Having mountain biked since I was a kid the thought of attaching my feet to the pedals has always seemed alien to me. But enough of my friends have tried it, and liked it, that I thought it was about time I gave it a go.
Comments such as ‘once you have tried it you will never go back’ enticed me into acquiring the Bikehut high performance dual sided SPD pedals and HBH MTB shoes.
This is Halfords’ own brand of SPD (Shimano Pedal Dynamics), which look and work in a similar way to their more expensive cousins.
Getting the HBH pedals and shoes set up
On arrival the HBH MTB shoes were a good fit and very comfy. I was impressed with the armour around the toes; if my trainers had provided this over the last few years it would have saved me quite a bit of pain and black toenails. Also, the pedals and cleats on the shoes were very easy to fit and adjust.
Before setting off I practised unclipping many times while holding onto a wall. It was not as easy as I hoped so I adjusted the tension to make them loser and unclip easier. A few tester runs on the flat and although clipping in was not smooth, I quickly had the hang of unclipping.
My first ride clipped in
So I confidently set off for some off road fun. At the first gate I came to I completely forgot I was clipped in and realised too late, leading to a comical slow motion topple over. Laughing at myself and pleased no one was there to witness it, I set off again.
Downhill technical sections seemed fine, if anything being clipped in gave me more control of the bike. But at the first uphill technical section I lost traction on some slippery roots and needed to put my foot down. Trying to apply pressure to the pedal to keep going and unclip was not a good combination, meaning I did not get my foot unclipped in time and again toppled over.
Another adjustment to the pedals to make them easier to unclip and I set off again. Fortunately I only came off once more and that was bad riding and nothing to do with the pedals. However, I did find my feet unclipped a few times when I did not want them to.
I have now been mountain biking with the HBH MTB shoes and Bikehut SPD pedals off-road about 10 times plus a few other runs into town. Annoyingly, I am still not clipping in straight away every time, particularly when riding uneven surfaces. This is frustrating and slightly dangerous if on a slope, but I am improving.
On the road they are great and I can feel the difference. However I still need to think about unclipping before stopping; it is not as quick or instinctive as taking your foot off the pedal.
For the technical cross-country riding I prefer, I will admit I am not yet used to being attached to my bike. In places I never used to have problems I now need to take my foot off the pedal, for example when negotiating an obstacle or a technical uphill.
I think it is because after quite a few falls (I stopped laughing at about the 5th) I am riding more conservatively, probably as I do not feel confident in getting my feet unclipped quickly if I have to.
My conclusion is the HBH MTB shoes are comfy, offer great protection and are well made, as are the HBH pedals. It is certainly more efficient on the road and non technical off-road and gives more control for technical downhill. However, clipping in and unclipping have taken longer to get used to then I expected which has affected my riding.
The good news is on my last ride I managed one loop of the Big Dog circuit at Stanmer Park Brighton without hitting the deck. But I was saved from a couple of unclipping moments by trees that were conveniently placed to grab. Will I go back to traditional pedals? Well the jury is still out.