Idiot seeking advice on how to ride clipped in

Tusher Posts: 2,762
edited June 2011 in Road beginners
So, I've ridden for decades, touring and commuting, but I just cannot use cleated shoes and it's becoming embarrassing.

Previous attempts over the years have ended with almost broken elbow/knees and hips and large areas of bruised and bleeding skin.

I bought a new pair of Shimano shoes in the winter, which I used with flat pedals before finally plucking up the courage to try and learn again. My new pedals are flat on one side, cleated on the other.

Chicken that I am, I was riding with the Shimano shoes and the flat pedals. Yes, I know, utterly pointless.

Until I accidentally clipped in last week, and promptly fell over in shock. Not a problem, a quiet street and only a grazed arm and the humiliation of a neighbour's 5 year old encouraging me to keep learning how to ride a bike. 5 year olds possess a twisted and cruel sense of condescension.

I devoted yesterday afternoon to trying. Propped up against a wall first- can clip in and out no problem when stationary. Then I tried riding on a well cut lawn - to absorb my falls. Which occurred every time I clip in. Neighbouring child brought along big sister and friend to watch, and began to give unsolicited advice on how to ride a bike really well, like they can. How can they have missed me leaving for work every morning?

They finally concluded, mournfully, that learning to ride a bike was too difficult for Mrs Tusher because "she's too old and old people can't ride bikes."

I know it's a psychological problem. I know that practice will make perfect, but I'm now terrified of falling over in front of a roundabout/junction/zebra crossing and having a car drive over my head.

I have yet to unclip and stop without falling over.

Can anyone give me techniques/hints on how to progress?

And how to silence pompous brats without incurring the wrath of Social Services?


  • gaddster
    gaddster Posts: 401
    Unclip in plenty of time, predict the stop and dangle your leg out ready to plant it on the floor! I only ever unclip left foot when coming to a stop at lights, traffic etc..

    Just keep practising clipping in and out, it'll help your body learn and will soon feel natural.

    Don't jam the brakes on and then think 'I better unclip now' as it'll be too late by then.
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  • Tough one this as i've never had the problem, but did used to ride with a girl who no matter what, could not get going in cleats! She could pedal fine and stop without any problem, but couldn't start at all....

    Do you have a turbo trainer or anything that would raise your back wheel off the ground so it's free to move? You could then practice clipping in and pedaling and then clipping out. The thing to do, as you say, is try not to panic and get it out of your head that you're going to crash. When coming to a stop, just unclip the foot closest to the kerb (leaving the other foot clipped in will steady you) and then lean that way slightly so only that foot goes down.

    Good luck...
  • gmb
    gmb Posts: 456
    Lure the kids into the garage with sweets and lock them in there. That's what my neighbour did. He's in prison now....

    Have you tried clipping in with one foot and not the other? I had a day or so of wearing one road shoe with a shimano SL pedal and a trainer with a "normal' pedal. Although I'm right handed/footed I always unclip my left foot when I come to a stop. My knees aren't the best so I unclip at the bottom of the pedal stroke rather than the top as I find it easier to twist out that way.

    I can't imagine not having clipless pedals now. I feel so much more secure on the bike with them. Try and explain this to a non cyclist though and they look at you like you need help...
    Trying Is The First Step Towards Failure

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  • cougie
    cougie Posts: 22,512
    I've been clipless for about 25 years now - never had an incident.

    What you need to do us unclip before you stop.

    If you stop first - then you're falling already but it's really easy to predict when you need to unclip - junctions, roundabouts, traffic lights etc.

    Starting off - clip in your right foot and get enough power into that first push to get you enough time and momentum to get the other one in.
  • desweller
    desweller Posts: 5,175
    How do you normally stop? Do you stop whilst seated in the saddle or standing on one foot on the pedal? I usually unclip one foot well before I come to a halt (even before I start braking), and then stand on the other foot as I coast to a halt.

    Alternatively, try imagining that Cav is riding alongside, murmuring gentle words of encouragement...
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    On Strava.{/url}
  • jim453
    jim453 Posts: 1,360
    If you have been trying for years to master this skill with no luck then it is never going to happen.

    Use platforms instead.

    And be very, very careful when out riding on the road.
  • gadgets
    gadgets Posts: 100
    try loosening the tension also to make clipping out easier. I have a MTB SPD and practiced twisting my right heel out.

    good luck!!
    Synapse Disc 3 Ultegra '14/CAADX 5 105 '11
  • Tusher
    Tusher Posts: 2,762
    A-ha A turbo-trainer! Hubby has one of those- I'll give that a try.

    Many thanks for the replies- is it much more of an advantage speed wise anyway? (bearing in mind that I'm actually most inclined to follow jim453's advice just now)
  • pinnaclered
    pinnaclered Posts: 61
    edited June 2011
    Hi Tusher, I used to have the same problem.
    2 years ago I had a pair of Spd-sl road shoes and pedals, i practised unclipping and thought i was doing fine until i fell over possibly 10 times in a short ride. I decided they were not for me and gave up on trying to learn.

    Then last year i bought a fixed gear bike, i needed foot retention to stay safe on the bike, so i bought some pedal straps, I was petrified of them when i first started but quickly learnt that my foot just fell out of them if i tried to put my feet on the floor. After a year riding straps, the whole routine of releasing the foot when approaching junctions, lights, or awkward may have to come to a stop moments, became second nature i realised i didn't have to think about it.

    So a few months ago i bought a new road bike, i decided that since the straps worked so well on my fixed gear that i would just use them on the bike, but no matter what i couldn't get my foot into them on the move. My only option if i wanted foot retention was to go for the traditional road pedal and shoes, eeek. I was so anxious, but i decided that i'd do it in baby steps, so i purchased some mtb shoes, they have a tread so i can walk if need be, and i purchased some spd pedals that have a platform surrounding the clip ... CFAQ8gIwBA cheap.

    My way of thinking was, if i miss the clip when i move off from the lights its no big deal cause the tread on my shoe can use the pedal. If i unclip 200 yards from a junction i can still rest the heel of my shoe on the pedal without clipping in. I also set the resistance on the pedal very slack so it was very easy to clip out.

    I haven't had an accident yet, and last week i rode a sportive, and a 100 mile charity ride without incident. I actually feel ready to move up to pedals without the platform.

    My long winded point is, take little steps. you said you have double sided. stay on the flat side and practice moving up to a junction and flicking your heel out of the pedal before you come to a stop, then when you are clipped in the motion will already feel natural and you wont panic. (Also what i used to do when i panicked was try to yank my foot UP off the pedal and i couldn't unclip, you have to make sure you are rotating the heel out not up.)
    When coming up to junctions etc. unclip 300 yards away to begin, then decrease that. I now unclip maybe 2 bike lengths from the junction. my boyfriend doesn't unclip until he has totally stopped.

    Sorry its such a long post, i can just totally identify with how you are feeling, and would hate for you to give up like i did.
    “If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Lewis Carrol

    'Feel the fear, then do it anyway'

    'tomorrow, tomorrow tomorrow never comes, today is already here'
  • cornerblock
    cornerblock Posts: 3,228
    First thing to do is, decide which foot you are clipping out of first and stick to it, left for me. Make sure the clipping in setting is at loosest, so your foot has plenty of movement (float) when clipped in. This will make it easier to unclip. As has been said, unclip well in advance and not at the last second. Even if you approach traffic lights or stop signs unclipped at the beginning it does not matter, as you get more confident you will leave the unclipping a bit later and later. Take any opportunity to practise clipping in and out ,if you are freewheeling downhill for example. It is daunting at first, but with lots of practise it becomes second nature, a bit like pressing the clutch pedal on a car. Having said that, no matter how natural it becomes, there will always be 'moments'! Just like stalling a car! All the best.
  • springtide9
    springtide9 Posts: 1,731
    As people have said... just make sure you unclip early.
    You can also slacken off the tension so that they unclip easier... and they are usually a bit stiff when you first biggest them.

    I had a pair of Scott clip-less MTB pedals in the 90's. One of the earliest designs so google tells ,me. They had a ball on the bottom and the only way to unclip was to push you knees into the top tube, pull you feed back and push them out. There were a few occasions I remember lying up side down and have to get a friend to remove the bike!

    So we have all been there and do feel for you. You will get there.
  • Tusher
    Tusher Posts: 2,762
    pinnaclered and others- thankyou so much. Just knowing I'm not alone helps.
    The tension is at it's slackest already. But I will try the action of kicking out my heel on the flat side before a stop to get into the habit.
    Thankyou all again. I'll let you know how I get on. :)
  • mr_poll
    mr_poll Posts: 1,547
    Echo all thats been said above, esp the clipping out with your left foot and then coasting to a stop. Once the confidence grows you will be track standing or at least knowing the final point of clipping out.
    As for clipping back in one thing I noticed a friend doing was being obbsessed with clipping in first time when his left crank was at the top of its arch - nothing to stop you one footed pedalling with your right getting momentum then clipping in the left giving you more time to locate the sweet spot.

    Good luck.
  • CiB
    CiB Posts: 6,098
    Practicing on a lawn is a non-starter, unless you have a garden the sze of David Gower's and it's looked after by the same domestic staff.

    The only way to learn is to ride - ride in a straight line, ride along roads or country lanes that don't have junctions, where you won't need to put your feet down. Keep doing that, and get used to it. The main thing to remember is that pretty much every half-wit in the country can do it so you almost certainly can too. Go to it. Hit those lanes.
  • Saldawop
    Saldawop Posts: 64
    Would echo the above comment. I am one of those half wits :lol: . Got my shoes and pedals this week.Put them on my bike, leant against a wall and practised clipping and unclipping a few times and rode around in circles for a bit before heading out.

    Rode about 25 miles through London so LOTS of stop/starting.Only one problem, stopped suddenly, felt bike going over, was more or less resigned to the fact that I would be picking myself up very shortly, but at the last moment I managed to unclip and save myself.
  • RowCycle
    RowCycle Posts: 367
    I agree with most posters:
    - unclip early before arriving at places you might stop, freewheeling with the leg hanging down
    - if in doubt of having to stop unclip
    - remember to change down gears (make easier) when approaching a stop so it's easier to get away
    - unclip with one leg only, usually left (UK)
    - practice leaning against a wall (or on turbo trainer) and practice clipping in/out
    - try one shoe clipped one not
    - on a flat practice just clipping in and out
  • Rich Hcp
    Rich Hcp Posts: 1,355
    Only clip out on one side, takes that decision away!

    As others have said, clip out early, you can easily clip in again if the lights go back to green before you stop.

    Don't panic!

    I'm sure its nerves that are making it worse for you at the moment.

    I'm sure it will become second nature in the end

    Good luck :D

    Giving it Large
  • Slack
    Slack Posts: 326
    As many have said before, you need to unclip before stopping - the bike needs to be rolling while unclipping to provide the stability.

    Quiet road with much practice and confidence will blossom.

    And when you've mastered it, just imagine the bunny hops you'll be doing in front of those children. That'll show em!
    Plymouthsteve for councillor!!
  • getprg
    getprg Posts: 245
    OllyRidesFirst said
    just unclip the foot closest to the kerb

    In the UK this is the left foot - not so easy for anyone who is left handed (or footed). I am right handed and so naturally put down (support bike stationery) with left foot - leading off (ie clipping in first) with right leg. My wife (who now uses clipless pedals) is left handed and naturally sets down her right foot (ie non-kerb) foot first.

    As an aside we have held off trying to ride a tandem together for this very reason - in a moment of panic we would instinctively reach for safety with opposite legs.

    Try this drill to begin using clipless pedals (assuming you are right handed):

    Make sure pedals release mechanism is at softest setting (bike shop that sold pedals should do this for you) - as an observation women have smaller feet and so less leverage to unclip by twisting heel out - you may need softest possible setting
    Find quiet, wide and level piece of road - this is very important
    Stand astride cross bar - both feet on ground - do not attempt to mount saddle
    Make sure right pedal is at 6 o'clock
    CLIP IN right foot to right pedal - keeping pedal at or around 6 o'clock
    Now rotate right crank/pedal "backwards" to 11 o'clock
    Now pedal off using right foot
    Move left foot to left pedal and keep pedalling
    If it helps place arch of left foot on pedal until you build up momentum
    When pace is reasonable - put left pedal at 6 o'clock, place weight on ball of left foot and clip in
    Now practice braking and slowing down and unclipping left foot repeatedly
    - unclipping when left foot is around 12 o'clock

    Crank position is important when clipping in and out -. Clip in with foot at 6 o'clock and clip out with foot at 12 o'clock wherever possible.
  • Evil Laugh
    Evil Laugh Posts: 1,412
    Have you got the multi release cleats, if not get those. They will release your foot if you panic and pull up.

    Get used to riding around with your just push off foot always clipped in. Ie not the foot you naturally touch down with at a stop. Then when you feel comfortable try, at a park or somewhere with no traffic where you can ride uninterupted for long stetches, just riding along with both feet clipped in. Unclip your touch down foot while coasting but don't stop coasting. Keep riding, clip in and unclip again. Keep doing it without stopping to touch down. You'll soon find the part of you pedal revolution you prefer to unclip on.

    Then pick a point, a tree or other landmark where you don't HAVE to stop. Say I'm gonna stop there then give yourself plenty of time, coast up to it, unclip well in advance and stop. Should be easy.

    This is what I did with the missus and she was riding clipped in after an hour, she rode home that day and has never looked back. I do know the multi release have saved her a couple of times though when she's had to stop suddenly.

    Don't let anyone tell you you should only touch down with you left foot as its not safe. Touch down with whatever feels natural. I use my right foot. I only ever unclip my left when I get off the bike.
  • briantrumpet
    briantrumpet Posts: 18,772
    Evil Laugh wrote:
    I only ever unclip my left when I get off the bike.
    Ditto. I use a knife & fork 'right-handed', swing a club or bat right-handed, bowl, use a spoon, write, or swing a racquet left-handed. And always unclip the right foot first. I can unclip the left, in adversity, but it just feels wrong, wrong, wrong.

    Curiously, I also don't really understand what people are saying if I put the phone to my right ear - I can hear every word, clearly, in the right order, but it just don't make sense, man. Weird.