part 5. Bicycle Touring for Beginners- Covering your feet-bicycle engine interface, A.K.A. Pedals.

So many different options to choose from, this will take some time and research on your part, as with anything, you can do it on the road or before you go.

Clip in carbon fiber, recessed clip in off road, foot straps, Christopher Toe clips, metal pedals, plastic pedals, heavy duty, clip in pedals that accommodate regular shoes, regular shoes that accommodate clip in pedals, flip flops…  Where to even begin!

O.K., No matter what people will tell you, you do not NEED anything special for this ride, I do not care what anyone tells you because I have been on the road for over two years by the time this sees the light of day, and I do not say that to expose my naïve braggadocio, but to hopefully lend credence to the fact that I have met many many riders who have been on the road for ages more than I and have seen it all, literally.  So relax, you only have a bike and flip flops and 5 bucks, well brother, I am here to tell you that you have all you need to sally forth and make your dreams come true!  Believe it!

Now, if you want maximum efficiency from each and every pedal stroke, you will want to be clipped in, this allows you to maintain a constant and steady force on the down turn and upswing of the pedal, but you are seriously connected.  It is this connection, as with all things, that is the best and the worst, for while technology is getting so much better, you are still very connected, i.e., if you take a spill, you could go down very hard and not be able to get out in time.  This is one of the problems I found with my straps, which are thick Velcro straps that come across the top of your foot and try to give that same up stroke power you get from clip ins without having the special shoes.  They are effective, BUT, depending on where you are riding, it may be more beneficial to be able to get out quickly than squeeze every drop of power from your riding.xtr-spd-mountain-bike-pedals-clip-in

Toe clips, which are the cages that come off the front of the pedal and help give you a little more oomph as it were in the downward stroke, and if you get certain cages, they can have a double strap that will in effect act much like the thick straps that I used and will in turn give you the basic effect of a clip in.  No matter what you choose from those three options, you must know that you will not be able to get out as quickly as if you had nothing.  The quickest exit is between the straps and the clip ins, the toe clips for me would be the last option, again, this is MY viewpoint, you may feel entirely different, and that’s great, makes the world go round.  Best is to try out the different kinds prior to departure.  Easy!

If you go clip in, you will have to decide what kind of clip in you want, which will in turn help you decide how much you want to carry.  If you go traditional clip in, you will have shoes that make you walk funny and are basically not to be used for walking as it is bad for your body and worse for the shoe and mechanism.  They are for riding.  This helps you decide how much you are carrying because choosing this as your shoe means you will have to have at least one other pair of shoes.  So immediately you have added to your overall weight.  Not a problem or anything, just a reminder, everything will be carried by you.

Here is a comparison between the “out there” and the “recessed” clip in cleat compare

Next you will have the more 007 style which is both clip in and yet it is a recessed clip, so you can walk comfortable and some models will allow you to hike.

You have to choose a clip for those clip ins, some are just a peg and heavy duty springs, others are a clip mechanism and small pedal should you want to just cruise around on the off egg beater style clip in pedaldays in your flippy floppies.shimano-clip-in-pedal-pd-m545-mtb-spd-medium-flippy floppy pedals!

Usually clip-ins will be for more hard core riding, as a super basic rule of thumb, clipping in means more speed and power.

If you go regular pedals, that’s pretty straight forward.  One thing to be aware of if you get metal pedals with big teeth is the snake bite syndrome, that is, as yet, an undefined set of parameters which allows for the metal petal to be spun backwards at a mind boggling force and smash directly into the most sensitive part of the shin usually resulting in small drops of blood and a feeling of vomiting and diarrhea at the same time, tears will spring out of your eyes and you will silently weep… know that the Gods will weep with you as it is that painful.  Big pedals, smaller pedals, whatever you choose, make sure you ride with the ball of your foot, otherwise you run the risk of weakening if not collapsing the arch.  No bueno.

I have ridden in flip flops, winter boots, sandals, sneakers, 5 toe ninja shoes, you name it, there is no one particular recommendation.  I do, of course, have some tips.

If you wear flip flops or sandals and are in a sunny area, beware the sunburn, your tootsies are right out there and sunburn is generally bad.  Avoid sunburn always while you are a living human being, once dead, no worries.,. for your feet a trick I use is to coat them in dirt.  Its very cheap and works great.  I know as I am currently riding in the desert and until a dog who goes by the name “Canada” stole one of my sandals, I was using this method and never burned.  Of course you can also use sunscreen, just try and go for a natural one as the ones with the funky chemical names usually, if you look up those chemicals, they cause cancer, go figure right. C’est la Vie…

Another problem with wearing sandals or flip-flops is sweaty yuck foot .  This is when your foot sweats and it mixes with the dirt which is inherent in riding long distances on paved and unpaved surfaces.  It is not dangerous, though it can become very uncomfortable and that, in and of it self is worth avoiding, you will have plenty of other uncomfortable situations to not have to deal with this one.  It’s like a mosquito problem, very small, and yet, you will always be reminded of it.

If you are into minimalist footwear, perhaps take along a regular pair of shoes as well.  I have noticed pain in my pinky toe and overall increased foot soreness as a result of wearing my vibrams.

If you go the clip route and are going for a long distance, know some basic fixes for your clips, after all, if the break, you’re stuck!

Now, all that’s left is for you to figure out what kind of shoe, pedal combination you want and start practicing.