Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pondering platforms

Date: April 13
Mileage: 36.3
April mileage: 462
Temperature upon departure: 39

Ever since I removed the Look pedals from my road bike to accommodate my obnoxiously big overboots, I feel like I have finally been set free. I don't have clipless pedals on my snow bike. I don't have them on my mountain bike. And now that I am officially clipless free, I'm free to do anything I want - wear an obnoxiously big overboot over comfortable running shoes and/or sandals, place my foot anywhere that suits me, and pedal down the road.

I admit that I never became all that attached to my clipless pedals. I just didn't understand them. In most long-distance riding, emphasis is placed on relieving your pressure points. Use lots of different hand positions. Stand up and sit down in the saddle. And yet, people feel perfectly comfortable having their foot locked in one small place for hours at a time. I don't. Sometimes I ride with my heel resting on the platform. Sometimes I push down with my toes. Sometimes I even ride the proper way. The truth is, I move my feet all over the pedals, usually intentionally, as a way to relieve knee pain and foot numbness and generally just mix it up.

I won't even go into how much I hate cycling shoes. Yes, I know they make shoes that you can technically walk in. But those shoes are made by cycling companies, who don't seem to understand the first thing about walking. Their shoes start out uncomfortable and quickly deteriorate to shreds while the cleats are ground down to useless nubbins.

Then, what do you do if the pedals, heaven forbid, get unworkably clogged with mud or ice? Really, what do you do?

But the truth is, I've been thinking about converting my mountain bike to clipless for all the bikepacking I'm going to be doing this summer. I'll give clipless advocates the truths they hold dear - that clipless pedals do give the rider a power advantage (I happen to believe it's pretty marginal, at least it my case.) And, in extreme technical mountain biking, where accidentally slipping off the pedals at an inopportune moment could send a rider headlong off a cliff, clipless pedals can save lives (I've never come close to attempting this kind of extreme technical riding.) Still, while I'm willing to accept the advantages of attaching myself to a bike, I'm having a hard time overcoming the disadvantages.

How can I get the power advantage of clipless pedals while still maintaining my ability to relieve joint pressure by moving my foot around? I know they make platform/clipless hybrids, but those seem pretty spotty to me. And what about those horrible shoes? I don't simply want shoes that will work for walking in and out of stores. I want shoes that I can use to hike across the Grand Canyon, 25 miles with 7,000 feet of climbing, carrying a bike and gear on my back. I'm not saying I'm actually going to do this ... but I wouldn't mind having shoes that could handle it.

I really believe that platform pedals with Power Grips are the answer for me. Am I crazy?

Are there any other former platform pedal die-hards who managed to make the conversion and never looked back? I'm open to suggestions.