Monday, June 13, 2011

Putting Your Foot Down

Enough people have asked me about this now that I thought it worth writing about: How do I put a toe down in traffic while remaining on the saddle, and also manage to get full leg extension on the downstroke? I will try to explain.

First off, let me clarify that I get "more or less" full leg extension, and obviously my leg would be even straighter if I had the saddle higher. So there is a bit of give and take to it. But the idea that your leg needs to be arrow-straight on the downstroke with the toe on the pedal and the heel raised, is not one that everyone subscribes to - especially not cyclists in cities where riding a bike for transportation is common. In Vienna, I would say that about half the cyclists I saw had their saddles adjusted so that they could touch the ground with a toe. Based on the pictures here, this seems to be the case in Copenhagen as well. When riding in cities with frequent intersections and stop signs, it can be tedious to get on and off the bike every 3 minutes. Being able to put a toe down makes things easier.

Another point, is that some bicycles' geometries work better for this than others: Typically, Dutch-style city bicycles have very relaxed seat tube angles, which increases the distance between the saddle and the pedals while keeping the saddle height constant. A lower bottom bracket helps as well, though not as much as a slack seat tube. You can watch this video of Dottie starting and stopping on her bike to get a better idea of how this works on a Dutch bike.

Finally, this may not be sufficiently noticeable in pictures, but I lean my bike to the side in order to reach the ground with a toe. I also keep my other foot on the pedal for balance. I cannot reach the ground with both toes, and I cannot even really reach with one toe unless I lean. This is something that becomes instinctive if you do it often enough. Alternatively, you could set the saddle lower. I've basically raised mine as far as I possibly can, while still managing to reach with one tip-toe while leaning.

Adjusting your saddle so that you can stop with a toe down is mainly about convenience. Some cyclists prefer this method, while others feel that not having their leg 100% straight on the downstroke robs them of power. How do you stop in traffic when cycling for transportation? And is it the method you've always used, or did you develop it after some trial and error?

59 comments:

  1. Well, you already know this, but we'll soon be doing a trial with lowering the seat of our WorkCycles, and will let you know how that goes.

    I personally usually get off the bike at intersections if I have to come to a complete stop, and sometimes will kind of partly dismount, but keep my weight on one foot on the pedal in the downward position (as if I were going to dismount), and use the other leg to kind of push myself along slowly on the ground (bending the knee of the leg that is still on the pedal), so if traffic clears and I have to go again suddenly, I can just pop myself back up on the saddle and start pedaling again without having to stop, reorient the pedals, put my foot on the pedal, and then hop up. I've also gotten much better at judging traffic, and being able to go very slowly and balance until it's my turn to go, so that I don't have to dismount at all.

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  2. I do just like you, and I think I get on the bicycle like you do also, leaning it to one side and getting on the saddle before I take off. I didn't realize until you mentioned it recently that this is supposedly "wrong". Whatever, I don't think I could do it the "right" way without falling over.

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  3. This is a case where a true "lay back" seat post can serve well.

    With a well made , and adjusted, lay back post it's possible to get the proper pedal stroke and still put your foot down flat when stopped. It is also much, much easier to ride stop & go with a lay back post since you can balance 100% better than on top toe! :^()

    I'm sorry but IMO if you have to "tip toe" to stop & balance then the bike is to darn big for you!!!!! Believe it or not!!!!!!!!!!!

    I had a stainless steel lay back post made for my Cruiser that makes it a breeze to ride with my balance issues when stopped.

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    1. Well, thanks for that comment, but my bike is sized according to the manufacturer's design for someone with my inseam length. It is a major bike company (Batavus) who has been designing them and making them for a century or more, so you'll have to forgive me if I trust their word on sizing over yours. If I set the seat height where they intended I would not be able to touch the ground at all while on the saddle. That is how a Dutch city bike is meant to fit on an adult..the advice about getting a flat foot on the ground is meant for children and other styles of bike.
      I have mine set so I can get both balls of my feet down because I feel insecure in stop and start traffic but it is causing me knee pain when I ride for a long time. I intend to compensate by putting my saddle back as far as it will go as soon as I can get the 'factory tightened' bolt undone.

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  5. I hop off the seat when I stop. I'm a "right foot down" person, so my right foot goes on the ground. With the left foot, I bring my pedal up to about a 10:00 position, and leave it there, with my left foot on the pedal.

    When the light changes, or traffic clears, I just put my weight on the left pedal, sometimes combined with a little push my with right leg on the ground. That gets me moving right away, and pushing down on the left pedal raises me enough to get my butt on the saddle.

    I'm very comfortable doing this, and wouldn't be nearly as comfortable doing it the way you do it. We all find what works best for us. :)

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  6. My wife's VO Polyvalent, with her B-67S saddle all the way back on the rails (combined with the 72 degree seat tube angle), allows her to get her toe on the ground when stopped while giving her good leg extension when riding.

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  7. I have experimented with this tip-toe method that you describe a little bit, but I find it terrifying. I am afraid of tipping over the other way when I do this. On the other hand dismounting all the way I find to be less convenient, but very natural and way less scary. The only problem with getting off is that you must get back on to get going. Sometimes this is less than graceful and natural, especially when I ride my DL-1.

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  8. Figure on 2 to 3 months recovery from a metatarsal/tendon injury/tear/rip. Re-injury is likely during recovery, which sets you back. There is no economical surgery for this unless you are a high paid pro athlete. Natural healing, staying off the affected foot (means limping, sorry), and inserts help. Yes, you can hear these things rip when they do so.

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  9. On the Pashley I'm a foot down (left for me though, as I prefer to push off with my right leg). But that may change. I feel like the saddle could use to be raised up. Not to try and get a straight leg, but to make it feel like I've got them straighter when I wear thicker soled shoes. The reason that I won't be able to reach the ground with a toe is that my feet are just too small! I csn barely touch one toe down now. I guess if I were to really lean the bike I might be able to touch the road. But I'm just not too concerned about it. I have to hop off on the Kettler mixte, and I will most likely have to with the Fuji mixte too. It's just one of the joys of being a short person. :)

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  10. Since this came up in the comments of a recent post of yours, I've been paying more attention to my stoplight technique. It basically goes by the length of the light. For short lights, I trackstand, for long lights I stand, but for most everything in between, I stay in the saddle and put a toe down.

    Looking at the geometry chart for my bike (a Jamis Commuter) my seat tube angle isn't particularly laid-back nor my BB particularly low , but I manage to get a good leg extension while pedaling, yet maintain the ability to toe down when stopped.

    I don't really have to lean either, but in my case, it's probably less a function of frame geometry and more a function of really big feet.

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  11. If I can't hold my trackstand (and I don't fall over while trying) I'm a lean left and put the left toes down kind of guy when I'm on my 'cross bike and an off-of-the-saddle, flat footer when I'm on my 29er.

    For what it's worth, I don't know many cyclist who recommend 100% leg extension; I know it hurts the backs of my knees when I do it. Around a 5 degree bend is a common starting point.

    -Matt

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  12. The Pilen is looking so fun & convenient here. I could really use it too, so frustrated with my vintage ride, I love it but I'm always having to fix something, all the time.

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  13. As you mentioned, angle, angle, angle. There is no need to have both feet down when stopped, so a cyclist needs to learn (it's not intuitive for a beginner) to lean to the right or left.

    A related tip is to get in the habit of keeping the right foot on the pedal, and leaning to the left to put your left foot down. That will keep your right leg/clothes from getting covered with with chain grease. A good habit to get into even if you have a full chaincase.

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  14. "But the idea that your leg needs to be arrow-straight on the downstroke with the toe on the pedal and the heel raised, is not one that everyone subscribes to."

    To clarify my earlier comment and pick up what Matt said, a high saddle and straight leg are kind of antiquated notions of how a road bike should be pedaled, let alone a transpo bike.

    Basically fitters don't use "full extension" because it connotes a mashing kind of stroke and not a rounder, more efficient one. Guys like Moser had a very high saddle and was almost straight-legged, but that style has fallen out of fashion. A guy like that can pedal any way he chooses and be fast.

    Of course riding a transpo bike you can do anything you want to get around town and put a foot down and different types of bikes require different setups/saddle heights, blah blah.

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  15. I mount and dismount "correctly," but I am only comfortable doing so with my feet in very particular positions. I discovered this one day when I did my commute on a 3-speed with a coaster brake and could not back pedal.

    Uh-oh.

    When I stop, my left foot is at it's lowest position (in toe-clips) and I step down with my right. Then I swing my left foot up somewhere between 9 and 11 o'clock (this is the benefit of using foot retention in stop-and-go traffic, for me) for when I start back up again.

    While riding the 3-speed, I found that could not stop any other way or I felt (irrationally) like I would go flying off the bike. Unfortunately, that meant that the pedals were left in completely the wrong position for me to start up again. I did manage to start with the right foot instead of the left, but I didn't enjoy it much!

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  16. I've used the sheldon brown method (http://sheldonbrown.com/starting.html) since I started my adult cycling. I straddle the top tube and set down my right foot to stop, and I start by stepping on the (raised) left peddle. I don't remember how I did it as a child.

    Because I (foolishly) started cycling on an aggressive racing bike with clicky pedals, setting a toe down wasn't realistic, but the click-in pedals made pulling the crank up to the Sheldon-approved starting position very easy and natural, and the frame is plenty low enough to straddle when I come off the saddle. I preferred the right leg down, because my right foot felt more coordinated than the left when clicking and un-clicking from the pedals. I do occasionally get chain grease on my leg or pants.

    Now that I've switched to platform pedals, all of my left shoes have scuffed tops from re-setting the pedals before each start. Perhaps it's time to adjust my technique...

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  17. "Typically, Dutch-style city bicycles have very relaxed seat tube angles, which increases the distance between the saddle and the pedals while keeping the saddle height constant."

    The saddle is actually lower, making it easier to reach the ground. It's the saddle to BB that, relatively speaking, is constant to a steeper ST angled bike.

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  18. Re coasterbrakes - Yes they complicate everything! When riding a bike with a coaster brake, I have to have the saddle a tad lower than on a bike without, because I need to be able to balance while doing the "keep the pedal in starting position" thing with one toe as I reach for the ground with the other.

    Also, on a coaster brake bike I start with my left foot, because that's the foot that ends up in the starting position after braking. On a non-coaster brake bike I start with my right foot.

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  19. I have a very particular preference for saddle height and it seems if I deviate from it, it feels odd right away. When I dial in a new bike, or a new saddle even, I usually raise the saddle as high as I can manage and then lower it until it feels right--right being the point where I don't rock hips while pedaling fast. My leg ends up mostly straight.

    I don't know what I would do if my seat height had to depend on touching the ground. It would drive me crazy. Suddenly bottom bracket height would matter and I wouldn't be able to ride with a steep seat tube. I wouldn't like it at all.

    I guess I am very sensitive to not having my saddle dialed in right.

    I understand that touching the ground is a must for many people, but I agree that stretching a foot down like that can cause an injury. Maybe I wouldn't put it in such blunt terms as the commenter above, but I can see how coming down hard on a stretched toe can be unpleasant.

    If I can add one piece of unsolicited advice it is that: Don't land hard on your toe with max stretch and never push off with the toe on which you are balanced to get started, instead mash that other pedal. That should reduce stress on your foot.

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  20. I don't think anyone really advocates a totally straight leg and pointed down foot at the bottom of the pedal stroke. This isn't correct fit, and won't lead to efficient power transfer.

    That said, I get much greater discomfort from improper saddle height than I do from just hopping off the saddle at lights. I feel like I'd have a harder time starting off, leverage wise, with my butt still on the saddle, than standing up on the forward pedal and getting back on the saddle in one stroke.

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  21. Your comments about relaxed ST angle and BB height are 100% correct. Electra has "flat foot technology" using this exact concept.

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  22. As far as leg extension goes, the advice I've always given customers is to stand on a step with one leg dangling relaxed. The leg will generally hang with a bit of a bend at the knee, use that as your starting point. There's a bit of fine tuning, as people tend to pedal with their feet at different angles. This is e specially true about riders using flat pedals, as some folks tend to keep the arch of their foot over the pedal spindle, while others push with the ball of their foot. These differences in placement can make a noticeable difference in the effective length of the leg.

    Toe-down-ability aside, I've never actually set my bikes up for ease of putting a foot down when stopped, I figure I spend more time pedaling than sitting around, even in traffic, so comfort while moving is paramount.

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  23. I think I do this the same way - lean and touch a toe.

    One major caveat on low seat height though - if you go up hills a fair bit and have the seat too low you will injure your knees. I know this from experience... so there's some wriggle room in there, and your leg doesn't have to be poker straight (and probably shouldn't be), but bent knees can lead to serious knee pain.

    I'm sure if you live somewhere flat this will never come up.

    I've definitely noticed increased power with a higher seat too - I don't say this as a racing type, just as someone who used to really struggle up hills. :-/

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  24. I sell bikes, so set up a lot of test rides. I start by setting saddle height this way: http://clevercycles.com/2006/07/23/seat-height-physionumerology/

    I notice that many people who have trouble with graceful mounts, dismounts, starts and stops aren't in the habit of locking at least one brake the whole time the bike isn't being pedaled or walked. Once the bike is properly braked, it's vastly easier to do whatever it is that needs doing. It should be second nature to grasp the bars with at least one hand's fingers resting on the brake levers.

    I notice further that a high proportion of these people are uncomfortable with the saddle at a height I'd consider full. In this case, first I assure that the saddle is as far rearward as possible to increase saddle-pedal distance without raising it. (SEAT TUBE ANGLE IS ALMOST EVERYTHING PEOPLE, AND >80% of BIKES SOLD IN US HAVE STEEPER THAN WHAT MOST PEOPLE LIKE BEST FOR <10mi ERRANDS :-) ) If the knee is still distinctly bent at max extension as high as they'll tolerate, I tell them that the right height is the height they like, but that if their knees start to hurt or their quadriceps tire before their other muscles, then they should consider raising it!

    I stop by leaning the bike to the left and putting a toe down while remaining in the saddle. The lean can be very subtle and the balance delicate, or I can just lean it way over and plant my left foot flat. In both cases my right foot rests on the pedal in the 2-o'clock position so I can right the bike and get going again in one push.

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  25. I do much the same thing. The saddle on my mixte is about 2cm lower than either my road or touring bikes. Simply because it's ridden in traffic. The leg extension does not optimize the pedal stroke,bit it's a minor compromise for comfort and safety in traffic.

    Marc

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  26. I do as you do. But ideally I'd like my saddle higher. My knees feel it and would prefer to be straighter than they are and I get a pretty straight. But I agree that starting and stopping often I'd rather keep my bottom on the saddle. But my poor knees on a hill. I think I'll raise it and see how I do...

    Mamavee

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  27. "SEAT TUBE ANGLE IS ALMOST EVERYTHING PEOPLE, AND >80% of BIKES SOLD IN US HAVE STEEPER THAN WHAT MOST PEOPLE LIKE BEST FOR <10mi ERRANDS :-) )"

    Bold statement, Mr. F!

    Depends on riding background and preferred position, amount of wind, speed desired, seat, uprightness, femur length, terrain covered, etc.

    I'm about an inch off of the physionumerology test.

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  28. I have the same problem as Amanda above. When I ride the DL-1, I have to hop off at lights to feel safe! For some reason, I am able to put one foot on the curb if the curb is on the left side, but on the right side I wobble (I have no idea why).

    The issue for me is not one that matters with lighter bikes because, when the light turns green, I can just hop on and ride, but with the heavier Tourist, there's a moment or two of "wobble time" where I don't feel stable on the bike and where, in traffic, it can cause a minor bit of problematic weaving. Usually I can get it under control quickly, but where the bike pannier is loaded down with groceries on one side, the weaving can be more noticeable, and I don't feel comfortable at all with the "leaning" method (the bike feels like it wants to pull me over!). At the same time, the saddle isn't set that high, and I have a slight leg bend on the extension, so it wouldn't feel comfortable lowering it further. Help? ;)

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  29. As a side note, it seems like some bike shops are religious about the 1" frame clearance on diamond frame bikes! I tried a 50cm frame Crosscheck and was told that I needed to ride a 46cm, which (to me) felt tiny, almost like a youth bike! How important IS that 1" top tube clearance, really, other than a feeling of security in a quick dismount? (I would still see it causing problems, even with the clearance!)

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  30. I think it's rare to fall in such a way that the 1" of top tube clearance will actually matter. They probably say what they do because it's more defensible from a moral or legal standpoint.

    I think if the bike you want fits you reach-wise, i.e. the top tube distance, then the standover isn't so critical. You probably shouldn't pay a lot of money for a bike where you literally can't straddle the top tube, but anything short of that is OK in my experience. Other people may disagree.

    By the way, I have a Cross Check too and I think you may have serious toe clip overlap on the 46cm and possibly even 50cm Cross Check. Make sure to have someone hold it or hold a column/wall and turn the front wheel to see if your foot clears. Then imagine fenders unless you plan to not install them. Wider rubber also sticks out more and causes fenders to be yet further out.

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  31. Interestingly, whenever I've been given any advice about adjusting saddle heights it has always been that your leg should be slightly bent with the toe on it, or straight if your foot is bare and your heel is on the pedal.

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  32. I must be a magnet for unsolicited bike advice. When I first started cycling again as an adult and my saddle was a bit lower than it is now, cyclists (always "super commuters") on the bike path would tell me that my saddle should be higher, so that my leg is not bent at the knee. I got so self-conscious about it.

    Also MDI likes to have his saddle ridiculously high and still harbors hopes that some day I'll do the same : )

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  33. You need to at least post a vid of you riding so everyone can tell you what you're doing wrong as you drop them on a virtual climb. Make it Bergmanesque, no talking. Dress like Max von Sydow.

    Maybe you can barter for a full-on fit/power assessment dealie. You'll see how slight changes in position change power output.

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  34. "But the idea that your leg needs to be arrow-straight on the downstroke with the toe on the pedal and the heel raised, is not one that everyone subscribes to..."

    It has been known for many decades, and recorded in books time and again, that the leg should be straight on the down stroke with the heel on the pedal, not the toe - that is, with cranks parallel to seat tube, and the bike stationary. It is a good idea, as a poster suggested, to let the other leg hang free of the upper pedal (an idea I first heard from Peter White). This way of setting saddle height provides for a slight bend in the knee at the bottom of the stroke when pedaling. It should prevent the hips rocking.

    This knowledge may contradict some theories current among those who follow racing style, or who charge for fittings, but it has stood the test of time. Saddle height reckoned in this manner should make it possible for anyone with normal supplesse to touch a toe to the ground at a halt (although Sheldon Brown's manner is more elegant and efficient).

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  35. Suspension seatposts tend to make things worse.
    When you put a foot down, you take some of the weight off the seat, which causes the post to extend, so you end up on tippy-toes.
    Many "commuter bikes" these days are sold with suspension seatposts.

    John I

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  36. Most beginners don't get the "get off the saddle" concept because most people start riding on coaster brake bikes with a relaxed seat angle where it's likely that you can put your foot down while seated. I've had people used to this style of riding tell me that road bikes that fit them are "too big." I just tell them to slow down, take one foot off, then balance on one crank, then get off the saddle and put the other foot down. Not everyone is a quick study on this.

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  37. John - I might be the slowest study ever. Can't do it after 2 years of trying. Apparently I find paceline rides easier.

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  38. Well, I do this, but I've been riding for so many years that I do not even think of it. Of course I stop on one toe or foot and slightly lean depending on the bike. On some bikes I do have to stop and get off the saddle with both feet on the ground, but can usually get by on one foot. I do have the saddle high enough for proper fit etc, but I can still stop when I come to a stop sign, traffic lights etc..
    Getting back on is again so intuitive I do not even think about it.

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  39. My toes are so painful from my disease that I literally can't stand on tiptoe anymore without experiencing excruciating stabbing knife pains in my big toe joints, so I dismount, every time. It's just second nature, and I don't notice it. I will admit that I've got a certain talent for Raleigh Sports trackstands now, though!

    I prefer a different extension on different bikes. On my old Panasonic race bike (listen to me... I sold it a month ago, and it's the "old" bike), I liked nearly full extension, balls of toes on the pedals. Then I felt like I could power up hills. On the Viva, I like basically the same set-up: balls of toes, near full extension with a slight bend at the knee, but I have no sense of that power on this bike. I just find it more comfortable in the cockpit that way. On the Raleigh, I like to have less full extension, and nearly flat feet. Then I power up hills! Isn't that strange? Just different geometry on the bikes, and a different style of riding on each, I guess.

    And no coaster brakes. I have to be able to spin the pedal back and crunch it down to get moving. I start exactly like Janice described, and always have. I tried the "leaned over" thing you said you do the other day on the Raleigh, and nearly fell over :). Different strokes, as they say (pun intended).

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  40. I'm glad it's not just me needing some trial and error to figure out the right seat height. I just bought a bike and started commuting on it a couple of months ago after many years of not riding. My legs are quite short, and even my women's commuter bike feels slightly big (bottom bracket is too high) for me. The seat height that allows me to put tiptoes down on one side leaves my knees a little cramped. [I have a cranky left knee, which has not gotten any less cranky with cycling.] But when I first got the bike I had the seat up a little too high, which made me scared ever to stop: not practical in traffic. To complicate things further, I have coaster brakes and a suspension seat post (I'm thinking about getting rid of the latter).

    My solution is always to try and find a curb where I can rest my right foot while stopped. Where that's not possible (there is one nasty left turn on my commute), I just tilt, rest the tip of one foot on the ground, and disregard the peevish drivers behind me when it comes time to start back up.

    If my knee gets better (or doesn't get worse), this strategy ought to hold me. If my knee gets crankier, I'll have to revisit.

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  41. MFarrington, I am wobbly when putting my right foot on the curb, too. Left is easy. That's what I generally do -- foot on curb.

    Heels make it easier to put feet down and keep a saddle height wherein I get comfortable leg extension. I think I like my saddle pretty high. I don't mind getting off the saddle when there's no curb or I'm wearing flats.

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  42. @MFarrington: the 1" clearance "rule" is actually somewhat nonsensical, but some salesfolk will stick to it because it's simpler to have some sort of rule of thumb rather than face the "it depends" reality of fitting.
    You should be able to straddle the bike without hurting yourself, obviously, but the important thing in sizing is the relation of the saddle to the handlebars when you've got the seat adjusted to the right height. Once that is properly set up it your top-tube clearance can range from "touching" to "toss a frisbee through there" and it doesn't matter much for road riding (for mountain biking you DO want more top tube clearance, as you move around out of the saddle more).

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  43. I've not paid much attention but I think I must be one of the 'hop off the saddle' brigade to stop, from the number of times I've tried to get back on and found the nose of the saddle caught in the back pocket of my trousers. One day that's going to get me into a lot of trouble!

    I also often find myself 'sculling' with the foot on the ground (or the kerb) while getting the pedal foot into position to start off again. On a slow day, it might take two or three strokes to get launched. I'm sure it looks a hoot but it gets me going ... fortunately I don't have too many stops on my journeys these days

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  44. One trick I use is to exploit the design of the road itself. In the UK (remember, we ride on the left), the road has a camber to it, to enable rainwater drainage to the sides of the road. This means that when I am upright on a bike, my right leg is slightly closer to the ground than my left, so it is easier to put that toe down whilst maintaining good leg extension and saddle height on the bike itself. In countries where you ride on the right, your left leg should be closer to the ground (assuming similar road construction).

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  45. Can't speak for everywhere, but they just let water stand around here. I think we haven't quite mastered the whole water runs downhill drainage technology.

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  46. Janice in GA said "I hop off the seat when I stop. I'm a "right foot down" person, so my right foot goes on the ground. With the left foot, I bring my pedal up to about a 10:00 position, and leave it there, with my left foot on the pedal.

    When the light changes, or traffic clears, I just put my weight on the left pedal, sometimes combined with a little push my with right leg on the ground. That gets me moving right away, and pushing down on the left pedal raises me enough to get my butt on the saddle.
    "

    I use this exact technique, except the mirror image: I keep my right foot, not my left, on the pedal at 10:00, with the bike leaned to the left, and my left foot flat on the ground. When the light changes, I simply push down with my right foot (I don't know if I use my right foot on the pedal with the bike leaning to the left because of right foot dominance or because of Cyclotourist's comment about chain grease, but I'm with him either way...).

    Also, when stopping, I don't hop off the saddle when I stop. I begin to stand on the pedals as I'm braking and nearing a complete stop, and I usually synchronize my stops with the right pedal being at 10:00. Then, I simply put my left foot down... I'm already off the saddle.

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  47. Oops, I meant right pedal at 2:00, not 10:00!

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  48. To look at my road bike and to look at me in a side by side comparison, it would seem this frame is too large for me. I always thought that, too, but I've always been quite comfortable on it either stopping or riding.

    I have ridden with more experienced riders who I'd ask for advice about this bike. They say that I look like I'm very comfortable. The balance of weight it right and my elbows/arms look fine, as does the leg extension. My hips aren't rotating or moving side to side, either.

    I honestly don't know what a smaller frame might be like as this is the only road bike I've had as an adult. What I do know is that I'm a leaner, a toe-toucher, and a hopper-offer and none of this has affected city rides or long distance riding. It may not be for everyone to ride a frame where the top tube clearance (when stopped w/both feet on the ground) is absolutely minimal.

    Having written that, getting my feet to the ground really fast would matter to me in the winter. That's when I ride a smaller mtb frame so that I can easily put down my "third brake" (aka my foot) if I should start to slip on snow or ice.

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  49. MelissatheRagamuffinJune 14, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    I think one of the things to consider is whether or not you can peddle standing up. I can't. I don't know why. I just can't. So, I have to have my saddle at least part-way under my butt to even be able to launch. When I stop on Miss Surly, I drop both my feet. Usually one hits the ground first and lets me get my balance. Then, I keep my left foot down with my right up on the peddle. I think I do basically the same on my mountain bike.

    As for leg extension - just as important as leg extension is - do you feel safe riding your bike. My leg extension is affected by something as minor as where my butt is on the saddle. But, ultimately, I NEED my tip toes to drag the ground if I drop my feet. So, on my mountain bike I don't get as good leg extension because of the extra clearance on the bike. When I let someone raise the seat for me, I would have to make sure I was sitting on the nose of my saddle to be able to drag my toes. That caused a lot of anxiety and took the enjoyment out of riding for me, and ultimately - if you don't enjoy riding your bike - you're not going to ride it.

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  50. "just as important as leg extension is - do you feel safe riding your bike.... ultimately - if you don't enjoy riding your bike - you're not going to ride it"

    Yes!

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  51. I do love that the answer from cultures with robust transportation cycling populations, is, of course, who cares about "proper" leg extension. When you think about approaching someone using the Hangzhou bike share to see if their leg extension is "right" the premise kind of evaporates.

    The US cycling population (and certainly bike shops) is definitely filled with people who started out cycling in a sportif way. I didn't, but all my initial info came from father and brother who did . . . and it's sometimes helpful, sometimes limiting. Probably mostly limiting in the context of utility cycling.

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  52. @rubix: that video on Sheldon's site is exactly how I start/stop during a ride, except I put my right foot down and pull up the pedal with my left. I ride with platform pedals too, and it's just second nature to do it all the time.

    I'll confess to doing the cowboy mount sometimes when I start off, though. :)

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  53. @Velouria - I am definitely not a quick study. I started out riding BMX and department store mountain bikes short distances often with the saddle too low, so getting full extension wasn't anything I thought about.

    Thus I rode road bikes with the saddle lower than optimal and tip toed for about five months before I just got off the saddle. At first I didn't even think about it, there was so much else about riding that fascinated or worried me, but then I'd watch friends dismount by getting off the saddle and just copied them.

    I find it interesting that you ride fixed gear without using the "hop off" dismount. Before my first times riding fixed, I figured the dismount would be difficult and practiced simulating it on my freewheel bikes first.

    When a friend asks me to teach them the "hop off," and they have a bike without a coaster brake, I tell them the first thing they need to do is stand up and not pedal. Then put your weight on one pedal until the pedals are in the 12-6 position. Then take the foot off the other pedal and just balance on one foot, using your hands on the bars to steady. When bike comes to a near stop, get off the saddle, using your hands to steady, then put the other foot down. Do all this in a parking lot or small street. After mastering that, they can combine this with the brake.

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  54. MelissatheRagamuffinJune 14, 2011 at 9:10 PM

    I can't take my foot off the pedal when I'm standing on it. I just can't. Whatever mental block keeps me from standing and pedaling also keeps me from moving my feet at all.

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  55. @MDI, et al: Thanks for the information, it really is helpful. The 46cm Crosscheck did have a terrible amount of toe overlap, which is what made me question that frame in the first place. The LBS people claimed that a certain amount of toe overlap is normal for cyclocross frames, but is that true?

    I certainly felt more comfortable with the 50cm frame standover, even if it didn't quite have the 1" clearance. Also, I would imagine that the toe overlap might be somewhat reduced by having the slightly larger frame. I should really find a way to test ride the 50cm to compare...

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  56. MFarrington: you really ought to visit this page: http://www.surlybikes.com/frames/cross_check_frame/

    Take a look at your standover, 46cm has 29.6" and 50cm has 30.3", not a full inch higher. The 52cm is a full inch higher at 30.6". All three share the same head tube length/angle, so you have a sloping top tube going on in the 46cm and 50cm, but not 52cm. Your effective top tube lengths are 20.8", 21.3" and 21.5". The larger frames also give you a slightly slacker seat tube. The wheel base is about 0.5" longer on 50cm and 52cm frames than on 46cm. Seems like there's little difference in 50cm and 52cm except for the sloping top tube.

    Find a bike shop that has both in stock in same tire width and test ride both. And keep in mind you can get a stem that's a little shorter or a little longer on any threadless bike and install it in like 10 minutes. A bike shop should even swap one for you if you're buying a bike.

    I think you'll have toe overlap even in the 50cm/52cm frames, but 0.5" less than 46cm. You need to try it. According to Surly people really do race these bikes in cyclo-cross, whatever that means for geometry.

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  57. All this makes me feel much better! I stopped riding for awhile because I've fallen a couple of times and thought it was me. Now I find it's more likely the fit with the bike and me - I've had some odd things going on physically, with falling as a pedestrian too a few years ago.

    Anyway, to know that I should test bike geometry so I can have my leg straighter at the bottom of the stroke and then be able to "flatter foot" rather than trying to "tip toe" my bike at a stop sounds like a real plus.

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  58. for the slackest seat post ever, absolutely full extension and a totally easy putting your foot down, try a long wheel base recumbent with under seat steering :)

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