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Unclipping issue

Old 10-31-20, 09:37 AM
  #1  
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Unclipping issue

I am nearly 70 years old and have been riding clipless pedals for the past 10+ years with few issues. However, over the past couple of months, I have fallen at stopped or slightly moving because of the inability to get unclipped on my left side. The problem has always originated because I end up with a slight left tilt on even surfaces and then fall over and cannot get out of my left clip in time to stop the fall. Other than knee cuts/abrasions and shifter scratches I have fortunately not been seriously injured. My normal process and the way my brain is conditioned is that when I come to a stop or starting I remained clipped in on the left side (I suppose because we drive on the right-hand side of the road here and do not want to risk stepping out into traffic on the left side) and always unclip on the right side (I am also right handed). I rarely have unclipping issues on the right (drive side) and although I have the tension on my spd-sl petals set to max tension release and have lubricated the springs as well, I still have problems on the left side. It seems like the left is just more difficult to release or my brain is just not functioning as quickly to unclip in time. Not sure why I may end up tilting a little to the left when I stop although I did have a concussion about 18 months ago. So my question is for you guys that drive on the right-hand side of the road which foot do you unclip when coming to a stop (I assume it will be the same when starting your ride)? Any other comments on this annoying (and potentially safety) issue is much appreciated. Thanks.
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Old 10-31-20, 10:01 AM
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Similar age and the same thing happened to me in terms of not being able to unclip in time. I just chalked it up to age and reaction time. Not wanting to get injured and end my cycling enjoyment I went with platform pedals. Took me a while to get used to them, but in the end I enjoy cycling a little bit more, since I do not have to be worried about unclipping. But I know some diehards that would never go to platforms no matter what.
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Old 10-31-20, 10:34 AM
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My most embarassing moment (at 73) was doing it as I slowly approached a red light with plenty of witnesses in their cars. Went down like an oak. I loosened the tension a bit and seem to get out better. It's trial and error, but I have them set to where they're just loose enough to not release when I'm pedaling.
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Old 10-31-20, 11:06 AM
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SPD type or SPD-SL type?

If you are SPD, then have you made certain the cleat hasn't shifted in the direction that make you have to use more twist to click out? Similarly you might be able to rotate your cleat a little in the opposite direction to make clicking out not take so much twist of your foot.

Tension adjustments on the pedal shouldn't be forgotten either, as well as just replacing the cleats and maybe even the pedal if old. Like us, they really don't last forever.
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Old 10-31-20, 02:37 PM
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I am using SPD-SL pedals and shoes/cleats and I do have the tension moved as low as it will go (index is at top and will not click anymore in cc loosen direction). I am starting to look at SPD pedals and would like to know a few things. First, are they easier to clip in and mainly clip out than SPD-SL? Since I have a new investment in good pair of Specialized SPD-SL shoes (3 bolt) do the Shimano cleat adapters really work where I can use them with 2 bolt SPD pedals?
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Old 10-31-20, 03:18 PM
  #6  
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I'm 74 and have been riding Speedplay Zeros for about 20 years. I've never had the problem you describe.
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Old 10-31-20, 03:54 PM
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Have you lubricated all the moving parts in your pedals? They need regular lubrication, especially after rain or bike washes. Virtually any oil will work. I use Tri-Flo for my summer bikes and Finish Line wet MTB oil for my winter bikes but 3-in-one will work just fine as will many others.

It may also be a loss of strength and you may have to ease the spring tension which can be done on many clipless pedals. There is usually a screw at the back of the pedal that controls tension. I don't know your pedals so I cannot say where it is or what tool you need. (My LOOK style clipless have the screw in the center rear and take a 3mm Allen wrench.) But oil them first. Both my LOOK pedals and my SPDs get very hard to get out of when I go too long between lubes.

Edit: I see you have already minimized the tension.
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Old 10-31-20, 05:27 PM
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I've been using Look Delta pedals for close to 30 years and SPDs on the mountain bike. I always unclip on the left and if I am in a situation where I have to unclip on the right it feels awkward and unnatural. I've almost fallen off the mtb because of that.
About 6 weeks ago I did fall at a stop when another rider stopped short in front of me at a coffee stop. It was my first clipless fall in at least 20 years.
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Old 10-31-20, 05:47 PM
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Unclip left first?

That’s what I do because my right is a little tighter. Plus, I tend to lean left when stopping.
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Old 10-31-20, 08:00 PM
  #10  
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I ride a variety of pedals: Crank Brothers Eggbeaters clipless, toe clips (loose) and flat. My habit with the clipless is to unclip at least 5 seconds before stopping. Iíve learned the hard way to give myself a margin for error.
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Old 10-31-20, 08:25 PM
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If I read this correctly, you “normally” unclip the right foot. When you do there are no problems. The problem you are having is leaning to the left and not unclipping quick enough. It is not a pedal issue or a reaction issue.

Many years ago, with cleats and straps, I would loosen the right strap and pull that one out. It is ingrained process. Even without having to loosen the straps, my right foot is the one I ground. When I lean to the left, I fall. It is quite simple, come to a stop, right foot out, lean left and fall. I will never be able to catch myself from falling. I need to catch myself from leaning left.

What I do is purposefully turn the handlebars slightly to the right when I’m stopping. Just enough so the bike has to lean to the right. I’m 68 and it was second nature for years, but now I have to make that slight turn part of the process.

John

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Old 10-31-20, 09:50 PM
  #12  
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Switch to platform pedals and shoes with relatively stiff soles for support. After minor adaptation to your pedaling stroke you won't notice any difference in average speed or perceived effort.

I switch between clipless and platform pedals on my bikes. Zero difference, other than minor adjustments to my pedaling style if I haven't ridden one or the other for more than a week or so. Some of my fastest road bike times remain those I did on then-new bikes that I didn't yet have clipless pedals for and just hopped on and rode with flat pedals.

The main adaptation I make is to mash a bit harder and follow through more with lifting the opposite leg on the upswing, since I can't physically lift the pedal without foot retention. When that happens on my bikes with flat pedals it reminds me that my clipless pedaling has gotten a bit sloppy, if I'm actually relying on pulling up the pedals while spinning uphill or sprinting.

GCN has done at least three comparisons over the years and while their testers and methodology change a bit the results are the same: very little difference between foot retention and free-footing it with platform pedals.

The main reason I still use clipless on some road bikes is for the supportive shoes with very rigid soles. Helps reduce my lifelong tendency toward painful arch spasms, and occasionally sympathetic calf and thigh cramps after the arch cramps begin.

And foot retention is a bit better for spinning above 100 rpm on high cadence drills. But my average cadence has gradually dropped from 90 rpm to 75 rpm, and I don't need foot retention to maintain a smooth cadence at 60-75 rpm.

And I dislike using foot retention in traffic or casual group rides. I always try to switch to a bike with platform pedals for those occasions. Much less hassle, no need to worry about a cleat slipping on loose sandy gravel on the pavement, or dodging erratic newbies in casual group rides. Much easier to just set a foot down to keep balance.

I was diagnosed with premature osteopenia a couple of years ago, due to a thyroid imbalance, and after a lifetime of avoiding broken bones finally began experiencing fractures from impacts that barely left a bruise when I was younger. So if my next lab tests and imaging scans don't show any improvement in bone density I may just quit foot retention completely to minimize the risk of falling.
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Old 10-31-20, 11:06 PM
  #13  
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I unclip my left foot and put it down. I start off with my right foot.

Maybe a silly question, but are you unclipping at the bottom of the pedal stroke? I was taught that's the way to do it. I unclip way early as well. I take the weight off the back of the cleat and of course twist the heel out. Taking the weight off the back of the cleat is sort of the reverse of pointing your toe and the pushing down when you clip it.

Glenn
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Old 11-01-20, 09:22 AM
  #14  
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How old are your cleats? You might think that worn cleats would release more easily but the opposite is true. Just this last month Mrs Grouch was having trouble getting unclipped. I replaced her cleats with brand new multi-release cleats and made her happy. Now she makes me happy too.
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Old 11-01-20, 12:02 PM
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I always unclip on the right, so as to put my foot down away from traffic. As above, check the cleat alignment on your left shoe. Other than that, start brushing your teeth while standing on one foot. Different foot each day. Put your socks and shoes on without sitting down, standing on the other foot. Sounds stupid, but it works. Every little bit helps. As we get on, we need to pass on our little tricks.

I've never fallen to the left on my single, but have a couple times on our tandem, where that little flick of the front wheel to the left isn't always sufficient. The problem with the unclip is that the left foot is up and is more awkward to unclip as that is not how onw normally does it. Practicing an unclip with the foot up helps a little. There's not time to rotate the cranks.
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Old 11-01-20, 08:40 PM
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OP, are you saying that you’re unclipping with the right foot, but the bike is leaning left with your right foot unclipped? If so, it sounds more like a “balancing issue”. Maybe just unclip the right foot a little sooner than normal? And make sure you have your right leg fully extended as you brake to stop???
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Old 11-02-20, 09:08 AM
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OP,

Not sure I am understanding - did you say you have the tension set on max? If so loosen it up.

Second thing: I also unclip on the left. My technique is to unclip in advance and coast to a stop. When I am stopping, I favor the left (non drive-side) with my weight so there is no question which side the bike is going to lean to.

Third thing to check is the condition of your cleats. If they are beat up and worn down, you should look at replacing them.
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Old 11-02-20, 10:24 AM
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Sorry about the misleading comment. My pedal tension is set to max "release" so it is at the easiest tension level. The index indicator is all the way to the top and the tension screw is turned counterclockwise to the max. I have always unclipped on the right drive side first because many years ago I was told if you live in a country that drives on the right you should for safety purposes unclip away from the opposite lane coming toward you which is the left lane in North America, subsequently, I unclip on the right with a small lean in to get my foot down. Honestly, after all these years I don't think I could get my brain to change now. I believe the real issue is that after I unclip on the right and put my foot down I sometimes overcompensate on balance and end up tilting a little too much left that then causes me to go down while stopped because I do not have a fast enough reaction when going over to get my left foot unclipped. I think that perhaps the best approach at my age (or really any age) is to really focus when you come to a stop and unclip, to keep tilted to the unclipped side and keep your free foot solid on the pavement.
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Old 11-02-20, 10:37 AM
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I never heard that about unclipping on the side you drive. If I did, it went past me and never thought about it.

As a practice, I unclip on the left foot. I kick my heel out to unclip, yet my son clicks his heel in to unclip. He also unclips his right foot more often than not. If I am stopping while or immediately after turning I unclip on the side to which I am turning.

I'm spd though. But don't know what that might change anything up from spd-sl.
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Old 11-02-20, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Senior Vagabond View Post
I have always unclipped on the right drive side first because many years ago I was told if you live in a country that drives on the right you should for safety purposes unclip away from the opposite lane coming toward you which is the left lane in North America, subsequently, I unclip on the right with a small lean in to get my foot down.Honestly, after all these years I don't think I could get my brain to change now. I believe the real issue is that after I unclip on the right and put my foot down I sometimes overcompensate on balance and end up tilting a little too much left that then causes me to go down while stopped because I do not have a fast enough reaction when going over to get my left foot unclipped. I think that perhaps the best approach at my age (or really any age) is to really focus when you come to a stop and unclip, to keep tilted to the unclipped side and keep your free foot solid on the pavement.
I've never heard of that rule. I just do what comes natural (depending on if one is right or left handed/footed) to avoid situations like you are describing. I think naturally you want to lean to the left....are you right handed/footed? I keep my right foot on the pedal because it would feel weird to me trying to take off (pedal) with my weak leg.
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Old 11-02-20, 11:58 AM
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I have a pair of Shimano PD-R540 pedals on one of my bikes and they are a bugger to get out of compared to my other bike. I have played with the tension, replaced the cleats and still no change. They often rip the rubber cover right off the top part of the cleat they are so tight!

Not sure if the quality of a pedal has any difference for the original posters issue?
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Old 11-02-20, 01:46 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
How old are your cleats? You might think that worn cleats would release more easily but the opposite is true. Just this last month Mrs Grouch was having trouble getting unclipped. I replaced her cleats with brand new multi-release cleats and made her happy. Now she makes me happy too.
Definitely agree. Counter-intuitive.
Worn cleats on Look Keo unclip with difficulty when worn
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Old 11-02-20, 02:42 PM
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I am right-handed which probably lends itself to my natural right side. I don't really think it matters too much which side you unclip when rolling to a stop as long as you are comfortable with it. I think the concept of unclipping on the side of the road you drive on comes from the idea that if you fall off on when unclipping you do not want to risk spilling out into oncoming traffic. Also if you are riding in the city with curbs it gives you a place to put your foot on. I have attached a link to one of the videos on unclipping from GCN. All in, the best practice is what comes naturally to you and works.
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Old 11-02-20, 02:58 PM
  #24  
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Right-side driver, and right-side unclipper (so that I lean away from traffic). I very rarely unclip the left foot, and I only do once my right foot is on the ground, and I'm fully leaned to the right.
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Old 11-02-20, 05:38 PM
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Cleats wear out. That's what I'd check and resolve. I've had worn cleats lock up before too.

J.
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