clipless shoe and pedals

Blame it on calf envy.

Dazzled by the legions of clipless bike commuters (and their sinewy calves) swarming past as I pedaled my commuter bike in slo-mo, I impulsively made the leap:  From flat pedals with toe cages (aka “clipped”) to their clipless cousins.

Newly attached to my burly green steed via Sidi Duran bike shoes and Crank Brothers Smarty pedals, I cycled up to a quiet intersection and bam, it hit. Make that I hit—the ground.

Forgetting to rotate my ankle to disengage the bike cleat, I tipped sl-o-o-o-wly to the right, thumping onto a mossy parking strip.

At least it was a soft landing.

Lesson learned: Practice the ankle rotation move before venturing out in public.

With national bike month wrapping up, you too might be pondering the eternal question— To clip or not to clip?

It’s Nikwax to the rescue with a few insights from both sides of the clipless conundrum:

Con: The learning curve. As I learned, the newly clipless need to develop muscle memory for that ankle-rotating, disengaging motion. Try practicing in a grassy field somewhere quiet. Like Iowa.

Pro: You’ve got the power. And efficiency. And control. With cleats, you’ll automatically pull up on the pedal rather than just mashing it down. Watch with amazement as your pedal stroke smooths from a jerky, lop-sided egg shape to a nice round circle.

Con: You can’t just hop on your bike with regular shoes any more.

Pro: Oh yes you can. Check out Shimano’s double-agent pedals. One side has cleats for longer rides; flip it over for a plain old platform when you just want to cruise the neighborhood.

Plus, there are more bike footwear choices than ever. Want to go incognito? Try Keen’s cycling shoes that masquerade as regular-joe sandals.

Con: The intimidation factor. Many cyclists resist clipless pedals because of fears that they won’t disengage in a collision.

Pro: You can adjust your cleats to change the release angle. And, as illustrated in my (gentle) fall from grace, they really do release in the event of an accident.

Con: Bike shoes cost more money.

Pro: Not necessarily. Prolong the life of your bike shoe investment with Nikwax Waterproofing Wax for Leather.

Wherever you land on the clipless vs. clipped debate, we know this much for sure: Biking is one of the very best things you can do for your community—and your calves.

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