Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Aerolites, history and pics

So as promised, I'm putting up some pictures of my Aerolites. Actually of my shoes with Aerolite cleats. There were a couple more shoes but I must have tossed them.

The first shoe is a classic. (Please no comments about the shoe laces - remember, we're talking about the Pastel 80's and Miami Vice and all that.) Duegi 101's - wood soled shoes with a leather top. Talk about natural materials. First I used their normal cleat and toe clips and toe straps. I never resorted to nailing them down, the single bolt worked fine. But when the Aerolites showed up, I had to adapt.

You can see the strap that I put in place. Initially I simply wrapped it around my foot. You notice that all shoes have their straps at an angle? It's because having them straight up and down doesn't work. In those days, the industry assumed that laces allow for "fine tuning" tightness while the strap is for holding the foot in general.

Mostly the shoes had laces with some sort of leather cover held down by velco, kind of like the first Lake shoes out there. The leather cover stretched and made the shoes feel really sloppy. This gave clipless pedals a bad name so it took a couple years for people to make the switch.

This is what I did:
I put the straps in place but could not figure out a way to anchor them. I thought about super glue (onto a leather covered sole, no good), sewing it with my tubular tire repair kit (have you seen the size of those needles?), but nothing worked. Finally, in frustration, I put ShoeGoo down and held the straps in place with thumbtacks. And guess what? They held.

The cleats were easy, I simply mounted them so the back edge of the red Aerolite cleat lined up with the original cleat marks (from the pedal cage). The axle lined up perfectly. The wood screws provided with the pedals dug in perfectly into the hardwood sole.

There was no float since that was an unknown concept. The Time guy still worked for Look (before he broke away to make the "float" pedal come to life).

Eventually shoes went the way of shorts - away from natural materials and migrating towards petroleum based products. Duegi was on the outs so I went with Diadora. By then Aerolite came with Look bolt pattern adapters. They had one fatal flaw - the adapters placed the cleat about 20 mm too far back.

To remedy this, I drilled holes in the shoe about 20 mm in front of the regular Look mounting nutserts (? not sure what they're called but they are a threaded insert so you can drill out a shoe and put in mounting inserts). They came with Look pedals since, back then, most shoes didn't have the Look bolt pattern.

The end result:

You can see how far forward the cleat sits - it's because it's centered around the axle, not offset like most cleats. I drilled out three sets of shoes over the years, and each time I prayed there were no spring steel plates in the sole to deflect my drill bit. There never was.

The last shoe represents the beginning of the end for Aerolite. Instead working on things like perfecting their cleat setup, making it easy to install/remove Aerolites (it required a 5/16" allen key), or sponsor some racers, they tried to branch off into shoes. Their shoes were innovative - carbon and kevlar sole, predrilled for Aerolites, and super light.

They also had an innovative heel strap which allowed you to really snug up the shoe. Due to the strap angles and placement, the rest of the shoe was not really necessary - sort of like a sandal. So a minimalist rip-stop mesh covered your foot. Note that the outer edge is a bit damaged on my shoe? I had a pretty bad crash and scraped the shoe on the ground. My foot ended up getting badly scraped up. I learned then that the "thick and unnecessary" uppers of a shoe do more than just support your foot - they also protect them.

I think they would have worked but innovative design doesn't mean the shoe is comfortable. Somehow the things didn't fit very well - the sole was too flat and had no support. It's too bad because it was about 10 years ahead of its time.

As I've mentioned before, I'm working on setting up some Aerolites on some new Sidis. But today has been a dismal failure so far. I thought I'd rout the polycarbonate plate but the plate simply starts to melt. So I will have to put the project on hold until I get a jewelers saw or something similar so I can cut the plate up.


redir said...

This is a very cool article but I can't figure out from the text or images how those cleats mount to the pedals. If you could elaborate on that more and provide perhaps an image of the shoe mounted to the pedal that would be cool.

Aki said...

arg. I can't find a picture.

The pedals are essentially an axle with a sleeve on it. The sleeve rotates, the axle doesn't.

The cleat clamps onto the sleeve. You can step down. You can't pull out by pulling up. You have to roll your foot to the side.

It's like the drill bit cases - you can put the bits in straight on but it's very hard to pull them out straight on - you have to tug on the tip and roll the bit out.

hope this helps.