Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Going Clipless

By 1993, two products were revolutionizing the mountain bike scene: suspension forks and clipless pedals.  We spent many hours, around the shop, discussing whether either of these was necessary for the enjoyment of of mountain biking.  My contention then, as well as now, was that you only needed them if you wanted to keep up with someone else who had them.

Both the suspension fork and the clipless pedal were developed for and by racers.  It is the bicycle industry's aim to sell racing parts to everyone who owns a bike, regardless of how the bike is going to be used.

At the time, I was their prime target: a young(ish) male bike shop employee who fancied himself to be a racer.

So it was that I ended up buying my first pair of clipless pedals.  I went with the LOOK Moab, a bright red pedal with cleats and retention similar to the now-ubiquitous Shimano SPD.  The LOOK promised more "float", the ability to have your heel move in and out, a bit, without unclipping.  With bad knees, more float usually means less knee pain.

The day I received them, I stayed after work to mount the pedals on my cranks, and the cleats on the bottom of my shoes.  I got everything put together, climbed on the bike and clipped in.  After I rode around the shop floor a couple of times, I drew to a halt and twisted my heel outward to release my left foot.

But, the shoe did not release from the pedal.  Wobbling along at an almost-stop, I tried to release the other shoe.  No go.  Both feet were stuck in the pedals. 

I had to start riding again, to avoid falling over.  For a moment, I thought I might have to ride circles all night, and wait until someone came to work to help me off the bike.  Then, I realized that I could just ride up next to the counter and stop, while I held myself up on the counter.

That's what I did.  Once stopped, I tried a couple of more times to get my shoes free of the pedals, with no success.  No matter what, I just couldn't get free.  Eventually, I unlaced my shoes and pulled my feet out, leaving the shoes hanging from the pedals.

When I finally got the shoes loose, it was readily apparent what was wrong.  I had not tightened the bolts, which held the cleats to the shoe, enough.  They were turning on the sole of the shoe, rather than actuating the release mechanism of the pedal.

Nowadays, I rarely use clipless pedals.  I ride on flat platform pedals, daily, and reserve the clipless for rough mountain bike rides (they help me keep my feet firmly on the pedals, in the rough stuff).  Every time I ride with clipless, now, it's like the first time, for a few minutes.

But, thankfully, I rarely have to take my shoes off to get off the bike, now.


1 comment:

  1. Very nice, it reminded me of my first experiences with clipless pedals, and in turn, watching friends trying them out. I saw more than one sideways slow motion fall out on the trail.


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