A few weeks ago I took advantage of a good deal at REI to get some clipless pedals. Now that I've had them for a while and had a chance to put them through their paces I figured I'd pass on what I found out so far.
Have you ever seen the commercials where the little kid is trying to read the ingredients of some food product they're about to eat, but need mom to tell them what the big words mean? This is sort of how I felt when I tried to figure out what my Look Keo Easy pedals were made of. I wanted to know what exactly I was relying on to put my 300+ pounds of weight against while pedaling as hard as I can though training and races.
The Keo site says that the pedal is made of a composite material, but didn't provide a lot more detail. Doing some digging I found that it was a "polyamide resin comprised of glass fibers, Nylon 6,6 and an MX nylon". While it doesn't tell me a great deal as someone without a PhD in Chemistry, it tells me it's some kind of really strong plastic-like substance mixed with fiberglass. That's good enough for me, because it should mean it's strong and yet light.
Installing the pedals was interesting. Normal pedals use a tool called a pedal wrench to put tools on. Being that the Look Keo pedals don't have the flat sides on the axle to support the usage of the pedal wrench, and the instructions didn't include anything for actually installing the pedals, I was at a bit of a loss on the installation process. So I went to the internet and found something surprising; inside the axle of the pedal is drilled to support using a hex wrench to install the pedals. Thankfully, Hex wrenches are an extremely common tool for bicycles and I have a bunch of them, and was able to install the pedals quickly from that point.
I should take a step back here for those of you who don't cycle regularly or aren't up on the intricacies of modern pedal design. There are really 3 kinds of pedals: flat or platforms, pedals with clips, and what are called clipless pedals. Flat or platform pedals are the kind that come with most bicycles, we've all seen them. Pedals with clips are just that; flat or platform pedals with that have an attached "clip" to slide the front of your foot into. There is usually an adjustable belt at the highest point of the clip to ensure a snug fit. Lastly, there are clipless pedals, which is actually a terrible misnomer. Clipless pedals allow the rider through the use of special bicycle shoes to attach their foot more directly to the pedal via use of a cleat on the shoe that literally clips into the pedal. The Look Keo Easy pedals are this last type of pedal, and came with cleats to install on my bicycle shoes.
Installing the cleats was significantly easier than the pedals, as it's just three screws into the bottom of the shoe to attach the cleats. The cleats are made of a softer composite, so they are far more likely to need replaced. The portion of the cleat that attaches to the bicycle is made of a harder silicone, so it securely attaches and has less give than the remainder of the clip. Plus the silicone limits the friction caused when trying to unclip the cleat from the pedal.
The reason I looked to move to clipless pedals is that with my larger feet, my shoes didn't fit very well into the clips on my platform pedals. This made it difficult for me to get the ball of my feet securely on the platform, causing me to pedal mostly with my toes. Now that I have the clipless system I can adjust (within an certain range) where the cleat sits on the foot.
Once I got everything hooked up and adjusted to where I like them, there was the manner of learning how to get clipped in without killing myself. This is far and away the most difficult part of moving to clipless pedals; just getting your clips in and getting underway without falling over.The pedals, due to the weight of the springs in the clip (rear) end of the pedal tend to hang in a way that isn't conducive to getting clipped in. You have to use your foot to get it straightened out and then clip in. This is pretty easy when you're standing still for the first one. It's far more complex to attempt while moving to get the other foot in.
What adds to the complexity is that while you're learning to get clipped in, you have to learn to unclip as well; sometimes rather quickly. Trying to get clipped in while moving slowly makes it really easy to tip over and if you can't get your other foot unclipped in time, you're going to wind up getting hurt. Thankfully, when I fell while trying to clip in, I landed on a row of shrubs, keeping me mostly upright and allowing me to figure out how to unclip my other foot before I wound up on the ground.
Eventually, I figured out how to get clipped in without falling down and once fully underway, I loved using the new pedals immediately. The bike feels more responsive all the way around, as I'm getting power from every part of my pedal stroke. The old pedal clips let up a lot of force on the upstroke of each foot, so I might be getting power from one side, but when both were in motion there was no way I was transferring all of my effort to the bike.
Being a big guy I worried initially about the pedals being made of something other than metal, but so far they seem strong and dependable. Putting full weight on each foot, pedaling as hard as i can, and I heard no creaks, detected no lack energy transfer on the upswing. In fact I still deal with a little fear about what happens in a stituation where there's a problem with the road or a sudden mechanical failure with a tire and I need to get unclipped quickly. Hopefully that won't happen, because I'm not sure how fast I can react. But in all other regards this change was definitely worth it.
- Hope I didn't bore anyone with all that. I know it's a lot to chew on and many folks come here just for my daily weightloss struggles. But these tools give me and added advantage in working to complete my goals. For the folks who are triathletes or cyclists, i think this is valuable information. If folks disagree, feel free to say so in the comments. I'm a big boy and can take it.
- I did 30 minutes of intervals last night, and wound up running 8 out of the 30 minutes. I'm getting faster as I managed 2.2 miles in just about 30 minutes. The new RunKeeper application works really nicely, and I'll need to get an armband for my phone for sure.