Now the whole concept of “clipless” pedals reminds me of Photoshop, a major photo editing and design software. How you say? Well … when I first started to use that magical tool, I learned that I had to go to something called the “unsharpen” mask to make my images crisper. It was just counter intuitive. To me, the concept of “clipless” pedals fits into the same category as one has to buy shoes and pedals into which said shoes clip. Go figure. But keep in mind that I am a newbie to biking. Maybe, with time, this will become clear.
Nonetheless, spend very little time trying to figure this out because the thing of concern here, is that today I am going to pedal my bike with my new bicycle shoes and my “clipless” pedals. It shouldn’t be that hard.
You should know that this mission started a couple of weeks ago when there was an urge deep in me to get a new bicycle. I trekked down to Oshawa and hit a couple of stores and saw some beauties. I thought that perhaps a carbon-fibre bike would be lighter to use and I could see me spinning up hills lickety-split. I had done my homework on line and found a “triple” carbon-fibre number, all red and white… seemed rather patriotic to boot. But just so the 40km journey wouldn’t be for nothing, I also found a wonderful black BMC which according to the store’s website was on sale. Now BMCs are Swiss made and I connect mountains with Switzerland….you know, Heidi and all that….so in my head although I didn’t know that make from my CCM childhood, it made good sense that anything made in Switzerland ought to be good climbing hills. In Northumberland County, were I live, there are lots of hills.
It was about two o’clock on a sunny Tuesday, when I pulled into the parking lot at store number one. As it was mid-afternoon, it seemed they should have time for me. After all the lunch time crowd would have returned to their number crunching and the after school group was still day dreaming about their new bikes. I boldly entered the store and started to look around.
“Boy is there a lot to know about bikes”, I thought. What is all this stuff and how much of it am I going to need? I wandered around while an older man, later identified as John, talked in “bike-eez” with customers at the back of store. A younger man, (I’ll just call him “the Kid”) puttered a bit at the sales desk and then donned a bright smile and headed my way.
By that time, I was hanging out in the clothing section. I do know something about clothes, so I was in my comfort zone.
“Can I help you?”, The Kid said. I have to give him credit, he was trying his best but deep in my soul I sensed a resistance to having to serve the lady with the limp and the silvery brown hair. I read his mind. “What could she want in a bike store?”, it said.
Well, it took a while for me to explain about my ankle that doesn’t bend, my arm that I can’t lean on, the fact my feet won’t reach the floor at the same time and a lot of other little details that I wanted him to consider before he recommended a bike to me. If I was going to mortgage everything I owned to get one of these babies, I wanted to make sure it was the right one.
The Kid listened attentively and then said, “ I think I will get John. John knows about fitting bikes.” He wandered off.
I headed for the rack of spiffy looking wheels that had names like Specialized, Cervelo and Trek. As The Kid had pointed out, this will probably be my last bike. I confess I didn’t think the comment was too tactful if he really wanted to make a sale but maybe he saw it as a sales strategy as I was unlikely to buy many more bikes and from his perspective I might as well spend my whole roll in his store. Having turned over the price tag on a Trek, I was still blanching when the Kid and John returned.
“How can I help you?”, John said.
I looked at him and at the bikes and blurted out a short version of my accident history. I told him I was looking for advice and a possible carbon-fibre road bike. I thought that sounded a little informed and with a profit margin large enough to get his attention but he came back with a torrent of words all packed into one sentence that included forks and other pieces of cutlery that were not familiar to me. Since I understood the word fork, I made like I understood the rest and quickly got deeper into committing to something that I did not understand at all.
“We’ll have to find out what size you need.”, he said. “Put this between you legs and let the spring make a tight fit.” I did as I was told. I can’t say what I was thinking. The kid grinned. “You’re a “45”, John bellowed. Who knew?
John sent The Kid upstairs and he promptly returned with two beauties in hand. “They must be light”, I thought. Both were stunning. A shiny black or a raspberry red. Hummm. “This was about not having to redo my entire cycling wardrobe and not about balance and stem lengths and wheel sizes”, I thought. I think I saw their eyes start to glaze over when I commented first on the colour and asked nothing about the type of Shimano gears either of them had.
I left the shop loaded with brochures and options and prices that exceeded that of my first car and dumped it all on the front seat of my aging gold Honda CRV. They were trying to make it simple but they were making it hard. For reasons partially unknown, I just wanted a new light-weight bike that would allow me to get better at this sport despite my limitations and without doing myself grievous harm. And, oh yes, did I mention that this should happen without my having to spend ALL of my savings.
I drove home in a somber mood. I would have to think on this.
The car engine was still hot but I was already at the computer waiting for my dial up connection to operate in real time so that I could visit the TREK website. There the little beauty was. A Mahone 5.2 WSD. Sweet. It could be mine for a mere $4000, give or take.
Several days passed while I contemplated how badly I needed this addition to my stable of transportation options. The garage was already home to a mountain bike circa 1990, a recumbent Green Speed, circa 2003 and a one-year-old Giant road bike. Nonetheless, I spoke with a friend and built what I thought was a compelling case for the purchase of bike number four. Key to my thinking was that the lighter weight would enable me to climb hills faster. My friend listened politely and then turned and with the straightest of faces said, “Have you thought seriously about just losing weight?”
Well, yesterday was a sunny day. I thought about taking a stab at the hills just north of where I live. I had had to walk part of the first incline the last time I had tried to conquer “Everest” on my bike and I thought that a little practice would not hurt. But like many sports activities it is sometimes the hardest thing to just get off the couch.
Today, I got off the couch, and into the car and headed for Peterborough. My friend had seen the current object of my affections – a raspberry-coloured Trek Mahone 5.2 WSD, in a sports store there.
You should know that since my first bike-shopping excursion a couple of weeks ago, I have had a taste of reality in that I have submitted my tax information to my accountant and the jury is still out. I know the actual bike purchase will have to wait until the verdict is in. Do I owe the government or does the government owe me? That is the question. Only one answer leaves room for shopping therapy on a grand scale.
But I told myself as I embarked on my second day of haunting bike shops, that shoes and pedals have got to be cheaper than a whole new bike. Off I went to Peterborough. It was a sunny day when I wandered off the street into the store and directly into my next bicycle related shopping adventure.
At first, no one seemed to notice that I was in need of assistance. After looping the bikes, the accessories, the shoes, the socks, the jerseys, I spied a staff person who smiled brightly. “Oh dear”, I thought, “she knows not what she does.”
“I need help with cycling shoes.” I said.
“I don’t know anything about them.”, she said. “But I will see if Philip can help you. “ “Philip”, she yelled. Philip materialized.
Well, there is no point in boring you with all the details, but two hours, six pairs of shoes, three sets of cleats, a trip to the parking lot to put money in the meter, another trip to get my current bike and much tugging and heavy breathing and whalah!, I have shoes with cleats and peddles with clips that I can actually detach from. The first two sets held my feet as if in a vise and not even the clerk felt comfortable about selling them to me. I could tell that he knew he would be responsible for my certain death at the first stop sign.
So all that and here I am out on the open road today with my old bike and my new shoes and “clipless” peddles. It’s tricky these clipless things that hold your feet to your bike in a death grip. Everything seems fine until you try to stop. As I whizzed along, I found myself thinking ahead. “Oh, that ditch looks ok.” “Those weeds are kind of cushy.” “Good, the poison ivy isn’t up yet!”
Before my next trip, I must tell my biking buddy that I am not being rude when I don’t stop to help her with her flat tire or to share a rest break. She needs to know that if I could get my shoes out of the clips, I would! I may just have to keep on riding like a biking clone of Forest Gump. Remember, he just kept running and running. I may never get back to the bike store. I may never get my Raspberry Mahone. But I do have pretty spiffy “clipless” pedals and matching black paten shoes!