Friday, April 22, 2011

To Clip or Not Clip - That is the Question

At age 57 I bought a bicycle. I had not been on a bicycle since I passed my driver's license test. When I Stopped in at Xtreme Wheels in Council Bluffs, IA, I was looking for a way to exercise to continue my rehab after a stroke and open heart surgery.

The bike Bill had me try was a comfort bike - Trek Navigator 200. The last bike I had did not have any gears and I pedaled backwards to brake. As my bicycle knowledge grew, I learned these are now called “fixies” with coaster brakes.

Anyway, I had enough confusion with all of the levers on the handlebars. The last thing on my mind was what kind of pedals the bike had. Since then, I have learned that my bike was equipped with “flat” or “platform” pedals.

Not sure just when the subject of “clipless” pedals entered the discussion at the bike shop. As I started riding more, I had problems with my right foot falling off the pedal. My foot was “walking” off the pedal. My stroke left damage on my right side.

The folks at the bike shop and I started discussing my options. I did not feel comfortable being “tied” to a bicycle with special shoes and pedals with bindings. We decided on some toe clips for my pedals.

This solved the problem of the foot falling off the pedal. Now, I started experiencing a new problem. It was difficult to get my size 12 shoes onto the clips. Add to that, it seems that the pedal is always up-side-down. If I slipped my foot out of the clip when riding, the clip would strike the ground.

Back to the drawing board.

The only way to keep my foot walking off the pedal was to tie the foot to the bike – clipless pedals.

“Clipless” pedals. You “clip” into “clipless” pedals. Huh?

Ok, this is the way it has been explained to me. First there are just plain old pedals. The pedals I grew up with. The next iteration is the pedal with toe clips. You slipped your foot/shoe into the toe clip.

Here's where the problem comes in. What do you call the pedals without toe clips which binds pedals to the shoe? Of course “clipless” pedals. Duh...

The first clipless pedals I tried are Shimano reversible pedals. One side of the pedal is a flat pedal, the other side is SPD clipless pedal. Nirvana! – I could clip in when I want, yet flip the pedal riding a flat pedal if needed.

These pedals are great for those of us newbees. A twist of the foot disengages the clip – much like early ski bindings. On my trail bike, I still use those pedals. When I am riding unfamiliar trails, I like to ride with the flat side so that I don;t have to think about unclipping if the trail gets gnarly and near the upper limits of my skill level.

Alas, the reversible pedals are not quite Nirvana. I still have to find which is the clipless side. Murphy's Law saws the flat side is always up when you want to clip-in. The clipless side is always up when you want to ride a flat pedal. Since my hybrid is only ridden on pavement, I equipped that bike with Shimano SPD pedals.

It didn't take much time before I also converted my hardtail to clipless pedals. The one exception is when I change the hardtail into my snow/ice bike. In the cold temperatures I like to ride wearing warmer hiking boots. Then, the hardtrail gets reversible or flat pedals.

When I bought my road bike, I had the bike shop install SPD pedals. OH! And my shoes – I only have mountain bike shoes. Sorry purists – not ready to spring a second pair of shoes for riding my road bike.

1 comment:

VeloCC said...

Martin got me into MTB and I will never forget the day where he gave me a par of his shoes to ride one of his bikes (since I didn't have one). I said I didn't want the shoes but he said you need them??
In the driveeay, he put his bike on a bike stand and there I realized that I had to clip into the pedals...what??
Long story short, but right there began a long history of falling with the bike, because I was stopping with me feet still in the pedals. I don't know why I refused that consept right there, I guess I was stubborn:)
Today, I couldn't ride without being clipped in. My feet would slide of the pedal...but I never forget the beginnings:)