TCI Friday

Just a few years ago, as they were about to celebrate their 30th birthday, I tossed my first pair of Shimano SPD road cleats in the garbage.

I got them in 1990, at Interbike, to review when I wrote a cycling column for The Orange County Register.

For the next 10 years they were the only cycling shoes I wore. I rode 5-7 times a week. Somewhere along the line, the pair of mountain bike cleats I purchased at the same time slipped into the mix, but my road cleats were still my go-to cleats since back then my off-road riding was very limited.

Shortly after their 20th birthday, I got a new road pair for my daily commute to Bike Friday. My old reliables got pulled out when the weather got crappy which, living in Oregon, was often.

Eventually they only got the call when it was super crappy. Really muddy mountain bike rides, or super wet camping conditions — the kind of weather you don’t want to expose to your best cleats.

Then, suddenly, without warning — as if 30 years of use wasn’t a warning — I pulled up on a stroke while gearing up for a mud ride and the soles and cleats stayed with the pedal while the rest of the show came up with my foot. A sad day, for sure.

My main pair of shoes are the ones I bought in 2010. I just got my pair of Keen sandals with cleats that I wear all summer back from the cobbler. They’re 12 years old and now ready for another 10.

Oh, I do have a pair of newer cleats I bought 5 years ago when I forgot to bring mine on a trip. I’ve worn them less than 10 times. I also have two brand new pairs I got at an estate sale. Saving them for 2040 or so.

My lobster gloves are 17 years old. My main cold weather cycling jacket turns 30 this fall. I still occasionally pop on my 18-year-old VeloNews fleece.

This week’s question: When do you retire a pair of cleats or other gear? And how do you know when?

Join the conversation
  1. khal spencer says

    When do I retire a pair of cleats or other gear? When stuff is falling apart? Both my parents were fatherless kids of the Great Depression who grew up poor (both of them had their dads die before their tenth birthday). Frugality was baked into me at an early age. My wife has to sneak t-shirts that look like swiss cheese out of the drawers and into the garbage. If I find them, they go to the garage as rags.

    I still cry when I think I tossed my original Detto Pietros (seen here ). They were falling apart by the early 1990’s due to Oahu’s constant rain, but I should have kept them as mementos to when I first got into Serious Cycling, circa 1982. Same for my original Avocet touring shoes. In the case of those Avocets, I was wearing them one day on the U of Hawaii campus while walking from my laboratory over to the student union. Ran into a lady who thought those, with my white socks, were so weird, that she took a shine to me. We got married a few years later. We are on our 36th lap around the sun together.

    As far as the sole sticking to the pedal while the foot flies off? Gotta laugh. I had that happen to my Shimano SPD mountain bike shoe during the pandemic. I think it was the left one. Thinking I would have a hard time finding replacements, I Shoe Goo’ed the shoe back together as a stopgap and checked the other. Sure enough, it was starting to come loose so it got Shoe Goo too (kinda has a ring to it). That was 2020 and they are still going strong. I now have a spare pair I barely use.

  2. tcfrog says

    I only replace things when they wear out. I don’t have a timeline, but since I do try to buy for function over form things tend to last for a while.

  3. alanm9 says

    I mainly wear SPD mtb shoes to commute and on weekend rides with my wife, because all involve a good bit of walking whether to the office or into a brewery. So, I end up tossing them when the soles wear down enough to expose the cleats. I can’t be tearing up other people’s floors. This means I only keep them 3-4 years so I never pay more than $100 a pair. For shorts my rule is replace at 3 years; that’s about when they start to lose shape. I write the year I bought them on the tag. For everything else its pretty much when holes wear through.

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