Gearing Up For Biking…in a Month

Nothing puts me in the mood to go biking faster than getting new gear. You know that American Express ad where the woman is buying a bag and shoes for vacation, but it turns out she’s an extreme rock climber? That’s Tery and me (not the extreme climbing, but you can keep your Macy’s and Nordstrom gift cards; Sports Authority and Dick’s, please).

Despite technically being in a spending freeze, out of the blue I decided I needed a new pair of biking shoes. I have shoes I bike in, but they are uniformly cheap, heavy, and make my feet sweaty and numb. I decided this year to go for light, airy and roomy (I begrudgingly realized “cheap” might need to be sacrificed).

Thus my entry into the world of “minimalist” or “barefoot” footwear. The pioneer of this style is Vibram, who introduced the FiveFingers…

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…which look exceedingly silly and aren’t terribly comfortable (yes, I tried a pair on once).

Not that this style is so revolutionary. Truth be told, I wore a pair of tabi boots back in school very similar to them.

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These had the desired effect of keeping people away in droves. Ninjas don’t need friends, and neither did I.

Somehow I gravitated to Merrell, because I already own their hiking boots and they’re awesome. They have a whole line of “Gloves”: Trail Gloves, Road Gloves, Vapor Gloves, Sonic Gloves. They all come highly recommended by runners, and therein lies the problem.

Normally when I buy things, they’re so obscure that I spend days searching for reviews in an attempt to make a reasonably informed decision. Not so with the Gloves — runner’s blog after runner’s blog went on at great length about all the pros and cons. But runners seldom, if ever, consider their cycling brethren (until we’re trying to squeeze past them on the road). Everything I found nattered on about “zero drop” and “heel strikes” and “gait cycles.” None of these things matter if your feet don’t even touch the ground.

However, I liked the words I did understand: Roomy toe box (where I believe my numbness problems originate), feather light, and breezy mesh upper. And as soon as I tried on some Trail Gloves in the store for sizing, I knew there was no turning back. Like wearing nothing at all (no doubt where the term “barefoot” comes into play).

But I had my heart set on Road Gloves for their looks and smoother toe profile for fitting in my pedal cages. These, in fact:

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But I couldn’t spend that kind of money without being sure. Even more intensive Googling led to one or two threads of people asking the same question: How were they on a bike? These poor souls were deluged with racing purists all yawning dismissively, “Just get cycling shoes.”

For those who couldn’t care less about biking (in which case you probably haven’t made it this far), cycling shoes are tight, rigid prisons for your feet meant to snap into special, expensive pedals (aka clipless). If you ever happen upon a cyclist fully geared up away from their bike hobbling around unnaturally, it’s because they’ve got these cleats on their shoes that aren’t made for walking.  Tery swears by them, but she’s a bit snobby when it comes to sports gear.  This technology has replaced the toe cages that I use because when I fall off my bike I don’t need to be stuck to it, making the crash worse.

Anyway, the purists insist only a rigid shoe works on a bike — some crap about dispersal of pressure or something. Very rarely a hippie would jump in and say they’ve been biking in flip-flops for decades with no issues.  And I believe one person endorsed barefoot shoe pedaling, claiming it exercised muscles in legs and feet made spoiled and lazy by cycling shoes.  These people were largely ignored.

A well-known cycling  company came out with barefoot clipless shoes, for a mere $349. LULZ no.

To Tery’s displeasure, my next round of Googling was for “the myth of cycling shoes.” I did find some articles, and they all agreed that unless you were racing and needed quick bursts of speed, clipless didn’t make an appreciable difference in performance, so wear whatever damn shoes you wanted. I chose to heed that advice and pulled the trigger.

My timing is terrible though. It’s spring in Colorado, which means Mother Nature teases us with some mild, balmy days, only to say, “Nah, I was just taking the piss,” and dumps all the snow we didn’t get the rest of the season on us. As I write this, there’s about eight inches of Christmas miracle falling.  But she can’t keep us here forever, and I plan to be ready.

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Spring in Colorado

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5 thoughts on “Gearing Up For Biking…in a Month

  1. This whole post falls apart on the basis that I have not seen that American Express commercial. However I love the theme you’ve chosen so I will read on.

    Also, I didn’t know you were a camel in college. I don’t understand this attraction people have to shoes which look more like the shape of a foot. Newsflash, Five Fingers: feet are gross. Shoes are there to trick people into thinking you don’t have feet. This is why Crocs are repellent.

    It shouldn’t surprise me that there is runner’s jargon floating around out there but it does. I’m irritated that there are people out there enjoying their niche community and excluding me from conversations I don’t want to hear anyway. I think I’m going to make a blog where I simply post rants about subjects so harmless that I can’t be taken seriously in my hatred of them.

    Probably you’ve made the right choice (and not only because they look great). Any preteen will tell you that it doesn’t matter what shoe you wear on a bike as long as it doesn’t fall off. Does imprisoning your foot make you faster or improve your balance?

    The picture is lovely (the one advantage to having snow in a month which has bright enough sunlight for pictures?). Note: if you click to enlarge the picture, it takes you to another page. However if you hit “back” it will have saved the comment.

  2. Well, there’s this commercial, and the woman is shopping for vacation and of course you think, “Here we go, women love to buy purses and high heels,” right? But it turns out she’s buying all this bad-ass climbing gear. It’s really not the best commercial, except to illustrate my point here.

    Ugh, Crocs do the best job of disguising feet, but in the ugliest way conceivable. But I love the idea of hiding the fact you have feet. I thought they were to protect feet because we don’t have hooves? And it just occurred to me: Five Fingers? Those are clearly toes, Vibram.

    I’ll admit, it’s a nice feeling to be familiar with some jargon, but too much and you risk sounding elitist. That’s why I feel the need to provide explanations, aware as I am that no one but me cares about biking.

    My shoes used to fall off all the time when I was little! Then I’d stab my unprotected feet on the toothy metal pedals we were forced to use. Shoes are a good thing. It’s not the prison that matters, just the interaction between your foot and the pedal. The snap-in is supposed to maximize power on the upstroke, but the articles I read suggest that might be a bit overstated by cycling shoe salesmen. Worse comes to worst, I may need broader, flatter “platform” pedals to counteract the flexibility of my sole, and I’m sure you don’t actually care about any of this.

    Thank you! Just a quick snap out my window. I plan to include more quick snaps with this blog. Something to look forward to.

  3. Testing out the whole “posting from my actual Word Press Account thing. Meanwhile, can I reply directly to you or what?

    Oh, that’s hilarious. Women. Next they’ll be working or voting or whatever.

    Pssh yeah maybe in the Way Back when we had to worry about stubbing our toes out there in the Great Unpaved. Now shoes are for modesty, in the same way that pants are to prevent you from getting your nasty all over communal furniture.

    I think it’s “Five Fingers” to suggest the idea that, as our monkey cousins might do, you could operate the handles or pedals with any appendage.You’re so cool your body doesn’t need to conform to the norms of bike-riding.

    Some people care about biking. If they didn’t there’d be no one to piss off drivers in the morning except other drivers.

    Mine fell off too (probably the greatest annoyance in my life was having to circle back to pick up a shoe or plastic bag), but my pedals were a softer plastic. That, or my feet were significantly more calloused from outdoorsery than yours, I can’t be certain.

    How much more power could it possibly give you? I’d be more worried about you falling down one of your giant mountains in the middle of a wild animal preserve, stuck to your bike all the way down and caught by a rapid beast at the bottom.

    Photos are a great idea. I heart your filters.

  4. Oh, there’s no way I have any kind of clips on my mountain bike (Tery actually agrees with me here). Falling is far more likely and the results far more potentially ugly if you can’t extricate yourself quickly. Although your scenario is quite humorous to imagine!

  5. Are there special shoes for mountain biking as well? This world is impenetrable.

    Just realized I typed “rapid” beast rather than “rabid” – I guess to distinguish from the very slow beasts that might give you time to extricate yourself, right your bike, and limp off with it?

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