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Cycling issues - The disadvantages of clip in pedals

By Edited Apr 30, 2015 1 1

Clip in pedals

There are many advantages to using clip in pedals in cycling however there are also many disadvantages you need to consider before using them.

When using clip in pedals you will lock your feet in to the pedal, which means if you have to stop the cycle in an emergency, take evasive action which involves putting your foot on the ground or move your leg or foot to get rid of pain or cramp you are likely to run in to some problems. When you use clip in pedals you need to ensure you can get your feet out of the pedals very quickly if the unexpected occurs. The amount of “grip” a clip in pedal has is adjustable and it is possible to tighten it right up, or slacken off according to your riding style and personal preference. All things being equal the looser the grip of the pedal the quicker and easier it is to get your foot out. In reality this is not always the case as there are other factors that come in to force. When you first start out using clip in pedals it is advisable to have the grip slackened right off to allow you to get used to the pedals

In order to use clip in pedals you are going to need some specific cycling shoes and some cleats. I personally prefer mountain bike shoes as the treads on these make it possible to walk in the shoes when off the bike. Walking in road cycling shoes off the bike is not so easy.

Cycling shoes and cleats showing what is needed to use clip in pedals

As with everything in life, practice makes perfect and in order to perfect getting your feet out of the pedals as quickly as possible you are going to need to practice. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to practice this when out on the road. Whilst cycling along un-clip a foot as quickly as you can before locking it back in to place. Repeat the process with your other foot. When you approach a junction wait until the very last minute and then un-clip your foot and come to a halt. When you are going to stop, once again, leave it to the last minute and then un-clip your feet as quickly as possible. You will find that you can get your feet out of the pedals very quickly in no time.

Using clip in pedals safely requires you to be able to read the road and potentially dangerous situations. You must have lightening quick reactions and be able to respond, and get your feet out of the pedals, very quickly. You must observe and analyse what is going on at all times and keep your wits about you. If you think a situation where you are going to need to get your feet out of the pedals is going to arise then unclip, immediately. Regardless of your observational skills, how quick your reactions are and how quickly you can get your feet out of the pedals there will always be a time when you get stuck in your pedals which will result in a fall. When using clip in pedals if you fall your cycle, effectively being attached to you, will go down too. This is an unfortunate fact of cycling that all cyclists who use clip in pedals must understand.

Having to get your feet out of the pedals as quickly as possible is by far the biggest disadvantage when using clip in pedals, however there are other disadvantages.

Clip in pedals require special cycling shoes with cleats, which can be expensive. If you don’t own a pair of cycling shoes with the appropriate cleats you cannot use your bike with the clip in pedals. Not being able to use your cycle without special cycling shoes can cause a few problems. For example, when riding to the local shops to get a newspaper you don’t really want to be wearing cycling shoes.

Clip in pedals require maintenance, whereas conventional pedals do not. The locking mechanism of the clip in pedal needs to be kept clean and free from dirt, dust and debris. You need to ensure the locking mechanism works smoothly before and after every ride and keep it regularly greased and oiled. There is nothing worse than being on a ride, having to come to a halt and then finding the locking mechanism fails to release your feet, a situation which will result in a fall.

Regardless of how well you maintain the locking mechanism of your clip in pedals they will need replacing at some point. Hard use will see you replacing the pedals within a couple of years, whereas conventional pedals can easily exceed the life of the cycle.

Despite their shortcomings clip in pedals are very useful for cycling. That said, they are not for everyone and there are some cyclists that just cannot get on with them. Before taking to the road with clip in pedals it is advisable to practice off road and preferable on some grass, or some other terrain where you will have a soft landing as you will almost certainly fall. Practicing off road will not only protect you but also your cycle from damage.

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Comments

May 16, 2013 12:54pm
armckay
Nice article covering a lot of points. I've used SPD clipless pedals for many years, my original set of Shimano ones circa '91 were still going strong when I sold my old bike last week. I find having the tension on the clip quite slack helps if you need to bail or put your foot down in a hurry. Much better than toe clips on pedals - I suffered many embarrassing falls with those.
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