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Shifting To Clip-in Pedals

By Jacqui Snyder

Shifting to Clipless pedalsRecently a reader enquired about different types of clip-in pedals and how to make the switch from standard pedals to clip-ins. I thought it was a great topic that many people would be interested in.

With clip-in pedals, cycling becomes much more efficient. You can take advantage of many different leg muscles, thereby getting more energy and power.  As a result you can cycle further and faster.

Like many of us, I started with just the flat pedals. These are great to learn to cycle on and give you a sense of security in that you can put your feet on the ground at any time. This is a bit of a fallacy, and once you get used to baskets or clip-ins, you will find it becomes second nature to pull your foot out without another thought. I went first to the basket and then to the clip-in.  The tightness of the baskets can be adjusted, which you can’t really do in clip-ins, so for me it was a great intermediary transition.


The best place to practice is a flat grassy area. Wear a helmet, gloves and protective gear as you will fall. Practice getting your feet in and out of the pedals as you cycle. Once you feel you have a reasonable grasp of it, ride on a bike path and practice some more. Then ride on the road in a low traffic area. At first, release your foot way before you need to. I often cycled for long stretches with only 1 foot clipped in. With time unclipping will become second nature.

When first using new clip-ins, the mechanism is tight, so it will be harder to get your feet out which makes learning it tougher. You may find if you put a little lubricant on the pedal/shoe clip your foot will release more easily, and with time the whole mechanism will loosen. The bike shop may also be able to loosen it slightly, depending on the type of pedals you have. Once you get set up it will be worth it.  The transition takes a bit of patience. 

Once you are used to the pedals, think about the way you rotate on the pedal. Concentrate on various parts of the circle:

1) push your foot forward and down from the top

2) pull your foot backwards (think of scraping something off the bottom of your shoe)

3) from the bottom pull backwards and up

4) think of equal tension all the way around the outside of the rotation

If you’ve purchased a new bike at the same time as switching to pedals, the question is, do you get used to one prior to the other? If you are concerned, then get used to the bicycle by taking it out 4 or 5 times with the pedals you are used to.  When you think you are ready (you are never really ready), then change the pedals.

Regarding types of pedals to purchase, that becomes quite personal. Technology changes constantly. Talk to a couple of good bike shops about it. They will be biased based on the products they carry. I tend to get things at a store that is easy for me to get to for efficiency sake. Also, read some cycling magazines and talk to other cyclists to get their opinions.

Personally, I use what is known as egg-beaters. That’s what they look like.  They are light and you can get into them on 4 sides. If you mountain bike, you run the risk of getting caught in shrubs (though that has yet to happen).

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. 

Jacqui Snyder
ADVENTOURUS Active Vacations
CAN-BIKE Instructor
[email protected]
647-404-9380

Jacqui Snyder is an avid sports-person, trained Chef (George Brown College graduate; trained in Switzerland and England), foodie, people-person and traveler. She is a certified CAN-BIKE instructor and has cycled for as long as she can remember. Jacqui runs ADVENTOURUS Active Vacations, organizing skiing, cycling, and hiking vacations.

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