I wanted to write an homage to the my very first cycling-specific shoes, a pair of circa-1981 Sidis, whose model name I’ve of long forgotten. I was going to explain how slipping on those shoes for the first time was a right of passage. How it felt like I was crossing a bridge from casual cyclist to serious biker type—and the bridge was burning behind me as I crossed it.
Forget buying my first "bike shop" bike, first pair of cycling shorts, first helmet, first pair of cycling gloves, first "polypro" jersey with the three rear pockets—none of those material possessions cemented my cycling commitment like binding myself to my bike. You see, those old Sidis came with a pair of awkwardly large and clunky plastic cleats, each of which featured a groove that mated with the trailing edge of my old-school cage pedals. With the cleat and pedal engaged, a firm tug on the toe strap bound the rider securely to their steed.
Look mom, I can fly.
And if prancing around in the 1980s wearing tight-fitting Lycra shorts didn’t shout "bike geek" loudly enough, then the clackity clack sound that the cleats made, as I skittered across the linoleum inside the 7-11, in search of Twinkies and Gatorade—well, that did the trick.
I started to write a tribute to those old Sidi shoes, but then I remembered that classic Nike TV commercial, the one with the dialog between Michael Jordan and Mars Blackmon (a fictional character played by Spike Lee).
Mars starts off the exchange:
Yo, Mike what makes you the best player in the universe? Is it the vicious dunks?
Is it the haircut?
Is it the shoes?
Is it the extra long shorts?
It’s the shoes then, right?
Is it the short socks?
Money—it’s gotta be the shoes! The shoes! Shoes! Shoes! Shoes! You sure it’s not the shoes?
I’m sure Mars.
What about the shoes?
Money—it’s gotta be the shoes!
I’m sure that Nike was banking on a gazillion people watching that commercial and coming away thinking: "Hey, maybe it really is all about the shoes."
But I think it’s less about the shoes, and more about the soul (pun intended). Those old Sidis and I cranked out a lot of great miles together, but they are just comfortable scraps of leather. And, other than my soul, I’m just a bag of bones.