88 comments


  • Amen on the flat petals! I love the whole gist of this entry, but having toured with flat pedals and a mountain of field guides loaded in the panniers, it’s nice to know that I’m in good company when it comes to doing it wrong.

    November 11, 2010
  • This is completely right! I personally could tell the moment I stepped in to clipless, it was for me. But that doesn’t mean I’m right and you’re wrong! I mean, you’ve already done a tour and I’m still planning. It does free me up to worry about other things besides “the right gear” though when I look at it this way. Ahhh, stress is lifting!

    Cheers,
    Rachel
    http://againstthegrind.com

    November 11, 2010
  • Sue

    THANK YOU!!!

    November 11, 2010
  • Just as long as your pedals aren’t made of plastic and scrape away like eraser heads, you’re doing it just fine. :P

    November 11, 2010
  • Teresa McCauley

    Great blog!!! i agree 100% I ride a wonderful Schwinn i recued from a trash pile. No clips and it has a basket on the front.

    November 11, 2010
  • Great post – there is truly no right and wrong – just each other’s preference!

    November 11, 2010
  • Rob E.

    Amen. I have been trying to build my LHT into the perfect commuter/tourer. My choices often don’t fit with current trends, but even so, I get caught up in the “right” way. Mostly I commute, and I keep thinking that if I’m going to do any overnight trips, I Need to outfit my bike “properly.” I need a front rack. My rear rack is not right. The tent I have is not the tent I want. And so on. And then I remember riding from home to college in the 90’s, a three to five day trip each of the two times I did it. The bike was an old Schwinn, I think. The rack was some old, Wald-style baskets (and not the fancy collapsible kind, either). My gear was kept dry in the rain by way of plastic bags. My department store dome tent did not keep dry in the rain, but it didn’t leak too badly. I had a little Igloo cooler. Does anyone ever tour with a cooler? This summer I talked myself out of a three or four day tour in part because I just didn’t have my bike ready yet: no front rack, substandard panniers, etc.. The difference between then and now? Thanks to the internet, I’m so much more in tune with what is available, what everyone else is using/doing, and what is “right.” There’s a lot of great information out there. I value the opinions of other riders and gear evaluations I get from here and elsewhere, but the right way to ride is however makes you happy and gets you on the road. Anything that gets in way of that needs to be seriously re-evaluated, regardless of the “wisdom” of the masses. Thanks for reminding us of that.

    November 11, 2010
  • Great post. It seems to me that, on balance, I know more touring cyclists who _don’t_ use clipless pedals than touring cyclists who do. Both have their advantages, I suppose, but I’m with you in terms of being able to wear regular shoes on and off the bike, especially when touring cross-country.

    November 11, 2010
  • peteathome

    I don’t use clipless touring because I don’t find any of the clipless shoes comfortable for hiking off the bike. Since I don’t want to carry three pairs of shoes ( bicycling shoes, walking shoes and camp shoes) I go with flat pedals and then my walking shoes are the bicycling shoes, too.

    I go back and forth about using toeclips, kept very loose, on the flat pedals, though. I keep them too loose to add an efficiency. Instead, the toeclips keep my shoe from sliding off the pedal. I just had that happen the other day – I stoped at a sign and when I put my foot back on the pedal and pushed off I nearly crashed as my foot went skidding off. Apparently I had put my foot down in a small bit of road oil.

    Sometimes this is a problem when things are just wet.

    So I sometimes have “rat trap” style pedlas with toeclips and other times switch to rubber pad pedals without clips. The ribber is enough to keep my foot stable.

    November 11, 2010
  • Randy

    Clip-less pedals, normal street clothing, AND I’ll put catchup on my hot-dog thank you very much ;) Life is to short to live it by the “Book of Snobbery.”

    Thanks for the great article~

    Ride safe!

    ~Randy

    November 11, 2010
  • Great post. I especially like the story and photo of Arthur. Great example of just touring because it’s awesome to do.

    I have been using clipless pedals for years, after having used the old-style clip pedals, after having used flat pedals. I am thinking of going back to flat or clip. I tend to like the security of clipless, but then I spent many years downhill skiing and I’m used to clicking in to bindings. But I really miss my old clip pedals. And posts like this have me rethinking about flat pedals, just like I am moving away from all the newfangled materials in frame design and falling in love with steel again.

    November 11, 2010
  • sue

    Oh this post makes me happy! My boyfriend and I are planning a cross country bike trip next summer and the more I read about the things I “need” the more I realize I can’t afford all the “right” gear! So yes, I will be just fine making this adventure happen with possibly some of the “wrong” gear, but I won’t miss out on an amazing experience.

    Thanks for posting your observations – I feel supported in making do with what I can afford and enjoy the adventure.

    November 11, 2010
  • SUPER post! I couldn’t agree more!! :)

    November 11, 2010
  • Eric

    Joining you on the Austin S24O showed me a perfect example of this: the gal with two 5 gallon buckets bolted to her rack in place of panniers. She, like all of us had a blast!

    November 11, 2010
  • I guess I’ll be the contrarian…clipless pedals are the way to go folks. It may not be “right” but it does feel right. I’ve toured with and without. Out here in CO with the climbing we face on a regular basis they do help. Cheap SPD’s with a wide array of comfortable, normal looking shoes to match. It makes for cozy mileage. And you can cart along some flip flops easily stowed with the cribbage board. Cheers!

    November 11, 2010
  • val

    Blissin out on our bikes is all about doing it the “wrong” way…in our own time. ‘Nuf said.

    November 11, 2010
  • My dad did it wrong. In 1976, he rode from Oregon to Washington, D.C. with one of Bike Centennial’s groups (the precursor to Adventure Cycling). He wore Converse All-Stars, knee-high basketball socks, short cotton basketball shorts, cotton T-shirts and a non-waterproof down jacket. His steel-frame bike was extremely heavy. In fact, he wasn’t even really a passionate cyclist. He was in charge of the tool kit for the group, but knew almost nothing about bike mechanics.

    And yet, he survived. In fact, he managed to have the time of his life, as did the hundreds of others who rode and dressed just like he did.

    And now, apparently, I am doing it wrong. I work for the International Mountain Bicycling Association, but I ride with platform pedals on my mountain bike. So do some of my coworkers. No one gives me grief about it. All they care about is my safety and that I go on rides with them despite being the slow poke on staff.

    I think with technological advances being what they are, some of us forget that there used to be no shock-absorbing carbon bicycles, no BOB Trailers, no lightweight/breathable Gore-Tex and certainly no clipless pedals.

    You have a good perspective. I think one of the biggest fallacies in cycling is that there are right ways and wrong ways to do things, but the only “right” way – I think – is to enjoy one’s self.

    November 11, 2010
  • Hey! Jason! We live in the same town! Small world, indeed. (Philosophy aside, I am with you on clipless pedals. Lookout Mountain would be way too hard for me with platform pedals and soft-soled shoes. But if I saw someone successfully climb it without clipless – bomber! Give that person a medal.)

    November 11, 2010
  • michal

    if you want to really do it wrong, switch to airless tires…and never suffer another flat tire! I use them around town; it is a dream to not worry about having to fix a flat… no pump or tools required!!

    November 11, 2010
  • Couldn’t agree more! Nice post.

    November 11, 2010
  • […] Pigeon and the editors of Momentum Magazine. Long Beach’s cycling expats say yes, they know they’re doing it wrong. Calabasas residents help plan a new off-road bikeway along Las Virgenes Creek. Ventura plans a new […]

    November 12, 2010
  • Jimmy

    I just wanted to say hurray for doing it wrong!
    I sold my car last weekend. I’m carless. I have a bike. I have a car2go member card (if needed).
    I’m about to start doing it all wrong.
    jimmy

    November 12, 2010
  • My wife and I have had the opportunity to meet a good number of tourists, either hosting them or meeting them on the road, and the one thing in common with all of them is that they are all doing it differently. Some carry lots of stuff, some very little. Some are on expensive bike, some on Craigslist treasures. Some are clipped in, some not.

    That’s what I find most interesting about touring. Everyone doing their own thing.

    Great post, Jack

    November 12, 2010
  • Doing Tai Chi or Yoga to Ease Back Pain…

    I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

    November 12, 2010
  • Eric From Portland

    Funny thing is I started riding flat pedals due to this blog and Rivendale blog. I liked the freedom and style. There are lots of benefits.

    But, ultimately, my knees started to hurt, and I switched back to clipless (MTB type now) and have been much happier on the bike. Of course, walking into a store is not nearly as comfortable.

    Great post – thanks.

    November 12, 2010
  • julie

    Years ago I borrowed a bicycle touring book from the library. I remember very little about it except that it seemed to go into great detail on bikes and equipment and at the time all I had was a Huffy Santa Fe from Kiddie City :) Anyway. What I do remember is a sort of aside story by the author. He was working in a bike store somewhere on the west coast. An old guy came in with an old bike (heavy and maybe 3 speeds) with 2 suitcases attached like panniers. The guy had decided to head out east to visit family and had never done this sort of thing before. The author couldn’t convince the guy he was doing it wrong. He tuned up the bike and sent him on his way. Months later he got a postcard that this improper cyclist had made it to his destination. How I wish that cyclist had written about his travels! In the mean time, I’ve been thinking about him whenever I read your blog. Afterall, if you make it to your destination you could’t have gotten too much wrong :)

    November 12, 2010
  • BB

    Find a way to store the stuff you can’t do without on the bike you love. Get on the bike, pedal and engage with the scenery and the people you meet. It doesn’t always take rocket science to have a blast!

    November 12, 2010
  • We’re doing a LOT of things wrong!! I always say we are the slowest cyclists on the planet – but if we’ve managed to reach Argentina after cycling 15,000 miles from Alaska, we must be doing something right! There are no rights and wrongs in bike touring – only different.

    November 12, 2010
  • I’m wondering how many of the people who think they can’t walk in SPD shoes have actually tried mountain shoes…

    Clipless isn’t elitist, it’s just easier. Yes, it takes time to learn. So does riding a bike. I can imagine writing a post about how it’s perfectly OK to walk everywhere because you could just never learn to balance on a bike, and life’s too short to try. Well, it’s certainly OK, but not much fun.

    November 13, 2010
  • And all the time, I thought it was about just enjoying the experience of cycling, no matter how you do it! I ride around on a retro remake cruiser with no gears and definitely no straps on my pedals!

    I also follow a blog of a lady in NY that does cycles, does tours on a pink Hello Kitty Cruiser with no gears, and in high heels none the less. What must they all think? hehe

    LPM

    November 13, 2010
  • julie

    Years ago I borrowed a cycle touring book from the library. I think it was written in the 70’s or 80’s and it went into great detail on aspects of touring including gear. All I really remember about the book though was that author had included an aside story about an older guy who came into his shop one day with a heavy old bike to which he had lashed his suitcases as panniers. He had no reason to stay on the west coast so decided to ride his bike to the East coast to see relatives. The author tried to convince the cyclist that he was doing it wrong but the cyclist didn’t listen. A few months later the author got a postcard from the guy that he had made it to the east coast. I’ve always wished that it was that improper cyclist who had written book! I often think of him when you read your posts.

    November 13, 2010
  • I was wondering if you got hassled about anything because I got lectured so many times over so many of our decisions. Nothing matters but one’s desire to ride and experience the open road.

    You’ve been such an inspiration.

    November 13, 2010
  • Amen, well said. Just get out there and ride!

    I am worried I have enjoyed my bike builds almost more then ridding.

    November 14, 2010
  • Bob

    Hear hear.

    I rode RAGBRAI 2010, including all the way up Potter Hill (over a mile 19% grade at points), on my LHT with strap-free MKS Tour pedals. No problems. For commuting and touring, I’ll never strap or clip in again.

    November 15, 2010
  • Sean

    You’re not doing “it” wrong, because “it” varies.

    While I wouldn’t personally for with flat pedals, I use a Brooks B-17 on my “go fast” bike.

    Dial in your gear and process to your objectives. Some people want more comfort, some more speed – to each his own.

    November 15, 2010
  • Great post. On my commute I see many fellow riders take a second glance at my sneakers as if to question my “street cred”. I have four other bikes, all with clipless pedals. Clipless just don’t make sense on my commute/touring bike. I’m glad to be riding and I’m glad they are riding too. :)

    November 16, 2010
  • Tim Walls

    Did a cross country trip this past summer. Flat platform pedals, wearing sandals the whole way, upright bars on a “city bike” a Kona Dew Plus. Lots of weight, about 45 lbs. Me 67 years, most of my riding companions late 60’s, early 70’s, each with his own opinion about the right way. Thank you for your kind insights.

    November 17, 2010
  • April

    I had someone on a forum recently try to convince me that I should go clipless. “Nah,” I said. “I’m too much of a clutz and fall off my bike plenty already.” He suggested…learning to track stand! Um, no.

    I’ve used metal toe cages before…right now I have plastic toe cages without straps. They were five dollars. I love them. I realized when I first had toe cages that I didn’t use them to pull up, I used them to push forward. Toe cages also mean I can stand on my pedals with nary a fear that my foot will slide off the pedal!

    For the first few bike trips I did, I was riding a mid-70’s mixte made of really heavy steel. I bitched and moaned about hills, I thought 35 miles was a long day, but I did it. Then I bought a 1985 Miyata two-ten (it was Miyata’s entry-level touring bike at the time). I’m sure plenty of people saw me riding that thing, with two huge panniers on the rear rack (no braze-ons for a front rack!), plus my sleeping bag and Thermarest tied on top of the rack, and my super-old handlebar bag, and my mustache bars, and my downtube shifters, and that I was riding in casual shoes with plastic toe cages….and thought I was nuts. Personally, I know I probably biked 1500 miles of touring between July and late September, that I crossed the coastal range three times, that I biked up to Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood, down part of the Oregon Coast, and all over the Olympic Peninsula, and I had a total blast!! I also proved myself able to bike a 75-mile day. I’m totally hooked on touring and can’t wait for next year…

    For most of us, who don’t have a lot of money, doing it “wrong” is the only way to get started at all. If I’d decided not to tour until I could afford a Long Haul Trucker and nice panniers and a smaller sleeping bag and Thermarest, when would I have done it?

    (I did recently get a different bike, as the Miyata is just a bit too big. An early-90’s Novara Randonee!)

    November 20, 2010
  • Stuart Knoles

    Lesson I take away is that the equipment and means should match the intent. That is, the focus, the purpose should dictate the equipment, as opposed to, as I have done and probably others, engaging in cycling dictated by the use of particular equipment. The equipment of The Path Less Pedaled seems more to match the focus and purpose of the trip, rather than a trip dictated by the equipment. From my racing experience, I am well aware of pedaling and pedals, but, maybe when the need is to transition easily between the environment and the bicycle, and to prioritize what to bring along, the use of platform pedals without special shoes might be the right thing. It may be that the advantage of being clipped onto pedals becomes significant at higher performance levels, and that this depends on pedaling technique – lack of pedal technique not compensated for by having feet clipped in.

    There is a video of Laura riding in which I notice that she demonstrates very good pedaling technique and use of gears. That, I would say, is the primary thing to have and use.

    November 21, 2010
  • alang

    i sold my ‘fast’ bike to buy an LHT a few years ago. the spd’s on the LHT just seemed a bit superfluous and i was happy to go back to platforms. however, since then i have rebuilt the LHT on a cross check frame. now i have a few bikes to mess with and i have really enjoyed the low profile of spd’s for my fixed gear. i don’t really get the clipless for touring thing. would you put them on a cargo bike? a shoe with a decent firm sole, however, i would recommend (learned that one the hard way).

    November 21, 2010
  • It’s all wrong, but I suppose it depends on which side of the bike you’re standing ;)
    Great piece.

    November 28, 2010
  • Nigel Healy

    So I ride 3 different bikes, a Brompton platform pedal for local short journeys, a Brompton with SPD for longer rides and a big-wheel road bike when folding isn’t in the day’s plans.
    I usually ride alone, because once I get into my “zone” I begin talking to myself and singing Neil Diamond (don’t ask), but on the odd occasion I ride with another, I’ve noticed how SPD really makes it an easier and/or faster ride, I was following someone yesterday up California coast in headwind and I tried riding just with my thighs and then with my calves+thighs using the pulling capability of SPD and the latter was faster/easier, not by much but enough to take say 30mins-hour off a 100mile ride. I’d say if getting off and walking isn’t a major part of the day, cleats are worthwhile. A halfway option is Powergrips.

    April 14, 2011
  • Charlie

    Hi, I JUST found you guys and I love your style. Yes, my name is Charlie and I’m doing it wrong – and loving it. I do however use SPD pedals and shoes because I need the stiffness of the shoe for my feet. Not so I can go faster – let’s face it, if I wanted to go faster I’d drop the trailer and go minimalist on the gear. I have the wrong bike – a recumbent, no not a 2-wheel racer, a tadpole trike. I want comfort, enjoyment, to see where I am and where I’m going. At least when I depart on my next journey May 1st, I’m not taking the 20-pound camera bike this time like I did in ’97.

    April 16, 2011
  • I wish I could find it now, but I loved the tales of a guy who toured from somewhere in the US Southeast to West Texas on a bike shaped object he bought from Walmart. If I recall, he only stopped in Texas because he finally got a flat tire after something like 2,000 miles; he hopped on Greyhound to continue his journey from there.

    Don’t forget about the countless ‘transients’ (aka bums, hobos) who travel long distances on castaway bicycles with the ‘wrong’ gear. I talk to a few of them as they pass through Santa Cruz, like Bill who told me he’s put 60,000 miles traveling back and forth between California and Boston over the past eight years with 165 lbs of gear on his bike.

    April 22, 2011
  • Russ and Laura,
    Thanks for doing it wrong and pushing the bookends out a bit for the rest of us. I like doing it wrong also. I tour on a recumbent Bike E with an old crutch as a rack. Instead of panniers I hang old backpacks on the crutch and handlebars. I have flat pedals, wear tennies and baggy shorts, and leg warmers made from an old sweatshirt’s sleeves.

    April 22, 2011
  • Bill

    Thanks, guys, for the blog and the “encouragement.” I’ve reached the magic age, both as a person and a cyclist, where I care more about what I want than what others think. So… When I tour, I ride a store-bought tadpole ‘bent with either homemade panniers or a recycled trailer. The ‘bent has the BMX-style pedals that were OEM, but I added “PowerGrips” so that my feet would stay on the vertical pedals *and* I could wear my beloved Earth-brand tennis shoes, the only things that properly fit my bunion-cursed feet. Do other cyclists look askance at my choices? Most assuredly! Do I care? Not at all! My choices make it possible to do things that would otherwise be “improbable.” Press in! Continue until the joy is gone, then seek your next path…

    May 25, 2011
  • […] travel. However, many of our long-time readers know, we have a fondness for those that do it the wrong way. The wheels are small, it’s not a triangulated frame, it doesn’t use panniers and it […]

    September 07, 2011
  • Heidi

    you guys know they make clipless on one side without on the other kind of pedals – don’t you? Sometimes you feel like a clipless, sometimes you don’t

    September 10, 2011
  • paul wilson

    Thank you,from england,and for such a refreshing artical, I think your point is even further enhanced because you are riding Bromptons, for many in lycra, the ultimate doing it wrong.

    October 04, 2011
  • Great post! Aye, I have been witness to this kind of prejudice from “pro” riders :)

    Doesn’t matter that I ride more than them, I’m doing it wrong by not buying better rims, aerobars, 10 speeds, etc.

    I hope beginners read this and become aware!

    October 12, 2011

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