Gone Clipless and why
Yes, I have recently gone clipless on my mountain bike. Peer pressure? No, I do not easily succumb to that and I am not defensive about it nor I have anything against it.
Before hand, I have done plenty of research on the net, weighing all the possible pros and cons. And it took me a long long while before finally taking the step into the spd shoes camp. I rode plenty of bicycles during my childhood and mainly on BMX. I have also ridden mountain bike in the early 90s for a few years before returning the mountain biking scene recently. To be exact, I have been riding for 12 months and 6 days since November last year and I was on platform pedal through out.
As one can imagine, I have always been comfortable on platform pedal and I have no issue with them either. I am technical fluent in handling a bike in any terrain and I am not a slow rider either. However from riding experience with various riders and races, I found myself just not fast enough as I am always lagging behind some riders, especially on climbs and the 8% pedaling efficiency that I have reading about, haunted me to change. And I continue to resists converting as I believe I can train harder and make myself stronger. I did and I got better but others trained too and for those that did, stayed in front of me.
Second reason: was I afraid of falling? Yes, I was and I heard people saying, falling is part of being clip in, what a bunch of bullock talk. Why take the risk I said to myself. Being lock onto a bike and accidentally tumbling onto rocky terrain or worst, off some cliff got me worried even more. However something clouded my judgment last weekend and I went out and bought myself a pair last week. No pain no gain as they say. Worst come to the worst, if I didn’t like it, I could sell it off cursing it as a useless second hand sillymano shoe and never look at it again. That’s if I survive my first ride.
At my local bike shop and being technically inclined, I began setting up my new pedal system. Off goes my wellgo pedal and in goes Shimano XT 770 pedal. And after installing the SH51 cleat onto my Shimano SPD md86 shoe (cool comfortable wide shoe by the way!) and as planned, I requested for a bike trainer where I could mount onto my bike unassisted.
Once on my bike I began practicing clipping in and it did took me a while to find the clip in spot and getting use to deliberately pressing the cleat down into the slot. After some awkward moments, I finally managed and I started clipping in and out with ease. The trainer is a great idea and should be made a compulsory step for all clipless newbie instead of the popular advice by asking them to ride out onto a grassed area (where they could crash safely?). Seriously, on a trainer there is no fear of falling and one will get use to clipping in and out very quickly. It builds confidence!
As for me, it took me less than ½ and hour, which I then mustered enough confident and took off the bike off the roller trainer. Not surprisingly, it was a breeze. I told myself that if I was a competent rider who have conquered so many trials before, how can I fall on a normal ride? It was all in the mind!
I was happy riding in my new pedal and shoe (clipping in and out occasionally, like a kid with a new toy) but did I feel any difference? Seriously I did not. I even took a ride around my usual city loop trail. I couldn’t feel the improvement! I spoke to a few riders at the bike shop later and was told that I should try it off road. Being still a bit skeptical, I planned a ride the next day.