My first time on a road bike (and trying out my new clipless pedals!)

When you wake up at 07:00 knowing the next few hours ahead will be a test of your coping abilities, it can be tempting to snuggle back under the duvet and dream it all went well instead. I’m writing this article in hindsight so I know of course that I can say “seize the day” is well worth embracing!

A few months back, I found myself standing outside the changing rooms of one of Belgium’s serious cycling stores, Van Eyck Sport, where M was trying on Castelli kit with the vigour of a boy choosing candy in sweet shop before closing time. It had been 15 years since he’d last cycled, so he was somewhat overwhelmed by the advancement in technology and the items available to cyclists today. Suffice it to say, his shopping cart was doing cartwheels!

Anyhow, his enthusiasm must have been contagious because the next thing I found myself doing was looking over at the ladies clothing section, and within 15 minutes I was trying on a pair of Genius 5 Pro black patent Sidis! Feeling a bit like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz movie, I was transfixed by the sheer beauty and feel of those magic shoes on my feet!

So whilst I really enjoy watching Cancellara pip a time trial or hear Cavendish‘s latest un-PR-like comment about a winning sprint, I haven’t had the desire to ride a bike again myself. It was 2006 when I last rode a bike and even then it was an Orange mountain bike rigged with heavy kit for job commuting. I also had a bad cycling accident in 2000 (hit by a speedy car from behind) and this was a big setback for cycling on roads with ease and confidence.

That said, I left the Van Eyck Sport store with a pair of Assos cycling bibshorts, Assos shell jacket, Assos oversocks, Assos gloves and Castelli jersey, Castelli arm/leg warmers and Castelli socks… along with my magic black Sidi slippers…. đŸ™‚

Of course this little shopping escapade needed to be topped off with the purchase of a bike, so with the help of M and a tape measure, I bought a Canyon Roadlite AL 7.0 CT online, and, took another trip to Van Eyck Sport for a MET Sine Thesis Road Helmet, various tools and water bottles.

M also bought a Tacx trainer to get as much training as possible between weekend bike rides and in anticipation for autumn/winter when getting outdoors may not always be possible.

I decided to hijack the trainer to get to grips with my biggest fear…. clipless pedals!!!!!

Look Keo 2 Max pedal

This in itself is worth a little side story. As a beginner road cyclist, there is no way to tell which brand and type of clipless pedals will be best suited to you, without buying and trying them all of course (not an option for most folks!). So what do you do? Read internet articles, check out forums, ask beloved cycling friends, etc.? You’ll hear great recommendations, but cyclists will tell you that there isn’t a definitive “beginner” clipless pedal and that folks tend to stay with the same pedals they used in their early days (so they don’t have experience of all the pedals available). I was initially tempted by Speedplay (like Cancellara and a lot of other pro cyclists) but I felt these might be a bit ambitious for me, so I purchased a set of Shimano Ultegra pedals/cleats to match my bike’s Shimano Ultegra groupset, but after trying the pedals indoors on the trainer I couldn’t adopt an easy lock and release action. M then lent me his new box set of LOOK Keo Blade pedals to try out, for comparison. These had a much nicer lock and release action, and much to M’s dismay I said I wanted to keep them! As I trained a little more, I found that the twisting action required to release my shoe was a bit overtaxing, even with a change of cleats and float adjustment. A few week’s later I was gifted a pair of LOOK Keo 2 Max pedals. These had a smooth lock and release feel for a more delicate ankle (!) and the slight float provided a relaxed but reassuring movement. The real test though is on the road!

Jodoigne landscape: linseed crop fields

So we ventured to the countryside of Jodoigne to test out the road bikes on Belgium RAVeLs. These routes give ample opportunities for a road bike rookie (like me!) to try out their new bike, the pedal actions, the speed and bike handling, etc.

Although a bike trainer secures the bike from falling over when you clip in and out of the pedals, it paid off practising on the bike trainer beforehand. On the road, I found I was able to clip into the right shoe easily and kick off smoothly while I clipped in the left shoe.  On the odd occasion where the left shoe didn’t fit in as quickly, because I was concentrating on the road traffic, I was still able to cycle using a free left foot until I could clip into the pedal. Until today, I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to do this kind of action.

If anyone asks me about suitable clipless pedals for a beginner, I will recommend them buying a bike trainer to build up familiarity with their kit, as well as recommending the Look Keo Max just for sheer ease and minimum twisting impact to ankles and knees.

Jolly pedalling in Jodoigne!

The countryside of Jodoigne was very nice indeed, especially in the morning sunshine. Very quiet cycle paths, quiet roads, plenty of scenery and fresh country air. A few cows watch you pass by and the occasional cyclist greets you with a smile or a nod. There are some excellent stretches on the RAVel network to try out some short sprints too, and the connecting roads are either cobbles or dusty tracks, with a good variety of steady climbs and descents.

For anyone who likes to fit in a snack, we passed at least two places where it’s possible to sit down outside with the bikes and enjoy a bite to eat/drink.


Originally published: Saturday, June 30th, 2012 at 23:39 in Living matter, Monologues


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