Foot suck...no..no..no

Do You Want to Know What Really Sucks: Leg Suck!!


It could happen to anyone.   It happened to my riding buddy David.  It happened to my wife!   Rack up two more victims of the dreaded “leg suck.

Foot suck...no..no..no
Foot suck…no..no..no

What in the world is “leg suck?”

That’s a good question actually.  Not to be confused with toe suck,  leg suck is a funny sounding name for a not so funny event.  Leg suck (or foot suck as it is sometimes called) happens when you are riding your and your foot comes off of the pedal.  Your foot can then hit the pavement and get “sucked” under the ─ a real drag for the owner of the foot!

A Wickipedia article on bicycles includes the following description of leg suck:

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.

Curated from Recumbent bicycle

(My explanation and the Wickipedia article’s definition are very similar but I thought it would be cool to include the link to the recumbent bicycle article.)

The leg position on a recumbent trike allows gravity to work against you.  Your foot has only to slip from the pedal and gravity takes care of the rest. There are many ways that a foot can find it’s way off of the pedals.  A few examples I have seen are:

  • Fatigue
  • Physical handicap or impairment
  • Road conditions
  • Gravity

The act of having a foot or leg “sucked” up under your trike while riding is not hard to imagine.  I have never experienced this event.  However, my wife and riding buddy have both had this happen to them to some degree.

What happens when I get a leg suck?

Not to be confused with a toe suck, a leg suck hurts.   Body parts bent in directions they weren’t designed to go and a throbbing road rash do not make for an enjoyable ride.   A rider can actually have some pretty serious injuries from leg suck.   An archived article on The Recumbent Blog includes the writer’s personal experience with this event:

I broke my leg and ankle in multiple places in a leg suck accident many years ago. The sight of my foot pointing exactly 180 degrees from normal when I got up from the crash is still clearly burned in my memory. I’ll admit it was a bit of a fluke, but it put me through multiple surgeries and in-and-out of casts for over a year

My wife has had her feet come off of the pedals a few times which luckily has not resulted in a foot or leg suck.   She rides a style trike which is not as close to the ground as the tadpole style.  Laura has been lucky in that these foot slips have caused nothing more than aggravation and some minor bruising.  (Okay, she also ripped the toe of a pair of shoes as she recovered her foot from the dreaded suck.)

It is not the same story for my riding buddy David.  David also rides a delta style trike.  David likes to listen to music as he rides and was getting his ear buds in place as he made his way to the entrance.  His trike hit a small pothole but a pothole nevertheless.  David reacted (arguably overreacted) to the pothole with a jerk of the understeer handlebars causing both feet to come off the pedals.   The spectacle started with both feet being planted on the pavement followed by both legs immediately getting the dreaded suck.  The drama continued until both knees slammed the pavement which effectively stopped the trike.  The rider off a delta trike straddles the main frame just like a diamond frame bike.   To have both knees on the pavement means that some of your parts are on the main frame.   Joan Baez  had “Stones in the Road”; David had stones on the main frame.

How do I prevent a leg suck?

The best way to prevent a foot/leg suck is to keep your feet on the pedals.   It is not my intention to conjure the “duh” reaction but that is the simple truth of it.  It is imperative that your feet stay on the pedals!

Our trikes came with platform pedals.  Platform pedals are what I would describe as your standard flat bike pedal.  There is nothing wrong with platform pedals and some keen cyclists swear by them.  The problem, in this case, is that the platform pedals do not provide any method of keeping your foot on the pedal.  (Considered by some to be one of the pros in that your foot can be adjusted on the pedal with no issue.)  There are pedals available that are designed specifically to help insure that your feet remain on the pedals.  Each pedal type has it’s pros and cons and each rider will need to weigh those out.  The following is a list of a few types that I researched when looking for a solution for my wife’s foot drop:

  • Clipless
  • Power Grip
  • Strapped Heel Support
  • Heel Slings

My wife spent a few hours researching pedals (it’s her foot after all) and came to the conclusion that she would try a strapped heel support pedal.  In a future post I plan to address the pros and cons of these different pedal types that led her to try the strapped heel support.

Leg suck|In closing.

We started riding  recumbent trikes as a way for my wife to enjoy riding a bike again while exposing her to less risk of an accident.  Having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis some 20+ years ago she has some weakness in her right leg which we feel is the cause of some of these foot drops.   Fortunately my wife has not had the full foot or leg suck.  We have been given fair warning that we need to find a way to prevent any future leg suck incidents.  The only way to insure that is to make sure her feet stay on the pedals.

Good luck, good riding, and keep your feet out of the suck zone!!

Leave a Reply