Oct 262010
Clipless to go fast

Switching to clipless pedals is a rite of passage for many cyclists. Following hard on the heals (no pun intended) of lycra and peculiar tan lines.

It requires expenditure on new kit, a commitment to cycling shoes and a need to learn how to clip in and out of the pedals (more on that below). The quid pro quo is a more satisfying and efficient pedal and, some say, a greater connection with the bike.

The term “clipless” confused me for many years. Why would pedals which clip in and out be called “clipless”. The answer is that up until the 1980s when they were introduced the option was between plain pedals and pedals with a toe” clip” and straps.

The mechanism for these pedals draws heavily on ski binding technology and was made popular by a French ski binding manufacturer called Look.  A cleat is attached to the bottom of a rigid cycling shoe and special pedals are attached to the cranks. Most work by positioning the front of the cleat in the pedal and then pressing down until the cleat is engaged with a firm click.

Getting in and, more importantly, out of the pedals can put a lot of people off using them. In fact, many a cyclist has had an embarrassing moment when they stop (voluntarily or perhaps through exhaustion) without clipping out! Below are some tips to avoid this spectacle!

How to clip out!

1 – Set the clip tension on the pedal as low as possible. You don’t need anything higher, except for stunts in mountain biking or very aggressive climbing. Shimano pedals can be adjusted with an allen key in the direction of the minus sign (it is similar for other types of pedals).

2 – Practice clipping and unclipping while standing near a post, a fence, etc. Practice both feet, and several times.

3 – Riding, get a nice pace going on a quiet road or on some grass and clip in and out a few times to get the hang of it.

4 – Give yourself plenty of time before you reach an intersection to unclip. Remember you can pedal quite easily with one pedal clipped in (your non-standing foot!) before you stop.

5 – Don’t try to unclip both feet at the same time.

6 – Unclip with a firm, swift motion, rather than trying to gradually force your foot out.

Image above courtesy of Bicycle Images

  One Response to “Clipless pedals – it’s a cycling rite of passage”

  1. Nice, simple advice! Clipless pedals rule. I had to ride my bike in street shoes the other day, and it was unbelievably frustrating, which I guess goes to show the benefits that having your feet tied to your bike bring!

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