I recently purchased my first road bike, my first racer, a 2009 Trek 2.1. (For the last seven years I've been on a Trek 800 Sport, which was modified for speed a few years ago.) Simultaneously to the acquisition of my racer, I purchased Shimano SPD SL racing pedals and cleats and affixed the cleats to the bottom of a pair of Northwave shoes: Northwave because it was the only thing he had in 39s (European; 6.5 US).
On my Trek 2.1 virgin voyage, I resolved to take the same 30 mile trip that I usually take on a Sunday on my mountain bike. I ended up doing sixty miles instead--not a smart move really, for a lot of reasons, mostly to do with my age and level of fitness, but hey, I was in that place you get into sometimes, where reason goes to hell.
However, what really made the trip unpleasant was that I must have wiped out at least a half a dozen times because I couldn't get my feet out of the pedals, despite having the tension set to its lightest setting. I even practised getting them out occasionally, but even in practice it was touch and go. The further along I got, the more fearful I became about the fact that my feet were not available for sudden, or even some anticipated, stops. When I had time to calculate the stop, I fared better, though even that was not a sure thing. The crucial moment was when a dog came out of nowhere, and in panic, I slammed on my brakes and went over to the right, onto my elbow on a road that would make hamburger out of number 8 steel if you dragged a chunk of it a few feet along this road's surface. (Riding your bike along this road is like putting a quarter in one of those vibrating beds. Your hands go numb after a while.)
Anyway, at the end of the trip, my bike looked fine, but I was a mess, blood everywhere on my legs and arms. I don't think I could take many trips like that.
My question is: Do others experience this when becoming accustomed to this type of pedal? Or is this unusual? Is it the combination of Shimano with Northwave? The cleats are Shimano.
It seems to me that getting out shouldn't be so difficult, but I struggle to get out even when the setting is at the lowest tension. Any ideas why? Any suggestions?