SPD Shoes

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “the only constant in life is change”. I have been riding bikes in racing shoes since the summer of 1977. It was summer and I was preparing to ride RAGBRAI a week-long ride across Iowa. In 1977 it was 454 miles. I had been detassling and saved my money to buy a pair of Detto Pietro Italian cycling shoes. They were leather with a hard leather sole. I bought metal cleats for them and had a local cobbler install them. As I remember it the Dettos were cool looking, full of holes and uncomfortable. But they made me fell like a real racer. This was long before clipless pedals so I used them with MKS pedals, Christophe toe clips, and and genuine Christophe leather toe straps. Of course I put a twist in the toe straps where the slipped into the pedals just like all the racers. On the first day of that first RAGBRAI with my cool new Italian shoes I pulled up to a stop sign next to a group of riders and forgot to loosen my toe straps. Of course, I promptly fell over — boy did I look cool.

One day, when I was in high school I was riding (in my racing shoes) and I saw a friend riding his new skateboard. Of course I wanted to try it out. The combination of the metal skateboard deck and the slick bottom racing shoe with the e metal cleat did not go together well. I promptly fell and and had to endure months of reconstructive dental owrk.

Well, decades later I still ride in racing shoes. When clipless pedals first came out I bought one of the first pairs of Looks. A couple of years ago, I bought a pair of Shimano road shoes that are the most comfortable bike shoes I have ever ridden in. Other than my mountain bike, I have not ridden any of my bikes in anything but racing shoes and Look pedals for decades.

The racing shoes do have a disadvantage, they are hard to walk in. When I was young and fancied myself a racer it was no big deal. The shoes really are very efficient and I wanted to look cool on the bike. Even if it meant walking like a duck and looking foolish off the bike. Two years ago, I had a season-ending injury. I came to a quick stop at an intersection on my fixed gear bike (with Look pedals and racing shoes) and put my foot down, Unfortunately the slick sole and cleat slid on the asphalt. I saw my leg go one way as the bike fell the other … ouch.

I have also discovered that as I ride more with my wife, I am spending more time walking on riverbanks, visiting farmers markets and doing other activities off the bike. The waddling that I have to do in racing shoes is both impractical and because the shoes are like walking on ice, it’s dangerous.

So this year I am making a change. For Christmas I bought a pair of Shimano mountain bike shoes and white SPD pedals. The shoes use a recessed cleat and have a rubber outsole for walking. I put them on my bike and rode it on the mag trainer tonight. I probably have to tighten the release spring but so far I like them. It is much easier to engage sine the pedals are two-sided whereas the Looks were one-sided.

I am looking forward to this Spring.

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