Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sasquatch Rides Again!

Yesterday's blizzard notwithstanding (and it's melting off very quickly BTW) spring-like weather seems to have found its way to the Mile High City. That combined with the fact that Sputnik's been doing a bit better (more on him soon) and I've finally gotten past the colds and migraines that had me sidelined for a few weeks, means that I've been back on my bike this week! Woo Hoo!

Sorry, I totally couldn't resist including this picture!
Here's the thing - nobody could possibly accuse me of having small feet. In fact, they're kinda huge. And since I decided many years ago that comfort was infinitely more important than fashion, and have been wearing pretty much nothing but Birkenstocks for the past 20 years, well, I fear they've spread out even more.

So, when I recently decided to take the plunge and upgrade to a clipless pedal system, finding bike shoes that would fit was one of my biggest concerns.

For those of you not "in the know" on cycling lingo, "clipless pedals" are pedals that actually attach to a small cleat on the bottom of your bike shoe, holding your foot to the pedal. This is desirable because it allows you to pedal more efficiently by applying force throughout the entire pedaling motion, not simply on the down-strokes.

Now, you might wonder why a system that clips your foot to the pedal is called "clipless" (seems kinda ironic doesn't it?) but this is because before this technology was created, cyclist used little cages attached to the pedals that you slid your foot into, that were called "toe clips."

Ahhhh... the evolution of language!

Anyhoo... I've been having a lot of problems with my feet going numb when riding, and the research I did indicated that it might be because of the combination of the shoes I was wearing and the toe clips. I thought about trying to cobble something together (guess that would have made me a cobbler... yuk yuk.)

And I even found one bike store that had made a pair of custom Birkenstocks with bike cleats on the bottom

But ultimately I decided that it just made more sense to invest in good biking shoes... which meant upgrading to clipless pedals.

I do admit that I was a tad bit apprehensive, since the interwebs are filled with stories of newbies falling on their faces because they hadn't quite mastered the motion of disengaging from the pedals...

Nevertheless, I decided to take the plunge...

So, I spent an afternoon at the bike store, and tried on what seemed like every pair of shoes in the place. Finally found a pair that was comfortable... men's size 42 extra wide! Bike shoes use European sizing, so that's roughly the equivalent of a men's 9 ½ EEE in US sizes. OY!

Then came the fitting, which was the really interesting part. They basically put your bike up on a trainer and have you ride so they can watch your pedaling motion and make any necessary adjustments to the cleats or shoes to ensure that your knees are protected and that everything is set up correctly. 

This involves watching yourself on a monitor with cameras pointed at you from every conceivable direction,  while the bike dude points out every flaw in your position and posture... a somewhat humbling experience to be sure!

But somehow I managed to survive the humiliation, and though it's taking a bit of getting used to, it's actually much more comfortable when you are properly positioned on the bicycle. 

And so far... (knock on wood) I haven't had any crashes...

So how about you? Have you taken any plunges lately?


  1. so I'm not the only one who thought that pedals that clip in but were called "clipless" seemed really silly! Good luck with the pedals. Once you get used to them the're awesome and it's amazing how much faster they make the bike go (and how much your hamstrings will be sore for a little while...but it's worth it.) Wishing you lots of fast rides and no falls!

    1. Well, I can definitely tell that I'm using a whole different set of muscles, but I seem to be adjusting. I fear I haven't seen any great improvements in speed, but since I've hardly ridden at all in the past few months, I suppose that's to be expected. I think the laziness factor might have a little something to do with it too, but hey, we've gotta ease into things, right? :)

  2. I was wondering how you disengage. Apparently, it takes a little practice. Here's hoping that there will be only bicycle weather for the next several months for you.

    1. It most definitely takes practice! You have to push your heel outward and toe inward, and the twisting motion disengages the cleat. I fear it's not exactly second nature yet (or third or fourth) but I'm slowly getting there! I came close to falling over once, but managed to get my foot out just in time!

      They're predicting weather near 70 degrees by the end of the week, so hopefully I'll get a lot more practice this week! :-)

    2. Near 70?! Wow, Spring is really here.

  3. I love the birkenstocks with the bike clips - so hipster!

    Quite a few of my friends were very into cycling and got the shoes with clips, and then fell off while they were learning how to use them. No serious injuries though, and they did learn how to do it quickly.

    I was never harcore enough to get the clips, but I do need to get my bike out and start riding again. I haven't ridden for so long that the grips on the handlebars have melted!

    Good luck with your new shoes :)

    1. I can't quite imagine using those birkenstocks... I have to use a bit of force to get the cleat to disengage, and it seems like your foot would just slip right out of the sandal. Of course, I suppose you could just leave them permanently attached to the bike and just slide your foot in and out! :-)

      Good luck getting your bike ready to ride again. Don't know what kind of bike it is, and/or if this is relevant to you or not, but when I had to replace the grips on my hybrid mountain bike I upgraded to a brand called Ergon. They're more expensive than standard grips but they're designed to hold your wrist in an ergonomic position - made a HUGE difference for me comfort wise!

  4. I can't WAIT to get back cycling again... unfortunately the snow just won't clear here in Hamburg just yet :( I always think the pedal clip people look really "professional" or something - LOL! I just take the free citybikes since my bike was stolen around a year ago.

    1. Wow... you've got free city bikes? That sound really cool! Denver started a bike sharing program a few years ago, but it's ridiculously expensive. You have to join for something like $75/year and then pay about $1-$5 each time you use the bikes. Seems like it would make more sense to just pick up a used bike for $50!

      Anyhow, I finally had my first "clipless crash" yesterday - totally stupid... I wasn't hurt or anything, I wasn't even moving, just leaned the wrong direction with one foot clipped in and over I went! I don't think I looked terribly "professional" sitting there on my butt in the parking lot! :-)

  5. You have a wonderful way of linking cat pics with your stories. I'm not a great cat fan (because they sneak up on you and scratch things) but it's cute how they fit into the storyline.

    1. Ha! Well, I suppose my cats do scratch things, but that's just part of their charm. I'm not sure how sneaky they are... Smoky is more like a rambunctious bulldozer than a stealth cougar!

      Anyhow, I'm glad that even a non-cat-person can find enjoyment from my lolcat obsession!

  6. Hi EcoCat
    a lycra clad man recommended i get the clipless pedals. Interesting to hear how you are managing with them.I might just put some on my birthday list! I hadnt realsied that you need special shoes though (because Im not that bright you see : /) I dont have that much problem with shoes as long as they are wide. I might post on Freecycle for some but maybe that'll be yucky (sorry thinking as Im writing) as they will have clad sweaty cycling feet!! Might put these on the ol' birthday list too!! Poor Mr Rue he is a darling xxx

    1. I'd highly recommend trying them on before buying whatever you do. Plus, there are different systems, and each requires a different kind of shoe... so if you're serious about it, I'd highly recommend a trip to the bike store just for informational purposes.

      So far, crash notwithstanding, I think I like them. I can certainly feel that I'm able to use more muscles for riding, and it seems like my legs don't tire out so quickly.

      But the biggest bonus for me is that my feet have stopped going numb when I ride, which makes it much more comfortable! :-)


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