In the Second World War, Allied bombers targeted a small Bavarian city named Schweinfurt. Located in between Frankfurt and Nuremberg, Schweinfurt was a center of ball bearing manufacturing for the Nazi war effort. No ball bearings means nothing made of metal will rotate properly. Bearings and the grease that keeps them from wearing out are little out-of-sight things that most people never think about.
Which brings me to bikes. A bicycle encounters three kinds of resistance: wind, rolling, and mechanical. Obviously, riding into the wind can ruin your whole day. Certain kinds of tires have higher rolling resistance than others. Puncture-proof touring tires keep you from getting flats but they increase rolling resistance. Personally, I hate changing flats so I opt for heavy, bomb-proof tires. Mechanical resistance comes into play when things that are supposed to rotate freely wear out.
I seem to have an aptitude for breaking bike pedals. Don’t ask me why; I seriously don’t know. A few years ago I decided to upgrade my cheapo platform pedals with expensive, fancy pants pedals from an online retailer. After about a year and a half, I found myself in Michigan, a couple of days away from finishing a solo tour of over 750 miles. My right foot felt odd as I pedaled. Suddenly, the welds on the pedal broke. Basically, the pedal disintegrated. As I rolled along, I was holding the platform part of the pedal onto the spindle using the force of my foot and ankle. Luckily I found a bike shop that stayed open late on a Sunday evening and installed new pedals for me. Cheap ones. (The fancy pedals were warranted for one year. I was out of luck.)
Every so often a pedal on one of my bikes goes bung in a more conventional way. The bearings wear out. The pedal starts feeling crunchy. Through the sole of your shoe, you can feel the workings of the pedal breaking down. A week ago, this happened to the cheapo pedals I had on The Mule. Supply chain problems being what they are, the aforementioned online bike place didn’t have anything in stock. I rode to the two bike shops nearest my house. They didn’t have anything either.
So, on a whim, I called Bikes at Vienna. The shop owner Tim said he had some MKS touring pedals. “I have them on all my bikes. They’re great.” I couldn’t help of thinking of the old Mark Knopfler song “Quality Shoe” about a shoe salesman describing his products. And they cost only about $10 more than the crummy pedals I had been using.
So I rode 23-ish miles to Vienna and bought a set. Beth, the mechanic (who also has these pedals on her recumbent and loves them) thinks they don’t come with enough grease in side so she opened the pedals and added grease to the bearings.
I picked one of the pedals up an spun it with my fingers. It was an obviously vast improvement over pedals on The Mule.
The next day I installed them and went for a ride.
WOW. No way. What a difference. The Mule was very happy. I was very happy. So The Mule and I rode back out to Vienna and bought another pair for my Cross Check. After a 30-mile ride on that bike, I can confirm that these new pedals are the bomb.
Moral of the story: if you have a two-wheeled horse, you’re going to need a quality shoe.