There are a few different types of pedal systems available, broadly speaking these are:
- Flat pedals – like the ones you had on your first bike, as the name suggests these are simple flat pedals that your foot sits on in regular shoes.
- Clips – a flat pedal attachment that curves up over the toes and helps maintain foot position on the pedal, also used with regular shoes, provides better transfer of power through the pedal rotation.
- Clipless pedal systems - despite the confusing name, these systems are a combination of a shoe with a cleat and and an attachment on the pedal that you ‘clip’ into. They anchor your foot to the pedal, and allow for the most efficient transfer of power through the entire pedal rotation.
After a short and bruising practice session years ago, I made the transition to clipless pedals and have not looked back since. I’ve found that they allow you to pull the pedals up as well as pushing down through the rotation and give a much improved transfer of power, which reduces energy expenditure over the entire ride. They also keep your feet firmly attached to the pedal, so in rough conditions you don’t lose your footing or slip off the pedal.
Tips for using clipless pedals
- Practice! You need to develop ‘muscle memory’ so that the motion for unclipping (usually a lateral movement of the foot) becomes second nature, and you automatically unclip at the same time as activating the brakes.
- Get a friend to hold your handlebars, or use a wall/post/couch/whatever to balance, and practice the release of each foot from the pedals 50 or more times. Once you have that motion under control, practice braking and unclipping simultaneously on a grassy surface – you will likely fall so the softer the surface the better – until you are confident you can automatically combine the release and braking motions.
- Normally, you would only release one foot from the pedals and use that leg to support you and the bike when you stop at an intersection/traffic lights etc. Work out which side works best for you, and practice pulling up to a complete stop and placing this foot on the ground to balance.
- Enjoy the extra speed and efficiency of clipless pedals as you adventure into the great unknown on your epic bike tour!
For my tour, I chose a combination pedal that had a flat surface on one side for when I needed to ride the bike in regular shoes (like popping down to the local store for supplies on rest days), and a clipless system for touring days.
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