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  1. #1
    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    Clipless and hills

    I am getting Speedplay clipless pedals for my new road bike. I've never ridden with clipless and have mixed feelings about doing this. I currently ride with Powergrips and they are working out fine. I had one near miss with the Powergrips. I was following too close to my spouse and he did a stop without warning. I almost fell over getting out of the pedals and ended up with my seat banging into my rear end, bruising me. Otherwise, no incidents in the month that I have been using them.

    I saw this in a post today:

    Quote Originally Posted by Buck_O View Post
    Naturally i got caught in the stop light, started up the hill, and about half way up, thanks to my legs not being warm, they just stopped spinning. Had a panic dismount of my bike (turned out more graceful then i expected), and had to do the walk of shame up the rest of the hill.
    The one worry I have with clipless (and with the powergrips) is that I am going to be going up a hill and not make it. Then, I will have to make a sudden decision to unclip. This is nagging at me. There are still hills that are tough for me and where I might have to simply stop. Sometimes I am going mighty slow by the time I am topping a hill.

    On the upside, I always get off the bike the same. I take off the left foot and put it on the ground, leaving the right foot on its pedal. So at least I shouldn't be awkwardly deciding which pedal to release.

    I am not sure if I have a question or if I just want some reassurance that it won't be so bad. So, how many problems have you had with clipless when you were inexperienced with them? Have you ever had to suddenly stop because you couldn't make it up a hill any further? How hard was it to unclip? Did you fall?

  2. #2
    Senior Member ill.clyde's Avatar
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    the only time I've had that problem you described above is when trail riding on my mountain bike with clipless pedals.

    and yes, I fell over.

    On the road, I've never had that problem. I guess if I was going that slow, I'd already be walking?

  3. #3
    Starting over CraigB's Avatar
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    IME, stopping on hills and emergency stops have always been completely different things. I've given up on a few hills, and when I have, there's always been time to get out of the pedal. I make the decision to stop and walk; it isn't something that's suddenly imposed on me without warning.
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    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by goldfinch View Post
    The one worry I have with clipless (and with the powergrips) is that I am going to be going up a hill and not make it. Then, I will have to make a sudden decision to unclip. This is nagging at me. There are still hills that are tough for me and where I might have to simply stop. Sometimes I am going mighty slow by the time I am topping a hill.
    This is a real danger, but only if you give 100 % of your effort on the hill, and don't make it. Think: struggling like hell up a 20+ % grade. Obviously, if you're only half way up the hill, you don't want to put so much work and energy into attacking the climb that you won't have any left at all to clip out. Anyway, what you're worried about has never happened to me.

    On the other hand, depending on the pedal you get, and your technique, another possibility is that you could accidentally clip out without expecting to, on a strenuous climb. That's happened to me before, but only on one of my bikes. I managed not to crash, but it wakes you up...! Proper technique tends to go out the window at maximum exertion.
    Don't believe everything you think.

  5. #5
    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CraigB View Post
    IME, stopping on hills and emergency stops have always been completely different things. I've given up on a few hills, and when I have, there's always been time to get out of the pedal. I make the decision to stop and walk; it isn't something that's suddenly imposed on me without warning.
    OK, I can see this. Maybe I am just having pre-clipless anxiety.

  6. #6
    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    This is a real danger, but only if you give 100 % of your effort on the hill, and don't make it. Think: struggling like hell up a 20+ % grade. Obviously, if you're only half way up the hill, you don't want to put so much work and energy into attacking the climb that you won't have any left at all to clip out. Anyway, what you're worried about has never happened to me.

    On the other hand, depending on the pedal you get, and your technique, another possibility is that you could accidentally clip out without expecting to, on a strenuous climb. That's happened to me before, but only on one of my bikes. I managed not to crash, but it wakes you up...! Proper technique tends to go out the window at maximum exertion.
    When you put it this way I think that I will always have the energy to clip out.

  7. #7
    Bridge Burner RollCNY's Avatar
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    Just embrace that you will probably fall. I have had chain jump off crank on poorly planned shift mid hill, and I fell. I have had a car panic stop in front of me, and I ended up going down. First time in the pouring rain, my cleat stuck, and I did the zero speed fall. It will happen, and it is far more embarrassing than painful.

    I, like you, always unclip the left. But practice the right. All of my stops that led to a fall have been in situations where the bike is going over to the right, and I am clumsy at the panic pull on that side. Don't stick your arm out in a fall. Elbows in and curl. At least that works for me.

  8. #8
    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by goldfinch View Post
    I was following too close to my spouse and he did a stop without warning. I almost fell over getting out of the pedals and ended up with my seat banging into my rear end, bruising me.
    Grasshopper, smart cycling starts with figuring out from where the root of the problem stems.

  9. #9
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    To be honest, my panic dismount wasnt really THAT bad. It was more a case of, i went to pedal, and my legs told me to find someone else to carry me. Truthfully, once you start using clipless pedals, and you get used to the disengagement action, you can pretty much do it without much thought. It becomes another natural muscle memory reflex. Ive had a couple of panic stops from cars and other cyclists darting out, and ive disengaged completely subconsciously without even thinking about it.

    I wouldnt stress to much about it, and just continue to work on engaging and disengaging the cleat so that your leg knows what to do. Likewise, dont be like a friend of mine, and only learn how to unclip with one foot. Practice with both, so you always have some options.

  10. #10
    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    I ride like I plan to never unclip. Timing lights, stops, traffic.

    One reason I think many riders fall is that they don't down shift when they slow or plan to stop. I think it's all knowing how to ride. For instance, when we approach a signal, I downshift accordingly while others don't. Light turns green and I'm off in a sprint 30 yards with in a split second while others are pushing a big gear from zero trying to gain some momentum.

    Same when stopping. You're in a big gear and can't disengage, you're going down. If you had been in an easier gear, it is much easier to resume the pedals. Especially if you're smart enough to disengage 10 seconds ahead of time.

  11. #11
    Senior Member TacomaSailor's Avatar
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    I've been riding with Look/Time/SPD pedals ever since they became available so I can't really remember the old days (but at my age that is a problem with many things)... but I'd like to reassure you that properly adjusted step in pedals/bindings are/should be as easy to step out of as flat pedals. If the pedal/binding/shoe is adjust correctly - all it takes is a very slight twist of the heel to be free of the pedal.

    I had powerclips on my early mountain bikes and I found the SPD system far, far, WAY far easier to use than powerclips.

    I've taught many folks, including my wife (always a challenge - teaching a spouse something), how to ride with step in bindings. She uses them on her road bike and mountain bike and never once fell while learning.

    The release motion for a well adjusted step in pedal binding is pretty natural - so in the case of your spouse stopping in front of you - your natural panicky thrashing motion with your feet would most likely release your feet from pedals.

    I do a lot of very technical mountain bike riding (almost trials riding) where I am moving very slowly and deliberately through, over, around rocks, roots, drops, trees, ...etc. I frequently find myself barely moving and having to put a foot down. I keep my SPD pedals adjusted for a pretty tight release but even then I can just flick my heel sideways and I am free.

    Have someone initially adjust your pedals for a very easy release. Go ride slowly in the grass or someplace soft and practice stopping and starting. Just get used to how little foot movement it takes to release your feet from the gentle grasp of those speedplays - in a matter of days you'll wonder how you ever lived without them.

    PS - most people I taught had more difficulty learning to clip in rather than clipping out.

  12. #12
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    Gold: A few things that helped me:

    1) When stopping, like at a light, clip out a little before you need to stop.
    2) the clip out is like a side kick. Hard to explain but it is twitching your foot and ankle.
    3) if you can, bring the bike to the shop when you get the pedals put on and practise clipping out. 20 times on each leg. Get the motion down. Have them adjust the pedals so it is easier to unclip.
    4) make sure the cleats are put on right and yes, this does take some tweaking.
    5) I rode on grass for the first ride at a school on the weekend so if I fell, at least it was in the grass.
    6) down shift before stopping at the light. This will make it easier and faster to clip back it.
    7) it will take you a little while to get used to clipping in without looking. But it will happen.

    hope this heps.

  13. #13
    Senior Member robberry's Avatar
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    If your legs are getting weary, downshift and unclip one foot. That way you're a "leg up" on falling.

  14. #14
    Misfit PeaceVegan's Avatar
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    Don't overthink being clipped in. It is way more mental than physical. The speedplay's are super easy to clip in and out of. Anticipate and unclip your foot ( need to be able to do either ) before the stop sign, changing signal light, etc. You can still pedal with the one foot unclipped. If you end up needing to put a foot down you are ready ( I like putting the unclipped foot and pedal at the very top of the pedal stroke ( 12:00 ). Once you come to a stop pull the clipped pedal up to about 2:00 to be ready for the pull away stroke. As you push down from 2:00 to 6:00 then clip in the other foot into the pedal which is now at 12:00. If it turns out that, for example, the light turns green before you put your foot down then simply clip that foot back in and continue on. For the emergency stops ( which there shouldn't be too many if you are always scanning ahead and assessing your route ) you'd be surprised how quickly you can unclip and put a foot down.

  15. #15
    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    My pedals should be in sometime next week. My fitter is going to have me practice on them at the shop, so that should help.

  16. #16
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    sounds great Gold! You will do great.

  17. #17
    of Clan Nrubso ChrisO's Avatar
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    Your fitter is a wise person. Practicing clipping in and out while steadying yourself against a wall is critical. It doesn't take long for the ankle motion (differs depending on the pedals you choose) to become second nature.
    Also, if you do manage to completely burn out going up a hill, by the time you get to that "oh-crap-I'm-about-to-fall-over-because-I-ran-out-of-steam-and-didn't-unclip" point, you'll be going about .2mph and the fall is only a few feet. Maintain your grip on the bars and try to take it in the upper arm/shoulder area; you'll barely feel it and you won't need your life/health insurance to be paid up.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
    I ride like I plan to never unclip. Timing lights, stops, traffic.

    One reason I think many riders fall is that they don't down shift when they slow or plan to stop. I think it's all knowing how to ride. For instance, when we approach a signal, I downshift accordingly while others don't. Light turns green and I'm off in a sprint 30 yards with in a split second while others are pushing a big gear from zero trying to gain some momentum.

    Same when stopping. You're in a big gear and can't disengage, you're going down. If you had been in an easier gear, it is much easier to resume the pedals. Especially if you're smart enough to disengage 10 seconds ahead of time.
    This, this, and this.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Street Pedaler's Avatar
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    Goldfinch, I'm finally going clipless on Monday when I pick my bike up after repairs from the Asploding Bearing Debacle. I'm a little nervous, too. But it can't be any harder than falling off a bike.

  20. #20
    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Street Pedaler View Post
    Goldfinch, I'm finally going clipless on Monday when I pick my bike up after repairs from the Asploding Bearing Debacle. I'm a little nervous, too. But it can't be any harder than falling off a bike.

    Street, be sure to report back!

  21. #21
    Senior Member Street Pedaler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by goldfinch View Post
    Street, be sure to report back!
    Will do, Gold. As soon as I finish more first successful ride or I'm released from the hospital. Whichever comes first. lol

  22. #22
    cyclepath daredevil's Avatar
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    If you un-clip one foot, be darn sure to lean the bike that way when you stop!

    btw, I'm in the camp that says at least one fall with clipless is inevitable and it won't be that bad. More embarrassing than anything.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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  23. #23
    Senior Member marmot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by goldfinch View Post
    On the upside, I always get off the bike the same. I take off the left foot and put it on the ground, leaving the right foot on its pedal. So at least I shouldn't be awkwardly deciding which pedal to release.
    Why the left? Doesn't that force you to lean (or even fall) into the traffic when you stop, instead of away? And it's handy to put your free foot on the curb when you're waiting for a light. Can't do that of you're unclipping on the left.

  24. #24
    Senior Member ill.clyde's Avatar
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    When I went clipless I did so over the winter. I spent months riding my mag trainer in my clipless pedals/shoes before I went outdoors.

    And FWIW, I still did a low speed fall one of my first times out.


  25. #25
    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marmot View Post
    Why the left? Doesn't that force you to lean (or even fall) into the traffic when you stop, instead of away? And it's handy to put your free foot on the curb when you're waiting for a light. Can't do that of you're unclipping on the left.
    If you unclip with the right, the gutter is lower than the road on the left. More of a chance of falling over.

    Plus , you can't always count on there being a crub to support you at stops. And if there is. I'd rather be to the left so that I don't get right hooked at take off by a car making a right at the intersection and avoiding blocking cars waiting to make a right.

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