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Clipless Pedals

To Clip or not to Clip

So you’re thinking of upgrading from your flat platform pedals to clipless pedals, but where to start. If you’re cycling short distances and casually, basic rubber pedals work fine. As you pedal more seriously, there’s a risk of your feet slipping off the pedals. Talk with your fellow riders, get their thoughts on the different styles available and why it works for them.

Features & Benefits

Clipless pedals keep your feet in place making it easier to pedal at a good cadence (the speed you pedal measured in revolutions of one pedal per minute; a good goal is 70 to 90 rpm).

They optimize the connection between feet and pedal. The position of your feet doesn’t slip. More of your energy makes its way into every pedal stroke, which is great for climbing, accelerating and long rides.

Most modern systems provide some degree of float allowing your feet to self-align on the pedals. This feature is like a buffer that helps prevent knee problems.

They help when you’re trying to hop the bike to clear obstacles, such as curbs, logs and rocks.

With a little practice, they’re safer to get into and out of than toe clips and straps because the release motion is simpler and more natural.

They’re comfortable to pedal on when you get shoes that fit your feet and the pedals.  They are lighter than regular pedals with clips and straps and do not restrict circulation.

There are two styles of clipless pedals: road and MTB. Mountain bike style uses a small cleat that sits up inside the sole of the shoe. It is easier to walk around in when off the bike.  Road pedals use a wide cleat that makes walking difficult but provides good power transfer and is comfortable on long rides.

Before you start, decide which foot you are going to put down to dismount. Go to a park or grassy area to practice, so you don't injure yourself or damage the bike. Ride on top of the pedals wearing running shoes to get used to balancing the bike before you attempt the clipless pedals. You may also want to temporarily lower your seat while acquiring this new skill. Most clipless pedals have adjustable release pressure, and while you are getting used to them, the pedal release pressure should be set lightly so it's easy to unclip. You can tighten them later if necessary.

Clipless pedals are designed to hang down at the back, so you can hook the front of the cleat in, then press down to engage the rear of the cleat. When the pedals are new they may be a little stiff and not hang correctly, but they will loosen up quickly with use. To start off with clipless pedals you clip in one foot, push away, and once rolling, clip in the other foot. You have to get this done while you still have enough speed to maintain balance. This is what causes beginners the most problems, as they can’t clip in quickly. The trickiest thing the first couple of times is remembering to swivel your heels to get out instead of pulling back (the toe-clip motion). Practice until you can do it without looking at the pedal. 

Practice, practice, practice.

A final thought – if you are really struggling to come to grips with your clipless pedals, there are pedals which have a SPD clipless mount on one side and a flat platform on the other.  It’s easy to get up to balancing speed using the platform side then you flip them over with your toe and clip in.

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