If you are a competitive cyclist or triathlete, chances are you’re already using some type of clipless pedal system. Everyone else is either using a flat pedal with grooves or teeth to stabilize your feet, or toe clips that hold your feet in place and allow you to maintain greater stability on the pedals. For the very casual rider, this is fine. In addition to being less expensive, flat pedals and toe clips allow you to pedal with any type of shoe (i.e., you don’t need a special cycling shoe and cleat). However, if your goal is to maximize your cycling performance or if you will be riding more than 10 miles a day, I strongly urge you to consider a clipless pedal system. As the name implies, a clipless pedal holds your feet in place but does so without toe clips. They work through the use of a special cycling shoe that has a cleat attached to the front sole. This cleat is literally snapped into a receptacle on the pedal which then holds the shoe in position (they do allow a small degree of foot movement, known as float, which reduces the risk of knee injury). You dismount by twisting your ankle sideways until your foot is released from the pedal (similar to a ski binding).
Clipless pedals and shoes are important because they facilitate the most efficient transfer of power from the legs to the bicycle. They allow for more efficient pedaling because you can push down and pull up during the pedal stroke. They are also more comfortable, especially during long rides. You select shoes and cleats based on the type of clipless pedals you have, which are typically divided into two categories: road and mountain. Cycling shoes will vary greatly in price based on several factors including weight and quality of materials. However, the most important consideration is comfort! Once you procure your first clipless pedal system, I suggest you do the following:
- Begin by practicing on an indoor trainer. You have to get used to using clipless pedals, especially clipping in and out. Practice indoors until you are comfortable.
- Practice outside in a relatively secluded area. Once you master the indoor trainer, find a low-traffic area and practice clipping in and out again and again until you feel comfortable.
- Prepare to fall. I don’t like saying this, but you will probably go down. This typically happens when you don’t clip-out in time, and you’re unable to plant your foot before you tip over. Don’t worry, you won’t get hurt (except maybe your pride), and once you master clipping in and out, you won’t have this problem anymore.
NEXT POST – June 7, 2010
Cycle Log: Competition Phase Week 7