Applying Functional Movement to a Bike Fit

In this episode of the MTB Strength Coach Podcast I talk to Greg Choat who is one of the top bike fit professionals in the world – yes, I said a bike fit guy! I ran into Greg at a Functional Movement Screen Lv. 2 seminar a few weeks after running my blog post on the real value of bike fits and found out that he actually shares my feelings on the subject. After hearing more about how he uses the FMS to enhance his bike fits I knew that I had to get him on the podcast to talk more about it.

In this interview we talk about how the FMS has changed how he views and uses bike fits, how our everyday lives affect the dysfunctions we bring to bike, how those dysfunctions affect how we perform on the bike and why the bike industry in general has missed the boat on applying functional movement to the bike in favor of marketing hype.

We also talk about pedaling technique and why strength training, especially the deadlift and swing, are essential to building a strong, efficient pedal stroke. Grip strength and neck pain come up as well – in short, we cover a lot of ground and this is a “must hear” podcast from one of the top cycling coaches in the industry.

Download this episode (right click and save)

-James Wilson-

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  1. MM says:

    Thanks for the great podcast. Very informative and valuable information.

    Reply • January 21 at 11:04 am
  2. neil says:

    Hey James,
    Yep another great podcast, thanks.
    I’m definitely interested in finding out more about FMS. I hope you might come up with some home screening tests for your followers.

    It was interesting to hear more about placing the foot further forward on the pedal than with the toe joint right over the axle (i.e. clipess style), since that foot further forward thing does come pretty naturally with flats.
    I’d say that for me it feels right with foot a little further back than placing the axle right in the middle of the instep like Greg seems to suggest, tho.
    For sure its true that driving the bike with feet further forward (than the std. Clipless position) just feels right, especially on rocky terrain with big shocks coming up through the feet. It’s certainly tough to take a downhill waterbar with feet in the clipless position. Nice for all us flats fans to hear that pedalling that way is actually MORE efficient than the clipped in XC boys. Must admit, I tried the dusty old clipless I used to love a few weeks back and pedalling just felt wrong.

    I can also see how a good strong grip on the bars will stabilise shoulders, nice how you worked to separate that advice from the “don’t deathgrip” advice we normally hear. In real tough terrain, though, that desire for stabilisation must mean a decent level of grip squeeze full time, I guess.
    Tough to know just when that rock is going to try grab the front wheel. And DH riders must need that shoulder stability right through their run.
    You’re totally right that swings and other kettlebell training stuff like the TGU helps make using a decent level of grip immensely easier and less fatiguing.

    I also remember you espousing a “sprinter like” glute powered feel to pedalling and that’s certainly helped me a lot. Even more so, since Lee McCormack just pointed out that, as a position cue, you should work to feel the hips pushed back – which also brings the chest down (in his new “teachers” manual).

    So, what do you think – can we use the feel of a dead lift (i.e. the feeling of pushing heels down) to help a better pedal stroke/ power output/ efficient style? I’m definitely going to try that one out.

    Great man. Thanks to Greg too.
    Another inspiring podcast.
    You’ve certainly changed the way I ride my bike for the better over the years I’ve been following you.
    enjoy your Sunday eve.

    Reply • January 22 at 10:00 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Using the deadlift to create a better sense of proper body position and pedal stroke are the main reasons I say that it is THE best mountain bike exercise you can do. In fact, I just shot my first skills clinic video for the Inner Circle website that will post tomorrow that shows how the deadlift and body position tie together.

      Glad you liked the podcast, I plan on doing some more with Greg in the near future. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights, very good stuff…

      Reply • January 22 at 2:43 pm
  3. Greg says:

    Thanks for the feedback guys and thanks to James for giving me a vehicle. Just a couple of things I wanted to clarify. During the podcast I inadvertently call Eddy Merckx Italian, he’s actually Belgium. The joys of live radio.
    As far as the foot position is concerned I’l expand on the thought process. i believe the ideal for position lies somewhere between the 1st and 5th met head ( probably closer to the 5th ) and the TMT joint which is the joint line in the arch of the foot. If you’re a sprinting I’m going to bias you forward, if you’ve an ultra distance rider I’ll bias you back. From the testing I’ve done the the data I’ve seen from a few other guys around the globe, with the cleat further back we see lower maximum torque values and higher minimum torque values throughout the pedal stroke. This translate to a high avg. torque value which is equal to efficiency. So the type of riding you do and your functionality will actually define your cleat position. Once again the one size fits all mentality doesn’t really fly here. If I had to make a call for the ‘average’ riders I’d say take a line across the foot from the 1st met head to the 5th met head and then bisect that with a line from the 3rd met going front to back. Where those lines intersect should give you a pretty solid cleat center position.
    I look forward to doing some more podcasting with James.

    Reply • January 23 at 12:32 pm
  4. Wacek says:

    Your podcast with LeeMcCorcmack triggered my working on neutral position. SInce I became conscious of it I suddenly noticed that I become familiar with some borrowed bike very fast. Applying some proper movement patterns thanks to pumpteack helped as well I think. Transitions between my AM bike and my hardtail became very smooth also. I can even ride my wives super short bike with not much getting used it. Few turns on the proper trail and I am friends with it.

    I think skill is an important factor in bike fit. I hear people complaining about either long or short cockpits, geometry, “the numberz!” bladi bla. I love to hear from Greg about handlebar height, along with Lee’s book there seems to be some good conscensus on it.

    All the best!

    Reply • January 23 at 2:09 pm
  5. Scott says:

    Great info Greg!!! Thanks for the podcast James. Greg, when you say I either bias you forward or back, are you referring to the foot or the cleat? Specifically, I’m interested in your comment about positioning an endurance athlete’s foot back as I’m an ultra endurance racer. Thanks again.

    Reply • January 23 at 3:03 pm
  6. John (aka Wish I Were Riding) says:

    @greg – I don’t mind being the stupid one in the room…

    “If I had to make a call for the ‘average’ riders I’d say take a line across the foot from the 1st met head to the 5th met head and then bisect that with a line from the 3rd met going front to back. Where those lines intersect should give you a pretty solid cleat center position.”

    I don’t know met heads from meth heads. Can you link to a graphic or something I can understand better?


    Reply • January 23 at 3:12 pm
  7. Neil Barstow says:

    Hia Greg,
    Me too on the foot structure, is it possible you might post a drawing or a photo or 2 please?

    Reply • January 24 at 5:16 pm
  8. Vaun says:


    Tremendous guest to have on this podcast. You and Greg should pat yourselves on the back for going as deeply into this as absolutely required. Someone needs to break the chain of thought in established “blind following” in the bike industry. Where would we be if there weren’t people will to logically and scientifically defend the idea that the world truly is round?
    That Greg wasn’t willing to give up ground in correcting road cyclist movement patterns plus the fact he held off on aerodynamics of the rider until third criteria on the list speaks volumes of how important this is. And it goes to show that if you can correct the FMS of a road rider and subsequent movement patterns associated with riding positioning and pedaling mechanics then most certainly every mtb rider should be doing it to facilitate better attack position and the ability to do more standing pedaling. If Greg can overcome the prevalence in quad dominant athletes like roadies then mtb riders have no excuse to get themselves pedaling better, on flats no less.

    What seems really perplexing is the number of riders who have made the switch back to flats on a part time basis and really like the feel but sense the need to have the clipless on the bike if doing technical ascents. If flats can be pedaled well 85% of the time them proper mechanics should allow them to be pedaled effectively 100% of the time.

    Looking at semimembranosis, semitendinosis and biceps femoris their function is to act as hip extensors not hip flexors and as evidence is showing the last few years the psoas is a spinal stabilizer, not a hip flexor. So how is that the debate on spinning a “perfect circle” can’t yet be put to rest in cycling? Using the hamstrings to pull up is contravening the purpose of the those muscles and is contributing to the hip dysfunction, low back problems and knee issues associate with clipless pedals in both disciplines of the sport. If I’m not mistaken Greg is the second road cycle coach who’s said the power comes from the push down not the pull up in the pedal stroke? And his statement [okay then go pedal with only pulling up with the hamstring] of how ineffective the idea is was the best defining real world explanation I’ve heard used yet. The evidence of a DHer and a BMX world champion from AUS having the highest power output measures in the AUS high performance centre prior to the Olympics in China is proof enough. Push down hard to go fast. Pull up hard to create muscle imbalances and neural recruitment sequence errors. Spinning the perfect circle with a clipless setup is an outside-in engineering solution wrongly applied to the human body. A inside-out from the center of mass solution is the correct one. A prime example of how running is not pedaling would be to do a hard 5 mile ride seated, stop, drop the bike and try sprinting 100 yards. Guaranteed in the first 15 yards you’d feel like you were going to crater and fall on your face. Closer to the 100 yrd mark you might feel like you’ve re-obtained a descent running stride. Why? The motor patter in the two movements are that dissimilar.

    You keep beating the drum on this James and not enough people are willing to examine the rationale behind it. Debates on Pink Bike and other sites still rage on; not on how to get better at pedaling or riding but instead whether any of this has any merit. At least those willing to run the information through their own filters are seeing the light and are willing to change the thought process and subsequent training they do. And those who won’t are just holding themselves back. And what isn’t realized is the corrections you keep reviewing are meant to help the bodies be healthier off the bike over lifespan, not just on the bike.

    Posting this comment (diatribe) here is like preaching to the choir since so many MTBSTS followers “get it”. But posting it elsewhere gets you labeled a heretic and conspiracy theorist.

    Keep it up James. Thank you for all you do for the mtb community. On your own dime and time no less.


    Reply • February 3 at 9:18 pm
  9. John (aka Wish I Were Riding) says:

    I’ve got some more rides under my belt with the flats. What I find so interesting is that I’m having to THINK so much more about what I’m doing. That’s another reason I think this is a good thing for me to be doing.

    A new theory (or train of thought) is that hub engagement points was never a really big deal before, I’m starting to wonder if it becomes more important with flats. Meaning the people riding flats who have more trouble climbing would benefit from higher engagement hubs? I’ve also noticed a couple things about my feet. 1) when I’m putting down torque to climb something steep I really tend to go all duck foot with my heels turned inward. I’m always trying to correct my feet on the pedals to find a comfortable position that has my feet in line with the frame, but then they get tweaked when I lay down some power. 2) I’ve also noticed that for some weird reason my left foot/shoe seems to have a lot less issue staying on the pedal than my right. My right foot seems to have minor slips and movement way too often, such that it feels like I’m not wearing the same shoes on both feet.

    Anyway, I continue to experiment and enjoy the process. Thanks again for getting me started with flats.

    Reply • February 4 at 12:05 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Two thoughts come to mind –

      First, you do need more tension on the pedals to help keep your feet planted with flats, you can’t keep the low tension, super high RPM cadence that clipless pedals allow. As you are finding, that cadence results in your feet flying off the pedals without the false attachment point. Shift up a gear and drive your feetinto the pedals – this will keep your feet planted and help engage your hips more.

      Second, let your feet find a comfortable position, don’t force them into a position. Again, you are finding that flat pedals require a totally different approach and you can not try to apply clipless pedal foot position to flats. Let your feet turn out slightly, they are doing that bcause that is where they want to be.

      However, the resl question is “howmfunctional is your movement”? If you have movement issues and that is causing your feet to turn out excessively from some sort of movement dysfunction then you need to address the dysfunction. That is where your training program comes in – using a strength training program that addresses mobility and movement quality is a must to get the most out of riding in general and flats in particular.

      Glad you are sticking with the flats, the hard part is having to “unlearn” what you learned from clipless pedals and allowing your body and instincts to guide the process.

      Reply • February 5 at 8:30 am
  10. Dave says:

    Really appreciate the Flat Pedal Manifesto!! I just got a new bike and am dealing with fit questions as well as fitness issues – with such a warm Fall i rode it a ton and have a sore lower back! So here are some questions for you:
    1. Is the ‘real value of bike fits’ blog post still available? The link above isn’t working.
    2. Do you or anyone on the W. Slope do those FMS bike fits?
    3. Do these flat pedal/pedal technique concepts affect your support of bar ends for climbing, seat droppers, or adjustable travel forks (shorter for climbing)?

    I am a 50+ yr old weekend+ warrior who sits alot, so your Greg Choat interview made TONS of sense in terms of using hip strength to climb. You have me intrigued, and now that I have a new fun bike I am more open to these options. And to more strength training through the winter! Yes I have some of your products, but I confess that I haven’t fully embraced them or anything for ongoing fitness yet. But a new Carbon Tallboy LC will really reinvigorate your thinking! Thanks for your thoughts, and for all you put out there!

    Reply • December 21 at 12:37 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Glad you’ve found the info helpful, here are some quick answers for you…

      1) http://www.bikejames.com/strength/are-bike-fits-worthless-for-mountain-biking/

      2) I think the key is to address anything that shows up in the FMS before getting a bike fit. Greg doesn’t use the FMS during the fit but instead uses it before fitting the make sure he isn’t just fitting your dysfunctions. I can do an FMS for you, send me an email to james@bikejames.com is you are interested in setting something up.

      3) The important thing to remember is that the core principles of pedaling remain the same even if the technique alters slightly to accommodate specific bike features. What that means is that no, things don’t change much based on the things you mentioned.

      Hope this helps and that you find the motivation to give strength training a solid 4 weeks effort – once you see the results you’ll find yourself much more motivated to keep going.

      Reply • December 22 at 8:24 am

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