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just what is pedal float?(11 posts)

just what is pedal float?nick the dart
Apr 1, 2001 6:02 PM
not clear on this. is more degree better?
re: just what is pedal float?Akirasho
Apr 1, 2001 7:08 PM
In general we're referring to the amount of heel rotation (left and right), with the ball of the foot as an axis, before the cleat starts to release.

Some systems may also have lateral float (side to side along the centerline axis of the foot) as well.

Most systems today have around a max of +/- 8 degrees on either side of center... some may go down to +/- 4. The general belief (mine too) is that this amount of "play" allows the joints of your leg to compensate for irregularities in your pedal stroke (no matter how smooth your stroke, there are hidden variables at work that make it impossible to be truly consistent) thus lessening the chance of injury.

I use both SPD MTB and LOOK road systems and find the amount of float to be plenty for me. I've got bad knees. Some systems have no float by design (either by pedal or cleat) but are generally considered a specialty pedal... often used by high torque track riders (some of them even still cinch their feet down tight with toe clips to minimize movement).

How much float is necessary is probably open to debate, but I have no problems with mine. There is a practical limit. Note too, that pedal float is dependent on a properly positioned cleat. In general, the cleat must be positioned as to give each individual (and each foot) the proper amount of float, left and right, before release... this, of course, is a personal preference. If the cleat is set up in the wrong position, all available float could be eaten up just clipping in.

Be the bike.
Float of SPD vs. LOOK and knee pain (Slight drift)Bo
Apr 3, 2001 4:16 AM

You seem like the perfrect person to ask, so here goes . . . I just switched from SPDs (old Ultegras) to Looks and developed knee pain instantly. Rested, started back slowly, with no pain. However, when I up the intensity even slightly, the knee pain returns. (Never had it before-- years of cycling. It is a sorness on the medial side of my right knee, just below the small teardrop-shaped muscle-- vastus something. I can feel the inflamed tendon rub/pop with flexion of the knee.) Pain goes away with rest, ice, and some Advil. The cleats have been fitted me first, and then by a LBS.

My question for someone with experiece with both-- Could it be that the float on the LOOKs is not as "free" as that of the old SPDs, and thus causing my pain? LOOKs pivot from the front (heal movement only), whereas the SPDs pivot around the ball of the foot. Plus the SPD float seems much "freer." By that I mean that with the LOOKs, my foot sort of gets set in one position, although I am able to consciously move it (heal in or out). With the SPDs, I feel like my foot pivots (unconsciously) around the cleat throughout the stroke.

I'm switching back to the SPDs after my knee heels (for the second time). Just wondering what your experince was when you (or others) made the switch.


Float of SPD vs. LOOK and knee pain (Slight drift)Akirasho
Apr 4, 2001 4:53 AM

I'm unsure if what you feel with regard to heal rotation with your LOOKs as opposed to SPD's is not a factor of the size of the platform.

What I've noticed is that the SPD is more forgiving while clipping in, but both give me a similar feel with respect to float... both having an axis about the ball of the foot. I'd imagine that at some level, you're feeling a bit friction due to the larger LOOK platform but experiencing similar rotation.

Because of this, the LOOK system is probably more sensitive (with respect to the user) to proper cleat placement... and I'd start my search for a solution there. Some LOOK cleats are compatible with their Dynamic Positioner... a neat little tool that allows you more accurately position your cleat. These cleats came with my 296's but I've not seen them on LBS shelves. The device allows you to loosely mount your cleats... clip in to the pedals and find your sweet spot... then preload the cleat mount bolts enough to hold the cleat in position when you unclip and finally tighten them into place. The cleat has an additional channel running crosswise through it's top (shoe side) in which the tool is inserted. If you have the right cleat and have access to the tool, you might wanna give it a try. If, of course, you've already used it, then... I'm at a loss.

I can say that I've not experienced any knee problems that I can associate with either system. I like them both... and use both regularily. One other aspect... don't rule out developing knee problems that might be exacerbated by but not caused by the LOOK pedal. And, it's possible as you've noted, that the LOOK system just might not be for you.

Sorry I couldn't give more definitive info... perhaps another forum user can add to this thread.

Be the bike.
Float of SPD vs. LOOK and knee pain (Slight drift)Ray Sachs
Apr 4, 2001 7:27 AM
For what it's worth, I had similar problems when I tried using Look pedals. Lasted three rides and then gave up on them. I never had problems with Speedplays. I don't know if it's the different pivot point (the Look pivots around the front of the cleat which was well in front of the balls of my feet - Speedplays and SPD pivot pretty much right under the ball of your foot, depending on cleat placement) or the tension on the float, but I couldn't get used to those at all.

You nailed it-- Front Pivot Point vs. Center Pivot PointBo
Apr 5, 2001 4:18 AM
Thanks for confirming what I was feeling with respect to pivot points. I still wonder if this subtle difference is enough to cause my knee pain? (I'm giving my knee an extra day before trying the SPDs again).

I'm curious: Was your knee pain in the same place (medial)?


You nailed it-- Pivot at toe vs. pivot under ball of foot.Bo
Apr 5, 2001 5:13 AM
Thanks for confirming my perceptions regarding the float of these pedals. Could this subtle difference be causing my knee pain?

By the way, was your knee pain in the same spot as mine-- medial (just below the end of the teardrop shaped muscle)?

Sorry for the double post-- couldn't tell if #1 made it. nmBo
Apr 5, 2001 5:16 AM
re: just what is pedal float?Ray Sachs
Apr 2, 2001 7:12 AM
I agree with most of the previous response, but will add a couple of points. In addition to the direction of float and the amount of float is how "free" it is. Some systems allow some rotation around the cleat, but it's against spring resistance, so the cleat always wants to center it self. Some pedals, like Speedplay, Beebop, and probably others I'm not aware of have absolutely no resistance other than the friction of the cleat against the pedal. I greatly prefer this free feeling float, but like everything else, it's a personal preference. I also prefer a whole lot of float - Speedplays have 20-30 degrees, depending on the pedal. You don't use all of it, but your knees can use exactly as much as they need.

re: just what is pedal float?Nik
Apr 3, 2001 8:18 PM
Hi Guys,

I'm reading with much interest. I don't know but I'm using Look Pedals which I've just gotten PP296 with Shimano r122 shoes. I'm starting to develop knee pain on my left leg. it's on the other part of the knee at the side of the leg. I'm not sure if it's due to my overstraining it or due to the pedal (since I'm hearing a lot of ppl talking bout it).

FYI - I've been riding quite a lot of steep hills (Very steep 11% gradient etc) on a 42x21 gear. (7 speed) And thus I power crank it up! all the way. Mind you, I just started back in cycling (3 mths) and then all of a sudden, my knee hurts. Seems like it started just after the 11% gradient ride) Now I'm Supposed to have tendonitis and the pain is still there after rest, not too much pain(used to be that going up stairs - 2 steps a time can cause hurt.)

There's also the question whether my knee is diving into the top tube when I pedal - due to supination or what not and needing an orthotic to fix it. Or is it due to a weak IT band? I'm currently streching it an see if there are any results.

So, far, nothing has changed. Too bad I can't change the pedal. Unelss of course I change it back to Non-Clipless. Hmm.. perhaps that would help?

Also, Anyone can tell me how to position the cleat properly? I found that My heel tends to be most comfy when it's directed towards the crank. (just like when walking, our foot tends to point outwards)

My 2 Cents and Also my asking for help
Pedal float is...........Lazy
Apr 5, 2001 8:58 AM
It's when the water displaced by your pedals weighs more than the pedals themselves.

Sorry, couldn't resist. :-D