John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
You can make your own wood-and-leather heels that clip into the pedals following this eight-step process.
If so, find sartorial salvation in the these "high-heel, clipless bike shoes" designed by Instructables tinkerer Corwin, who resides in
Oakland's the Bay-Area city of Emeryville. Corwin was inspired to cobble together this special footwear, which has metal on the soles to clip into the pedals, using the program Solidworks, some leather, and a "nice chunk of Zebra wood" he found at a lumber store in Berkeley. His motivation for creating the bespoke bike gear involves romance story that's both charming and a little bittersweet, he explains:
I was inspired to make these shoes on my ride home one evening when I witnessed a beautiful woman riding in high-heels along Market Street in San Francisco. True to form, I will acknowledge that I noticed the sexy handmade bike before the woman, and what was (perhaps, unfortunately) most noteworthy to me was how awkward the connection was between the pedals and the shoes.
Having recently built up a bike for my beloved, I was immediately taken with idea of making high-heels with a clipless cleat. I had been keen to build a pair shoes for a while and the curves of a high-heel shoe seemed like an inviting challenge.
Indeed, it was a challenge. The project spanned about 18 months, and sadly, outlived my relationship. However, don’t let this dissuade you – if I had worked straight though on the project, it would have only taken a few months, and if you can make these shoes, you are probably capable of not loosing the relationship with a wonderful girl.
Should you decide to replicate Corwin's eight-step process, you'll need a decent woodworking setup for machining and sanding, polyurethane to weatherproof the shoes, and some sheets of nice wood if you really want to make all the other guys feel like crap by building your woman her own bike-shoe box.
How useful are these things? Not being accustomed to slapping on heels when heading out the door, I consulted a hearty sample of females (n = 2) for their thoughts. "High heel-wearing people don't bike. They take cabs," the first says. "They probably don't even like public transportation." The second woman, however, thought that heels are a perfect complement to bicycling, and even make for a popular pairing in many European cities.
The Internet backs her up on that assertion, with one visitor to Budapest recalling female cyclists rocking "dresses, skirts, sandals, flip-flops, or even high heels." The official website of Denmark describes the morning rush hour in Copenhagen as featuring "women fashionably dressed in the latest styles down to their high heel shoes." What seems like a possibly uncomfortable or dangerous choice of footwear actually has hidden benefits, as this heel aficionado explains at The Bird Wheel:
Sure enough, cycling in heels felt almost if not the same as cycling in sneakers. When the foot rests on the pedal, the contact point is on the ball of the foot. Therefore, heels do not affect the general motion or feel of rotating a pedal.
Just as in the corporate world, biking in heels commands (or grants) a certain respect from motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, both men and women. I find that I am treated very differently when I cycle in heels, receiving comments from women complimenting my style, thumbs up from motorists lauding my bravery, passing remarks by messengers about my increased street-cred, and the occasional discussion initiated by a suit-clad business man regarding the ease of biking in "business clothing." Not surprisingly, heels make a pointed statement both in a professional environment as well as on the streets.
The corporate world of cycling apparently agrees, as few companies have started to release their own versions of bike heels: If you're not crafty or the current girlfriend of Corwin, you can purchase a pair on stylish black-leather pumps on Zappos for $77.99. Powerful pedalers who like building up a sweat will be interested to know they have a pigskin lining treated with "antimicrobial solution for an odor-free environment."
Photos by Corwin on Instructables