Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pondering Pedals

I confess: I am a pedal polygamist.

I've tried 'em all: Clips and straps, about a dozen flavors of clipless, and even plain, flat pedals. Just when I think I've settled, dropping the coin to convert the entire fleet to whatever my pedal du jour happens to be, my eye starts to wander again, and suddenly I'm digging in the parts box for the pedals I took off in order to put on today's pedal du jour, or yesterday's, or the day before that.

With all that experimenting, I think I've learned one basic thing about pedaling. Feet need support. They shouldn't have to work against being bent or smooshed in directions they were never intended to go. With my extra-wide feet (shaped more like shoeboxes than shoes -- thanks for that little genetic gift, Dad), I'm hyper-aware of this flexing/smooshing issue.

That leaves two choices: Big pedals (so your feet can't hang off the edge) or super-stiff shoe soles (so your feet can't flex even if they hang off the edge). Most modern clipless pedals approach the problem from the second direction, concentrating pressure on tiny cleats and Tootsie Pop-sized pedals, relying on the stiffness of (expensive) carbon-fiber soles to keep your feet where they belong. Then, there's the opposite extreme: Huge, flat, BMX pedals that support the width of your foot regardless of the stiffness of your shoe.

For me, today's pedal du jour is the latter, a cheap as all gitout pair of BMX flats. It's hard enough to find any shoe that fits my paddle-feet, much less a cycling shoe. I'd rather be able to ride in whatever ridiculously wide tennis shoe or sandal I can find without worrying if it takes a SPD or Look cleat -- the Windows vs. Mac of the clipless world.

(Note that I'm completely avoiding the issue of being attached to one's pedals for either safety or efficiency. That's a religious war, and neither side's convinced me to follow their crusade to the death just yet.)

1 comment:

Christopher Johnson said...

I have found myself where you are. After the change from training to cycling, riding a bicycle was transformed. There are so many other dimensions of fulfillment beyond speed. Being able to go from pedal to pavement effortlessly is one of them.