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How to Ride Clipless Bike Pedals

Do you want to make the move to clipless pedals but don’t know where to start?

Many beginners think that the idea of locking your feet into your bike pedals is madness. But pro cyclists, especially road bikers, can attest to the number of advantages clipless biking has to offer.  

What are clipless pedals? 

The term “clipless” means that you can do away with the usual toe clips or toe straps on bike pedals. Instead, you use a cleat binding system that locks the bottom of your shoes to the pedals — a concept inspired by skiing boots.

Why use clipless pedals? 

There are many reasons why cyclists prefer going clipless. Here are two big ones:

Clipless pedals are very comfortable. Unlike flat pedals, you don’t have to reposition your feet now and then when riding hard. It also gives you better handling. Riding your bike will be easier and more enjoyable since you don’t have to constantly worry about keeping your feet on the bike pedals.   

Clipless pedals help you pedal more efficiently. The recommended cadence for those who are serious about biking is 80-100 rpm. Getting the best clipless pedals helps you achieve those numbers without wasting too much energy.

riding clipless bike pedals

5 Tips on How to Ride Clipless Pedals

Despite its advantages, riding clipless pedals can seem daunting for beginners. Here are some tips to help you get started today.

  1. Know your cleat setup

There are a lot of clipless pedals on the market. Luckily for you, they all work the same way. You clip into the pedals by pressing down your foot to engage. For disengaging, just simply rotate your foot away from the bike. Depending on the brand, clipless bile pedals may look like a rectangle, rounded off isosceles triangle, or even a lollipop (Speedway brand).  

Another terminology you need to be familiar with is “float” — a measurement of how much the clean can move around the bike pedal. Not all cleats have the same float. So, depending on the brand you choose, you will experience different levels of movement.

There’s no golden rule when it comes to cleat setup. It’s a personal thing. And as a beginner, you might need to play around until you find the perfect one for you.  

  1. Practice disengaging your foot

If you’re a beginner, your natural tendency is to pull straight back like you would on a standard pedal. This is normal as most of us don’t have the muscle memory of twisting our foot to get out of the pedal. We always pull straight or pull back.   

The best way to practice disengaging your foot is by setting up your bike on a stationary bike trainer. Practice clipping in, pedaling, and most importantly, disengaging. Keep practicing until you become comfortable with twisting your foot.

  1. Practice outside

It’s now time to put your skills to the test. Find a safe spot free of debris or obstacles, ideally a place that’s soft — like a park or a field. Practice clipping in and clipping out. Repeat this motion over and over until you become comfortable. When ready, slowly ride around, come to a stop (like you would at a red light), unclip your foot (don’t forget the twisting motion!), and put your foot down. Clip-in then begin moving. Repeat this as long as needed.

Remember that riding clipless pedals require skill which you need to master by practice.  

  1. Always unclip before you stop

Coming to a full stop on clipless pedals can be tricky. That’s why it’s better to unclip one foot first before come to a complete stop. Why? Because it’s easier to keep your bike balanced when it’s still moving. Keep your foot disengaged and stand from the seat as you stop.

When you’ve come to a full stop, rest the unclipped foot on the ground while keeping the other foot clipped in. This seemingly small technique can keep you from scrambling at the last minute and will make riding again a lot easier.   

clipless bike pedal tips

  1. Get your bike moving

Like stopping, getting going again can be hard if you are new to clipless pedals. Give yourself one good push before you try to clip your foot into the pedal. Remember, it’s easier to balance your bike the faster you’re going.

Don’t panic when everybody’s honking at you. Use the foot that’s already clipped in to give you a speed boost like a single leg pedaling drill. This should give you more speed so you can comfortably clip in your other foot.  

  1. Don’t buy expensive clipless pedals… yet

Don’t buy expensive clipless pedals when you are just starting out — no matter how cool they look. Instead, start with something more comfortable. Entry-level SPD pedals are great for beginners. You can buy a pair here.   

Also, SPD pedals have the benefit of dual-sided entry. This means that you can clip on either side of your clipless bike pedal — unlike road bike pedals which only allows you to clip on to one side. SPD pedals make the transition from flat pedals to clipless bike pedals smoother for beginners.  

And oh, don’t forget to use comfortable biking shoes too! 

  1. Play with the tension screw

Clipless bike pedals come with adjustable tension screws which dictate how much movement you can have when clipped in. For starters, set the tension screw to the easiest setting so you can clip in and clip out without worries. You can always tighten the tension screws as you become more comfortable.  

Expect more movement with the tension screw at its easiest setting. It might not be as comfortable but at least, you’ll worry about getting stuck on your pedals when you come to a full stop.   

You don’t have to worry about going clipless. All it takes is some patience and practice. By following the tips we’ve discussed above, you’ll be riding like a pro in no time!

 Happy biking! 

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Written by Elise Levy

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