Category Archives: Cycling clothes

‘Clip-less’ cycling shoes make pedalling a lot easier

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.

Cycling-shoes

My cycling shoes look like sneakers from the top. (The velcro tabs stop the laces from getting caught in the chain).

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…… 🙂

Flat top of the pedal for ordinary shoes

Flat top of the pedal for ordinary shoes

Other side of the pedals, where the shoes clip in neatly

Other side of the pedals, where the shoes clip in neatly

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.

The adjustable cleat under the shoe

The adjustable cleat under the shoe. The two round things are screws for adjusting the placement of the cleat.

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.

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It’s all in the (pannier) bag

As a mother, I have spent the last 20 years carrying a bag that contained a multitude of items to cover all eventualities at any possible time. Bandaids for cuts and scrapes, lipstick, tissues, and even sticky tape and scissors to mend homework books – I had the lot.  All of this stuff and a lot more became my regular load, compactly packed into my trusty handbag.

When my offspring finally developed the capability to deal with many of these events on their own, I was able to jettison many items, but it was not easy. Old habits die hard!

One small bag to take warm gear for a winter ride

My habit has now transferred itself to my cycling pannier bag and I seem to have an endless list of things that I am convinced I really could/should keep handy for every ride.

However, when I realised that I was looking longingly at those who go out on a ride with a small puncture kit, a miniscule pump and a bottle of water tucked away invisibly on their slimline, lightweight bikes (at least I think they take a puncture kit? :-)), I had a rethink.

I had finally woken up to the fact that I was taking far too much unnecessary gear which I would probably never use.

Fully loaded and weatherproofed on a rainy day while touring in France

My nearest and dearest assure me that I tend to worry too much about what may happen (but then take comfort from the fact that I probably have most things covered so they don’t need to worry!)

In recent months, I have decided to become rather ruthless and to cut the load of ‘might need one day’ gear down to that which is really essential! But I am also an independent sort and get annoyed with myself if I have to use/ borrow other people’s tools or spare tyres.

Riding on the beach in Tasmania – not too much being carried in the bags

So it has not been easy! So, here is my current list for casual rides around my local area (I go back to the full list when touring – that is non negotiable!):

  • Puncture kit
  • Tyre pump
  • Chain to lock the bike (depending on where I am riding)
  • Water (carried all the time regardless of the weather)
  • I have toyed with the idea of having a spare tyre, but so far, have resisted! (But it is easier to fix a puncture with a spare tube, so perhaps… :-))
  • Toolbag (this is where my indecisions really start) containing:
    • multitool screwdriver (fits all the screws and fittings on my bikes)
    • Some cable ties (they are useful for so many things especially if something comes loose or breaks)
    • Small plastic tyre lever
    • Side cutter pliers
  • I used to carry a first aid kit, but this is on the discard pile at the moment. (I seemed to be very prone to coming off my bike and hitting the dirt when I first started riding. This has not happened for a while now, so perhaps my riding skills are improving and the need for bandaids has declined :-))
  • Lightweight rainjacket/windcheater (rolls up into a tiny pack)

Weather considerations

I feel the cold and nothing spoils a ride quicker for me than having frozen body extremities. So winter temperatures and short days are tiresome, with head, arm and leg warmers all finding themselves classified as ‘essential’ items along with a good jacket. I admire riders who go out in the snow and bitter temperatures, but I am convinced that they must just be far more cold tolerant than me!

Riding around Auckland (New Zealand). Good weather, so not much gear on board!

I find this winter kit bulky, but non negotiable for about 4 months of the year, so usually this means having to take an extra pannier bag to lug it along.

Likewise, if rain is threatening, I will take some rain gear – waterproof jacket, gloves and pants. However, rain is less often a problem than the cold. One can ‘avoid riding’ on rainy days but I am not too keen on putting the bikes away for the whole of winter to avoid the cold!

What I would like to know from other readers is whether their kit is similar and whether you have have ‘must takes’ that I have left out?

Lycra shorts, love ’em or hate ’em?

I used to be quite amused and somewhat critical of our local cyclists who donned their lycra knicks (shorts) and fancy cycling jerseys while out training on their latest model road bike. These people were most often male riders, with a serious air of superiority about them. They were probably very good athletes, and, judging by their wiry body frames and incredible tenacity, very fit too.

In countries like France, men, women and kids have grown up with bicycling being an integral part of life. It is so firmly embedded into the culture and bikes are a common sight everywhere. Daily commuter or recreational cyclists rarely dress specially to ride somewhere. Of course, in the land of the ‘Tour de France’, those who are doing serious cycling training or racing do use specialised cycling gear, and for good reasons.

But back home in our Australian country city, our lycra clad fraternity did little to encourage other less athletic types into cycling; in fact, I think they (unintentionally) frightened many people away. There was a perception that to become a bike rider, one was going to have to pull on tight shorts and racing tops, and then be able to cycle like a pro. I was one person who was intimidated by this outlook and it kept me away from bikes for quite a long time.

Nowadays though, cycling is becoming far more popular here, and commuter and recreational cyclists are becoming more brave about riding in casual attire. They are also realising the benefits of specialised cycling garments. Happily, this means that the less athletic amongst us are also starting to don the lycra and other cyclist clothing with less self consciousness.

Enjoying a few days of riding around Auckland, New Zealand

Some years back, I could never imagine myself wearing knicks or cycling jerseys, but I now seldom ride without them. The knicks (with padded chamois insert) keep a nice comfort zone between my butt and my favourite firm leather saddle. The jerseys are made of special fabric which is lightweight and breathes well regardless of the weather. (An added bonus when touring, is that they dry quickly after being washed or if you happen to get caught in the rain). Sometimes, though, I resort to ordinary shirts, but still use the cycling shorts. My favourite brand is Cinettica Diva Elite Nix. They are not cheap, but they fit well, and the two pairs I have had for 3 years are still in good shape.

So, to the immense mirth of my offspring, I have now joined the fraternity of lycra clad cyclists. However, the wiry body frame and superb fitness are attributes which sadly still elude me!