Why You Should Switch to Clipless Pedals?
You’ve been riding for a while now. Good on ya! Regardless of discipline— whether you’re commuting to work every day or getting together with your friends for a group ride… whatever your poison, enhance your cycling experience and take your riding to the next level. Enter the world of clipless.
What is Clipless Technology?
A wedge-shaped block called a cleat, is attached to the bottom of a cycling shoe and engages with its respective pedal to facilitate a foot-to-pedal connection. You literally clip the cleat into the pedal, with a sort of “stomp-down” motion. To disengage, simply kick your heel outward, or away from the bike. First time users should practice with the pedal tension set to loose for easier connection and release, and preferably on a surface softer than concrete and away from moving vehicles. No one wants to kiss the pavement in the middle of traffic, unable to unclip!
The Nuts and Bolts
Right, so why even bother with clipless? When clipped in, your feet are secure and stay in one place on the pedal; there’s no shifting around, no instability between shoe and pedal. Once you’ve fine-tuned your cleat, you’ll always return your foot to the exact same place. You are able to keep your feet in place in unexpected rough terrain, potholes or rock gardens, not to mention “bunny-hopping”, being able to lift the bike up to clear an obstacle if the need arises.
Being anchored to your pedals, you can also pull up through your pedal stroke, which can lead to smoother pedaling and increased efficiency. Overall, you have better control and bike handling, as you are directly attached to your bike and can use your body weight to move it. Combined, these factors can help you ride better, faster, stronger, and longer.
There is a trade-off in the beginning. The learning curve and becoming accustomed to shoes and pedals can be intimidating, especially the potential of falling over. Fear not, for practice makes perfect, and you’ll get the hang of it in no time.
Which pedal is right for you?
There are a few different types of pedals, each with their own advantages or purposes. Shimano SPD are a popular choice for mountain biking, commuting, and spin class because they engage on both sides of the pedal, making it easy to get in and out in a hurry. They also feature a recessed cleat making walking easier. The Shimano PD-M520 is your entry level choice, boasting value for money, versatility, and longevity: My first pair is about 10 years old now and still clicking away.
Road clipless pedals are slightly bigger and having the engaging mechanism only on one side; they can be tricky to clip into at first. However, the larger contact area distributes the weight of your foot more evenly and this style of pedal provides more direct power transfer as you spin, and in turn, a better ride quality the more hours you put on the saddle. Keo by LOOK or the SLs by STP are user favorites. The trade off? Road shoe cleats are plastic, thus wear out faster than their metal mountain counterparts.
Going clipless can feel like a commitment as it requires both special shoes and corresponding pedals. In addition to the cost of these accessories, you have to consider where you are riding and what you are doing after. If you frequently ride your bike to the pub with mates, you may want to refrain from clip-clopping around in your road shoes and bring an extra pair of trainers along. A best-of -both-worlds for the casual rider is the touring pedal. Shimano SPD clip on one side, and regular flat pedal on the other. Shimano PD-M324 Combination pedals, while heavier than most, are versatile and ideal as a first clipless pedal system.
Just give it a go
The benefits of clipless far outweigh any proposed disadvantages. You’re connected to your bike- creating that feeling of “oneness” your mates and pro’s alike proclaim. Stability, control, and pedaling consistency allude that better ride-feel. Negatives being the learning phase and possible toppling over, are easily overcome with practice. If you still haven’t the faintest idea which clipless pedal system would suit you, fret not. With an overwhelming number of brands and models out there, it’s entirely possible that you will like more than one make. Like saddles and grip tape, pedals are a personal choice. Whatever your preference, we’ve all bailed the first time trying clipless, yet- we went there and have not gone back to flats since. Whether you’re still unconvinced or already have your heart set on a pair, just get out there and ride!