It’s windy and drizzling, and the coldest day of the year since last spring. And of course it seems to me like a perfectly good day to do a short test ride.
For a while now I’ve been swapping out pedals on my 1985 Shogun 2000 touring bike. I began with various pedals and toe clips combinations, and while those looked great and worked great for shorter rides, they really weren’t what I wanted for the long and leisurely tours. It took me a while to come around because the vintage aesthetic really appealed to my sense of the classic. My old cycling shoes and cleats are still in good working condition and I use them with the toe clips and pedals on my Freschi, Centurion Turbo, Peugeot PX-10, and other road bikes. But finding cleats is getting tougher and tougher, and one of these days those shoes are just going to wear out. Who knows if I’ll be able to come up with a viable replacement.
I’ve got Speedplay pedals on several road bikes with much more aggressive geometry and I really like them – a lot, in fact. They are light in weight and I love that, like rat trap pedals, both sides of the pedal are active. In other words, one can clip in on either side of the small pedal platform. On the other hand, getting off the bike – as one is wont to do while cyclo-touring – one is left with the challenge of walking around on slick soled shoes with a large and awkward cleat mounted to the sole of the cycling shoe. Duck walking is not my idea of comfort, nor is it a whole lot of fun to slip and fall to the ground and bruise one’s arse.
So I’ve been looking at the Shimano M324 pedal system for the past couple of months. I’d already purchased a pair of Keen cycling shoes before pulling the trigger on pedals and cleats last week. I have always liked my Keen sandals: they’re durable and comfortable and have lasted through several years of hard travel. I figured it would be tough to go wrong with another pair.
The Keens are part of my plan for commuting and touring. Turns out that they are kind of hot and don’t breathe as well as I would have hoped for during the most humid months. However, they are terrific on cooler days like we get during the spring and fall.
The M324 pedal system is interesting in that one side of the pedal is a grippy platform that allows me to just jump on and ride, no matter what shoe I’m wearing at the time, while the other side accepts a cleat, locking the rider to the bike for increased mechanical efficiency in much the same way as the Speedplays. Clipping in and out with the SPDs is just as easy as the Speedplay system.
The difference that I really like is how I can get off the bike and walk around like a normal person. The shoes don’t look like the sort of things you would see on the feet of Star Trek refuges, like so many current cycling togs do. In fact, the Keens are passable for casual dress situations and make them perfect for commuting. The cleats are recessed and don’t interfere with walking either.
So how do they function? Well, today’s ride was not very long. But I managed to ride in high and low gearing, hills and descents and flats. I rode through town and in traffic, stopping frequently and dismounting to shop for some vegetables at the Saturday Morning Farmer’s Market. I could walk around and get back on to ride with minimal fuss.
Felt pretty good!