Not the first thing I purchased, that was obviously the bike, but boy are these puppies are a lesson in thinking about what you should buy and how to properly investigate your purchases, before carrying them out!
So our story begins with the purchase of the bike – as you will see later, this bike came with worse pedals than my son’s bike that I bought for him on his 6th birthday. They were so cheap that I think they were put on the bike like a reserve tyre you get on some cars – enough to get you home but you car looks stupid and don’t you dare go anything faster than a slug which has run out of slime.
To deviate slightly – I can sort of understand the logic of the plastic fantastic pedals the bike came with – they want you to source your own and for your cleat of choice – but then, why oh why did they bother to add toe clips with bindings attached – it just means the dustman had more to carry. I like all wise buyers, use parts I don’t want from my PC’s etc. and add them, if they improve things generally, to the PC of another member of my family. This works well and saves wastage (except for the fact that now my sons now have better PCs than me – how did that happen)? But these pedals were so poor I couldn’t even palm them off onto my younger sons bikes, both of which had their original supplied pedals still attached.
So being the smart guy I like to think I am, I decided to upgrade these pedals to the following:
Nice pedals, I thought, enough grip so my foot wouldn’t slip and cause the type of pain in my shin that only Tomás de Torquemada is capable of achieving, but not so much grip as to hurt my poor feet – maybe I had visions of me riding barefoot through Hyde Park during this purchasing decision? Anyway one week later I discovered the potential of 1/2 toe clips.
I have never been a fan of full toe clips, I am usually a mile down the road having rear ended anything else stupid enough to be nearby as I look down trying to get my foot into the toe clip, and as for bindings, apart from the fact that it would entail a further half mile of fiddling to get them tight, I would then not be able to get feet out at the next set of lights (not forgetting the other 3 or 4 sets I have already passed though unknowingly whilst trying to get my foot into the clips in the first place) I would then only have a choice of falling to the ground on my left or right as I can’t get my foot out of the now bound feet (note: fall to the left as it will stop cars driving over your head).
OK so now I go out and buy these rather plush 1/2 toe clips – now my speed will increase, I will have my feet properly placed on the pedals, no bindings and best of all them being smaller I can then get my feet in and out of them in the space of 400 meters! All round success story I reason to myself and I rush home to fit them to my bike. Horror! My new pedals have no special holes for my new bike clips. I reason to myself, I have a garage reasonably well equipped so I will drill my own holes – this works reasonably well – but after a few days vanity strikes – it just doesn’t look right and besides I convince myself, my newly drilled pedals just do not have a good enough customer rating on the shop website. This is just not good enough! So this time I am determined to get the right pedals so I investigate fully and go for the highly recommended MKS Sylvian Pedals (£26.99):
This is great – higher recommendations from other buyers, look cool (matching my bikes look) and I am sure the better bearings will add 0.1 mph to my average speed! Best of all, and I know this because I investigated well – they have holes specifically there for me to screw the clips to them.
A minor problem was (I found after my first ride) that I couldn’t wear my usual trainers in them – the sole was just too grippy, this meant getting my foot into the clip was a bit of a performance and I was edging up to the 800 meters mark before my feet were properly in the pedals, basically just about enough time till I reached the next set of lights. OK no problem, I wasn’t going to be cheated out of my new pedals that easy – I changed to some other trainers – these were flat soled and thinner. Oh, at least the old pedals were better than the original ones, I was able to transfer these to my eldest sons bike – not a major leap for him – but at least a minor improvement (0.05 mph – not that he cares, he is young and has strength).
To be honest the above setup lasted well for about two months and for the first month or so I really thought I had it cracked! Then issues started to arise – I started to get better on my bike doing 10 to 15 miles a day but now my foot was aching a little at the end of a ride. Worse than that, I had started to investigate Cycle shoes! I learnt that these marvellous devices (that I had never used before throughout my years of cycling as a kid) could not only ease my foot ache but also improve my peddling power (here comes another 0.2 mph). Then I read an article online and was told about how they can prevent knee strain and alike – I was sold!
I will mention about the shoes purchased later in this blog but needless to say very quickly I ended up with a brand new pair of carbon fibre soled MTB (Mountain Bike) shoes. I went for the mountain bike shoe because I knew that after I had parked my bike underground at work, I would need to walk about 400 meters and nothing looks more silly than a person in spandex clipping and slipping down the street.
Now at this point due to my earlier problems with trainers I was at least partially aware that I had to have not too thick soles – I went for these shoes as they were at a terrific price (£69 reduced from £120) and were the lowest profile sole I came across.
So now here we are, I am now in my shiny shoes and peddling my 0.2 mph faster but I am back to needing 800 meters distance to get my foot in – I am getting better but really it is a lost cause. So where next? You guessed it, I have my eyes on some new pedals and I am going to give cleats a chance. My excuse, some guy mentioned in passing to me at work that cleats make cycling up hills easier (I am guessing another 0.1 mph to be gained). So I haven’t purchased these yet – but as I have the shoes for them I am hoping they will work once and for all.
I will update when I get them!