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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
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    2

    Help breaking bad habits- I'm a mess

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    I started riding a road bike in 2013, and prior to that I had ridden literally around 20 miles accumulative my entire life. When I started riding, I rode with dudes who meant well but assumed I knew what I was doing, so I developed some bad habits.

    Now I've ridden over 3000 miles and have decided to switch from combo spd/platform pedals to spd sl pedals and I freak out. I think I have too many bad habits and don't know which one is most important to break first. (The ones listed below are the big ones for which I get made fun of the most)

    A) unclipping both feet at the same time when slowing to stop (normally I'd kick the pedals to the platform side and pedal to the intersection/traffic light)

    B) not having a "dominant leg" that I choose when stopping and starting

    C) not coming off the seat when stopping, and not standing over top bar while stopped, I've learned to stabilize myself on my tip toes, which is not very stable at all

    D) not starting over top bar and hopping up on my saddle once I get going (a cheap pair of bike shorts ruined this for me in the beginning when the giant chamois got stuck on the saddle and I fell over)

    E) irrational fear of falling over- like, literally terrified

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    4,556
    Welcome! I would hardly say you're a mess! Why are the new pedals stressing you out? Are they harder to clip out of? Or is it just that they're one sided?

    A) Maybe you don't need to unclip both feet at the same time, every time - but you should be comfortable unclipping either. I have a hunch that you're doing this because you're not 100% confident that you can make the bike lean to one side or the other. Perhaps practice (with both feet unclipped) so that you can reliably go one way or the other. Maybe in a grassy area? That would also allow you to leave one foot in since they may be a bit harder to get started with if both feet are unclipped.

    B) See A. Most people *do* have a dominant leg - but that doesn't mean it's a good thing. Being able to start/stop with either foot is a great skill to have - particularly when you realize the road isn't sloping the direction you need....

    C) I don't usually come off the saddle either. I know it's not good form, but it's what works for me. I do tend to lean to one side, though - instead of trying to balance on tip toes. Perhaps try the drills in A and put just one foot down?

    D) I often commute in regular clothes and don't usually feel comfortable with this either most of the time. I work on it, but it's not a natural motion for me. FWIW my DH rides with the faster guys and he doesn't do this either. No one has said anything to him.

    E) This one is harder. I think bike handling classes like those offered by LAB might help you. They work with you on handling tight turns, what to do in different traffic situations, etc. I wonder if the handling would improve your confidence? I expect most of us have fallen over at one time or another. It's usually not that bad.

    Good luck, and give yourself some credit! Sounds like you are off to a great start!
    Most days in life don't stand out, But life's about those days that will...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
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    13,102
    OK, while I am not the most coordinated person in the world, I will try and comment. First, you don't necessarily have to have a dominant leg to clip in/out of. Just pick one and practice with that one. A lot of people think you should be comfortable/able to clip in and out from both sides, even if one is preferable. I am left leg dominant, but I started out as right. I switched somewhere along the way. You could go to a bike shop, have them set you up on a trainer, and see what happen when you are pedaling on the trainer, i.e. which leg do you favor when unclipping, when there is no traffic to worry about.
    Are the pedals you are using easy enough for you to get out of? If it feels difficult or awkward, that increases the fear. Are the pedals one or two sided? Personally, I went from platforms, to spds (mountain style), to Speedplay Xs. I will give a big shout out to Speedplay products. So easy to get in/out of, double sided. The newer version is called Speedplay Light Action.

    You need to practice in a safe place, like a parking lot on a Sunday morning. You can lower your saddle to start, to get used to the feeling, or try it where it is. Which brings me to ask, have you had a real bike fitting? You need to make sure your bike is actually set up correctly.

    We've all had the bike shorts thing happen. Some shorts don't work with some saddles/geometry. It's purely a trial and error thing.
    Stand over your bike, by approaching from the left side, swing your right leg over the top tube. You should be standing almost on your tiptoes, on both feet. Get a feel for this position. Clip in on the side you want to start pedaling on. Experiment with leaning the bike toward the clipped in side, with your other foot still on the ground. With the clipped in foot at the 3 o'clock position, push down with the clipped in foot and at the same time, push yourself up onto the saddle. You can just rest your unlippped foot on top of the pedal and don't get freaked out about clipping in right away. It might take a pedal stroke or two, or three! Practice riding around around for a bit and then you will reverse the process.
    Unclip the foot you want to put down first, which should be the same one you clipped in with, in anticipation of a stop. It doesn't have to be way in advance when you are practicing, you decide. When you feel comfortable, slow down gradually, rest your foot on the pedal, and then slowly, lean a bit on the side you are unclipped on and brake and put the foot down. You should start out doing this at slower speeds, and eventually it will become automatic. You need to have enough practice for it to become muscle memory.
    I learned this when my son took me out at 6 AM on a Sunday. I rode around for about 3 weeks, with one foot clipped in and the other not, in safe neighborhoods. Finally, I said, this is stupid! And, I never looked back. Sure, I've had a few slow speed falls, as everyone has.
    It's important that you make sure your bike is correctly set up; my custom bike has a different geometry than my other bike, and frankly, it is more difficult to start on than my Trek Silque. No problem stopping, but the geometry requires me to to remember to really lift my body onto the saddle, where on my Silque, it is perfect.
    So bike fit, pedals, shorts, and practice.
    2015 Trek Silque SSL
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
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    6,981
    I could never do c). I need to get off my saddle at a stop. I do a lot of city riding with loads ( clothing, groceries). Safety is no. 1 for me, because I am dependent on cycling, etc. And don't drive. It makes no sense to me, when cycling even with just 10 lbs. or more.

    Best of luck in clipless success. I haven't gone that way.. I've been cycling for past 25 yrs. I know a few guys who are experienced cyclists, meaning their whole lifestyle is cycling without being clipless
    My Personal blog on cycling & other favourite passions.
    遙知馬力日久見人心 Over a long distance, you learn about the strength of your horse; over a long period of time, you get to know what’s in a person’s heart.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    northern Virginia
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    I don't think it's a bad habit to not have a dominant leg for clipping out/putting down on the ground when stopping. Having a dominant leg is not an intentional thing, it's just the way you move instinctively, like being right-handed or left-handed.

    For D, I suggest what Crankin is saying except that I start with the clipped-in foot higher up, at 2:00 rather than 3:00. That gives you a bit more momentum as you sit on the saddle and clip in the other foot. The important thing is to be seated right away because you're more stable that way and less likely to have problems if you don't get the second foot clipped in the first try.

    I also agree on practicing in a parking lot, or on an unpaved field. What you want is to develop muscle memory so you can clip in and out without having to think about it.

    I don't know what to recommend for the irrational fear of falling over. Though I think it might not be as overwhelming as you think -- you're staying on the saddle and balancing on your tiptoes when stopped even though you admit it's not stable. I think you're more likely to fall over than you'd be if you unclipped one foot, got off the saddle, put that foot solidly and the ground and stood over the top tube.

    As for the people who are making fun of you, who cares what they think? You've managed to rack up a few thousand miles so far, no thanks to them. Just enjoy the ride, that's what matters.

    - Gray Trek Madone 4.7 road bike, mystery crack in top tube repaired by Calfee, Bontrager Affinity RXL saddle
    - Red Trek 6000 mountain bike, Bontrager Evoke WSD saddle

    Gone but not forgotten:
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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
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    Traveling Nomad
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    6,636
    Quote Originally Posted by ny biker View Post
    As for the people who are making fun of you, who cares what they think? You've managed to rack up a few thousand miles so far, no thanks to them. Just enjoy the ride, that's what matters.
    +1!!!!

    As for clipping in and out, I have always clipped in with my left foot first. I raise it fairly high, like NY recommends (2 o'clock position) to get a strong downstroke to pull myself up onto the saddle.

    Clipping out, I have always clipped out with my right foot first, then slightly leaned the bike that way to put my right foot down first. I figure that way, I'm not leaning the bike into traffic (assuming riding in a country where cars drive on the right). Like others have said, it's good to be able to clip out either side first in case of emergency, but I would first concentrate on picking one side and getting comfortable with that to keep things simpler and less overwhelming/scary.

    When you are approaching a stop or anything you find a bit "hairy", you can clip out your chosen foot well in advance so you don't feel "stuck" in the pedals. That might help a bit with the fear. I'll unclip my right foot anytime I think there is a chance I might have to put a foot down. You can always clip back in without stopping if it turns out you don't need to.

    It's really not nearly as complicated as it sounds, and once you "get it", muscle memory will kick in, and the starting and stopping motions will all become second nature. Practice is the best thing you can do! Starting out in very low-stress situations (perhaps on a bike path with almost no traffic) will help you get the hang of it without as many nerves kicking in.

    Good luck!
    Emily

    2011 Jamis Dakar XC "Toto" - Selle Italia Ldy Gel Flow
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  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2008
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    northern Virginia
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    Quote Originally Posted by emily_in_nc View Post
    When you are approaching a stop or anything you find a bit "hairy", you can clip out your chosen foot well in advance so you don't feel "stuck" in the pedals. That might help a bit with the fear. I'll unclip my right foot anytime I think there is a chance I might have to put a foot down. You can always clip back in without stopping if it turns out you don't need to.
    This is an important point, too.

    Also did anyone mention -- shift into an easy gear as you're slowing down before a stop. That will make it easier to start pedaling again with the clipped-in foot, making the whole process of sitting and clipping the other foot easier.

    Also if you're in a situation where everyone is moving slowly for a while, like the beginning of a mass-start charity ride, keep one foot clipped out in case you need to put a foot down.

    - Gray Trek Madone 4.7 road bike, mystery crack in top tube repaired by Calfee, Bontrager Affinity RXL saddle
    - Red Trek 6000 mountain bike, Bontrager Evoke WSD saddle

    Gone but not forgotten:
    - Silver Trek 2000 road bike
    - Two awesome and worn out Juliana saddles

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Posts
    141
    When I got my bike, I stuck with platform pedals until I could reliably always lean the same way and put the same foot down when stopping. First I had to think about it a ton (and had a few interesting moments!) and then eventually it became automatic. Maybe put platforms on for a few days or something and go out and just start and stop, start and stop, making sure you always lean the same way and put the same foot down?
    1980-something Colnago
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  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    northern Virginia
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    5,828
    I was thinking about this thread during my last ride. I've never consciously leaned the bike when I stop and put a foot down -- it just happens as a result of putting my foot down.

    - Gray Trek Madone 4.7 road bike, mystery crack in top tube repaired by Calfee, Bontrager Affinity RXL saddle
    - Red Trek 6000 mountain bike, Bontrager Evoke WSD saddle

    Gone but not forgotten:
    - Silver Trek 2000 road bike
    - Two awesome and worn out Juliana saddles

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Illinois
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    3,135
    I think the big problem is the big fear of falling over, and the only cure I know for it is practice... that Sunday morning parking lot with a curb is a good place for practicing stopping correctly - you can do it right next to the curb so you don't have to put your foot as far down to practice the "getting off the seat part," and then progress to doing in on just plain pavement.

    There are things I just. can't. make. myself. do.... it's not rational and it's a royal bunbite...

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
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    It's not the unclipping, because there are people who do the same thing on motorcycles. Cleats just add another complication.

    If I were you, I'd put the flat pedals back on for now, with no clips either, until you've learned how to stop while remaining in control of your bike. Then practice, practice, practice.

    One thing I didn't see anyone else mention here is initiating the lean *before* you stop. (Apologies if I missed it in skimming over this thread.) That's a critically important part of the sequence, but one that people who've been doing it forever tend to forget about. As you approach your stopping point, push gently forward on the handlebar on the same side of the foot you'll be putting down. That makes the bike start to lean toward the side that you pushed on. Now you're secure and you know which side your bike is leaning toward, and that it's going to be the side you're preparing to put your foot down.

    Practicing with a curb as Geonz suggested is one way - but please don't get into the habit of using a curb when you're on the road. If you're that close to the curb when you're riding, you're putting yourself in a position to get buzzed, rear-ended or hit by a mirror while you're on the straights, and right-hooked at intersections.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    california
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    Using tension adjustment to make sure that not much effort is needed for getting in or out can make it easier when first using clipless. You also just need to learn to allow enough time to unclip a foot before a stop….that’s just training your reactions to associate stopping with un-clipping. Nothing wrong with using a foot unclipped on the pedals for a while either in stopping or starting.

    We can be different in the ways we move in stopping or starting. What feels right and is comfortable for you to do is what’s important.

    I use speedplay frogs cuz I can clip in on either side, I can adjust the cleat position and float easier to allow my knees to track in a comfortable pattern and with recessed cleats I can walk normally in my biking shoes.

    Now…riding fixie helped me learn to maintain balance even when stopped before unclipping
    ‘The negative feelings we all have can be addictive…just as the positive…it’s up to
    us to decide which ones we want to choose and feed”… Pema Chodron

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    north woods of Wisconsin
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    632
    As others have mentioned, it's all a matter of practice. Don't pass up going clipless because it's something new and scary. So many advantages. I go clipless on all our bikes - road, mountain, commuter and even fat.

    If your bike can handle it, ride on grass to practice your stops. Beats falling on pavement. When you fall, and we all did it a time or two when learning, be sure NOT to stick your arm out to break the fall. That's a good way to damage you hand, wrist or arm. Just tuck in and absorb the fall with your shoulder.

    Don't let a fall rattle you. Just smile and keep going. I remember a time back when I was learning that still makes me smile. I was on a bike trail, approaching a stop sign. On the other side of the intersection, a cute guy was also coming to a stop. Okay, I got a little distracted and forget to unsnap in time. Yup, toppled right over on my side in front of him. He rushed to my aide, but when he could see I wasn't injured, we both started laughing. One of my fondest memories, now.
    Last edited by north woods gal; 04-25-2016 at 08:51 AM.

 

 

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