Clipless pedals add power and efficiencies in moving the bicycle forward up hill and down dale. It is interesting to note that, road, track, mountain bike and recumberant riders use a clipless pedal system albeit they are not necessarily the same. BMX riders use a larger platform pedal with no locking system to the pedals. The large majority of commuters and weekend family rider’s use an open platform pedals these being cost effective allowing flexibility of foot wear choice.
The down side can be not getting the ball of the foot over the spindle of the pedal and only having effectively a bit over half a rotation of the cranks where the foot produces power. The other down side can be pressure on muscles and ligaments cause aches and pains in knees and parts of the leg and feet.
In the early days of racing blocks of Leather or Aluminium were nailed to the soul of the shoe locking into the rear of the pedal and held tight with small leather belts across the toe clip. Today with plastics and still some metal cleats and slotted screw locators there is ample movement to accommodate the correct location of the ball of the foot over the spindle while still achieving the amount of float for the foot on the pedal desired.
Gaining confidence with clipless pedals has some hurdles in getting in and out of the locking mechanism safely. At the front of the cleat there is a round or slightly pointed lip that goes into and under the front of the pedal which locates the position of the ball of the over the spindle of the pedal when cleat is adjusted correctly. With slight pressure being applied downward the back of the cleat recessed section locks into the spring loaded part of the pedal. For new users of such pedal systems it is prudent to reduce the locking pressure on the pedals. At the rear of the pedal there is usually an Allen screw with a plus or minus directional arrow which will indicate locking pressure. Gaining proficiency does come from practice but there is also an optimum position that works best. When the pedal is swinging freely the rear of the pedal will be hanging downwards, as the crank comes over the top of the rotation the foot scraps across the pedal. The front of the cleat will automatically slid into and under the front locking section of the pedal and as the foot comes over following the crank rotation the foot pressure will cause the rear of the pedal to rise and snap into position the locking device into the rear of the cleat. A lot of new riders try to clip in at the bottom of the stroke (which is fine for the first foot when stationary) and can’t work out why it is so hard and stop pedalling having to start all over again. Transferring the weight downward at the bottom of the crank rotation requires the heel to be dropped to get the right pressure on the pedal which is not a natural action. After a while getting into the pedal will be as natural as breathing. Getting out can be a similar challenge requiring the foot to be twisted in a relatively flat motion. When a sideways upward pulling action is applied it creates pressure not allowing the free release desired and panic takes over.
Cleats are a device requiring maintenance to keep them clean and checked for wear and tear. Most plastic cleat’s are colour coded which signifies the amount of float the foot can have on the pedal. Speak to your local bike shop if considering a clipless system and discuss what your needs are.
After plucking up the courage your will be pleasantly surprised the change it will make to your power and efficiencies for riding once mastering the initial fears.
See you on the road soon God willing.