Any advice on getting used to using cleats?

by CrystalPalacial   July 27, 2010  

I've been a commuting cyclist for ages, but have only more recently had a 'proper' road bike. It's setup for cleats (Look Keo, bog-standard Evans issue).

I've found it really hard getting used to them and feeling confident about getting my foot in and, more importantly, out (particularly as I'm in heavy commuting traffic). As a result, I'm conscious I'm getting really tense in the leg, and making it worse. The end result is that I've abandoned them for the time being.

All rather silly, but would appreciate any advice on tips for getting more confident with them, any experiences that others have had.

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What was it that made you feel nervous about using them ?

Were they hard to release or were you just worried that you would forget ?

If they are not coming out properly then check that you have them on the loosest setting - there is a + and - on the pedal fitting, with + being the tightest. (Sorry if that's obvious and you've already done it).

If it is a matter of forgetting then there's nothing to do except practice until it becomes second nature. In traffic I just twist the cleat out as I slow down and freewheel but leave it resting on the pedal so I can either take my foot off or slip it back in if the lights change.

And if it is simply that you can't get the hang of it then get on the bike at home, lean against a wall or something and just keep trying to get the twisting action right.

Almost everybody has a clipless moment so you won't be the first.

posted by ChrisO [11 posts]
28th July 2010 - 3:50

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By the sound of it you've been enjoying your commute for years, and you've now come up against something that has made the journey unpleasant. Rather than struggling to get used to the technique, why not ditch them altogether? I'm not entirely convinced that clipless is necessarily the best way to go for a commute. They're great for long rides and definitely improve efficiency, but shouldn't always be the first choice for 'stop-start' journeys across a city. They take time to get out of, and just as importantly take time to get back into after the lights go green. If you're set on some form of 'performance' pedal why not try toe-clips. Properly set up they can work a treat! Keep the Look pedals for the long days in the countryside. Enjoy the ride!

simonmb's picture

posted by simonmb [360 posts]
28th July 2010 - 5:20

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I have ridden clipless pedals for around 20 years, when the first Shmano SPD's came out.

The transistion from Mountain Bike clipless to road bike single sided clipless shows a marked difference in ease of clipping in and out, and I'm not sure how much I would have liked to learn on road clipless.

I would suggest getting some cheap MTB clipless double sided pedals for the bike and learning with those. You can always either sell the Looks or wait until you feel proficient with the MTB versions before going over to the Looks.

The problem with learning on a road bike is that you don't have to clip in and out with the same regularity as on an MTB, so the time it takes for it to feel second nature is longer, plus the consequences of getting it wrong are usually only comical when off road.

The double sided MTB pedals are much easier to clip into, and usually just require you to stomp on the pedal and it finds it's way in. Road clipless require you to get the pedal rotated to the right side, and then locate the front tab before stepping into them, it is a lot less natural.

Complicating matters since 1965

DaSy's picture

posted by DaSy [649 posts]
28th July 2010 - 6:28

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i don't use single sided pedals for commuting either, partly becaus they're harder to clip into and partly because the shoes aren't easy to walk in. my current faves for commuting are crank brothers candys: masses of float and a small cleat. I've got some cheap mtb shoes with a rubber bumper either side of the cleat so it's easy to walk around or stop at lights

to be honest the only thing i use 'proper' road pedals for is time trialling. i'd much rather use a double sided system on any non-competitive ride, from the commute to a 200km sportive

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7506 posts]
28th July 2010 - 8:46

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If you have to stop often for junctions, lights, roundabouts, ditch them and go back to flat. They'll just slow you down unless you can get used to them, and even then, that lull as you set off onto the roundabout and then try to get the other cleat in can be a bit daunting.

Use them at weekends and for longer rides and you'll soon get the hang of it and feel less nervous, but the commute is probably not the place to learn.

posted by italiafirenze [68 posts]
28th July 2010 - 10:24

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Have you thought about single sided SPD pedals where one side is clipless and the other is a full size platform? When I introduced my wife to cycling, we went down this route so that she could start pedalling immediately on the platform and when we were either up to speed or knew there was no known reason to stop, she could clip in.

Another up side is that you can use trainers when nipping to the shops.

If interested, I'd advise against some of the single sided SPD pedals and the clip in plastic platforms that are a reduced platform size as she found these far to small to be comfortable when pedaling at a reasonable cadence.

posted by adscrim [116 posts]
28th July 2010 - 10:49

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Thanks for all the advice everyone - lots of good stuff in there.

And thanks too, for no-one telling me to just 'man up' and get on with it...

I think I'm going to stop worrying about it, but get into doing longer weekend rides (something I've been pondering for a while) where it would be more appropriate to use the cleats - I'm a pretty conservative stop-at-the-lights kind of commuter, so I think the advice to not use them is probably right for me.

ChrisO asked what was making me nervous - I think more than anything it was the *idea* of not being able to get my foot out and pitching over sideways (and into traffic).

DaSy and dave_atkinson - really useful advice about the MTB clips too, thanks for that. Will definitely explore that as well.

posted by CrystalPalacial [2 posts]
28th July 2010 - 17:38

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I think you should Man the Sofa up -practise over a Sofa when you fall over in the lounge Smile when the missus is not to see your bike in 'her' lounge.

Have to agree with the above comments, some cities are just too hectic and I use D/S MTB SPDs (970) on my winter bike into the city or short (8miles) rides. Easy to clip in/out for unpredictable stops.

I only use Look KEO 2 on training rides and you get used to clipping in/out catching up with friends speeding off.
My looks are easier to get out of than any of my Shimano road pedals.

It might be worth checking a bikefit expert to see if you have the correct angle with the cleat on your shoe too if you have trouble clipping out.

I like my bike but it needs a hidden 25cc motor Smile

Fish_n_Chips's picture

posted by Fish_n_Chips [326 posts]
29th July 2010 - 12:00

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+ 1 on the Crank Bros Candys, I had them on my old Giant and really liked them.

Got the Crank Bros Quattros on my current bike (they're discontinued though as far as I know).

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8513 posts]
29th July 2010 - 12:16

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As just a commuter, I use SPDs. I'm afraid I can't even tell you who makes them. Had a couple of hairy moments, but am usually absolutely fine, and my co-ordination is in no way such that I can stand on my pedals waiting at the lights.

Currently using the half and halfs someone mentioned above, so that I can use the bike with normal shoes - that also makes it easier to get away at lights, because you can step on the pedal, and then fiddle with the clip once you're moving.

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posted by timlennon [229 posts]
29th July 2010 - 14:25

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