Throughout the course of my fascination with cycling, I have used Time Atac pedals. My first clipless experience was riding mountain bikes in central and western North Carolina, from the Piedmont to the Pisgah, I learned to navigate an early 2000’s hardtail over the slick rocks and roots of those wooded trails. As a cyclist, I’ve come a long way since those early days of riding Time pedals, my body has changed, and I’m getting older.
Like worn out bearings in a full suspension bike, having worn out knees and other joints can really ruin a ride. I was diagnosed with Osgood-Schlatter when I was 15 after an abrupt growth spurt. The resulting scarred tissue and calcification rendered large bumps right below my knee caps. Throughout my 20’s and into my early 30’s, I had very few cases of inflammation, yet into my late 30’s, it doesn’t take much to cause swelling and pain in my knee from riding. This inflammation is caused by everything from overexertion on road rides, to pushing through washboarded or sandy roads on bike tours, or even just going too hard on one of my everyday routes here in Los Angeles.
It took this last incident to really re-think my riding experience and evaluate what small changes I could make to my pedal stroke, foot placement, and even mental state, yet the biggest change is the one I wasn’t expecting; a shift from my favorite Time pedals to Shimano.
Photo by Ultra Romance
So, what caused the change? I have been fit numerous times over the years and while my numbers were always very much the same, I never got too picky about cleat positioning since I rarely encountered discomfort. Visually speaking, none of my fit experts were thrown off or alarmed by my pedal stroke or placement on my pedals. Instead, they focused on hip alignment, reach, and other data points used in determining proper and healthy fit.
During my most recent experience with knee discomfort, I began looking into tricks to alleviate this pain, which causes a recovery period for up to two weeks before I can get back on the bike. Doing a lot of big rides, with a camera pack, as a big human is never easy. Mentally and physically, I often need some decompression time but throwing in a bum knee makes documenting rides all the more difficult.
After digging through online articles and re-reading some of my fit documents, I reached out to my friend Annalisa to go over some adjustments. We talked about sliding the cleat back on the shoe, pushing more with my glutes rather than my quads, how to sit on the bike, and how to control the pedal stroke more by dropping my heel. My feet tend to toe-out more than toe-in, which is helpful. Annalisa made the analogy of squatting with weights. You would want your toes to be pointing out more than in as you’re pushing the weight. What we realized is I have noticed my knee making a figure eight while pedaling, meaning my hips and my feet are not in alignment. Sometimes moving your feet outboard a few millimeters is all it takes to alleviate this and that’s where I ran into an issue with Time pedals.
All the things I love about Time pedals – their ability to shed mud, sand, and dirt, their weight, the float, the engagement, are all, unfortunately, a large part of the clipless problem for my bum knee. What time doesn’t allow for is inboard/outboard cleat adjustment. Shimano’s cleats do. After moving my cleats as far in as possible, I found it easier to control my stroke, keep my legs in alignment, push with my glutes, and drop my heel while pedaling. Being locked into a riding position has helped me concentrate on changing my pedal stroke for the better.
It only took a few rides to really feel the difference.
Photo by Sean Talkingon
Hopefully, later this Summer, I’ll head up to Portland to have a consultation with Annalisa, which we’ll document more in-depth here on the site, but for now, I thought I’d share the enlightening experience with all of you. For now, I wanted to share this to open the discussion up about knee pain. I should also note that I love platform pedals too, but have found that without this restructuring of my pedal stroke, my feet tend to default to those unhealthy habits I’m trying to correct.