Stopping dropping the heel

A light bike doesn't replace good fitness.

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HillRPete
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by HillRPete

When strong fatigue sets in I tend to drop the heel instead of keeping a good stride. Mostly a problem in hillclimbs. In training I usually manage to finish my workouts with ok pedalling form, but towards the end of a hillclimb my calves seem to be cooked.

Started with (shallow) one legged squats on a stair, and full ankle extension. Can you recommend anything else?

by Weenie


rijndael
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by rijndael

Have you looked at cleat position? It can have a large impact of calf muscle use in your pedal stroke.

HillRPete
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by HillRPete

The pedal axle is under the ball of the foot, quite like it this way.

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boysa
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by boysa

This is a problem for everyone, at all levels. Once we are fatigued, we start calling into service any and all muscles to help with the process of moving forward.

The best recipe? Climb more! The simplest answer is usually the best one. It will make you stronger, which in turn will delay the amount of time until you need to use those calf muscles. It also deals with specificity.
"Deserve's got nothing to do with it." William Munny

mattr
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by mattr

HillRPete wrote:The pedal axle is under the ball of the foot, quite like it this way.
So did I.
Read up on midfoot cleat position, no need to actually go the whole hog, but the science stacks up and a cm or so has helped me.

bombertodd
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by bombertodd

I have issues with my knees moving out during my spin when I'm fatigued. Moving the cleats back has helped my position when tired. Might work for you. You'll never know until you try. Just be sure to measure your current position in case it does not work out.

ico
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by ico

I think it could be caused by a cleat position as mentioned before or/and saddle height.

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AGW
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by AGW

I too would get bad calf pain and fatigue due to a ball-of-foot cleat position (retul's method), so the cleats moved back. It makes the calf pain go away because their involvement is limited by the now-restricted movement of the ankle. Knee extension (or virtual saddle height, I guess?) also increases but only by a little. Ultimately I found this change to be less powerful; more comfortable, sure... because I'm not able to fire all cylinders.

I moved my cleats back to where they were but really focused on raising my saddle to get optimal knee extension. At the right saddle height, my heel [/I]can't[/I] drop because I'm seated high enough that ankle flexion is limited. Instead of using ankling as a way to preserve knee angle (say on a steep climb), the saddle height does it for me.

Beware of Hogg's fitting advice. I find it's a bit too subjective and seems to encourage changes too radical to really be practical (eg move cleats back, thus lower saddle. Lower saddle, thus move it back. Move it back, thus futz with bar height and reach. Etc ad infinitum until you make a slight cleat adjustment and realize everything should be undone).

rijndael
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by rijndael

You shouldn't just move your cleats, it does have an impact on seat height and fore/aft points.

KWalker
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by KWalker

HillRPete wrote:When strong fatigue sets in I tend to drop the heel instead of keeping a good stride. Mostly a problem in hillclimbs. In training I usually manage to finish my workouts with ok pedalling form, but towards the end of a hillclimb my calves seem to be cooked.

Started with (shallow) one legged squats on a stair, and full ankle extension. Can you recommend anything else?


Why do you want to not drop it? Lots of great riders have significant heel drop- Boonen, Froome, even Merckx.
Don't take me too seriously. The only person that doesn't hate Froome.
Gramz
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HillRPete
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by HillRPete

Thought my calves were weak compared to my quads, and it would be better being able to keep smooth pedalling for longer, even with strong fatigue.

KWalker
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by KWalker

Calves will never be a limiter unless your cleats are wayyyy too forward. The muscles that comprise the "calves" are very, very slow twitch and as people noted primarily used to plantarflex the foot and stabilize the ankle. On the other hand your quads generate massive amounts of concentric force and generally have a different fiber distribution on average if you want to believe the old Soviet weight training texts.

If your calves are weak altering things so you can't drop your heel won't fix it. Chances are if your calves are limiting you the issue is that at the bottom of the stroke your seat is too high, too far back, or both and you have to dorsiflex a ton to "drag" the pedal through the stroke. Its the most common thing I see with performance oriented riders that have poor bike fits. The ankle dorsiflexes at the top of the stroke, which is when the heel drops so the calves would not be the weak link there.
Don't take me too seriously. The only person that doesn't hate Froome.
Gramz
Failed Custom Bike

HillRPete
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by HillRPete

The last few weeks since noticing (from a hillclimb event photo) how badly I was dropping the heel when climbing all-out, I have paid a bit more attention to my pedal stroke. The thing is, above 7-8% of gradient I tend to climb on the tops. That's just the most relaxed position, I can let my arms dangle freely, the back is relatively relaxed, and the breathing unrestricted. Perfect for those long alpine climbs. Now when I'm forcing myself to stay on the hoods even on the steeper slopes, I have to bend forward more, which seems to give me better tonus throughout the body, and more snap in the ankle. Should probably use that position a bit more in training.

KWalker
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by KWalker

Something sounds really off. A 7%-8% grade is not that steep. I can climb on my tops on basically any gradient. Sure when riding tempo and just cruising being more upright can be a bit more relaxing, but climbing on the hoods shouldn't be something one has to think about. Have you had a bike fit?
Don't take me too seriously. The only person that doesn't hate Froome.
Gramz
Failed Custom Bike

rijndael
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by rijndael

KWalker wrote:Calves will never be a limiter unless your cleats are wayyyy too forward.


One can certainly fatigue their calves if they are too aggressive with the upstroke, pulling UP too much can put a noticeable strain on them.

by Weenie


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