Trepidation and Anticipation: Moving Up to Cycling Shoes
Clips, Cleats, Pedals, and Shoes oh my! 自転車用の靴、ペダル、クリート等 -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/400 sec, f/1.4, ISO 2500 — map & image datanearby photos
Clips, Cleats, Pedals, and Shoes
oh my!

Since getting bit by the cycling bug earlier in the year, I've been slowly inching my way deeper into it. I took the opportunity of my recent trip back to The States to buy some real cycling clothes in my hard-to-find-anywhere-but-particularly-in-Japan size, and this includes for the first time real cycling shoes that firmly attach to the pedals.

Not many shoes come in European size 48 or 49 (cycling shoes seem to use the same scale worldwide, which is really convenient), but I found and ordered three pair at (which I'm always pleased with) from three companies in sizes 48 and 49, and ended up keeping two.

The shoes are combined with cleats that bolt onto the bottom of the shoe, and specialty pedals that the cleats clip into (which are quizzically called clipless, even though you most certainly do clip into and out of them; the term clipless arose to differentiate from the old toe cage type of pedal which at the time had been inexplicably called clips).

I'm quite apprehensive about the whole strongly attached to the bike thing, because if your foot is connected to the pedal, you don't have it available to stand on should you suddenly need to have a foot on the ground, and so you can easily end up falling over if the need for a free foot arises more suddenly than your ability to free your foot. I've seen it happen with others, even by experienced riders who just couldn't unclip fast enough in that unexpected split second when balance was lost while maneuvering at slow speed.

I've heard that there are two types of cyclists: those who have fallen as described above, and liars.

So, I'm posting this before I actually try them to document my ignorance and apprehension, and later will compare how I feel after getting some experience with them.

I mention ignorance because I'm naturally skeptical about their benefits. Everyone I've talked to who uses them recommends them strongly, and many friends from Cycling Kyoto! encourage me to upgrade so that I can enjoy the benefits. The benefits include both safety (I don't feel safe without them), and mechanics... the ease and efficiency of pedaling.

I do have trust that the accumulated wisdom of 200 years probably trumps my ignorant assumptions based upon nothing more than unfounded imagination, but that trust is academic, so I need to experience it a bit to actually feel it, I guess.

So I will soon. I'll rewatch videos on how to set up the clips and how to learn riding with them. I'll probably fall over and hurt myself, hopefully not too much. Maybe I'll dress up like the Michelin man for protection. We'll see.

Once I acquire a real road bike (something scheduled later this month), I'll move the new pedals to it and visit Vincent Flanagan for a proper fitting, and hopefully then go on to make lots of personal bests on my Strava.

Going forward, I suspect I'll still favor my own style (or lack thereof, as the case may be) for my cycling wear, but now that I have proper cycling clothes, once everything is in place I'll try a full-on proper cyclist getup and report on it here.

Continued here...

All 6 comments so far, oldest first...

Cool stuff. Once you are on a road bike (proper bike), you are going to destroy your Strava numbers. The aerodynamics of riding a racing bike alone will be enough, not to mention added efficiency from the pedals. Looking forward to riding again!

People tell me this every day, but it’s just so hard to believe. Air is not even close to being my limiting factor. We’ll see. —Jeffrey

— comment by Super Mario Kyoto on August 31st, 2015 at 2:41pm JST (1 year, 9 months ago) comment permalink

Based on the hype, I tried going clipless with some hybrid pedals (clipless on one side, standard platform on the other) so that I could ease into it. I gave it a few goes and ultimately decided against it.

I fell… maybe twice. As you say, it’s inevitable. And it’s to be expected that the more you ride and use them, the more it’ll become like second nature to clip in and out. But I didn’t feel the benefits of “increased efficiency,” nor of theoretically being able to utilize your muscles for the entire rotation. Looking into it, there are actually a few websites out there decrying the supposed theoretical benefits of clipless (in terms of efficiency), and they made sense and seemed to validate what I was experiencing.

Since it just made cycling a bit more stressful (constantly having to worry about clipping in and out while riding in crowded areas), and since I didn’t see any particular benefit, I stopped and just upgraded my platform pedals instead. I never had issues with my foot sliding off of the pedal (a theoretical danger that riding clipless would eliminate), but my newer platforms (Shimano MX-80 Saint; technically pedals for mountain bikers) offered even greater traction than the platforms I had been using previously. If anything, the foray into clipless and then away from clipless just showed me how difficult it is to do a pedal upgrade if you want to do road cycling and you don’t want to go clipless.

I’ll be interested to read your thoughts on riding clipless, to see if you reach the same conclusion I did or if you feel differently.

I really like the pedals that came with the bike when I bought it used, some Giza LU-204. The little nibs make slipping unlikely, though perhaps once every 150km or so on a very steep heavy uphill I’d slip off, which isn’t fun. Not worth changing everything just to eliminate that, so hopefully I’ll notice other benefits. —Jeffrey

— comment by David K. on August 31st, 2015 at 3:09pm JST (1 year, 9 months ago) comment permalink

You can’t pull up on the backstroke unless you are attached to the pedal. Once the cleats are set then your feet will always be in the correct position. Look at other cyclists with platforms and most ride with the pedal in the middle of their foot. Compared to the old metal cleat, toe clip and leather strap the clipless system is great.

Put the new pedals on your old bike to learn how to use them. Hopefully your tip-overs and possible damage will happen before the new bike.

— comment by Rick H. on September 1st, 2015 at 1:37am JST (1 year, 9 months ago) comment permalink

I found both shoes and clipless pedals a big benefit. Shoes for the rigid soles, enabling better power transmission to the pedals and reducing foot pain, while clipless pedals were a no brainer after toe clips & straps (which were *really* tricky to release from!!! Much more so than clipless pedals!)

— comment by Stuart Dootson on September 1st, 2015 at 5:38am JST (1 year, 9 months ago) comment permalink

You should be able to adjust them as loose as makes you comfortable – until they pop too early. Then tighten a little. Once you get used to it, you’ll love ’em, especially when you need some real power. Have fun.

— comment by DaveC on September 2nd, 2015 at 5:21am JST (1 year, 9 months ago) comment permalink

I wouldn’t be too concerned about falling over while clipped in – simply practice at home! The first time I used clipless (SPD – a bit different to yours), I had my bike next to a wall, stood on it and clipped/unclipped for about 20 minutes. From there, I made it a decision that any time I was riding towards a stop, or there was potential for a hazard ahead (a dog for instance), I’d unclip on my left pedal. I have never fallen on roads/paths, only on my mountain bike. It’s actually amazing how large of a crash you can have and the bike is nowhere near you by the time it’s over.

As DaveC mentioned, adjust them nice and loose while you are starting out. This will help you to build up the confidence and make twisting out second nature.

Finally, focus on spinning. Don’t think about up and down/pushing and pulling. Round and round is where the benefits are at. Have fun!

— comment by Jase on October 20th, 2015 at 6:34pm JST (1 year, 7 months ago) comment permalink
Leave a comment...

All comments are invisible to others until Jeffrey approves them.

Please mention what part of the world you're writing from, if you don't mind. It's always interesting to see where people are visiting from.

You can use basic HTML; be sure to close tags properly.

Subscribe without commenting