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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 07-23-10, 11:08 AM   #1
engstrom
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Thinking about clipless - thoughts and suggestions wanted

I'm current commuting to work - 15 miles round trip with 9+ of those miles on a bike trail with only two stops. The remaining 6 miles are almost all residential without too many stop signs/stop lights. Currently I'm riding a cheap department-store hybrid and will get a road bike in a couple months. I'll use the road bike for commuting but also for group rides and a couple/three/four centuries a year.

So with that said I'm thinking about picking up something like the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Seek shoes with some SPD pedals now. I'd like to learn to use the clipless on a bike that I'm less concerned with falling down - I figure it'll happen to me since it happens to almost everyone when they learn to ride clipless.

I'm assuming I can comfortably wear the X-Alps for work? If not are there any shoes that can be worn all day for work? My pack is full already with my change of clothes so fitting an extra pair of shoes would be a bit of a problem. I know I could just leave a pair of shoes at work to change into but for some reason I don't want to do that.

Also, I know that people's opinions on clipless are quite varied but does anyone have any concerns or issues about using them on a commute with little traffic and few stops?

Thanks,
John Engstrom
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Old 07-23-10, 11:21 AM   #2
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I haven't fallen down with my clipless pedals. (I have fallen over once with toe clips and straps though) I keep my clipless pedals adjusted loosely, so that they're easy to get out of in an emergency, but not so loose that they'll pop out while you're riding. If they're adjusted properly, falling shouldn't be an issue IMO, your foot will pop out on its own.. at least this has been the case for me when I went mountain biking on some steep, rough terrain a couple weeks ago.

I don't think riding in stop and go traffic should be a problem. I always unclip way before i'm about to stop and just rest that foot on the pedal as I coast to a stop. Works for me. If you clip out too late, you might have balance issues, I think this is why people fall when they're not used to clipless... dunno.. just a theory

As far as putting them on your cheap dept. store bike.. will the pedals fit? I used to have a dept. store huffy and the bolts were all different than my current bike shop bikes.

SPD shoes.. I wouldn't want to wear them all day. I have some shimano mtn. bike shoes. I can walk in them if I stop at a store or from the road to my desk at work, but the stiff, non-flexible sole makes them uncomfortable for any more than a half mile or so of walking. Also, even though the cleat is recessed, it still scrapes the ground a little. I once walked 1.5 miles in them to the bike shop and it wasn't fun.. Like you, I don't want to carry my shoes around in my bag, so I keep an extra pair of shoes at work to change into once I get here, and just leave them here all the time.
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Old 07-23-10, 11:27 AM   #3
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I have golfed 18 holes comfortably in my Specialized Tahoe shoes and frequently wear them all day at work, and they are nice looking shoes as far as biking shoes go.

I like eggbeaters for commuting; they are very easy to clip in and out of. You never have to look at your pedals to orient them.
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Old 07-23-10, 11:29 AM   #4
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In my very limited experience the major falling cause for clipping newbies is that they unclip one foot at a stop but then accidentally lean too far in the clipped in direction. Seen it happen a lot. So, my number one tip to new clipless riders is to unclip both feet every time, and don't be afraid to unclip early and just pedal unclipped for a bit.

As far as shoes go, I have not encountered any that I would want to wear all day. I know a lot of folks swear that Shimano's sandals are comfortable enough for this, but depending on what you do for a living those may not be work appropriate.
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Old 07-23-10, 12:04 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by engstrom View Post
Also, I know that people's opinions on clipless are quite varied but does anyone have any concerns or issues about using them on a commute with little traffic and few stops?
Not at all. In fact, I've been riding clipless for so long that when I ride a bike with platform pedals it feels unsafe in a way, like driving without a seatbelt. IMHO, it just feels more secure to have your feet attached to the pedals, especially during a hard stop or emergency maneuver.

Also, though you didn't ask specifically about what kind of pedals to choose, IMHO you're making the right choice by starting with mountain-style cleats. Even on a road bike, I find they're generally easier to deal with unless you have specific needs that call for a road pedal.
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Old 07-23-10, 12:11 PM   #6
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I wish I'd gone clipless years ago.

Do you wear clips now? I used them for 10+ years before I switched, and the transition was natural to me ... the only things I noticed were more power, a better connection to the bike, and some difficulty getting in to the pedals at first. That went away, obviously, as I got used to them, but I did more track stands because of it.
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Old 07-23-10, 12:57 PM   #7
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As far as putting them on your cheap dept. store bike.. will the pedals fit? I used to have a dept. store huffy and the bolts were all different than my current bike shop bikes.
Darn fine question. My bike is a 2001 Diamondback Wildwood Deluxe - I'll have to take a close look and see what the bolt size and thread spacing is on the pedals.

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SPD shoes.. I wouldn't want to wear them all day. [SNIP]
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I have golfed 18 holes comfortably in my Specialized Tahoe shoes and frequently wear them all day at work, and they are nice looking shoes as far as biking shoes go. [SNIP]
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Originally Posted by snorkel View Post
[SNIP]
As far as shoes go, I have not encountered any that I would want to wear all day.[SNIP]
Looks like I'll have to go by my LBS and try on the shoes to see what I think about wearing them all day but I just might end up leaving a pair of shoes at work.

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[SNIP]
Also, though you didn't ask specifically about what kind of pedals to choose, IMHO you're making the right choice by starting with mountain-style cleats. Even on a road bike, I find they're generally easier to deal with unless you have specific needs that call for a road pedal.
Any suggestions on pedals? Robert mentioned eggbeaters and I certainly like the idea of not having to worry much about orientation.

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I wish I'd gone clipless years ago.

Do you wear clips now? I used them for 10+ years before I switched, and the transition was natural to me ... the only things I noticed were more power, a better connection to the bike, and some difficulty getting in to the pedals at first. That went away, obviously, as I got used to them, but I did more track stands because of it.
Nope, I just use platform pedals now. I like the idea of generating power on the upstroke and I also think clipless would help with those times I get my cadence up there. I've noticed my feet moving around on the pedals at higher cadence - not that I'm able to sustain that high RPM for long but I'm hoping that as I continue my cardio will improve and I'll be able to keep up a higher cadence. I'm only been riding for a couple months now and it's painfully obvious how out of shape I was.
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Old 07-23-10, 01:03 PM   #8
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I'm assuming I can comfortably wear the X-Alps for work? If not are there any shoes that can be worn all day for work? My pack is full already with my change of clothes so fitting an extra pair of shoes would be a bit of a problem.
Why can't you leave a pair of shoes at work?

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but I just might end up leaving a pair of shoes at work.
This is really what you should do. Why put undue wear on the cycling shoes and the cleats?

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I'd like to learn to use the clipless on a bike that I'm less concerned with falling down - I figure it'll happen to me since it happens to almost everyone when they learn to ride clipless.
My suggestion is to spend some time practicing in a parking lot or a grassy field. The unclipping motion is something that isn't normal (it's not hard). You want enough practice so that it becomes habit.

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ny suggestions on pedals? Robert mentioned eggbeaters and I certainly like the idea of not having to worry much about orientation.
You don't have to worry about orientation with double sided SPD pedals (like the Shimano M540).

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Old 07-23-10, 01:07 PM   #9
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Why can't you leave a pair of shoes at work?
No good reason.


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My suggestion is to spend some time practicing in a parking lot or a grassy field. The unclipping motion is something that isn't normal (it's not hard). You want enough practice so that it becomes habit.


You don't have to worry about orientation with double sided SPD pedals (like the Shimano M540).
Good idea about practicing. I'm sure once you do it enough it becomes second nature and you can do it quickly without thinking about it. I was just worried that it would take a little while to become that comfortable with the motion of clipping in and out. And I'll definitely get doubled sided pedals.

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Old 07-23-10, 01:14 PM   #10
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Any suggestions on pedals? Robert mentioned eggbeaters and I certainly like the idea of not having to worry much about orientation.
Get double sided pedals and you won't have to worry about orientation. It seems most 'roadie' style pedals are one sided, while mountain pedals seem mostly double sided.. I don't really understand why unless it's a weight thing. *shrug..

I used to have M324 pedals http://www.rei.com/product/668198 with a platform on one side because I thought i'd ride in street shoes sometimes, but I never really did and the orientation part was a pain, so I traded them for some M540s http://www.rei.com/product/705310

M520s http://www.rei.com/product/705311 are cheaper, but work just as well. My friend uses them on both his bikes and I would've gotten them instead, but the 540s were only 5 bucks more with my trade in and are slightly lighter, so I figured.. 'what the heck'

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Old 07-23-10, 01:24 PM   #11
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Look on Craigslist; I picked up a pair of shoes with "training wheel" cleats ( three motions unhook you instead of one ) which I'd ideally like to replace with normal ones, and pedals, for $75. I gave the pedals to a friend, but felt it was a pretty good price for a pair of nice shoes with cleats. You might find a deal there ... and you might prefer the cleats that let you twist right, left, or just pull back.

I work making medical software, on the famously lax West Coast. So I took my oldest shoes that needed replacing anyway, and left them under my desk at work. I change my shoes at some point after I get in, before the first meeting, and then again before I leave for the day. They're out of sight, but they're also here waiting to get me out of the stiff ones. On the other hand, I've got a pair of Keen Commuters, which are a bit less powerful ( because they don't grip your foot as tightly, so you can't apply as much force pulling upward ), but good for swimming and wading over rocky lake beds. These are a lore more comfortable to bike in, while the Pearl Izumis I've got are a lot more powerful, but at the expense of off-the-bike comfort.

The M520s that bhop pointed out are the ones I got on CL, and gave away. They'd probably be much better than the A520s I have, for getting used to the system. I already got used to the one-sided ones, so stayed with them. Honestly, a month later, it won't matter at all, so don't get hung up on this part of the question.
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Old 07-23-10, 01:37 PM   #12
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I got the Shimano A-530 SPDs, the dual platform pedal, and have been very pleased with them. That said, I have maybe used the "plain" side twice in the two odd years I have had them, I use my bike shoes all the time. They have the recessed cleats and I can walk fine and as a result I never use regular shoes to ride in these days. The times I have done so I felt awkward and discombobulated - I could not figure out why I could not PULL the pedal upwards! Next time I shall get the double sided SPDs.

I must note however that getting the right side is really no problem, most of the time they gravitate to clipless-up and when they are not, you can feel the difference and whip them around. So that is not a problem.

As to shoes at work I ended up keeping a pair in the office, there was really no alternative for me as carrying a pair was a royal nightmare - and quite unnecessary - and it made things so very much simpler once I elected to keep a pair on a bookcase in my office.
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Old 07-23-10, 01:44 PM   #13
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Yeah, I work for a small software company and dress code is pretty lax - jeans, t-shirt and sneakers. I've got an older pair of Skechers that I can leave at the office - that really does seem to make the most sense. I'm off today so I'll stop by my LBS and check out their shoes and pedals. But first things first, I've gotta look at my bike and make sure the pedals will fit.
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Old 07-23-10, 01:47 PM   #14
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I ride clipless and platform, and I have been for a while, and I commute everyday. Here are my recommendations based on my experience:

Mountain cleats/pedals are a good choice for commuting. Road pedals will work fine, but I think unless you're really into the weight weenie Lakefront Lance thing, mountain shoes are way more practical than road shoes.

I like dual-sided pedals, but there is a price to pay in the form of more fussing/time it takes to clip in. If this isn't a big deal for you (it's not for me) the dual-sided pedals are great when you wear regular shoes cycling, as I often do. I use and recommend the Shimano PD-A530 pedals. They're lighter than the PD-M324 pedals but aren't quite as grippy. Eggbeaters are a good choice if you don't plan on generally cycling in regular shoes. You don't have to wear your cycling shoes, but Eggbeaters make terrible pedals if you're not clipped in.

Don't spend a whole lot of money on your first pair of shoes. You may end up not using them a whole lot. Remember, cleats should be torqued down *tight* on the shoes. You don't want a cleat becoming loose while you ride, that would be bad news when you go to clip out. As other posters have said, even mountain clipless shoes don't work very well for walking or general use. You'll want regular shoes after your commute.

To learn how to ride clipless, find a wall or a fence and support yourself with one hand while you practice clipping in and clipping out with each foot. Do it 50 or 100 times on each foot. You can identify any issues (is the tension too tight or too lose on the pedals? etc) in a safe manner, and you get pretty comfortable with the whole process this way. Honestly, I went straight from this to the Chicago city streets riding clipless, and I've never fallen (had a couple of close calls, but no actual falls). Clipping out both feet when you come to a stop as another poster suggested is not a bad idea.

Hope this helps. Being clipped in really does help, especially for longer rides. My commute is 2.5 miles with a lot of stop and go, so I don't usually commute clipped in, but otherwise I love it.
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Old 07-23-10, 02:16 PM   #15
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Look on Craigslist; I picked up a pair of shoes with "training wheel" cleats ( three motions unhook you instead of one ) which I'd ideally like to replace with normal ones, and pedals, for $75. I gave the pedals to a friend, but felt it was a pretty good price for a pair of nice shoes with cleats. You might find a deal there ... and you might prefer the cleats that let you twist right, left, or just pull back.
You can buy those type of Shimano SPD cleats and use them on any compatible shoe.

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I like dual-sided pedals, but there is a price to pay in the form of more fussing/time it takes to clip in.
I don't follow this. It's easy to clip into the double sided pedals. The double sided MTB pedals do require you you special shoes (maybe that's what you are talking about). There are combo platform/cleated MTB pedals (the "one sided" type) that allow you to use normal shoes.

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I must note however that getting the right side is really no problem, most of the time they gravitate to clipless-up and when they are not, you can feel the difference and whip them around. So that is not a problem.
Some may orient themselves better than others. My experience is that I'm faster clipping into my double-sided pedals than most other people with the one sided pedals.

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Old 07-23-10, 02:32 PM   #16
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I don't follow this. It's easy to clip into the double sided pedals. The double sided MTB pedals do require you you special shoes (maybe that's what you are talking about). There are combo platform/cleated MTB pedals (the "one sided" type) that allow you to use normal shoes.
I was referring to *dual-sided* (platform one side, clip-in the other).
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Old 07-23-10, 03:21 PM   #17
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I was referring to *dual-sided* (platform one side, clip-in the other).
That clears things up.

The problem is that "dual sided" is ambiguous. It's used for two different pedal types.

The following uses "dual sided" for the combo type (clip on one side/platform on the other).

http://www.amazon.com/Wellgo-Multipu.../dp/B0032XZQ9M

The following uses "dual sided" for the clips on both-sides-type (what I called "double sided").

http://www.rei.com/product/705311?pr...:referralID=NA

Clips on one side only -> harder to clip in (because you have to orient the pedal).
Clips on two sides (or more) -> easier to clip in.

Some road pedals have a clip on one side and the other side can't be used (basically). There are some road pedals (eg, Speedplays) that have clips on both sides.

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Old 07-23-10, 04:17 PM   #18
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That clears things up.

The problem is that "dual sided" is ambiguous.
Right, I'm well aware of all that, thanks for the clarification for those who might have been confused.

Don't forget Eggbeaters, you can clip into four sides.

Nevermind the fact that we have "clipless" pedals to which we "clip in" and "clip out." But there is no clip! It's a little maddening.

As long as we're posting links, here are the dual-sided pedals I was referring to, that I really like. I have two pairs of them:
http://www.amazon.com/Shimano-PD-A53...9923462&sr=1-1
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Old 07-23-10, 04:24 PM   #19
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Right, I'm well aware of all that, thanks for the clarification for those who might have been confused.

Don't forget Eggbeaters, you can clip into four sides.

Nevermind the fact that we have "clipless" pedals to which we "clip in" and "clip out." But there is no clip! It's a little maddening.

As long as we're posting links, here are the dual-sided pedals I was referring to, that I really like. I have two pairs of them:
http://www.amazon.com/Shimano-PD-A53...9923462&sr=1-1
And Eggbeater's is a term often used to refer to all the Crank Brothers pedals (they all use the same Eggbeater attachment mechanism, but the other style with platforms are called Candy's, Acid's, etc). Then there's "spd's", which might mean Shimano SPD Mountain Bike Pedals, or spd-compatible, and then there's Shimano SPD-SL's, road pedals completely and totally different from the mountain spd's...
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Old 07-23-10, 04:25 PM   #20
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Right, I'm well aware of all that, thanks for the clarification for those who might have been confused.
I know you aware of that.

"Dual sided" (and "double sided") is still ambiguous because the term is used to refer to two types of pedals.

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Don't forget Eggbeaters, you can clip into four sides.
Those are the "or more" in my "Clips on two sides (or more)" comment!

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Nevermind the fact that we have "clipless" pedals to which we "clip in" and "clip out." But there is no clip! It's a little maddening.
Yes, there's that too (but people aren't generally confused about what is being talked about).

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As long as we're posting links, here are the dual-sided pedals I was referring to, that I really like. I have two pairs of them:
http://www.amazon.com/Shimano-PD-A53...9923462&sr=1-1
I'd probably call them dual sided combo pedals!

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Old 07-23-10, 04:49 PM   #21
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I set a new record on my commute to work this morning: I fell twice because of the clips. I'm definitely new to it and my mistakes so far have been due to thoughtlessness. I have combination pedals that have platforms on one side and cleats on the other, and the first fall happened when I thought I was on the platforms when I was really clipped. The second fall was as Snorkel described: fully stopped, with one foot still clipped in, I reached for my water bottle and the bike's weight shifted the wrong way and dragged me down under it, right next to a light rail train full of people.

I'm not particularly easy to embarrass, and I quite like the clipless system while I'm in motion, but I'm starting to envy those people who claim they've never fallen in cleats!
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Old 07-23-10, 04:56 PM   #22
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Nevermind the fact that we have "clipless" pedals to which we "clip in" and "clip out." But there is no clip! It's a little maddening.
Yeah ... I had noticed that, too. I guess it's a little like parking on driveways and driving on parkways?
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Old 07-23-10, 05:16 PM   #23
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Yeah ... I had noticed that, too. I guess it's a little like parking on driveways and driving on parkways?
"Clipless" refers to the fact that the pedals don't have "toe clips" (also called "toe cages").

"Parkway" really comes from "way" (ie, "road") in a "park" (a pleasant "natural" senic place). (The "driveway/parkway" joke is amusing.)

Last edited by njkayaker; 07-23-10 at 05:19 PM.
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Old 07-23-10, 06:41 PM   #24
pharasz
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I love riding clipless. I used to leave shoes in my desk and change into them. I can't understand why you wouldn't want to do that. I definitely would not want to walk around all day long in bike shoes, even ones designed to walk in, like MTB shoes. After ten years of riding clipless, unclipping has become so automatic I'm not even aware of doing it, have done it while falling (e.g. wet turn taken too fast), and it's been years since I've fallen over because I didn't unclip in time to put my foot down.
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Old 07-23-10, 07:34 PM   #25
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I use the X-Alp shoe, and eggbeaters, both "straight" eggbeaters, and the Mallets.

I like the setup, I wouldn't want to spend all day in the shoes, though if i wasn't walking around much, it shouldn't be a problem.

My tips for a "clipless" newbie.

1. Make sure you have the bolts good and tight, finding out one of the screws is loose when you try to unclip is.. not good.

2. Test each shoe independently for release, before trying to ride.

3. Not sure about this one, but I find that eggbeater clips seem to be harder to unclip if the cleat is pretty far forward on the shoe.
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