New shoes.

After my last ride 3 days ago I noticed that the sole of one of my mountain bike shoes was parting company with the upper. This is very disappointing after only around 6 months and is a tiny fraction of the life of the shoes they replaced. Naturally I don’t have the receipt so can’t take them back. The were branded FLR. I don’t know what FLR stands for but imagine the LR means “….Load of Rubbish.”

Yesterday I went to Merlin Cycles in nearby Buckshaw Village. They mainly function as a warehouse for Internet sales but also have a shop where I was able to try shoes for size. I chose Giro Berm SPD compatible in UK size 10. I’ve heard of the brand Giro but will hopefully hang onto the receipt this time. As ever I needed a size bigger than my normal shoe size since my feet are wide for their length.

I heard some time ago that Tour de France winner Chris Froome used a mid foot cleat position for the cleats which clip into SPD type pedals. With MTB shoes this isn’t really possible but I have taken to moving the cleats as far back as possible. This puts less stress on the ankles, especially when landing jumps, and helped keep me comfortable after I once twanged my ankle whilst falling off a hefty E bike. It doesn’t seem to make any difference to the way you apply power through the pedals.

The cleats are in their rearmost position.

To remove old cleats it’s important to fully clean the sockets into which the Allen key fits. Any debris left in the socket could cause the key to spin, rounding out the hexagonal socket and making removal a challenge. (Though not impossible. Ask me how if you’ve ruined a screw this way.) I fitted new screws which came with the shoes. I tested the cleat position to make sure I was happy, pumped up the pressure in the front fork and rear shock absorber, since they have lost some pressure recently. After applying some extra lubrication I was ready to ride. The weather had dried up a little but I was under no illusion that the trails would be anything but very wet and muddy. After my last ride I’d decided to ride 5 laps of our local hill with it’s well made trails. I often agonise for some time whilst considering where to ride but today it was easy.

I found the route to the hill even muddier than last time and any deeper mud would convince me to take a different trail. I started my laps from the bottom rather than from the trail head to avoid an extra climb and rode at an energetic but steady pace, taking an hour to ride the 5 laps. As ever, and particularly when riding circuits, psychology plays an important role. On lap one the climbing already required a large proportion of my total power. There were a couple of short sections where a careless approach could have caused me to grind to a halt so I had to keep the concentration up. The downhill was entertaining but degrading leaf litter is making it slightly unsafe in a few places. I’m already planning to clear the trail in the spring since maintenance here seem to have ground to a halt.

I kept my pace similar on lap 2 but used a shorter but steeper climb for part of the ascent. I didn’t want to be racing myself today by timing identical laps so used variations and didn’t even start the stopwatch. There’s no way, psychologically, that I could time identical laps without working hard to keep my lap times consistent. It always seems to become a mind game which I avoided by riding different laps. After the climb on lap 3 I knew that I was more than half way through the effort but lap 4 was starting to feel hard. The last lap often feels easier because you know it’s nearly over. I added to the ease by allowing my mind to drift onto thinking about MTB challenges for next year. I finished the climb with little thought about my increasing tiredness and used a delightful off piste final descent.

I achieved my aim of getting a good training ride in without significant pain, climbing 1,267 feet in 11.43 miles.

My shoes may be dirty after the ride but I don’t imagine they will ever be this clean in the rest of their lives.

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