Drive My Bike


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.

Advertisements


A New Measurement: BPM = "Bicyclists Per Mile”

Wow… it was almost crowded on my ride in to work this morning! I saw eleven other bicyclists on the road, over the five miles that I ride from home to work. I have never really kept track of how many I see, but I’m sure that is a new record!Measurement

I have been bike commuting for almost two months now, and I’m sure the number of bicyclists on my route has at least doubled, if not tripled.  I remember the first couple of days it seemed like I was lucky if I saw two or three other cyclists on the road.

All this got me thinking that it might be fun to actually start tracking that number to see if I can put some data behind the trend. So… I propose a new unit of measurement: BPM or “Bicyclists Per Mile”. Coming up with that figure is relatively simple… Count the bicyclists you see on your commute, add one for yourself, then divide that total by the number of miles in your commute.

So for today I would have 11 + 1 = 12, 12 divided by 5 = 2.4 Bicyclists Per Mile (BPM)

So, I would ask all of you who read this blog to start tracking BPM when you ride. I’m going to do this, and see how things change over the next few weeks.  Is this scientific?… Are you kidding? We’re having fun here, remember?

Now go figure out the BPM for your next ride! 🙂



Riding Your Bike in Traffic
July 4, 2008, 1:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I just saw this video, and it does a great job of making a point.  It is only about a minute long, so take a minute out of your life and watch it right now…

There, now you have a much better idea of how you, as a cyclist, can blend into the surroundings so that motorists just don’t see you.

I found that video from reading this great blog post about riding your bike with cars. I think the author makes some great points, and gives some good advice. The question of where to ride in the road is a touchy subject, especially if you ask a non-cyclist driver. Be prepared for some lively conversation!

Are cyclists better off in the middle of the road, the side of the road, or the sidewalk? (Sorry, “not on the road at all” is not a valid answer)

What do you think?