Since Nat has already let you know about her first experience riding in cleats, I guess I should share my experiences with you too. I have to confess that I differ in opinion slightly with Nat on the usefulness of cleats. I love my clippy pedals. I hate having to ride flats to the extent where I bring them to the gym and do spin classes in them (sad I know). I agree they aren’t necessary for riding, but when I don’t have them, my feet fall off the pedals, and I have really embarrassing moments when I pull up my foot to push off at the lights, and then realise that the pedal is still in the down position, and my foot is somewhere hovering in midair not attached to the pedal.
Anyhow, I started riding clipped in on my mountain bike. Words like “more efficient”, “less energy expenditure”, and “easier to get up hills” suckered me in. Let’s face it. Cadel certainly didn’t win the Tour in flats!
My first set of pedals were Time pedals. I was captivated by the simple looking design, and they looked like they’d shed mud quite nicely… Big mistake. I would get to a foot down moment (and I’m not a very good mountain biker, so there are lots of foot down moments. Actually, I probably need to confess, not only are there lots of foot down moments, but also hands down and knee down moments, and even the occasional head down moment too!) Anyhow, I’m digressing pretty randomly. As I was saying, I’d get to a foot down moment and by the time I’d gotten my foot out of the pedal, I’d be most of the way to the ground. The problem I had was that I had to twist my foot a long way to get out of the pedal and by the time I got it to the point where they were out, it was too late. This went on for months. On the upside, I got really good at riding really close to things (trees, fence posts, the occasional passing walker) in order to be able to stop and hold on to get my foot out of the pedal.
I spent months wondering if everyone had the same sort of learning curve or if this really wasn’t for me. I mean, the scabs on my knees and elbows never had a chance to heal and I couldn’t wear stockings for months – tragic!
Then, I went into my friendly LBS and whilst I was getting a couple of bits and pieces, I mentioned to them that I was having problems learning to ride clipped in. They provided me with a product that changed my life… (or at least, saved my knees). Shimano multi-release cleats. These are cleats designed for an SPD pedal (the Shimano MTB pedals), but are designed to release easier than the normal SPD cleats They still hold really well in an up down and around pedal motion, but you can get out at an angle, instead of only perfectly horizontally. These cleats are awesome. I went from having 8-10 pedal related whoopsies in a ride to having none, literally overnight. I don’t think I’ve had a pedal related whoopsie since (I’ll probably have one tonight now).
So if you are looking at getting into riding clipped in and are nervous about it remember them. You do need to buy them separately to the pedals, but I saved that money in Dettol and bandaids alone!
I have different sets of pedals I use these with. On two of my bikes, I have just the bindings, however on my tourer, I have a pedal that has a double sided binding (you can clip in on either side of the pedal), but has a plastic cage around them so you can ride them without cleats. This is really good for a short jaunt up to the shops, or if you get a bit scared, and just want to ride with one foot clipped in.
So, if you are thinking about getting into riding in clipless pedals, give it a go!