My journey of going clipless.

Having already made the jump from MTB to road bike about a year ago the next natural step seemed to be the jump from flat pedals to clipless. This step however has taken me much longer to make. In this blog I will try to help you make the same step and enjoy the benefits of doing so, without taking a year to do it.

First let me start by giving you a quick whistle stop tour of the various pedal options available to all us cyclists. Each option has its positives and negatives, depending on the bike you ride and how you intend to use it.

FLAT PEDALS:

These are still probably the most popular pedals in use and always come fitted on new bikes. These are now built much lighter and stronger than ever and still the pedal of choice for many BMX’ers, downhill and leisure cyclists. The positive to these pedals is their versatility. There is no need to wear a special shoe when you want to pop out to the shops, just pop on those comfy trainers and off you go.

The downside is their lack of efficiency. You only get the benefit of your down stroke and not your “pull” stroke. Your feet can move around a lot.

CLIPLESS MTB: These are for Mountain bikes and use a slightly different clipping system, and you can also clip in both sides of the pedal. the positives to these are you will feel more connected to your bike, pedalling will be more efficient, your position on your pedals will be correct, its easier to "hop" and your feet will not slip off the pedals. The Cons: can be tricky to unclip quickly if needed, special shoes needed again.

CLIPLESS SPD PEDALS – SL (ROAD):

The first thing to note is the confusing term “clipless” when in fact you need a special shoe in order to “clip in”. This of course is referring to the lack of a toe strap or clip attached to the pedal, instead you clip into the pedal directly. The downside to these is the need to purchase a specific cycle shoe with a “cleat” attached in order to clip into the pedal every time you want to get on your bike. The positives being that you gain the efficiency on both the up and down stroke.

DOUBLE SIDED PEDALS:

A combination of both the clipless (SPD) and a flat pedal giving you the flexibility to both “clip in” (still needing the purchase of a cycle shoe) for those longer rides or just hop onto your bike for a quick 5 minutes pop to the shop without the need of a change of shoes.

The downside to these is they are slightly weightier than the smaller clipless SPD road pedal.

My Journey of becoming clipless…

I have been going out on regular rides with a group of cyclists at weekends for a while now and often looked on as they clipped in and out with relative ease wondering if I should make the jump. The main thing holding me back from switching from the ever trusty but in-efficient flat pedal was fear. Fear of a “clipless moment” like one of the many pro-looking (not so much in my case) cyclists locked into their SPD’s approaching a queue of traffic or a junction and slowly and definitely not gracefully taking a Derek Trotter style bar fall in front of the watchful motorists, because they haven’t managed to clip out in time.

The second thing stopping me from making the switch was thinking there was no middle ground from flat pedals to the small clipless spd’s where I would have to change shoes every time I wanted to ride my bike, this just didn’t seem much of an option for me.

After quite a bit of convincing and a little push I decided to make the switch to the double sided pedals. Flat on one side, clipless on the other. I opted for the Shimano A530 double sided spd (approx. £32) and for shoes I chose a pair of shimano XC51 MTB Shoe (approx. £80). This combination seemed the perfect choice for me as I often go out on shorter rides where kitting myself out in shoes and lycra isn’t necessarily needed and is a real hassle, but when I am out for my weekend ride I can stick on my Shimano XC51 shoes, clip in and away I go, pedalling efficiently for 30+ miles.

After a quick lesson in clipping in and out, the gathering crowd - phones in hand ready to catch my fall and get £250 for my efforts - stood back as I set out on my maiden voyage dreading the point when I would have to slow down and stop. The moment came and…clip out I did. Overwhelmed with relief I continued to practice and over 100 miles later and many clips in and out I am yet to fall. I’m sure my time will come and it will still be embarrassing, and my pride will hurt more than the fall itself, but for now I am enjoying the benefits that clipless pedals bring, efficiency, stability, extra speed and smooth strokes.

What I have found surprising is the learning curve has been much easier than expected. This is probably made easier by the loose tension of the locking mechanism on the pedal I currently have. I can turn my foot 45 degrees to the left or right to free my foot with ease. My fears have so far been completely unfounded. Both the act of clipping in and out has been very easy. I have become even more aware of upcoming hazards, roads or junctions that might require a quick clip out, but this added awareness seems like a positive to me.

What I like most about the pedals isn’t necessarily the extra power and efficiency although that is great, but the greater sense of being connected to my bike and not worrying about my feet slipping around on the pedals. On the Birmingham roads, full of potholes this is a real bonus!

My Derek Trotter, clipless moment will undoubtedly come at some point, however I no longer fear this. Along with many others to have made this switch I am never going back. Now it's your turn!

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