Clipping in, falling off: Re-learning how to ride a bike
March 9th, 2011
10:36 PM ET

Clipping in, falling off: Re-learning how to ride a bike

Stasia Cirricione is one of six CNN viewers chosen to be a part of the 2011 Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge. She and her fellow athletes each received a new road bike as part of the challenge but learning how to ride that bike, with feet clipped in to the bike's pedals (for greater efficiency), has proven to be a challenge of its own.

To say that I'm afraid of clipless pedals is an understatement. I don't ski or snowboard for the simple fact that I don't like my feet to be attached to something. Going into this challenge, I was most comfortable with the cycling aspect of it, except for riding clipless.

While at our kickoff weekend, we got to practice clipping in and out while on bikes on trainers. It was really nice to be able to practice on a bicycle that wasn't going to fall over. While practicing, we were told that you're not a real cyclist until you've fallen over trying to clip out. Fast-forward a few weeks to March 5.

My bike is here and I'm going to my local bike shop to get fitted. They get me all squared away and my coach says we're going to the parking lot to ride my new bike and practice clipping in and out. I was thinking to myself, "NO! I don't want to scratch my bike on the first day I get it!!!" We went outside and I surprised myself. I did really well clipping in and out the first several times.

Day 3 after the crash

On one of my last parking lot loops, I thought I'd heard a car coming up behind me so I pulled over to the side of the lot and unclipped on the left. I panicked because my right foot was still attached and leaned right instead of left, and there you have it, my first fall on my new bike. I "sacrificed the body and saved the bike" as it's said. I've got a nice scrape and bruise on my knee but my bike is unharmed! Whew, what a relief.

After my first fall, both my knee and bike are OK, but I've got a great story to tell and probably a nice scar to go along with it.

soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. gary woj

    It's funny, I've been riding for years but was never clipped in. I just put new pedals on and am going to start with the clips and my thoughts are the same as yours were.

    March 10, 2011 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Cycling Roberto

    BTW, I've been riding clipless pedals forever, never fell due to them. Whoever told you that "you're not a real cyclist until..." is mistaken. Learn right, and you can avoid your next fall.

    March 10, 2011 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Cycling Roberto

    There is technique involved. Never unclip both feet while still in the saddle. I always try and unclip the left foot first as this is opposite the chain.

    March 10, 2011 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. f'Real?!

    Cycling Roberto, i'm glad you're such an expert, maybe you could teach the rest of us. pfft!

    March 10, 2011 at 09:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wuts Yor Problem

      You disagree? I suppose YOU'RE the expert. Pfft.

      March 10, 2011 at 11:07 | Report abuse |
  5. Dalimey

    That's funny, I usually just twist my foot when I want to put my feet down. It doesn't matter which foot you take out first as the bike doesn't know. As for never unclipping both feet whilst in the saddle, have you never been down a hill to stretch/relax your legs? Oh, and if you do unclip both feet, chances are you will land on one of them when you stop.

    March 10, 2011 at 10:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. RJ

    I only started using clipless pedals a few years ago. I now use them on all my bikes including my mountain bikes. I have yet to fall over from not clipping out. I have fallen over using the old fashioned cages/straps. It's not as easy to remove your feet from those. I find the new style clipless pedals easy to use, and pretty intuitive. Good luck!

    March 10, 2011 at 10:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. szahn34

    You know Cycling Roberto you just jinxed yourself. Don't brag about never having done something because sometime, it might not be today, or tomorrow, but soon you are destined to fall.

    March 10, 2011 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Mike

    Riding on clipless pedals is a definate learning curve! Once you get adjusted to them, you will wonder why you did not use them earlier. If the clips seem to hard to gvet into or out of, I would recommend going to a bike shop and have them help you adjust them so it will be easier to get in and out of. My personel experiance is to clip out one foot only so it is easier to take off again and to stay in the seat when clipping again (standing while clipping in can be bad if you misss the first time and land on the top bar). Good luck on your preparations on the triathlons (I am a big guy and getting ready for a triathlon myself).

    March 10, 2011 at 11:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Max

    I just started using clipless this summer. Have had some close calls, espcially going uphill and the light turns red, oh-oh.
    The bike shop told me to keep the adjustment type. After my first near accident, I loosened them all the way. They ar tight enough to work as they are supposed to but real easy to pop out since I made the adjustment.
    If you unclip the chain side first, twist out, not in. Twist in too far and your heel coul;d get caught in the spokes. You may fall and your wheel will be bent.

    March 10, 2011 at 11:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. ninalovel

    Stasia, you go girl!!! Now you have your first "battle-scar" – I'm sure to get one of my one before long. See you in April!!! 😀

    March 10, 2011 at 11:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. 3yrrider

    I started riding again at the age of 45. Hadn't been on a bike since I was 19. Never used clip-ins, never will. Their just not comfortable to me. What fun it is to live in a town like Seattle with plenty of bike trails and lanes to use. Three years and just under 1000 miles on my Trek 7100.

    March 10, 2011 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Candie

    I did the same thing my first week on clipless. I came upon a deer on the bike path, and I slowed to look at it. I forgot that whole "I'm attached" thing, and down I went! LOL – Best of luck to you and the other participants!

    March 10, 2011 at 12:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Mark

    You don't need to be attached to the pedals, unless you are racing, and maybe not even then. The bicycle mafia will swear I am wrong, but they are just parroting the line of the marketing types who are pushing expensive pedals and shoes. Recreational and fitness riders do not need to be attached to the pedals. Rivendell Bicycles and Velo Orange are two on line sources of good. unattached pedals. I use the Rivendell Grip King. My wife has ones similar to the MKS RMX. We are both very happy with them. Also, most "road" bicycles are uncomfortable, dangerous things. "Roadies" think Grant Peterson at Rivendell is a nut, but his bikes are way more comfortable to ride and safer, both in large part because of sensible tires, but also because of sensible bike geometry and sizing.

    March 10, 2011 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CampyTim

      Road bikes are dengerous and uncomfortable? My road bike is very comfortable, and a bike is only dangerous when being used by an unskilled rider. Clipless pedals aren't for everyone, especially casual riders just out for a litle exercise, and they certainly aren't a requirement. However, they greatly increase cycling efficiency, and also keep the cyclist properly aligned on the pedals, which can reduce knee strain. There's a reason why nearly every serious cyclist uses them, and it isn't marketing hype. Clipless pedals provide a better riding experience.

      March 10, 2011 at 15:07 | Report abuse |
  14. Nikki

    I did this last year before a big ride. I ended up with bruises the size of my hands. And ruptured discs. And an injury to my spinal cord at the T-12/S1 level. I'm okay now, though.

    March 10, 2011 at 12:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Fix in TX

    I LOVE clipless pedals! I would not ride any other way. The clipless pedals give you such an advantage on hills, which is important in a triathlon setting. You get more leverage with every pedal you do, saving you energy in the long run. I always unclipped on the left, just be careful new shoes can be very slippery ~ the cause of my first skinned knee!

    March 10, 2011 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CampyTim

      It's better to always unclip the RIGHT foot. If you do fall over, it will be generally be away from traffic. Falling over when unclipping is usually more embarassing than harmful, but falling over and then getting run over can really ruin your ride!

      March 10, 2011 at 15:16 | Report abuse |
  16. Fix in TX

    @3yrrider ~ Almost 1000 miles in 3 years is good for fitness but not for expertise. Try 1000 ~ 1500 miles a year. I know people who do more miles ~ I am a fair weather rider. @nikki ~ There is no T12-S1 junction it would be T12-L1 (I am an orthopedic- neurosurgery nurse)

    March 10, 2011 at 12:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Nikki

    @FixinTx – I stand corrected. T12/L1.

    March 10, 2011 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. JAy.

    Congrats on your first pedal fall! Seriously, this does happen to most riders. The biggest thing to remember is that your pedals now have moving parts – like your chain, they need to be lubricated. If you are only road riding, then they can be lubed occasionally, such as after washing the bike, and you should be fine. If you ride off-road or in the rain, rinse and re-lubricate the pedals after you get home. And make sure to use a good lubricant. Your local bike shop can make a solid suggestion. Personally, I use a spray tri-lubricant and have no problems!

    March 10, 2011 at 13:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. ceci

    I fell off my bike the first time I used clipless pedals. I was already almost stopped by the time I decided to clip out. Your knee looks beautiful. There doesn't appear to be any serious road rash. Cyclists are bound to wipe out occasionally for one reason or another, including unexpected loose, large gravel. Pay no attention to snarky know-it-alls and keep riding.

    March 10, 2011 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Sharon

    I have been riding clipped in for years. I've had about 2 falls, one when I was standing still – one foot in, one foot out & lost my balance the wrong way (very embarrassing) and the other I tried to make a move a bit to suddenly. Almost everyone falls now & then. I usually unclip the same foot first every time to avoid disasters..

    March 10, 2011 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. brad

    99.9% of people should just ride platform pedals on all types of bicycles. clipless is kind of a scam where they make people need pedals and shoes...

    March 10, 2011 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Denny

    I went exactly three feet the first time I used the clipless before I went down. I was outside the bike shop, with a new bike fitted with the clipless pedals, I clipped in one foot and was preparing to roll out onto the road for a test ride. I then saw a car approaching a decent distance away but because I was unsure of myself with the new pedals I stopped. And forgot my foot was clipped in. And went down in a heap on that side. Bloody knee, no harm to bike. The good news was that a pretty girl who had seen the whole thing came over to see if I was okay. The bad news was that she left when she saw that I was.

    March 10, 2011 at 18:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Jon

    I'm 60 and I've ridden three times in the Livestrong challenge in Philadelphia. I had real problems with clipless and fell a half dozen times the first time. It was pretty embarassing, but the sarcastic comments from veteran riders was even more embarrassing. The last two times I rode using 5-10's with pedal-gripping rubber – I didn't fall, but there is no comparison to the efficiency of clipless going up hill. I'm saving up for a touring bike and hope to do really long rides this summer and I WILL be using clipless. Don't give up Stasia! You're an inspiration!!

    March 10, 2011 at 19:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Ivan

    Does anyone knows what kind of clipless pedal is easier to unclip? I am an occasional rider, and bought Shipmmano SPD-SL. I fell 4 times yesterday, and I am concerned that this will continue to happens. I am looking into SPD Buttlerfly type.

    October 13, 2016 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
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