As you pedal on your bicycle your legs drive the crank in a 360 degree motion, with your feet providing the power to propel yourself forward, and (slowly) up hills. When the pedal is at the top of its revolution (lets just say for reference 12′o’clock) your foot is able to put much pressure during this part of the stroke passing power all the way down the drivetrain, hereby allowing your opposite foot to prepare for transferring power to the other pedal which has traveled from the 6′o’clock position at the very bottom of the pedal stroke all the way to its 12′o’clock position. And the process repeats, over, and over, and over again – until you reach your destination. While this hypnotic process will get you to your destination you might have gathered that half of your efficiency is being lost as you transfer your weight from foot to foot only applying the power from the 12′o’clock position onwards. Somewhere along the line a cyclist came up with the idea of locking your feet into some sort of apparatus (a cage of some sort) to balance the power being placed on the pedals to provide a near 360 degree power transfer – this time being able to give power when you lift your leg as opposed to just pushing down. They proved themselves immediately, thus beginning a war between cyclists that continues to rage on as to what the right type of pedal to use, how to achieve optimal power transfer, and attachment to the pedal itself.
Obviously if you didn’t have pedals you wouldn’t be able to get far on your bicycle – they are an essential component for bicycle tourists and come in many shapes and sizes and prices. When I first started planning out my trip, I spent hours upon hours reading other bicycle tourists blogs, gear listings and and reports trying to garner information on what they used. I came out of it with a whole lot of spandex, funny looking shoes, and more logos than I could ever want to wear on my body at any point in time with varied choices in pedals which could be split into two major categories – clipless and not clipless. Yes there are other solutions, like the above mentioned ‘cage’ setup, but with newer technologies and methods appearing on the market a very small number of cyclists seem to use this system now a days.
As you can see all of these types work in some way shape or form, offering the benefit of increased pedal power, sometimes at the cost of added expense – apparatuses that require maintenance, special attachment systems to connect to even more special shoes that are only suited for one purpose and may not have features such as water proofing. I hadn’t ridden a bike in nearly 20 years when I decided to embark on a long term bicycle journey and commenced my research. I came the conclusion that:
- Over the course of my journey based on wear and tear of other cyclists gearI was looking to replace my pedals – or at the very least perform an overhaul of bearings and internals at some point in time. Based on this, I wondered if I would be able to settle on a pedal set that would be available globally that I would feel comfortable on, or not be discontinued with advances “latest” technologies/buzz in the industry. I figured 150,000km was an adequate global distance to cycle, and based upon reports I saw that pedals could last from 5,000km to 40,000km+ based on the quality, the road conditions and of course price.
- Some pedals worked only with a specific manufacturers style of attachment, often an a soaring high cost. If I was to rip a hole in the shoe, would I be able to find a replacement in a 3rd world country? Or would I need to carry not only a spare set of shoes, spare parts for the pedals, maybe even another set of pedals with me so that my shoes and pedals could work asynchronously without one component fitting with the other at all times? Were the shoes multipurpose
- Were the shoes if I was to go with a proprietary system able to be used outside of cycling? I didn’t foresee I would be spending much time in a hotel, more walking through dirt and mud to find a place to sleep for the night, as well the idea of carrying spare shoes dangling off the back of my bicycle by their laces didn’t appeal to me when it started to rain, or worse – losing a shoe due to poor tying ability.
I had put the cheapest pedals I could find onto my touring bike upon purchase knowing that a decision would be made in the future, but at least with $10 pedals on the bicycle I could zip around, run errands and see what it felt like to ride again. It was like riding when I was 11 delivering papers every afternoon, no big deal, but it was apparent that with more and more weight added onto the bicycle I’d soon be wishing that I had all 360degrees of pedaling power available to me.
I have no desire to upgrade or try different types of pedal systems, as the Powergrips have shown that they can stand up to repeated abuse, allow me to ride with any sort of footwear, and provide the ability to deal with starts and stops with a heavy load on my bicycle in urban areas. They are cheap enough to replace if one gets ripped, and although hard to find in smaller countries, they can be easily found online and shipped by mail order. I’ll continue to purchase Powergrips and the cheap pedals I use for the remainder of the world trip.