A Harrowing Tale of Butt Cramps and Sore Knees


Notes from the fitter: Do as I say... Not as I do.

We are testing a potential new shoe line, and I got to be the guinea pig. I popped my usual set of blue Shimano cleats on them, and slid a pair of yellow Bontrager insoles inside of them.

Changing shoes changes your fit. Every shoe has a different stack height, and drilling location, and those variables can change your saddle position. We shot some high speed video, made a couple of adjustments, and everything seemed fine.

What I should have done was to go for an easy spin to make sure everything was working as expected. I should have then followed that up with a few progressively longer and faster rides before I tried anything more difficult.

But I didn't...

And that's where the problems started.

The consistent message out of the Cyclologic studios is that significant change requires significant adaptation. Every rider we work with is told to "take it easy" for a few rides. We tell them to listen to their bodies, and to be safe. Don't rush things.

It's good advice. There is a reason we repeat it so frequently. It works.

But did I follow that advice? Did I go for an easy spin? Did I build up slowly? Did I test the change before I pushed things?


No I did not.

I jumped into a hilly group ride...

...and paid the consequences.

My cleats need to be placed all the way back, centered under my foot, and pointing straight. It became evident very quickly that the right one was a little "heel out." It didn't feel like much of a big deal at first. As we climbed though, I started to feel tension on the outside of my right knee.

This is the point in the story where I could have saved myself a lot of grief. What should I have done? I should have turned around. I should have rolled back home. I should have done what I tell all of our fit clients to do. I should have listened to my body.

But I didn't.

I kept riding up hill. The tension in my right knee continued to grow. I unconsciously shifted to the left of the bike in an attempt to alleviate the knee pain, and kept on pedaling.

For those of you that don't know, blue Shimano cleats don't have very much float in them. They are not "fixed", but they are very secure. When things are working well, it is a fantastic, efficient platform. When things aren't set up correctly, they can be very unforgiving.

I was tensing my entire leg, trying to bring my heel in. I was off the middle of the bike to make it easier on the rapidly fatiguing muscles in my right leg. I was getting rapid fire signals from all over my body that this wasn't sustainable, and that I needed to stop.

I kept right on pedaling.

And that's when it happened...

All of that accommodation I was doing to protect my knee showed up somewhere else.


My butt.

It cramped.


Both glutes, right at the top of the hamstrings, knotted up.


No fun at all.

I had no choice but to listen to that.

Colorful language echoed off the hillsides.

I unclipped my right foot, turned around, and coasted down the hill.

Significant change requires significant adaptation. I should have gone for an easy spin. The problem would have shown up, it would have been corrected, and I would have been fine.

Do as I say. Not as I do.

Learn from my mistakes, or you too may suffer some wicked butt cramps of your own.

Consider yourself warned.