Flat earth theory

January 11, 2018 Comments Off on Flat earth theory

My wife rides a road bike with flat pedals. It’s interesting to watch how people react to that. Rather, it’s interesting how reactions are so uniform.

“You need clipless pedals.”

“Why don’t you get some riding shoes?”

“You are losing so much power.”

“When are you going to ditch those flat pedals?”

“You’ll go so much faster with clip-in!”

And etc.

Most of the people who see fit to comment on her sad state of pedal affairs know that we are married and that I ride a bike a lot, so it’s kind of curious that they don’t run that through their filter, like this: “She’s got flat pedals, but she’s married to Seth so she probably knows about clip-in pedals, so there’s probably a reason …”

But no.

The reaction is uniform and knee-jerk: “Are you going to get clip-in pedals tomorrow? Or today?”

I wondered why people care which pedals she uses. The ostensible reason is that she will pedal more efficiently and therefore go faster. But that’s a bad explanation; the last thing that a new cyclist should do is go faster. New cyclists should go slower and learn to control the bike at lower speeds. Physics aren’t linear when you fall off your bike. Incremental increases of one or two mph result in much greater force when you fall off, and therefore greater injury. Telling beginners they need to go faster is like telling new drivers they need to go faster. Huh?

And from a psychological perspective, why would you want someone to go faster anyway? Doesn’t that mean they will beat you? You should want them on the worst equipment possible, in fact, eating nothing but peanut butter and ice cream five times a day.

The biggest reason people want you on clip-in pedals, I think, is because without clip-ins, you look like a Fred. This means two things: If you’re riding with me, and you’re a Fred, then I’m a Fred, too. Or it means that riding with you reminds me of when I was a Fred, and it’s a lot more comfortable to think I was born knowing how to drape myself coolly over a 100% carbon bike that is all carbon and made of pure carbon rather than to remember that, yeah, I used to not know anything, either, and I looked like it.

And of course in road cycling there’s the fashion element, where people instinctively shun those who are clearly unfashionable in an activity where the way you look is oh-so-important.

With regard to safety, everyone should start with flat pedals and most people should never leave them. On a road bike there are too many instances where taking your feet off the pedals will keep you from crashing. Anyone who thinks that you need clip-ins to climb well should have seen Josh Alverson or Stathis Sakellariadis shred the Donut Ride the times they rode it in sneakers.

And a bit of Internet reading confirms that the idea that clip-in pedals somehow yield huge improvements in pedaling power is not true. At best, the differences are negligible. Tellingly, the athlete in the power test confides that he still wants clip-ins because they help him when sprunting for peak power. Not sure that has any meaning at all for 99.999% of all people on bikes.

I’ve used both, but prefer clip-ins for a very particular reason.

And I’m not telling why. At least not today.

END

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It’s hip to be flat

August 5, 2015 § 43 Comments

flat_pedals

One thing I realized pedaling on heavy bikes across Germany is that nothing beats flat pedals, so I put them on my $75,000 racing bike and they go super awesome with my new Ceramic Speed bearings from FastForward. The pedals are made of plastic, which is pre-carbon, and they are 100% pre-carbon, made completely of pre-carbon.

You probably think I’m joking, but ask Toronto and Hollywood and Ronan’s hockey coach, who all saw me out running errands on Monday afternoon, all fredded out with my walking shorts and regular shoes and flat pedals and backpack, which was filled with two onions, a bag of celery, a bag of carrots, and a whole chicken because I was making chicken soup for dinner.

But I’m not joking, and if you want to turn your $75,000 full-carbon race machine into something that is:

  1. Fun.
  2. Useful.
  3. Easy to ride.

… then we are talking about a $10 upgrade, unless you want to get really fancy and buy high-performance flat pedals for $20 bucks or so. High-performance onion/celery/carrot/chicken carrying is the next big thing.

I’m really not joking.

How many times have you thought, “Fuck, I’d like to hop on my bike and get a quart of milk and some condoms,” but then you’ve immediately thought, “Fuck, I have to wear cleats, and then carry flip-flops, and then switch back and forth from cleats to flip-flops at the milk store and again at the condom store, ahh, fuck it,” and then you got in your car and spent $2.79 in gas and ruined part of the Amazon to drive down to the corner when you could have saved Mother Earth and been part of the solution not the problem all because of those sorry clip-in pedals.

Nope, I’m dead serious, clip-in pedals suck and they always have. What they are, is an improvement over the old toe straps where you had to coast, wobbling, while bending over to fiddle with a leather strap as you struggled to steer around a pothole and brake in time not to shoot out into the intersection and wet yourself or break your humerus in three places. Clip-ins were a big improvement over that shit.

Also, clip-ins made you faster, not because of some stupid circular pedaling mumbo-jumbo or pulling up on the back stroke, but because they chained you to the beast and allowed you to transfer more force to the pedal while allowing you to hold onto the bike in a vise-grip fear of death, further increasing the power transfer.

Otherwise, clip-in pedals suck huge donkey pustules because they discourage you from using your bike to, you know, do useful shit like riding to the bike shop to buy more bike stuff to make your bike even more useful for running errands like riding to the bike shop.

For example, once you get flat pedals you can buy a pair of these pants on one of your trips to the bike shop to get more bike stuff to enhance the usefulness of riding your bike, and yes, I’ve already ordered a pair and am saving up for the mountaineering thingy key chain and the fancy brickwork.

knickers

Clip-ins are also hell and ruination for new riders. We’ve all been there. Some friend/S-O/sucker gets interested in bikes, or more likely, gets guilted into it by you, saves up $75,000, and asks you for help at the LBS in getting set up. You go to the bike shop together, in a car of course. “Gotta have Campy 19-speed, full carbon.”

“Okay.”

“Gotta have a Giant full carbon aero frame made of 100% carbon.”

“Check.”

“Gotta get tricked out in a StageOne carbon summer kit with bibs, fall kit with windbreaker and vest, and winter kit with long-sleeve insulated jersey and matching leg warmers.”

“Done.”

“Can’t walk out of here without three cases of artisanal electrolyte replacement drink mix.”

“Roger.”

“And you need these shoes. They are full carbon.”

“Why do I need the shoes? I already have shoes.”

“To fit onto your pedals. They are full carbon, too.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The pedals are like ski bindings. They lock your foot to the pedal.”

“So I’m locked onto the bike?”

“Basically.”

“What happens when I need to get out of the pedals?”

“You twist hard.”

“What happens if I can’t do it fast enough? You know, like at a stop sign?”

“You crash. But you’ll learn quicker that way.”

“So I have to crash my $75,000 bike in order to ride it?”

“Pretty much. Until you learn how to use the pedals.”

“How long does that take?”

“Depends. Some people get the hang of it in a few weeks, others take longer.”

“How much longer?”

“Oh, some people never get it down.”

“And all the while they’re crashing because they can’t take their foot off the pedal?”

“Something like that.”

“Well fuck that.”

And then the friend/S-O/sucker walks out of the bike shop with all the purchases still on the counter and takes up hot bikram crossfit golf.

Even worse are the thousands who buy the bike and pedals, fall over a few times, and never ride again. And remind me what the purpose of the pedals was for these BEGINNER BIKERS? So they can ride faster? Faster than what, a mailbox? I recall my old girlfriend from college who hated bicycles and couldn’t really ride one, so I badgered her into getting a $275 Nishiki with toe clips and straps. On her maiden voyage down the block she tumped over, feet strapped into the clips, whammed her head, got a concussion and had a short seizure. Welcome to cycling and the excitement of being tied to your bike! She never rode again, of course.

See you on the road. Hope you like my knickers.

END

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