How Do You Ride Clipped in With Bike Cleats

April 08, 2022 5 min read

Normally, when we start riding a bike, we begin by using flat pedals. These are the classic pedals that all beginners will use, and they are perfect for this.

This is because the flat surface allows cyclists to not think about anything except simply pushing down onto the pedal, all the way around and keep moving themselves on the bike.

However, when people become very interested in cycling and advance themselves further, they may decide to switch things up and begin to use cleats.

Cleats are useful as they clip into the pedal and remove the sort of floating or unknown position – so you're always a part of the bike's movement. 

This process is not as simple as it sounds though. This guide will show you how you should rise whilst clipped in with these bike cleats and how this may assist you. 

What Exactly Are Cleats? 

Cleats are the part of a clipless pedal that connects to your cycling shoe at the bottom. They are the specific part that clips from your shoe to the pedal itself. It's important that you differentiate this from clipless pedals which simply refer to a pedal that does not have a toe clip.

There are many types of cleats and this is essential to note as it may affect your performance on your bike. There are many pros and cons to using cleats, and we'll examine these first before we move on. 

Pros Of Using Cleats

The connection to your foot and the pedal is always made when you're using cleats and this is advantageous in a number of ways. 

First, because you're always in contact with your pedal, and you're not moving away from it, you should not be affected when using your bike in difficult terrains. 

When you're using normal, flat pedals – if you're traveling on terrains that have awkward hills, bumps and stones, the vibrations and shudders can move your foot out of position, which can make cycling much more difficult. 

This is certainly true more when you're traveling up a hill, as you will need to keep your foot in place to consistently build more momentum to get yourself up the hill. 

This can also impact your handling. Flat pedals can make you think too much of the position of your foot, and you may be moving your hands and arms out of their usual position to try to propel yourself over the more difficult areas. 

Another benefit of using cleats is to maximize, safely, the speed of travel. If your foot is fixed into position, you'll be able to continue to roll the pedals and build up momentum more and more. 

If your foot has to leave this fixed position, you'll struggle to do this, and it may not be safe to try on a flat pedal. Flat pedals, when traveling at a quicker speed, can be difficult to control, and you may end up with your foot way out of position.

This can cause a fall and possibly even a potential injury. It's advisable if you're going to use flat pedals in this way that you do not try to increase your speed too much, or at least, train yourself to do it over time. 

Cons Of Using Cleats

Having your feet in a fixed position might be very helpful for the most part, but it is not without its own downfalls. 

The first thing you have to think about is stability. What a lot of keen cyclists will know is, when they're traveling in difficult terrains, they may need to have their right or left leg available to balance themselves or slow down. 

If your foot is in a fixed position, you cannot do this and therefore will need to have another plan. This will mean having at least one foot unclipped – which will cause further problems when you're trying to cycle. 

When your foot is constantly in this position, you will not be able to move it in the case of an emergency. This might not necessarily be common when traveling on roads, but when out and about in the wilderness or other natural conditions, you may run into some trouble.

An overlooked con of cleats is the price – they can get quite pricey depending on which one you're buying and this can make a difference in deciding to use them or not.

Either way you look at it, these cons are certainly something you'll need to think about before you choose to continue to use cleats. 

How To Use Cleats 

Cleats work with the mechanism springs within the pedal. Once you begin to move your foot down onto the pedal, the cleats will lock into place and therefore – your foot will be locked into place.

Once momentum and movement has begun, you can select how to pedal – you can either keep going forward as normal, or you can even decide to cycle in reverse.

Detaching from the frame is pretty simple too. You move your right foot to the far right, and you move your left foot to the far left. 

Every single cleat needs to be compatible with the rest of the setup. It needs to be used with a compatible cycling shoe and compatible pedal – others will not work correctly in conjunction with one another. 

It's not always easy to get used to using cleats – it's advisable that you learn how to use them over time and don't go too far or advanced when learning how to attach and detach from them. 

When you're positioning your cleats for the first time, the best thing to do is to situate them in the center – this is central both in the vertical and horizontal sense. The correct position is critical to the success of their use. 

Position the axle to the ball of your foot so that it is directly beneath it. Once you're fixed into position, you might need to make some basic adjustments for comfort. 

Move your foot from side to side (but not too far) and move your foot forward or back. Once you're feeling comfortable, you can start to cycle.

Once you begin using cleats, you might notice you're still feeling a bit of a “floaty” feeling. This is actually a good thing to have a bit of this feeling, but you don't want too much of it. Consider a 1/4 ratio in restriction to movement feeling.

Of course though, it's important that you're feeling comfortable – so primarily, the position of your feet will come down to personal preference. 

If you want to be sure that you're using your cleats correctly and safely, speak with a bike specialist who will be able to advise you on whether the positioning of your feet is right or not. Don't worry if you've got it wrong, it's never easy the first time!

Final Thoughts

Using cleats can be a great transition from basic riding to more advanced riding, but it's not always as simple as that. Speak with a specialist if you're having trouble using your cleats and ensure you've got the right equipment.