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Clipless cycling pedals 101

Have you ridden into the world of clipless bicycle pedals yet?

Cycling in your trainers is great for convenience and getting started, but biking with clipless pedals – those which allow you to ‘clip’ into a special shoe – will totally change the game, from power and speed to confidence and handling!

And yes, we know it’s weird – you clip your foot in, but they’re called ‘clipless pedals.’ We don’t get it either.

Here are some key reasons for why its time to go clipless if you want to cycle further, faster, and with more comfort, and a few tips for getting started!

Why go clipless?

Power transfer

The key benefit of clipless pedals and cleated shoes is that they enable you to both ‘push down’ and ‘pull up’ on the pedals, giving you a 360-degree pedal stroke as you cycle.

While you’re not able to pull ‘up’ in the revolution as hard as you’re able to stomp down on the pedal, the ability to transfer power through each full rotation of the cranks seriously boosts the overall force you create.

Furthermore, cycling shoes will be made with a very stiff sole through the use of carbon fibre and similar materials. The rigid base means that every little ounce of energy you invest into pedalling will be transferred through to the pedals and into your bicycle, so giving you more speed for your effort.

Pedalling efficiency

Having a close and unbreakable connection between your bike and foot hugely increases your overall efficiency. By eliminating the potential for your foot slipping or sliding even a tiny amount, your pedal stroke becomes vastly more effective, so helping you ride stronger, longer, as you need put less effort in propelling yourself forward.

Confidence

Once you’ve become used to it, riding ‘clipped in’ will offer you a massive confidence-boost. Without the risk of your feet slipping and knowing that you have total control over the bike, you’ll find you feel more ‘together’ with the bike, and able to corner better, climb faster, and descend more assuredly.

Indoor cycling

Most indoor training cycles such as a Peloton or spin bike come supplied with clipless pedals. Peloton bikes are sold with Look Delta pedals as a default, while most spin bikes use Shimano-SPD pedals.

Top tips for going clipless!

If you’re convinced and are going to make the move from flat pedals to clipless, here are a few pointers to get you started:

Choose the correct pedal system

There are a number of different types of clipless pedal systems available, and the one that suits you is a combination of both preference and riding style.

Mountain bike shoes nearly always require two-bolt Shimano-SPD cleat-pedal systems. These use a double-sided pedal, so allowing you to clip in from either plane of the pedal, making it awesome if you’re starting from a standstill on a mucky trail.

Road bike shoes typically use a three-bolt system, which means there are a number of different cleat options available. Each option offers different advantages, from Look Keo and Look Delta to Shimano-SL and Speedplay.

Practice

Clipping in, and more specifically, unclipping, can  a little bit of getting used to and is best rehearsed somewhere quiet before hitting the road or trail. Practicing your unclipping in an empty carpark or secluded cul-de-sac where there is no traffic can be the best option. And be warned, you may tumble from your bicycle a few times on your first try!

The key to unclipping is to try to anticipate when you’re going to need to stop, and to start the pulling and twisting technique as you roll to a halt. Don’t try to unclip when the bike has already stopped or you’re in for a fall!

Get your cleats fitted

All cleats can be adjusted a few millimetres to be moved closer to either your toes or your heel. The reason for this is that you want the cleat to be centred directly beneath the ball of your foot, where you can achieve optimal power transfer without overloading your knees.

You can guesstimate how to do this yourself, but many bicycle shops have specific fitting tools that can help you get the pedals in the perfect spot. It’s well worth getting your cleats fitted when you first start using them to boost your comfort on the bike and to help you ride faster!

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