Pedal Talk

Yesterday’s adventure ended with me returning home from  a successful ride with a broken pedal.  It was now time to fix my damaged bike.

I had no idea what pedals cost, but I didn’t think one should give out after 400+ miles and three months.  I was buoyed by the warrantee provided to me by Olde Towne Bicycles when I purchased the bike in April.  It was in a friendly pamphlet and it assured me that the frame and all parts were warranteed for one year.  I called the shop to confirm this and was greeted by the store’s manager, Dave, who stated, “Well if they’re broken due to fair wear and tear, I’ll replace them.  But I need to see them first.”  That was a little more wiggle room than I wanted the store to have.   I would have preferred something like, “Absolutely we’ll replace them, Sir.  We stand by all our parts 100%, no questions asked.”  So it was with some trepidation that I loaded my bike onto my Yakima rack and headed to the store.

As it turned out, my fears were not realized.  Dave was a professional and pleasant mechanic who greeted me in front of the service desk and quickly set about replacing my pedals.  I showed Dave my other pedal and noted that it was beginning to bend as well.  “No worries,” said Dave.  “Pedals come in pairs so I’ll replace them both.”  We chatted about the Specialized Crosstrail and we both agreed with was a great bike.  He seemed mildly impressed when I told him I’d logged over 400 miles since April and was out to Nokesville just this morning.  “That’s a good ride!” he said.

After 10 minutes, I was all set.  I rolled my bike into the show room and talked to a salesman about my pedals.  I asked if this sort of wear was typical.  Thus began my pedal class.  He explained to me that plastic pedals like the ones I owned would only last so long.  If I wanted something more durable, I would need to invest in metal pedals.  These are stronger and have less “give,” meaning more of the cyclist’s energy is transferred to the drive chain and not absorbed by the pedal.  He took me over to a pedal display case, where the cheapest set ran $70/pair.  I am used to seeing things like fine jewelry in display cases.  An attractive display of bike pedals was a little unnerving.  “Interesting,” I said, “but why should I put that kind of money into pedals when your store has warranteed the crummy plastic ones for a year?  I’ll just keep bringing my bike back every time they break.”

The salesman pointed out that a clipless pedal system was far more efficient than a traditional pedal.  This type of pedal allows a cyclist to attach his shoe to the pedal and thus “pull” on the upstroke while simultaneously “pushing” with the other foot on the downstroke.  “When you start going a little farther,” said the salesman “you’ll definitely notice the difference in your speed and endurance.”

Apparently, I don’t strike a serious cyclist as being the sort of person who rides very far.  When I told the salesman I rode 38 miles just a few hours ago, his eyes grew wide with surprise and he said, “Really?!  Well, then, you’re ready for these right now!”  He showed me some Shimano pedals that have the distinctive feature of being a traditional pedal on one side and a clipless pedal on the other.  That way, the rider can run quick errands or zip around the neighborhood in his tennis shoes and use the other side for the more serious rides.

Of course, you need special shoes to go in those special pedals.  The cheap ones cost about $75.  So I’ll need about $150 to become more efficient.  Something to think about, but for now I think I’ll just plod along in my inefficient way, comfortable in the knowledge the very good people at Olde Towne Bicycles will replace my pedals until next April.  Perhaps by then I’ll be ready to take the plunge!

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4 thoughts on “Pedal Talk

  1. My mom rides about 6000 miles a year in street shoes and flat pedals.

    I ride about 4000 a year in SPD-SL pedals and specialized shoes.

    We ride about the same, but now that I am used to clipless I could never go back.

    If you want to try clipless you can do so far cheaper then 150 bucks, probably for more like 50 if you buy some shoes and pedals from nashbar or the like.

    At the very least you should throw away those “throwaway” plastic pedals; they aren’t meant for actual bike riding. They aren’t safe, the bearings suck, at the very least buy a decent pair of flat pedals.

  2. I had the same dilemna but decided to take the plunge and bought Shimano clipless pedals and the highly rated (and somewhat less expensive) DHB shoes – both available via wiggle.co.uk – and I have to say I love them.

    At first they’re a little different…especially when coming to a stop. You must remember to twist your foot to release or you’ll be getting to know the ground a whole lot better!

    In all honesty though having used them for a while now I’m not sure I could go back to flat pedals…I’d definitely recommend them to anyone cycling “a reasonable distance”.

    When you do try them out, let me know how you get on!

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