Pedaling with your Heels low?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Pedaling with your Heels low?

    I think I've tried everything over the last 20 years of riding, but I've circled back to an idea that I got away from early on.

    With a typical "XC" set up, most riders try to optimize pedaling efficiency. Fine.
    When I started out I knew about that, but having the seat way up for full leg extension felt weird and I thought it restricted my movement around the seat on sketchy terrain. I learned to pedal with full leg extension, but with my heels down. When I needed that extra inch clearance around the seat, I had it. Life was good! I could rail rocky terrain without panic (not without fear, just w/o panic).

    Now, another 15 years and more than a couple bikes later I find my full rigid "XC" 29er starting to take on the form of a full rigid "All-Mountain" 29er. Mostly because it was always kind of a handful on steep, sketchy descents. Now that my bars are higher and just a tad closer, I've tried once again to lower the seat that extra inch to improve my confidence on those sketchy descents. Being down a bit, it is also forward a bit, so I slid it back on the rails just 4mm or so, and I found a whole new set of moves to negotiate those descents.
    I'm still getting full leg extension, but I've also got that extra inch around the seat again. I am hoping that it results in the best of all worlds where I have an efficient climber, a stable bomber, AND a worthy XC steed. Initial rides at Ray's MTB Park say it is.
    Now if that snow would just melt.

    -F

  2. #2
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    Sounds like the perfect recipe for shin splints and plantar faschiitis.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fleas
    I think I've tried everything over the last 20 years of riding, but I've circled back to an idea that I got away from early on.

    With a typical "XC" set up, most riders try to optimize pedaling efficiency. Fine.
    When I started out I knew about that, but having the seat way up for full leg extension felt weird and I thought it restricted my movement around the seat on sketchy terrain. I learned to pedal with full leg extension, but with my heels down. When I needed that extra inch clearance around the seat, I had it. Life was good! I could rail rocky terrain without panic (not without fear, just w/o panic).

    Now, another 15 years and more than a couple bikes later I find my full rigid "XC" 29er starting to take on the form of a full rigid "All-Mountain" 29er. Mostly because it was always kind of a handful on steep, sketchy descents. Now that my bars are higher and just a tad closer, I've tried once again to lower the seat that extra inch to improve my confidence on those sketchy descents. Being down a bit, it is also forward a bit, so I slid it back on the rails just 4mm or so, and I found a whole new set of moves to negotiate those descents.
    I'm still getting full leg extension, but I've also got that extra inch around the seat again. I am hoping that it results in the best of all worlds where I have an efficient climber, a stable bomber, AND a worthy XC steed. Initial rides at Ray's MTB Park say it is.
    Now if that snow would just melt.

    -F
    I use low heels, but not as much as an inch lower saddle. Closer to 1/2". Picked up the technique from riding horses, along with an overall more balanced position on the bike.
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  4. #4
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    Something to also consider. I added a Gravity Dropper a few years ago, so that I wouldn't have to worry about getting a good seat height and have the ability to get the seat out of the way.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiggy
    I use low heels, but not as much as an inch lower saddle. Closer to 1/2". Picked up the technique from riding horses, along with an overall more balanced position on the bike.
    That's funny! I pedal with my heals level or lower. I got it from training Peruvian Pasos. In fact a lot of mtb technique, I have learned from training horses.

  6. #6
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    Lower heels = using gluts and hams more

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by dirtdonk
    Lower heels = using gluts and hams more

    /\This, usefull strategy to fight cramps and fatigue.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by AZ.MTNS
    /\This, usefull strategy to fight cramps and fatigue.
    Especially if you are able to switch your riding style around during a ride. I do that on long steep climbs.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by ratmonkey
    Sounds like the perfect recipe for shin splints and plantar faschiitis.
    I've been riding a bike since I was 4.
    My Mom was riding a bicycle the week I was born (it was a rigid singlespeed, btw).
    I've never not had a bicycle.
    If I haven't sustained a bicycling-specific bicycling-induced repetitive use injury by now it's probably not gonna happen. [/fingers crossed]

    I have, however, sustained most every other bicycling-specific falling off-induced injury, though.

    -F

  10. #10
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    riding with low heels is not a technique that I use except as a calisthenic to help new riders develop an awareness of muscle groups at the back of the leg. This is done to facilitate a greater awareness of a full spin, as much as that is really possible.

    What I am hearing is that this is being used to anticipate handling challenges. Different muscle groups and techniques are all utilized in different circumstances but I would never use one as a steady-state to accommodate a compromised fit.

    Attending to a variety of circumstances and handling demands is a matter of weighting the saddle in various ways, getting in front of it, and getting behind it, while still being independently effective in managing the bar, with a variety of amounts of contact with butt and thighs. What has facilitated this for me is a smaller cockpit.

    In a loose sense of my seat-fore/aft position is based upon knee over pedal and height defined by placing the saddle about 3/8 of an inch below where my hips started to rock. It doesn't matter what bike I ride or what the terrain is, that never changes. Over time I have come to see that a shorter cockpit allows the maximum movement which comes in handy in the most challenging circumstances. It allows for a variety of weighting methods necessary for good handling and, not the very least, mitigating force driving up your spine on a hardtail.

    The short cockpit is not achieved by moving the saddle but by shortening the stem by 10 to 20mm and slightly raising bar position by 10mm. My seat is still 2 1/4 inches above the bars. This facilitates a better bent elbow position which also improves handling. It also provides an easier opportunity for getting the upper body down and behind the bars with strength as opposed to raising the bar too much which messes up the weight on the front wheel when climbing.

    I am not certain if this is a compromise to the absolute “perfect” fit. I am certain though that these accommodations have served to improve handling without giving up any power.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike
    riding with low heels is not a technique that I use except as a calisthenic to help new riders develop an awareness of muscle groups at the back of the leg. This is done to facilitate a greater awareness of a full spin, as much as that is really possible.

    What I am hearing is that this is being used to anticipate handling challenges. Different muscle groups and techniques are all utilized in different circumstances but I would never use one as a steady-state to accommodate a compromised fit.

    Attending to a variety of circumstances and handling demands is a matter of weighting the saddle in various ways, getting in front of it, and getting behind it, while still being independently effective in managing the bar, with a variety of amounts of contact with butt and thighs. What has facilitated this for me is a smaller cockpit.

    In a loose sense of my seat-fore/aft position is based upon knee over pedal and height defined by placing the saddle about 3/8 of an inch below where my hips started to rock. It doesn't matter what bike I ride or what the terrain is, that never changes. Over time I have come to see that a shorter cockpit allows the maximum movement which comes in handy in the most challenging circumstances. It allows for a variety of weighting methods necessary for good handling and, not the very least, mitigating force driving up your spine on a hardtail.

    The short cockpit is not achieved by moving the saddle but by shortening the stem by 10 to 20mm and slightly raising bar position by 10mm. My seat is still 2 1/4 inches above the bars. This facilitates a better bent elbow position which also improves handling. It also provides an easier opportunity for getting the upper body down and behind the bars with strength as opposed to raising the bar too much which messes up the weight on the front wheel when climbing.

    I am not certain if this is a compromise to the absolute “perfect” fit. I am certain though that these accommodations have served to improve handling without giving up any power.
    I don't know what to make of all that.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike
    riding with low heels is not a technique that I use except as a calisthenic to help new riders develop an awareness of muscle groups at the back of the leg. This is done to facilitate a greater awareness of a full spin, as much as that is really possible.

    What I am hearing is that this is being used to anticipate handling challenges. Different muscle groups and techniques are all utilized in different circumstances but I would never use one as a steady-state to accommodate a compromised fit.

    Attending to a variety of circumstances and handling demands is a matter of weighting the saddle in various ways, getting in front of it, and getting behind it, while still being independently effective in managing the bar, with a variety of amounts of contact with butt and thighs. What has facilitated this for me is a smaller cockpit.

    In a loose sense of my seat-fore/aft position is based upon knee over pedal and height defined by placing the saddle about 3/8 of an inch below where my hips started to rock. It doesn't matter what bike I ride or what the terrain is, that never changes. Over time I have come to see that a shorter cockpit allows the maximum movement which comes in handy in the most challenging circumstances. It allows for a variety of weighting methods necessary for good handling and, not the very least, mitigating force driving up your spine on a hardtail.

    The short cockpit is not achieved by moving the saddle but by shortening the stem by 10 to 20mm and slightly raising bar position by 10mm. My seat is still 2 1/4 inches above the bars. This facilitates a better bent elbow position which also improves handling. It also provides an easier opportunity for getting the upper body down and behind the bars with strength as opposed to raising the bar too much which messes up the weight on the front wheel when climbing.

    I am not certain if this is a compromise to the absolute “perfect” fit. I am certain though that these accommodations have served to improve handling without giving up any power.

    I totally agree with all of it.

    I am not trying to adapt myself to a poor fit (if that's what you thought). I have, though, lowered my seat a little bit while still getting full extension, I am still correctly positioned over the pedals, and I am still (feeling like I am) getting full power. I actually like hard, technical climbs (practice on various stone staircases and such), so I would not jeopardize performance in that area. I think I have improved that aspect by being able to continue pedaling even though the bike is moving through a large range of motion underneath me - my c.o.g. is still located as necessary to optimize traction without my pedaling being impeded. btw - having the shorter cockpit allows my arms (aka front suspension) to work through a large range of motion as well while still being able to steer the full range (if my elbows ever get to the point of being straight or locked, I'm probably getting ready to eat some dirt).

    And yes, as you alter your posture to accommodate the terrain changes you use different muscles to a greater or lesser degree. If you are able to alter your posture farther, you sorta have to practice using those muscles in that posture. But once you learn it, I think it works.
    fyi - I can stretch my achilles (sp?) far enough to just touch my heel on the ground, but not while sitting (and I don't have clown feet). When I say "heels low" I'm talking below flat, but not so much "toes up", if that makes sense.

    -F

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