Learn how to ride clipless pedals

Learn how to ride clipless pedals

shimano_spd_clipless_pedalsI was in my local bike shop today and overheard a new trick for learning to ride clipless pedals. It was to learn to ride with one clipless pedal and one regular flat pedal first. Then only add the second pedal when you get confident enough to control exiting from the first.

The tip made me rethink about how novices learn to ride clipless. For women, making the leap to clipless pedals on a mountain bike can feel like jumping into a dark abyss blindfolded. While some parts of the United States is full of women riding clipless pedals it can still an intimidating notion.

Actually, it can be downright scary.

My wife’s first experience with clipless pedals on a mountain bike almost went off without a hitch until she tried to ride over a log but caught her chainring and couldn’t clip out before she was sliding down a steep off-camber embankment. The result was a bloody scrape on her leg but the real damage was her bruised confidence.

The fear of being “locked in” to the pedals can be paralyzing. But if  you can move beyond fear you find the opportunity to find new paths for real change.

cycling_shoe_cleatA clip-in system (similar to a ski binding) is a must have for most cycling enthusiasts. Instead of confining your movement, they actually allow more efficient power transfer while providing better control and stability. They allow you to ride and climb steep, technical trails that you might have thought impossible. These pedal systems also conserve energy helping you ride longer and stronger and even faster if you desire more speed.

With practice it can be easy

  • To clip in, lead with your toe catching the ball of your foot on the pedal and then step down with your heel letting your weight connect to the bike. You will probably hear the pedal’s mechanism click into place. That’s the most reassuring way to know you are in.
  • To clip out, rotate your heel outward and away from the bike until your shoe releases from the pedal.
  • First learn to clip in and out by just standing over your bike and clipping in and out several times at a stand still. Do this over and over so you can feel how your shoe meets the pedal.
  • Try using one hand to hold onto a wall or tree for added balance if you want to go for clipping into both pedals. Taking your time will help you smoothly exit the pedal before you try riding.
  • Start by riding on even grassy areas away from rocks or other objects. Practicing on a flat, level surface is the best way to learn whether you ride a mountain or road bike. The grass will slow you down and the ground will be a softer way to break your fall in case you have a problem. Ride slowly in a straight line before jumping onto a trail or a full-scale ride.
  • Avoid steep or difficult terrain at first, you don’t want a heavy crash to ruin a truly satisfying learning experience.
  • Perhaps wearing knee and elbow pads for the first few rides might bring a little confidence.
  • Take a spin class if your local fitness club offers one. Riding on a stationary bike would be another way to get good practice before hitting the trails.

Even after some practice, the first few rides might have a moment of panic, but the technology in new pedals and shoes sold today make clipping out more reliable than ever. In the past it was muddy conditions that made clipping out the most challenging thing to learn. Mud can be sticky and trap your foot but new pedals are more open and shed mud without clogging the moving parts.

With a little patience most cyclists get used to riding clipless pedals. The increased power and pedaling efficiency will reward you with a lifetime of cycling and will soon outweigh the time used learning the step in process. See you out there!

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