Beginner technique: Don't be scared of clipless pedals
By Neil Pedoe, Cycling Plus | Friday, November 12, 2010 1.00pm
Switching to clip-in road pedals can be daunting but it'll pay off in the long-run James Costley-White/BikeRadar
Clipless – or, more accurately, clip-in – pedal systems have been used by most serious cyclists since Look applied step-in ski-binding technology to bikes in 1984. Then Bernard Hinault rode it to Tour de France victory in ’85 and there was no going back.
Once you too have experienced the efﬁciency of having your foot ﬁxed on the pedal throughout its cycle, you’ll be hooked. But switching can be intimidating, so we sought out British Cycling qualiﬁed coaches Andy Cook and his wife Jacqui, of www.andy cookcycling.com, for help.
Get the angle and the fore and aft position of your cleat wrong on the sole of your cycling shoe and you could be heading for a whole world of injury, warns Andy. To start with, set them up square using the guiding marks on the shoes and then see how they feel when pedalling. You could use a turbo trainer or just sit on your bike in a narrow hallway or doorway where you can’t fall over and pedal backwards for 10 minutes.
If you need to change the angle – if your feet naturally point inwards or outwards and you can feel some discomfort – sit on the edge of a table with your legs dangling off the side, your shoes resting on a rectangular piece of paper, with the edge perpendicular to the table. Draw around your shoes, then place the cleats on the outlines so they’re still square to the table edge. The angle between the centre line of your shoes and the edge of the paper (centre line of cleat) is your cleat angle.
1 If you’re nervous of full-on roadie pedals and you’re primarily a commuter, we’d recommend pedals that you can clip into from either side – double-sided pedals. Pedals that you clip into on one side but have a ﬂ at platform on the other are also handy if you sometimes ride in ‘normal’ shoes.
2 “Before you jump on your bike,” says Andy, “don’t forget to ﬁrst slacken off each pedal’s spring tension as far as it will go, so it’s as easy as it can be to clip out when you need to.”
3 “Don’t try unclipping both feet at the same time,” says Jacqui. “And if you’re at all unsure, practise unclipping while holding onto a fence, or in a doorway or narrow hallway. Try to use a quick, clean, positive outwards swivel of your heel rather than a gradual, slow movement.”
4 Your shoe choice will be dictated by the type of pedal you go for. “A touring or mountain bike shoe with a knobbly sole makes a great commuting choice,” says Andy, “because you can apply pressure on the pedal without fear of your foot slipping off, no matter how the pedal happens to be aligned.” This is particularly handy if your ride means you need to keep clipping in and out at trafﬁc lights.
5 If you intend to do much walking in your cycling shoes, a mountain bike/tourer-style shoe almost always has a recess along the middle of the sole for the cleat, so it won’t skid noisily on the ﬂoor. The recess also helps guide your cleat into place.
6 If you’re using Look-style pedals, keep an eye on cleat wear in your shoes. “You’ll wear it so thin that a big effort such as a climb will snap it,” says Andy. “Most cleats have wear markers, and you can get cleat covers for easier walking too.”
7 Don’t forget to look after your clipless system – a lack of maintenance could stop you clipping in or out smoothly and cause a fall. Beware of getting your pedals clogged with dirt too.
Shoes with recessed cleats (which you can't see in this pic, but they're there) are easier for walking in, and knobbly soles are useful for commuters
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