By Laurel-Lea Shannon
You may have seen them while browsing in cycling stores—those small plastic covers that fit over your cycling shoe cleats—and wondered why you would need them. Aren’t they just one more thing you have to find space for in your already over-packed saddle bag or jersey pocket? Well, like a spare inner tube and pump, cleat covers are something you’ll only miss when you most need them.
This spring I was cycling with a buddy on a quiet, hilly country road near where I live. After we’d been out for awhile, I needed to take a bathroom break, and the deep gravel ditch by the side of the road looked like a good spot. Afterwards, I jumped back on my bike and took off down a hill. But I had trouble getting my shoes clipped into the pedals, and as I was speeding along, I realized, with a sinking feeling, that if it was that hard to get them into the pedals, I might not be able to get them out.
Once the road levelled off, I tried unclipping the right foot. No go. Then I tried the left foot—drat, same thing. I tried the right foot again—only harder. Nope. I tested the left one more time. No way. Okay. I’m stuck on the bike. Now what? My cycling buddy and I discussed a few options. I decided to carefully lean over and release the Velcro straps on my right cycling shoe and slip my foot out. I got my right foot out, stopped the bike and put my stocking foot down on the pavement. With the bike stopped, I was able to force the left shoe off the pedal. The right shoe was still dangling on the right pedal and had to be (wo)manhandled to release.
What happened? A small amount of gravel had gummed up the cleats, preventing them from releasing. If I’d put on cleat covers before walking into the gravel ditch, that wouldn’t have happened.
Cleat covers have other uses too. As well as preventing dirt build-up in your cleats, they reduce wear on the cleats from walking on them. They also make walking easier and more comfortable and reduce the possibility of slipping on a hard or wet surface. Cleat covers cost less than $20 dollars depending upon what kind of cleats you’ve got. And they fit easily into a jersey pocket. Next time I need to visit a gravel ditch at the side of the road, I’ll be wearing them.