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Home » Cycling » When Will I Learn… And the Strong Case Against Platform Pedals.

When Will I Learn… And the Strong Case Against Platform Pedals.

March 2014
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I had a full-fledged Homer Simpson moment last night just before the first club ride of the season…

I attended the funeral for one of my favorite great aunts yesterday, just before lunch. While it was sad to say goodbye, seeing all of my aunts, uncles and cousins again was awesome – unfortunately though, that pressed me for time getting to the meeting spot for the ride.

Long story short, I had the 5200 in the back if the truck, gathered my helmet, shoes, gloves and everything else I would need and headed out to the meeting place… I had my bike ready to go when it finally dawned on me, my pedals were on the Cannondale back home.

Well, I needed a day off anyway so I packed up my bike, shut the lift gate and that’s precisely when one of the other guys said he had a pair of platform pedals in his truck.

Man did I feel like a dope, but on the bright side I figured it would make for a funny post so I installed the pedals on my 5200 and took it for a quick spin around the parking lot to see if I could hang.  Oh dear God…  I’ve been pretty rough on the old platform pedals and now my opinion of them is cemented forever:  While sticking your foot out to turn, as a twelve year-old would on a BMX bike, makes cornering really fun, riding on them at speed (especially in a group setting) is nothing short of silly and dangerous at the same time.

Now, this was the first time since I started cycling that I rode a bike with platform pedals – you know, standard pedals, no toe clips, nothing to accept cleats…  I had to wear my tennis shoes (and yes, I did catch some hell for it, and yes it was hilarious – initial estimates say that it’s going to take at least two years to live this one down).

Humorously enough though, I kept up.  Being the first ride of the season, I don’t think anyone had high expectations – even the three racers who showed up were riding their cyclocross bikes.  As is quite usual for Tuesday night, we started out at about a 18-19 mph pace…  After having ridden the Cannondale for every ride I’ve been on this season, being on the 5200 was wonderful – to compare the improvement in ride from the aluminum C’dale to the carbon fiber Trek, let’s see…  The difference between wearing minimalist wooden shoes and a nice pair of $125 New Balance – with the most pronounced heel-strike known to man, for a marathon.  I do like riding the Cannondale because I have to work a lot harder to get decent speed out of it, but my composite bikes are like riding on butter in comparison.

After the first mile and a half, the horses took the lead and picked up the pace a bit.  We were running about 21 mph and I was holding up pretty well.  My pulls up front were pretty short, maybe a half or three-quarters of a mile, but I was quite pleased with how I was hanging in there with those Godforsaken, stupid pedals.  I didn’t like was those pedals.  First, with no pull on the back stroke, I was limited to mashing the pedals and mashing sucks.  It’s unbelievably inefficient.  Second, trying to hold a 90 rpm cadence without having my feet locked into the pedals was a serious pain in the butt because I had a tough time keeping my feet in the proper place – my heels were floating a bit and keeping the ball of my foot over the axle was near impossible.

I cut my ride short so I could get back home – Mrs. Bgddy had plans to go out for a run.  I ended up with 23.5 miles (give or take) in something like an hour and fifteen minutes.  Much better than I figured I’d be able to do this early.

Now if you remember, just one week ago, I wrote the day would never come that I rode with platform pedals on my Venge.  Just one week ago.  Circumstances being what they are, the only other choice I had was to skip the ride and I didn’t want that, but you’d think I’d learn not to use the word “never” in a post.  Ah well, such is life.  That said, I hope I never have to ride like that again…  Platform pedals , straight up, no BS, suck.  Getting used to toe clips or the lock-in pedals may be difficult, but it’s worth the time and effort, no doubt about it – even if you fall over a time or two in the process of learning your way around them*.

I “heart” my Look Keo Classics.

*I am the only cyclist that I know of – in our group or in all of the cycling friends I have on the net – the only one, who hasn’t fallen over because I was clipped into my pedals – everyone does at least once.  My days are numbered and I know it… I consider myself very lucky but am under no delusion that I’ll be able to keep this streak going forever.  That said, riding with cycling shoes and a decent set of lock-in pedals is worth all of the trouble that comes with getting used to them – and then some.

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15 Comments

  1. Jean says:

    I don’t have clipless pedals, but I do have toeclips and have been using them for the last….15 yrs. Works for me. I do need to be held in –feet-wise for leverage.

  2. That’s funny. I’ve been riding SPD since 2006 and never fallen over. I’ve always run the tightest setting, but always been able to wrench my foot out somehow when in a panic!

  3. biking2work says:

    I’ve known nothing but platform pedals! Getting a new bike soon but have no idea what pedals to get for it. Scared of getting fleeced for a set that I wpnt get the true benefit of. Bought a pair of Shimano SPD shoes last year so I’m half way there I guess…

    • bgddyjim says:

      SPD’s are pretty good (I run those [M520’s] on my mountain bikes). The Look Keo’s came recommended by our local shop owner, who uses them on his bikes. They are darn near indestructible, don’t require a lot of maintenance and offer a fantastic surface area (almost as much as a platform) and are relatively easy to clip into and out of (though not quite as easy as SPD’s). If you go that route, get a couple of cleat protectors so you can walk short distances without wrecking the cleats.

      Look pedals, without a doubt, no question about it, are much better than my SPD’s. Night and day.

  4. I’m thinking of switching to speed plays on my road bike from shimano ultegra, i have spds on my mtn bike and crank brothers on my single speed “coffee” bike, different shoes for all of them

    • bgddyjim says:

      I know a few guys who use the speed play pedals… I opted against them for the required lubing and the smaller surface area… They’re quite popular though so they’ve gotta be doing something right. Looking forward to reading about your take on them.

      • yeah all the guys at my LBS all run them and love them, I’m tired of fumbling with trying to get in to a pedal, speed plays are dual sided and are easy to get in to, the cleats act like the platform, the crank brothers i have are dual sided and really easy to get in to thats why I’m considering the speed play

      • bgddyjim says:

        I like that about them too, the ease of getting into them. Look pedals are easy enough, but they take forever to get used to “clipping in” without having to look at the pedal.

  5. cyardin says:

    I remember when I first transitioned over to SPDs on my hardtail MTB. At the time I rode quite often with my wife, who would laugh herself silly whenever I did the slow-motion clipped in keel over. At first it was quite embarrasing, until I worked out (noob at the time) that you could dial the tension off.

    • bgddyjim says:

      I’ve almost gone down twice but caught myself at the last second. Fortunately when I was a noob the shop set my pedals for me… I can only imagine if they’d have been set too tight.

  6. Sandra says:

    [i hate to say it, but i have never fallen over either–i like to think it’s because i always at least had cages]
    I will likely be eating crow, because that’s what happens.

  7. […] rpm, you almost have to lock your feet onto them.  I tried to ride in a group on platform pedals one time and I’ll never do that again.  The problem is trying to keep your feet in the proper […]

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