Hey Everyone,


To make some humor on Monday morning (and to recover my bruised ego) lets see if anyone has some clipless fail stories they would like to share. 


I bought my first pair this weekend and practiced plenty in the store to the point where I had no problem clipping in and out .  Once I got on the road, my prep did pay off, as I had no issues unclipping at lights without falling over. 


Until I got to Fullerton and Racine. 


As the light turned green and I was getting ready to proceed, I pushed off the ground with my unclipped left foot with a little too much force to the right.  In a somewhat slow motion topple I flopped over.  Didn't help that it was a crowded intersection with plenty of pedestrians, cars around me, and a whole group of people getting ready to get on the bus right behind me. 


Luckily no injuries except for a few scrapes for me and a mark on my handlebar tape (which im sure is normally the case), however the embarrassment was more than enough to ensure I dont make that mistake again, and I haven't.  At least the people around me were familiar with clipless pedals and didn't think it was my first time riding a bike and that I had no balance whatsoever. 


Anyone else with some stories?

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I think it's important to consider that there are three options:

  1. clipless pedals as we have been discussing
  2. toe clips + straps (or toe clips without straps)
  3. plain old platform pedals and street shoes

BITD, I used to ride my road bikes with toe clips and straps.  I will never go back to that setup.  I find it harder to get into and out of than a clipless setup, and thus more dangerous if I happen to fall at speed. In fact, for this reason, I believe track racers will always use clips+straps, as there is less chance of unexpected disconnection.  They are also harder on your knees because they don't allow your shoe to rotate (or "float") w.r.t. the pedal's Z axis.

I do have a couple bikes with plain old platform/block pedals at the moment, a Schwinn three-speed and an older Specialized hybrid with an attached Xtracycle Free Radical.  (I have several bikes, approximately four right now, but the number varies between three and six, depending how many I can sneak past my lovely wife :-) ) There are significant performance advantages of #1 and #2.  There is, however, no denying the ease of use of #3.  If that does everything you need, there is no reason to switch. If, on the other hand, you want to do longer rides (say, the occasional century ride, or you want to chase down those Lakefront Lances you encounter and give them a good talking to), the efficiency gains of a clipless pedal system or toe clips + straps will be significant enough that you should bite the bullet.

I was being a bit hyperbolic with my "once-in-every-five-years" comment.  I remember the first time.  I remember the last time.  I don't remember the others.  They tend to fade to non-event status fairly quickly. For the most part, nothing is really bruised when you fall but your ego. If you buy a system at your LBS and take your bike with you, I'm sure they will mount the pedals and attach your shoes and cleats, then put you on a stationary trainer and give you whatever help you need to be comfortable.  I never did that. My first couple pairs were bought used, so I learned by trial-and-error.  In fact, it wasn't until a couple years ago riding with my sister-in-law (who was new to clipless pedals at the time) that it dawned on me that you didn't have to wait until you were nearly at a complete stop to unclip.  She would unclip well in advance of a stop. I still unclip at pretty much the last possible moment, and risk the occasional Rowan and Martin tricycle moment. :-) 

I discount the toe clips without straps possibility.  It might make it easier to get an asymmetrical pedal oriented for proper entry (the weight of the toe clip consistently rotates the pedal to the same position when unloaded), but I don't think it gives you much gain in efficiency.

Sarah D. 1-3.3 said:

This is not making want to go clipless...

Why do you wait until the last moment to unclip?  

Now that I have one bike with which clipless would be useful, I have started thinking about it.  I am, however, a big fat chicken when it comes to falling and would probably sacrifice efficiency to avoid it.
Skip Montanaro 12mi said:

. . . . . .She would unclip well in advance of a stop. I still unclip at pretty much the last possible moment, and risk the occasional Rowan and Martin tricycle moment. :-) 


Just force of habit.  If I had learned correctly when I first started...

Lisa Curcio 6.5 mi said:

Why do you wait until the last moment to unclip?  

I had two such fails. Once I was coming to a stop at a red on Halsted, and therewas a very pretty girl riding across, I hesitated just long enough to forget to unclip, and down I went. She slowed down and asked if I was ok, but it was only my pride that got bruised. The other time, it was during Midnight Marauders, same thing, didn't unclip in time and fell in front of fifty other people. Some laughed, others just chalked it up to typical MM.

I had a black and blue mark so bad on my thigh for the first summer.... 

This is not encouraging . . . .  :-)
Julie Hochstadter said:

I had a black and blue mark so bad on my thigh for the first summer.... 

Always slow motion!!! and nothing you can do about it!

Wish I could find one of him on a bike... that pause at the top (blink, blink) when you know you are falling and there is nothing you can do about it - and then you are on the ground.

I started riding clipless last year and fell at Archer and Clark. I could not unclip because the pedal was too tight. The whole time I remember thinking that cars are coming and I better fall to my right.

Maybe .... but I love being clipped in. If only I has cuter shoes but they dont have cool SPD's in a size 33.

Lisa Curcio 6.5 mi said:

This is not encouraging . . . .  :-)
Julie Hochstadter said:

I had a black and blue mark so bad on my thigh for the first summer.... 

Speak of the devil, I almost had one tonite. Caught the first couple of lights after turning off the path and by the time I caught a red I had forgotten I hadn't unclipped my right foot before I went to set it down. Oops! Barely managed to get it out in time. Happens to everyone, or at least that's what I told myself.

ETA: I'm a big fan of specialized's touring shoes. They're very sporty, quite firm, but they have enough sole surrounding the cleat that walking in them is very easy. Not quite as great as my old Nike acg road shoes but I'd swear those were specifically made for me.

Then don't ride clipless. I rode them 25 years and am so glad I'm done with them. In retrospect the big reasons to use clipless were sales pressure, peer pressure, conformism. And I never fell because of the pedals. Not once. 48 years on clips and straps has never made me fall either. If I had been falling I would have dumped those suckers quick. Falling on hard pavement on streets full of cars and trucks is not my idea of fun. Sounds like Russian roulette.

With a standard pedal you can apply leverage and body english over the whole perimeter of the pedal. Even with clipless pedals that have some sort of platform the main connection is through a tiny cleat.  The price you pay for the fashionable pedal is reduced control over the bike.

Most of the benefit of pedal systems is in the purpose-built shoes. Get the shoes. You can use many of them on most any pedal. (Forget the ones with slick hard plastic soles and screw holes.) If you have small feet there are luscious handmade Italian leather shoes from decades past in permanent overstock. Anything size 40 or under is always abundant on ebay. Haven't checked his shelf for a few months but Cycle Smithy had a large pile of 1970s Detto Pietros and my sweetie got hers for what amounted to couple cups of coffee. A lot of stores have tiny shoes somewhere in the back.

There are a bunch of ways to connect to a pedal besides the heavily promoted ones. Half-clips are nice. You can use an Eddy Merckx style slotted cleat without clips or straps. Pedal patches were still common when I was a young cyclist and have mostly been forgotten but they work as well or better than cleats. Just a square of leather nailed and glued to the bottom of the soles shaped to fit between the front and rear plate of the pedal. One-eighth of an inch thick is effective and couldn't frighten anyone. One-quarter thick is enough to race track.
Lisa Curcio 6.5 mi:

This is not encouraging . . . .  :-)
Julie Hochstadter said:

I had a black and blue mark so bad on my thigh for the first summer.... 

Thanks for the clear explanations Bruce, Skip and S - it seems very cool to clip away without clips - except for the occasional fall, that is.  However, I hate to ask why one would want a clipless pedal/shoe.  I can definitely see the advantages of efficiency when racing, where speed is of essence, but for someone like me who simply uses the bike for transportation - and relatively slow transportation at that, hence my name - 35 minutes slow from Irving and LSD to Dearborn and Washington each morning - why would I need this system?  If I don't want to go faster, and if I don't want to work harder than I already do, and if I don't mind the lack of optimal efficiency in biking, I am feeling like "if it ain't broke, why fix it?"

(small association: 30 years ago when I was 22 or so I wanted to make the Olympics as a 50K Walker - I had been running marathons and 20 milers before as a runner through my teens.  As it so happened, because of my commitment to academics in college over athletics, I made the top 12 but not the top 3 in the Olympic Trials, so the Olympics were never in my grasp.  However, I learned that running is what the body does naturally by changing form to maintain efficiency when the ordinary person wants to go faster than a walk - that was the challenge of walking, to go at great speeds while keeping to a walk and not a run, but we only could do that by using every muscle in our body - I think racewalking works out every muscle, more than I did as a top high school and college runner, as I also believe does cross-country skiing - I guess one could say athletic walkers choose the challenge of non-efficiency through their artificial movements, like gymnasts on the track or road.  Apologies for my association.  Sorry for writing so much.  I promised in another thread to keep to brief entries - I failed here).


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