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Learning on mountain bike cleats might be easier, but Matt likes to run before he can walk

Thinking of being clipped into your bike can bring nightmares to those that are new to clipless pedals. But it doesn't have to be that hard! Follow our tips and you'll be comfortable in no time.

Clipless pedals have been around since a little ski bindings company called Look thought that Bernard Hinault could do with a little help to win le Tour. Launched in 1984, the cycling world was sceptical until Hinault won his 5th and final tour in 1985. The term 'clipless' comes from the absence of toe clips, used to secure rider's feet into the pedals pre-1984.

These days, the span of pedal systems available is quite extensive. Road pedals are wide for power transfer and all day comfort. Mountain bike pedals are made for robustness and mud clearance.

Mountain bike pedals would be our recommendation for learning to to use clipless pedals, as they're easier to get in and out of. This makes it much easier to unclip quickly when you inevitably forget that you're clipped in at traffic lights. It's happened to us all and hurts your pride more than your hips.

Give it a go and let us know how you get on

Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. Liam spends his time plodding his way through cyclocross races, very busy not winning. As an advocate for perfectly clean chains, he can be found cleaning his bike instead of training. A shop mechanic, Liam has many helpful skills, such as being able to identify 'cross tubs by the tread pattern alone. If you bump into him, he'll probably be eating.

22 comments

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Jeffmcguinness [44 posts] 1 year ago
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My only experience of 'clipping out failure' was in a car park shortly after getting my first road bike - I had stopped to chat to my wife, unclipped my left foot and sat on the bike talking to her and my two year old son.  I shifted my weight slightly over the bike, went to put my right foot down and realised all too late that my right foot was still clipped in.  Cue much laughter from my wife and "Oh, daddy, you fell over!" from my son.

Lesson learned.

 

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rowes [108 posts] 1 year ago
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Mine was going up a steep country Dartmoor hill that got the better of me. As I went to step off I couldn't and tumbled sideways. Fortunately there wasn't anyone around to witness the shame. Unlike a friend who fell over at traffic lights besides a busy city centre beer garden.

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LastBoyScout [492 posts] 1 year ago
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Mine was a full-on double-eject on a mountain bike mid-bunny hop!

Fortunately, my arse landed on the saddle and I got away with it.

I did witness a mate pull up next to a bridge parapet, go to put his hand on the bridge and promptly fall the other way. My sister's first attempt on them involved riding round the front garden before coming to a halt in the middle of the lawn, at which point she literally went cross-eyed with the confusion of what to do next before falling over.

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whoishJ [13 posts] 1 year ago
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My first clipping out failure was also, coincidentally, the worst.

 

Stopped at some lights, and unclipped the left foot. Went to shift my weight to the right, forgetting I didn't have any movement on that foot.

My centre of gravity shifted to the right, went to stick my foot down and toppled. Except I stuck my right arm out , hit the pavement and prompty fractured my elbow. Off the bike for six weeks while it healed up.

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CXR94Di2 [2283 posts] 1 year ago
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I think it's safe to say we all have fallen over when first using clipless. My suggestion is try and think a little ahead and unclip whilst still rolling at a reasonable pace, so balance is not compromised whilst unclipping

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ktache [991 posts] 1 year ago
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Hey, the stopped clipped in fall maybe the one occasion that the helmet may protect as specified.

Withdraws to safe distance...

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Beatnik69 [419 posts] 1 year ago
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ktache wrote:

Hey, the stopped clipped in fall maybe the one occasion that the helmet may protect as specified.

Withdraws to safe distance...

I usually find I can put a hand out or take the impact on my shoulder before my head gets anywhere near the ground.

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tritecommentbot [2266 posts] 1 year ago
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Was bricking it, then realised it was easy on my first go. Rode for over a month, had some nearly moments are traffic lights.

 

Then started teaching the missus who was doing okay too. Tried going up a kerb in front of her, but really slowly and tried to turn abruptly left at the same time for no known reason. Slow-mo fall right in front of a white van with two guys having their lunch laughing their tits off. 

 

Legs in the air and everything. 

 

Then fell a week later, again with the missus. Looking over my shoulder to see where she was and veered into a kerb in front of an elderly couple who wanted to call me an ambulance and wouldn't leave it alone. There were people taking pics of the state of me with their phone. No shame. I must be on Instagram somewhere.

 

Missus of course, pissing herself both times. So guess it was worth taking a couple of hits.

 

That was like the second or third month of cycling. Just gets easier and easier day by day. The scary stuff, like falling off and cars running you over  - the stuff that goes through your head - that's not what happens to you. You fall in some weird awkward situation, like trying to do slow turns. And that's more to do with balance and general bike skills that anything to do with clipless. Actual clipping in, ie/ finding the pedals quickly - sure that takes time to grind out. Can be hairy on hills and weird junctions when you need to get out fast. Hit those at a really easy gear so you can pedal with one foot basically. 

 

And the thing about forgetting to clip out - that's only at the start - later, you never forget to clip out. It's like, breathing. Might be hard to believe that when starting. Just trust that it's true. 

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Grahamd [988 posts] 1 year ago
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Only once for me, descending quickly in top gear when had to come to an abrupt stop before a small hump back bridge, no problem and balanced beautifully. It was when I stood up and tried to start again, having forgotten to change gear, that I realised my mistake, couldn't turn the pedals and so toppled sideways, much to the amusement of my cycling group. Only thing damaged my ego.

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Danger Dicko [287 posts] 1 year ago
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Twice for me.

One on each of my bikes. The second time is because the tension on my pedals on my best bike is a tad stronger than that on my winter bike.

I forgot this and couldn't get my feet out in time. I fell in to a hedge right in front of a dog walker.

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nniff [267 posts] 1 year ago
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My first - unclip right foot, try and put left foot down and so topple gracelessly onto the pavement.

Next, strictly speaking not a fall:  I'm filtering down the outside of a line of traffic.  A police car is coming the other way, blue lights on and siren wailing.  I dutifully pull in behind a white van and unclip my left foot (see, he can be taught).  I then decide to lean to the right to see where the police car has got to, and so very, very nearly send myself sprawling into the road immediately in front of the speeding police car.  Without doubt, the most frantic wrong-footed unclip I've ever done.

 

"Muppet" doesn't even come close. 

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UrbanBushman [34 posts] 1 year ago
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Being clipped in just dosn't work for me. I have werid ankles that point my toes out. I still ride with a strait foot meaning rotating my heal out it hard. Rotating in is easier but theres always a chain stay/crank arm/ chain ring in the way.
I can just about cope on the road, but on my MTB it was abarsing. Must have come off abot 6 or 7 times in the wet when all i wanted to do was stop (And first ride with new people). Put my flats back on MTB, and clips back on the road bike ,never looked back.

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John Pitcock [18 posts] 1 year ago
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I fell over when I couldn't unclip because my shoe was frozen to the pedal. I ended up sprawled in the gutter attached to the bike by both feet. I had to take a foot out of a shoe.

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StraelGuy [1588 posts] 1 year ago
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I've been using SPDs since the early 90's and can honestly say I've never fallen off. My brother borrowed my bike and shoes once and DID fall off however.

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Yorkshire wallet [2320 posts] 1 year ago
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Unclipping is always amazingly easy, except when you really need to .

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kil0ran [1184 posts] 2 weeks ago
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I think possibly because I only use light action SPDs & multi-release cleats I've never failed yet. Closest I've come is from losing a bolt from the cleat - that makes it almost impossible to unclip because the cleat stays stuck in the pedal and the shoe rotates around it.

 

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kil0ran [1184 posts] 2 weeks ago
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I now run combo pedals and if I'm getting tired and have a big climb coming up I tend to unclip and ride the flat side. I find it's a real challenge getting out if I've ridden myself to a standstill and there's less certainty about which side I might topple to.

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Creaky Joints [8 posts] 2 weeks ago
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I found combo's with touring shoes for commuting in town the best combination.

Friend from work moved to clip-less and at the end of his first week communting, toppled sideways at a junction in front of a car.  Snag was, driver behind failed to see him fall over and drove over him, heard the strange noise, shouting and some car horns, so he reversed back.   Few broken bones and some burns.  He ditched the pedals after that.

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JimD666 [88 posts] 2 weeks ago
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Only had one issue since I started riding two years ago. Wasp got stuck in a helmet vent. Had to do 4 things: 1 Remove helmet, 2 slow down, 3 Unclip. 4 Stop to put helemt back on.

Guess which bit I didn't do?  2 Was very lucky no cars were going past at the time. 4 weeks off the bike with very badly bruised ribs.

Currently trying to learn to use SPD rather than SPD-SL's and failing badly. I seem to be the only person that finds them more difficult.

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davel [2675 posts] 2 weeks ago
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JimD666 wrote:

Only had one issue since I started riding two years ago. Wasp got stuck in a helmet vent.

I had this with bees a few years ago, each time I put a helmet on, got a bee stuck in a vent, three or four times on the bounce. Damn things should come with a warning.

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JimD666 [88 posts] 2 weeks ago
2 likes
davel wrote:
JimD666 wrote:

Only had one issue since I started riding two years ago. Wasp got stuck in a helmet vent.

I had this with bees a few years ago, each time I put a helmet on, got a bee stuck in a vent, three or four times on the bounce. Damn things should come with a warning.

It's tricky to write the warnings small enough to fit on the bee.......

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davel [2675 posts] 2 weeks ago
1 like
JimD666 wrote:
davel wrote:
JimD666 wrote:

Only had one issue since I started riding two years ago. Wasp got stuck in a helmet vent.

I had this with bees a few years ago, each time I put a helmet on, got a bee stuck in a vent, three or four times on the bounce. Damn things should come with a warning.

It's tricky to write the warnings small enough to fit on the bee.......

Boom! Or, er, bzzzz!