Last weekend I treated myself to a new full-carbon bike (wooo!) and I decided to try wearing cleats for the first time. For those of you who are new to cycling, cleats are like clip-in pedals. Your cycling shoes are stuck to the pedals unless you twist them out before stopping.
My new bike – Trek Domane 4.5
The reason I procrastinated so long was simple: fear. Fear of becoming one of the cyclists who, locked into their pedals, totter at traffic lights and fall (slowly). I’ve seen plenty of videos of pro-looking cyclists doing that on YouTube and I did NOT want to become one of them.
I took up road cycling about six months ago. At first there was a lot to think about, like which bike would be suitable for me, what cycling gear will I need, when do I switch gear, etc. But now that I’ve got the basics, I knew I should make the switch to cleats… it is, after all, what differentiates the more experienced cyclists from the novices. Not to mention, I’m literally the ONLY person in my local triathlon club who doesn’t wear cleats – which is just embarrassing.
After picking up my new bike on Saturday I went to Regents Park and practiced clipping in and out. It’s really a lovely area for cycling. The outer circle of Regent’s Park is relatively light on traffic and there are few traffic lights, making it the perfect cycling route.
The physical act of clipping in is not tricky. I’ve mostly clipped in by just putting my foot on the pedal and getting in first time. I do that ALL the time on the turbo trainer. Clipping out is equally straightforward – one twist, and you’re free. But for some reason I’m, really, really, not very good at leaning one way or another when stopping! I kept stopping, clipping out then wobbling over because I couldn’t “lean” in the right way! I fell over twice, and it really hurt (mostly my pride). Here’s a pic of my “war wounds” from the day.
To say I’m terrified of cycling with cleats is an understatement… but I do hope I will get used to cycling with them one day. One thing is clear: using cleats has made me even more conscious than usual of reading the road ahead and looking for traffic lights and hazards that might require a quick clipping-out. And better road awareness seems like a good thing anyway I’d say.
I will let you know how I get on!