Last year, I was a bit anachronistic in my approach to cycling. What little cycling I did, I would like to specify.
In addition to another wool jersey, I also got some plain old-fashioned pedals and Power Grips from Jim, of Oil is for Sissies and Hiawatha Cyclery.
After enjoying life on my beater one-speed in Boston, where I could just hop on my bike with narry a care the world or any preparation, I thought I’d enjoy the these pedals on my full-time touring bike. The Power Grips would provide just a bit of extra pedaling comfort and efficiency on my commute.
You may recall that on my bike tour across Europe, I broke my foot. Four years on, it is still tender.
This weekend, I took the Power Grips off. The noble experiment over.
Here are some things that I now know about Power Grips.
1. Ideally, you are always wearing the same shoes with them. They tighten down with a nut and it is not convenient to alter them. For example, one day you might wear sneakers and they fit fine, but it unlikely you are going to ride your bike to the store and have them fit well with boots.
2. Unlike cycling shoes, regular shoes don’t dry out quickly.
3. Unlike cycling shoes, I do want my other shoes to stay relatively clean. This was not happening as my shoes were splattered with road grime.
4. Like SPD pedals, you still need to do a little twist to get out of properly-used Power Grips, meaning that you get none of the in-traffic benefits of being loose in your pedals. I found them a bit harder to get in and out of than my clipless pedals.
5. The strap hurt my broken foot after about 20 miles of riding.
Is there a place for Power Grips in my future? Maybe.
I still very much like the idea of having these on a long tour instead of the clipless, though the whole soggy wet shoes really were a downer since one idea of having these on the bike is not having to carry/store another set of shoes at work or while traveling. I also liked having a bike that I could just easily hope on, but I am finding I don’t really do that in Seattle like I did in Boston, so that’s not an issue like it could be.
I guess, overall, I am bummed that I don’t like these more or that they weren’t for me.
Now, if I can only adjust my pedals a bit better to stop that numbing, bloody toe sensation I’ve been having lately. Any tips on that?
When I rode STP, my right foot became numb, and the tingling was hard to shake for the majority of the ride. Even in the days after, I had weird, sporadic numbness. I made two adjustments: first I switched from SPD pedals to Speedplay Frogs (at the recommendation of my friend John Calnan). They have more play / float which helped ease the feeling that my feet were restricted, thus allowing me to wiggle about more and keep the blood flowing. I briefly resisted the change because it meant buying new pedals and new shoes, but it turns out the Frogs are compatible with SPD shoes. They clip in the same, and clip out with a twist, and feel better overall (for me).
The second thing I did following STP was to have a bike fit. It was a fairly expensive way to tell me what I already knew, but it was great to get reassurances on silly little things which can add up over time. The best thing which came out of it was the realization that my right foot turns in slightly. To compensate for the tighter play in the SPD pedals, my heel was being forced in. I didn’t notice on shorter rides, but longer rides were unbearable, and after the super long ride, I felt as if I did some damage which now affected me every day. Also, there was a tell-tale grease smudge on the right heel of my bike shoe from rubbing against my bike every revolution. My bike fit person put a very small spacer between my crank arm and the pedal, and the difference was astounding.
Short story long: everyone told me I had to conform my feet to proper pedaling, but it was so uncomfortable I almost gave up. Whatever works for you, keeps you comfortable, and keeps you riding is the best. I’d find the pedal which feels the least restrictive to you, and buy the most comfy shoes.