Wednesday, April 4, 2012

EPIC FAIL: Power Grips edition

Complain as I may about the whole concept of Going Clipless(tm), I never fell off the bike while just practicing. In fact, I had managed to not fall of the bike at all until I welcomed these straps into my biking life.

Basically, what happened was: I practiced putting the feet in and out of the strap-equipped pedals for a few minutes in the alley, while holding on to the side of the building for support. Then I ventured out onto my shady little neighborhood street with my left foot in the strap and the right foot trying desperately to do the flip-up/slide-in motion - which is apparently more coordination that I can handle. I'm sure I was quite the graceful figure gliding down the street, especially when I gave a yelp and a bit of a wobble as my foot finally made it in the straps. Then I (wisely) decided to practice stopping long before I got to the intersection, and my right foot just would not come out.

Aaaand I fell. The end. It's funny how it happens in slow-ish motion, yet really doesn't afford you much time/opportunity to do anything about the situation. I mean, aside from shout "Timber!" Okay, well really I just kept trying to pull my foot out at different angles. Didn't work. Fortunately, it didn't hurt. Unfortunately, a guy watched the entire performance from across the street. Fortunately, he did not laugh and asked me if I was okay.

So then I got up and tried again. And fell. I returned to the alley so that my embarrassment might be less public. And then I fell again. "Third time's the charm!" I thought, as I climbed back on the bike - and fell again. (Side note: great news, you guys! I learned how to fall on a bike at super slow speeds without getting too hurt! GO TEAM!) Then I gave up, because four times is enough and I needed to get to work. Screw that whole "once more unto the breach, dear friends" jazz - this girl knows when she's beaten.

On my ride home from work last night, I stopped by the bike shop and had them put my old pedals back on. There are no words for the massive relief I felt, riding home on pedals I once again could understand.

I don't get it, Power Grips - how are you so hard to learn? HOW? It's just a strap. I have been defeated by a STRAP, for godsakes. Well, and the whole thing where you have to flip the pedal and slide the foot in, that's hard. You might as well ask me to do origami with my toes, sheesh.

Right so, I still have them. I didn't bother to try to return them at the shop last night because it was cold and I just wanted to get home. (I think they'll let me return them, but if you are a biking type and interested in trying them, I'd be happy to loan them out.) Now I will dedicate myself to trying harder with the clipless pedals.

So long, Power Grips, it was (not) nice knowing you.


Aaron said...

Ha! Your writing style is hilarious. Self-deprecating + sarcastic = win.

Anyhow, don't get bummed about the clipless/strap endeavor. They don't make any difference except when going really, really fast, and in every other situation, they're annoying. If you don't like your current pedals, try these ( or these (, which have larger grip areas and provide more support. I used the second ones for several years and then switched to the first ones for even more foot support --- I get aches and pains in my feet if I push on small pedals for too long. I do use clipless on my "fast" bike, but on my commuter/adventure/touring bike, I don't, and I don't think anyone would accuse me of being slow on it.

Beth said...

Thanks, Aaron! Really the only reason I'm looking to go clipless is because I'm doing the 100 charity miles in the hills (a.k.a. mountains) of Lake Tahoe. It's less about speed and more about the help when I climb the hills - at least everyone TELLS me they're a great help when climbing. Once i'm done with the ride, I suspect I'll throw the cleats away and never look back.

I am already resigned to not being speedy. More than that, I don't like to bike too fast on the commute for the same reason I don't drive 50 mph on crowded city streets. Speed demons on city commutes are just morons. So there.

Megan said...

Haha! I've become a master of avoiding serious injury during low-speed tipovers. I may look like a clown school dropout, but I do keep the bike off the ground (barely).

Aaron said...

"at least everyone TELLS me they're a great help when climbing"

A few years ago, I thought the same thing (b/c, like you, that's what I was told). Then I got annoyed with clipless pedals on one tour (I brought a pair of normal shoes, which seemed like a waste), so I thought, whatever, I'll go for convenience over efficiency and swapped to the big-area pedals. Lo and behold: little, if any, difference --- certainly nothing that I noticed. Two years ago, I did a tour that went over the Rocky Mountains twice, and I used platform pedals. No problem, averaged 100+ miles/day eleven days running. The best part was that my feet felt better at the ending: whereas clipless force your feet to stay in one position, causing pressure spots, flats allow your feet to roam free and easy, so that different parts handle the pressure at different times.

I think what can matter is the stiffness of the soles of the shoes. If the shoes are too soft (like running shoes), a lot of energy seems to get wasted in compressing and flexing the rubber (and the foot). And over a long ride (like your 100 mile ride), your feet might get sore. That's why I like the big platform pedals --- a lot less flex, and with the wider area, less compression. I also usually ride in relatively stiff-soled shoes --- meant for walking rather than running.

A lot of people say that clipless allows pulling up, giving one extra efficiency. Sure, one can do that for sprints, but otherwise, it simply doesn't happen over long rides or up long climbs.

Anyhow, I realize that what works for me may not work for you or anyone else. But I thought that a different opinion could take the pressure off about the clipless thing, if you're not really enjoying it.

Beth said...

Man, I cannot say THANK YOU enough for that. It really has been Just One More Thing in my line-up of stresses and I'm happy to downgrade it to the status of Oh Who Cares. I think a problem with doing a century, even for charity, is that only "serious cyclists" do it, so all the trappings are expected. But you're probably right about the minimal effect and clipless pedals belong in the same category as making my bike more aerodynamic by taking off the fenders and reflectors.

Seriously, THANK YOU. I'm going to ride the way I like, not the way someone thinks I SHOULD.

Beth said...

The image of tiny you and the beast of a bike going down slowly is simultanesouly hilarious and thrilling and terrifying.

Megan said...

Pretty much! Every time it happens in public I think, "Man, that's five more people who just decided never to ride a bike."

Also: that "haha" was sympathetic, not mocking. You knew that, right? I had some Commenter's Remorse after I posted it.

Megan said...

Just to add to what Aaron says, here are two observations from my own experience:

1. Clipless pedals forced my legs into an awkward angle that just killed my knee. For whatever reason, I'm most comfortable cycling with the arch, rather than the ball, of my foot over the pedal's axle. Maybe my feet are farther forward on the pedal than they're "supposed" to be, but that's what my body wants and I really have to fight to get my legs to do anything different.

2. They may have already told you this in training or spinning class, but: you can make your pedal stroke more efficient for sprints & hill climbs even without clipless pedals. As you hit the bottom of your stroke, pull BACK with your bottom foot instead of just releasing it. That way you'll have power on 75% of each stroke instead of just 50%, and you'll be helping your other leg as it begins its descending stroke. I find that to be a big help when I'm really working to get up a hill. (Also, make sure you're not sabotaging yourself by pushing *down* with the foot that's supposed to be going *up*. Apparently that's a bad habit that lots of cyclists develop.)

Otherwise, cosign what Aaron said about stiff soles.

Aaron said...

Right on, Megan. Great advice.

Regarding 1, I am totally an arch rider --- though sometimes I move back for short periods, too (yay flats!). Much nicer on the Achilles tendon. From what I've heard, riding on the balls of the feet is a pro thing (a little extra power) that, like many things, got inappropriately passed down to us amateurs. Pros have the training to deal with the tendon stress (tendons strengthen much slower than muscles); we amateurs don't. I also use a "knee saver" on one pedal (it extends the axle of the pedal) so that the platform is just where my foot wants it to be. Bliss.

Regarding 2, hear hear. I didn't want to sound all techie in my post above, so I'm glad Megan brought it up. The backstroke can provide just that extra bit of oomph for a hill; and it's definitely a tendency for beginners to rest their upstroke foot a little too much. My wife and I ride a tandem, on which "lazy foot" is very obvious to the other rider, so we worked out our issues with that a long time ago.

One thing that really helped my pedaling style is riding a unicycle... But with a 100 miler coming up, I think you have plenty to work on ;-)

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