I bought my first proper mountain bike in 2000. I was excited at the prospect of adventure this new machine would enable. For the first time, I had front suspension. I had shrugged off the weakness of cantilever brakes for the much more powerful V-Brake, and finally grew up and had a set of SPD style pedals – my first-ever experience riding clipless.
A whole new world opened before me. I could now jump the bike more easily over obstacles. I felt better connected to the bike, and I finally started to understand what “spinning” was all about.
I rode this way for 17 years, trading SPD for eggbeaters, and even taking that bike across Africa as part of the Tour d’Afrique before retiring it in favour of a full suspension bike. The new bike was great. I adapted my riding style and found I could better float over rough stuff that used to have me hanging onto my hardtail like a mechanical bull.
I dabbled in other kinds of riding, and got my hands a road bike, and later built a touring bike. I picked up more crank brothers pedals for those as well.
But nagging at me – especially with the touring bike – was the misery of walking in my bike shoes. They weren’t terrible, and years of use had softened them enough for me to have a reasonable gait. But as soon as a smooth surface came into play – like the tile of a grocery or convenience store during a mid-ride snack stop – I all of sudden had to take the halting steps of an infant, worried the metal toe cleats and hard plastic lugs would have me skating like a Disney fawn on a frozen pond.