The clipless diaries, part 4: The elephant in the room

Previously I went over the Shimano RT33L shoes. Now that all the SPD components are in place, how do they perform? Rather – how well do they fit my cycling experience?

I played around with cleat location and fitment, initially trying a midfoot position where my foot’s low arch was. I found it difficult to unclip in that position, so after much trial and error I decided to follow the ball-of-foot-over-pedal-spindle school of thinking, while setting the cleats to allow for my feet’s natural outward splay. Leaning against a wall, I spent a bit of time clipping in and unclipping, which felt really strange at first – even with the T780 pedals’ retention springs set to the lowest tension.

Of course, there’s the elephant in the room. If you invest in clipless pedals, expect to fall off at least once. Remember that I bought the T780 pedals in an attempt to reduce self-injury from my pedals? They’ve been a failure in that regard, but not quite in the way you’d think.

On one of my first long rides with clipless, I was chuffed that I was doing pretty well. I had covered around 70 kilometers without falling, and I was just a few more from home when I had to slow to a crawl around vehicular traffic at an intersection. Still clipped in, I fell in queue and followed a black Toyota Fortuner SUV as it crawled forward, and to my left was a motorcycle rider.

I failed to see the more-sudden-than-expected stop of the Fortuner. I reacted in time to come to a complete stop, but I had forgotten to unclip beforehand. In slow motion, I felt myself falling to the right, “drive” side – not what you want on a bicycle. Frantically I tried to pull my right foot out…which it did, thanks to the multi-release cleats, and I avoided falling. Unfortunately, in trying to perform a last-ditch save, I managed to startle the rider beside me and Hyro’s big chainring managed to find my right calf. The chainring teeth dug into it, making a line of five or six little wounds along its length, one of them bleeding. No falls, yes, but perforated right calf. So much for SPD pedals’ wound and injury reduction…

As they say, though, practice makes perfect, and I am happy to report that such clumsy clipless shenanigans have largely disappeared. It’s just a matter of adding the extra step of unclipping my right foot in advance before stopping, with my left foot still clipped in, in preparation for the traffic lights turning green.

So, have there been any benefits to binding my feet to the bike? That’s a story for next time.

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