Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sometimes 1mm is All It Takes

Scene of the repair (and note those pristine shoes, so fresh, so needing to get dirty...)

I put new cleats on new shoes, but when I tried to click into the pedals, it was no-go. Conceptually I knew what was wrong, but emotionally I thought if I would just STOMP a little harder they would engage. STOMP. STOMP! No, not quite. STOMP!!! No, still no engagement.

I knew that almost certainly the tread on the shoe was interfering with the pedal engagement with the cleat. The first thought was to grab a knife, or perhaps a Dremel, and remove enough tread to allow the engagement. Messy. Non-pristine.

But then I remembered the thin, black shims that came with the cleats, and I thought, why not? They didn't seem thick enough to make any difference. In fact, I measured, and they are only 1mm thick. What difference would that make? Easy enough to try, though, see what happens.

Hey! Let's get engaged!
Not only did the 1mm shim provide enough clearance for the cleats to engage with the pedal, but now the tread sits snugly on the sides, almost as if the whole shebang was designed that way! How cool is that! Good job, pedal, cleat, shim and shoe boffins, well done. Brand new 2012 shoes, some cleats from 2009, some pedals from 2002, and they fit together with sub-mm precision. That's enough mechanical joy in one small project to warm the cockles of a thrifty retro-grouch's "things should just work" heart. Before shim, this was not possible, not with me wedging the pedal under the shoe and putting all my weight on it. After shim, CLICK! Just like that.

I did this quick-fix and took the photos, then caught up on some blog reading. Over on Lovely Bicycle!, the inimitable Verlouria was exploring the platform support of...Eggbeaters! What my little project showed is that the difference between the shoe sitting too proud to engage the beater vs. providing just the right amount of room to engage and then also provide support is in the 1mm range. With the shim in place, the tread compresses just slightly as it sits on the outer parts of the pedal body. With these stiff shoes, pedal and shoe become one upon engagement. I don't see that a larger pedal body would provide more actual platform support, although it would look more like a traditional pedal, providing some possibly needed psychological support. If you really need platform support, Crank Bros. make Mallet pedals, which provide pedal function in case you miss-clip in a tricky moment.

Apologies if I am a little over-enthusiastic about the engagement. This was a truly shimtastic moment for me, though. I can get me some shimisfaction.     
Mill Avenue Bridge. 80°F. Gravy. Engagement. Happy.

To celebrate my shoe victory, to bask in the glow of precise engagement, I took off on a purely gravy Tri-city Tour (TCT). The TCT is an awesome 22 to 30 mile loop mainly on paths and canal bank, depending on which turns I take, that goes through Tempe, Phoenix, and Scottsdale. The paths were empty, the air was clear, the shoes were snugly, yet successfully, engaged.

The TCT is not exactly flat. With the elevation varying from 1280 feet down to 1148 feet at Tempe Town Lake, there's enough change in some sections, particularly the Crosscut Canal path, to feel it on the single speed. Depending on where I start, stop, and turn, it can feel a lot like the flight path of those birds on the bench. Standing on the pedals to mash up the hill up and over the buttes by the Crosscut Hydroelectric plant pond felt secure, knowing my 1mm shims were performing their function. 


  1. Replies
    1. Stay tuned for the gripping sequel, "When Shims Attack!"

  2. Looking at that photo, my first thought was "a Texas star!" Then I remember Texas forgot to trademark the thing.

    1. I think Bill Murray said something similar about stripes.


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