Becoming a part of the cycling family involves a few important initiations. One of them is a zero-speed fall when getting used to clipless, or clip-in, pedals.
Fear of this fall often haunts the uninitiated, preventing them from taking the plunge and opting for clipless pedals, but in the long run, we know most of them eventually give it a go.
Why go clipless?
Riding with your feet clipped into your pedals means you can use both the push and the pull of your pedal stroke – this makes you more efficient. Not only that, but securing your foot with a clip-in pedal means that you’ll cut down on excess movement, which can waste some of your power, and also over time can cause injury.
How does it work?
To ride with clipless pedals, you’ll need to buy the pedals (mountain bike or road), cycling shoes, and cleats. Cycling shoes have holes in the bottom, to screw in the cleats, and these little plastic, or metal contraptions make contact with the pedal, giving you a strong pedal stroke. To fit the cleats, you’ll just need an Allen key or a flat headed screwdriver.
What are the options?
Road cyclists will usually go for road pedals – these are wider, and allow more stability, and thus more efficiency – these are often Look or Shimano pedals. Road bike pedals are the more efficient, but the most extreme version.
Mountain bikers usually ride with SPDs, these are smaller pedals which slot into the cleat and are easier to clip in and out of. Not only that, but SPD cleats are recessed into the shoe – so if you want to be able to walk further than a few metres in your cycling shoes without clip-clipping like a small unsteady pony, MTB shoes are best.
Finally, a great option for someone new to clipless pedals is an SPD combined with a flat pedal – such as the MT50 Click’r pedal – this gives you the stronger pedal stroke of an SPD, but still incorporates a flat pedal which can be used between clipping in and out, and provide a sense of security.
Getting used to clipless pedals
The fear that most clipless-pedal-virgins feel is not completely unfounded: it’s likely that at some point you might suffer a little fall on your first go at riding clipped. However, this is likely to bruise nothing more than your ego.
The majority of ‘clipless moments’ take place at a set of traffic lights. The rider rolls towards the lights, comes to a stop – and forgets to take their foot out of the pedal. The result – a very slow topple, that very rarely hurts.
It will look a bit like this:
To stop this happening, all you need to do is become used to the fact that before stopping, you need to unclip.
Unclipping is very simple – you just need to twist your ankle outwards, you will hear a satisfying ‘click’ – and can then put a foot to the ground. To clip back in, you just need to make contact between cleat and pedal, and push down – again, a ‘click’ will mark your connection.
The number one top tip is to practice. Practice holding onto a rail. Practice holding onto a doorframe. Practice stationary inside your house. Practice on a safe street outside your house, if you’re nervous on a nice grassy patch.
Most people have pretty clever brains – it won’t take a lot of test runs to get used to the fact that stopping = unclipping in advance. There really isn’t an art to it – over time, this pattern will become second nature.
Another useful tip is to start with your pedals on an easier setting. Most pedals these days have an adjustment, and you can choose a setting that is very firm, and stable, but hard to clip out of, and one that is much slacker. A slacker tension will be best for a beginner.