Thursday, November 6, 2008

On A Fixie: A Case for Clipless Pedals

The great thing about having another writer and friend who is just as excited about cycling and this little NDJR revolution as much as I am, just in normal conversation, sweet things come about. One of those being a series we're going to call 'On A Fixie', in which we are going to cover a number of topics... from Knickers to Knog, Chrome bags to Brooks saddles, no brakes or odd brakes. It should be fun, maybe interesting. We'll each be taking different topics, probably responding on the other and who knows, it might just break out into a big ol' show down of hipster-ness. Yes, hipster-ness.

The first topic that I'll be handling is advocating for going clipless on a fixie. And so it begins.

The first thing I believe we must understand what draws a person to the fixie or fixie subculture of cycling. For that we will consult a video [beware, PG-13 language to follow].

Ok, you caught me... but this mockumentary and I do apologize for the language but this pretty much nails a lot of things on the head. A few quotes that sum it up well...

'Pretty much the spirituality... if I'm going to ride 20 miles, I'm going to push 20 miles.'

'This type of riding... gets them more in touch with the road and the board.'

It's this that I use as my foundation for the use of clipless pedals for fixies. There is a fair amount of truth to the amount of control, feel, 'intouch'-ness with the bike that occurs when one goes fixie. By clipping in, this feel is greatly increased for the simple fact that as a rider you become one with the bike. Fully engaged with the rear wheel and mass of the bike. Sure laugh about what I just wrote but why is clipless used in other aspects of cycling? Efficiency and control.

Now of course there are plenty of options in using a clipless system. Let's examine 3 basic options:

The first choice would be what is called. The 'Eggbeater' by Crank Brothers.
This is my pedal of choice but not what I would say would be the first option for any cyclist just getting into clipless. Why? Sure, it is a 4 sided pedal making it very easy to clip into but with the lack of any real tension control as compared to the other options it does not make for a very good learning experience, since most will have a close call with falling when first engaged into the pedal.

The second option would be the Shimano SPD. This is my favorite for beginners. It has a number of things going for it. There are many options for style with different platforms and styles, in addition if you are into spin classes you are able to sport the same cleat/shoe and clip in at the gym. This has the tension control that the Egg Beater lacks which allows for a rider to easy get in and out early on when they hit panic mode at stops.

A third option would be the Look or traditional style road pedal. The draw of this style is the fact the the pedal does provide a large platform for the shoe but at the same time restricts the type of shoe you can use, simply a road shoe which is not walkable at all. For everyday uses the type of shoe alone is not very walker friendly and definitely risk falling when walking on tile flooring. This style does have tension control which is nice but not necessarily as easy to get out of as the SPD.

Sure there are a few other styles from Speedplay and Time but for the most part this are not systems that would be all that great for a beginner to get into for everyday or fixie riding for one reason or another. Any local shop should be able to walk you through what pedal/shoe combination will best suit ones needs for riding but 95% of the time, I lean straight to the SPD style.

It's difficult to fully advocate for going clipless on a fixie because of the urban setting and versatile usage of both the cyclist and bike. I will never go away from it, but I'm fully willing to sacrifice sporting my bike shoes over wearing my Chucks or New Balance. Function or Fashion? That's really where this argument will end up landing.

I mean, come on... you could always just wear Lycra and be a 'real' cyclist.


The Jackal said...

Well put post about the pedals, I like the idea of the series as well. This whole fixie thing still is a bit bewildering to me although I know several who choose to ride them. Only a few of them are part of the culture as you describe as most of the people I know use it more as a training tool of sorts.

I'm an SPD guy too by the way. :)

Looking forwards to more.

bluecolnago said...

i have more than "a close call" at least once a year with clipless pedals. yes, i stop and can't get unclipped. bam! next thing ya know, you're on the ground.

maybe it's just me. lol.

ah, nevermind....

that was a pretty cool video!

bluecolnago said...

oh! i wonder if the sandals that "mr. lycra" is wearing are clipless?