Shoes and Pedalsfor Bicycle Touring
2011, when I cycled across the States I went clipless, the shoes worked well for the most part, but carrying extra shoes just for cycling was cumbersome, they’re also stiff and uncomfortable to walk in, and when it rained I would find myself having wet feet for days on end. I was a newbie to touring and didn’t really have a clue what the alternatives were on offer or what everyone was using. After a large amount of research and plenty of trial and error I think I have found my perfect pedal/shoe combination for on and off-road, hot and wet climates.
I know there are plenty of arguments for and against riding clipless pedals, and this post isn’t about that (Go and battle that out in bicycle forums, if you dare). This review is for my pedal/shoe combination on a very long distance tour.
Blackspire SUB4 Flat Pedals
Reading the glowing review of the previous model, the Blackspire SUB420 over at bikepacking.com (I highly recommend reading this site if you’re into off-road touring), I decided to give them a shot. My deciding factors were that they were relatively cheap for mountain bike flats, they’re completely serviceable, and built for ample amounts of abuse, plus I think they look great. These would be my first taste of mountain bike flats so I don’t have anything to compare them, however I thought I’d share with you my findings after using them down the Pan American Highway.
Machined in Canada these menacing looking pedals come in a variety of dashing colors, I opted for black, not the most dazzling I know, but they look great on our tandem. The pedals weigh in at 430g each, is that a lot? who cares, i’m not in a yellow jersey and certainly not a gram counter by any means. The size of the platform is a whopping 92mm x 92mm and is plenty big enough for my size 10.5 (UK) feet, I think giants would find these pedals suitable and comfortable for riding in as well. This was my first time using a pedal with spikes, so I don’t have anything to compare them with, but woah momma, these things stick to the feet like glue. Even in the wet my feet don’t move.
The pedals lasted for 5800 miles of pure Pan-American abuse before the left-side bearings gave up and detached itself from the body of the pedal. I could of repaired them, but being in Panama at the time it was easier have a new pair shipped out to me, I’ll send in my old pair for repair when I get home as Blackspire have a free pedal rebuild service, all you have to pay for is the shipping, sweet.
Wrapping up, just as bikepacking.com said in their initial review of the Sub4’s, I think these are pretty close to the most perfect touring pedal I have used, they’ve worked well in all manner of conditions that the pan-american highway has thrown at us, bashed around, struck on countless rocks, and covered in thick, powdery dust. It would take a lot to sway me from trying a set of different pedals or even go back to clipless.
Keen Newport H2s Sandals
These updated Jesus creepers will give you wicked tan lines like tiger stripes, i’m totally convinced these are the best multipurpose touring shoe on the market, and yes I’m aware my friends back home laugh at me for wearing these ridiculous looking clown shoes, even I acknowledge these aren’t the most desirable shoes to look at, however for touring, I normally look such a mess by the end of the day, not even the prettiest Rapha gear could save me.
I’ve been wearing these sandals for about 99% of the tour so far, the only time I swapped over to my hiking boots was when the temperature dropped below freezing in the high deserts of Mexico.
The soles are stiff and thick which helps with long days on the bike, and they have some ankle support thanks to a well positioned strap, the toes are covered by a thick piece of rubber to help stop bashing your little toes on the ground or even worse, on the pedal spikes.
I find they work great in conjunction with the spikes as the rubber soles are ever so sticky and thick, even in the wet there is plenty of grip to the pedals. After 6 months of daily use, there was hardly any wear on them, just at the contact points of the spikes.
In hot climates I enjoy the breeze tickling my feet as the shoes are well vented from the canyon size holes in the side of the shoes. When the temperature drops then I just add some thick merino wool socks to the mix and it makes riding pleasant again, I’ve even rode in temperatures above freezing just fine, any lower then i’ll swap them out for my Merrell mid-ankle hiking boots, It would be great to only carry one pair of shoes but because of the spikes on the pedals I can’t use rain covers (bootys) with them. Compromise people, compromise!
One thing I’m not so impressed by is that they claim they are anti-oder, man, do these things stink when they get wet, I’ve tried everything to eliminate the smell by cleaning them and using oder eaters, but in the end, I had to throw my first pair away in Mexico City as i’m sure I was contributing to the smog.
Let me know your touring pedal/shoe combinations in the comments below.