Mountain Bike Clipless Tips

Why ride clipless Mountain pedals? Clipless pedals I believe are one of the greatest additions to Mountain Biking. Many experts claim about a 5% increase in power transmitted to the bike. I would agree with that. The main advantage for me is I feel way more in control of the bike. I am connected to the bicycle at the hands and the feet until I decide to separate. Unexpected bumps, intentional jumps, washboard trail, and many other situations, my feet do not come off the pedals until I make the decision to Bail. Then my feet are instantly disconnected. Starting up a steep hill it is much easier to get into one pedal and then the other while you are pedaling than it is to get into the second toe clip if you are riding with toe clips.

How do I get into the Clipless Mountain Pedals? Most pedals you use a slightly toe down forward push on the pedal and then you put your weight on that foot and you will get a Click. You are in. Most people start by putting the same foot either right or left in the pedal first all the time. Then they start riding and slip the second one in.

How Do I get Out of Clipless Pedals? To release from clipless pedals you pivot your heels away from the bike. To learn this motion you can lean against a wall and click in, click out, click in, click out ,click in, click out. This can take a little bit of time to get used to. I recommend if you have a bike trainer to use trainer and work out with them for a while. Then before you go out in traffic practice in a park or somewhere with a soft landing place so if you fall you do not end up with road rash. If you do not have a trainer you can just put your bike in the living room and practice clicking in and out while watching TV. Most people get it down in a couple of days. Warning: If you have ridden toe clips for a long time and get used to clipless but try to go back to toe clips you will have to learn how to get out of toe clips all over again. And then relearn clipless.

What happens if I cannot get out? When you stop your bike You will fall. This can be very dangerous on steep trails and city streets.

Learn to use Mountain Bike Clipless Pedals Carefully I have been with several riders when they were learning to ride clipless. Most people learn quickly. I do not recommend going on an epic ride right after installing your new pedals. I have seen some painfully slow falls from riders not knowing how to get out.

Practice, Practice. My recommendation is to put your bike in front of the TV and practice getting in and out, over and over for an evening. If you have a trainer put your bike on it and get a workout while you are learning. Then stick to the easy trail—NO STEEP SIDE HILLS OR DOWN HILLS.

How Tight do I want my Clipless Pedals? Many pedals are adjustable as to the spring tension holding the cleat in the pedal. I believe for learning you should loosen the spring to the easiest setting. Only when you start to come out of the pedal accidentally should you tighten the springs. All of my pedals are set on the softest setting and I have been riding clipless since about 1991.

Who makes Clipless Pedals? There are Several manufacturers of Clipless Mountain pedals. Shimano was the first to build and promote them heavily. Many of the Mountain bike cleats are Shimano pedal compatible. The cleats will work in Shimano pedals. I always try to uses the cleats that came with the pedal I am using. Crank Brothers is another major manufacturer of pedals. The Crank Brothers cleats will only work on Crank Brothers Pedals.

Will I come out of my pedals when I crash? Usually if you have spent a bit of time getting used to Clipless you will react naturally and click out in a crash without even thinking about it.

Types of Mountain Bike Clipless Pedals. There are basically 3 types of clipless Mountain pedals.

Double sided pedals which will grip the cleat on either side.

Half and Half pedals with clipless on one side and what looks like a regular pedal on the other side.

Platform clipless pedals which grip the cleat in the middle of a large pedal.

I believe if you are going to ride clipless you need to at least learn to ride with double sided pedals. The half and half are OK for around town but if you do not get used to getting out of your clipless under stress you are headed for more falls.

Are Mountain Bike Clipless the same as Road Clipless Pedals? No Road pedals are normally one sided, the other side is minimized to increase the lean angle of the bike. This allows you to pedal as far as possible into the corner before your pedal hit’s the road.

Most Road cleats have a different screw mounting system. They do not mount to the same screws as the mountain cleats.

Mountain Bike Shoes have the cleat recessed into the sole so you can walk without walking on the cleat. Road shoes are much less comfortable to walk in and you walk on the cleat.

Unless you are a very serious Road Racer, Mountain bike shoes and pedals will work better than Road bike pedals and shoes. Many riders use one pair of shoes and get matching pedals for their road bike and mountain bike.

Types of Mountain Bike Clipless Shoes. There are two general types of mountain bike Clipless shoes. I classify them as Comfort shoes and Race Shoes.

Comfort shoes are usually designed to look like lightweight hiking shoes or cross training shoes and will have laces to hold your feet.

Race shoes will usually use 2, 3, or4 Velcro closures to hold your feet. All Clipless shoes will have stiff soles which make it uncomfortable to walk or stand all day but are good at converting your leg energy into pedal revolutions.

The Comfort shoes usually have a little bit more flexible sole than the race shoes. Many people want to use their shoes as both biking and hiking shoes. This does not work well. If the shoe performs even reasonably well on the bike, the sole will be way too stiff to work well hiking.

I normally recommend that Most Cyclists should buy Mountain Bike Race shoes. The recreational walking type of bike shoes still aren’t good for walking in. The race shoes tend to be more durable and they give you more support while riding.

Road Shoes VS Mountain Bike Shoes Many companies make the same shoe for both Mountain and Road but they use a built up sole on their Mountain shoe.

Where do I mount the Cleats? Most Mountain shoes have 4 holes in the plate on the bottom of the shoe but most cleats only have 2 screws. This allows you to mount your cleats further forward or further back on the shoe. The plate will usually slide front to back and pivot to allow you to adjust your heel so it feels natural during the pedal stroke. Look at the position of your feet as you pedal on your old pedals and try to replicate that.

Do the cleats come with the Pedals or the Shoes? The Cleats come with the pedals and are pedal specific. Many cleats will work with the Shimano SPD pedals but I like to use the cleats that match the pedals that came with the pedals from the same manufacturer.

A Mountain Biking Primer

The first requirement for a would be mountain biker is to obtain a bicycle. Some mountain bicycles are traditional in that they feature thick rugged tires. These bikes are ideal for off road rough terrain biking. There are also mountain bikes that feature thinner less rugged tires. These bikes are really hybrids between mountain bikes and touring bikes. The advantage these bikes offer is they weigh less than traditional mountain bikes. If you are planning on biking on paved roads or paved bike trails or even on trails with light obstacles such as roots or rocks these bikes (hybrids) may be ideal for you.

For the technical mountain biker who enjoys riding over rocks, tree roots, and other natural hazards the thicker tired mountain bike will offer a safer more satisfying riding experience. As a fledgling mountain biker you should not as a general rule choose the most expensive mountain bike available. As a general rule what you are paying for is either an enhanced ride through the use of front and rear shock absorbers mounted over the front wheel and under the seat of the bicycle or a bike frame constructed of the very latest space age medals and so lighter than traditional mountain bikes. The only times I can see spending extra for an more expensive mountain bike is if you suffer from arthritis, have had a carpal tunnel or other operation such that an enhanced shock absorbing system will benefit you. Also if you enter mountain biking races than a more lightweight mountain biking frame will benefit you.

Right after selecting a mountain bicycle, I suggest you select a bicycle helmet. No one should engage in the sport of mountain biking without a helmet. Many states have passed laws requiring that both children and adults wear helmets when they ride bicycles. The natural hazards inherent in the sport of mountain biking make proper headgear a necessity. Most bike helmets today are made at least in part of hardened Styrofoam with plastic outsides and are very light in weight. Inside the biking helmet there is usually stamped the safety results that independent testing organizations have obtained in testing the helmet. These should be examined carefully.

In addition to needing a mountain bike and a helmet you will need to transport your bike to where you wish to ride. To do this, you will need a bike rack. There are 3 major types of bike racks available. These are roof racks, trunk racks, and bicycle hitches. A roof rack fits tightly on your car’s roof. The bikes are clamped tightly to the rack. A roof rack has the advantage of allowing the trunk of your vehicle to be readily accessible. This can be an important advantage on vacation trips. The two most prevalent manufacturers of roof racks seem to be Thule and Yakima. I have also seen racks with Sears Roebuck and Volvo trademarks attached to cars also. One major disadvantages of a roof rack is that carrying your bikes on top of your vehicle adds height to the vehicle. You need to be very conscious of this when you are using your vehicle with bikes attached on top and about to pass through a tunnel, park your car in a parking facility with a low roof, or even park your car in your own garage. I am ashamed to admit that I have forgotten that my bikes were attached to my roof rack as I entered my own garage on more than one occasion with expensive consequences of my absent mindedness!

Some other possible disadvantages of using roof racks are that lifting your bikes up to fasten them to the roof rack puts extra strain on your back and may cause back injuries. Another disadvantage of roof racks, is especially with today’s sport utility vehicles, you may need to carry a step stool in your vehicle when you are cycling in order to lift the bikes high enough to fasten them to your vehicle. A trunk rack as the name implies, has clamps which fasten tightly to the trunk of your car. Trunk racks are clamped to the trunk of your car before you begin your biking trip and are removed after its completion.

Trunk racks may be ideal when you are carrying bicycles for young children that are not heavy or large. As the size and weight of the bikes increases. the added size and weight may bend or dent your trunk and impede accessibility to it with a trunk rack. A hitch rack is attached to the rear of your vehicle on a more or less permanent basis. The bikes are fastened using heavy rubber clamps. A hitch rack offers the advantage of not increasing the height of your vehicle or denting your trunk. Hitch racks do increase the length of your vehicle and restrict visibility in back of your vehicle. Furthermore, a hitch rack with bikes attached makes the motion detector on my Ford Explorer useless. With all of that said, I myself use a hitch rack.

Another piece of equipment that is a necessity for mountain biking are water bottle racks. Regardless of the season, it is important to have an ample supply of water with you when you are mountain biking. Water bottle racks come in a few styles and can be easily attached to your bicycle. If you will be cycling for more than a few hours, you should take food with you as well. Food for lunch or snacks can be carried safely in many types of bike bags which can be fastened by means of velcro straps or bungies (single or double width elastic straps). If taking food in a bike bag is likely to be a part of your mountain biking experience, you should ask your bike store to attach a sturdy rack to your bike to which you can attach a thermal bag to carry your food in.

I also suggest carrying a few other things with you when you ride. A universal bike tool to allow you to raise or lower your seat, an extra inner tube for your tires, and a small bike air pump can all come in handy, help you meet your little biking emergencies, and increase your enjoyment of the sport of mountain biking.

Accessories For Your Mountain Bike

There is a massive range of accessories available for mountain bikes and it is possible to spend as much as you did on the bike. But a lot of the accessories are gimmicks and are not needed for typical mountain biking. There are, however, some mountain bike accessories that are essential.

Helmet

This is the most obvious accessory for mountain biking. It is advisable for any cyclist to wear a helmet and it is particularly important if you are going to be mountain biking. It is common to fall off your bike when mountain biking off road and the surface can be unforgiving. A good solid helmet is necessary to protect you head from any impact with the ground, trees or rocks.

Cycle Shorts

Mountain biking on rough bumpy roads is very hard on the body. It is very common for cyclists to have a sore bottom after a hard days mountain biking. A good pair of cycle shorts will help absorb some of the impact.

Gloves

For the same reason as above, gloves are an important part of your mountain bike kit. A lot of people overlook gloves, but they do absorb a significant amount of the shock that travels up through the handlebars. Gloves with gel padding are the best ones to buy for mountain biking.

Other Clothing

If you are going to be out in the countryside for a day, or even half a day, make sure you protect yourself from the weather. A lightweight waterproof jacket is needed in case of rain. An outer layer is a good idea on hot sunny days to protect your skin from the harmful sunrays.

Repair kit

Mountain bikes are prone to breaking down when you least expect it. A basic repair kit is a great mountain bike accessory to own and can be a real lifesaver. This should contain a puncher repair kit, allen key, screw driver (to adjust the front and rear derailleur) and a pump. Other equipment includes a spoke tool, spanners and a bottom bracket tool. Of course, a lubricant is essential!

Cleaning equipment

Mountain biking can be a dirty sport and bikes tend to not like dirt! So the right cleaning equipment is required to keep your mountain bike in good working order. It is possible to buy stray that will degrease your gears. A small brush is often necessary to remove the stubborn dirt.

Bike bottles and cages

Make sure you carry plenty of liquid when mountain biking. You should buy a cage to hold a water bottle. If it will fit, two cages is a good idea so that you can carry extra liquid.

Cycle lights

If you are going to do any cycling at night, you will need lights. There is no point taking the risk, as it is easy for cars to not see you.

Lock

If you are going to leave your mountain bike unattended for any length of time, then you will need a lock. Of course this depends on where you live, but in most places, bikes are stolen on a frequent basis. You can get locks that come with a guarantee against breaking.

Summary

Mountain biking is a fantastic form of exercise and can be enjoyed by most people. With the right mountain bike and accessories, you will have the time of your life.