Sunday, April 19, 2009

Adventures With Pedals

Growing up, I had two bikes (not counting the tricycle that I apparently broke). One was "BMX style", and the other was a mountain bike. I remember riding both of these literally ALL THE TIME. The mountain bike was an oversized birthday present when we lived in Lloydminster-- I will always remember the moment I first saw it in the basement cold room. It had actual gears! It seemed like a technological wonder-- and I fell off it all the time. It's a wonder I don't have more scars than I do; and I have quite a few scars.

That mountain bike, as much as I loved it, seems like a clunker compared to the bike I have now. I mean, I need special shoes just to ride the TCX! Sure, I've got a pair of "platform" pedals (which are slightly more advanced than "reglar" pedals, in that they are bigger, for a more stable platform), but as N has recently discovered, those don't provide nearly as much pedaling power as a pair of today's road pedals do. Yes, that's right-- she finally put the pedals Santa brought onto her bike.

I'm sure there are plenty of people out there like myself who are willing to just hop on a bike, and bind their feet to the pedals without thinking. Speaking from personal experience, though it might work for some, I don't recomend this method. You're almost guaranteed to crash-- at low (no) speed, most likely, but still. N is smarter than that, and much more cautious.

Teaching and doing are two very different issues altogether. Though I've never been a bike instructor, I've taught snowboarding, and participated in course development... not that either of those skills were immediately apparent, seeing the fear in N's eyes at the prospect of locking her feet into her pedals on the first ride of the year!

After a little trial and error, we came up with a pretty good progression for learning clipless pedals. She'd had some experience with them on the spin trainer, but it's different when it's on your bike, even if I'm holding onto it, trying to keep it from tipping over. Anyway, here's what we came up with:
  1. Stand over the bike, in front of the seat. Space your feet wider than shoulder-width.
  2. Choose a leg to stand on. With the other foot, move that pedal to the bottom position-- closest to the ground. Practice clicking in and out of the cleat-- toe in first, then push down. Twist your heel out to disengage.
  3. Now, click in that one foot, and push off with the other. At this point, just put your weight on the foot that is in, and coast. Brake, and put your foot back on.
  4. Next, you want to push off, and sit in your seat. Don't worry about clicking your other foot in just yet-- rather, rest it on the pedal, and pedal with the foot that is clicked in. (You need a little momentum to be stable.) Maybe push down on the free pedal with your heel, but just practice gliding for now, and leave that foot free to set down when you brake to a stop.
  5. Do the same thing, except click your second foot in, pedal a few times, then click that same foot out. To do this, stand up out of the seat, with your first foot in the bottom position, put your weight back on that first foot.
That's a lot of steps, and a lot of words-- it's actually hard to describe! But panick and fear is a huge barrier to learning, and baby steps are the best way to get through the fear. (By the way, after about 30 minutes of nerves, and 2 ego and butt-bruising crashes, N was flying around the Reservoir, even tackling stretches of snow that I walked through)

After the fact, I found this video:

I almost forgot my own adventures... my tri shoes are cracked from using the CrankBrothers Candy pedals that came with my bike : (
Well, they're really designed for mountain-bike shoes, not the stiff plastic soles that my shoes offer. So I decided to spring for a pair of Look Keo pedals-- just the basic ones, though. I'm hoping they'll make my shoes last one more season. The catch is, they're taking a little getting used to! Went for a solo ride yesterday (Saturday) through Fish Creek park (Sicome and back, then west all the way to 37 St and back via residential roads). They were great-- better power transfer, less wobble, but a slightly different unlock, just because of the deeper toe cleat. Didn't actually crash, but was a little worried at times.

Back in Ohio this week, planning to log some miles.