I’ve been training for many years but have always found that my calf muscles seem to be the part of my legs that get the most tired and ache the most. Having spoken to a number of riding buddies this appears to be uncommon, they seem to cite quads as being the muscle that tires. Unless I do a massive ride my quads rarely feel cooked. So, has anyone found the same and if so, and is there a way of improving calf strength such that it is less of a limiting factor. I have wondered about changing pedals to Speedplay so I can move my cleats further back via an adaptor.
Seems more like a fit/cleat/mobility issue than a strength one. Have you ever seen a fitter?
Yes, I’ve had a couple of bike fits in the last 4 years so I don’t think it’s that. Mobility might be an issue though.
I have high arches and pretty inflexible ankles so get very tight calves which do sometimes cramp on longer or harder rides. Stretches and rolling to improve the range of motion and ease the tightness helps. Sounds like your issue feels more like tiredness than cramping though?
Do you do a lot of climbing standing?
My initial thought was fit related as the calf mostly just stabilizes the foot and does not contribute much to power output. But if you’ve had a fit or two, hopefully that would have been identified. I only get sore calves when I do a lot more standing climbing than I am used to as the calf is doing more work in that situation.
Check out and play around with cleat position (even seat position) and pay attention to pedaling form. May be pointing or flexing feet at the bottom or top of the pedal stroke too much.
Bike fitter is a good suggestion. Set up your phone to record a video your pedal stroke from the side (maybe after a warmup or in the middle of a workout) so you see what you are naturally doing. If there’s nothing obvious, at least you can rule something out.
Don’t find they tire quicker, but my calves are always where I’ll cramp first/ most often on the bike. Only ever had quad cramps on the bike at the end of long outdoor events. Off the bike, it’s the opposite though!
Yes it’s more of a fatigue issue as opposed to cramping which is a rarity.
Interestingly I’ve noticed it more when I am doing structured workouts indoors seated rather than when I’m in and out of the saddle on climbs outside.
Touch wood, I’ve not cramped on a bike in years but on long rides my quads feel like they are ones to tire but generally off the bike it’s the calves which suffer with DOMS and the quads that feel fine.
That is interesting. Do you notice a big different in cadence when riding inside vs outside? I could imagine that a significantly lower cadence in one environment might cause extra loading on calves as force would be higher and more stabilization required.
As you mention as well, the cleat position could be forward and cause extra calf loading. Where does the pedal spindle sit in relation to the ball of your foot? Many years ago I jammed my cleats all the way back and that ended up aligning the spindle with the ball of my foot, as confirmed by a recent fit. My reasons for doing so were misguided, but the side benefit was I actually got it right.
This has been my experience as well. If its happening often I would definitely try moving your cleats back on the shoe.
Move your cleats all the way aft if not already…
At the moment my cleats are all the way back but I do wonder if it’s a good time to try some of the Sidi Shot 2s as these allow an extra 5mm of aft cleat position. The ball of my foot feels like it’s broadly over the pedal spindle but maybe not precisely.
If you have spd-sl try finding these:
I went to speedplay so i could use the base plate extender. Don’t remember how much but its something like 15mm of aft adjustability. I love it. the ball of your foot might already be over the spindle, but moving the cleats further back will still reduce load on the calves and might help you out. you will need to adjust saddle height and probably setback to account for the new cleat position
i got the mid-foot ergo that Landis posted about and like that as well, but decided i prefer speedplay over my shimano SPDs
Thanks. I’m beginning to think that I ought to try speedplay again as I have some in the cupboard together with the extender plates. That said, I wonder if a lower stack height would also take some strain off of my calves and there is less stabilising for them to do.
Your seat is too high, if you lower it a bit you will find it engages your quads more