Speedplay back to Looks - May have solved my problem

Discuss light weight issues concerning road bikes & parts.
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by djconnel

Awesome post.

I had pain in my left hamstring. I went into the gym and tried doing leg curls and could barely lift the top weight on the stack with the pin removed. I've been going to the gym weekly and after only one month I can now do 20 reps @ 40 lb each leg (due to mechanical advantage this is not 40 lb of force against my calf), a huge improvement. I feel much better.

Dealing with minor muscle imbalances is really important, I concluded.

by Weenie

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by ultimobici

I can't help wondering if the way in which the float is achieved is a factor too.

Speedplay's float is centred on the middle of the pedal & cleat, whereas Look pivots about a point at the front of the cleat effectively giving a slight side to side feel. Mind you having ridden Time in all its incarnations from 93 to date with zero issue I am biased to their set up.

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by wongmic75

The knee is really a victim of what happens at the foot or the hip or both... it is just a little joint, stuck between two long lever arms (Tibia and femur)

Current evidence suggests a lot of knee problems (ITB and Patellofemoral pain syndrome) or a result of hip weakness... causing the femur to adduct and internally rotate on the loaded down stroke. This is exacerbated by seats that are too high, and potentially by cleats that have no float... since the foot is fixed, then all the stress happens at the knee as the femur is inefficiently adducting and internally rotating... eventually the multiple repetitions of cycling creates a faulty motor pattern that may persist even if you change pedals or bike fit or strengthen your muscles.

Some knee problems can come from the feet..if you have excessive mobility in your feet, the and arch support can help to reduce the motion in the feet which might reduce movement in the knees... deep heel cups in shoes also help to control the midfoot motion.

to really fix problems, it would require a good motion analysis and testing of appropriate muscles in strength and length.... it is fairly poor money spent without good analysis of the key impairments..to just buy things that you think might help... just some thoughts since I help a lot of people in our team and club...

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by tommasini

I came back full circle - in the early days it was only fixed cleat with standard toe clips and straps. Then after the first generation of clipless pedalsl it seemed appropriate to test the float offered with the latest clipless pedals. Didn't seem all that bad or exceptional except that as time went on I noticed bad traits that I attributed to the float. So several years ago I retried fixed cleats (Clipless). The feeling of power transfer and control through the feet is unquestionably better..... with good fit this is the way for me.........but I do understand that some may have stability and other issues so will always desire to have some of the forgiveness of float. (btw - I do use orthotics for support of my foot........)

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by Bridgeman

You just reminded me of my Duegi shoes. Went through 2 sets of wooden sole Duegi's with the leather strap toe clips. I still have my first pair that I kept for kicks. I remember them as being THE most comfortable shoes I have ever worn, with no knee pain ever! I can still remember how second nature it was to always reach down to unclip for redlights. Just that little flick, and you're out.

So, yeah, Speedplay. I'm back having left knee pain. Turns out, it's the high pace, strung out, in the drops for extended periods that makes it happen. I think I may try and lower my seat a couple of mm's to start, and then maybe moving it forward a mm or 2 next.

After all these years, I still don't have it pain free. Just for reference, when I ride on my other bike with Time pedals and shoes, problem vanishes.

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by leosantos

Im figthing against rotulae chondromalacia / pathelar thenidinitis for the last couple of months. though I too use speedplay zero and I have also changed my fit to lower stack height after swapping to sidi ergo 3 speedplay specific in April, I believe the roots for my issues aren't caused by speedplay's float, but gotta admit this thread has made me wonder..

I started cycling last november, was training hard from Jan-March (on speedplay since january) and did some nice 60-70 mile rides with no pain after the new fit. one thing I remember we spotted on the retul fit was how my knees didnt rock at all during the pedal stroke (0% change in axis, which apparently was a good thing, as atested for the good shape of my stabilizers). then one day I joined some friends that have been cycling forever on an 80 mile ride with some very steep ascents, some (20-25% inclination) to the point I couldnt pedal forward anymore even putting all my power to the pedals. Clearly my muscles werent prepared for such efforts and getting back home that day was painful. the worse ascents I've ridden previously were around 13%, so half that...
to make it worse, I trained regularly that following week and on the next weekend went on a 90 mile ride which I couldnt even finish. from that day, my knees never recovered. I also tried ice, stretching and 1cm extra of saddle height, 10 days without cycling, to no results. Im now slowing down on training, havent climbed more than a few yards for the last weeks, am doing fisiotherapy and hitting the gym regularly, with emphasis on the legs. after only a couple of weeks I can feel some improvement, but honestly a real test would be to climb a few ascents.. I will perform an isocinetic test today, since my (second) orthopedist feels that muscle imbalances were the cause to the chondro - which shouldnt be a surprise after what Ive learned here, but would be nice to measure those imbalances.

Ill also consult with a second fisiotherapeust, who is also a cyclist, to ask about possible links on speedplay and my pain. and I have just started taking a supp of Glocosamine/MSM/chondroithin, which is said to only be helpful after 3 months on it..

p.s. for newcomers, I also found many related info in this topic in particular, among others:

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by airwise

I moved from Time to Speedplay. The Speedplay left my knees in tatters - I could not walk after one long mountainous ride.

Went back to Time and not a problem in nearly 20k miles of some of the hardest mountains in the world.

I'm guessing there is a wear problem with Speedplay. Still have them. Black Stainless Steel Zeros. Anyone want to damage their knees? Going cheap ;)

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by leosantos

air, tks for the comments, indeed as I pointed, this thread was an eye opener to me.. before, Ive only seen compliments at the speedplay's float as beeing easy on the knees (as wongmic75 wrote a few posts back here in words better than I can explain).

however, one of the points in writing my experience here is to defy this view that speedplay is hurting so many knees around.. how then, could be so many pros on them, and winning so many races, etc.. even better put (as pros arent a good parameter anyway), how could so many people be on speedplays for many years w/out any knee issues?

clearly in your case, and in others here, changing to speedplay was a hurting experience, but maybe because your muscle systems was so used to the forces the pedal stroke produced with your previous pedal, which was working fine for you and changing that without preparing the stabilizer muscles was counterproductive. Im just guessing (and seeking for pro comments) but see my experience, I basically started training on speedplays a few months ago and had no pain at all till suddenly I (very unfortunetly and ill-advised) decided to to go from 10-12% ascent at most on my rides to a +20% climb which I couldnt even pedal forward on my lightest gear.

So Im still not convinced Id be better today If I went on that ride with any other pedal, as I dont think it was the excess of miles, but of power (or lack of it actually), that hurt me. maybe with another gear ratio though but that is another topic..

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by cookiemonster

I moved to speedplays a year ago from spd-sl's. I like the feel and the adjustability, but I've been plagued with "the dreaded rock" on the left side (the right side has been fine). I'm on my third set of cleats, the latest of which hasnt cured the problem which means the pedal body has worn. A Ti rebuild kit costs near as damit the same as a new set of DA spd-sl's with cleats, so so sadly thats the direction I'm going to go.

My feeling is the same as someone mentioned above - if you have a good neutral pedal stroke then speedplays are a great option as evidenced by the numerous positive testimonies and their use in the pro ranks. However if you have a varus condition, muscular imbalance or some other instability then you may see accelerated wear of the pedals and cleats, and you may experience pain or injury as you to compensate for the less stable platform.


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by syklisten

Like many others in this thread I switched from Look Keo to Speedplay Zero stainless steal about 1 year ago. The past months I have started feeling pain in the medial side of my (for the most) right knee. First I thought it might be related to me making small cleat adjustments, but now I think that I have found the "problem". The "problem" is that the pedal bodies have worn so much so that the shoes/cleats rock on top of the pedal, not creating a stable knee motion under load. Again making the knee hurt. Because if you do get a bike fit, the fit will lean on the thought of the pedal being stable.

This pedal wear was confirmed by me changing cleats and the problem remaining. Actually its not the cleat/pedal rocking that stands for the worst part, but actually movement between the spindle and pedal body! I have to admit that I'm not one that greases the pedals after each ride, so my guess is that the lack of grease (and dust particles) might have increased the wear between spindle and pedal body. Again making the parts that the body lean on being worn down.

At the same time, I think one year is a bit to fast for the pedals to become such worn down, even with just some casual maintenance. To me it looks like Speedplay Zero works best for professionals/sponsored riders or for those that can afford buying new ones once a year.

I really don't know if I should give the Zeros another shot (with a bit more care into it) or go for a solid pair of Dura Ace pedals (9000 series being realised this fall). However I've really got used to the Speedplay system and my position on the bike is now very good (except for the knee pain), so it would be hard to change...
Last edited by syklisten on Wed Aug 08, 2012 4:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

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by drchull

The ITB attaches distal to the knee laterally. Rolling your foot outwards as you described puts varus stress on the knee stretching the ITB.

I also had similar anterior knee pain and ITB problems from riding cleats that were too worn out (Look) because my foot was rocking. My cleat position sucked too.

I have never ridden speedplay but if you are getting some rocking of your foot could explain the issue.

Good luck, knee problems suck, I shut my season down at the end of April because of knee trouble and really am barely riding currently, though that has as much to do with home renovations as the knee at this point.

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by KWalker

I had rock on Speedplays before I had my fit dialed in. 4 different fits all left me with the same problems. I switched to Looks and no rocking, but I often had ankle pain after long rides. I think the big culprit is a combo of a huge majority of people having their seats set way too high and/or far back and having momentary instability on the pedals. I agree with Hogg in that most riders ride wayyyy too high and compensate by dorsiflexing their ankles a log or rocking their hips. Speedplays have so much potential for movement with their adjustable float and wide range of positioning options that any little flicker of instability will be magnified exponentially.

Most people also don't correct their feet at all and suffer from lots of arch collapse and varus collapse. In shoe wedges don't correct rearfoot varus so people effectively never correct the issue. Both of these factors will lead to lateral collapse at the bottom of the stroke and thus instability.

Since being properly fitted and having my seat height dialed in (decreased from 787 to 773, moved forward 10mm), proper varus heel wedging (shitty in shoe wedges to 3 heel wedges per side), proper arch support (stock Speci inserts to eSoles black) I have had zero problems. I have great pedal contact, my adapter plates show zero uneven wear front-back or side-side, I have zero pains whatsoever, and my power immediately increased from not wasting effort reaching to my pedals so much.

I bet if most of the people that posted looked at a worn set of Speedplay cleats they would definitely find markings that demonstrate imbalances i.e. something worn more to the front, back, or a specific side. That would give a great indication as to what's wrong. I think Speedplays are awesome pedals if your feet and fit are dialed in, but otherwise they have so much adjustability that they can easily go wrong for lots of people.
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by Wingnut

Don't you mean plantar flexion? Generally cyclists with their saddle too high plantar flex to extend the reach to the pedals which can cause hyper flexion and a reduction in stability and power...

Doris flexion is the result of a lower saddle position where the heel drops when powering through a pedal stroke...

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by KWalker

Yes, sorry. Not enough coffee before posting.
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by SolidSnake03

I think as others have been alluding to that Speedplays don't necessarily "cause" knee pain or problems for people. It seems to me much more so that Speedplays merely allow existing foot/body imbalances to manifest themselves in more leg+foot+knee motion that consequentially leads to pain. The fixed cleat or minimal float cleats by Look/Shimano/Time etc... limit how much movement the foot and ankle has which "travels up the chain" so to speak to the knee.

Basically, if the body is functioning evenly, controlled and correctly I don't see why either pedal type would cause more problems than the other. However, if you view the pedals in the sense that they offer different degree's of body instability etc... if you already have those issues then peoples experiences here are making more sense.
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