If you’ve been riding for a while and haven’t taken the dive into the world of clipless pedals and cleats – then you are missing out on a trick or two. It’s probably time to take your riding to the next level..
“Riding clipless means your shoe (cleat) clips into your bicycle pedal”
Clipless pedals and cleats (known as “Clipless”) are a two-part system for your bike.
Clipless pedals are pedals with a locking mechanism that locks into a cleat that attaches to your bike shoe.
By clipping your bike shoes into the pedals you gain a very solid connection to your bike. Once your foot is locked in, you get a much better power transfer
Cleats and pedals offer a very solid connection to your bike’s power train. Normal pedals are fine on the downstroke but the only one thing keeping your foot on the pedal on your upstroke is your own downward pressure. Thus to maintain constant contact with the pedal throughout every rotation you have to apply downward pressure. This downward pressure gives the force needed to lift your trailing leg.
However on clipless pedals, there’s none of that. Your foot is locked to the pedal so you can fully unweight on the recovery stroke and all of your energy is used to move your bike forward. This leads to increased efficiency as you can now not only push down on the power stroke with your quads, but you can also sweep through and use the momentum to pull back up. As you sweep through you can engage more of your hamstrings and you set your trailing foot up to flow over the rotation and get ready for the next downstroke. This push and sweep also engages your core and hip flexors. So now it’s not all about just your quads – another range of muscles are also helping out. You are sharing the load and preventing yourself from wearing out as quickly as you would on standard pedals. So you’ll find yourself going a lot faster and with much less effort.
Another advantage of clipless pedals is that they can keep your feet from flying off the pedals. If you have ever hit a pothole or bump in the road unexpectedly – you may have found your feet coming off the pedals. This is very true if you have ever taken your bike off road onto rougher terrain. Suddenly you may find your crotch coming into contact with your frame or a pedal spinning around and hitting you in the shin. If you are locked into your pedals – this won’t happen and you can carry on cycling as normal. You can even pull up on the pedals to hop over small obstacles on the road or track – very useful to avoid sticks and debris that might be in your way.
Going clipless does take getting used to and it’s well worth taking time to adjust to riding clipped in.
We don’t recommend going clipless the day before a race or big event. Nearly everybody will tip over and fall when learning to use clipless pedals, so it makes sense to practise in them in a suitable area. Find a flat open area without any nearby hazards and just practice clipping in and clipping out as much as possible. Clip in, ride for a short distance, clip out. Repeat. Learn to uncleat one foot well before coming to a stop and be assertive in your movement to disengage your foot from the pedal. Usually a fast swivel on the ball of your foot will send your heel away from the frame and disengage the locking mechanism. Do this until it begins to become second nature. Another tip is to practice clipping in and out on an incline as you will soon find your self in a situation when you need to come to a stop on a hill. It will all take a little bit of patience and practice – if you don’t give yourself a little bit of playtime first, you may find yourself falling in a crumpled heap at the first set of traffic lights that you encounter. But it’s all really quite simple – practice and a dollop of confidence and you will be away in no time!
So why are they called clipless?
Well it is a rather odd name for them as you do actually clip in – but before they were invented, some cyclists used pedals with toe clips (cages) attached. You put your foot in the cage and this allowed you to pull up. When introduced the newer pedals needed a new name. So they were called clipless. Not the brightest idea …. but hey!
Switching over to clipless pedals isn’t something you should do until you’re already confident on your bike. But if you’re ready to take the next step and want to save some energy in those legs for the next big push, the difference it will make to your enjoyment of riding will be huge.