cleat position for triathlon and TT
why is this important?
Triathlon cycling/TT cycling is not like classic road cycling.
In triathlon, a low drag is paramount, as well as your ability to maintain a high, steady power output - often for hours without pause.
You never have to all-out sprint to the finish line. But you have to be ready for a smooth transition to your run after the cycling.
Standard pedals, cleats, and shoes are optimized for road cycling, which is a different game.
However, there is a way to overcome these limitations. Read about it here.
1 body aerodynamics
Did you know that the cleat position and seat post height are correllated?
The reason is that a rearward cleat move shortens the pedal-to-heel distance and thus shortens the lever the calves have to balance. This relieves the calves, reduces your tendency to toe-down, which lowers your heels and enables a lower seat post.
As a rule-of-thumb, a rearward cleat move is accompanied by a lowering of the seat post by roughly 75% of the distance the cleat is moved.
Unfortunately, standard cycling shoes only allow a few mm cleat displacement, but by using a simple cleat adapter, you enable as much as a 24mm / 1 inch rearward cleat move.
This in turn typically results in a 17mm / 0,75in lowering of the seat post, a reduced frontal area, and a reduced overall CdA.
2 bike-to-run transition
Sparing your calves is crucial for your bike-to-run transition.
A rearward cleat move shortens the pedal-to-heel distance and thus shortens the lever the calves have to balance. This relieves the calves, keeping them juicy for the last part of your race day.
3 efficient muscle use
Think of your calves and Achilles tendons as stabilizers, not as power generators.
In triathlon, your cycling power comes from the glutes and the upper leg, not from the calves. If your calves have to work hard, then your setup is not efficient.
There is however an easy way to reduce your calves' workload: Move the cleats further back. A 20mm move reduces the distance from the pedal to the heel by 15-20%, and so reduces the calves' work load by 15-20%.
As a result, your seated power and endurance will increase, both for flat cycling and hill climbing. Sparing the calves will free up energy and oxygen for more net power to the pedals.
4 seated power
Whenever you stand up, you lose energy due to increased drag, so stay seated whenever possible.
Moving your cleats back allow you to generate more power seated, and thus to stay seated on markedly steeper climbs than you could before.
This may only be marginal for a longe bike ride, but as you note, the sum of the benefits add up.
5 sustained power
Yes, expect to increase your sustained power.
A ½ inch / 10-15mm seat post lowering will open your hip angle by 3-7 degrees. This improve upper body comfort and eases your respiration.
You can thereby either enjoy the improved comfort, or increase your sustained power or lower your cockpit/tribars for a further CdA improvement.
6 Foot aerodynamics
Aero socks are already old news, but there still a few more power savings to be found at foot level.
Try to reduce your toe-down as much as possible. The more horisontal your foot, the less the drag around your foot, and the lower your seat post - which further reduces drag.
You will find it easier to reduce your toe-down, if you move your cleats back.
Triathletes train a lot. No kidding. We must be careful about the wear we put on our bodies, and one of our focus points is to protect our tendons and joints. The more we take care of these, the more years we can enjoy our sport - and the more frequent we can go cycling.
The Achilles tendon and the heel joint are some of our most fragile areas, so a rearward cleat move for relieving the Achilles tendons is a good idea.
It is common for cyclists and triathletes to suffer from localized foot-pain, known as hot spots. The main reason for this is pedal pressure directly onto the tendons and nerves in the front foot.
You may not have this issue, but if you one day feel a burning sensation in yuor front feet, likely after some time in the saddle pedalling at sustained power, simply move your cleats away from the sore area. The PatroCleats range of adapters were originally developed for treating this specific problem.
9 how about the professionals?
Yes, many of these place their cleats far back on the shoes.
Check out the cleat positions of triathlon champions like Daniela Ryf (4x winner IM Hawaii) and Jan Frodeno (winner IM Frankfurt 2019 in 7:56).
A 2023 survey on Time-Trial-Positions showed that >72% of the athletes prefer positioning the cleats 10-20mm or more behind the ball of the foot.
meet your new friends
No standard cycling shoes allow more than a few milimeters of fore-aft cleat adjustment. They don't provide what triatletes really need: Room for adjustment.
The PatroCleats range of adapters gives you this freedom, and fits all common pedals and cleats. No drilling required!
Hello, I'm Niels Erikstrup, M.Sc.M.Eng., 2 x Ironman, and former ultra-distance-MTB cyclist.
A few years ago, I designed the now proven range of Patrocleats cleat adapters, used by thousands of athletes, and recommended by bike-fitters worldwide.
These adapters and the brand-new PatroCleats TT22 triathlon dedicated pedal systems can significantly improve your race day.
Continue reading and find out why. You will discover some truly efficient and easy upgrades for your net cycling power and aerodynamics. Note how they all add up to more than marginal gains.
What our customers think
"I was actually thinking of giving up cycling this year because whats the point of doing the sport that I love doing and suffer every single time after doing it. Until I came across your mid foot adapter. I am very glad I've taken the chance and tried it. Got the product on the 10th, installed it and used on my bike using an indoor trainer. Not only that I was able to hold my cadence at zone 3 for over an hour, 1:20 to be exact. But its the first time ever that I had no pain or soreness on the problematic spot after getting on the bike. Change my mind, I'm keeping my bike and continue on enjoying cycling. Thank you very much, I'm really really glad I've pressed the order button.!"
"I have been using these on the turbo for 6 months and outside for 3 months. As a triathlete with a history of ankle injuries this has worked wonders for me, I can now run off the bike with no ankle pain and all my runs feel easier. Haven't had any loss in power or speed on the bike."
"Just wanted to say thanks, the second set arrived and after a week of rides I am really happy! They work so well for my ankles which have old football injuries . Thank you. I will be getting another set for my other shoes soon!"
"These cleat adapters have changed my life. First ride I did an extra 40 miles pain free no pins and needles. Truly remarkable. Thank you so much"
"Recieved the adapter, tried and tested. What a difference with my fizik shoes that are known to have too far forward cleat placement. thanks again."
"Thank you so much. They’ve actually made a massive difference to my tendonitis so will be spreading the word,"