by Andrew Humes, PCI #1515
College Station (TX) Police Department
Tourism and Entertainment Police Unit
During the 2016 IPMBA Conference in Asheville, North Carolina, I attended an instructor workshop demonstrating flat pedals and appropriate shoes for duty wear. I was intrigued with the concept and wanted to further explore the use of flat pedals for urban patrol, off-road riding, and comfort for extended patrol shifts. I have been using Time ATAC clipless pedals since I was assigned to full time bike patrol in 2013 and have been very happy with them.
I am assigned to bike patrol in the Northgate Entertainment District in College Station, Texas. The district is directly across the street from the main campus of Texas A&M University, one of the largest campuses in the US by student population. There are 28 bars and clubs with a combined capacity of 8,800 patrons in a three by four block area. On a typical football game weekend, there are easily 30,000 people in the district. In all, a very dynamic environment and perfect for testing gear!
After researching several flat pedal shoes, I chose Five Ten Impact Low. Since Five Ten is an IPMBA Product Purchase Program participant, the process to set up an account was straightforward. I submitted my request and within 24 hours I received a confirmation notice via email. Ordering was equally simple, and the 40% discount made the Impact Low shoes very affordable at $88.99, delivered to the police department.
For uniform wear, I chose the black shoe with blue accents. The blue is the same color as my uniform shirt, so they matched well. The shoe has a larger appearance than seemed normal for a men’s size 9; when the shoes arrived at the police department, the quartermaster and a former bike officer both remarked they looked like grandpa’s orthotics. The appearance is likely caused by the amount of padding around the ankle, inside the forefoot, and in the toebox. The Impact Low is part of the downhill line where additional foot protection is warranted.
The sole is Five Ten’s signature Stealth Rubber, which is very tacky. The sides and back of the shoe are waxed leather and are relatively stiff right out of the box, requiring some wear-in. Overall quality is very high. Once I put them on, I noted they are not nearly as stiff as my Pearl Izumi X-Alps and easier on the foot for walking and running. I also noted I did not feel as if I was walking “toes up” as I did in my clipless shoes.
To qualify as pedal retention, a proper flat pedal must be used with the shoes. To complement the shoes, I purchased a set of Nashbar Verge flat pedals. For patrol use, the department will purchase Shimano MX80 Saint flat pedals. Both pedals have replaceable studs installed that stick up into the rubber on the shoe sole, increasing grip.
My first test was to wear them to an off-duty job at a bank to test walking and standing comfort. I normally wear my bike uniform with black athletic shoes to this job. No one seemed to notice the shoes. While they were not as comfortable as running shoes, I completed the three-hour walking and standing shift in comfort.
The second test was to commute to work on my bike as usual, which proved to be a non-event. There was no noticeable change in pedaling motion or loss of power transfer. After successfully wearing the shoe for several days and having an uneventful commute, I put the pedal/shoe combination to the test on patrol. For this test, I swapped the pedals from my personal Trek 4500 to my Volcanic APB patrol bike.
Once on the street, I noticed how easily I transitioned from the bike to walking and running without the former “pop” and click as I dismounted. I also noticed better traction without the clips on my shoes catching or slipping on uneven ground. On the bike, I was able to more quickly gain my pedals and get into motion. The unit I am assigned to is full-time, so we spend most of our time on the bike. For officers that have other patrol duties that require them to move regularly from bike to motor vehicle, this option eliminates the need to change shoes for either function.
I experimented with various techniques taught in the basic cyclist class. Parallel curb ascents were a challenge initially. I was never able to get the curbside pedal entirely to the power pedal position, but I was able to mount the curb and go on my way without any drama. Lofting, stair ascents, and descents were non-issues as the pedal/shoe contact was excellent when body position was correct. Slow speed skills were unchanged and I felt like newer students would feel more confident being able to get on and off the pedals without the restriction of clipless pedals, cages, or straps.
The final “real world” test was a trail ride at Pedernales Falls State Park. The area I work is, as Mike Harris would say, “Urban Mountain Biking”. This trip would be “Texas Hill Country Mountain Biking”, with the commensurate mud, limestone slabs, and loose rock. I was expecting to lose my pedals and bust my shins several times without my clipless pedals, but this never materialized. There were a few climbs on which I found myself pulling up on the pedal, only to have my foot come up and away. Once I recognized and corrected this tendency, my climbs improved. Clearing mud out of the pedal was never an issue as it had been with clipless pedals. The flat pedals allowed me good pedal/shoe contact even in the sticky clay that often prevents clipless pedals from engaging the cleat on the shoe.
After reluctantly returning to civilization, I concluded that I am happy with the change to flat pedals when they are coupled with the proper shoe. Overall, the transition was effortless and without many of the pitfalls I imagined. The cost of the shoe/pedal combination is no greater than the cost of clipless pedals and shoes, but the comfort of the Five Ten shoes was a great improvement over my clipless shoes.
Changing to flats will have a minor impact on some techniques, but overall these impacts do not negatively affect a rider’s safety, ability to master a skill, or operational capability. After putting the shoes and pedals to the test, the Five Ten Impact Lows and flat pedals are now my standard duty equipment.
- Excellent traction on and off the bike
- High-quality shoe
- Equivalent to cost of clipless shoes/pedals
- Easy for new cyclist to master
- Flexibility to do a variety of patrol tasks
- Relearning some techniques
- Pulling up on the pedals is more difficult or impossible
Andrew was assigned to the College Station Tourism and Entertainment Police Unit in 2013 when the unit was made full-time to address the growing need for resources associated with the entertainment district near Texas A&M University. He commutes to work by bicycle daily and enjoys riding whenever he can. Andrew completed the IPMBA Police Cyclist Course in 2013, the Bicycle Response Team Training in 2015, the Instructor Course in 2015, and the PESC II in 2016. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2017 IPMBA. This review appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of IPMBA News.