Tuesday, 26 February 2013

What more pedals! Clipless pedals part 3 - Road Pedals

I have hesitated from posting this third post on clip-less pedals, mostly for the risk of appearing to be a total fool - or at best the most indecisive cyclist in Britain and maybe the world. 

But then it occurred to me  that if I was honest, at least it will help others by reading my ongoing narrative - and yes I do believe it is an ongoing narrative as there is yet one more type of pedals to try out.So in my previous two posts (Post1- Post2) on pedals, the story took us from the world of flat pedals to SPD's (mountain bike pedals). Not to be confused with SPD-SL's which are road pedals by Shimano.

In order to help out the confused I think a few illustrative pictures will help make the above more clear.

These are SPD pedals and cleats

SPD pedals with platform

SPD pedals with less of a platform

SPD Cleats

Now we are all on the same page as to what I am talking about, let's have a look at the pro's and con's of SPD pedals. Well they are clip-less which is an advantage in itself, but I suppose the main advantage of this clip-less system lies with the cycle shoes you can wear - basically shoes for SPD pedals have the cleat recessed within the tread of the sole - therefore they are more useful for walking about on. Now this is a major advantage if you are doing cyclocross or mountain biking where you might have to carry your bike up some mountain or muddy hill but I personally don't find myself doing these things - ever!

So fantastic you can walk around in your cycling shoes – this is the story I bought into, as a rule I was using my bike for commuting and I needed to walk to and from where the bike was parked to the office, very quickly I discovered though, I was riding my bike far more than walking to and from it.

Initially I had bought the SPD pedals in the first picture, as I reasoned that I needed a platform just in case I wanted to ride my bike with normal shoes. The truth is that those occasions were rare to none and that the platform pedals are very heavy. So in an effort to remedy this I bought a second pair of lighter SPD pedals (as per the second picture). They were 60% the weight of the first pedals and they were still easy enough to do short distances on (on the rare occasions when I needed to) in normal shoes. So lesson number one – don’t get hung up on needing a platform, really think about how often you are going to cycle around in normal shoes and realise that even a minimal platform will be fine for the few occasional miles in normal shoes.

About a year ago I built a new go faster (read penile replacement) full carbon road bike LINK. As this was an out an out road bike – I reasoned that it really wasn’t the done thing to have SPD pedals on it (despite my purchase of a lighter set of SPD pedals). I faced the reality that it was time to go for road pedals and shoes. The reasons were primarily vanity in making sure my road bike fitted in with convention but also on a more pragmatic side – I could get far lighter pedals and also I was not that happy with my SPD shoes. I was getting foot ache often in my right foot, basically I think my shoes were too narrow for my slightly wide foot. As I was going to need to buy new shoes, now seemed as good as time as any to make the switch – besides I reasoned that I could keep my old pedals on my commuter bike along with my uncomfortable shoes.
But what pedals to go for? For me there were three main types to consider. SPD-SL (Shimano pedals), LOOK pedals, or Time pedals. 

In the end I went for the Look pedals. All three pedal types use different cleats but they all fit into the same road shoes. To be honest there are going to be as many different views as to what are the best pedals – I just went with the LOOK ones. I liked their lightness and I liked the variable float cleats you could buy. Each brand has various pedals at different price ranges – just go with what you prefer.

In order to illustrate the difference – here are some more helpful images:

Look Keo Max2 Pedals

Look cleats

To go with my new pedals I needed new shoes – I went for these rather natty shoes “Sidi Genius 5 Pro/Fit Road”. So here comes the revelation! These shoes are just way more comfortable than SPD’s (I realise that this is somewhat personal). 

Sidi are a very well-known and trusted brand, but more than this, road shoes are designed for being comfortable on the bike not for walking in, they are also generally lighter. Additionally road cleats have a bigger platform and you just get a better spread of weight on your foot, now all this may not be that noticeable on a short ride - but start going over 50 miles and you are really going to feel the difference. Most notably, after riding on the new LOOK pedals for a month or so I switched back to my old shoe / cleat combination and I found the exit / entry to be much more grabby – the Look cleats are just that more smooth to get in and out of as well as being more comfortable and lighter. Such is the improvement that I went out and bought a second pair of LOOK pedals and have put them on my commuter bike, all the previous SPD pedals have been sold on eBay but sadly the SPD shoes sit there languishing at the bottom of my wardrobe.

So where do we go from here? Well I do have one issue with the Look pedal / cleat combination and that is I can only get one sided pedals. You will have noticed that all my SPD pedals were dual sided, really this shouldn’t be a problem, but I am probably more poorly co-ordinated than most when it comes to pedals. I often have the situation of spinning around the pedals trying to get them the right way up, not a major problem on the weekend but on the commute with regular stopping and starting at the myriad of traffic lights and it becomes a bit of a burden, so I am considering – wait for it – Speedplay pedals!

Really I can’t justify the cost of Speedplay right now (they are the most expensive option) when in general I am really happy with the LOOK pedals – but I know all too well, that I will find a way to justify the change at some point.

Speedplay Pedal

Speedplay Cleats

Edit - Just a quick warning about the LOOK cleats – they are about as durable as warm margarine – be prepared to go through a couple of sets a year – I wear out the left cleat at twice the speed of the right as generally when I stop at traffic lights I put my left foot down, it is not a major thing as you can buy a new set for £12 but do not expect them to last like the metal SPD cleats.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Sick, Sick and Tired and Sick

Pointless post time! I really think the only reason for writing it is so I can at least pretend I am doing something bike related.

I have flu (real flu not man flu) and it just wont clear up fully - a week off work and then last week was very stop start with me going into work but really struggling to complete anything and then collapsing in bed as soon as I got home - often not waking until the next morning - or worse yet, waking in the middle of the night and then not being able to fall asleep again, leading to me being even more tired the next day and I have just spent the majority of the last weekend in bed. My main problem is that I seem to have the immune system of a one week old ancient Aztec bay that has not been breast fed.

I wouldn't mind but I was just turning the corner on my fitness and starting to get some benefit from the hours spent on the turbo trainer, now I feel like I am back at square one and I am still not recovered! This is all very depressing and all the more so when you have dreams of being a biking god in the ensuing summer (well I can dream can't I)?

I am sure this all a lot worse for cyclists / athletes, not only is a cold / virus robbing you of your current day but also robbing you of all your previous hard work and fitness gains - I shall now stamp my feet and say "it's not fair"! So I head into the vicious cycle that is illness - the weather is fine for cycling into work - but I am not well enough and I end up being crammed into a train with the army of the great unwashed with all their variations of the flu virus, maybe by next winter I will be well enough to cycle into work and then the snow will force me back onto the train (or the flu incubator as I now call it).

As you tell from this post - I am not in the best of places currently. I think I need a "crook cyclist" group therapy session - actually cancel that - they will just pass on their various colds to me as well.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Bike Theft - one small step.

I saw this article in the Independent a couple of days ago, and I thought it worthwhile enough to inform my glorious readers about.

To summarise:

It has always annoyed me that it is so easy to sell stolen bikes quickly and for a decent amount of money. Being a member of cycling forums I hear about expensive bikes being stolen every week.

That’s why I’ve started this petition calling on eBay and its subsidiaries to make frame numbers mandatory on listings on its site.
Frame numbers are found on every bike and can be used by owners or police to identify stolen bikes. Forcing sellers to list frame numbers on online ads will make it harder for thieves to shift our stolen goods.
eBay goes to considerable effort to protect the intellectual property of music and film companies. It removes auctions for designer items it suspects are illegal copies and requires motorists to enter a registration number when listing a car for sale.

Now we are asking that eBay and its subsidiaries do the same for bikes.
If eBay do this and we all take the responsibility to note our frame numbers and lock our bikes up properly we can start constricting the marketplace for stolen bicycles.
This all seems sensible and simple! 

Now it may annoy those people who want to buy a cheap stolen bike - but it would be a very simple matter for the police to run a list of serial numbers of stolen bikes against those for sale. The main way to restrict the theft of items is to reduce the places they can be onward sold - this coupled with the police taking the time to visit local markets and check a few serial numbers and there would make a serious dent in the ability of thieves to sell stolen bikes (this is ignoring Gumtree but that place is beyond hope). It would also help those unfortunate people who buy stolen bikes unwittingly.

One of the things that has annoyed me about owning a bike is the total disregard there seems to be about theft of bikes - I have written about it on this blog a few times. There seems to be an attitude amongst cyclists that as long as it isn't there bike being stolen then let's just ignore it. It is almost like people in a WW1 trench being glad that they guy next to them got shot and not they themselves. 

Whilst I am at it (and it appears to be a growing trend, I am going to set myself up against people who are pro cycle lanes again) I was very annoyed when I read an article recently (and no I don't have the link any-more) where they were so busy arguing that the only reason that cycling was not growing faster, was due to lack of cycling lanes, that they dismissed out of hand theft as one of the reasons. Yes, it is not the main reason, but it is a contributing factor a certainly significant enough not to be dismissed in such an out of hand way.

There is a correlation here that has not be taken into account - the bikes that are the main targets for thieves are the light ones -  owners of such bikes therefore need to carry around a gold secure lock, a lock that more often than not weighs the same as the bike itself. It may be fine for the beardy cargo bike owners, to carry around a heavy lock for their bike, a bike which people don't want to nick anyway, but for those of us who are sad Mamils, with our ultra-light carbon penile replacement bikes it is a real issue. A quick 4 mile jolly to the shops, becomes an exercise in logistics and padlocking that soon means the car comes out of the drive instead - so yes all that hassle means we don't use our bikes for little trips, even though we would love to.

Apart from everything else I am old fashioned enough to not accept the idea that bikes (or any item for that matter) should be allowed to be stolen. For me (as with many others) our bike is more than just a group of mechanics - it is something we genuinely care about and an object we have invested real time and attention to looking after and it means more to us than the sum of its parts.

So go have a read of the article and maybe sign the petition - it costs nothing - and who knows you may be the next person to be shot in the trench, so help end the war now.