16th Sep 2007, 10:34:21
I use my bike to commute to work which means riding in all weathers. I've been having trouble with my feet slipping off the pedals in wet conditions, especially the rather slick folding pedal fitted to my Brompton.
I've used toe clips in the past, but I found them inconvenient for urban riding because they are difficult to get in and out of and the weight of the strap causes the pedals to hang upside down. After some research, I decided to try clipless pedals.
The Shimano SPD series are a de-facto standard and are available in both on-road and off-road styles. I selected the off-road MPD-520 because of its double-sided entry and comparative ease of release.
To complement the pedals, I purchased a pair of Specialized BG Sonoma shoes. These are marketed as a casual shoe and look like ordinary trainers, they have velcro straps which makes it easy to get them properly secured to my feet. The soles of the shoes are rigid with a flexible section under the toes. This makes pedaling very comfortable, spreading pressure across the whole foot whist still making it possible to walk moderate distances in the shoes. Nevertheless, I keep a pair of shoes at work to change into.
Another attraction of this pedal design is that the cleat is recessed inside the sole of the shoes so that it is possible to walk in reasonable comfort. The cleats shown here are actually the black single release cleats, but have worn through to the silver colour of the multi-release cleats.
So, do they work?
The combination of shoes and pedals certainly have stopped my feet slipping, I haven't accidentally released a foot even once. Having my feet secured to the pedals has made my pedaling action much smoother, especially at high RPM. Even with single release cleats, it's a doddle to release a foot, just kick a heel out about 10 degrees and the foot is free. The loss of the left hand folding pedal has not bothered me in the least, the new pedal now protruding only about 30mm more from the folded package.
Fred Williams Cycles in Wolverhampton supplied and fitted the pedals for me. I was particularly impressed that they did this even though I turned up unannounced 15 minutes before closing time on a Friday. I even got a £15.00 reduction, bringing the whole package to just £70.00, hence I am happy to mention them here.
Have you fallen off yet?
After about a week I had myself trained to clip my right foot in and out at every traffic light (I am left handed/footed). I could clip in without having to look at the pedals or think about positioning my feet, just pedaling naturally clipped them in. Privately, I smugly assumed that everyone who reported falling was an idiot and inferior to my obviously magnificent bike handling skills. Then it happened. It was early in the morning and I was just jumping on my bike as I exited a shopping centre (naughty me!) when the security guard walked in through the door and blocked my exit. Not wanting to collide with the guy, I stopped, forgetting completely about my feet. I came to a halt and went over like a two-legged cow and landed hard, my right knee transmitting the full force of the impact to the concrete floor. So there I was, lying on the floor, still clipped to the bike with a security guard standing over me with an expression which read "Did I do that?!". I bore a bruise for about three weeks afterwards, which served as a great reminder not to clip my feet in if there is any chance I will have to stop suddenly.