Once you switch to clipless pedals, you’ll never go back. Maybe that’s a bold statement but, from my own experience and chatting to many other cyclists, it’s a reality. Now I’m clipped into my Look pedals, I’m a ‘proper’ cyclist so there is no going back. Despite (and because of) everything you read below, I would encourage all cyclists to make the change!
Switching to clipless hasn’t come particularly easily to me. Having whizzed around on my hybrid bike for a year, my feet completely free to touch the ground at every junction or wobble, being clipped in suddenly feels rather strange.
It reminded me at first of snowboarding – being clipped in to your equipment. I learnt to ski at such a young age that I don’t remember any fear, simply relying on the boots to clip out if I have a fall. But snowboarding I learnt as an adult and learning a new skill whilst being clipped in can be a scary prospect. Learning to cycle with clipless pedals feels similar.
I was warned about the nearly inevitable domino fall I may experience whilst learning. That moment when you realise you haven’t clipped out in time, an awkward wobble, and in slow-motion (very “matrix” style but not in a cool sense) you clatter to the ground like a domino in lycra with very little dignity. My first morning with my new clipless pedals, I went out on the street to practise up down, clip in, clip out, over and over again until it became more natural and I could head out on the roads. Unfortunately whilst simply cycling up and down my street, I slowed to a stop and couldn’t clip out in time. Cue domino clipless pedal fall! I landed on hard concrete and had to hobble home with blood dribbling down my leg. Not a great look.
They say you should get straight back on your horse so I got straight back on my bike (with a now bandaged knee). I was shaking with trepidation and trying not to be sick, but I did it. I went out on the roads and cycled, clipping in and out at each junction. I was absolutely terrified most of the way but I did it.
After that initial dramatic introduction, my fear subsided a little as it became a simple case of practise makes perfect. The more I got out on the bike, the more my confidence grew. That’s not to say I didn’t experience a few more falls along the way. Luckily for me, from then on, it has only been my pride that has been injured.
Now that I have overcome the initial fear, I am now able to enjoy all the advantages that clipless pedals bring. Most importantly for me, I look and feel like a proper cyclist. It might sounds corny but it is a great feeling being ‘at one’ with your bike. Being connected to the pedals makes you and bike a slick, fully-functioning, pedalling machine. Without slipping and sliding around on the pedal whilst cycling long distances, you are energy efficient and much less prone to injury. And I’m not going to lie – I feel slightly smug when I see people without clipless pedals! (although I would never dare express this openly) I made the switch, got over the fear, and my cycling has progressed because of it.
(I use stiff-soled Bondrager shoes combined with Look pedals for super power-transfer!)
I also now have a cool scar on my knee to remind me how important it is to overcome your fears. I could very easily and very happily have given up on my clipless pedals that first morning when I fell. But I persevered and continued on my cycling journey. Now I am 2 weeks away from Ride London- my first sportive (100 miles – I don’t half throw myself in at the deep end). Last week I beat my 45 mile record with a whopping 85 mile ride with over 6000ft of climbing. I cycled from Lifton to Exeter and back. It was tough and challenging, I got over my fear of the clipless pedals and I loved it. No looking back!