Monday, January 13, 2014

New Shoes, Baby!!

I gave up riding clipless most of the time - especially around the city.  While I still occasionally use them on long trail rides, I've found I'm happier on the flat pedals when I know I'll be making lots of stops.  My usual shoe is a running shoe, even though I don't run any more.  My feet and knees like them better under every circumstance so I don't fight that.  The combination of running shoes with the flat side of my pedals just works well for me and if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  Unfortunately, all the bike shops seem to offer are neoprene bike shoe covers with the openings for the clips.  Go figure.  First problem is that they're designed for relatively narrow bike shoes, and not for the wide, thick-soled running shoes.  Last year I tried a combination of toe warmers with an oh-so-stylish layer of duck tape across the toes to block the wind and hold the heat in.  That kind-of-sort-of worked, but not as well as I would have liked.  Better than nothing, but far from the warm and cozy feet that I desire.  This year I decided to try forcing extra large bike shoe covers over my medium sized running shoes.  This worked - for about four rides.  My feet were very comfy, even if the covers were just a bit on the bulky side.  They did not work well when I had to walk the bike through a slightly flooded, muddy trail section though.  The wet mud came right up through those cleat openings.  Still, I was happy to have these covers.  Unfortunately, the binding around one of the openings tore quickly and with the loose loop of fabric hanging half off the bottom they became dangerous.  I deduced that they came apart because they weren't being used as designed.  If I had been clipped in, the shoe covers themselves would have little or no contact with the pedals.  The way I was trying to use them, they were in constant contact with the rough, larger, flat side of my pedals and subject to tearing.  What to do...  I've looked for covers that would fit over my running shoes and might hold up to the little teeth on my pedals, but so far no luck.  So I've decided to attempt a modification to these covers.  I cut off the rest of the torn binding and set out to find a way to repair the soles.  I concluded that any new binding I might use would end up in the same condition.  I needed a new, durable sole. I cut an old tire piece to fit over the openings and experimented with a couple of types of glue in order to hold it in place temporarily.  While the glue kept it in place, I stitched it to the sole with an upholstery needle and heavy thread.  I haven't tried them out yet, but I'll let you know how this works.

In the meantime I've been using some LLBean winter boots for the really cold days.  On the slightly less cold days I've been using some Merrell high tops that are really comfortable.  Saturday I stumbled onto a waterproof version of the same model Merrell shoe and decided to get them.  This will be my new option for medium cold days that have a chance of rain. That described today perfectly.  We started out with temps in the 30's, but it warmed up nicely and we rode the last 4 miles in a steady rain.  

I wasn't the only one sporting new shoes today though.  After the two flat tires yesterday, this morning began with yet another flat.  I had already decided I was going to look into new tires today but that clinched the deal.  Our first stop was at REI where I purchased a new set of the same Continental Contact tires.  

New treads for both the bike and me:

While REI swapped out the tires for me, we walked over to Big Dog coffee for some of their crazy good oatmeal.  I noticed that they still had one of their Christmas decorations up:

Back to REI, we picked up the bike and hit the trail.  After a nice sprint out to the Waterfront and back, we cut across town and out to Lawrenceville.  We stopped by Iron City Bikes to admire their fat bikes.  It would have been so cool to have one of those in last week's ice and snow.

Next door at Franktuary we found a new, custom bike rack:

When we started our return ride to the trailhead the sun had disappeared and a full overcast had rolled in.  We thought we had another hour before the rain was due, but we were wrong.  The drizzle started to hit before we finished crossing the 16th St Bridge and by the time we passed PNC park it was a steady rain.

Earlier when we had left REI it felt very good to no longer worry about getting another flat.  Not that the new tires are puncture proof - but if they're as good as the last set the flats should be few and far between.  While finishing this ride in a steady rain, I was very pleased to not be stuck out on the trail in cold, wet conditions trying to make repairs.  There's a lot to be said for having confidence in your equipment.


  1. Whoa! I LOVE the use of tires on those shoes! That is impressive and ingenious. I hope they stay fastened too!

  2. I came to the same conclusions about not riding clipless shoes around the city, shoe covers not fitting my non-bike shoes, and Merrells hiking shoes! I think that if another single-digit day happens, I'll put Toe Warmers in my shoes, but for temperatures in the 20s-30s F, hiking shoes and wool socks seem to do me just fine.