Beginner's Guide to Clip In Pedals
If you’ve recently bought your first road bike you’re perhaps considering trying clip-in pedals. For many cyclists, making the switch from regular pedals to clip-in pedals is a move that’s laced with trepidation and fear. And because clip-in pedals require the shoe to be held in place with a spring ski binding-like mechanism, it’s no surprise that many can find it a difficult transition to go through. I know that it was for me. I was terrified of falling off and took some persuasion to give them a go, but after buying my first pedals a few weeks after getting my road bike, I can honestly say that once you’ve tried them, you won’t go back to riding without them.

If you’re wondering whether to go for it and make the switch, I’ve compiled the following beginner’s guide to clip-in pedals. Let’s start with a few good reasons to consider using clip-in pedals over ‘standard’ ones…

Why use clip-in pedals?

While getting used to using clip-in pedals can come with some struggles, they do have many advantages. From increased efficiency and better power transfer to added security. I’d say the advantages of clip-in pedals far outweigh their disadvantages.

Better Power Transfer

If you do decide to take the leap and join the clipless revolution, one of the first things you’ll notice is an increased transfer in power in your cycling movements. As you are forced to maintain constant contact with your bike when riding with clip-ins, you’ll quickly realise that, instead of having to focus on keeping your feet in place, you’ll be able to apply all of your energy on propelling you and your bike forward, which will result in better power transfer.

Greater Efficiency

When using traditional platform pedals, cyclists can only apply pressure in one section of the rotation, and that’s the down stroke. And while that’s generally the most powerful part of the stroke, as cycling with clip-in pedals requires the feet to be anchored in place, they allow cyclists to properly sweep back and pull up as well as stomping down during the down stroke. So, not only are you pushing the pedals down, but you’re also pulling them up with each revolution.

The result being that such movements engage other parts of the body including the hamstring, the core and the hip flexors, which elevates the pressure off the muscles that are used in the down stroke, generating more power and less fatigue.

OK, so if you’re deciding to go for it, how the heck do you stay up?!

My top three tips for cycling with clip-in pedals

1. Practise somewhere traffic free and flat

Learning how to stay upright whilst clipped in to your bike is kind of crucial right? I’d be lying if I said I’ve not had a tumble or two. It’s kind of inevitable in the early days of cycling with clip-in pedals that you’ll take a fall. Practising somewhere flat and without traffic is a must for the first few tries. That’s definitely my top tip! And if you do fall, don’t worry too much, it’ll more than likely be a slow motion fall which will hurt your pride more than your body!

2. Anticipate your stops

Zero speed falls are common with clip-in pedals newbies and the main reason for this is forgetting to remove your foot from the pedal in time before coming to a halt.

To avoid the embarrassment of literally dropping to the ground with your bike, be sure to anticipate your stops early by removing one foot from the pedal – and make sure you get used to removing the same foot first every time. I make sure I always unclip my left foot first. It can always just sit on the pedal but if I see traffic lights or a junction coming up, I unclip so that I’m ready and prepared for a stop.

3. Your feet do not have to be secured into the pedals for you to start pedalling

When setting off, start by sitting on the saddle and securing one foot in its clip while resting the other one on top of the pedal and start cycling. Doing so will make the whole experience that little bit easier by enabling you to gain some speed and momentum before locking both feet into place. Physics doesn’t stop just because your feet are sitting on top of the pedals, so know that your feet do not have to be anchored to the clips all of the time, especially during take-off.

Cyclists all over the world favour clip-in pedals over the traditional platform kind. There’s a couple of different kinds of clip-in pedals to choose from – ones where you can clip in either side of the pedal (usually for commuting and mountain biking) or ones where you clip in just on one side of the pedal (usually used on road bikes). Do your research and see which might work best for you. Check out specialist retailers like Radial Cycles for a look at what’s out there. Whichever type you choose, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed with the difference it makes to your cycling experience.

If you’ve got any top tips for riding with clip-in pedals be sure to share them in the comments.


*This is a collaborative post

17 Comments on A Beginner’s Guide to Clip-In Pedals

  1. Great post on using clipless pedals.

    You’re not a cyclist untill you’ve had a spill while trying to unclip!

    The very first time I went out on my road bike clipped in I was nervous riding on the roads. I managed to negotiate the numerous busy roundabouts and dual carridgeways. I managed to complete the 7 miles to work in one piece negotiating cars, taxis, vans and lorries, well that was untill I arrived into the car park at work, completely knackered, slowed down and forgot to clip out………. bang I hit the deck! Lol

    One piece of advice I’d give is when approaching a junction around 20-30 yards away from it, I always unclip my left foot (you can unclip whichever foot you put down). Altho I’ve unclipped I still rest my foot on the pedal so it means that when I come to the junction if it’s clear all I need to do is push down on the pedal and I’m clipped back in and away. If there’s traffic coming all I need to do is roll to the junction, brake and put my foot down.

    • You’re so right and it’s good advice, thanks for sharing Stuart. I don’t think I know a single person who has ridden with clip-in pedals and not taken a tumble. It’s all part of the learning curve…and the fun! 😉

      • I may be the only person who’s never had that experience, after a couple of years!

        My top tip if you’re put off by the fear of falling off: Shimano “multi-release” cleats (part number SH-56) can be released by turning/pulling your foot in various directions, not just the standard outward heel-twist, so a last-second panicked yank still gets you out of trouble!

        I agree with Donna – I wouldn’t go back to flat pedals.

  2. Some fabulous tips. I am a confident runner and swimmer, and love my spinning classes. I am planning a triathlon, but really need to get more into cycling. This would be perfect for linking to #FtnessTuesday ;-0) @Fitness4Mamas

  3. Great article. I nearly had a tumble when I first started clipless at traffic lights at the top of a hill. I was in an incredibly easy gear to get up the hill but hadn’t changed up. Unclipped, waited, set off but just couldn’t get going being in the wrong gear. My foot was slipping from the unclipped pedal and the lights changed. Tried again, then again, finally got going!

    Just a tip, anticipate gear selection before setting off.

    Oh and I did have a spill a few weeks later elsewhere, single legged pedaling coming to a junction, got muddled and fell the wrong way!

    • Being in the right gear before setting off is a really good tip, David. There’s been a few times when I’ve not been and if you’re pedalling two slow, it doesn’t take much to take a tumble!

  4. great article 🙂

    Nothing beats the satisfying “CLACK” of smacking your boot into the pedal perfectly on the down stroke … conversely nothing feels *worse* than missing it completely and spending 20yds trying to figure out where on the stupid shoe the cleet is.. damn feet!

  5. We recently got our daughter (15 years old) to use clip in pedals, largely at her insistence. Got her Shimano Click’R SPD pedals (she already had Pearl Izumi cycling shoes that she was riding with regular pedals). Super easy pedals to clip in and out of. In addition to lower tension, double-sided entry. They look like platform pedals and are kind of the large side, but that was fine for her. Took her to her old elementary school parking lot and she mastered it in only a few minutes. Made her feel more like mom (who works for a bike store) and dad (I’m an ex-racer who now just rides for fun). She can even clip in without having to look down at the pedals. And she knows to clip out early rather than waiting until we get to a stop light or stop sign. So … fingers crossed … no zero mph fall overs.

  6. I’ve been riding road bikes clipped-in for about a year, and now I always unclip BOTH feet, mainly because I’ve had a few unnerving experiences on the roads round where I live. I live on the edge of some lovely countryside… but the downside is that the roads can be rough and narrow. Coming to a stop once or twice on narrow roads, I’ve unclipped just the left foot, but the roughness of the road has meant that the bike has started to fall towards the still-clipped-in foot on the right! It’s resulted in me falling towards the oncoming traffic – always a panicky moment as they just do not seem to want to stop!

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