hard time with clipless, spd


Active Member
By this post i hope I dont deter anyone, I am strictly interested in some insight and opinions from experienced cyclists riding clipless.

Does everyone else 'get' clipless right away (what sort of exercise and duration does it take to get the handle of it? or is this going to be like my snowboarding attempt (just let it go and go back to skiing sort of experience..

Story behind the question (didnt want to bore the impatient ones )
Having purchased a road bike recently, i thought to try on clipless. After reading some, I ordered a set of shimano m520's and a pair of shoes (mavic razors), and received the shoes today.

So after work decided to give it a try, so much like I saw on the youtube videos, I fitted the spds on my old hybrid bike (wouldnt want to damage the new one), propped myself against a wall (after reducing the sensitivity of the spd's all minus all sides) and proceeded to attempt to clip and unclip.

Initially I even had issues clipping as the feel of where the cleat is located was not second nature (had read the manual and been watching the videos), but managed it and started manipulating the position of the shoe cleat to make it easier (used the top most set of shoe holes, and positioned the cleat as far inwards as possible to the big toes as that seemed to help me clip easier). Then like an idiot decided to clip both feet off a wall and pedal some (on concrete) - soon fell on right knee / side (knee scraped / shoulder forarm helped absorb the impact but as I had a fall last year on ice they feel a bit soar).

I then wised up and moved on to grass (back yard) and started doing little circles initially clipping both feet, and then starting with just the right one and doing half petal strokes leaving the left foot unhinged and even off the petal. I feel the benefit of the spd (the lift is amazing), but I keep falling when clipping both, because I want to unclip the left foot first while on the seat, and when I realize I cannot (after manoeuvring the heel), I tend to fall - I like to have my left foot out as I decelerate and I consistently fail to disengage the cleat (10 times or more - until dark).

At this point in time Im a bit discouraged by the whole ordeal spent some money, but most of all Im seriously doubting that ill be able to take my other bike out on the road using clipless (I exercise quite a bit, but always conscious of incurring additional injuries as I get older). Maybe being in a confined space may not be the best area to exercise (3 meter radius circles), and need to get out on a more open ground - but road conditions will vary anyway. All in all Ive spent a good chunk of money on the shoes / pedals, cant return em (heh, no way back after falling so many times - buckle is a bit scraped on the right shoe but quite surprised by how well it holds up), and all i managed to do is get my behind kicked - I can think of better ways :whistle:

I did discover also that I would like if the mechanism disengaged when my heal lifted but I guess my cleat and shimano mech only support outward motion.


Cycling in Scotland
Auld Reekie
The cleat should be positioned in the shoe so that when you are cleated into the pedal your foot is in your normal cycling position, other wise you will cause damage to your knees on longer rides.

If you are having problems engaging and disengaging the cleats, I would suggest that you reduce the tension of the binding, there is 2.5 mm Allen bolt on one side of the pedal see here, turn the bolt anticlockwise to decrease the spring tension. You can always tighten it up again when you are used to using them, I find that when the pedals are new the tension is always set too high.


Well-Known Member
If you're a size 9, I'd give up and I'll give you £30 for the shoes :whistle:

But seriously, it's just practise. Sounds like you're doing a lot of low speed manoeuvres with little time to unclip, on roads you mostly get advance notice of a stop and have plenty of time. Getting in is a case of muscle memory, sometimes you'll miss but M520s are ok as they work even if you're not clipped in, just wiggle your foot into place.

Cleat position is more about comfort than ease of getting in/out. You'll know if it's wrong if pedalling feels off after a few miles. Have you loosened the pedal mechanism as far as it goes, that might help if not (edit: HJ beat me to it)

Even once you get it, clipless moments can sneak up on you, but if you worry about bad things you'd never leave the house right?

rusty bearing

Über Member
Just so. Ive been riding with SPD's for about three years now and thought yeah no problem, until....chatting with she who must be obeyed we came to a halt at the central refuge of a controlled bike crossing and yes, I got it all wrong and did a fine impression of a complete numpty, in front of all the stationary cars too!


Active member of Helmets Are Sh*t Lobby
Agree with setting tension to the lowest setting. Also you could try leaning yourself up against a wall and practice the clipping in and out motion.


Active Member
Colin nope not a 9 :whistle: id consider wearing them with regular pedals before selling them, but then again i dont like to keep items i dont fully utilize (feel like a cheat).

The shoes/cleats felt good - positioned under the ball of the foot.. just great.

HJ, understood, however the 520s have quite a bit of sideway 'give', which given my inability to unclip may be working against me - thus the cleat manoeuvring. Id like to pressure with the ball of the foot, lower the pedal, start moving the heel upward or upward and out and be able to disengage..
The tension had been lowered to the indicated minimum (wasnt the case out of the box). Its strange as the (-) tension sign is on the left side of each pedal, as opposed to the outer side of each pedal (anyway).

I believe its best for the toe to point downwards before moving the heel in an outward motion to ensure unclipping - if the left pedal is at the top of the pedaling trajectory unclipping isnt going to happen.

On one of the latest attempts, I unclipped the left, shifted weight to unclip the right, which re engaged the left and resulted on another magnificent fall (i laughed with that one).

4F i can honestly say, that I did complete that exercise.. the problem is with being clipped and not having the skill and confidence to deal with it (at least in close confines)

Rusty embarrasment is one thing (my neighbors mustve had a quite a laugh), injury to oneself and eventually equipment is another... not to mention the biggest fear is falling and having traffic behind you.. (knock on wood for anyone.. health above all)

Not sure if i want to spend more at the moment, but after reading the shimano manual I happened to find the multi release cleats. Anyone have these??


Well-Known Member
I believe its best for the toe to point downwards before moving the heel in an outward motion to ensure unclipping - if the left pedal is at the top of the pedaling trajectory unclipping isnt going to happen.
I always unclip with the pedal down and my foot as flat as possible. Works better as a quick jerk rather than a slow twist. To stop the foot re-engaging I move my foot so the pedal is under my toe, this isn't foolproof.

Have you done the cleats up as tight as they'll go?

I can only recommend practise. Or try SPD-SLs, SPDs will be a doddle afterwards :laugh:


Fuelled with Jelly Babies
South Wales
i first tried SPD last year then lost confidence after a few falls.I have recently started using them again and am gaining confidence now.

Unclipping I find works better with a quick outwards flick of the foot rather than a deliberate twist.

good Luck I am sure it will get easier with practice.


Active Member
Colin, Banjo thanks for the insight on technique and kind words. Ill try to employ the hints possibly this evening (although football may get in the way :laugh:).

The mavics have two sets of holes (approx .5cm apart); which ones do you guys tend to use? top most or lower - My thought is that by placing the cleat lower it would require that the calf muscle works harder to twist (i guess depends on people's lower leg fitness etc).

Its fun to move from just being a reader of posts to actually trying out some of the equipment. So many people use SPDs that I hope its something i can get over. Looking at the SM-SH56 I cant pinpoint the difference in design against the sh51 - which has me a bit puzzled.

Oh and the shoes came with brass plates to put before securing the cleat.. Ive fitted one on each shoe (installed the thickest ones as shown in the picture). By including the second as well would give it more of a rise, but I thought they are including different thickness ones to suit user preference.. no instructions there unfortunately.


Still wavin'
Ovver 'thill
You need the cleat in a position that when clipped in, you are pressing on it with the ball of your foot (as a rough guide, experts vary a bit...!) The front holes tend to be for people with strange length toes. Most mortals use the back pair.

Don't worry about how much twisting you'll have to do to get out of them.

As a rough guide, put the shoe on and feel for your "bunion" joint through the fabric. Use a pencil or piece of chalk to mark the outsole where your joint is. Now, take the shoe off and line the plate up so that the screw holes are in line with the mark on the sole. Screw the cleat on loosely so that it can shift around, and when uou have it aligned with the mark you can be sure that the ball of your foot will be more or less over the pedal spindle.

Tighten them up and repeat witht he other foot.

As for learning to clip in and out, forget the garden. You haven't got enough room. Go onto a quiet carpark or cul de sac. Wear trousers to save skinned knees. Forget about being watched and practise to yur heart's content. It really does become second nature, so go for it.


Legendary Member
Somebody else has asked this but... are you sure the cleats aren't rotating on the soles of your shoes when you twist to unclip? The little bolts have to be done up extremely tight, they and the inner plates are hardened steel so tighten away until the ridges on the top faces of the cleats actually dig into the sole of the shoe and mark their position. It will help to undo them for replacement in a couple of years if you put a smear of Copaslip or grease on the threads before tightening them. Once you've got that right, fill the open parts of the slots with some bathroom sealant.

With new pedals a general spray over with a light lube like WD40 will help you engage and disengage. As they wear in it will become easier and you'll be wanting to increase the tension.


Rhythm Thief said:
part of the trouble - extrapolating from my ex's experience of SPDs years ago - is that it's instinctive to try and lift your feet off the pedals. If you're unconciously pulling oyur foot upwards while trying to twist it out, it'll be very difficult indeed to unclip.
Keep trying, it becomes second nature soon enough.
+1 I cycled behind my wife for weeks telling her not to lift her feet as she tried to unclip. She soon got the hang of it.

I didn't let her try against a wall or at slow speed as it isn't representative of unclipping on the move in my opinion. Having a little speed in a straight line gives stability on the bike and I think allows you to put more effort into unclipping without affecting balance. Unclipping at slow speeds will follow naturally. You just need to be even more aware of where you are, what you are doing and what might require you to stop until that happens.


New Member
I literally got some M520's two days ago and have been practising for half hour in the eves and went round the block last night.

You cant lift up to disengage you have to do a "dorothy" and shift your foot sideways outwards, inwards works as well.

I leant up against a wall got myself comfortable then just clipped in and out for literally 20 minutes. Once comfortable with that I rode out. (I always lead off with my left foot so exchange left for right if you lead off iwth your right). Clipped in left foot pedal at 6.00 o'clock moved pedal up pushed off with right foot and clipeed both in and just cycled but I clipped and this is the key part once a little momentum was built up then I unclipped both straight away kept doing this and just clipped in and out about 50 times one after each other. Next I practised stopping with left foot still clipped and landing on right I kept doing this for about a mile or so clip in ride 20 metres unclip stop, clip in ride 20 metres unclip

I must admit I have the M520's very easy to clip and out of straight from the off although it took me a year to pluck up the courage to buy some

I have only being riding more or less a year to the day and for that entire time rode with toe clips and straps but with others who went clipless and I wonder if being behind them and watching them clip in an out somehow got the technique stuck into my subconcious in some way.
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