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Should your ankles be rigid or flexible when cycling?

Dan Bullock's article in the last 220 identified rigid/tense ankles as being a common fault of someone from a running background. His point was that in swimming you need to keep your ankles flexible in order to maximise the "flipper" effect, whereas in running you are always trying to cushion the impact of each footstep and hence cannot relax them.

This got me wondering - what should your ankles be doing when you cycle? I come from a running background and definitely suffer from over-rigid ankles when swimming, but I've always assumed that the ankles should also be rigid'ish when cycling - why else would cycle shoes have such rigid bases? Previously, I've tended to rely solely on my thighs/glutes to power the pedals. Just to test this, I tried using my ankles as well as legs when doing a turbo session this evening, and found that when I was pushing down/up with my ankles I had an immediate increase in power. I'm now trying to work out if this was just because I was trying harder to prove a point, or whether using your ankles will just knacker you before the run (a bit like relying on a leg kick in the swim kills you for the bike and run section), or whether my cycling technique has been wrong all along and I've just discovered a way to cut 5 mins off my OD time.

I'd welcome views from you all.



  • shadowone1shadowone1 Posts: 1,408
    for what its worth mate I think your ankles should be reallyy flexible.

    I totally believe in the push pull phase of the pedal stroke and in the past I have used the turbo to do one leg pedal drills and used the "ankling" to help with the pull phase of the pedal stroke.

    for whats its worth i think it helps engage the calf muscles and promotes a high knee, this allows you to conserve energy for the run.

    I may be shot down here..
  • jonEjonE Posts: 1,113
    +1 for flexibility.
    As terrain varies your ankle should be flexible to adapt but also strong enough to lock into position for a continuos effort on specific terrain.be it pushing,pulling,stamping etc so flexibility is a must but strength to lock comes from the muscles supporting such as Shadowone1 says your calves.Fluid dynamics.Maybe an over simplified answer that doesn't provide a conclusion to your question.
  • Jack HughesJack Hughes Posts: 1,262
    Yes, they want to be flexible. But don't use that as a focus point. Focus on delivering power through as much of the revolution as you can. This means pushing early through the top of the cycle and pulling through the bottom phase. By doing this your ankles will be flexing.

    Or, what they said.
  • TesseractTesseract Posts: 280
    Another agreement from me.

    I actually cycle with my feet semi-rigid, but at a half flexed angle, ie toes pointing downwards, but not as fully flexed as for swimming. This allows me a longer "leg", helps with 360 action and hence more power.

    I do flex my ankle through the revolution, which means more muscle groups are used, not just the bigger upper leg muscles. But remember the bigger the muscle, the better the fuel storage, and resistance to fatigue, so it's better to avoid over using smaller muscles, like the calves.
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