Saturday, January 20, 2007

Cycling With Platform Pedals and Ordinary Shoes

Certain things in the cycling world seem to invoke extremely strong responses in many people. Helmets, bike lanes, Campy vs. Shimano, and fixed gears all have been known to split riders into opposing camps. But if you want some really spirited discussion, start talking about pedals.

In the years I've been riding, I've ridden various kinds of pedals. Like most kids, I started riding with simple platform pedals and whatever shoes I happened to have. As I grew up, I learned more about how "serious" riders rode. I raced in the days of nail-on cleats and toe clips and later tried various clipless pedals. I do like being able to pull up on the backstroke and feel more secure when attached to the pedals but ultimately found I was more happy with Power Grips than clipless pedals. I explained my logic behind this choice here:

The recent snow and ice here was enough to make even pedestrian propulsion something that required extreme levels of vigilance and this inspired me to get a new pair of some very tready shoes. My new Keen Targhees work great for hiking the trails of Tiger Mountain and the slick sidewalks of Seattle but the very tread that makes them great for hiking keeps them from sliding easily into my Power Grip pedals. I could just use my usual Shimano touring shoes for riding and reserve the Keens for hiking, but I wanted to try riding with the Keens, so I dug a pair of big old mountain bike pedals out of my junk pile and slapped them on my bike.

Friday was the test commute. It felt a little weird but the grippy shoes and grippy pedals made it easy to keep my feet just where I wanted them to be. Mostly I wanted my feet to be on the pedals, but on the super slick section of the Bellevue Slough ice-field, I could deploy one foot as an outrigger. My feet didn't lift off the pedals on the backstroke but it did feel a little different. My commute times in winter are never fast but this different choice of pedals and shoes didn't seem to add any time penalty.

But my cycling colleagues are appalled. With the Power Grips I was merely eccentric, but with no obvious foot retention, I seem to have crossed the line into the land of the whacko. I'm turning my back on some obvious efficiency and somehow that strikes some folks as being really, really wrong.

I do think that foot retention does add some efficiency but I don't know that it's always needed. For some instances, like winter or a bike that you just are hopping on to go to the store or work, do you need to have your feet strapped in? I don't know what the answer is for you and I'm not sure that I even know what the right answer is for me. For now, I think I'll keep experimenting with the big pedals and grippy shoes, but I think I'll probably switch back to my Power Grips and Shimano shoes in the spring. My Shimano shoes are also pretty "normal" walkable shoes.

Both Jill and Doug are people who ride through weather that most folks only watch from the comfort of their warm homes and they use platform pedals. Over at Cyclelicious the questioning of the clipless faith has prompted a discussion of the virtues of clipless pedals. And the saga continues...

Keep 'em rolling folks, whatever you've got on your feet. There are lots of ways to turn those pedals.



Anonymous said...

I did the same thing to my Peugeot ATB this week when it snowed in Portland. Off came the platform pedals with toeclips and straps; on went my BMX flat pedals wth replaceable "spikes". I wore my hiking shoes and had no trouble keep my feet exactly where I wanted them to be, and when I need to "dab" with one foot or the other it was easy as pie.
Flat pedals and flat-soled shoes are a great alternative and I usually have them on at least one of my bikes during the wettest (snowiest!) part of the winter.

Yokota Fritz said...

Lots of Canadian and New England icebikers swear by wool socks, sealskins, and SPD sandals, believe it or not.

Don't tell anybody, but my deep snow bicycle is an old mountain bike equipped with studded tires and *shhhhh* PowerGrip-equipped platforms. I plan a follow-up post about the virtues of flat pedals in the near future.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fan of the flat/slightly concave bmx-style pedals Beth mentions. I've been commuting with them for a couple years and they seem to make my knees very happy. Happy knees = more miles. Also, I'm more likelu to do any given errand by bike if I don't need to change shoes to do it.

Anonymous said...

Most of my 20-mile commute is on multi-use paths, and there is a seemingly endless supply of folks walking dogs. Our local laws require the dogs to be on leashes, and the common leash is a sort of rope-and-pulley arrangement that allows the dog a great deal of freedom - which they exercise by darting across the bike path when I'm almost on top of them, pulling the leash tight and blocking the entire path.

Since I have difficulty walking and chewing gum at the same time, anything but platform pedals in these riding conditions would cause me to choose between laying the bike down or wrapping leash, dog, and owner around me, then laying the bike down.

BTW, I don't ride in winter. I can't deal with 20 miles of 8 degree weather.

Anonymous said...

Kent, I have power grips on my fixed gear, and I was able to adjust the straps to fit my Keens. They work great though now they would be too open for other, slimmer shoes.

i've been using Keen shoes and un-adorned MKS touring pedals on my new Kogswell. I keep waiting for some moment that says I need to add power grips or toe clips, or revert to clipless/cleats. It hasn't happened yet. I have gone on windy, hilly 40-mile rides with no noticeable trouble. And I very much enjoy being able to wear just one pair of shoes for both walking and riding.

I have fussy feet, too, and they are much happier after a long ride in comfy shoes than they ever were in my Sidis. This is a much-appreciated bonus.

It does feel a little weird to go on a several-hour, 40-mile bike ride in normal walking shoes! But it works, and feels, just fine. And, of course, for just getting around town, or going to church, or to a workplace, it can't be beat.

Anonymous said...

Some years ago, I convinced myself that platforms where just as good for riding long distances and hills as clipless, but now I am back to clipless and completely convinced that the exact opposite is true. Powergrips ... I know you love them but feh! I can't stand them. There is no accounting for some people's taste. :-)

Anyway, lately, I have settled on the Nashbar Rodeo pedal which has the platform on one side and SPD on the other. Trips to the store, winter riding with big boots, etc, I use the platform side. SPD for the rest of the time.

Anonymous said...

I started out with flat pedals as a kid in the 70's. I made the progression to pedals with toeclips and straps. Next came cleated shoes. Then on to early clipless road pedals. Tiring of walking like a duck and ruining my cleat bottoms, I adopted the early mountain bike clipless pedals. I liked the recessed cleats and secure feeling. I continued to buy them as the newer and better ones came out. I assumed this was the end, but it was not.
For 6 months I lived in England. I only had one bike to ride. Everything there was very expensive and the one bike I bought had flat pedals. I rode that bike all the time with just tennis shoes and the flat pedals on the road and off. I did fine. One of the guys I worked with did not own a car. He rode his bike everywhere, including taking his kids to school. He also just used normal pedals.
When I got back to the states I went back to clipless on my bikes. I noticed an increase in knee pain. When I rode with normal pedals I was able to move my foot around and alleviate the pain. I now have most of my bikes set up with normal pedals, including my fixed gear. The key for me is to have nice grippy pedals with a large platform. People always think that I can't or haven't used clipless pedals, but I just choose not to. Different strokes and all.

Anonymous said...

Kent ...

Man is it refreshing to see others out there using Platform pedals for solid, personal reasoning and not blind following. I use Power Grips and Adidas Sambas on my Redline 925 and love 'em. But on my Monocog I use BMX platforms and Five Ten Impact shoes. The shoes grip the pedals like glue and I rarely slip, even on bumpy climbs. On my third bike, a kinda hybrid single speed with drop bars, I use MKS RMX from Rivendell without retention. And on all three bikes, I routinely, ride 25-35 miles on an outing without any issues or perceived loss of performance … I can live with 80% … I ain’t in a race.

As usual, it ends up being personal preference and I admit I’ve never used clipless or have a great desire to do so. For the casual rider like me, platforms with or without power grips are just the ticket.

Chris Autterson / Novi, MI

Anonymous said...

I think about pedals all the time, and I love the ones on your bike! I first saw them in New Orleans and knew I had to have a pair. They're now on my ATB single-speed. My two fixies both have platforms, though every so often I screw on my M520s and realize a new level of efficiency. I also realize I need special shoes and the need to clip and unclip in an urban environment. Bah!

Sam said...

i used clipless pedals, crank brothers and they worked great but for jumping thats a bad idea so i switched to platform pedals. After riding my ss up a lot of hills the arch of my foot started to hurt and im going to buy a bike shoe without clips on it because it has a stiff bottom. I think that being attached to the bike is only neccesary if your a serious racer.

Lou said...

Nice pedals, but those in the picture are not platform pedals. But, that is ok, because a lot of people confuse platform with plain pedals.

Anonymous said...

If you are pretending you are Lance Armstrong, the clipless pedals are a must have. Otherwise, quit fooling yourself.

vans shoes said...

I used Keen shoes and vans shoes and UN-dressed MKS touring pedals on my new Kogswell. Still waiting for a moment that says I need to add the PTO or footrests, or returning to automatic / cleats, well this has not happened yet.