Experiencing calf tightness and spasms


I’ve been cycling since 2016 mostly starting around march till november and no riding during the winter periods. Every year the same hassle of getting over saddle sores and slowly grinding the power up.
This year is different though, the only thing different is prior to starting the cycling again I’ve done a keto diet which helped me lose some, 85kg–>74kg.
During keto I started with slow rides z1-z2 and was experiencing some cramps in my calfs and a light head, my guess due to the shortage of carbs. To overcome I used isotonic drinks+cafeine (without carb) to replenish the lost vitamins/minerals.

Since 3 weeks I’m again on carbs after a pretty easy transition apart from some belly cramps.
Sad enough I’m still experiencing the muscle spasms as before.

Let me try to describe:
After about 15-20km my calfs seem to tighten a bit and feel funny. First times this happened it felt like they could go into full cramp any second but past has learned me this never happened as long as I kept on riding easy. When I stop/break and sit down my calfs go in overdrive and start spasming like crazy. If I would point my toe down at that moment they would cramp but as I just reguraly sit down they keep on jiggling for about an hour. During riding I use isotonic sports drink 1500ml + gel 22g carbs and this on a 2 hr ride so I’d imagine i’m good on the nutritions.

So far I’ve tried playing around with saddle fore/aft + height but no succes.
(had 2 bikefits in the past)

extra info : rides are around 120w avg with a 180ftp HR around 130ish with a 190max
I use look pedal plates and ride a specialized tarmac sl7 expert size 52
Left legg is quicker going into spasm mode than the right (legg lenght difference but no problem in the past)

I’ve researched alot of the interwebs already and found some articles about the spasms begin to due the body trying to get extra bloodflow? FYI the only part of my body keeping me from going is the calfs. Rest of the legs/back etc are superfine and angry to quit a session :slight_smile:

Looking forward for some opinions / tips in order to finally get this over with :slight_smile:

Have you watched this video by a respected Australian bike fitter?

In it he addresses the issue of why someone might cramp on the bike?

Turns out it wasn’t for the reasons I thought!

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I’m wondering what your ankle mobility is like. Could be you’ve got limit to that motion and once everything else is warmed up, it’s tugging on the muscles in between. For me, it’s never the muscle that hurts that the problem, it’s always something on either side.

Can you do full depth squats with a straight back? If not, I’d try to open up that area and see if it makes a difference. Prying goblet squats before a workout does wonders for me.

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No, it’s sodium. Get more salt.


Thanks for the interesting thought path, I’d just realized when I was younger I suffered a broken legs ‘tibia and fibula’ which also led to a compartment syndrome for which they had remove muscle tissue. I do indeed have less flexibility in my left ankle in comparisson to the right one. Definitely a point to start working on! thx!

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have you tried pushing your cleats further back on your shoes to reduce the stress on your calfs?


Try this ^ (moving cleat as far back as possible on shoe. ) Your calf is fatigued, and a fatigued muscle will cramp…even with plenty of electrolyte on board.


Gradually moved them backwards since 1.5 weeks. As of today they are moved fully back after coming home.

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+1 on moving the cleats further back, but dont forget to adjust saddle heigt (lower) also, otherwise you are still overextending the ankles and using the calf muscles too much.

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The cramps are reduced to about 10% of the original feeling. Lowered the saddle by 1.5cm. 3cm fore and moved the cleats all the way back. I do experience alot more strain on the quads/knees but so far no injuries. Probably a period needed for adjusting. Thx for the great advise, comments. !