Drive My Bike


Wow… Bicycles Outsold Cars For 1st Quarter of 2009!
May 28, 2009, 11:02 pm
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More people bought bicycles than cars? Yes they did.

j0341884

According to The Huffington Post, in the first quarter of 2009, bicycle sales in the US were higher than automobile sales. There were 2.6 million bicycle purchases made, compared to less than 2.5 million automobile purchases.

One thing I found interesting in this article was that both industries suffered a decrease in sales compared to the same time last year. Bicycle sales are down more than 30%, but auto sales are down more than 35%.

Interesting statistics. The times… are they a changin’?

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Understanding Clipless Pedals – Installing Cleats On Shoes
May 23, 2009, 11:58 am
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In my previous posts about clipless pedals I covered two of the clipless systems available, and also what kinds of clipless shoes are available. Once you buy your shoes and pedals you’ll need to attach your cleats to your shoes. That’s what I’m going to show here.

CleatCompare

Installing your cleats is actually very easy. I’m going to focus on SPD cleats, as shown on the shoe on the right in the above picture. If you have a different kind of cleat then you’ll need to adapt these instructions, but the basic steps should be the same.

When you purchase your pedals they will probably come with cleats and all of the hardware that you need to attach them to your shoes:

SPDPedalParts

Here’s a close-up of the cleats themselves:

SPDCleatsCloseUp

These cleats are identical, so there is no right or left that you have to worry about, but they do have a front and back, and it matters which side you place towards the sole of the shoe. You can see the “teeth” on the cleat on the right. These go against the bottom of the shoe, and they bite into the sole to help prevent the cleat from sliding around. The oval washer goes on top of the cleat, between the cleat and screw, and allows for a bit of lateral adjustment of the cleat as you tighten the screw.

When you buy your shoes they may have a “plug” that is screwed into the spot where you will put the cleats:

CleatInstall1

Simply remove those screws and it should come right off:

CleatInstall2

I am using a hex driver on my multi-tool to remove these screws. Use the proper driver for whatever type of fastener came on your shoes.

Once you get the plug removed you’ll see the empty spot where you’ll attach your cleats:

CleatInstall3

There is a metal plate underneath the plastic sole of the shoe that “floats” so that you can set your cleats where you like them. There are two sets of screw holes in the plate, depending on where you want to set your cleat. The advice I was given was to start with your cleat in the middle and ride that way for a bit, then make adjustments as needed. I use the top set of screw holes so that my cleats are in the middle. This has worked well for me and I don’t feel the need to adjust them. You can see the impressions in the plastic where the teeth from my cleats bit in when tightened.

Beware that some shoes have a removable insole that presses against the back of the metal screw plate inside the shoe. If this is the case, and you are holding the shoe upside down like in the picture, the insole might raise up a bit, allowing the metal screw plate to get out of alignment with the slots in the sole, or the plate might even fall out. If this happens, don’t panic, just put the plate back in place, then put your hand inside the shoe to press against the insole and reposition the screw plate so it lines up with the slots. You’ll probably need to keep your hand there to hold the plate in place until you get one of the screws started.

At this point you may want to put just a touch of grease on the tips of the screws so that they will go into the screw plate easily and won’t seize up on you when you need to replace your cleats.

Now put your cleats on the shoe, approximately where you want them, being sure that the “toothy” side of the cleat is against the plastic, and the pointy “nose” of the cleat is towards the toe of the shoe. Put the oval washer on top of the cleat in the recessed space, and put the screws in, using your fingers to get them started, but don’t tighten anything yet. Check the position of the cleat. At this point you can move the cleat around so that it is where you want it.

Once you get it in the right position then you can tighten the screws:

CleatInstall4

Be sure they are good and tight. You don’t want to muscle them so hard that you bend or break anything, but they need to be tight enough that the cleat doesn’t move around or come loose.

When you are done it should look like this:

CleatInstall5

Be sure that you check these screws regularly to make sure they are still tight. I had one of my cleats loosen a bit the other day, and it almost made it so that I couldn’t unclip, which was a bit scary for a few moments.

One more thing worth mentioning. You’ll notice the big “M” on the cleat in the picture above. There are two kinds of SPD cleats. The black cleats in the picture towards the top of this page don’t have an “M” on them, and are unclipped by turning the heel of your shoe to the side, which is the more traditional way. The silver cleat in the picture above is more forgiving and allows a multidirectional motion (hence the “M”) of the heel to release the cleat. You can move the heel to the side, or up and to the side, and the pedal will release. These cleats are a bit easier to learn with and you might want to consider them. I didn’t know the difference before, but my first set of SPD pedals came with “M” cleats, so that is what I started with.

Hopefully this series on clipless pedals has been helpful. I really like “clipping in” now, and if you can try it I think you will also be glad to join the clipless club. I’d love to hear of your experiences and adventures, so leave me a comment.



Understanding Clipless Pedals – The Shoes

If you are new to modern bicycling, or even just unfamiliar with clipless pedals, then the options can be confusing. In my last post about clipless pedals I gave an overview of two of the common clipless pedal systems available. In this post I’m going to talk about the different kinds of shoes that are available.

3ShoesTop

Clipless shoes come in several different varieties. There are shoes for racing, with special kinds for both road and mountain bikes. There are shoes for casual riding, such as commuting or taking a spinning class. There are also specialty shoes, such as sandals. The picture above shows examples of these:

  • On the Left is a racing shoe for Road Bikes. It is equipped with a cleat for a Look clipless pedal.
  • In the Middle is a shoe intended for casual riding. It is what I wear for my daily commuting and my spinning class. It is equipped with a cleat for an SPD clipless pedal.
  • On the Right is a bicycling sandal. The weather has finally gotten warm enough that I wore this sandal last week for my commute. It is equipped with a cleat for an SPD clipless pedal.

What are the differences in these shoes? Basically it comes down to three things, Compatibility, Functionality, and Comfort.

Compatibility is probably the most fundamental difference. The road shoe is compatible with a cleat for a Look pedal, and casual shoe and sandal are both compatible with a cleat for an SPD pedal.

3ShoesBottom

I compared these systems in my previous post, and also mentioned that there are other systems available. Whatever system you choose to use, you will need to make sure that the shoes you buy will accommodate a cleat to work with your pedals.

Functionality is another difference, in other words, what kind of riding are you going to be doing? The racing shoe has a strap system, much like a ski boot, that offers a very secure fit designed for high performance. You can cinch it down tightly for minimal foot movement and maximum power transfer when you are doing serious riding. They are also very lightweight. The casual shoe offers a simple lace up system that is simple and comfortable, with no fancy moving parts. It won’t secure your foot as well as the racing shoe, and it is a bit heavier, but it is great for more casual riding. The sandal… well, it is a sandal. It is intended for rides when casual and comfortable are the theme of the day.

3ShoesSide

Comfort comes in two flavors, on the bike, and off the bike. If you pick a pair of shoes that fit well, then your comfort on the bike should be good, no matter what.

The big difference will come when you get off the bike.

The Look style cleat on the road shoe extends almost a half an inch off of the bottom of the shoe. When you walk in that shoe it can be quite awkward, because you are literally walking on the cleat. It can be slippery on smooth floors, and it is easy to roll an ankle if you aren’t careful. Of course, if you buy a pair of road shoes then you are probably far more concerned about riding in them than walking around.

The SPD Cleat on the other shoes is set into a cutout in the sole, so it is virtually flush with the bottom of the shoe. That means that walking in these shoes feels much more natural and comfortable. You still make a clickety-clack noise when you walk, kind of like wearing tap shoes, and it can get slippery if you step right where the cleat is, so you still have to be careful.

What shoe is best for you? Only you can answer that question. Figure out what kind of riding you are going to do, then go take a look at some of the shoes that are available. Try some of them on and find a pair that is comfortable, then find out what type of cleats those shoes are compatible with and get some pedals to match. Of course, if you have already purchased your pedals, then that will limit your selection a bit. This would be a good time to visit your local bike shop and get their advice. I purchased my shoes at REI, and the people there were very helpful.

Personally, I have chosen to go with the SPD system because I prefer wearing my casual shoes, and I enjoy being able to walk around easily if I ride to the grocery store. The sandals are also compatible with my SPD pedals, and I have decided that I love wearing them in warmer weather. They are so comfortable that I kept them on the entire day last week and wore them around the office and out to lunch. (Yes, we have a very casual work environment).

Another consideration is what to do if you have multiple bikes. If you put the same kind of clipless pedals on all of your bikes, then you might be able to get by with a single pair of shoes. On the other hand, if you are hard core, and can afford multiple shoes and systems, then you may prefer to have specific shoes for specific bikes. The racing shoes actually belong to my friend Jake, and his road bike has a nice set of Look pedals. I’m babysitting Jake’s bike while he is in Africa, and even though his shoes fit me, I really prefer to use my SPD shoes, so I’ve decided to purchase a cheaper set of SPD pedals to replace his Look pedals. (Jake, if you read this, know that I’m taking good care of your baby while you are gone).

Once again, it is all about finding out what works for you. Don’t worry so much about “the rules” here, just try some things and see what you prefer.

I’ve got one more post planned in this series where I will briefly show how to install the cleats on your shoes once you make your purchase.

See you next time….

UPDATE: You can read more about installing cleats on your shoes here.



Strong Headwinds, Angry Clouds, Raindrops
May 19, 2009, 3:05 pm
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The ride in to work this morning was beautiful, however, the ride home was a bit more of an adventure…

WindyFlags

Those flags in the picture above are huge, and you can see how the wind was blowing them. Well, I was pedaling home against that wind. It is surprising to me how much a strong headwind can sap my energy. In the past I’ve even found it very discouraging psychologically. I’m not sure why exactly, but maybe it is just that feeling of having to work so hard to get forward momentum going. It feels like all of nature has conspired against you to keep you from reaching your destination.

Today though, I was determined to make the best of it, so I just dropped my gears a bit, and tried to enjoy the cooling effect of the breeze. As I looked around though, I noticed the reason for the strong winds. Angry clouds heading my way indicated that a storm front was moving into the valley.

AngryClouds

I was about a mile from home when I started feeling raindrops. I was worried for a moment, because it was so warm this morning that I didn’t even pack my windbreaker, which meant that if it really rained I was going to get soaked. Then I thought about things a bit more, and decided to just relax, since it was warm enough that it would probably be refreshing. I have a rain cover for my pannier, so all of my gear would stay dry even if I got wet.

Well, I felt a few more sprinkles before I got home, but the rain never really came. Now that I’m home the winds have picked up as the storm has moved in, and we’ve had some huge gusts, but it looks like we won’t be getting much rain out of this storm.

Oh well, some wind, some dark clouds, and some raindrops make for a bit of variety in my normal bike ride home.



Warmer Weather Means Less Stuff!
May 14, 2009, 8:58 am
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With the warmer weather I recently hit two milestones in my Spring commuting. First, last week I started wearing shorts for the ride to work in the morning. Second, warmer weather means less outerwear needed, so this week I made the transition back to a single pannier. Both of those things sure are nice!

RollingShadow

It sure is nice to be able to leave the cold weather gear at home. I found myself struggling with that a bit, thinking paranoid “what if” thoughts…

“What if it gets really cold and you don’t have a fleece layer?” "What if it rains?” “What if… What if…What if… Oh stop it!”

One of the reasons I started riding my bike was to simplify my life, and now here I was stressing over what I was going to bring with me. I took a look at the weather report, reminded myself how warm it really was, and remembered how cold it was NOT… and decided to relax and leave stuff at home. The only cold weather thing I’ve taken for the last week or so has been my pullover windbreaker that I always bring. I find that it will keep me warm enough down into the low 50’s, especially once I get huffing and puffing a bit. I’ve been plenty warm, and it has been wonderful to enjoy the breeze.

So, in celebration of the warmer weather (and fingerless gloves that I can hold a camera with) I bring you some more riding pictures that I shot on the way home the other day…

Shadow in the crosswalk, stopped at a light

CrosswalkShadow 

Same light, almost green…

FrontWheelCrosswalk

Green… and go… (I was leaning way down, holding the camera to the side of the forks. I think the motorists were probably trying to figure out what I was doing)

ThruFrontSpokes

Just think, I could be waiting in that line of cars.

LineOfCars

There was a bicyclist coming up behind me. If you look in the distance you can see him over my shoulder. I noticed him in my mirror, and decided to put the camera away and get to riding. He didn’t catch me. 🙂

PursuitOverShoulder

I think this is my favorite picture of the set. These are so “accidental” because I can’t see a thing I’m shooting. It’s just “hold the camera in the air and push the button”. I really liked how the shadow fit in the wheel, and the spokes were blurred with motion.

SpinningSpokesShadow 

I hope that you’re able to enjoy this warmer weather and have some great rides!

Note: In case any of you care, I’m working on that next post about shoes for clipless pedals, and I’ll probably be putting it up in the next couple of days.



Understanding Clipless Pedals – Two Common Systems

It seems like a lot of people are searching for information on clipless pedals these days, so I thought I’d write a bit more about what I’ve learned recently. For this post, I’m going to explain two of the most common clipless systems available: “Look” and “SPD”.

Clipless Cleat Comparison (Look and SPD)

When I started shopping for clipless pedals I really had no idea what I wanted or needed, I just knew that I wanted some shoes that I could use both on my bike and on the spinning machines at our gym. I have learned a lot since then, and I settled on Shimano’s SPD system for my Trek mountain bike, which I use for commuting. At the same time I’m also watching over my friend Jake’s sweet road bike while he’s in Africa for a year, and his bike and shoes are based on the Look system, so I’ve also had a little experience with that lately.

Let’s talk about these two common clipless systems, Look (primarily for road bikes), and Shimano SPD (originally for mountain bikes, but now also found on road bikes).

In the picture above the Look system is on the left, and the SPD system is on the right. You can see that one of the biggest differences is that the Look cleat is much larger, probably three times the size of the SPD cleat.

Here’s what the Look pedal looks like:

LookPedal

Here’s a close up of the Look cleat and Look pedal next to each other:

LookCleatPedal

And here’s a side view of the Look system when it is clipped in:

LookClippedSide

Both of these systems operate almost the same when it comes to clipping in and out of the pedals. You begin to engage the pedal by hooking the front (toe side) of the cleat in the front of the pedal, and then you press down with your heel to make the cleat “clip in” to the pedal. To remove your shoe from the pedal, you push your heel to the side, rotating your entire foot away from the bike, which causes the pedal clamp to disengage from the cleat and “unclip”.

Here’s what the SPD pedal looks like:

SpdPedal

You’ll notice that this pedal looks similar to a non-clipless pedal. That is because it has a standard pedal on the other side, which allows you to use regular shoes as well. I chose this because I wasn’t sure how committed I was to riding clipless all the time, and I figured that in bad weather I would still be wearing my Neos overshoes and would need a regular pedal. I have to say that I like my clipless system so much that I’m not sure I would buy these double sided pedals again if I had it to do over. The “clip only” pedals are smaller, lighter, and double sided, so you don’t have to fumble around getting the clip right side up when clipping in. Of course clip only pedals would mean that I’d have to find some serious cold weather overshoes to fit over my clipless shoes, and those get expensive. The weather is pretty nice for now, so I’m figuring that I’ll cross that bridge later when the weather gets nasty.

Here’s a close up of the SPD cleat and SPD pedal next to each other:

SpdCleatPedal

And here’s a side view of the SPD system when it is clipped in:

SpdClippedSide

Again, unclipping the SPD system is done in the same manner as the Look system, by rotating your heel sideways, away from the bike.

So which system is better?

Unfortunately I can’t answer that for you, but the kind of bike you’re riding can help narrow your decision.

If you are primarily riding a road bike, then you might choose to use either system, although you’re probably more likely to come across a road bike with a Look system.

If you are primarily riding a mountain bike, then you’re probably going to choose Shimano’s SPD system. There are other mountain bike systems out there, but from what I’ve seen SPD is the most common.

If you find yourself riding both road and mountain bikes, and you’d like to have a system that can be used with both, then you probably want to go with the SPD system. That way you can buy a single pair of shoes, and use them with all your bikes.

There are other clipless systems out there, but I’ve focused on two of the most common systems. When I go to the spinning class at my gym the machines have double sided pedals, with Look clips on one side, and SPD clips on the other. While that works in the gym, a pedal like that would be too large and heavy, so it wouldn’t be very practical on a real bicycle.

Shimano makes a system for road bikes they call SPD-SL, and it is very similar to a Look system. Crank Brothers make their unique “Eggbeater” system (named for the way the pedals look) which is primarily aimed at mountain bikes. There are numerous other clipless systems available, but you’ll have to do your own research to decide what’s best for you.

When you purchase a clipless system, you’ll buy at least two things:

1) The pedals, which usually come with a set of matching cleats

2) The shoes, which will have a drilled panel on the sole designed to accommodate a certain kind of cleats. Some shoes can accommodate multiple types of cleats. Be sure they’ll work with the pedals you choose.

One of the best things to do would probably be to go to your local bike shop and spend some time with one of the knowledgeable staff members discussing your needs, and seeing what they recommend. I bought my pedals at REI, and the folks there were very helpful.

This post described the different systems, so next time I’m going to get into more detail about the different pedals and shoes that are available.

As I’m sure you can tell, I really like riding clipless now. I rode with normal shoes the other day, and it felt just plain weird, and I really missed the added power from clipping in. I’m sold on clipless pedals, and if you’re thinking about making the switch I hope this information will be helpful.

UPDATE: You can read more about clipless shoes in the next post here. You can read about installing cleats on your shoes here.