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  1. #1
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    ss for gimpy people

    hi.

    i'm a relatively experienced road/urban rider, but am new to mountain biking.

    without getting into too much gory detail, i have had multiple surgeries on multiple joints for multiple sports injuries. my knees in particular are quite horrific (acl, mcl, meniscus, severe arthrofibrosis, etc.), so of course i mostly ride fixed on the road and figured that ss was the obvious choice for off road.

    given the fact that i realize i'm going to be in pain regardless (i'm not quite 30, and giving up on all of the activities that doctors suggest just seems ridiculous), i wanted to know if anyone with particularly shoddy knees can recommend a brand or type of pedal.

    specifically:

    - platform (minus death cages) vs. clipless

    - if clipless, which ones? i have always sworn by crank brothers, but i keep seeing/reading that i might want even more float than those give.

    any/all insight is much appreciated.

    -- sara aka hoppity hop

  2. #2
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    I don't know of what pedals would have even more float. I think you've got it figured out already.

  3. #3
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    They're a little weird, ie: have to get used to them, but -- speedplay frogs. The design allows for more or less unlimited float.

  4. #4
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    Speedplay Frogs...

    Same here. After I broke my foot dirtbiking in the woods, the only pedal I could use was the Frog. I liked them so much that once my foot was okay, I transferred them o my road bike and they stayed there for 2 years.

    Johnnydrz

  5. #5
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    If you're going to SS off road, you want clipless. Crank Bros have always been the easiest on my knees, though I think that the newer Time ATACs have a lot of side-to-side float as well. Personally, I feel like lateral alignment is the biggest thing in avoiding knee problems, so that kind of float is a plus. Can't speak to the Frogs, though I've heard a lot of riders say that they're easy on bad knees too.

    One other thing...riding SS on trails isn't like riding a fixie on the road. You can't always keep a smooth pedal stroke even on mellow trails, and if you're riding anything tight or technical you're going to find yourself moving your body around way more than you ever would on the road. 27-speed mtbs are geared low enough that they don't require a whole lot of effort or strain, so going geared at first might help you pick up handling skills without requiring you to stand up and mash the bejeezus out of your knees on every climb,

  6. #6
    local trails rider
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    Quote Originally Posted by fat_weasel
    27-speed mtbs are geared low enough
    Or at least pick a SS gearing that is low enough, and don't be afraid of walking up some places or being slow on the flats.

    I cannot know how your knees will react to all the body language that it may take to control a bike on trails. A sports doctor once told me: "If it hurts, don't do it."

    If your knees react badly, don't push it: give it a rest and figure out how to avoid the problems.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by fat_weasel
    One other thing...riding SS on trails isn't like riding a fixie on the road. You can't always keep a smooth pedal stroke even on mellow trails, and if you're riding anything tight or technical you're going to find yourself moving your body around way more than you ever would on the road. 27-speed mtbs are geared low enough that they don't require a whole lot of effort or strain, so going geared at first might help you pick up handling skills without requiring you to stand up and mash the bejeezus out of your knees on every climb,
    Or you could just gear really low, and spin spin spin... I keep one bike geared at around 40 gear inches (a 34/22 on 26" wheels) for steep and/or techy trails. It's true, on a SS with a higher ratio there is alot more pedal pressure as well as alot more 'body english' required to negotiate the bike smoothly at speed. So I say slow down, sit and spin a little more, and find the fun in slow speed maneuvering through obstacles that you would otherwise fly right over. Its good! And easier on the knees, too.

    edit: just barely beat me to it.

  8. #8
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    I SS 36x22 - 24 with Speedplay Frogs. I've had 2 pairs of the Frogs for a long time.

  9. #9
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    I'm going to be contrary. Start off with some cheap platforms until you get the feel for trail riding under your belt. I think you'll have more confidence about bailing out and you'll try tough things and it will give you one less thing to worry about.

    As far as gear inches, I personally think that somewhere in the 45 gear inches is great; but I live in the PNW, and when I'm not climbing for several hours on singletrack, I'm doing it in mud. And it kinda depends on wheelsize too- I gear my 29er lower because the big wheels can be such a b-tch to get going.

    Too bad you aren't in my zip code, or I'd take you somewhere fun...

  10. #10
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    You've gotten a lot of expert advice already. Only thing I'm an 'expert' on are my knees, which are CRAP. If your knees are already hurtin', how do you ride fixed on the road? I'd love to be able to, but it hurts me to even watch a fixie rider go by. Sitting and grinding is bad, bad, bad for the knees. So if you must ride SS, I'm throwin' with the others who tell you to gear DOWN. I also think it's better to start out with plats, til you get the feel of SSing. My 26 is 34/21, about 43 gear inches. Easy on the knees. Even so, my right knee squabbles so much, I'm having to ride a 1x8 right now. Don't think I've got much cartilage left. I'm an old fart, and I rode fixed a lot 30 years ago. Can't help but wonder. I'm wondering how good a lot of these young SS warrior's knees are gonna be in 20 years. So take care of 'em.....you don't want to have to replace em.

  11. #11
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    Thanks Everyone!

    first, thanks to everyone who responded!

    i probably should have mentioned that i have a 2004 kona unit (purchased new in jan-09 as a just-got-laid-off gift to myself) with the following modifications: tora 318 fork, 20t freewheel (came stock as 32 x 18), crank bros candy c's. the shock and the 20t made a HUGE difference, so thanks to all who suggested the gear change as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by fat_weasel
    If you're going to SS off road, you want clipless. Crank Bros have always been the easiest on my knees, though I think that the newer Time ATACs have a lot of side-to-side float as well...

    ...and if you're riding anything tight or technical you're going to find yourself moving your body around way more than you ever would on the road...
    i've heard a lot of good things about the time atacs as well, and i kinda am curious about how they'd feel.

    regarding the differences between the road and trails, i embarrassingly admit it's *a lot* different (harder) than i expected. i'm somewhat stubborn in my ways, but pain has definitely made me interested in sampling some geared riding on trails.

    Quote Originally Posted by Doggity
    ...If your knees are already hurtin', how do you ride fixed on the road? ...I also think it's better to start out with plats, til you get the feel of SSing.

    ...I'm having to ride a 1x8 right now...
    although i know that there are many things about a fixed that might be hurting my knee further, the fixed has definitely strengthened the quads in my particularly horrible leg. my fixed is a kona paddywagon, and it came stock with 42/16, which is reasonably forgiving gearing as long as there are no huge hills around. i also wear a helmet, still have the freewheel hub attached, use my brake A LOT, and have no problem with getting off the bike and walking when faced with a steep hill. i will control my speed a bit with back pressure, but i stop by using an actual brake (i.e., not attached with a zip tie to the bottom of the seat).

    regarding the flats, i think i really need to give them another try. i used some cheapo ones with death cages the first few times out on trails, and it wasn't pretty. i am curious as to how a bmx platform or something similar would work for me. i really like being able to pull up, but i also feel like a lot of my crashes are due to not trusting my leg, wanting to step down, and then not being able to unclip in time.

    did you purchase your bike as a 1x8? i don't think i've seen that in my limited bike perusals, but it is intriguing.

    Quote Originally Posted by perttime
    ...A sports doctor once told me: "If it hurts, don't do it." If your knees react badly, don't push it...
    i have a love/hate relationship with that advice. i feel like i need to sometimes push through some stuff, but it's very difficult to know at the time when i am overdoing it. babying my leg too much often leads to further degeneration while overdoing it often leads to having to take a break for a week. blah.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by umarth
    I'm going to be contrary. Start off with some cheap platforms until you get the feel for trail riding under your belt. I think you'll have more confidence about bailing out and you'll try tough things and it will give you one less thing to worry about.

    As far as gear inches, I personally think that somewhere in the 45 gear inches is great; but I live in the PNW, and when I'm not climbing for several hours on singletrack, I'm doing it in mud. And it kinda depends on wheelsize too- I gear my 29er lower because the big wheels can be such a b-tch to get going.

    Too bad you aren't in my zip code, or I'd take you somewhere fun...
    if you couldn't already tell, i'm sorta new to forums and i think i'm replying in random places...

    ...as i replied elsewhere within the thread, i feel as though a lot of my problems are a result of my attempts to bail out and it not working. i now have 32/20 on my kona unit, and it seems to work alright for now.

    i am jealous of your location, however. i lived in northern ca for a year about ten years ago, and it was amazing. i constantly see/read about all the places to ride out there, and i recently came very close to moving to seattle or portland, but right now i need to tough it out where i am. surprisingly enough, nj has a ton of green space, so it's not too horrible.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by SuperSaraSonic
    crank bros candy c's

    i've heard a lot of good things about the time atacs as well, and i kinda am curious about how they'd feel.
    I've only used Time, but think CB mechanism is not all that different. I have some lateral and angular float but don't know how exactly it compares.

    (Time's ROC ATAC models are my favorites now, because the pedal body feels really solid under the foot and the mechanism seems to be highly durable.)

  14. #14
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    Don't be afraid to stand

    After having "sit and spin" pounded into my head year after year, I ended up injuring my knee from doing just that. I was using standard road gears and the lowest weren't low enough I guess.
    Trying a compact helped, but standing more was the key. I realized this because there was less pain offroad where standing was more common for me.
    Since switching to SS, where standing is a necessity to get up hills has reinforced this for me.
    Now I'm comfortably back on standard gearing on the road (when I'm not riding fixed).

  15. #15
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    I went into my first ride on a trail with the SS with a similar mentality--that I should avoid standing at all costs. I learned pretty quickly that I had to stop thinking that, but I am stubborn enough that I needed it confirmed by someone else who wasn't crashing every two seconds and was making it up hills without falling over.

    The clipless has really helped with the pull when standing and going uphill, but I still have run into several situations where my knee just can't take it, I really want to unclip, discover that I am unable to, and then crash. Heh.

  16. #16
    local trails rider
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    Quote Originally Posted by SuperSaraSonic
    I still have run into several situations where my knee just can't take it, I really want to unclip, discover that I am unable to, and then crash. Heh.
    Is it the knee that keeps you from unclipping, are you still learning to unclip, or is the shoe hanging up on the pedal?

  17. #17
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    I'm sure it largely has to do with my inexperience, but it also has to do with how sudden the realization that my knee cannot handle [insert condition here.] I have always unclipped/stepped down with my left foot, and of course my particularly bad knee is my left knee. With that said, it would probably be beneficial for me to get used to clipping out with the right leg, as I think that maybe I'd have the strength/dexterity to unclip when in a more difficult situation...

    ...or, as one reply suggested, to just go with some platforms until I'm more comfortable. I'm torn because the benefit of adding the pulling power to the pedal stroke when attempting to climb has been huge...as long as I stay clipped in and my knee doesn't suddenly decide that it has had enough.

  18. #18
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    did you purchase your bike as a 1x8? i don't think i've seen that in my limited bike perusals, but it is intrigueing.
    It's a Redline D440, and you can find it on Redline's website.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by SuperSaraSonic
    I have always unclipped/stepped down with my left foot, and of course my particularly bad knee is my left knee. With that said, it would probably be beneficial for me to get used to clipping out with the right leg,
    You definitely should learn to unclip on both sides. When you run out of speed, you never know which way the "Timbeeerr" maneouver will go

    Also, unclipping also includes twisting forces, even if you take it as "pushing the heel away from the bike". The good knee is probably better at taking those forces.

  20. #20
    Dinner for wolves
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    One for the crazy luddites

    SuperSaraSonic,

    When my shimano clipless pedals bit the dust 3 years ago, I bought these. They were intended to be a stop-gap solution until I could afford Time ATACs. I spent $25. Well, I have been using the Powergrips on my SSMTB ever since and I keep up with my clipless brethren just fine. The system took a few months to break in and get used to, but now they work beautifully. Just sayin'...
    Responds to gravity

  21. #21
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    those look interesting and i "get" how they could possibly work, but i'm concerned with them being no different than regular death cages when crashing. in other words, do they let your foot go when they get enough force on them, or are you locked in thereby creating a potential-bad-twisting situation?

    i don't mind losing some power, but i would like to avoid obliterating additional ligaments.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by perttime
    Also, unclipping also includes twisting forces, even if you take it as "pushing the heel away from the bike". The good knee is probably better at taking those forces.
    Not if you are running Speedplay Frogs. There is no tension in that system.

  23. #23
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    Do the Speedplay Frog cleats play nice with Sidi Dominator 5's?

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by SuperSaraSonic
    Do the Speedplay Frog cleats play nice with Sidi Dominator 5's?
    You would have to get that info from someone who has both!

    You could check out Speedplay's web site, maybe they have a list of compatible shoes. I doubt there would be a problem, but can't say for sure.

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