To clip, or not to clip…

Tikit with clipless peddles

I ‘ve been debating some time about clipless vs. platform peddles. I’ve always used platforms, and have just resisted the whole idea of being “locked in.” However, after jumping into randonneuring last September, I noticed that nearly everyone who was into long-distance cycling was using them in one fashion or another.

I do fine on most of my brevets, not remotely fast, but I keep going steadily along. However, I do seem to lag on the hills. Part of this is probably training, but I am gathering that I am missing a significant advantage by not being able to pull up when locked into clipless peddles. Plus, I hear of other advantages too, such as not having to spend energy keeping feet on the peddles, being secure over bumps, not having feet slip off peddles in the rain, etc.

I asked the San Francisco Randonneurs Google Group for their recommendations and advice regarding the whole subject.  The SF Randos are a great group of people, so I was not surprised by huge outpouring of emails. One member, Gintautas, offered to loan me his Shimano SHM021 shoes and SPD 520 clipless peddles.

Gintautas’s Shimano shoes.

I met him at the Montgomery Bart station next to my office, and then went to Huckleberry Bikes to get them installed on my Bike Friday Tikit on the way home. Zach, who did my bike fit a few weeks back had urged me then to at least consider them.  My thought was I would try them on my commuter bike for a couple of days, then put them on my Salsa Casseroll for a longer test on the weekend.

While there, Keven, ace mechanic and service manager,  was kind enough to give me a lesson. It seemed pretty easy, but he did caution me to unclip whenever I came to a stop or light. He said it would eventually become second nature, but be careful and remember to do it, otherwise I might flop over.

Well, it actually came to me pretty easy. I rode through commuter traffic in downtown San Francisco, clipping and un-clipping at lights and stops on the way home. I had no problems at all and felt very smug as I pulled into the Caltrain station and prepared to go to the train to head home.

I pulled in and saw the concession stand and thought to myself, “You deserve a beer! (legal on Caltrain) You did a great job! You are clearly far superior to the rest of the un-coordinated types, who all struggled took a long time to get used to these pedals! Yes, you are awesome! You got it right away!”

So I get close to the beer stand, un-clip my right foot,  lean to  the left to reach for my wallet and…. slowly… topple over,  as my left foot was still clipped in, and I couldn’t remember how to get it loose. I remember thinking, “Oh, f*ck….” , frantically pulling at my left leg, as I fell to the ground in slow motion.

Amazingly accurate photo recreation of my fall.

I hit the ground, felt like an idiot, and hoped nobody saw me, when a couple of very nice people came over and asked me if I was ok. I said, “Thank you! I’m fine! Just a little user error!” One, a kindly senior citizen had a perplexed look on her face, clearly not understanding why I would fall over from a dead stop.

So, I got my beer, now not a self-congratulatory beer, but a consolation beer and headed home on the train.

“Back in Black,” a black IPA from local brew-pub 21st amendment, in hand. Delicious!

Consensus on the peddles?

So far, I like them! I absolutely can feel a  difference when I climb
as well as just trying to crank hard into a headwind. It is a
conscious effort to pull up, when I do I can feel the effect. It
is undeniable, so I don’t understand the view by a minority that it
makes no difference. No question in my mind that they do.

I’m not sure at this point if I want my Tikit to have them all the
time. I use my folding bike for quick trips to the store, and am not
sure that I want to change shoes every time I go for a quick jaunt to the store. But then I worry that I won’t be “used” to them for weekend rides if I don’t use them during the week. Something to consider…

I’ll keep using them for a while for sure. I really haven’t put in nearly enough miles for a full evaluation, but so far, so good!

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  1. Diane

     /  June 15, 2012

    i heard that it’s recommended to learn clipping/unclipping one foot at a time, so that you get used to it at stops. but isn’t falling (that hilarious slow fall!) a sort of baptism? everyone goes through it at some point.

  2. That’s what I’ve been told. I had foolishly thought I had escapted that fate! But yeah, the idea is to do it 50 or so times for each foot until the muscle memory kicks in.

    It’s only been a week, but now I can do it without looking down fairly smoothly, but I suspect another slow-motion fall is in my future anyway…

  3. Ty, it sounds like you need PD-A530 pedals. They’ve got a clipless interface on one side and a platform pedal on the other – perfect for your Bike Friday. The boys at Huckleberry ought to be able to hook you up with a pair.

  4. I agree with the previous comment, the double-sided pedals are fantastic for multi-purpose bikes. It’s also helpful when buying new clip-in pedals to lessen the tension required to pull out of them a bit using an allen wrench.

  5. Check out the Mallet pedals by Crank Brothers. It completely solved my platform/cleat existential dilemma.

  6. I returned to SPDs after using Speedplay for some years. Coincidentally, I wrote about my new shoes just yesterday.

    As I say there, I have ridden with some kind of clip or clipless system for most of my cycling life (over 45 years) and can’t imagine riding any distance without.

    One caution with SPD pedals that I can give from experience: make sure to keep springs lubricated as they can rust and make clipping out nearly impossible. Some years ago, on a 2-month tour, I swooped into a tourist pullout on a river in northern British Columbia, only to topple over in front of a tour bus full of seniors!

    • @diane – Yes, I got my baptism all right! 😉

      @randoray – Thanks! I appreciate the tip. I’ll make sure to keep them lubricated.

      @mainearl – I’ll take a look at those. I’ve heard good things about Crank Brothers, as well as the Speedplay “Frog” peddles as well.

      @markasaurus & @Tae – I’ve thought of that too, but I like being able to put my foot down without looking to clip. I’ve only had them a week and it has already become second nature.

  7. Gary Wesley

     /  June 16, 2012

    Please continue with a progress report. I am a platformist rando, former strapper, so am lectured to frequently.
    Also for my straight handlebars and cotton shorts/shirts…

    • Hah! Will do!

      Planning on a 70 mile ride tomorrow. Leaving from my house in San Mateo, Ca., heading up to Canada road via Crystal Springs road/Polhemus road, down Canada road to Old La Honda, up Old La Honda to Skyline, down 84 to San Gregorio (Half Moon Bay), then up Tunitas Creek road (tough climb) to Skyline, down Kings Mountain Road to Canada road, then back home. About 7500 feet in climbing the last time I did it, which was with my Ergon platform peddles. Interested to see if it makes a difference.

      The other difference is it is supposed to be pretty hot tomorrow. Good thing my Casseroll has three bottle cages!


    • After riding with them a few months, I am probably going to switch back to platform peddles. I’ve come to feel the advantage on the upstroke is minimal, and it takes a conscious effort to take advantage of it. I also noticed when I rode my last 200K in early July, that my feet really got uncomfortable from being stuck in position for so long.

      I liked being able to move my foot around to ease soreness with my Ergon pedals. It made a big difference on my other long rides previously.

  8. Are you still using the platform pedals one year later, or have you gone back to clipless?

    • Still on platforms. Just realized clipless is not for me. Read articles pro and con. Gave them a shot for a few months, and definitley prefer platforms.


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