Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Power Grips: Foot Retention That Even I Can Use!

[edited to addPower Grips was a sponsor of this website September-October 2010. This review was written before that time.]

I do not like the idea of foot retention and generally feel no need for it - whether cycling for transportation or going on long rides. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the very thought of having my feet connected to the pedals fills me with terror. The problem is, that I will soon be riding a fixed gear roadbike (Marianne's conversion was practice), for which it is advisable to use foot retention: When cycling over bumps or potholes, your feet can fly off the pedals on a fixed gear bike and the pedals can then "chew up your ankles" before you have a chance to brake. So yes, foot retention is recommended.

Some have suggested I try Power Grips if I am too nervous to use toe clips or clipless pedals. I have finally gotten up the nerve to give them a try... and so far they have been more or less a success. We installed these first on my Rivendell Sam Hillborne, so that I could get comfortable with them before putting them on the fixed gear. Here are my impressions so far.

Power Grips are basically straps made of a thick, stiff woven fabric, that mount diagonally on the pedals. It is easy to slide your foot in and out, but the diagonal position grips the foot firmly in place once it is all the way in. Note that we mounted these with the logo on the inside. There is also a beige version with an argyle pattern accompanying the logo.

Even as I write this, it sounds implausible that something can both "grip the foot firmly" and "be easy to slide in and out of," but that is the feeling.  Because the band is diagonal, there is a large escape area as soon as you move your foot back a bit. You can also feel the grip getting tighter/looser as you shift your foot forward or backward on the pedal, so there is a natural bodily awareness of the system that works in your favour.  When approaching a stop, I simply slide one foot off the pedal and step down on the ground. Initially I would remove the second foot at stops as well, but eventually I discovered that it was easier to just keep it inside the grip.

I am not qualified to say how effective the Power Grips are in terms of pedaling efficiency; I simply would not know. It feels as if with the grips I can pedal with more power, but it may very well be an illusion. However, none of that is important to me, and what really matters is safety. The Power Grips keep my feet firmly in place when going over bumps, yet are easy to get out of whenever I need to.

I should mention also that the straps come in several sizes, and are adjustable to fit over different types of footwear. They do not squeeze or rub the top of the foot, so I am pretty sure you could wear them even with sandals. 

Another nice thing about the Power Grips, is that if you want to pedal without them, you can easily use the other side of the pedal.  I do not feel comfortable yet wearing the grips in stop-and-go traffic, so when the traffic gets dense I simply cycle with them upside down and my feet are free. The straps do not hang low enough to scrape against the ground. And even if there is an occasional scrape, it is soft and silent (whereas toe clips make screeching, clunking noises).

Some complain that Power Grips don't look attractive on a bike, but I think they are fine: it is just a strap attached to the pedal. They will soon be moved from my Rivendell to my fixed gear bicycle - though I must say it is tempting to keep them here, too. Unless riding in traffic, it actually feels nice to have my feet in the straps, especially when pedaling fast or going over bumps.

I cannot overstate how scared I am of foot retention: I have tried clips and half clips, and was unable to use them. Power Grips seem easier and safer to me than either of these systems. They are also by far more effective than half-clips or loose toe clips. 

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