A Commuter Rides a Century: Why You Should Clip In on a Bike

It Makes You More Secure

By secure, I wouldn’t equate clipless pedals to airbags or seat belts, but rather an improvement in handling that could ward off potential wrecks.

Once I was able to successfully clip in and out at a busy intersection, relieving my built-up anxiety, I immediately noticed how much more in command of the bike I was.

I cycle with a buddy who is leagues above me on the cycling spectrum. Yet, this godsend of a friend paces me through my weekend struggles. I try to keep to his wheel as much as I can, and he frequently glances back to make sure I’m not 30 feet behind him on a steep incline.

When stuck to his wheel, he’ll point out cracks, potholes and other road hazards—a form of etiquette that should allow me to avoid these dangers. But, it seems wherever he pointed, that’s where I went. Due to my sloth-like reflexes, tunnel vision and inability to spot danger, my wheels routinely struck over a dozen potholes, bumps and cracks the width of a small creek on a 50-mile ride.

But after clipping in, I was finally able to avoid these hazards and give my bike’s fork and frame some much-needed time on a smooth surface.

However, avoiding every crack and pothole on a long ride is impossible. You WILL hit something. And, when you do, you better hope you’re clipped in.

Hitting a bump with my feet detached from my bike was a truly jarring experience. My feet would flail, my saddle would do irreparable damage to anything below my beltline, and it felt as though my spinal cord would puncture my brain.

Clipping in, obviously, ensures your feet stay firmly attached to your pedals, which greatly improves your chances of having a less rattling experience the next time you roll over a two-inch-deep pothole.

If you’re uneasy about attaching your feet to a skinny-wheeled machine that can keep up with cars in a school zone, don’t be. Once you get the motion down and crush your first 50-mile ride with your new setup, you’ll wonder how you managed with tennis shoes and platform pedals.

But, before you clip in and take to the busy streets, here are a few tips to consider:

Practice Before Putting it Into Action: Either get a friend to hold the handlebars of your bike or find a tree you can lean against while you practice the motion of clipping in and out of your pedals.

Loosen the Tension: Yes, you can adjust the tension of your clipless pedals. Make sure you’ve loosened this tension before your first go around. This will make clipping in and out far easier.

Ease the Transition with Cage Pedals: If it worked for Eddy Merckx, why not you? While cage pedals are definitely not a substitute for going clipless, they at least give you some training on moving your foot in and out of a contraption when you stop and go.

With my century ride only a couple weeks away, I’m finally feeling more confident I can muster the grit and stamina to squeeze every ounce of strength from my skinny legs to complete 100 miles.

Let’s just hope I don’t fall over at a rest stop.

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