How to Ride with Clipless Bike Pedals
You may have heard horror stories of people riding with clipless shoes and pedals falling
at intersections, breaking and spraining various body parts, and generally toppling over at inopportune
times when they can't get their foot released from the pedal quickly enough.
Have no fear. It's really not that difficult and with a few hours of practice you will be riding with
confidence. The principles of clipping in and out are the same whether you are riding a road or mtb style shoe
and cleat. Here are my top 10 tips to get you riding and unclipping like a pro in no time.
Tip #1: Loosen the pedal release tension.
Most clipless pedals come with a set screw to control the amount of tension on the clip
mechanism. The tighter the tension the harder it is to release. Find the tension adjustment bolt (usually
a hex head) and back it off until it is quite loose but still maintains tension. Clipping in and out at
this point should be quite easy. Once you gain confidence you can dial the tension back up. Make sure
you have adequate tension before you head out on the trails. The last thing you want is
unintended release while you are bombing down a rooty trail with rocks on one side and a cliff on the
Shimano has a set of SPD cleats (SH56) that are multi release. They will release by both twisting and a
sharp upward pull, and can be a good option for learning as they honor the natural tendency to pull
straight up for cleat release. Multi release cleats are not recommended for trail riding as
premature release at the wrong time could result in injury.
Tip #2 : Use the narrowest release angle that your cleats allow.
A number of cleats can be switched from side to side such as the mtb systems from Look and Time.
Depending on what side they are mounted, the release angle will change. If your cleats have differing release
angles choose the lower release angle. This means that it takes less of a twist before your foot releases
from the pedal. As you become accustomed to riding clipless pedals or you do a fair bit of technical mtb
riding you may want to switch to the wider release angle to prevent unwanted shoe release.
Tip #3: Practice clipping in and out while straddling the bike with one foot on the ground
Most everyone has a dominant side. You will feel much more comfortable clipping in and out on this
side. Right away you will know what your dominant side is as you will naturally put this foot down when you
come to a stop.
Practice clipping in and out with your dominant foot while you straddle the bike. At this point keep your
opposite foot on the ground. Pedal position should be at the bottom of the stroke or similar to what you would
do on the road at about 20-30 degrees before the bottom of the stroke. Keep a hand on the brakes to
prevent the bike rolling forward.