Sunday, November 29, 2009

My epic failure ride.

A cycling career is a series of experiments. Some things work and some things don't. After many saddles I found the one that works with my bum is a Silverado by WTB. There's others out there I'd like to try, but I don't have the money to test saddles.

One experiment I've been trying recently is riding in plain clothes. Or rather, not lycra and such. It's worked out perfect on my short jaunt to work and on some half hour to hour rides. I've even gone so far as to put flat pedals on my commuter and wear my comfy shoes. No more clackity clackity walking into work.

So this particular experiment went too far on today's ride. The plan was to meet at Ryan F's house, ride to the Wabash trailhead, take that down to Malvern, then ride home. I hadn't really thought it out, but that was going to equal about 75 miles or so. Ryan said it would be a nice mellow ride. So I figured, what the hey. I'll go in near plain clothes, flat pedals, and comfy shoes. Maybe I'll discover that my cold feet issues can be solved this way (that issue is a whole post unto itself).

I met Ryan, we get going, and I feel pretty good. It was mid 30s at the start with a brisk Northish wind, so it was at our backs or sides most of the way. Well after an hour, my toes did their normal winter going numb thing. The only way I can avoid that is to use those chemical toe warmer deals. I got some hints from Ryan and Mr. Bixby that I may try on future long rides.

After we met up with Martin and Tom at the Wabash trailhead, we headed South west with a nice tailwind. After a couple miles, Tom all of a sudden realized that he didn't have his cycling glasses on to protect his contact covered eyes from cold wind and trail debris. He said we could keep going and he'd catch up after going back to the car, but I figured I'd offer my cycling glasses as I had my regular glasses to use. So that worked out fine. We kept right on trucking.

As we kept going Ryan and I would creep off the front sometimes as we were both feeling pretty good. I had forgotten how far Malvern was, though. It's 22 miles down the trail. We left the trailhead at 9:10 and pulled into the C and A cafe at 10:35, just in time to miss breakfast. DOH!! So that was another failure. Martin had wanted to leave the trailhead by 8am, but that would have meant Ryan and I leaving mid-town when it was barely light at 7am and colder still.

Anywho, we ate some great food and Ryan, being the lightest dressed of all of us, decided he needed to get going pretty fast on the return trip to warm up. I felt like going hard too so I went with him. This meant we bid farewell to Tom and Martin at Malvern. This is also the first apology I'm announcing publicly to Tom because I sorta needed my sunglasses back as I didn't see a way for us to cross paths again soon before I'd need to use them. So he had to ride all the way back into a 20ish mph headwind with no eye protection. Tom, I'm very sorry for not thinking that through. I owe you a beer or a beverage of your choice.

Ryan and I got going pretty darn fast. Too fast for my stomach and tired quads to handle. See, when you ride flat pedals, pretty much the only part of your pedal rotation getting any power is the down stroke. I've heard from various places that you don't really pull up on the backside of your stroke as much as you unweight your non power phase. This proved wrong in my case. So after a while of hammering into the wind, uphill, with no blood in my legs due to the digestion of food, I had to back it off. From there on, it was a steady decline into the worst thing a cyclist can do to end a ride - call for an early pick up. Yup, that is the 2nd and consequently 3rd apologies I owe. Ryan, I'm so sorry to turn what could have been a great epic ride into a horrible epic failure by having you call your dad to pick us up at the Wabash Trailhead. And Doug (Ryan's dad) I'm sorry we had you drive over to come pick us up. It was pretty much my complaining (and snail like pace) that led Ryan to call you.

So that's pretty much it. NEVER EVER EVER go for a ride over an hour on flat pedals. Especially if food is involved that will take away the blood you will need to keep your quad only pedal strokes going.

I think I'm going to take a nap now.


erik said...

I'm glad the normal clothes thing is working out for you, it's a nice change of pace.

You got tired more quickly partly because your body had to use your muscles not just to move your pedals but to stabilize your foot upon the platform. Folks like you and I ride flat pedals for hundreds of miles continuous so I don't feel as though your admonishment to NEVER EVER is correct. It felt very weird to me on longer rides at first too, but so did riding in cleats when i first made the switch earlier. Another point to consider is your fit on the bike. The face kissing the pavement, bars 6 inches below the saddle, lance treatment isn't going to work as well for flat pedals as bars even with or just below the saddle--you'll have to work harder to keep your feet stationary in the former setup. Finally, the study of professional racers showed that they simply unweight the pedal on the upstroke--there is no pulling. If you really want pull on a flat pedal, you can do so by grabbing back across the surface and pushing toward the back of the bike through the first quarter of the return stroke. The friction of the pedal has something to do with things as well.

I point these out because I think the NEVER EVER EVER admonishment is a bit much, not to mention empirically false.


Mike Miles said...

What kind of flat pedals were you using and shoes?

munsoned said...

Mike - I was using plain ol plastic Wellgo pedals that I've had laying around forever. These were the shoes I had on. Nice and comfy to walk around in, but the sole has no stiffness. But the pedal was wide enough it shouldn't have mattered. I think, after feeling the odd sore muscles this morning, that I agree with Erik about the stabilizer muscles being overworked.

Erik, I guess I should have put it differently. Never ever go from riding clipped in, take 2 weeks off of long rides, then randomly go on a >60 mile ride on flat pedals. You have to work up to the longer rides when you switch something major on your bike. I know that fact, yet I ignored and feel pretty dumb for doing so. Also, something I found interesting, when I switched to flat pedals, I had to lower my saddle to pretty much level with my bars. I guess there's still an inch or so difference, but I sure was way more upright than my riding partners. This was a bother heading home into the wind, but by that time, I was tired enough all over, I didn't have the strength to use the drops and cheat the wind.

So the moral of the story is, always work into a change on the bike and ride more often so long rides don't hurt as bad.

Mike Miles said...

I think the pedal you use when using a flat pedal can make a big difference. Platform pedals like on a BMX or Freeride bike have little spikes that dig into your shoes. These spikes do two things they help destroy your legs if you fall on them, but they also allow for you to a bit of what Erik described of pulling back on the pedal and getting some of the same effect as using clipless pedals. They are heavier, but they will do the job nicely. Secondly, you need a shoe that is stiff enough to transfer power but not super stiff. Think once again about what you see bmx/freeride types wear.

I'm sure Erik can provide some alternate suggestions that will work just as nicely but the above are some good points to consider. I like my clipless pedals just fine but back in college when I'd ride my bike 6-7 miles to school and didn't want to geek out to get there this is a set up that worked nicely. Used some old Odyssey bmx pedals and Vans or something of the sort. Did the job nicely.

erik said...

No honestly Mike you are straight on about the BMX recommendation. For riding in any type of shoe, and getting adequate support in even the most flexy of sneakers, it's hard to beat the size of the platform. I can't ride rat-traps unless I have cages, and I always thought that meant free was not right for me until I tried out the Crank Brothers 50/50. Emily loves that on her mb-1 with light hiking boots now. Would recommend.

All three of my bikes now have the MKS lambda, or grip king as riv calls it. You can find them for about 35 dollars, so they're not bad. Even with my size 15 honkers of feet, no problem and plenty of grip. I'm going to add some spikes, like the 50/50's have, to improve things a bit more (I like to pull back across the stroke at times, and mud/wet can sometimes make them a bit slippy for my tastes). Otherwise, do recommend.

And yeah, I'd agree that the moral of the story is more along the lines of "don't change anything before a long ride, ever." Clipless takes some time to work beyond, you're using new muscles, but once you get into the ability to ditch your bike and go on a few mile hike or walk into a store casually, it's hard to go back to such a specialized setup.

I'd rather put the hundreds saved on pedals, shoe/cleat replacement, and the like, into my wallet!

Most of all, riding is fun. It got much more so for me once I shed my cleats.

erik said...

*so don't give up just yet!

Scott Redd said...

I enjoy the best of both worlds with the Shimano M324 dual purpose pedals ( I have two sets of these. They have an SPD fitting on one side, and platform on the other. There are little metal teeth on the platform side, but the teeth aren't nearly as aggressive as with BMX pedals. Still, I am quite comfortable riding in sneakers or even my dress shoes.

I also have an MTB shoe with an SPD cleat that looks like a black hiking or walking shoe. The cleat is recessed enough that I can walk without the "tap-tap." If I step on some grit or a pebble, I do get a grinding or crusing sound at times. I am comfortable wearing these shoes into stores, restaurants, etc. I've even forgotten to take them off, as they are comfy, and gone back out driving and walking around in them.