I ‘ve been debating some time about clipless vs. platform peddles. I’ve always used platforms, and have just resisted the whole idea of being “locked in.” However, after jumping into randonneuring last September, I noticed that nearly everyone who was into long-distance cycling was using them in one fashion or another.
I do fine on most of my brevets, not remotely fast, but I keep going steadily along. However, I do seem to lag on the hills. Part of this is probably training, but I am gathering that I am missing a significant advantage by not being able to pull up when locked into clipless peddles. Plus, I hear of other advantages too, such as not having to spend energy keeping feet on the peddles, being secure over bumps, not having feet slip off peddles in the rain, etc.
I asked the San Francisco Randonneurs Google Group for their recommendations and advice regarding the whole subject. The SF Randos are a great group of people, so I was not surprised by huge outpouring of emails. One member, Gintautas, offered to loan me his Shimano SHM021 shoes and SPD 520 clipless peddles.
I met him at the Montgomery Bart station next to my office, and then went to Huckleberry Bikes to get them installed on my Bike Friday Tikit on the way home. Zach, who did my bike fit a few weeks back had urged me then to at least consider them. My thought was I would try them on my commuter bike for a couple of days, then put them on my Salsa Casseroll for a longer test on the weekend.
While there, Keven, ace mechanic and service manager, was kind enough to give me a lesson. It seemed pretty easy, but he did caution me to unclip whenever I came to a stop or light. He said it would eventually become second nature, but be careful and remember to do it, otherwise I might flop over.
Well, it actually came to me pretty easy. I rode through commuter traffic in downtown San Francisco, clipping and un-clipping at lights and stops on the way home. I had no problems at all and felt very smug as I pulled into the Caltrain station and prepared to go to the train to head home.
I pulled in and saw the concession stand and thought to myself, “You deserve a beer! (legal on Caltrain) You did a great job! You are clearly far superior to the rest of the un-coordinated types, who all struggled took a long time to get used to these pedals! Yes, you are awesome! You got it right away!”
So I get close to the beer stand, un-clip my right foot, lean to the left to reach for my wallet and…. slowly… topple over, as my left foot was still clipped in, and I couldn’t remember how to get it loose. I remember thinking, “Oh, f*ck….” , frantically pulling at my left leg, as I fell to the ground in slow motion.
I hit the ground, felt like an idiot, and hoped nobody saw me, when a couple of very nice people came over and asked me if I was ok. I said, “Thank you! I’m fine! Just a little user error!” One, a kindly senior citizen had a perplexed look on her face, clearly not understanding why I would fall over from a dead stop.
So, I got my beer, now not a self-congratulatory beer, but a consolation beer and headed home on the train.
Consensus on the peddles?
So far, I like them! I absolutely can feel a difference when I climb
as well as just trying to crank hard into a headwind. It is a
conscious effort to pull up, when I do I can feel the effect. It
is undeniable, so I don’t understand the view by a minority that it
makes no difference. No question in my mind that they do.
I’m not sure at this point if I want my Tikit to have them all the
time. I use my folding bike for quick trips to the store, and am not
sure that I want to change shoes every time I go for a quick jaunt to the store. But then I worry that I won’t be “used” to them for weekend rides if I don’t use them during the week. Something to consider…
I’ll keep using them for a while for sure. I really haven’t put in nearly enough miles for a full evaluation, but so far, so good!