Thursday, April 29, 2010

Slotted Cleats!

Twenty years ago, road cycling shoes still came with a set of slotted cleats. During the 1990s, shoe companies dropped this practice, because no one who mattered was using old-style road pedals and toe straps. A dark age began for the toeclip user. But the sun may be rising again.

Thank the retro cyclists, be they true geezers or fashionable posers. Thank the fixie hipsters with their double toestraps. Most of all, thank Yellow Jersey, Ltd., of Madison, Wisconsin, because they have gone back into the slotted cleat business.

My co-mechanic, George, has been exploring his interest in cycling after a busy life pursuing other endeavors, including a career as an engineer. He liked the idea of slotted cleats and toe straps, for the many advantages they offer over step-in pedals. He was even starting to plan how he might make us some cleats. Today, however, I did one of my occasional searches and found Yellow Jersey's offering. They're ridiculously pricey for something so simple, but no one else is doing it (that I can find). The price is not quite ridiculous enough for me to call it exorbitant. The fact that they care at all, combined with their small market in the face of so much propaganda supporting step-ins, makes them a worthy underdog in my book -- or blog. I'm still farming my old stash of Sidis, bought for a song from City Cycle in San Francisco, but I might buy a set of Yellow Jersey's just to support them.

Now that I know there's a source, I will step up my own advocacy for clips, straps and slotted cleats.

Here's how it works: with a nice old-style road pedal you can use a non-cleated shoe for short errands or leisurely tours and a stiff-soled, cleated shoe for rides where you want more performance and don't care about walking. The toe strap lets you get some connection to the pedal even in your non-cleated shoe. You would not have that with a step-in, even if it had a platform around the binding or a flat side and a step-in side.

You do have to flip up a toeclip pedal to insert your foot. If you don't have a reliable track stand, this can complicate starts at intersections. In the olden days cyclists might take a few strokes before attempting the flip. The toe clip would scrape on the pavement. Riders who scraped the clips a lot would wear through them. Nothing's perfect. With a flat pedal you lose a lot of power. If your riding venue involves more stop-and-go than steady riding, a flat pedal may be a good choice. Even a step-in requires you to find the interface and snap into it.

A track stand will serve you well. Not only do you get to jump away from the intersection faster than anyone will believe, you hypnotize potentially critical motorists by your miraculous ability to stay upright without moving forward.

They do laugh when you blow it. C'est la vie.

Racers used to complain that they signaled their attacks to other riders by reaching down to tighten their toe straps. Now they do it by reaching down to tighten their shoe straps. Step-ins are easier to engage in the slow-rolling cluster-hump of a mass start race. If I had a dedicated race bike and I was actually racing it I would probably have step-ins. I might even have to get brifters. But how many of us are really racing? There's a huge fun zone in which you can do plenty of sporty riding using the "outmoded" pedal and shoe technology.


Steve A said...

Campy clips don't wear, they just break if you drag them. Steel clips last much better. I use spd on my commute bike. Toeclips for the local rides.

Justine Valinotti said...

I actually went back to toe clips and straps after about twenty years of riding step-ins. The latter made sense when I was riding with racers and wannabes. Since I'm no longer, and don't plan on reverting to being, either, snap-in pedals and shoes that are dedicated to them don't make sense. Nor do most cycling-specific clothes, for that matter!

And, since I'm also no longer a weight weenie, I use steel clips. Interestingly, the MKS GR-p pedals with the steel clips and leather straps I now ride weigh roughly the same as the Looks and SPDs I used to ride.

cafiend said...

I used to bend, fatigue and eventually break steel clips. I still have a few sets kicking around. And my favorite pedals are Campy steel road pedals --hardly svelte. I do prefer cycling shorts for any distance, and clothes that don't chafe or bind. Nothing gaudy, though.

I like MKS Sylvan pedals. Way traditional. The Sylvan Prime looks pretty fancy in the pictures. I've had good luck salvaging parts off of old bikes people dump because they're "obsolete."

Anonymous said...

I had never used cleats of any kind until I bought my Madone a year ago. I now use Shimano platform pedals which have the SPD on one side and a flat platform on the other. This allows me to pedal on the flat in critical times until I can "step in." Before that, starting in '72 when I got back to cycling I used toeclips (SS at first and plastic now). I bought reinforced bike shoes with grooves to take the place of cleats. You really never know when you will have to walk. Now I have SPD adaptable MTB shoes with the cleats recessed, so I can still walk. They serve me well. For my six bikes with toeclips I have a pair of shoes sans cleats.

Ham said...

Maybe you have a point.....

greatpumpkin said...

I love Yellow Jersey for their interest in old technology that still has a use, such as slotted cleats and roadster bicycles. Must be the only shop in which the owner's winter ride is a fixed-gear roadster bike.

I started using clips and straps without the cleats back in 1972, and never got around to using the cleats. Recently I started using clipless pedals on my recumbent trike, but I am still not interested in using them on upright bikes, now that I can ride both again--which means I have two sets of shoes. (It's possible to use slotted cleats on recumbents, if you keep the straps tight enough so your foot won't fall out of the pedal). Maybe I'll try some slotted cleats on my upright bikes.

greatpumpkin said...

Regarding clips, I like the look of metal ones, except I invariably end up riding them upside down on occasion and then they have scrape marks. So I use plastic ones and endure the sneers of bike snobs.