Is it really necessary to wear cycling shoes when riding a bike, or is this just for wanna-be Olympic contenders? Many people are probably unaware that there is such a thing as a cycling shoe! I was certainly in the latter category until I started cycling a few years back, thinking that most people just wore sports shoes with tough soles.
So why not just ride with ordinary shoes?
Well, no reason at all. Any shoes that are properly attached to the foot should work just fine. There are many people out there who refuse to don cycling footwear (or any specialised cycling wear for that matter) and even write blogs about their reasons (see the ‘other people’s experiences’ further down the page).
I am not a fan of slip-on shoes on a bike, as it is too easy for them to slip-off mid ride! But while riding with ordinary shoes is acceptable – it’s also very inefficient and frankly, hard work!
It is only possible to exert pressure on the downstroke and then that foot has a holiday while the other one exerts a downstroke on the other side. If only there was some way of attaching feet to the pedals, then one can push down and pull up as the pedals go around. This way, a lot more power could be generated with the same pedal rotation.
Well, luckily, there is.
Actually, there are two ways you can attach your shoes to your pedals.
1. Toe clips
I have always known about metal toe clips on pedals and thought these were quite common. Nowadays, though, modern toe clips are made of plastic (I am told this is because plastic doesn’t crush the foot in an accident – not sure how true this is). KJ tried these plastic toe clips a few years back, but he did not like them and they only lasted one or two rides. I have a friend who has old metal clips which he has used for years and would not exchange them for anything.
But plastic toe clips did not appeal to me at all, so I had to look for something else.
2. Clipless pedals/shoes
I am not sure why these are called Clipless pedals and/or shoes, because to me they clip together, so should be called the opposite (there’s logic there somewhere). However, apparently the name evolved because they were an alternative to toe clips, so were “clip less”. But, ……I digress…… 🙂
Regardless of what they are called, this shoe-pedal combination is wonderful. I now have pedals which are similar in structure on all my bikes. The top is flat – great for quick rides where ordinary shoes are all that is needed.
The other side has a spring loaded clip-in mechanism which secures the shoe to the pedal. The shoes clip in easily once you are on the bike and are released with a quick sideways ankle twist.
The bottom of the cycling shoe has a cleat screwed to it. This can be moved around to a position which is most comfortable for the rider. I got sore knees for a while when I first started riding with clipless pedals/shoes and found that all I needed was to adjust this cleat to fix the problem. It seemed that my shoes were not facing forward properly once I was clipped in, so that my knees were twisting a bit with each pedal stroke. So, once I knew what the problem was, I fiddled with the settings and the problem disappeared.
My worry when I first started using this system was what would happen if I had to stop suddenly and forgot to unclip my feet. The answer is, of course, that I would fall over! And I did – but only once!
It happened at a most inconvenient time, when everyone just happened to be looking my way :-). They must have wondered why that strange person just ‘fell over’ on that bike, instead of putting their feet out! I felt rather silly, but did not get hurt (I wasn’t moving after all!) so I just had to get over a bit of embarrassment!
But this was a small price to pay, and I am now so used to the shoes that I clip in and out as required without even thinking about it. I would also not dream of going on any substantial ride without these shoes. They really do take a lot of the hard work out of pedalling a bike.
I recently saw some cycling sandals with clip attachments – I am considering getting some of these for summer when it is too hot to wear socks and closed shoes.