Tracy had tried to warn me, that clipping in and out of my road bike while bracketed in a trainer would not adequately prepare me for doing the same thing outside. You can read her experience of learning to clip in with Sam here. I didn’t listen, I was certain I could effortlessly clip in but when I went for my first longer ride this season outside I simply couldn’t go. I clipped one foot in and my knees locked. I was too afraid to get up into the saddle.
This was in stark contrast to my partner who simply clipped in the first time outside and never looked back. He thinks that being on rollers instead of a trainer helped a lot with that transition.
Samantha, in her no-pressure-let’s-just-hang kind of way, had offered to teach me the drills she used with kids using track bikes for the first time in Australia. I had read Steph Keating’s Clipless in the City so I was pretty sure this would involve some falling.
It was a gorgeous day and I debated whether to bike down to Sam’s and switch out my pedals there or just throw my bike on the rack and drive down. I thought if I was pretty shakey after or injured I might not be able to bike back so went with the car option.
When I got to Sam’s Mallory and Rob were there, more kind, knowledgeable friends. Rob had a slice of lemon cake for me, this is why we are friends, I’m basically like a stray cat, feed me and I’ll love you forever!
We walked to a nearby parking lot and playground area and Sam demo’d one foot clipped in and coasting, spinning one foot clipped in and your free leg dangling then placing the free foot on the pedal without clipping in. This is the first series of drills to try and I really found it helpful. I was having a deep animal brain “my foot is in a trap!” response so just clipping one foot in and imparting a bit of momentum really helped get used to the sensation of motion for me.
So we alternated me trying each side and Sam demonstrating different drills. I fell once on each side but it didn’t hurt. Mallory assured me that they had bandaids at the house, turns out my calf was bleeding a bit from the sprocket. Oh I’m so butch. Mallory also learned to use clipless pedals but basically got on her bike and went to camp!
I think the whole session didn’t take very long but because it required a high degree of focus I was wiped out. I did have some bruising on both hips but I’m a fairly squishy person so nothing got sprained, strained or broke. Falling is not that bad on these drills as it is more a sad crumple to the side than the truly scary and dangerous flying over the handlebars at speed.
So I’m still at the coast, pedal, place the second foot on the pedal stage. Sam assures me no one ever has gotten stuck at that phase. i have a nice parking lot near my house so I’m heading out this morning for more practice, next step is getting both feet clipped in then clipping out my dominant side at the top of each rotation.
Before I had my lesson I couldn’t wrap my head around what my body needed to do. Part of that is my thick, short legs and the hoisting up onto the saddle, there’s a lot of flesh and bike to coordinate. Sam and I commiserated on the need to think about that as long, lean legged humans seem to not grapple with this.
Certainly part of this is my bike is fitted for a touring posture as opposed to a more upright, say, communting posture. I’m certainly glad I’m not in an agressive racing posture or on a track bike where the seat seems way up.
So, my advice, if you are considering trying clipless pedals:
-get an experienced tutor friend
-accept you will at some point fall and that likely won’t leave you with an agregious injury
-learning new things as an adult feels weird but that weird is ok