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My Ungraceful First Ride with Clipless Pedals

Posted Nov 14 2012 7:00am

I had to share my first ride with clipless pedals to you all. For all of the rides I did as a kid and even while shopping for bikes in recent years I have never tried clipless pedals. I have always ridden with the traditional ones. But I thought I would go with the proper pedal for the Cannondale and put some on. I wanted to share with you my first experience with them and my first ride with the Cannondale. I learned some hard lessons that day I realized as I was looking up from the ground. But I’m getting a head of myself now.

For those of you not familiar with clipless pedals I’ll try and explain. Unlike traditional pedals where your foot rests on top of the pedal a clipless allows you to lock into the pedal. The advantage is that you then get the more effective use of your pedaling effort than with traditional pedals. The reason is traditional pedals have you push down on the pedal but really have no ability to have that foot pull back or up as well. So you are only using the pressure or effort on the downward motion and not upwards. With the clipless you are locked in so you will get a reaction for both the downward and upward movement of the foot/leg. So I certainly could see the importance of these and was looking forward to trying them. To use them you step into the lock on the pedal placing the clip into the slot. Pressing down you click in and lock that foot into the pedal. To exit the pedal you basically kick you heel out to the outside and release the lock in that fashion. But I had been warned that it takes a while to get accustomed to these. I was also told to loosen the tightness of the lock until I was use to them. 

Being a typical guy I didn’t really listen to any of the advice I had received. I had the bike a day with the new pedals on when I got suited up for my maiden voyage. I set the bike up next to my car in the garage to use it for balance and support . I sat on the bike and struggled to clip into the right pedal. I kept missing the proper slot for the clip. Finally it clicked in and I was half way there. I now struggled to clip in the left foot. After another minute or so I was locked in ready to ride. I was ready to ride and full of excitement.
Off I went on my first ride. I pushed off from the car, hit a seem in the driveway and started to lose control. It was pretty much in slow motion as I tried to unlock my left foot but could not. I felt like the Titanic going down with no real resource for help. Not ten feet from my car and less than a few seconds and I had crashed and burned on this inaugural journey. My bike was scratched, my hand bend backwards and scraped and my pride deeply wounded. Looking up I saw my neighbor in their front window staring out with all of their visiting family. It appearances that I had an audience as well. I started to have doubts that maybe I was either too old or big for this kind of cycling. I laid there thinking about life an where cycling fits in for a few minutes in the driveway. Hoping that I did not look like I died and would bring more attention to the house and myself.
Once I composed myself it took a few minutes for me to unclip on the ground and get myself off of the driveway. I secured the bike and now applied all of the recommended adjustments I was directed to, I aligned the clips to provide a better placement of my shoes on the pedals. In this case I was told to start all the way backwards and then adjust upwards over time. Done. I loosened the locking mechanism on each pedal to the weakest level. No more being stuck in the clip and not being able to get out. Once done I was back into position next to the car. Locked in right foot and then left. Another big push off and down the driveway and street I went. Finally after 20 minutes and one crash I was off on my ride.

From what I hear this is not overly unusual for a new cyclist. These clipless pedals can cause a person some trouble and getting use to. I should have listened and rode for a few weeks with traditional pedals to get use to the bike first. But like always I have to jump in head first with anything. So at least the first crash and scratch is out of the way for me now. I hope that you all learn from my hard lesson and possibly will avoid such a rough start to your cycling career.

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