Are you ready to go faster and make climbing hills easier? Then you're ready for clipless pedals.
Everyone is intimidated the first time they use clipless pedals, but once you learn how to use them you will appreciate how they pedal smoother and more efficiently. This is all because you won't just be limited to only pedaling on the downstroke. You can actually pull up on the pedals, too. This makes climbing hills easier and even makes you faster on the flats.
Your local bicycle dealer or select retailer should be more than happy to help you select the right shoes and pedals for your bike and get the cleat (the metal part that actually clips into the pedal) mounted to your shoes.
From there, clipping in to the pedal is as easy as stepping down on the pedal and shifting your foot around slightly until you hear a 'click'. With a little practice, clipping in will become instinct, but you can practice by bracing yourself up by the mailbox, your car or a picnic pavilion and clicking in and out with each foot. Once you can clip in and out 10 times on each leg without looking, you'll be ready to go.
One thing to remember is that you're not actually locked in. Releasing from your pedals at any time is as easy as rotating your heel out. A slight 15° twist is all that's required to 'escape' from the pedals. Plus, you can adjust the release mechanism on most pedals to adjust the tension. As a first-time user, you may want to adjust the release tension down to the lowest setting to make 'unclipping' easier. As you get more confident in your riding. you'll probably increase the release tension to prevent accidentally clipping out.
Just a hint:
Most companies make 2-sided pedals that make it easier to clip in; you'll never find yourself on the wrong side of the pedal. If you're worried about getting out of the pedals as you come to a stop, unclip one foot well before you get to the stop. The more speed you have, the more stable the bike is and the less chance there is of losing your balance.
If you're having trouble clipping in, don't get frustrated. Simply take a few pedal strokes without being clipped in to build up some speed, lift your foot up and off the pedal and set it back down and try again.
Falling over in your pedals is a rite of passage. It happens to most of us at least once — usually when we forget to remove our foot from the pedal when stopping or decide to climb up a grassy hill on our road bike and lose momentum (true story). And while it's embarrassing, the only real injury is usually a little bump to the pride and a story to tell. Most people fall once or twice at a very slow speed and never again.
Whether you're ready to advance your biking to criterium racing or simply looking for a new social distancing activity to try, this guide and a little practice will get you there. Best of luck, you got this!