Do you know what clipless pedals are?
What they are is SCARY AS HELL.
I recently decided, in a moment of madness, that if I’m going to get better at biking, I needed to upgrade the pedals on my bike to “clipless pedals,” like all the big kids have. Clipless pedals is a confusing term. Before they existed, bikers used “toe clips”, which were (and are still) those cages that sit on top of the pedal that you slide your feet into. You actually aren’t clipped into anything, so it’s kind of silly name. But these new pedals actually come into two parts: a cleat attached to the bottom of your shoe…
…and a mechanism in the pedal that the cleat “clips” into that locks it into place.
No need for a “toe clip” (aka toe cage), hence the name clipless pedal. Even though using them is called “clipping in” and “clipping out.” That makes TOTAL SENSE.
What do they do? Basically, your feet are stuck to the pedals while you’re moving. It’s supposed to help with better power transfer. You get continual contact with the power train of your bike through the whole rotation. It keeps your feet from shifting laterally and helps sustain good form. Oh, and did I mention? YOUR FEET ARE STUCK TO THE PEDALS.
I’ve “clipped in” and “clipped out” of the pedals for a while on the stationary bike at spinning, so I was familiar with the basic mechanics. To get clipped in, you kind of aim the bottom of your foot where you think it needs to go, wiggle it a little, and it should click into place. To get yourself out, you turn your ankle away from the bike in a slight twisting motion, and it should pop out.
That means, on a real bike with moving wheels, if you stop, you have to clip out at least one foot before you stop.
And to get going again, you start with one foot already clipped in, start pedaling, then feel furiously for that other pedal, and hope that you don’t crash while glancing down trying to get that magical “click” sound. If you aren’t going the right speed when you clip in/clip out, you’re in danger of the dreaded LOW SPEED TIP OVER.
I know of no other was to put it. It’s exactly as it sounds.
No one wants to fall on a bike. Especially in front of people. At 1 m.p.h.
I knew I had to practice in a place that didn’t have motorized vehicles. A couple of weeks ago, we had an anomaly of a gorgeous spring day, the kids’ sports hadn’t started up yet, and the whole family found ourselves with a spare afternoon. (Treasure those like gold, people.) We threw all four bikes in the car and headed over the border to the Putnam County Rail Trail. Because we had the kids with us, we kept it a short out-and-back of 9 miles total. Here I am getting into the pedals, and I’m not tipping over!
A couple of places on the trail had stop signs to cross over roads. Yes, it was pretty scary. I almost had a couple of Low Speed Tip Overs, but I gracefully recovered and YANKED my foot out and SLAMMED it on the ground before I tipped. Luckily, my family still wanted to be seen with me.
But, like any other new athletic adventure for me (like marathon training, road-biking, and open-water swimming) the more I did it, the more the fear dissipated. It’s not gone away completely, as I have yet to try the pedals on the open road with impatient drivers, but deep in my brain if I just keep going, I know I’ll get there.
CLIP OUT, DON’T FLIP OUT will be my new mantra this spring. I’ll keep you posted.
What new fear you are conquering this year? A new distance? A triathlon? Low Speed Tip Overs? Let me know in the comments!