Everything arrived a lot sooner than I thought it would do and so I found myself with everything I needed a week sooner than I had planned. It had been a enjoyable busy weekend, and the weather was pretty bad, but what’s the point in buying these things if you have to wait around for the perfect time. On a rainy Sunday afternoon I purchased a pedal spanner (why didn’t I include one in the original order?!) and set to work.
The current pedals were pretty tight and I was glad I have the pedal spanner and didn’t just try to use existing tools which would only half fit. I can see why people swear and take off half their hand when getting pedals off! Seeing as the bike is just under a year old, it was tough. Undoing the righthand side for hard but fine, undoing the lefthand side and going clockwise to undone, it just is not right! They came off and the new pedals I put on with some anti-seizing stuff which was last used when fitting brakes on the Trabant a good 10+ years ago – good job I kept the half used tube.
I did a bit of research before I bought the pedals and shoes, I had a couple of requirements that had to be met:
- price, nothing too cheap (and so possibly nasty) and nothing expensive.
- shoes, they had to be wearable off the bike, no one likes tap dancing at work.
The pedals were to be Shimano M520 which seemed to be entry level and had good reviews on Amazon. I wanted double sided as there is nothing worse than playing with your feet and pedals when you are trying to pull off. The shoes were to be Shimano MT33 which again seems to be entry/low end level but looked like normal trainers. The reviews were good too, suggesting many had worn them all day at work and no-one noticed, that was a big thing for me. Not only for work but in general it can be no fun walking around like a tap dancer when you are off your bike, and you don’t want to have to take spare shoes with you when packing for a long ride and/or a number of days.
Amazon order placed, crazy way off delivery days suggested, in the end the goods arrived within a day which was pretty good. An initial worry that I had ordered a size too big (I never really know my shoe size), they looked very long. They fit pretty snuggly though, although not being used to wearing trainers they did feel a bit strange. People around me too stared slightly, seeing me in trainers for the first time in 20 years or so instead of boots.
I wanted to see just how good they were off the bike first and so spent a day wearing them while on a long shopping trip. The trip was long, we went round many shops, many times. No-one noticed they were cycling shoes (or as least they didn’t let on) and at the end of it, while my feet were pretty worn out, a lot of that was down to the many miles around shops rather than the shoes. Mind you, nothing as near as comfy as my normal Doc Martin boots would had been on the same trip.
It was a pretty busy weekend and so I didn’t get much further until Sunday afternoon. I pondered about it for a while as the day had so far been a mixture of rain and more rain. If I was to fit my new pedals then I would want to try them out, would I want to do it in the wet? I decided I would, and in the dark too by the time would have time to try it out for real.
Shoes and pedals ready, I get it all a bit of a little test while the bike was stationary, and in the dry warm kitchen. I had no idea of how to use such pedals, all I know is when on rides you hear a lot of clicking and scrambling about until everyone shoots off. So I dangled my shoes near the pedal, heard a lot of scrambling and finally noticed that where I moved my feet, the pedals followed. It seemed easy. Infact, I had problems with keeping it all connected together and so I tightening the pedals up a bit. Maybe all a bit premature.
It was still raining but I had to give it a go on the road. I thought I had it sussed, a couple of times up and down the road it seemed easy to disconnect, but at the same time I was still getting disconnected quite often. It didn’t seem too ride. I ventured off a bit further down the road and up to a, fortunately quiet, junction. I went to put my feet down and it would not disconnect, fortunately my other foot did, I was saved. Saved for only a minute or two though, as I battled trying to get my foot disconnected I lost my balance and toppled over. YouTube is made for such occasions, fortunately no one with a video camera was there, no-one even noticed, I hope. My foot though did then become disconnected. I was saved but I had the feeling a slightly different technique would need to be acquired before I hit the road for proper.
I decided my newly found “going round the block” route of up over Bostal hill would be the route (having done this route again, I’m not so sure just how long it will remain my chosen route!) with the thinking that if I had not mastered these after 13 miles then I never would. It was dark by now, although the rain had stopped. I ventured off down the road, starting and stopping a number of times but never fully convinced. It was then I heard and felt “the click” as I put my foot down and relised that all the previous times I had never really been properly connected! I did a number of small lengths, stopping near walls just in case, adjusting the pedals (untightening from earlier). I got slightly more familiar with it all and instead of stopping I would just disconnect while going along until I felt comfortable that by the time I got to the end of the road I would be able to put my feet down. The junction at the end of the road came, and I stopped, and I put my feet down.
The rest of the ride I had no further pedal problems and it was a bit like, well, riding a bike, once I had got the hang of it. The route was dark and even though I had two bright lights there did little to illuminate the dark country roads especially when going through the trees. It meant I couldn’t really go as fast in places as I lighted (I was aware of the wet leaves on the road too) but it made an interesting ride, a familiar route in the nighttime becomes a different journey. I noticed how going uphill I could use the up stroke as well as the down. I had tried to do this all along but it must be quite a knack to get the full efficiency when using these, something of which there is a science about and huge amount of time and training to get the most out of it. Nothing to worry about for what I need. I could see how you could get quite a lot of extra short term power when going up hill, you really did feel like part of the bike (a sort of cyborg!) and can imagine on an ultra light bike it must feel much like running rather than riding something.
The pedals didn’t help on the 17% up hill, I was just as slow as normal and had to have a brief stop half way for a couple of seconds. It did seem less of a slog though. On the flat and going downhill it felt quite good just cruising along at quite a speed and feeling (mostly in un-used muscle pain!) being able to pedal up as well as down. Of course, with it being pitch black, I couldn’t really make full use of the downhill which was a pity.
By the time I got home, 13 miles later, it was all like second nature. I don’t know if they will change my life, maybe longer rides are needed. I get a better feeling of the bike and it seems that if you need extra power at any point you can suddenly zoom off. I can imagine in the wet it is very much welcome, no more feet sliding off the pedal at bad moments . Mostly though, the feeling of connection on your feet it gives you a lot more confidence and feelings like you can control the bike much more rather than just being a person sitting on top of it. I am sure too on the next long distance ride, the feeling of cruising at a comfortable speed, not worrying about anything but just turning your pedals, will all make for a better ride and must be more efficient too.