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How to Transition to Clipless Pedals For Road Cycling

Learn to Love: Clipless Pedals

I'd been cycling for years before I learned to love riding with my feet clipped onto my pedals. It seemed beyond scary; I thought I would just fall over at every stoplight. I've turned the corner though and love being "clipped in." But first let's review pedal terminology, since it's a bit confusing. First, there were basic pedals (like many of us had on our bikes when we were kids), then came pedals with toe clips (or toe baskets) to help the foot stay put on the pedal. These evolved into clipless pedals — a cleat on the bottom of the shoe that clicks into the pedal like a puzzle piece. When the shoe is attached to the pedal, you're clipped in.

Cycling with my feet attached to the pedals makes me feel one with my bike, and it's way more efficient. With the foot attached to the pedal, you begin to use all the muscles of your legs to power the bike instead of relying solely on your quads to push the pedal down — pulling up on the pedal works your hamstrings like nobody's business. Pedaling with the entire leg distributes the work so your muscles fatigue much more slowly, which means you can ride longer. Standing on the pedals, like when climbing a hill, is safer when you're clipped in; you're much more secure because your feet won't slip off the pedals.

Like most new skills, overcoming the fear factor simply takes time and practice. Ride around on a quiet street or parking lot, and clip in and out repeatedly so your body becomes used to the action. Practicing in a park on a trail lined with grass to soften possible falls is helpful too. Clipping out should be an easy maneuver — just turn your heel away from the bike. You can practice initially on a trainer, but since this might give you a sense of overconfidence, make sure to experiment with your new shoes and pedals before hitting the road for a long ride.

One last argument for going clipless: these pedals are actually safer than using the foot baskets. It is considerably faster, not to mention easier, to unclip than it is to slip your foot back and out of the pedal basket.

Who is with me? Do you ride clipless? Are you considering it?

Image Source: Getty
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Join The Conversation
Joe2983775 Joe2983775 3 years
I had three wrecks within the first two weeks of installing my clipless pedals; all three were at 4 miles an hour or less. I haven't had another wreck since. Clipless pedals require patience and understanding of the learning curve you're on -- the bike shop owner who sold them to me always said "When you wreck," not "If you wreck" .... Learning to "clip out" at the right time is a big lesson; you're trying to both stop and clip out at the same time. It may not sound difficult, but if you lose focus for a few too mili-seconds too long, you and the bike will go down. But, get back up and get on that horse again.\u00a0
runningesq runningesq 6 years
Modus: the advantages fall outweigh the negatives, imo. If you are a safe rider who pays attention to what is going on around her they are no more dangerous than cages. It's really not that hard to clip in and unclip. it gives you a MAJOR advantage to be able to 'pull up' as well as 'push down'
Modus-Vivendi Modus-Vivendi 6 years
They have advantages but my understanding is unless you're a serious cyclist they're not necessary and not worth the trade off in safety imo.
hlj504 hlj504 6 years
I have the shoes for spin class, but I don't have an actual bike of my own, so... I want to get a bike though!!
Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 6 years
My brother is big into biking and hosts 40 mile long bike tours around the county where we live. I thought he was such a dork when he showed me his bike with the clipless pedals. But now I am thinking of getting a good road bike with the clipless pedals. He just did a 150 mile race and said it really has improved his time and efficiency since moving to them.
jdeprima jdeprima 6 years
I'm with anonymous above. Peddles? Are you selling something?
doogirl doogirl 6 years
I just ride my bike for enjoyment and a little exercise when I'm pulling my three year old in the little cart that hooks onto my bike. The idea of clip less peddles kinda scares me. If I've got my daughter with me, I want to make sure I'm in control of my bike, rather than it be in control of me!
iheartkerning iheartkerning 6 years
I'm a klutz who loves these things. I use clipless pedals on my road bike, and upon starting with them my efficiency in terms of average speed spiked 2mph after just a couple rides. that's a pretty big improvement for not changing anything but the pedals and shoes. I wonder how anyone who rides more than 20 miles at a time thinks to ride without them. you really are missing out on a great workout to your legs if you ride without them. you'll get over the fear quickly and it'll become second nature to pop your right (or left, depending on how you bias) foot out before a stop sign. of course accidents do happen sometimes and I've definitely fallen a couple times because I forgot to clip out for whatever reason. but the benefits far outweigh the risks. I will say though, be careful on wet pavement, cleats and cycling shoes are not meant to hold traction on these kind of surfaces and if you're not careful your foot can slip.
CiaoBella2 CiaoBella2 6 years
I'm too much of a klutz to use clipless pedals, I still use toe clips on my mnt bike.
cg130 cg130 6 years
This sort of freaks me out a bit...
1apple 1apple 6 years
Interesting post!
Soniabonya Soniabonya 6 years
I got the shoes just for me cycle class. My instructor said it would help a bit with my knee problem... in way I suppose it did since I'm no longer slipping everywhere on the sprints :) I love the clipless pedals. So much better. And yes, I have fallen from the stationary bike because I had forgotten to clip out of one foot :p it happens.
runningesq runningesq 6 years
I do ride clipless on my tri bike! and I love it :) one thing to remember: you WILL forget to clip out and fall over at some point. and it will probably be in front of a ton of people ;)
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