If there's one thing beginner cyclists dread, it's the sound of clipping in... That sound of cleat in pedal, and being locked onto the bike. It does sound quite scary, but fear not - we've got the lowdown on how to make your clipless pedal transition a smooth and successful one! So grab your bike and shoes, and find a wall to lean against. We're going to explain the art of clipping in!
Firstly, let us clarify what a clipless pedal actually is. The system referred to as "Clipless Pedals" encompasses a variety of brands and styles (road and MTB), all with one central concept; the ability to attach and detach your feet from your pedals, via a cleat engagement system on the sole of your shoes. There are numerous brands which offer this system, from LOOK to Time and the very well-known Shimano. Each of these companies offer their own version of clipless pedals, however the concept remains the same through all brands of pedals.
Using clipless pedals has proven to be safer and more effective for a variety of reasons. Namely so your feet don't inadvertently slip off the pedals, as well as allowing you to control the bike more in a variety of riding scenarios. But before we get too technical, let's learn to use these cycling essentials!
HOW TO CLIP IN
The most challenging part of learning to use clipless pedals, is the actual clipping in method. The best way to learn is to lean up against a wall while sitting on your bike and practice clipping in. Keep in mind the following points and you'll be the master of your pedals in no time!
- Try clipping in with your chosen foot / pedal at the 6 o'clock position. This gives you more strength and slightly more coordination when it comes to getting the cleat on the base of your shoe to engage with the pedal.
- Road pedals are one-sided so you need to use your toe to flatten the pedal, before sliding the cleat forward and into the pedal. Once you can't slide your foot forward any further, push down onto the pedal until you hear a "click".
- Mountain bike pedals are much easier to use because they are dual sided and offer more of a 'stand on - clip in' approach.
When trying to clip in, make a point of using a little bit of finesse. Don't grind and mash your shoes into your pedals. It isn't going to help in the slightest. Be gentle and precise, and you'll be clipped in before you know it. But now how to get unclipped!?
HOW TO UNCLIP
Unclipping from your pedals is the easiest part of all, if you know how to do it with confidence. The biggest mistake riders tend to make is that they either pull upwards to unclip, or they don't perform the correct action firmly enough. Both of these problems then lead to a moment of panic as the rider tries to yank their foot out of the pedal. Stop right there, and learn to do it properly.
To safely unclip from your clipless pedals, you need to twist your chosen foot outwards using your heel. If you keep your foot level, and twist your heel outwards firmly then you should hear a distinct "click" again. Your foot is now out of the pedal and you're ready to come to a stop without falling over.
PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE
Here's a basic scenario for you to practice on the road. Imagine you're riding along and you see the lights have turned red. You'll need to stop and unclip, before needing to clip back in and ride away without holding up the show behind you...
Let's break it down for you;
- Unclip before you need to stop. Do so approx. 100 ft (30m) in advance.
- When you come to a standstill, put your unclipped foot on the ground and chift your body weight to the foot which is on the ground. This stops you from falling over the other way!
- When it's time to go, push off with your grounded foot and lift yourself onto your saddle. From here, you can pedal with one foot while resting the unclipped foot on top of the pedal. When it's safe to do so, you can then try clipping your foot back in.
Soon enough, all of the above will become second nature. You'll be able to clip in and out at will, and even leave the latter part until the very last moment just to show off! Make sure you practice your newfound skills on quieter roads and in smaller groups before hitting the open road and larger bunches of cyclists.
Oh and before you ask... If the dreaded does happen and you embarrassingly fall over while trying to unclip at the intersection - it's okay, your feet will probably unclip by themselves. If they don't, use your hands to grab your heel and twist the heel outwards. Get up, smile and wave and casually move along. We won't tell anyone...