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i just switched to clipless pedals and i am having a hard time kicking my habits formed by riding flats. i used to climb with flats (riding a rigid single speed, btw) until i could no longer climb, then just hop off and push my bike up the hill. with clipless, i am trying to ride as if i am still on flats, mashing down on the pedals instead of using the full advantage of being clipped in.

so, any suggestions on how i can learn and improve my technique (or lack thereof) and stop riding as if i am on flats? i fell off my bike and tumbled backwards down a hill three times the last time i went riding and i want to save the cuts and bruises for legitimate gnarly crashes. practice riding up a grassy hill?

any other general tips for learning to ride with clipless pedals? i have over 15 years experience riding freestyle BMX so my basical bike-handling skills are there, but riding clipped in makes me feel like i am starting all over again.
 

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Just because you’re not consciously pulling up on the pedals doesn’t mean that you’re not deriving any of the benefits from being clipped in. Clipless pedals do give you an advantage for uphill riding, but I think your expectations might be slightly higher than the actual results.

Personally, I don’t think it’s possible to be clipped in while riding as though you’re on flats. Whether you like it or not, your foot is pulling in ways not possible with flats. It’s just not outwardly noticeable like you were expecting it to be.

I think you have a good strategy of practicing on more gradual slopes, but I would like to suggest avoiding riding on grass and instead sticking to pre-worn trails. Thank you.
 

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Official ***** Idiot
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Give it some time. You're used to being able to move your foot back and forth and side to side, you can't do that with clipless. Play with the cleat position a little bit. Small increments.

If you're falling off the bike, and not coming unclipped just from your natural reaction to jerk your leg up to break your fall, you've got the tension on the pedal too tight, assuming you're using SPD type pedals. Back it off. You should be able to clip out easily with a heel twist, and pop out vertically with a good yank. Clipless is meant to keep your foot stationary on the pedal for power transfer, not lock you to the bike permanently.

You can also try a different style of pedal. I started on Shimanos (525's, I think. Red ones.) and they were OK, but I got ahold of some Time Aliums, and that was it. Just what I needed. Times have more float and a wider platform, but you do have a wider release angle too. Nothing you can't get used to in a ride or two. Or Crank Brothers, one of their platform style setups. Kinda iffy reviews on durability, but coming off platforms, it might make you feel a little more comfortable.

Just some things to poke around at. Pretty much all of us have used all types of retention systems, and found what worked best for us as individuals.
 

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pants on head retarded
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Just keep riding. If you're having trouble unclipping-- check your tension. It may just be that you don't have the muscle memory to flick your heal out to the side to dismount yet, so you could do something as easy as sitting stationary on your bike clipping and unclipping for a bit.

Give it a bit of time, old habits can die hard.
 

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I Have Cookies
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Try when you are on a smooth surface to spin and don't push down rather pull up..... Try it it helps
 

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Official ***** Idiot
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I was going to suggest doing the stationary thing, too. Easier to get the tension and cleat position proper when you don't have to stop and dig a wrench out of your pack. Neighbors might look at you funny after a half hour or so............

The other thing, too, is to make sure the cleat is as straight as possible. If it's kicked inward at the rear (or out at the front) you won't pop out as easily, you'll have to kick your heel out farther. SPD type pedals have anywhere from 4-6 degrees of float, and disengage at around 15 degrees. Used to be you had to specifically order multi-release cleats, now they're standard.

Shoes, too. Full mountain biking shoes with the completely stiff sole need to be tight. Not uncomfortably, toe jamming tight, but you should be able to twist to clip out without your foot moving in the shoe at all. Same with pulling straight up, your foot shouldn't leave the footbed. You may have to try a few brands to see which one has the fit for your foot. For me, Specialized does the trick. All the others I tried were too narrow in the toe box, or too narrow in the heel. Shoes with both laces and velcro seem to work the best. Laces to get the shoe conformed right, velcro straps to lock it all down. When I first switched, I got some Specialized hybrid shoes, basically hiking shoes with a half-stiff sole. More mental than anything else, but it made me feel a bit more comfortable knowing that when I did clip out in a hurry, I had the familiar hiking shoe sole hitting the ground, rather than the skinny plastic racing shoe sole. Those aren't that expensive, I think mine were $50 or so. Lasted a few years.
 

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Have Cake and beat it 2
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I agree with heff. I started with tension to high, just de tentioned them in the store until I could clip out comfortably and in a hurry. only had 1 instance of involuntary de clipping once in 3 yrs. using shimano shoes and spds.
some people have the half half the pedals with the clips so for a run to the corner store they can ride in normal shoes. some like my fiancee has one side with the plastic pedals attached for the same reason.
 

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local trails rider
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Getting out of the pedals takes some learning. Better practice it where falling does not hurt much. The way I see my unclipping, I push the heel away from the bike, towards the ground. Not really thinking about twisting.

With clipless it is a little easier to spin when the going is easy: move your feet in smooth circles with the pedals.

I rarely consciously pull up. But when I do, it is in places where I really need a little extra boost. Even there, it seems to be best to try and keep the movements smooth as long as possible.
 

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Just ride more often. Your technique will improve as you put in more miles. When I'm climbing I always try to pull up. It could also be a muscle development issue as well. If you ride clipped in more often your muscles could develop in way to take advantage of the upstroke, I'm not an exercise physiologist so that's just a guess on my part.

However one thing about clipless pedals is that you're going to fall at some point. So I strongly recommend getting a set of elbow,knee and wrist pads. I've taken a number of spills in urban areas and my padding has the marks to prove, fortunately the worst that I've had to endure is a abrasion or a scrape. Good padding can save you from painful injuries.
 

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You can ride with one leg :) I lost a crank arm once (well it fell off, but the bolt was lost) so I had to ride a few miles with only one leg. That certainly gets your clipless technique working well, except for the other leg pumping aimlessly in the air to keep your balance.
 

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Probably drunk right now
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Don't pedal in squares...

Don't simply pull up on the pedals. When you get to the bottom of the pedal stroke, imagine scraping mud off the bottom of your shoe, timing it so your pedal upstroke starts at the end of the imaginary scrape.

Beyond a training, try and find a set of rollers to borrow. Rollers will force you to pedal properly.
 

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Disgruntled Peccary
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heff® said:
IUsed to be you had to specifically order multi-release cleats, now they're standard.

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That last two SPD pedal sets I've purchased came with single angle (15ª) release cleats. Unless, non-Shimano SPD type cleats are coming with multi-release. That being said, I've never had an issue with single angle cleats coming unclipped. Even going OTB they popped out without even thinking about it. The only exceptions to this are pilot error.. like unclipping one foot and leaning the other way. Either way, I'd loosen em all the way up then tighten them a click, but the real doing's is simply riding. Working on spinning takes time.
 

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Official ***** Idiot
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Ken in KC said:
Don't simply pull up on the pedals. When you get to the bottom of the pedal stroke, imagine scraping mud off the bottom of your shoe, timing it so your pedal upstroke starts at the end of the imaginary scrape.

Beyond a training, try and find a set of rollers to borrow. Rollers will force you to pedal properly.
I bought a set of nice rollers once. Used them until I got tired of faceplanting into my carpet. I know, I'm a klutz.
 

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sxotty said:
You can ride with one leg :) I lost a crank arm once (well it fell off, but the bolt was lost) so I had to ride a few miles with only one leg. That certainly gets your clipless technique working well, except for the other leg pumping aimlessly in the air to keep your balance.
LOL :lol: thats probably the the most unintentionally funny post I've read all month! I almost fell out of my chair picturing it... Riding down a trail doo bee doo bee doo and then WTF I'm missing a crank arm.... haha if I saw a guy with 1 crank arm ghost pedaling down the trail I'd probably wreck from laughter.
 

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local trails rider
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Some time ago, one of the good riders in town decided to give Cyclocross racing a try. He was doing OK until his non-drive-side crank fell off. We couldn't find the bolt so he had to ride home on one crank...
 

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Official ***** Idiot
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dysfunction said:
That last two SPD pedal sets I've purchased came with single angle (15ª) release cleats. Unless, non-Shimano SPD type cleats are coming with multi-release. That being said, I've never had an issue with single angle cleats coming unclipped. Even going OTB they popped out without even thinking about it. The only exceptions to this are pilot error.. like unclipping one foot and leaning the other way. Either way, I'd loosen em all the way up then tighten them a click, but the real doing's is simply riding. Working on spinning takes time.
Yeah, I looked at a few resellers. I was actually looking to see if the "pre worn" Time cleats were still available, just for something to throw out there. All the Shimano SPD's seem to come with multi-release now. Couldn't tell you when that changed, though.
 

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Practice on more gradual hills that are somewhat smooth. Pretend your cranks are 50mm shorter than they really are. Apply pressure in a circular motion like you are turning the crank with your hands.

In the heat of the moment, when you need to just crest a hill or change up your riding position, mashing on the pedals is just fine. But if you want to refine your technique or for those that face "bobbing", the circular motion is more efficient way of pedaling.
 

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I concentrate on pedal stroke being a circle, not a piston pushing down and pulling up. Once into a cadence, you can kind of go without expending as much energy. I also found that with a smooth, circular stroke you can climb better without the spin out you get from mashing the pedals. I still 'mash' however just prior to lunging over and obstacle or lofting the front. I keep the SPDs one or two clicks from wide open and have no problem staying in or getting out (occasional release by carelessly smacking in a rock or root).
 
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