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This setup doesn't look good to me. If the wheel can touch the pedal cage in when the pedal's in its forward-most position, it could cause me to come off the bike. I have come off recently, I think to do with this.

I haven't changed anything on the bike since it was bought brand new from a shop. Is it a safe setup?

bike with crank and pedal cage in forward-most position, touching front wheel

top view of bike showing angle between frame and stem

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    Toe overlap happens with certain geometries. You’ll develop an intuition to avoid it.
    – Paul H
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 7:30
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    I also have this on my road bike in size "S" but I subconsciously mitigated it by developing a "inside pedal up" habit on turns in general, then your pedal/foot is out of reach on both sides. It occasionally happens on slow maneuvering including pedaling but I never had any issues due to that. I makes some noise but the wheel motion would (if there is enough contact and force involved) even "pull" you out of the area. Pedal hitting a curb or the ground is way more dangerous.
    – DoNuT
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 8:15
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    @DoNuT Freewheeling turns are not really an issue here. The toe overlap mostly manifests itself in very slow maneuvers like sharp turns when climbing in a steep terrain here one struggles to maintain a direct line. No "inside pedal up" rule can help here because one needs to be pedaling. Sometimes also in very sharp corners when one starts pedaling from standing or just rides very slowly. Then one can avoid it by changing the line or stopping pedaling for a few seconds. Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 8:49
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    @VladimirFГероямслава Yup that's actually mentioned in the comment, but never mind. At least in flat or mildly steep terrain, you can even avoid that by not doing a full pedal stroke, just engage the free hub, do a quarter turn, rotate pedals back freewheeling and repeat. You can do this with the inside pedal away from the wheel, even though it might be against your intuition of starting to pedal. I've just seen a GCN presenter riding through a deep puddle like that, he just wanted to keep the pedals up above the water but it is the same principle (short freehub engagements to move forward).
    – DoNuT
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 9:05
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    @PaulH I once heard it called "Toeverlap" which is amusing to me on several levels
    – Criggie
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 18:11

4 Answers 4

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Even if the cage weren't there, your foot would still be there. This foot overlap is annoying, but not very harmful. It only happens at very low velocities and during sharp turns and therefore you can usually just lessen the turn rate when it appears and it will go away. It would not make you fall immediately. It is common for small bike frames and larger wheel sizes so smaller people like me have to get used to it. The only way to remove it would be to install smaller wheels like 650B.

You can surely remove the cage and you can either install proper platform pedals with pins or clipless pedals, but the issue with your foot hitting the tyre won't go away.

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    Does his foot really use all that overlap that the cage gives room for? In other words, if he removes the cage will his foot (at it's natural placement on the pedal) really collide with the tire? Shorter cranks and smaller tires(same inner diameter, smaller outer diameter) might also create some space?
    – WornChain
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 23:26
  • @WornChain Not necesarilly fully, but the overlap will likely still be there. I would like to keep the answer quite general for cases of even bigger overlap. Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 6:10
  • I was just wondering what his minimum pedal-edge-tire distance is, and if his bike is special in this regard. I have 8cm/>1 pedal width of clearance so perhaps you are right.
    – WornChain
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 6:39
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It's a subjective question that each rider has to answer themselves. You get to decide how safe it is. It is not unequivocally safe, but many riders ride bikes with this much toe overlap or worse.

The conversation about what one gets in return for this compromise touches on every aspect of bike design and fit, so it is not a simple one.

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    Riding with this much toe overlap and with this much cage overlap are different matters. You can reposition your foot if you need to, and even knock aside it with the wheel if there's no weight on it. You can't do that with a cage. Tyres like those shown are also likely to snag more suddenly on a cage than any tyre on a shoe, or slicks on a cage.
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 14:45
  • @ChrisH It's different but it's still up to the rider how much it matters and what to do about it. Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 16:01
  • agreed, but I see it as a sufficiently different decision that the OP has more to consider than the more common case
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 16:46
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Do you really need or use the cages? What is your intended use for the bike?

It is generally advised to pedal positioning the ball of the foot (the widest part of the foot) directly over the pedal spindle. I have seen many pedal cages that position the arch foot over the pedal's center. I personally find very inefficient to pedal with my arches. With that in mind, How is your pedal technique? Do these cages position your foot comfortably? Is the cage size correct for your foot size?

Depending on your intended use for the bike, you may be just fine removing the cages. I usually ride flat pedals with no foot retention for commuting, even though for MTB and long road rides I use clipless pedals. You will find that there is no consensus whether foot retention is really advantageous for many riding types, and most performance oriented riders use more modern systems, i.e. clipless pedals.

I used to have toe overlap on an old road bike, but, again, only happened if I placed my foot's arch over the pedal, once I learned to use the foot ball, no more toe overlap. That bike had no cages installed.

If you are comfortable riding with your foot not all the way down into the cages, you may have the option of installing smaller cages and that should be more budget friendly than changing the fork or tire/rim size, as cages are a rather small component. I have a friend who shortened his cages (by cutting and re-joining using bolts) in order to achieve a better position over the pedal spindle, and it worked really well for him, he was very competitive inside the riding group. He was riding MTB. You may have a hard time finding differently sized cages though.

Another option may be to switch to road or MTB clipless pedals. With those, the front to back position of the foot is adjusted by positioning the cleat on the shoe sole. This may be the better option for sporty riding, specially in rough terrain. The downside is that it requires special shoes and not all of them are comfortable to walk. Also, the budget for new pedals plus special shoes can get a bit high. There are double sided pedals that have one side that is just like a regular flat pedal so you can use the bike with any regular shoe but also with cycling specific shoes.

Another option is to use pedal straps only. I have had friends who ride fixies and they do not use pedal cages, but a rather wide pedal strap. The foot connection the the pedal is solid, and does not need a special shoe, unlike clipless pedals.

Just for completeness I mention that another possible solution is to swap the crankset for a shorter one. (There is an ongoing trend in social media about choosing the right crank length). This can be expensive though, comparable to changing the fork and may not result favorable to you.

I would advise against reducing tire size as it will reduce pedal to ground clearance, leading to pedal strike if pedaling during a curve. I had a bike prone to that due to a shorter than needed fork and found it to be nerve-racking, even more so than toe overlap, specially when commuting.

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I purchased an undersized frame when I was in college (it was all they had that was close to the right size for me in my price range and that wouldn't take months to import) and fitted it with a stem & seat post to be able to fit it properly. When I had the pedals horizontal, the back of the front tire would hit the base of my big toe - I had more of an overlap than you're showing here.

In tens of thousands of miles of riding, this was never an issue. I would frequently do track stands at red lights and it was never even an issue then.

I spent time riding in some hilly country (hard to find in the Midwest, I admit, but there are some short, steep hills). On some of these hills, I almost came to a stand still, and it wasn't an issue then.

As noted in Nathan Knutson's answer "is it safe" is a personal decision and very subjective, but in my opinion, you won't have the slightest issue with this.

You do mention that you came off the bike, but don't give any details. Could it have been to do with the tire hitting your toe? Yes, I suppose so, but my experience says that it probably wasn't. If you no longer feel safe riding this bike, then don't.

You could eliminate the overlap by making one of several changes:

  • A fork with more rake will move the tire forward.
    • This will change the bike's geometry and change how it rides. You'll have more stability because the bike will have a longer wheelbase.
  • A shorter toe clip will move your foot back on the pedal, giving more clearance to the tire.
    • This will change your foot's position on the pedal, though and may reduce pedaling efficiency. Of course, if your foot isn't positioned correctly on the pedal now, it might actually improve pedaling efficiency!
  • A smaller diameter rim will give more clearance.
    • It may also mean that a rim brake might no longer reach the rim (I see a disk on the rear, though, so I assume there's a disk on the front as well).
    • It would also give you a bit of a jacked up '70s muscle car look as well by having a larger rear wheel than front - you may want to replace both.

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