To clip, or not to clip…

Tikit with clipless peddles

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.

Gintautas’s Shimano shoes.

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.

Amazingly accurate photo recreation of my fall.

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.

“Back in Black,” a black IPA from local brew-pub 21st amendment, in hand. Delicious!

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!

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My Bike Friday Tikit

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My Season Tikit after it came back for warranty repair 5/11.

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Season Tikit under my desk at work. Note the original red canvas carrying strap.

This is a testimonial I sent to Bike Friday 12/09 regarding my thoughts about my Bike Friday Tikit. I had had it about a month or two at this point. I’ll write a review of my randonneuring bike, my Salsa Casseroll, very soon.

You can see the orginal testimonial here:  

 I looked at a lot of folding bikes over the last year. Bike Friday, Brompton, Dahon etc. My wife Tanya, an avid researcher, spent a lot of time as well. She asked me, “What is important to you? Do you really need the compact fold of the Brompton, or do you want a folding bike that rides like a real bike?” That really got me thinking.

Well, I test rode a Season Tikit at Warm Planet Bikes in San Francisco, and also tried a friend’s Brompton. I also tried a Strida and a Dahon. My wife kept researching. I kept looking at bikes.

I kept coming back to Bike Friday.

I finally bought my Season Tikit a month ago after about a year agonizing over my decision.

Me with the Tikit, shortly after purchase.

It is in Green Gear Green and I have named it Kermit! (You know, “It’s not easy being green.”) It has been fantastic! I knew I would like it, but I can’t believe the difference it has made in my commute.

It has made in a huge difference in two areas primarily. One is getting on and off the train. The other is getting in and out of my building at work. I live in San Mateo, CA and commute to San Francisco, CA via Caltrain.

My Tikit, still with original solid green paint job, hiding under my desk.

With our local Caltrain, there has been a problem for years in bike capacity. At least once every couple of weeks, I was bumped from the train and had to take the next one.

http://www.sfbike.org/?caltrain_bob

Now that I have the Tikit, I get on the train with no problems. In the first two weeks alone, I was able to get on at least four trains that I would ordinarily been bumped off. The folding bike is always allowed!

My other issue has been my workplace. Frankly, it is NOT bike friendly. Before my Tikit, I had to take my bike through the loading dock, down a one-floor freight elevator to the basement, and then try to sneak my bike onto another freight elevator up to the 10th floor where my office is. I say sneak, as the building has a “NO BIKE” policy. They want me to put my bike in room designated for that purpose in the basement. Just getting my bike in and out of the office took 10-15 minutes extra, time crucial if you are trying to make the train home.

Tikit with custom leather carrying strap. Designed and made by my wife Tanya.

Well now I pull up to the front of the building, fold my Season Tikit, and walk right in and take the main elevator. The security people smile at me and nod as I go by. No hassles! I also can stick my Tikit right under my desk, so that I can easily leave in a moment’s notice. I honestly think that with the increased time I get at work, the Tikit will be paid for in no time at all!

Oh, and here’s the other thing: It is a joy to ride! The other day, a group of my fellow commuter’s asked about it. They genuinely liked it, including one friend who has Brompton with a three gear internal hub (He was jealous, in a good-natured way, about my eight year nexus hub), but one of them made a bit of a derisive comment and said his folding bike, a citizen, only cost him a few hundred dollars, and insinuated that I was stupid for spending what I did for my Season Tikit.

I noticed he had a regular commuter bike, and not a folder with him, asked him why he wasn’t riding it at the time. He said that the ride was somewhat clunky and the fold was cumbersome, but he liked it just fine. I smugly thought to myself that he just made the point of the Tikit for me. Why have a folding bike that, frankly, sucks? Why not pay for quality, and have a bike that you can actually enjoy?

Anyway, I could go on about all the other things I like about my Tikit, but I think that would require a few more pages… long story short, I am an extremely satisfied customer!

Best Regards,

Ty Smith

Submitted by: Ty Smith December 3, 2009
Update: Still riding my Tikit. Since I bought it, the train situation has improved. Now there is far more capacity, so bumping is much less of an issue. However, I still love the Tikit for quick and easy access to my office at work, and for quick trips to the store at home. Still comfy, still rides great! My Tikit will always have a place in my stable.
About a year ago, I had a problem with the folding mechanism. Since it has a lifetime warranty on the frame, I sent it in for a warranty repair.  While it was there, I had changed the solid green  to a two-tone paint job and added the updated seat mast. I also  changed its name from “Kermit” to “The Green Lantern” because of the paint job. 
 
The guys at Bike Friday surprised me with a  custom head badge when I told them the new nickname I was thinking about. It was a total surprise when I got the back back from them.  How cool was that? Just another example of the great customer service you get at Bike Friday.