Clipless Bike Pedals Guide: How To Ride Clipless Pedals

You may have heard good things about clipless bike pedals and be considering buying some.

Clipless pedals are popular for many reasons, but you might be wondering what all the fuss is about.

Therefore, in this post, we will:

  • Talk about what clipless pedals are
  • Go into the advantages and disadvantages of clipless pedals
  • Tell you about clipless bike pedal features
  • Give you tips on how to use clipless pedals

Are you ready to change how you ride?

Let’s go!

Clipless Bike Pedals Guide How To Ride Clipless Pedals

What Are Clipless Pedals?

Pretty much every serious cyclist uses clipless pedals. They are not essential, but they do have some benefits, which we will go into later.

But starting with the basics, clipless pedals are actually clip in bike pedals. Yes, it is a bit of an oxymoron, but the name comes from the fact that they superseded pedals with toe clips and straps in the 1980s.

There is a considerable choice of clipless pedals, but they are generally suitable for either road or off-road cycling.

Mountain bike clipless pedals are double-sided, so it doesn’t matter which way up your pedals are. They work with small cleats that are mounted to the sole of compatible mountain bike shoes.

Road specific clipless pedals are usually one-sided, and the cleats are much larger and require specific road cycling shoes.

4 Advantages Of Clipless Pedals

1. Clipless Pedals Make Your Pedalling More Efficient

As your feet are attached to the pedals, you have a much better connection with your bike. The extra connection allows you to put more of your energy into each pedal stroke. Therefore, your climbing and accelerating become more effective.

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2. Better Power Delivery

Clipless pedals allow you to transfer more power into your pedal strokes. This is because you can pull up with one foot as you press down with the other.

The result of this action is smooth and continuous power delivery in every pedal stroke. You cannot replicate this with flat pedals.

3. Increased Confidence

After you have mastered clipping in and out, you will start to notice more confidence in your skills. If you ride a mountain bike with clipless pedals, you will develop an incredible feeling of security. Your feet stay connected to the bike on even the bumpiest trail.

4. Extra Control On The Trails

Another way clipless pedals are great for mountain bikers is that they allow you to jump easier. You can simply pull your bike off the ground to hop over logs, rocks and bomb holes. This is why clipless pedals are mainly used by World Cup Downhill racers.

Being clipped in may sound dangerous for a mountain biker. But with practice, you will be able to release your foot with a quick heel kick to dab it down when needed.

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Disadvantages Of Clipless Pedals

There are not many disadvantages to clipless pedals. But they do take some getting used to, which can result in grazed elbows and embarrassment.

Some people prefer to ride with flat pedals. This is especially the case if they spend a lot of time stopping and starting. Also, if you need to do a lot of walking around, the cleats on clipless cycling shoes can make it tricky.

If you choose a good pair of flat mountain bike pedals, you get a nice big platform and lots of grip. The extra grip comes from a great design and pins that key into the tread on your shoes.

But, if you choose cheap pedals with smooth surfaces, they won’t perform well in the wet. There is a good chance that your foot will slip off the pedal.

It is best to choose a quality pair of flat pedals if you don’t feel ready to clip in. However, you will need to buy a cycling-specific shoe, or the sharp pins and edges of your pedal will ruin the soles of regular shoes.

Bike Pedal Features

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Pedal Float 

Your bike shoes have cleats on the bottom of them. These lock into the pedal, holding the shoe firmly in place.

The term float refers to the amount of rotation your foot has on the pedal when clipped in.

You can buy cleats with different degrees of float to suit your preference. Some systems hold your foot at a fixed angle, while others allow you to customise the range of float.

In general, less experienced riders like to have lots of float, which makes it easier to clip in and out of the pedals. However, as you ride more, you can decide what is best for you.

Multiple-release Cleats

Most cleats that come with clipless bike pedals release laterally. Multiple-release cleats also disengage laterally, but they release more easily and in different directions.

You can tilt your foot in slightly increased angles by moving your heel outward or inward and slightly upward as well.

Multiple-release cleats are somewhat more forgiving than lateral-release cleats, so they are great for beginners.

The only thing is that multiple-release cleats are usually sold separately from the clipless pedals.

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How To Use Clipless Pedals Properly

Step 1 – Sit On Your Bike

Once you have your cleats mounted to your shoes and pedals to your bike, you will be tempted to go for a ride. However, it may be beneficial to start on a static bike at home if you have the option.

If you don’t have a static bike, you can sit on your bike up against a wall. It would be even better to do this in a corridor, so you can stop yourself from falling in either direction.

Ideally, you should spend at least 20 minutes getting used to your new clipless pedals. This includes practising clipping in and unclipping from your pedals.

Step 2 – Practice Clipping In And Out

To clip into your pedals, put your lead foot crank at its lowest position. Then engage the front of the cleat on your shoe with the front of the pedal, and push down.

You will know when you are clipped in, thanks to a loud snapping sound.

To unclip, twist your foot, so your heel kicks outwards. You will hear another snap, and your foot will be free.

If it is your first time using clip in bike pedals, you should lower the spring tension on the pedal. You do this with the adjustment screw, which usually requires a small Allen key.

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Once you have clipped in and out a few times with one foot, sit on the saddle and clip in with both feet. Now you should pedal to see what it feels like.

Now you need to practice unclipping as if you were stopping at a junction during a ride. If you would typically put your left foot down when you stop, practice unclipping and putting your left foot down.

This all may seem a bit easy or obvious, but practising at home will prevent bashed elbows and knees from not being able to unclip fast enough.

Also, when twisting your foot out of your pedal becomes second nature, it will prevent some very embarrassing situations in public.

Step 3 – Practice In A Quiet Area

Once you have got the hang of the pedals indoors, it is time to head outside. However, you should not take your first ride with clip in pedals on the road or mountain bike trails.

Instead, head to a quiet park with no traffic to worry about. The other advantage of going to the park is that you can ride on the grass. The grass is much more preferable to fall on than the tarmac, so it is an excellent place to practice.

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When you practice with clipless pedals in the park, you need to do the same as you did on a static bike, but with a few differences.

The first thing is to consider what gear you are going to start in. You don’t want to be in too hard of a gear, nor one that is too easy. Choose a gear that gives you enough momentum to pull away with confidence.

The next thing to do is clip in your lead foot before you push off. Then pedal a couple of times to build up some speed before clipping in your other foot.

The reason for getting some speed up is because you will likely need to look down to clip in your other foot. Also, it might take a couple of goes to clip in successfully, which will slow you down. If you are going too slow, you may lose your balance and topple over.

After riding around for a bit, practice unclipping on the move. You need to unclip well before you stop so you are ready to put your foot down.

Remember to tilt your bike to the side of your unclipped foot. If you lose your balance and tip the other way, you will hit the floor before you can unclip your other foot.

Alternatively, you can unclip both feet for extra safety.

Clipless pedals are beneficial to most cyclists in many ways. They can be intimidating at first. But once you get over the fear and initial awkwardness, you will start to enjoy the advantages.

On The Road To Becoming A Better Cyclist?

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Check out this article: How To Cycle Faster: 9 Tips To Speed Up

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One of BikeTips' regular writers, Tom is a mountain biking expert living in the French Alps. When he isn't writing, he can be found charging downhill on two wheels or a snowboard! Tom's other passion is fitness, which goes a long way to help him make the most of the Alpine lifestyle.

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