I went clipless today.
N. installed the new pedals while I was at work. (As my mama would say, I wanted to hug his neck.) Here they are, the lovely and graceful Shimano A530:
"Practice unclipping while stationary a couple of times before you ride," N. messages me. He won't be home when I take the inaugural promenade.
"There's no turning back now!" says my colleague the Great Murphini, while he closes his eyes and completes a Rubik's cube puzzle sitting on another manager's desk.
"Who says I'd want to?" I say. "And you know I'm going to mix that up again as soon as you leave."
So, is clipless riding all it's cracked up to be? Was I an idiot to be riding around in PowerGrips toe straps all this time?
Yes on 1. No on 2.
The first test of efficiency and comfort will come on Sunday's 30-miler. But even just tooling around the neighborhood to practice clipping in and out, it felt good not having a strap across the top of my foot. (First time I have gone looking for stop signs since I was 33, which is when I got my first adult bike. Yeah. The term "late bloomer" was coined for me. I went around the neighborhood then, too, tentative, heart pounding, practicing stopping without falling over. I was in toe clips. Or as I will henceforth call them, incarceration.)
It felt great standing on the pedals without feeling that pressure on the fine upper bones of the foot. And maybe it's placebo effect, but I swear my legs were getting warmed up faster.
I still say PowerGrips are a great option for someone who's just getting used to being on a bike. They'll hold you on and let you get more power. And you'll get used to the heel-swing motion you'll need for getting out of the clips. If you like feeling your foot move around, you may want to stay in them. If you like feeling your toes at all after a long ride, try clipless.
Anyway, it was time to make the transition. The clipless crank-pedal-shoe-foot-leg connection feels natural and easy. I had more trouble clipping in than out, but if I fumble in traffic I can always flip to the platform side until I can focus on the mechanics safely. I don't expect to even be thinking about it this time next week.
The Shimano A530s are sweet for an urban bike. The oval shape is pretty, not at all clunky, and the clip side stayed rotated to the top. The platform side is a little slippery, but I'm sure it'll be fine with sneakers.
Oh, and near-falls? Yeah, when I was stationary and practicing in my driveway. Go figure. My day will come, I'm sure. When it does, you'll hear about it. Heck, I'll even post the road rash pictures. If they involve neighbors standing in my driveway pointing and laughing, even better.
I went clipless today.