Saturday, 25 June 2011

New shoes and faster than ever - was it the shoes or just psychological?

Today I went shopping for the various cycling accessories I mentioned I was going to get in one of my previous posts.  The main thing I wanted was a new pair of shoes as till now I have been using my road bike with mountain bike shoes, which were quite heavy and flex quite a lot.  Not just that, but I think they have stretched over the years, as my feet slide quite a lot inside them now, and I end up clenching my toes to try to keep some grip leading to occasional foot cramps.

So with my credit card in my pocket I went to one of the bike shops where I usually go, as I find the guy rather helpful, he speaks good english, and he tends to give me a bit of a discount.  I was initially looking to get shoes that would fit with my existing pedals and cleats, but they didn't have any compatible road shoes and I didn't really want to get mountain bike shoes again, so I decided I would go for the full shabang and get pedals, cleats and shoes.

An hour later I came out of the shop with a pair of carbon fibre moulded Bont racing shoes, Look pedals and cleats, Aesos gloves, Alpina sunglasses with reactive lenses, a box of power gels, Aesos cycling socks and last but not least an Aesos cycling top with lots of Swiss flags on it (to be patriotic to my adopted country of what must be 7 or 8 years between Geneva and Zürich).

The special thing about the moulded carbon fibre Bont shoes is that you can put them in the oven (up to 80 degrees Celsius) or heat them up with a hairdryer and then mould them better to the shape of your foot.  Apparently it takes some time to get them exactly right but once you do they are meant to be top notch.  I was interested to see how I would get on with them.

Once I got back home I went to the bike shop next door and asked the guy to lend me some tools for swapping my old pedals for new ones, and in the end the guy was nice enough to put them on for me without charging me, despite the fact I had bought them in another shop.  So now I was all set.

I got all kitted up and both Anny and her mum said I looked extremely professional.  Anny has seen me many times in cycling kit before, but the cycling kit I wore before today was all many years old and way past its best.  I carried my bike downstairs waddling in my new road shoes (which are much harder to walk in than mountain bike shoes), and prepared to set off.

The first thing I noticed was that the new shoes clipped into the new pedals much easier than my old ones, and once clipped in, they felt much more solid and less likely to come out.  The other thing I noticed was that the shoes were much much stiffer and it seemed I could accelerate faster from a standing start.  However, I thought I better try getting the shoes out of the pedals before I needed to do it for real, and what I noticed was that it took a really firm motion to unclip them, much more than it took to unclip my old ones.  I guess this will be okay, but I hope that if I fall they will unclip easily like my old ones did.

I started my GPS running as soon as I got out of the apartment, and it took a good few minutes to get down to the lake through the traffic.  Once down by the lake however I really stepped on the gas and stayed on the road rather than going on the cycle path, which tends to get blocked by slower cyclists and pedestrians.  Everything just seemed so easy, and I was going at 22mph without really pushing too much.  In the end I must have stayed at this kind of pace or higher the whole way to Rapperswil as I arrived in Rapperswil 55 minutes after setting off from my apartment in Wipkingen, Zürich.  I was really happy with this time as I usually arrive in Rapperswil 1 hour and 10 minutes after setting off from home. But today I just felt so fast.  Whether it was the shoes or whether the shoes just gave me a psychological boost I am not sure but something went very right today.  In fact by the time I normally arrive in Rapperswil I was already past Pfäffikon on the other side of the lake.

I wasn't sure how long I could keep up this kind of speed without getting overly tired, but I realised that if I did keep this up I was going to do a complete lap of the Zürichsee in under 2 hours, which I have only dreamed of before.  The funny thing was that I wasn't even blowing that hard and I felt I could have stepped on the gas a little bit more if I had been in a race, or if I knew I didn't have the Marmotte next weekend.  I realised how much faster I was going than usual by the way I was catching up the other road cyclists and passing them.  Also on the hills I didn't need to stand up at all and my hands were on the handlebar drops the whole way round the lake.  In the end I did the complete lap of the Zürichsee plus the distance from the apartment down to the lake (with the associated hold ups in traffic) in a time of 1 hour 55 minutes and 27 seconds.

The only factor apart from the shoes, cleats and pedals that could have helped my time other than psychological factors is the fact that I was not carrying a rucksack and I was wearing a tighter top than normal, both of which helped to make me more aerodynamic.  I personally think it was the shoes, cleats and pedals that made the most difference though, as they just felt so solid.

Ride statistics from my Garmin GPS:
Distance: 65.70 km
Time 1 hour 55 minutes and 27 seconds
Average speed 34.1 km/h
Maximum speed 51.4 km/h
Calories burnt 2,976
Average heart rate 145 bpm
Maximum heart rate 170 bpm

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