For clipped-in riders, cleat position is paramount. It's really important to get the side-side position and the angle of the cleat correct to reduce the chances of knee and ankle problems, and make sure you can always clip out. But there's a lot of room to experiment with the fore-aft position of the cleat too, and this has a marked effect on the handling and fit of the bike.
Traditionally, most riders were advised to place the cleat directly under the ball of the foot
, or under the third metatarsal bone
. But if you look at how downhill, enduro and trail riders, many of them set their cleats towards the back of the slot, if not all the way back. (See video below.)
Personally, I always set mine as far back as they'll go, and I won't ride certain shoes that don't allow me to put the cleats far enough back. I find that cleats too far forward make me to feel less connected to the bike and less in control on technical descents. Setting then further back makes it easier to drop my heals and push into the bike through the pedals. But in the early days of riding clipped-in, I set my cleats much further forward towards the ball of my foot. I suspect that longer front-centers in modern bikes make it possible to set the shoe further forward relative to the pedal axle without the bike feeling too cramped, while steeper seat tube angles make this possible without your feet feeling too far in front of your hips.
According to conventional wisdom, having the pedal axle under the ball of the foot gives the most powerful and efficient pedaling position. But this study suggests fore-aft foot position doesn't affect pedaling efficiency
, and personally, I don't notice much difference in perceived pedaling effort either way.
So I want to know, how do you set up your cleats for different riding disciplines? And how has this changed over the years?