With an invitation from a friend to join in some group rides, I felt like I wouldn't be taken seriously unless I made the change. I also feared that I wouldn't be able to keep up with other riders. I was also really curious to try something new to see what all the fuss was about. How could I be so opinionated on something I had never really tried?
After about 6 weeks of use, I'm ready to share my reflections - the good, the bad and the reality - after making the switch.
1. (The Good) They are inspiring me to ride - which has been a big surprise. This has been the single biggest and best surprise for my riding experience. I think I was over due for some inspiration, and having some new gear has seemed to do the trick. It helps that I feel more efficient, and I love the clicking sound the shoe/cleat make when clipping into the pedal. Maybe it's my little way of saying to myself "it's go time."
2. (Okay, another Good) I am using new muscles. Yes, ones I didn't even know I had. My body apparently was using one set of muscles with the pedals and cages. Because it is using a whole other set with these babies. And I'm sore. But I like it. The new shoes are engaging my core, back and different leg muscles in a better, more efficient and more comfortable way. I'm pretty stoked because it results in a better riding experience for me. Because your foot doesn't move around very much in the shoe or on the pedal, the mechanics of completing a full pedaling revolution can be different. I'm loving it.
3. (The Bad) They are a royal pain to walk in. Since they don't bend or have any tread, you can't walk more than 10 feet without feeling like you're going to slip or fall. You are also walking directly on the cleat, essentially wearing it down, grinding the metal on the pavement with each step. For as pleasing as the clicking sound the shoe makes as it snaps into place on the pedal, this sound is equally "nails-on-a-chalkboard" irritating.
4. (Yep, another Bad) They make falling over on your bike ridiculously easy. Wanna see a grown man tip over like a falling log? Or want to see a proud, strong athlete blush? While being clipped into your pedal helps with speed, stopping without falling over is the most difficult part of using this kind of pedal. Because the shoe is practically tied down to the pedal, the almost-thoughtless action of stopping on a bike takes forethought: seeing the upcoming potential for a stop, planning the stop, the planning of which shoe to remove from the pedal, removing the shoe from the pedal, breaking and finally stopping. It's not impossible to master, but it does take some practice. (For the record, I have not fallen...yet. However, I KNOW that it's just a matter of time.)
5. (The Reality) I love these babies for long-haul rides, but have no place in commuting. Here's my advice: If you love to ride for practical purposes, errand running, short trips around town, etc. stick with traditional pedals!
I have been thinking how I should adjust my daily commutes. I can see the benefits, fun and appeal of the clipless pedal for the long haul, racing crowd, but my everyday riding has undergone a temporary setback. This is well explored and explained in some recent books that are encouraging folks to just ride instead of getting caught up in the need for fancy, expensive equipment.
There are a variety of options I'm entertaining, and I'll let you know what I come up with. In the mean time, I'm interested to hear your opinions and experiences on pedals and changes versus clipless pedals. Looking forward to hearing from you!