My knees were sore and I knew why; it was my SPD pedals. I loved them for the efficiency of my pedal stroke, but I knew they were keeping my knee in an inflexible position. Then my feet started to hurt.
I’ve had surgery on my right foot and like most foot surgery survivors, most aren’t that happy with the results. Biking on my SPD’s would cause me to limp around the house for the whole next day. Then I saw an ad for Speedplay pedals in Bicycling magazine. I wanted to believe the hype and talked to Will Skeeters at Two Wheels One Planet. He must be a good fisherman; he knew how to reel me in, “I’m back in the shop starting Tuesday, why don’t you bring your bike in then and I’ll let you try them”. I made an entry in my smartphone to do just that.
It might be hard to get a sense of the difference just by looking at the pedals, but take my word for it – the Speedplay offers a larger point of contact which provides more support. On paper I knew this could reduce some of the foot pain, but there was more to the Speedplay. It’s called float, which I didn’t get right away and Will had to repeat the term to me as I moved my hand in a lateral way to signal what I was hearing: my foot could swivel while clipped in? Yes, and again on paper, I thought this could be the relief for my knees that I sought. Just a little range of motion could possibly bring some relief.
Hey, I started this bicycle enthusiast role a little late; it won’t be long and I’ll be planning my 60th birthday party. The point is these knees aren’t the flexible, muscle-bulging knees like you probably have, mine are more brittle and inflexible. I needed some slack.
Once Will sees that I’m totally hooked on the idea he leaves me to Matt to set me up with some new shoes. Yeah, the hidden cost of these new pedals: they won’t fit my shoes, but I’m mentally committed at this point, I gotta try these pedals. Matt finds me a pair of Sidi year-end close-outs, top of the line. It’s a deal. I let Matt install the shoe mount, cause I know he knows what he’s doing; I’ll mount the pedals myself.
I’ve brought bikes in several times as I’ve tried to switch from toe clips to clip-ins, I could never get them off the bike myself. Let me assure you I’m no wimp; I can slide this mouse across my desk with ample dexterity. But twisting the pedals off, that was a different story, until I was shown how. So now I have the right tool and can easily crank them right off. All I need is that tube of grease and I’ll be all done – where did I leave that grease? I just used it the other day… Hours later, after turning the garage upside down I learn that my son’s friend Andy borrowed the tube; he could return it in just 10 minutes – mystery solved and on go the pedals. Now for the test ride.
A favorite ride takes me up the shoreline along the boardwalk all the way into Sunset Beach. It’s a serene 33-mile round trip to Fish Camp where I’d arranged to meet a friend from Long Beach for lunch. The verdict: although I’m still clipping-in clumsily, the pedals are doing exactly what I hoped for. Few things in life live up to the hype, but in my case these Speedplay pedals have instantly softened the blow from a 3 hour ride. My knees were the first to applaud; I could feel the flexibility during the ride. Just a few degrees of freedom was all it took. The foot pain? That was harder to gauge; I kept waiting for the inevitable pain, sometimes quite sharp, that followed a long ride. There was none. I felt like dancing, well as a metaphor at least.
So do the Speedplay pedals live up to the advertised claims? In this case I’m a very happy camper. There is one thing though, I’d rename them Kneeplay.
The Speedplay on the left versus the SPD. It’s obvious why I needed new shoes; the Speedplay mount is much larger, offering more contact with the foot resulting in better support, less foot pain. The Speedplay mount allows the foot to slide about 15 degrees, swiveling inside the circular mount. It’s the relief my knees were looking for.