I consider myself very lucky to live in a place like Boulder, where there are some trails that are easy to reach on foot. To take full advantage of the foothills near the city, however, it can be helpful to ride a bike to a trail head and walk from there. My current bike is an old ProFlex with those sharp metal pedals that are designed to really dig in to shoe rubber. They are nearly impossible to use barefoot. I have tried using them with my Xero Shoes, but that has not worked well in the past either. Their rubber is only 4mm thick (part of why I like them), and the pedals are still somewhat painful to use with them. Also, there were a few times when the metal pedals ripped the knot that anchors the toe lace right off, which means I have to stop immediately to repair the sandals. I only use my bike for certain errands and for meeting people in certain parts of town, so for a while my solution has been to slip on a pair of Dockers for bike trips. I would rather not carry heavy shoes around for trail excursions, though. I have thought about replacing the pedals before, but I am a bit cheap for that, and they would probably need some testing before I could be sure about using them comfortably.
Fortunately, back when I bought my Xero Shoes, I had also bought one of the company’s classic kits that comes with just a sheet of Vibram Cherry rubber. I had originally planned to make something to wear in the winter by combining the rubber with a sort of slipper, but that never happened.
I cut the rubber into four rectangles about the size of the pedals and punched holes near each of the corners. Figure eight knots hold the rubber pieces together. Excess lace loops over the pads diagonally to give me something to hook my foot under if I want it. The pedal pads are hinged on the outside edge, and then I tie the ends of the laces together on the inside edge to attach them. Here is a picture of the finished result:
The total amount of time it took me to make both pairs of pads was about two hours. Most of that was spent on trial and error adjustments of the laces. In order to avoid needing to redo things, the adjustments had to be done in this order:
- Tie the stoppers on the hinge end of the pad tight enough that the two ends of the pads grip the pedal.
- Tie stoppers for the inside end of the pads that allow enough room for my foot to fit under, but not too much.
- Tie the ends of the laces together so the pads are on the pedal, and cut off excess lace if necessary.
Originally, I had thought that the pads should be close to the size of the pedals, and that the laces would hold them in place. It turned out that the laces weren’t very good for that, though, and it was better to make the pads 1/2″ – 3/4″ larger in all directions and to tie the laces a bit tighter so that the tension and friction hold them on. I did the left pedal first and the right second, so the right one came out better than the left. I have enough rubber left over to redo the left pedal if I need to, though.
Right after I finished these, I biked to the Sanitas Valley Trail to test them out. My whole trip was along bike paths and quiet residential roads, so I was not contending much with traffic. There were a few times when the pads, especially the left one, slipped off the pedal a bit and made me step on the hard metal. I think there is also a learning curve with how to step on pedals with bare feet, because a few times my feet slipped off the pads and sent them spinning when I tried to step down. They may need some adjustments, but overall I am pleased with the result. I would not recommend them for serious bike trips, but they fit the bill for short trips that get me to trails without needing to carry shoes around.