How to Use and Get Used to Clipless Pedals
Exchanging Fear for Power: Clipping in For the First Time
One of my strongest values in life is to not make decisions out of fear. For a long time, I procrastinated in making the big switch to clipless pedals because of fear. (FYI: Clipless pedals= pedals that attach to your shoe. For more tri lingo, check out our Triathlon Dictionary!) I feared becoming one of the surprising number of pro-looking riders who—locked into their pedals—totter at traffic lights and fall slowly to the ground; I feared hurting myself—or worse, breaking my bike. But, my biggest fear was falling to the ground in front of other riders.
Recently, I decided to stop letting my fear control me and I took the leap to try clipless pedals for the first time. Why did I switch? Riders were constantly zooming by me and I hate to be left behind. It was time for more power. I learned some of the major benefits of clipless pedals:
- Not only can you generate power by pushing down on your pedal, but pulling up as well. My cadence and efficiency would definitely improve.
- Adjustable cleats allow you to find the most efficient position and stay there. I have a tendency to move my foot around, especially when going uphill, so clipping in ensures my foot stays where it is supposed to, with the ball of my foot on the pedal.
- Also, the stiffness of clip shoes increases comfort and power. When using regular running shoes on flat pedals, my foot would bend over the pedal and caused some pain.
In my first month of riding with clips, I did fall once. It didn’t really hurt, but my pride was bruised. As expected, I was indeed one of the pro-looking riders who slowly fell to the ground at a stoplight, unable to get out of my pedals. My only reaction was to flop around on the ground while yelling, “I’m ok, it’s my first time!”
The thing of it is: Yes, it is important to get up as quickly as you are able if you fall over on the road for safety. But, there is no reason to be embarrassed falling in front of other riders. Since my little accident, so many experienced riders have told me about falling over while learning how to use their clips. Every rider has been there, done that and has a story to tell.
Other than this incident, what’s surprised me most is the learning curve has been much easier than I expected. I took advice from my local bike shop and loosened the tension on my pedals all the way, which makes it much easier to clip in and out. Also, I opted for a type of pedal that I can clip into from either side. This way, I don’t have to try to flip my pedal over when I start out at a stoplight.
I also used a trainer for my first go at the clipless pedals. I highly recommend this to everyone! Practicing clipping in and out allowed me to get comfortable before braving the open road. I didn’t find clipping in tricky; most of the time I have been able to lock in on the first try! Clipping out is what frightened me. But, by practicing a little, I realized that it is pretty straightforward. One decisive twist and you’re free!
As an added bonus, using clipless pedals on the road has made me more conscious of my surroundings. I am constantly reading the road ahead: looking for junctions, traffic lights, hazards, etc. that might necessitate a quick clipping-out. Because I was so comfortable on my flat pedals, I realized I was not being as safe on the road as I could have been.
Thanks to my proper foot placement and increased power output, I should have calves of steel any day now!
Make sure to turn up the sound on the video above to learn all about clipless pedals and how to use them from my friend Savannah! Then, let us know how it goes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!