Friday, April 24, 2009


I had no idea that pedals were such a big deal. I figured if I got a bike it would have pedals, and I would put my feet on them like I did when I was 10 and spin them around, and that was exactly how it worked at first. Then I made a discovery. The discovery was that, if you were trying to pedal really hard and your feet were wet, sometimes they would slip off the pedals and bad things would happen to you.

So I got a road bike and it had toe clips on it.

(What it did not have was a kickstand, which came as a surprise to me. “What do you want a kickstand for?” Steve asked. “It just gets in the way.”)

Now, just in case you don’t know, the toe clip is basically a harness on top of the pedal for the front part of your foot (i.e. where the toes are, hence the name) and the idea is that it holds your foot onto the pedal thus preventing the unpleasantness described in the first paragraph.

So, I have one foot on the ground and I put the other foot on the pedal and into the toe clips and I shove off. Now I have a problem. I have to get my other foot onto the pedal and into the toe clips. You wouldn’t think this would be such a big deal, but it turns out the pedal likes to turn upside down so that the toe clip is underneath. Picture me, if you will, riding alone one footed, trying to use the other foot to turn the pedal over and then jam my foot into the toe clips before the pedal can turn upside down again. This takes me several tries, during which I am still moving but am really looking more at my feet than at what is in front of me, which is bad in a George of the Jungle sort of way (Watch out for that tree….)

I survived long enough to graduate to clipless pedals.

(If they’re clipless, why do we talk about clipping in and clipping out of them then?)

A cleat on the bottom of your shoe attaches to the pedal, and you have to remember to twist your foot sideways to get it off the pedal. Here’s what happens: you decided to stop, so you slow down and you lift a foot off the pedal to put it on the ground. Except you don’t, because you forgot to twist and tried to lift your foot straight up and it doesn’t come. So you look down at your foot in surprise and pull harder and nothing happens. Meanwhile, you are going slower and slower. Then you remember the twisting part, but by this time your speed has decreased so much that you the bike it slowly tipping sideways, and you manage to unclip about the time you hit the deck.

Or you don’t, and you end up on the ground still clipped in and trying to figure out how to get up while still attached to your bike.

(I have personally seen a guy flip completely over while remaining attached to his bike. It was quite spectacular.)

This does bring to mind a guy who I shall call Alphonse. Imagine a group of us approaching a major highway. Stopping is a good idea, so he hits the brakes to slow down and then unclips both feet. You have to picture this to yourself for a moment and then realize that this robs you of a surprising amount of control. I should mention that nobody liked to be near him when he did this, and he did it all the time.

We all manage to stop and then we shoot across the highway.

Well, not quite. Alphonse doesn’t really like clipping in and out, so, while straddling his bike, he tries to walk it across the highway on his toes. He did make it across safely, but this nearly gave the rest of us heart attacks.

Anyway, speaking of pedals, I hope to have my feet on some again in a day or two. Wish me luck.

See you on the road.

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