Hanna-Barbera produced the popular Flintstone cartoon tv series where Fred was known to use his feet as the brakes for his prehistoric car.
We laugh at that and perhaps we have even done it ourselves at times in the past on some types of vehicles. We might have even gotten away with it, but I caution you not to attempt it on a tadpole trike as you may very well regret it. The results could get quite ugly, most serious and painful. LEG SUCK is not something anyone would want to have happen to them. Leg suck is where the rider of a tadpole trike literally runs over their leg as the leg folds back under the crossmember (cruciform) of the trike frame. I saw it happen once to a friend of mine. It was hard to watch. He was fortunate. He only experienced considerable pain which took several days to get over … nothing got broken. I have myself had this happen a couple of times and experienced the pain of it. Fortunately my pain and suffering was over much quicker. The bottom line is … it is not worth it … keep your feet on the pedals. Certainly it is best to use some sort of means to keep your feet on the pedals so they can’t fall off and come down onto the ground. Tadpole trikes are a lot of fun to ride, but we need always to use common sense and good judgement. Be safe, enjoy the ride and …
KEEP ON TRIKIN’
Anyone who reads the postings on Recumbent Trikes Group on Facebook have probably already seen my recent posting there about heel slings. For some time now I have considered buying them to try. I finally did about a week ago and have been using them. At first I didn’t care much for them, but I figured out that part of my problem with them was simply getting them “tweaked in”. The pedals I am using probably are not ideal for use with them. I simply used a pair of pedals I had on hand. After studying the pedals and the routing of the cables thru the pedals I decided to reroute the cable. That made a big difference and helped a lot. Now as I ride with my feet in the heel slings I really like them … so much better than using the SPD shoes and pedals. Yes, heel slings get my vote! As for the pedals I will probably buy some other ones which are better suited for mounting these heel slings to.
I understand the danger of “leg suck” while riding a tadpole trike even though I personally have never had an issue of my feet going down onto the ground if and when they come off of the pedals. That being said I know it ‘could happen‘ so it is best to do something to prevent it. I know most people turn to SPD shoes and pedals and really like them. I am not a fan of them myself as I don’t like having my feet locked to the pedals. So that rules out SPD, rat traps, and straps. I find SPD shoes to be uncomfortable to begin with. I need to wear shoes/sandals I am comfortable in. I also need to be able to move my feet around on the pedals a little bit as I ride. With the use of heel slings I can do all this.
Please note: When I originally wrote this article I wrote about the JSRL heel slings product as it was the only such product available I was aware of. Then TerraTrike came out with their version of heel slings which didn’t much impress me. However, more recently they have a new design they offer which I really like. I bought them and use them. I highly recommend them over the JSRL heel slings.
If you are looking for the TerraTrike product be sure you don’t get confused and buy the older version which is still available.
Here (below) is a picture of the JSRL heel slings.
Although it is claimed that heel slings can be used to pull back on the pedal much the same as can be done with SPD pedals I would argue that doing so is not as easy nor practical. The main reason for this is because the foot is not attached to the pedal like it is with the SPD system so when you pull back against the heel sling with the back of the foot the foot lifts off of the pedal. At least that is what happened when I tried it. Supposedly one is to point their toes downward as they pull back on the heel sling with their foot. That seems ridiculous to me. Going thru all that isn’t worth it. For me it is a non issue thankfully since I don’t pull back on the pedal using SPD pedals.
Here is how the cables and hardware are installed:
(Remember – you can click on any image in WordPress blogs and have them open up in their own window. Often times they will be larger so you can see more detail. To close the window of the image just use your browser’s back button.)
The cables are adjustable for different size shoes and it really is important to get the adjustment right. Since cables are flexible and sag down under their own weight the further they are extended the more they will sag down. This makes it more difficult to get one’s feet into them. I personally think they need some means of preventing them from sagging down as it would make it so much easier to get into them. My shoe size is small enough that the sagging is not as much of an issue as it would be if I wore larger shoes.
At first I found it a bit difficult to get my shoes/sandals positioned properly into the heel slings. However, with the tweaking I did and with a little practice now I can get in and out of them fairly quick and easily. And getting out of them is so much quicker and easier than it is with the SPD system. I no longer have to concern myself with my feet being fastened to the pedals should an accident occur or a roll over take place. That is something I think about as it could happen. And if it did happen I might not be able to get my feet loose from the pedals. Also someone coming upon the scene of an accident is not likely to know how the SPD system releases. Lastly, it could be very painful and even dangerous to move the feet and legs to release them from the pedals. Yes, heel slings get my vote!
The one thing I think would greatly improve this product would be for the pedals to be counter weighted so that they would be positioned in the ready position for use instead of rotating way around due to the weight of the heel slings hanging off of them. This would take considerable weight however … unless it was hung way out in mid air on the opposite side of the pedals. Even with this problem I still found them fairly easy to use once I got the hang of it. In the picture above the cable is adjusted most of the way out …. must be for the BigFoot Monster … so the weight is considerable and the pedal is rotated way around to where it is upside down. My pedals are not rotated nearly this much.
John Lawrence sells his heel slings thru his website, JSRLDesigns, LLC. Here is the basic kit he sells. Heel pads are optional and recommended if you wear sandals. John seems to be a nice guy to deal with and genuinely sincere about helping his customers and giving them total satisfaction.
With the use of my heel slings I will be able to …
KEEP ON TRIKIN’
(without concern of leg suck)
The question is sometimes asked … “WHAT PEDALS SHOULD I GET FOR MY TADPOLE TRIKE?” Definitely there are options. I have written some about this previously, especially in regards to the concern with injury from “leg suck“. So why write about it again you ask? I “dunno” … it just seemed like I should … to share about those options.
As to pedals there are so many to choose from nowadays one could probably get a headache trying to figure it out. There is everything from old school platform pedals …
and on …
to even more exotic (some might call it bizarre) …
And there are lots of platform pedals in between all of these. One thing to keep in mind is that when your shoe is pushing on just a thin piece of metal … … it could bother your foot after awhile. I know it bothers mine when I used pedals like that. It is good to have pedals that more less grip the bottom of your shoe so your shoes stay in place on the pedal, but these thin edges might be a problem. Some pedals seem to “grip” better than others. Some are downright risky as one’s shoe readily slip off of them.
It is highly recommended that some type of pedal be used which keeps the feet from coming off of the pedals and going down onto the pavement below. This is because of the concern of injury … namely leg suck. “Leg suck” occurs when a foot touches the ground and the bike runs forward over the contact point, causing ligament damage and, in some cases, ankle fractures. I saw it happen to a friend of mine. It wasn’t a pretty sight. There are various types of pedals available that are used to help prevent this.
One of the oldest types of restraining devices is the toe clips and toe straps. I always heard them referred to as “rat traps” when I was a kid growing up. Another name for them is “quill”.
Hase has a pedal with both a rat trap and an elastic heel strap which sell for about $43 each. That’s right, you order them individually specifying left or right.
Some people use just a strap …
Power Grip makes a strap which works to hold the foot onto the pedal by turning the foot sideways a bit and placing the foot thru their strap. Upon straightening the foot back around in line with the pedal their strap tightens down onto the shoe to hold it is place.
And then there are some really specialty items …
From there we get into other special pedals which have clips on them to clip special shoes onto them so one’s feet can’t come off of the pedals. The very thing that these pedals and shoes do is “clip in/on” so it seems so stupid to call these “clipless pedals”, but that is what they are called. It stems from the fact that the foot is held in place without the use of toe clips and toe straps. The clipless pedal was invented by Charles Hanson in 1895 so they have been around for awhile.
The most common and popular are known as SPD. There are two different types … road bike and mountain bike. There are considerably different from one another. The road bike type are large plastic and stick out on the bottom of the shoe making them difficult and impractical to try to walk in. The mountain bike type are metal, smaller and are recessed up into the bottom of the shoe making them far more practical to walk in. In the picture below you can see a comparison of the two. The road bike type on the right is getting pretty messed up from the abrasion walking on it.
Catrike trikes come with combination platform and SPD pedals. One side is a platform pedal and the other side is an SPD pedal.
These are what I am currently using.
There are other SPD pedals … strictly SPD … so one pretty much has to be wearing the special SPD shoes in order to ride the trike.
Can you imagine trying to pedal this (pictured below) with just regular shoes on?
Two other types of clip in pedals are somewhat common. They are the Speedplay “Frog” …
“Heel slings” are another method of keeping one’s feet from coming off of the pedals and down onto the pavement. I have never tried them, but they look like they would work better than most methods other than the SPD type.
In closing I want to mention my thoughts on this matter of keeping one’s feet safely on the pedals. I spoke of the different means of doing this. Some would work better than others as far as accomplishing that. Some are difficult to get in and out of. I personally would never use any of these which would not allow me to quickly and easily get my shoes free from the pedals in an emergency. The simple strap type and the toe clips with the toe straps may allow the shoe to be removed easier than some of the others, but then I would be concerned that my foot would come out of it when I don’t want it to. Also the use of a strap over the foot doesn’t appeal to me as I find them uncomfortable. And they can mess up a shoe in time.
Given the available options the SPD mountain bike type pedals and shoes seem to me to be the best option. I have these myself. The problem I have in using them is “comfort”. The shoes I don’t think are nearly as comfortable as the shoes I would wear if I were just using platform pedals. After riding for awhile with SPD shoes and pedals my feet start hurting. I don’t have that problem with my regular shoes. The heel slings I think would be another good option.
Another factor is that I like to be able to move my feet around a little bit on the pedals as I ride. You can’t do that when you are ‘locked in’. For me it adds (brings on) fatigue and soreness in my feet and legs that I would not otherwise experience. Darn leg suck issue anyway! I rode for years using platform pedals and have had my feet come off of the pedals several times. I have never had any problem with my feet going down onto the pavement. Never the less I am always very much aware of the very real danger and concern. It could happen and if and when it does it can get ugly folks! That’s all I’ve got to say about that. I will include a few videos here at the end. Be safe and …
ENJOY THE RIDE!
Oh, I almost forgot. I don’t want to leave the gals out. They even make SPD shoes especially for you … as ridiculous as they are:
(When I first saw this I assumed it was a hoax … that these really don’t exist … that they are photoshopped. However, take a look HERE.)
Well, anyway … on with the show … the videos that is.
Sue from All Out Adventures explains the pros and cons of: 4 different pedal-types for recumbent trikes, Heel and Toe Support pedals, Powergrip pedals and clipless pedals .
please note: they should read “cruciform” not crucifix.
Just recently I saw it happen and it wasn’t a pretty sight. A friend I ride with was riding another friend’s tadpole trike … trying it out. He normally rides a diamond frame bicycle. He has been considering buying a tadpole trike so we are encouraging him to ride this one to get a “feel” of riding one and make sure he wants to pursue it. He has ridden with us for years and knows there are numerous advantages of riding a tadpole trike over a diamond frame bike. We have been hoping he would make the plunge so we are excited about him finally riding this trike as he considers it. Even though he was told about the danger of “leg suck” and was given a pair of SPD shoes to wear and use while riding this trike he chose not to wear them. While pedaling his right foot slipped off the pedal and down onto the pavement. The next thing he was, shall I say, “audibly announcing” that he was in trouble. I saw his leg and foot get bent back and contorted as they went under the crucifix of the trike and drug along the pavement. Fortunately for him he got stopped and nothing got broken nor was any skin damaged. It hurt for just a little bit, but it started feeling better as he kept riding and pedaling. Yes, he was fortunate. A few days have passed and now his ankle and foot is swollen, black and blue and hurts some again. This scenario has resulted in some very serious injuries for others.
Leg Suck, as it is called, can be a very dangerous thing. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about it:
“Although recumbent bicycles are generally considered safer than upright bicycles, they do have some specific safety issues. A type of injury characteristic of recumbents called “leg suck” occurs when a foot touches the ground and the bike runs forward over the contact point, causing ligament damage and, in some cases, ankle fractures. The use of clipless pedals reduces this possibility by preventing the foot from slipping off the pedal. But with clipless pedals, remaining clipped in during a front tire or wheel failure at high speeds can result in the recumbent rolling over the rider and taking a clipped in leg or legs with it. This scenario, although very rare, can create severe spiral fractures of the femur rarely seen with upright bicycles. ”
Quite frankly leg suck sucks! I have been most fortunate. I rode my trikes for years without the use of SPD shoes and even though my feet came off of the pedals a few times I never experienced them going down onto the pavement below. Years ago when I checked into SPD shoes I found them too costly. I have a wide foot so the regular width shoes won’t work for me and the extra wide shoes were very expensive at that time. Just a few months ago I learned of some that were quite reasonable in cost so I bought them and have been using them since. Certainly I do feel much safer using them. My only concern it having my feet locked onto the pedals and having an accident where the trike tips over and my feet remain on the pedals because I can’t get them loose (released).
One thing I would point out is the boom height and position of one’s feet on the pedals as to their distance up off of the pavement. Certainly the higher the boom the more distance exists between the bottom of the shoe and the pavement. Most trikes have similar boom heights. Only a few are much higher and those that have high booms do appear quite unique. And I am pretty sure that many riders don’t care for riding in that position as for one reason or another they find it uncomfortable and objectionable. Of course, the larger (longer) one’s feet are the closer they will be to the pavement while positioned on the pedals.
Besides SPD shoes their are other options such as heel slings (straps) for the foot to sit in which keep the foot (shoe) from falling down onto the pavement. You can read the BentRider article HERE. I will be featuring these heel slings in my next posting on this blog.
By the way, I tried to find a picture of this “leg suck” online to post here, but couldn’t find a thing. I then got the idea that I would ask my friend to do that again so I could get a picture of it. He declined to help me out on this. I am thinking … “what kind of a friend it this that won’t help out his friend when his friend asks for his help?” Seriously, I sure hope the next time he tries riding the trike he will be wearing the SPD shoes. I really don’t care to see a repeat of this. Leg Suck … it’s not a pretty sight. And we all want to …
KEEP ON TRIKIN’