Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Cyclists Toolbox: Replacing Cleats With A Sharpie

With the heel-side lip half gone, I could still clip in with my Shimano road cleats. Like Kramer on Seinfeld seeing how far the car would travel on an empty tank, it certainly was ridiculous and amazing, if not slightly dangerous, to see how long my cleats would continue to engage in my Ultegra pedals. (see heel-edge of cleat in photo: old cleat top, new bottom) Maybe stemming from the time and effort spent on a bike fitting session a few years ago, I used to fear replacing cleats, never quite sure that I’d be able to install the new ones in the exact same sweet spot on the bottom of the shoe. Yada yada yada, it was my fear that the last chunk of plastic would break loose at the worst possible moment that won the battle of the two fears. I replaced them before the Ault Park criterium yesterday.

Regardless of how tough they are, if your cleats ever come even halfway to looking like the photo, pony up the credit card and buy yourself a new set. While it’s the girth of the lips that hook into the pedal that matter, pretty much, if the yellow walking pads are nearly gone you should buy a new set. Cleats, along with bar tape, tires and saddle, are among the four things you can replace to make your bike feel all new again. Something to keep in mind when cash is tighter than a drive side spoke.

A Sharpie marker is an ingenious tool that should be in every cyclist’s toolbox. Choose a color other than black. I use a blue one. It’s perfect for marking the positions of saddle heights on seat posts, saddle position on rails, handlebars on stems, hoods on bars and exactly where your new cleats should be installed on your shoes. Before removing the old cleats, just trace around them with a Sharpie. Then replacing the cleats as simple as putting the new triangle cleat over the triangle outline (photo of tracing above.) Triangle block into triangle hole. It’s elementary. Just clean up the shoe, lightly lube the bolt threads (light enough so bolts don't rust & cease, but not too much that they easily loosen), drop in the hardware, tighten to spec and you’re golden. If your old cleats aren’t that bad, toss the best one along with its hardware in your toolbox. That way you’ll have a make-do spare. Cleats are most likely to break on Sunday’s, 2 minutes after the local shop closes. All hail the Sharpie.

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