Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Who's Afraid of Toe Overlap?

The idea of "toe overlap" or "toe clip overlap" (TCO) is one of those hot button topics that can cause metaphorical bloodshed in online discussions among bicycle enthusiasts. Still, I would like to have a go at it, as I think my perspective reflects the type of cyclist who does not typically take part in these debates. I would also like to discuss the topic from both sides of the argument, encouraging readers to form their own opinions. In short, here are my 2 cents:

What is toe overlap?
On some bicycles, it is possible to hit the front wheel with your toe when turning at slow speeds. This interference (or overlap) between your toe and the wheel can make you fall. Toe overlap is especially common on bicycles with small frame sizes and large wheels. If you picture what happens to the wheels of a bike as the frame gets smaller (as the top tube gets shorter, the wheels move closer together), it makes sense why that is so. 

Is toe overlap a problem? 
I don't think there is an answer to this question that rings true for everyone, but I will try to cover multiple sides of the argument.

An argument for "no": Chances are that you already have a bike with toe overlap and simply haven't noticed. Try it: make a slow, sharp U-turn on a quiet street or in a parking lot, and pay attention to whether your toe can potentially hit the wheel as you are making the turn. The overlap is more drastic on some bikes than on others, but most smaller-frame production bicycles have it to some degree. The reason many cyclists remain blissfully unaware of it, is that we rarely cycle at speeds slow enough for the wheel to turn so sharply as to cause the overlap. So while the overlap is a theoretical possibility, it is not usually a threat.

An argument for "yes": Cyclists do occasionally make turns slow enough to cause toe overlap. Instances when that might happen include the aforementioned U-turns, as well as slow turns in urban traffic. In addition, beginner cyclists tend to go slower than experienced cyclists - making them more vulnerable to toe overlap.

An argument for "no": Some in the bicycle industry will argue that toe overlap is not so much a "problem" as a reality, and it is the cyclist's responsibility to learn to deal with it. Even on bikes with dramatic toe overlap, and even when those bikes are fixed gear (i.e. coasting through a turn is not an option), there is a way to time your pedal strokes so that your toe does not hit the turned wheel. There are formulas and instructions for this. Over time, it becomes "second nature."

An argument for "yes": What is "second nature" to some, may not be to others, even over time. There are some experienced cyclists who've had bad falls as a result of toe overlap. The bottom line is, that if your bike has toe overlap, and if you actually manage to hit the front wheel with your toe as a result (or get your toe jammed in there, which also happens), you could have a bad fall while trying to execute a turn. Therefore, at least in theory, a bike with toe overlap is more accident prone, than a bike without. Some would argue that this in itself makes it a "problem" and not just a "feature" of the bike.

What can be done to avoid toe overlap on small size bikes?
In theory, a few things can be done by the framebuilder or manufacturer to create small size frames without toe overlap. The problem is, that all of these changes have consequences that can be perceived as drawbacks. For example:

Smaller wheel size: Toe overlap can usually be eliminated on a small frame by fitting the bike with proportionally smaller wheels. For instance: 650B instead of the typical 700C on a roadbike, or 26" instead of the typical 28" on a roadster-type bicycle. The reason this is seldom done on production bikes, is that it is more costly for a manufacturer to design different sized frames around different wheels. Additionally, cyclists themselves tend to have an aversion to smaller wheels, due to a commonly held belief that larger wheels are faster. This makes smaller wheeled bikes less popular, despite their no-TCO advantage.

Changes in frame geometry: Toe overlap can also be eliminated by a number of changes to frame geometry. The simplest method is to make the the top tube a bit longer and the seat tube a bit steeper, which will create more space between the front wheel and the crankset without changing the way a bicycle handles too much. However, a longer top tube means that you will either be too stretched out on the bike, or will need a super-short stem. And a steep seat tube means that you may either be uncomfortable with the aggressive angle, or will need to find a seat post with considerable set-back. If you prefer a relaxed seat tube angle and a reasonable top tube length, then the other options are more complicated, as they involve messing with the bicycle's handling: Making the head tube slacker and increasing the fork rake will reduce toe overlap as well, but it could make the bicycle less responsive, which many cyclists would find undesirable. I don't want to turn this into a lesson in frame geometry, but suffice to say that some would prefer to deal with the toe overlap, rather than make either of these changes to their bike.

Conclusions?
It is hard to find a definitive answer to the questions of whether toe overlap is a problem, and of how to eliminate it. Different frame builders, bicycle fitters, and other industry spokespersons will tell you different things, and they may all sound perfectly convincing and reasonable while you are listening to them... until you hear the other guy's argument for the opposite, and it will sound equally convincing and reasonable.

My personal view is that toe overlap is a problem if you consider it a problem. And if you do, then I don't think it's right for anybody in the bicycle industry to try and persuade you otherwise in order to sell you a bike. Ultimately, it should be up to the cyclist to decide and for the framebuilder, or salesperson, to accommodate.

74 comments:

  1. I have no strong opinion on this issue but can offer some observations.

    I have occasionally hit my toe when making sharp, slow speed turns. What happens is my wheel hits my toe and I stop turning the wheel. Generally not much of a problem, but I could see this being an issue in an emergency situation when I am, say, maneuvering out of the way of a car.

    The other observation is that my toe stops the wheel from turning when I am wearing toe clips. Without toe clips I imagine my wheel would push my toe out of the way. But the worst case scenario would be knocking my foot off the pedal, causing a fall. Never even came close to this happening

    Frankly, I've never paid much attention to this problem or worried about it.

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  2. "toeverlap" can also be a problem on fixies, as you sometimes have no choice where your foot will be during the turn.

    I find that simply getting smaller size toe clips solved the problem (and also positioned my feet in a more power friendly location anyway).

    I went from large to medium and got rid of the problem.

    Also a slight change in the rake of your fork can eliminate this problem (if you want to go through the trouble of getting a new fork)

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  3. When I got my new bike, it came with these awful flat fenders preinstalled. I was constantly hitting my toe on the edge of the fender, which did cause difficulties and bends in the fender. I replaced the front fender with an SKS P45, and since then it's not really been an issue. It can be a problem, but there's so many different factors for how much of a problem it will be for any individual (like the similar issue of heel strike on panniers) it's hard to make a hard-and-fast rule. Try before you buy, when you can.

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  4. Oddly, I myself find toe overlap to be a problem on some bikes, but not on others. I've actually been more or less okay with it on fixed gear bikes (without fenders), but don't like it on twitchy, geared roadbikes. On the Motobecane mixte I used to own, I would hit the fender with my foot occasionally, and on the vintage Trek roadbike I still have, this happens as well. My theory, is that this is because both bikes are unstable at slow speeds and I end up turning the wheel more than on other bikes.

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  5. I have toe overlap on the two bikes I ride regularly. I have fenders on both bikes, and I only noticed the overlap on the newer bike (a Novara Randonee) after I put the fenders on. It may have been there before, but I didn't notice it.

    I (knock wood) rarely have a problem with it. I mostly try to keep my foot out of the way on low-speed turns where I have to turn the handlebars more. But I do have to think about it and allow for it.

    Toe overlap caused me to take the toe clips off the Novara too. The issue with it is the mounting bracket for the Velo Orange aluminum fenders that otherwise work quite well. I may some day get around to doing some adjustment on them to try to reduce the overlap.

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  6. bostonbiker - you could also get your existing fork re-raked; there are builders who specialise in this.

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  7. I also own a vintage trek with toe overlap, and I don't have a problem despite the fact that I consider myself at a beginner skill level.

    I generally coast through slow turns though, so maybe if I tried a fixed gear bike with "toeverlap" I might finally figure out what all the fuss is about? I can say I have tapped my toe on the wheel with no catastrophes so far *knock wood*. I'm interested to see how my 650B Hillborne compares...

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  8. Velouria said...
    "My personal view is that toe overlap is a problem if you consider it a problem."

    Yes, Indeed! However, if a person i riding a bike the correct size for them then there is no such thing as "overlap" if your feet are placed correctly on the pedals.

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  9. Walt - How does that follow? I am 5'7" with long legs and a short torso. Ideally, my road bike would have a 54cm (c-t) seat tube, and 54cm (or even shorter) top tube, with 700C wheels and 32mm tires. Those dimensions, on a bike with traditional "road geometry," create toe overlap no matter where I hold my feet. The framebuilder would have to either switch the wheels to 650B, lengthen the top tube considerably, or change the front end geometry, in order for the bike not to have the overlap.

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  10. Walt D, that simply isn't true. Any roadie frame built for a person 5'10" or smaller will have some toe overlap if the bike 700c wheels. The smaller the frame, the more toe overlap becomes an issue.

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  11. Three additional contributing factors in toe overlap:

    1) shoe size. Those of us with big feet (I'm a size 47) are more susceptible to experiencing it than people with smaller feet.

    2) Crankset Q-factor. Lower Q brings your feet closer to the front wheel, increasing the change for toe overlap.

    3) Crank arm length. The longer the crank arms, the more likely you are to experience overlap.

    I think that toe overlap is a problem on most bikes, but that it is all a matter of degree (literally, the degree to which the front wheel needs to turn to invoke overlap). "Severe" toe overlap occurs with even a minor turn of the bars, such as those experienced regularly while riding a bike; "Mild" toe overlap requires a sharper turn of the bars. Most cyclists can experience toe-overlap if the turn the bars enough, but the farther you have to turn the bars to experience it, the less likely it is to occur while riding.

    I two bikes that have very similar geometries and frame sizes. The one that is slightly smaller and has a sharper head tube angle (the Raleigh Comp)causes moderate toe overlap, but part of the problem is with VO's insanely bulky fender stay+draw bolt, which really makes the problem worse. If I had a fender with a more flush-fitting stay, it would alleviate the problem. At first it was pretty alarming, but I've since gotten used to it and adjust my pedaling accordingly when I'm in turns.

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  12. Oh, a fourth additional contributing factor :-) BB height!

    Presumably, lowering the BB will increase the distance between your foot and the tire.

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  13. The reason many cyclists remain blissfully unaware of it, is that most of the time we turn by leaning and balancing, not by turning the front wheel. Therefore, the overlap is for the most part a theoretical possibility, and not an actual threat.

    I don't agree with this.

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  14. Sorry for all the consecutive posts, but another thing that one can do to reduce the chance of toe overlap is to wear narrow shoes and avoid foot retention. Without foot retention, as your foot strikes the wheel on the power stroke, the crank can continue to rotate and your foot can deflect away from the wheel.

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  15. ^ In what way don't you agree with it?...

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  16. Re shoe size, funny story: I am a women's size 7US / 37EU. But I have a pair of winter boots that are huge. When I wear them I get toe overlap even on my Gazelle Dutch bike. So yes, depending on the shoes it is probably possible to overlap with any bike.

    I am trying to imagine how BB height can impact toe overlap. Give me a second, I am slow with spatial rotation tasks...

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  17. I agree with somervillain in his disagreement. Toe overlap is an issue at low speeds. You don't lean into a turn significantly at low speeds. When you turn by leaning and balancing, you are actually turning the wheel, only less dramatically so. So it isn't an issue of whether you do or don't turn the wheel; but rather at what slow speed does the toe overlap become an issue.

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  18. Adam... but the whole point is that slow speed and turning the wheel are related. I don't see in what way what I wrote originally disagrees with what you just wrote.

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  19. I am trying to imagine how BB height can impact toe overlap.

    The widest part of the wheel is its diameter. For a given bike, the height of that point is its radius. For 700c bikes, the part of the tire that is closest to your foot is 33-35 cm off the ground. The highest bottom brackets are still lower than that (about 28 cm, but usually about 26-27 cm). Therefore, the lower the bottom bracket is, the farther away your foot is when it rotates toward the part of the wheel that is most likely to strike.

    In what way don't you agree with it?...

    Cyclists use their center of gravity to trick the bike into tracking in a desired direction without direct input to the handlebars-- this I don't dispute.

    However, the cyclist's leaning is indeed causing the bars (and therefore the wheel) to turn. It's just that the turning is automatic, not directed by the cyclist's hands.

    I think one reason cyclists may be unaware of toe overlap is because during typical cycling speeds of, say, over 12mph, the wheel rarely gets turned more than a few degrees. The faster you go, the lower the tolerance to navigating a given turning radius. i.e., as your speed increases, the minimum turning radius you can negotiate without falling also increases. You are more likely to experience toe overlap when you're doing a slow-speed U-turn, because you're turning the bars far more than you could ever do at speed without falling.

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  20. Adam explains it differently, but I concur. If you were to try to turn the bars at speed by using your hands and *not* leaning (i.e., not shifting the center of gravity toward the turn), you would surely fall. Jan Heine has a nice comprehensive explanation of this in the current BQ.

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  21. Okay, I am beginning to understand what you are both taking issue with. Will try to rephrase that paragraph.

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  22. In my experience, toe overlap is mostly an issue when trackstanding since this usually requires turning the wheel close to perpendicular to control forward progress on the stand. I've knocked myself over a couple of times when coming out of a trackstand and forgetting where my feet were. Eventually one adapts ... But it can be an issue.

    Side point on the undesirability of smaller wheels -- even if one doesn't buy into the size = speed theory there is still a problem with reduced selection of tires.

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  23. Velouria, I think your wording in your earlier comment suggests that using leaning as the method of steering input avoids overlap, but the method of using your hands does not. It would be more appropriate to say that the probability of overlap increases with steering angle (which is what I said above, about how it's a matter of degree to which the bars are turned). High steering angles are only possible at low speeds. Ergo, you are more likely to experience overlap only at low speeds.

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  24. One of my bikes is a fixed-gear, with cheap plastic fenders. Every once in a while, I make a maneuver such that my toe squeezes the fender against the tire. I usually wear SPD sandals, so my foot doesn't move, but I can still let my ankle flex, changing the angle to keep any bigger problems from happening. It's never happened at a speed above a crawl, though, so it's easy to react to.

    My other bike has no overlap; the pedals are about five feet away from the front wheel.

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  25. cris - Okay, this is going to make me sound like I am completely incompetent on a bike, but: When a freewheel roadbike is "twitchy" and has toe overlap, I find myself hitting the front wheel all the time, because the front end goes all over the place if I am trying to ride at slow speeds. Like in traffic. Or navigating through a thicket of pedestrians on an MUP. Oddly, on a fixed gear bike - equally aggressive and with the same degree of toe overlap - I don't have this problem and can control the bike better at slow speeds. I have (knock on wood) not once hit the front wheel either on my current fixed gear roadbike, or on the track bike I rode last summer. Maybe I am just weird.

    somervillain - Yes, I just need to find a way to phrase it without making it sound too technical. I am afraid that "steering angle" is one of those phrases that makes people tune out if they are not already into frame geometry!

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  26. I've only ever ridden bikes with toe overlap, and I didn't even realize it was such a controversy!

    My "newest" bike is a 1995 Novara Randonee, and despite the fact that it's a 48cm frame, they put 700cc wheels on it. What the eff? I mean really. I guess it was made when people were more obsessed with bigger wheels.

    I wouldn't mind a longer wheelbase, but that's because this bike is going to be for touring.

    I don't have toe overlap yet, but I know I will when I get around to putting fenders on it. But, eh, I'm used to it.

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  27. Oh, and I also meant to say (gah, I hate it when I post things and then realize I forgot something): Do you have a lot of Simple brand shoes? I tried two pairs but they both wore out so fast that I decided not to buy anymore. Have you had that problem? I was bummed because I really liked the styles they sell.

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  28. Trackstanding and switchbacks.

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  29. Adam/ somervillain - There, I fixed it. Any problem with the phrasing now?

    Adam- Isn't toe overlap actually helpful when doing trackstands, because you can sort of rest your toe against the front wheel? I have seen cyclists do this at least.

    April - No, I only have that one pair, bought 2 summers ago. I liked them at first, but they don't feel as good on a bike as I'd like. If anybody wants them, you can have them (size 7.5). I got them on sale for next to nothing, so you can just have them.

    (48cm frame with 700C wheels... I can imagine!)

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  30. Velouria said...
    "Those dimensions, on a bike with traditional "road geometry," create toe overlap no matter where I hold my feet. "

    Again, if you place your feet in the correct position (on the ball of each foot) and the bike IS SIZED FOR YOU then overlap should never be a concern.

    ANYONE who rides flat footed ,on their arch, will , at times, foul the front wheel if the geometry is a little on the short side.

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  31. Velouria - I don't think it would be particularly helpful; although I could see someone being proficient enough at the skill to minimize it being hurtful. I trackstand with a freewheel, so it would be a disaster for me. :D

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  32. Adam said...
    "Walt D, that simply isn't true. Any roadie frame built for a person 5'10" or smaller will have some toe overlap if the bike 700c wheels. The smaller the frame, the more toe overlap becomes an issue."

    Grasshopper, you are comparing apples to oranges here. MY point is based on a bike fitted EXACTLY to the rider not some generic off the shelf or "generic measurement custom" built bike. A true custom fitted bike will only the rider is was built for and takes a true master builder to construct along with many $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ !!!!!

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  33. Walt - I understand what you're saying and that's true for some bikes. Certainly using the ball of your feet to pedal will lessen toe overlap in comparison to using the arch. But I have seen bikes where there is overlap between the pedal itself and the front wheel, which means that no matter what size you are and where on that pedal you place your foot, overlap is inevitable. Some racing and track frames are intentionally built with "compact" geometry causing this to happen, independent of frame size.

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  34. Walt D, you are wrong. I use clipless pedals on my peloton type road bike that leave with with no other choice except ideal foot position, my frame is perfectly sized for me, and there is some toe overlap because I am not 5'11" or taller. If the bike was sized otherwise (i.e. if it had a different headtube angle and rake) it would be a lightweight tourer.

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  35. Velouria said...
    "But I have seen bikes where there is overlap between the pedal itself and the front wheel, which means that no matter what size you are and where on that pedal you place your foot, overlap is inevitable. "

    You speak of a generic bike or a "generic measurement custom build" and I am talking about a true custom fitted bike built just for YOU and no one else by a true master builder.

    Thing is I know very few people that can afford a master builder bike !

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  36. Walt, Re: the whole "grasshopper" comment, but you didn't originally say a custom sized bike, you said "a bike the correct size for them." I can only take from that comment that you think bicycles are only for people who can afford custom built frames, and that tells me everything I need to know.

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  37. Adam said...
    "Walt D, you are wrong."

    Believe what you will if you are happy with you bike. :)

    However, from an engineering viewpoint your bike is to small in one or more features.

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  38. Walt - I can show you a half dozen custom (track) bikes made in the Boston area, where the client specifically asked for "super tight clearances" resulting in that kind of geometry. The bikes were made just for them, spec'ed to their measurements. With horrendous toe overlap that the customer was okay with, in order to get those tight clearances.

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  39. "Adam said...
    Walt, Re: the whole "grasshopper" comment, but you didn't originally say a custom sized bike, you said "a bike the correct size for them." I can only take from that comment that you think bicycles are only for people who can afford custom built frames, and that tells me everything I need to know.

    Out of respect for Velouria chill back some mate. OK?

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  40. Walt D, even if a frame is custom built, as long as that bicycle has 700c wheels, if you build a bicycle specifically to avoid toe overlap, the frame builder will be making compromises elsewhere on the frame that will negatively effect performance. If your intent is to ride the bicycle in pelotons, a serious rider would not be willing to make those compromises to his frame because toe overlap will not be a concern in a peleton.

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  41. Velouria said...
    "Walt - I can show you a half dozen custom (track) bikes made in the Boston area, where the client specifically asked for "super tight clearances" resulting in that kind of geometry. The bikes were made just for them, spec'ed to their measurements. With horrendous toe overlap that the customer was okay with, in order to get those tight clearances."

    And they ordered these bike this way did they not?

    All this proves is that it's possible to order a bike with such tight clearances that overlap is a given.

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  42. Stop using condescending terms like "grasshopper" or snidely referring to me as your "mate" and perhaps I may.

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  43. Walt, I think your point was that it's possible for a frame builder to build anyone a frame that will eliminate any possibility of toe overlap. I agree.

    HOWEVER.

    In doing so, you will necessarily compromise the geometry of the bike for its intended purpose. i.e., you can't have your cake and eat it too! Sure, it's possible to dial in a long wheelbase or a really high rake, or a really low bottom bracket, or a really long top tube, etc, etc, but then the bike will likely not perform well in its intended use (except maybe a touring bike for a freakishly long-armed person).

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  44. Sorry, Adam, I see you beat me to the punch. We think the same :-).

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  45. The problem with this name calling and subsequent indignation nonsense is that it makes it difficult to read through the comments for those who are actually interested in the topic. So please, ladies...

    But back to toe overlap: Walt, I think one factor you might be overlooking, is for what purpose the frame is built. A trackbike has difference performance criteria than a touring bike, and calls for a different type of sizing. I would say that a trackbike with toe overlap is "normal" as opposed to improperly sized. But a touring bike with toe overlap is something that does not have to exist.

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  46. somervillain said...
    "Walt, I think your point was that it's possible for a frame builder to build anyone a frame that will eliminate any possibility of toe overlap. I agree."

    That was all I was trying to explain.

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  47. Yes, Walt, but you seemed to disregard the concept of intended purpose of a bike and how that can be mutually exclusive of avoiding overlap.

    I should be a mediator :-).

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  48. "That was all I was trying to explain."

    Yes, but then it would no longer be a race bike. Ergo, if you are having a race bike custom built to properly fit, and you are not tall, you are going to have toe overlap.

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  49. somervillian, GET OUT OF MY HEAD! :) [minus the whole mediator part]

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  50. It's funny that you used a pic of a Rivendell Sam Hillborne in your post. My latest bike is a Rambouillet and it has the most TCO of any bike I've ridden. It has fenders and I have a large shoe with the cleat placed rearward, but it's still the most I've experienced (having ridden many bikes). I very much like riding the bike, but have to be very careful turning.

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  51. I own a 48cm bike frame with 700cc wheels. I'm always on hyper alert for toe overlap out of fear of losing control of my bike. But, it's a mind game for me (is it there or is it not). Although when my size 5 foot is clipped in the pedal correctly I do not notice toe overlap, but when I unclip and my foot shifts ever so slightly I definitely notice it's there.

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  52. I don't think I'll have time to read all the comments tonight, apologies. But I just wanted to say I'm one of those who didn't even know I had toe overlap on my beloved Soma smoothie ES until after I'd ridden it for a year. Took one very sharp slow turn and there it was. I'm glad I know it now but don't think it's a big problem. I wonder, maybe this would be more of an issue if you rode alot in the narrow back alleys of old European cities?

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  53. An area that TCO is a huge problem is if you're riding off-road. If there is TCO when you're trying to navigate a switchback, you're going to be lying in the dirt. There are enough other things to be thinking about out on the trails that worrying about hitting your wheel shouldn't be one of them! A 26" wheeled bike doesn't have this problem, but a Monstercross or 29er could have it if not properly designed.

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  54. The only bike I've ever owned which had toe overlap is also the only fixed gear bike I've ever owned ('93 Cannondale Track, bought the frame used in '96 finished building it up last January... I really didn't intend for it to be that long a process!) Toe overlap did bother me a LOT at first. Whenever I was making a sharp, low speed turn I had to be careful. Once I even came close to hitting my foot while the wheel was coming back to the center. I don't think this would be all that much of a problem on bikes with a freewheel as it's much easier to freely choose the position of the cranks versus the position of the wheel.

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  55. You know what else can be an issue?.. Handlebar overlap! It can cause the same sort of problem with swept back bars. It happens with non-drop-bars bikes more, and if I am making a really tight turn (e.g. from roadway--sharp 180 onto a narrow strip where I can park the bike), the northroad can poke me, so I have to lean a bit to complete the sharp turn. I guess it's not a big deal compare to toe overlap, though, but probably worth mentioning.

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  56. "Those of us with big feet (I'm a size 47..."

    Stop right there! Wow. :)

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  57. I must say that I've never heard of this toe overlap problem. Interesting to know what kinds of topics lead to online bloodshed. ;)

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  58. Fork rake.
    Standard spec on Jack Taylor cycles for half a century was 73 degree head frames got 2-1/2" rake, 72 degree frames got 2-3/4" rake. Arguing from authority is a weak argument but can save time. It would be hard to find anyone anywhere in the cycling world who would say something bad about the Taylor brothers. In the current world of frame building only the ultra freaky francophiles would emulate their designs. And many framebuilders will not even bend a fork as far as 70mm (2-3/4"). Taylor-style forks would eliminate 90% of the overlapping toes on the road.

    Standard practice these days is everything gets approx. 43mm rake. Some more expensive models will go to 50mm or so for the small frame sizes. Those small frames also get 71 or even 70 degree heads in a backwards attempt to avoid toe overlap. With head angles that slack the bikes should have 3 inches or more fork rake.....
    The other tactic to reduce overlap is to steepen the seat angle. Aaaarghhh. Past 74, maybe 75 on the real dinky frames and if your skeleton is human, you can't pedal the thing.
    Toe overlap is serious to manufacturers and marketers. They do not want lawsuits. They do not want the sort of PR that comes with customers crashing the bike on the test ride. At 2mph in front of the bike shop. 2mph is where toe overlap is worst and they don't want to see it happen.
    What manufacturers will not do is accept the expense of a full run of different forks for different sizes. What marketers will not accept is anything that looks different or off-putting . The sameness of design in the current era is remarkable.
    Framebuilders are wonderful people and I love them. They are obsessive and they are artists and they give their art and love to us riders for a pittance. Few of them know more about frame geometry than copy a model that is known to work. Since there are few models to copy unless one is an historian or collector.....
    54cm top tube and 700 x 32 there is no need for overlap. Add in fenders and you're outta luck. If overlap is troublesome to you and you want fenders you need smaller wheels.
    Few riders are going to go to the trouble and expense of a custom fork for their bike. Their new bike. If you are already somewhat accustomed to a degree of overlap, anything that reduces that lap will feel like a big deal. If you do not already have 165mm cranks get them. Almost nobody can feel the diff between 170s and 165s in their legs. You can also consider a lower profile tire on the front. Since most overlap goes to smaller, lighter riders consider that a 28mm tire gives you as much flotation as a 32mm tire gives me. You can get back some (not all) of the ride quality by using light thinwall (expensive) tires.
    I have overlap on a bike with a 59 cm top tube. 72 seat with 73 head means the angles converge.(That bike should, in a perfect world, get a new fork.) And I like the puffy tires. 5mm of overlap is occasionally a surprise but it doesn't throw you off the bike. 10mm of overlap can, in exactly the wrong situation, cause an accident. If you can reduce the hazard, do so. Once upon a time I would've suggested 160mm cranks (you wouldn't notice that either) but I've no idea where you could currently find them.
    John Wilson

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  59. A more common problem I have is what I believe cyclist-types call "heel-strike", which occurs when the heel of my foot hits the front of my pannier. I find this most frequently occurs when I am carrying large bulky items - such as my laptop - in the pannier. It's not enough of a problem to motivate me to rejig the panniers (which are somewhat permanently attached), and it's more of an annoyance than a safety issue, but I'm curious how many others encounter the same thing.

    Btw I am a big fan of simple shoes!

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  60. Nicky, I sometimes have the heel-strike problem with my panniers but, like you, only when they're very full.

    Have never experienced toe overlap, though.

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  61. Dottie - Yeah, I would be surprised if you had toe overlap on any of your bikes! I know for a fact that the Rivendell 57cm Betty Foy does not have it, and the Dutch Workcycles is so long and with such relaxed angles, that it would be difficult to design overlap into it. The Velorbis might have had overlap if it were not for the 26" wheels, which is why they (and Pashley, and Retrovelo) designed for that wheel size.

    Re the comments about Rivendell bikes: I couldn't get toe overlap on my Sam Hillborne if I tried, but that is because it has 650B wheels and "expanded geometry" (a super long top tube). I have heard several readers mention now that their 700C Rivendell model has toe overlap, and Grant Petersen discusses his thoughts on this issue in several places, like here, and in a Bicycle Quarterly interview a few years ago. I have to say that in this instance, I don't agree with Grant Petersen's outlook and side with Jan Heine (who views TCO as undesirable on a touring/ randonneuring bike).

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  62. My 700c Rivendell with 40mm tires has zero TCO. I would have sold it long ago if it did.

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  63. I went for years without noticing toe overlap until it was pointed out to me by another mechanic in a shop where I worked. Lo and behold, both of the bikes I owned at the time had it!

    As you point out, there's no definitive answer about whether toe overlap is a "problem."

    The early Terry bicycles had smaller wheels in the front than in the rear. The few women I knew who rode them went to bikes with two equal-diameter wheels. After riding those old Terrys for a while, they would complain about the sluggish handling or of feeling "off-balance."

    Nicky: I've experienced heel strike. And "thigh slap" from saddle bags. Both are mainly annoyances.

    Velouria: I love those gray espadrilles!

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  64. I wasn't there so didn't see it happen but I saw the result. 2 years ago some guys were messing around in the parking lot getting ready for the local club century, goofing off and chasing each other around at low speed on fixed gears when one of them crabbed the front wheel and it ended up ON THE WRONG SIDE OF HIS OUTSIDE FOOT! I don't know what mental picture this paints for you but evidently it was much, much worse than what you're imagining. There was still a bloodstain there weeks later. Brrr.

    Spindizzy

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  65. Being a person who rides a 48 cm bike, i had never even thought about toeverlap until I decided to start riding a fixed gear. I have size 4 feet and still have a significant amount of toeverlap. Although with road bikes and any other bikes where coasting is an option, I think crashing because of it is pretty easily avoidable. Unfortunately with fixed gears, especially tiny ones like mine, you cannot choose the position of your feet when making a sharp turn. Also, on fixed gears, you are probably more likely to make sharp turns simply because the speed control is so delicate that you can still easily go very slow while still pedaling and balancing. making it easy to ride through a large crowd of people. So on tiny frame fixies, toeverlap can become a problem... but other than that I think everyone else is probably okay.

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  66. I have a new 2011 Specialized Sirrus Elite WS, am a 5'2" female. Now rehabbing a broken right elbow as a result of being thrown over the handlebars when the bike STOPPED during a sharp left turn when my toe hit the wheel.

    Of course, Specialized has a "toe overlap" warning in the manual but never was mentioned in the sales pitch...seems like something that should be mentioned a little more prominently since it's a known, built in risk factor.

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  67. Just found your site after nearly wrecking on my Fargo because of my foot hitting the tire when I turned.

    When I checked clearance, I realized there isn't much space between the pedal and tire. I looked at my WSD Mamba 29er and realized there's tons of clearance. Bigfoot could ride it.

    Do mountain bikes have more clearance for their purpose and street related bikes have less thinking you won't turn as you would for a mountain bike?

    Glad to have found your site! Thanks for the info.

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  68. I realize that this is thread is practically a dinosaur but I just wanted to chime in: I'm a 5'4" male with short legs so my bike sizes are predictably small. I ride a 49cm Bianchi Volpe (cyclocross) and a 48cm Cannondale Supersix. In my 2 or 3 years of riding, I've never (and I mean NEVER) experienced any problems with toe overlap. So for someone on a 54cm bike to be fussing over amount of toe overlap and even making bike decisions based on it sounds a little ridiculous.

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  69. Tyler - To judge others' experiences as "ridiculous" based on your own experience seems misguided. I am sincerely glad you don't have a problem with TCO. As you can read in the comments, some do and some don't.

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  70. A bit late to the party I'm afraid but after reading through all this I had to reply to Tyler, having just bought a 54cm road bike after riding mountain bikes and BMXs for the rest of my cycling life. I didn't consider toe clip overlap when making my purchase (a Trek 1.1) but I've definitely noticed it while wobbling around trying to get used to skinny wheels. I wouldn't have said it was too bad as I've just backed off the steering when I've felt it, until yesterday when I had to negotiate a steep, uphill, highly cambered, tight turn at very slow speed and got the wheel jammed against my foot. Now I'm nursing some nice gravel rash and bruised dignity...

    It doesn't particularly bother me that much as I know I asked the bike to do something I really shouldn't have. If someone was concerned over toe overlap and wanted to make sure they bought a bike without it, whatever the size, then I don't think that's ridiculous at all...

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  71. I've had at least 5 occasions now where toe overlap has destroyed my front fender and nearly caused an over-the-bars crash. Aside from being really expensive, it's dangerous and annoying for this to happen in the middle of boston traffic. I'll never buy a bike again with making sure there's plenty of toe clearance for my big feet + wheels + fenders.

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  72. Instead of getting a bike with smaller wheels is it not easier to get a rider with smaller toes?

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  73. I currently own two bicycles and I've noticed this problem on one of them. Until now, I didn't even know there was a name for this or that it was considered a potentially dangerous problem. However, since I know the one bike has this tendency this is what I do. Simply shift your foot back slightly on the pedal before making the turn. When finished turning, put your foot back in the correct position on the pedal. Problem solved. The simpler something is, the more people feel the need to complicate it.

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