Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Clipless pedals hate me

Elden recently lent me a super-posh pair of Sidi cycling shoes to test out and determine whether or not I'm as inept on clipless pedals as I claim to be. I was skeptical, but one doesn't borrow a $300 pair of shoes and not at least try to fall in love with them. I bought a used pair of Time pedals in Hurricane, but decided to keep my platforms on through that trip because the riding there is hard and my knees and one elbow were already scarred.

When I finally set to removing my old platforms, I could not get them to budge. Rusted to the crank arm they were. My dad, armed with a fat crescent wrench, a hammer and a piece of lumber wedged against the crank, could not remove them. I eventually took the bike to Canyon Bicycles, where a pro with a big long pedal wrench failed on his first tries. I was certain I was looking at buying a new crank. But the mechanic took the bike to the back of the shop, and 20 minutes later came out with two fairly bent pedals and a stern lecture about the importance of greasing the threads (believe me, they were greased at one point, long before 16" of October rainfall followed by a freeze-thaw winter followed by a high-mileage spring in the dirt.)

Anyway, the Time pedals went on and I set out to take my maiden voyage on the trails around Herriman. Reaching those trails involves a 15-mile approach on pavement with a lot of stop lights thrown in. I had a beast of a time trying to click into those pedals. I'd position my foot and push and reposition my foot and push again and again, but nothing would happen. When I finally did get my foot clipped in, I'd race and race just to make a green light, but I rarely did. Then the slow-moving battle would commence, again.

Finally at gravel, I hit the steep stuff quick and stalled out a couple of times when my rear wheel ran into too-large-to-summit rocks. One time my foot made it down. Another, it didn't. I laid for a minute in the dust, knee bashed and bleeding, hands pin cushioned with thorns and sharp little bits of gravel, actually laughing out loud because I was so angry and amused at myself at the same time. Why am I such a perpetual beginner? Why can't I get better at the one hobby I love the most? Why can't the whole world be covered in snow?

I raced some roadies back to Draper, with a stream of dried blood still clinging to my leg. I kept up with them for a while. I really wanted to pass them, on my steel mountain bike with a big backpack and a T-shirt and all kinds of things hanging off my handlebars. But then I remembered that I was wearing $300 shoes, and I didn't feel so smug. I didn't pass them, anyway. They reached a slight downhill and dropped me.

Finally at home, I bent down to take the shoes off, and couldn't loosen the strap. It's set up like a snowboard binding, with the lever that clicks to tighten it. Everything I did only seemed to make it tighter. After about five minutes I just sat down and wrestled the tight shoes off my feet, reasoning that I'd figure out how to loosen the strap when I hadn't just returned home from racing roadies and my head was more lucid.

Later that evening, I was sitting in the living room with my entire family - my two sisters and my parents - and solicited their help. Everyone passed around the shoe and played with it for five minutes while we talked. No one could figure it out. We gave up for a while, but eventually everyone went back to it, twisting and clicking and passing it on like a Rubix Cube, intrigued by the sheer puzzle of it all. "It's just a shoe," I said. "A brand new expensive shoe. It has to be something I did." I said that I was going to have to call Elden, and he was going to laugh at me and probably pen a hilarious paragraph about it on his blog. "You tell him that three people with bachelor's degrees, one with an associates and one who's a semester away from a bachelor's couldn't figure it out," my dad said. Eventually my mom cheated and consulted Google, but that yielded little useful information. Finally, a light lit up in my sister Lisa's eyes and she grabbed the shoe, pressed down on the little red buckle that we had all but pounded with a hammer, and slid the strap out. Easy as that.

Somewhere down the line, this has to all be worth it. I just can't imagine how.