As you evolve in bicycle touring or even bicycle riding in general, you may be told that if you really want to improve your biking, you should ride clipped in to your bicycle pedals. That means you need to buy a separate pair of shoes with cleats made for special pedals. Once clipped in, you are one with your bike. With every push and pull of the pedals, you propel your bike forward. Many swear by the efficiency of being clipped in, especially when climbing uphill and spinning to their legs’ delight.
I, myself, and also my good friends Russ & Laura of Path Less Pedaled, do not ride clipped in. We are platform jockeys. Based on a previous blog post (thanks to Amoxeh for pointing it out in the comments) Laura had convinced Russ to abandon clipped in riding. Russ eventually “saw the light” and is now happily blazing trails without specialized shoes.
Need more proof? This video explains how riding on platform pedals does not mean it is less efficient.
Here are my 4 reasons why I use platform pedals on a tour.
1. Ankle Soreness
In 2010 and 2011, I rode for the Arthritis Foundation for a week-long bicycle ride from San Francisco to Santa Monica on my road bike. On both occasions, I rode clipped in. After the first 2 days, my right ankle started to get sore. Then I realized that the constant clipping in and unclipping, had tweaked my right ankle. I normally stand with my right leg when I am stationary on my bike. I then made the conscious effort to clip out with the left foot for the remainder of the trip. It felt awkward, but helped ease the soreness. I did the same thing in 2011 when I completely forgot about the ordeal from the year before. This was never an issue when I was riding around my local trails in Los Angeles. Of course, I don’t stop as often.
2. Uncomfortable to Walk
On my first bike tour to Cachuma Lake and back, we had to ride up Refugio Road, which is an unpaved road that took you over a nice climb and dropped you off onto the 101 highway near Solvang. I was riding my Xtracycle with thin road tires in wet muddy conditions. The mud was caked up on the bike in between fenders and tires. At the time, it was impossible to ride, therefore, I had to get off and push the bike. At the end of the trek, my shoes were caked with mud and walking for an extended period of time while pushing my bike was very uncomfortable. Now, I wear much more comfortable shoes, which allows me to walk pain-free.
3. Stopping Constantly
When I tour at unfamiliar destinations for the first time, I stop frequently to admire the scenery and local attractions. Clipping in and clipping out got pretty old and painful (see reason #1). However, when riding on platform pedals, that’s not an issue. I can get off and on the bike in a pinch.
I also remember that this was one of the reasons why Russ finally decided to ride without attachments. I can certainly see his point as I find myself doing a lot of reaching for the camera in the handlebar bag and planting both feet for a photo-op.
4. Extra Shoes
Consolidation is the name of the game. Consolidating the amount of shoes I need to bring has been a dream. I don’t have to bring riding shoes and casual shoes or even flip-flops. I bring 1 pair of shoe (more on that later) to rule them all!
Less shoes mean less weight. I am always in favor of doing something that improves my life on the road. I shouldn’t need to worry about what is on my feet.
My Pedal Strategy
If you follow my blog, I have mentioned several times that I ride with a pair of Keen sandals. These sandals are the be-all end-all for me as they are waterproof and have grippy soles to allow me to walk in water and wade through streams. When I’m off the bike, I can hike with them. I can shower with them, no problem. I did just that on my trip down the Pacific Coast. When it gets cold, I slip on a pair of wool socks and I’m good. If it’s raining, I use waterproof neoprene socks.
They can get really smelly after weeks of usage – nothing some baking soda can’t fix. Many female friends of mine don’t really like how they look. So maybe they’re not so fashionable, but when I’m on the road, looking good is really not a priority. As long as I am clean and don’t offend others too much, I’m okay.
What do you think? Do you ride clipped in or are you also a platform proponent? Let me know in the comments below.