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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Clipless pedals

A lot of people buy clipless pedals and then on their first try, fall over at a stop light because they can't clip out. This is very silly, and it has never happened to me because I did something very few other people did when I bought mine: I practiced. Here's how:
  1. Find an empty parking lot that's level, and clear of cars.
  2. Straddle your bike and clip in on the right.
  3. Clip out.
  4. Repeat 2-3 until you can do it repeatably without looking down.
  5. Raise the right foot to the 2 o'clock position, and push down
  6. The bike will move, so now that your leg is straight, lift your butt up and over the seat and sit down.
  7. Pedal and push down on the left foot until your left foot clips in. Do not look down. If you're using Looks you may have to use your toe to flip the pedals up to the correct side, but with SPDs, you can just push straight down.
  8. Slow down a bit with your brakes, and unclip your left foot.
  9. As you slow down to a stop and brake, turn the handlebars slightly to the right. This will cause the bike to fall to the left and onto your outstretched left foot.
  10. Repeat 5-9 until step 7 and step 8-9 become natural and easy.
  11. Practice emergency stops. From about 10mph, brake hard and unclip and land.
  12. As you gain more confidence, start from higher speeds and try it with both left and right feet. Once you can do this from about 15mph or so you're safe for the streets, though more aggressive types will want to try it from 20mph.
I did all this about 14 years ago when I bought my first clipless pedals. The entire learning process will take about 1-2 hours in a parking lot, though body geniuses can do it in half an hour or less. It sounds involved, but as a result I've never had the experience others may have had, which is that of rolling up to a stop light or stop sign and then falling over because I forgot to get my feet out of the clips. One note about buying pedals: don't buy pedals without wrench flats. In other words, the cheap SPD M520Ls are good, but the expensive XTs are not. The lack of wrench flats make putting on and taking off pedals a major pain in the ass. Needless to say, if you're anything but a racer, buying pedals/shoes/cleats that you can't walk in is stupid.


Peter said...

I did almost the same thing, except on grass at the local schoolyard (I didn't fall, but grass is psychologically less threatening than concrete).

Riding home, at the first stop sign, my brain froze and I fell over. Which taught me two things:
Don't panic
Falling doesn't hurt (much).

oldiemike said...

If you are using SPD pedals splash out on the multi-release cleats. You can pull your feet out of those babies in an emergency, no problem, no grass stains, no bruises. Then put the standard ones back onto your shoes when you have more confidence/
experience. No Guarantees! But it worked for me