The more you get into cycling, the more you’ll want to invest in equipment to improve your rides. A common upgrade is using clipless road cycling pedals with cleats. Many beginners are often intimidated by the thought of locking their feet into the pedals of a bike, but riding with cleats has numerous advantages. Once you get used to riding in cleats with clipless pedals, they can help you to increase your speed as well as help with pedalling more efficiently. Below is a helpful guide for beginners getting started riding in cleats:
Getting Set Up
The first step is getting your cleats set up for riding. When looking for the right pedal for you and your bike, you’ll likely find a plethora on the market to select from. There really is no need to worry that you’ll choose the right one or not because they all have essentially the same action for clipping in and out. There may be slight differences between each one, but almost all clipless pedals will have you place the cleat on the pedal with your foot, press down to engage, and rotate the foot away from the bike to release.
The main difference between pedals will be in the cleats. Some cleats will be slightly bigger than others to fit a platform of a larger pedal. Other cleats can appear to be a rounded off isosceles triangle or a rectangle that comes to a point. Cleats will come in different shapes and sizes, but you’ll want to pay attention to its ‘float’, which describes how much the cleat can move around in the pedal. Each cleat will offer different levels of movement and you can determine which is more comfortable for you. More float means you may be more comfortable, it may be easier to get in and out of. Zero float means that you and the pedal are one – there is less wastage of power, this is a preference for those who race bikes and want more certainty when they put the power down.
Three Bolt Vs. Two Bolt Systems
When considering going clipless for your ride, cyclists will need to choose between the two main systems of three-bolt systems and two-bolt systems. Two-bolt clip-ins are best for off-road cycling, commuting, and touring. It’s also easier to clip in using the two bolt system because of the mechanisms on the pedal that appear on each side.
The three-bolt system is best for road cycling because it offers cyclists a larger and more stable pedal platform. With this system, a plastic cleat is fixed to the rider’s shoe with three bolts that attach to the pedal on only one side. The three-bolt system also offers a larger contact between the cleat and pedal which gives you a more powerful transfer from the shoe and can increase riding performance.
Fitting the Cleats
It’s important that your cleats fit properly. The proper fit, adjustment, and installation will keep the rider comfortable and safe from injury. Incorrect installation can lead to knee and back pain. To fit and install your cleats correctly, first put your shoes on then mark the front and the side of where the shoe sticks out behind your big toe on the inside of your foot with masking tape. Mark the spot behind your little toe on the other side as well.
Then identify the midpoint by taking off the shoes and flipping them over to draw the points showing the position of the back and front of the ball of your foot on the sole. Find the centre of your cleat which will sit directly over the axle of the pedal. You can then add some grease to the holes at the bottom of the shoe to prevent the bolts that hold your cleats in place from seizing. Lastly, for those with heels that point inward or outward, slightly rotate the back of the cleat in the corresponding direction in order to accommodate the difference your feet might require.