New Tricks

Like most people I learned to ride a bike as a fairly young child and have had a bike most of my life. Growing up my bike was simply a means of transport and play, visiting friends, going to the shops with Mum, cycling to school or, going on picnic rides during the school holidays with a bunch of friends.

In my Dad’s terminology I was a bike rider, not a cyclist. He had been a keen cyclist in his teens up to his 30’s but this was not something he encouraged me to do – girls did not, in those days, really ride bikes ‘seriously’ and I would not have been allowed to join a cycling club, which would consist mainly of men complaining bitterly of this ‘girl’ holding up their rides! My bikes had flat pedals, nothing to keep my feet attached to them, although some of the lads in my street did have toeclips – an idea I never really fancied.

Later, as a young Mum, although I still had a bike it was largely relegated to the shed except for the odd family ride out for pleasure – still with simple flat pedals. For shopping or visiting I preferred to walk locally or use the car for further afield.

In more recent times, as I have written about here, I have become more like what my Dad would have called a cyclist – mainly due to the fact that my husband, who has always been a keen cyclist, can still comfortably cycle although he can’t walk far, so if he can’t join me for a walk I can join him out on a bike.

With the increase in cycling activity and the fact that we tended to do several classic road-racing bike events each year I started to use toe clips – things you slot you toe into with a strap to tighten round your foot. This with a certain degree of trepidation about being ‘strapped in’. Like most things, however, much of the fear is imaginary and most of the time it is easy enough to remove your foot – though on at least occasion I have fallen off due to not getting my foot out quickly enough! The advantage of being attached to the pedals in some way is that you can pull up on the pedal as well as push down so this provides extra power.

Technology has moved on a pace and even when I was dubiously trying toe-clips so called ‘clipless’ pedals were the norm with serious riders, the pull-up effect being greater. With these you have special pedals and cleats on the soles of cycling specific shoes. The cleats ‘click’ into the special pedals and your foot is locked in position. With a side-ways movement you can release your foot, but it is, of course, still possible to fall over when you can’t release quickly enough. My eldest son once fell into a canal attached to his bike when riding along a towpath!

I had toyed with the idea of ‘upgrading’ a few times, indeed my daughter had given me an old pair of her cleated cycling shoes to try a few years ago but they were a bit small and anyway one of the cleat attachments was damaged; they proved not to be repairable so I had never braved it. To swap my toeclips for clipless pedals seemed a step too far for me, I’m none too keen on falling off these days!

Then, earlier this year my husband decided to give them a go, having also only used traditional toeclips up till then. He took to them easily so I thought maybe… and to cut a long story short, he bought me a pair of ‘clipless’ specific cycling shoes for my birthday a few weeks ago.

There are two kinds of cleat system known as spd and spd-sl (there is a difference but don’t ask me!) The shoes he bought me will fit either system but I have the spd type of pedals and for these the shoes needed cleat adapters which didn’t come with them. (Actually I do have a pair of the other type of pedals too, they came with a bike I once bought, but not the appropriate cleats for the shoes and the plain spd type is considered easier for newcomers!). Ordered on-line these arrived just before we went away to Anglesey so fitting them was left until our return, with the appropriate pedals being put on my modern road bike.

The upshot of this is that last Friday, after several days of leaning on a wall practising clipping in and out, I psyched myself up for a little cycle up the road and back with feet attached firmly to pedals. I survived!

On Saturday we went out for a slightly longer ride of just under 7 miles, which, with a couple of minor momentary panics I also survived. The old toeclips will stay on my classic bikes but my modern bike is now up-to -date and longer rides will hopefully be resumed shortly.  Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jules
    Sep 21, 2020 @ 14:53:27

    Sometimes we learn out of necessity, other just because it is fun!
    Glad you good to go. I still haven’t mastered shifting gears!


  2. elaine patricia
    Sep 22, 2020 @ 09:33:37

    Well done. I was petrified of a stsir lift when it became a necessity.


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