2004
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Originally Posted by andy69 .

Terrific, I really didn't want a post to turn into a debate, but here goes. I certainly didn't train and race for fifteen years in normal shoes. Below is a pic of my old Adidas Eddy Merckx shoes. If you look on the sole, you'll see that they came along with fully adjustable cleats, purposely developed by him to allow lateral float. Nobody ever kept Toestraps fully zipped up for training rides, they were only ever tight enough to retain the foot, and if you watch old vids you'll see that pros didn't either. Indeed sprinters used to zip up the strap for the finale or maybe an attack. Sean Kelly kept his straps until late in his career just because he preferred the foot to 'feel' loose. http://i879.photobucket.com/albums/ab352/andy1969-2010/shoes.jpg

Nice. Ah, memories. :) I had the '80s grey version of these Adidas Merckx shoes, which were pretty good shoes for the time, and lasted me over 10 years. The soles were indestructable, but probably a bit heavy, even by late '80s standards. Mine had the mesh and leather top, and the mesh eventually fell apart. The cleats could be set for a lot of float, but that usually meant cutting the middle section, then scewing in all four parts individually on each shoe.

As far as most other old style, nylon/plastic cleats, there was rarely zero float, because they would very quickly wear just enough to allow some float, but I'm not gunna put anumber on it. Most of the problems associated with zero float came with the first clipless, floatless Looks. These REALLY had no float, which present some knee problems, then floating cleats and pedals came it........or at least that's how I remember the history :)