I still can’t believe I got talked into it.
Trying clipless pedals at 57! Throughout my life, I’ve always had flat pedals on my bikes. The one and only time, I’d tried riding with clipless pedals hadn’t turned out very well. So what on earth convinced me to try it again – especially after last time?
Last time…. what did happen the last time? It was several years ago. I wanted to go for a bike ride but didn’t have a bike so I borrowed Carl’s. He had clipless pedals on his bike so I put on his shoes, got instructions on how to “clip in”, and went for a ride.
I assumed clipping out would be the opposite of clipping in.
Because of this, I didn’t bother to get instructions on how to clip my foot out of the pedal – big mistake!
Upon returning from my ride, I tried to remove my foot from the pedal only to discover that I didn’t know how. We had a circular driveway at the time so I rode around and around trying to figure out how to get my foot out of the pedal.
After what felt like hours with no success, I came up with a plan. I would go VERY slowly pass the trailer we had parked in the driveway, grab the side rail of the trailer, and bring myself to a stop where I could take the shoes off. Sounds simple, right? What could go wrong?
Lots! First off, it’s a lot harder to grab a stationary object when you are moving and need your hands to keep you on a straight path (I hadn’t considered this). Secondly, bringing yourself to a complete stop, using one hand to grab a rail and the other to break and steer is nearly impossible (at least it certainly was for me).
And so, over I went. Onto the hard pavement of the driveway… bike and all, still clipped into the pedals. Luckily, I only suffered some nasty scrapes and bruises but I thought I’d destroyed Carl’s bike (turns out I only knocked the chain off).
Even though my fall hadn’t been catastrophic, it was enough to scare me away from clipless pedals for the next decade. Until one day at Sabino Cycles in Tucson.
Carl and I had just bought new bikes and were talking to one of the bike experts at the shop about what else we might need when the subject of clipless pedals came up. I told him I was terrified to try again after my last encounter with them. Rather than say, “oh, ok”, and move on he said “let’s set you up on a bike stand and let you try a pair of pedals”.
That was the beginning of what has become a great adventure for me. I absolutely love my clipless pedals (I feel so grown up when I ride with them). Even though I can now clip in and un-clip without much thought, it didn’t happen over-night. There was a breaking in period where I did take a few falls but the more I rode, the more confident and skilled I became.
What do I like about clipless pedals?
- My feet remain on my pedals when I hit rocks, sand, or bumps.
- Since my feet remain on the pedals when hitting an obstacle, it gives me better control over my bike (I don’t lose power when I need it most).
- Being clipped in has improved my stroke, which has improved the speed and power that I have.
What don’t I like about clipless pedals?
- They can be difficult to use on extremely rocky trails.
- My response time for my brain to realize I need to unclip and my foot’s response time to the thought is not fast enough for me to avoid falling over on highly technical trails.
The pedals and shoes we chose
Our bikes are cross-country bikes since we prefer to ride on single tracks and dirt roads. Due to this, we have off-road clipless pedals and use off-road shoes.
Although I do enjoy riding with clipless pedals, it’s not all or nothing when it comes to them. Even though we ride with clipless pedals most of the time, I haven’t thrown away my flats.
When we ride single track or in very rocky areas, I swap out my clipless for flats to make sure my foot hits the ground in time to keep me upright when the need arises.
To help keep my foot on my flats, I have a pair of 5.10 mountain bike shoes that have sticky rubber which works with the pins on my pedals to keep my foot from flying off the pedals.
A few things I would suggest
I have to admit, going clipless at the young age of 57 was scary (the fact that I don’t heal as quick as I used to was definitely on my mind). However, getting a lesson in the bike shop did a lot for my confidence to give it a try.
- Invest in good gear: good pedals, good shoes, good gloves, good cycling shorts (trust me, you’ll want good padding in those britches!).
- Make sure your clip is adjusted to the right tension to allow you to unclip easily (but not so easy that you accidentally unclip when you hit a bump).
- Practice clipping in and clipping out while you are riding.
- Ride on a lot on mostly level, hazard-free roads prior to trying anything technical.
- Be prepared for a few falls. It’s bound to happen but the more you ride, the less likely you are to take a tumble due to not being able to unclip.
- And, most importantly, enjoy the journey. It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be frustrating, it’s going to be scary at times, and it’s going to be exciting.
If you are interested in seeing if clipless pedals are right for you, I suggest taking your bike to a local bike shop and asking if they can set you up and give you a lesson.
To learn more about clipless pedals, check out BikeSmarts’s post, “What Are Clipless Pedals? A Beginner’s Guide“.
If you are more of a visual learner, GCN offers a great tutorial explaining the different clipless pedals (off-road vs road) and how to use them.
Thanks for riding along with me,