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My First Experience w/ Clipless Pedals

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My First Experience w/ Clipless Pedals

Old 05-12-19, 11:02 AM
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My First Experience w/ Clipless Pedals

Hi All,

I'm in my eighth decade and, although I've only been into serious cycling for the past six or seven months, I biked everywhere as a kid. And, while on a road bike for the past four months, or so, I've been encouraged to get clipless pedals by most road bike enthusiasts, including my Doc at the VA! I've been afraid of forgetting to unclip and falling so I ignored the advice. Well, finally took the plunge and got a set of SPD pedals and shoes.

So, far (two rides - about 20+ miles with a dozen or so stops & starts) I have to say I like the clipless experience. I don't know if it adds to my speed; what it does do is take my mind off the position of my feet. You wouldn't think that's too meaningful but all of a sudden I have a wealth of time to spend relaxing rather than concentrating. Overall, a very positive result.

Haven't fallen yet... came close once or twice but every time I come close it just reinforces me to stay conscious as I come to a stop!
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Old 05-12-19, 12:59 PM
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Like driving, I always unclip one foot defensively. If I see a situation ahead with Danger written all over it I unclip ahead of time as I do with red lights and stop signs and with little kids around.
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Old 05-12-19, 01:07 PM
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I've fallen a few times over the years since going clipless. Fortunately just a bit of road rash. As long as I'm paying attention it's all been good, only my own mental lapses have resulted in a fall.
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Old 05-12-19, 03:08 PM
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Just watch out for the silly errors. I've seen many a rider unclip on the right and fall over left (or vice-versa). I've seen someone unclip, put his foot down, and then have the cleat slide downslope on the crowned road until he was doing an uncomfortable split over a downed bike. The safety unclip is useful (I do that one myself most of the time) - I've come to a stop and found that my cleat was stuck only to awkwardly fall in slow-mo. It's always good for someone's entrertainment when you do that at a busy intersection.
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Old 05-12-19, 03:09 PM
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Only I advice I can offer is staying mindful to unclip when you are exhausted at the end of a ride.

I learned that lesson.
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Old 05-13-19, 11:32 AM
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Good for you, I am too chicken myself to take the plunge.
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Old 05-13-19, 12:51 PM
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Once you get use to clipless pedals you won’t want to ride anything else. After a few rides I always adjust the tension so clipping out is easy.
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Old 05-13-19, 01:16 PM
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Practice flicking your heel out, very deliberately, on both sides.
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Old 05-14-19, 01:49 AM
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Main reason I went to clipless is for the rigid, stiff soled shoes. I have skinny feet with high arches and have had painful foot cramps with ill-fitting shoes for decades. With old school Detto Pietro shoes for toe clips in the 1970s, and clipless shoes now (Scott and Fizik), I get enough support to minimize foot pain.

But I use clipless only on the road bikes. The hybrids have platforms. I wear grippy low top hiking/walking shoes. I prefer those for city rides and group rides, since we stop often. I dislike walking much with Look Delta and Shimano SPD-SL cleats, although of the two the Shimano are better for walking very short distances -- like, to the bathroom.

I don't notice any advantage in speed that couldn't be attributed to the aero differences in the bikes. With clipless I can adjust pedaling style for a few moments if my thighs or hamstrings cramp. Can't really do that so much with platforms, although with really grippy pedals and shoes you can sweep back on the pedals in circles almost like using foot retention. Just takes a little practice.

But as with my experience using toe clips and strapped in cleated shoes in the 1970s, and clipless the past year, it hasn't made a huge difference in power transfer or speed over my familiar routes.
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Old 05-14-19, 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by CyclingFool95 View Post
Just watch out for the silly errors. I've seen many a rider unclip on the right and fall over left (or vice-versa). I've seen someone unclip, put his foot down, and then have the cleat slide downslope on the crowned road until he was doing an uncomfortable split over a downed bike. The safety unclip is useful (I do that one myself most of the time) - I've come to a stop and found that my cleat was stuck only to awkwardly fall in slow-mo. It's always good for someone's entrertainment when you do that at a busy intersection.
Absolutely! Usually at traffic lights when the bike rider is expecting them to change, and they don't. Until he topples!

Funny thing, I was considering getting some of these, but baulked at the problem of being struck by a car, and trapped in 'em. Talk about going down with your ship! THAT would not be funny . . .
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Old 05-14-19, 02:13 PM
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Another potential problem with clipless is the unnatural twisting motion needed to unclip. Unlike the shoulder joint, there is nothing in the ankles and little in the knees to accommodate that twisting motion. The hips have limited rotation ability, which is limited even more by sitting.

Not good for folks with bum knees. Knees weren't designed for that. Most of us get away with it because our knees are mostly okay. But it may not be right for everyone.

On days when my knees feel a bit achy (usually due to barometric pressure shifts), I'll deliberately pivot from the hip while unclipping, to spread the effort beyond just twisting from the knee.

The amount of float in clipless cleats can be a factor as well. I like my Look Delta cleats with lots of float, but it also requires more twisting to unclip. Fortunately unclipping from Look Delta cleats is smooth, free of friction and responds with a distinct feel and sound. But they're terrible for walking.

Shimano SPD-SL cleats look similar to Look Delta but feel a bit different. There's less float, but clipping in and unclipping feel somewhat less positive, with a bit more friction resistance. Shimano added hard rubber pads to the cleats to make them a little better for walking.

Just little factors that might influence choices of clipless systems. There are many and I know some roadies who prefer mountain bike type clipless systems, and vice versa. Most of my cycling friends prefer Shimano mountain bike cleats/shoes for walking as well.

Another friend switched from SPD-SL to Speedplay Zero but discovered they are absolutely unforgiving of any dirt or debris. Just setting a foot down at a traffic light might pick up a pebble or tiny twig that hinders clipping in again. I'm not sure how much longer he'll stick with that system. On most rides, we're slow-rolling after every stop for about 100 yards while he struggles to clip in, sometimes stopping again to dig out whatever is hindering clipping in.
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Old 05-14-19, 02:54 PM
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After 30k miles using clipless on the road, it's still the unexpected abrupt stops (typically at crossings) that bring me to within milliseconds from not getting unclipped in time.

MTB clipless on steep technical uphill is where the real fun is at! The challenge is in dropping to 2mph, maintaining your balance, picking a doable line, steering quickly, pedaling at a fast 90-100 cadence to maintain momentum, and fighting the urge to unclip at all costs, even as you feel yourself losing balance. Nothing brings a wider smile to my face.
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Old 05-14-19, 04:40 PM
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I remember riding my Raleigh back in 1969, with leather rat traps on the pedals. Rode with running shoes, no toe clips. Easy in and out, just a flick of the pedal to get the trap up on top after a stop, and you could still pull up on the pedal with your leg while riding. Does no one use that system anymore ?
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Old 05-14-19, 05:15 PM
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Drdyno-clipless is great! You WILL do a Tombay at some point, and you’re required to post it and tell us all about it!

I have SPDs with my gravel bike and they are easy to get in and out of. Good choice!
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Old 05-14-19, 05:29 PM
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Thanks, Y'all, for your warnings and well wishes! So far, so good.

Since I'm prone to putting my left foot down first, I unclip my left (SPD) shoe when I see a stop up ahead. I then coast with my left foot either dangling or resting, unclipped, on the pedal while unclipping my right foot before the stop actually occurs. In truth, I have experienced a couple of those millisecond "almosts." I'm getting better at it and have converted my three road bikes to the SPD's while keeping my hybrid and commuter on Meat Locks.
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Old 05-14-19, 05:44 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
...

The amount of float in clipless cleats can be a factor as well. I like my Look Delta cleats with lots of float, but it also requires more twisting to unclip. Fortunately unclipping from Look Delta cleats is smooth, free of friction and responds with a distinct feel and sound. But they're terrible for walking.

...
You know about Kool Kovers I trust. Rubber covers you place over the cleats. (They make them for Deltas, KEOs and SPD-SLs) Saves both your butt and the cleats. They come with a clip to hang from a seat rail or strap at the back of a tool bag but I go to REI for the much nicer (and quicker to use) key-holder carabiners. They cost ~$20 or just about exactly the cost of the cleats.

Yesterday I learned the other use for those carabiners. If you use a Chain Watcher (or any of its rivals) the day will come when you jam the chain through to the BB. Solution? Pull the chain up form the BB in front of the derailleur with the carabiner. Drop chain and carabiner on the large chainring with the derailleur shifted to high. Lift the bike and pedal. You may have to work the derailleur a little to get started but I found the rings neatly pulled the chain past the Chain Watcher. Unclip the carabiner, shift back down to a usable gear and go.

Ben
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Old 05-14-19, 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
You know about Kool Kovers I trust. Rubber covers you place over the cleats. (They make them for Deltas, KEOs and SPD-SLs) Saves both your butt and the cleats. They come with a clip to hang from a seat rail or strap at the back of a tool bag but I go to REI for the much nicer (and quicker to use) key-holder carabiners. They cost ~$20 or just about exactly the cost of the cleats.
Yup, I keep meaning to buy those and keep forgetting. If they'll fit my seat bag that'll be handy for the Look cleats. The SPD-SLs are walkable as-is.

Yesterday I learned the other use for those carabiners. If you use a Chain Watcher (or any of its rivals) the day will come when you jam the chain through to the BB. Solution? Pull the chain up form the BB in front of the derailleur with the carabiner. Drop chain and carabiner on the large chainring with the derailleur shifted to high. Lift the bike and pedal. You may have to work the derailleur a little to get started but I found the rings neatly pulled the chain past the Chain Watcher. Unclip the carabiner, shift back down to a usable gear and go.

Ben
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Old 05-15-19, 07:35 AM
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Originally Posted by DrDyno View Post
Thanks, Y'all, for your warnings and well wishes! So far, so good.

Since I'm prone to putting my left foot down first, I unclip my left (SPD) shoe when I see a stop up ahead. I then coast with my left foot either dangling or resting, unclipped, on the pedal while unclipping my right foot before the stop actually occurs. In truth, I have experienced a couple of those millisecond "almosts." I'm getting better at it and have converted my three road bikes to the SPD's while keeping my hybrid and commuter on Meat Locks.
No need to unclip your right foot if your left foot is unclipped when you stop. Just rest on your left foot and you are ready to take off without having to reclip your right foot. I never unclip both feet unless I am getting off the bike.
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Old 05-16-19, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
Another potential problem with clipless is the unnatural twisting motion needed to unclip. Unlike the shoulder joint, there is nothing in the ankles and little in the knees to accommodate that twisting motion.
I respectfully disagree. Ankles have more than enough angular rotation to handle unclipping. It does require using muscles that aren't involved in walking in a straight line.
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Old 05-16-19, 03:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Kotts View Post
I respectfully disagree. Ankles have more than enough angular rotation to handle unclipping. It does require using muscles that aren't involved in walking in a straight line.
The ankle is a hinge joint. In normal adults with healthy joints it has little or no ability to rotate. Rotation is done by the fibula, around the tibia as the anchor for the rotation. That puts a lot of torsion strain where the fibula connects with the knee. Like any mortise and tenon joint it *can* develop some play if stressed enough beyond its intended function. The human body's connective tissues help minimize direct stress on the hinge joint bones, until injury, aging or disease compromise the connective tissue.

We take a lot for granted when we're young and healthy, mistakenly assuming that because we *could* push our bodies beyond design limitations, that it was normal or a good thing to do, and losing this ability as we age is somehow operator error rather than a design problem. Unfortunately, rebooting the device doesn't seem to clear up the glitch.

In folks with injuries or deteriorating joints, the motion needed to unclip from typical clipless systems can aggravate these conditions. I've experienced only an occasional minor twinge in the knee and ankle when unclipping (usually before I'm warmed up). For awhile I tried unclipping by rotating the heel inward toward the bike, which relieved some twinges, but risked jamming my heel between wheel and frame, or into the spokes. Too risky so I quit that experiment.

Some folks I ride with have occasionally switched from clipless to platform pedals while recovering from leg injuries, or switched permanently back to platforms due to persistent pain caused by the movement needed to unclip.

Some of the latter folks went back to toe clips or strap type foot retention, often without the old style cleats. They rely on shoe tread and grippy platform surfaces for the modest retention they need. The main advantage seems to be minimize slight loss of contact between foot and pedal on the upstroke.

Back in the 1970s I occasionally used my Christophe toe clips with running, casual or work shoes for commutes to work, since parts of my commute had lots of stops/starts and I found my Detto Pietros with metal cleats to be too awkward in the city. But the bit of foot retention provided by the toe clips and a loose strap seemed better to me then that platforms alone without any foot retention. But my pedaling stroke back then may have been sloppy. Nowadays I switch between bikes with platforms and clipless. I rely on grippy shoes and platform pedals to approximate the pedaling-in-circles technique I use with clipless. (Although with clipless I tend to pedal in squares when I'm tired, mostly mashing straight downward, so there's no real advantage over platforms.)

An alternative might be a pedal system with plenty of spring tension adjustment that can be set to minimal. There's a greater risk of unclipping accidentally, which can cause a fall, especially if it happens while standing to pedal. So it's a compromise. I've set my old Look pedals to minimum spring tension and had no problems in more than a year of use. But even at minimum spring tension the Look Delta cleats/pedals tend to retain the foot very positively, with a snappy, audible and palpable clip/unclip sensation. My other bike/shoes with Shimano SPD-SL have a somewhat mushy clip/unclip sensation, with less float. Not drastically different, but enough that I might discontinue using the SPD-SL system if I had persistent knee or ankle pain.

The main reason I use clipless is because I need rigid soles for arch support and to minimize painful muscle spasms in my feet and legs (from ankle to hip), even from the hips to neck. Had 'em at times all my life. It doesn't respond to changes in diet, supplements, etc. What helps is moving often, not sitting too long, exercising or stretching periodically throughout the day.

Compared with that, the small risk of knee and ankle problems is fairly minor. For me. At the moment. Subject to change with age and infirmity. Or whim.
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Old 05-27-19, 02:08 PM
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DrDyno, thanks for this thread. You inspired me to give it a whirl.Had an easy transition (still new to it, but feeling quite comfortable at this point).
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Old 05-27-19, 10:04 PM
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Originally Posted by rnothog View Post
DrDyno, thanks for this thread. You inspired me to give it a whirl.Had an easy transition (still new to it, but feeling quite comfortable at this point).
Way to go, rnothog! I've had a couple of those nano-second saves but they're becoming fewer and fewer.
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Old 05-29-19, 03:37 PM
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I have clipless SPDs on one road bike, old fashioned clips and straps (but don't use cleats) on two other road bikes, and flats with grip pins on my mountain bike. Frankly, the only advantage of either the SPDs or the clips/straps over the flats is that they keep my foot in position without thinking about it. I like both SPDs and clips/straps, but IMHO (and based on several published studies) they have zero power advantage, as mentioned by a couple of other folks above. I seriously don't understand non-racers who use non-SPD clipless pedals. The weight savings is minimal and the PITA factor for walking around at your destination is ridiculous.

Oddly, some folks love clipless pedals but hate clips/straps. For myself, I don't perceive much difference between them as long as you don't tighten up the straps too much or use old-fashioned cleats which trap you in the pedal until you loosen the straps.

For the longest time I used SPDs on my mountain bike too, but this last year I rode some extremely rocky steep trails and fell off several times due to having insufficient time to twist out. That made me switch to flats with grip pins. I've also noticed that many of the mountain bikers out there doing rocky trails (including racers) are doing the same these days whereas previously everybody was on SPDs. I am SOOO much happier with the flats and perceive zero disadvantages.
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Old 06-02-19, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by zarbog View Post
I remember riding my Raleigh back in 1969, with leather rat traps on the pedals. Rode with running shoes, no toe clips. Easy in and out, just a flick of the pedal to get the trap up on top after a stop, and you could still pull up on the pedal with your leg while riding. Does no one use that system anymore ?
A lady friend of mine has a bike that she only uses for tours set up that way. She tends to do a lot of walking when she's on vacation and prefers regular flat shoes over even SPD shoes.

FWIW, we used to use shoes with a metal cleat along with our toe strap pedals. That locked your foot in place nice and securely, but you did have to plan ahead for stops. There's a reason why so few, if anybody, uses that system anymore.
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Old 06-03-19, 03:41 AM
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Originally Posted by zarbog View Post
I remember riding my Raleigh back in 1969, with leather rat traps on the pedals. Rode with running shoes, no toe clips. Easy in and out, just a flick of the pedal to get the trap up on top after a stop, and you could still pull up on the pedal with your leg while riding. Does no one use that system anymore ?
I do... I do...

I have MKS Sylvan pedals and generic steel toe clips w/black nylon straps on my old C&V 1985 Fuji Del Rey. Never a problem. I wear a pair of Adidas running shoes and can easily get in and out of the pedals in a micro-second.

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