We All Fall Down?

[image via Nationaal Archief]

Girl on Roadbike: So you've never worn clipless shoes?
Me: Nope.
GOR: Oh you should just do it! It's really easy, honest.
Me: Really?
GOR: Oh totally!
Me: So how did you get the hang of it?
GOR: Well, I fell down all the time at first!
Me: [horrified silence]
GOR: Yeah, it was pretty funny. I'd come to a stop and just go plop!
Me: Oh my God...
GOR: But don't worry, after a couple of weeks you'll be fine!

You see, that right there is what separates me from "normal people" who've grown up playing sports: I see being guaranteed to fall and being told not to worry as completely incompatible notions.

Hopefully I won't jinx myself by writing this here, but I've never fallen off my bike as an adult. When I tell this to experienced cyclists, their reaction is usually "Oh, that's not good. You need to get used to falling." The idea being that, if I have no concept of falling - and more importantly, of how to fall "correctly" - then when it actually happens (the use of "when" instead of "if" is in itself alarming), it's going to be bad. I've been given advice such as to go out and practice falling on some grass, but honestly I cannot imagine doing that unless someone holds a gun to my head... and even then, I'd probably be trying to talk my way out of it!

What exactly scares me about falling I don't know. I don't have a fear of pain, so that's not it (I sat though an emergency root canal without novocaine yesterday, which was honestly not so bad!). Maybe I have a strong self-preservation instinct, and the physical sensation of the fall triggers it. Either way, when I am told that a specific behaviour - like learning to ride clipless - is pretty much guaranteed to make me fall multiple times, I am highly motivated to avoid that behaviour.

How do you feel about the idea of falling off your bike? Is it something you view as an inherent part of cycling (be it for sport, recreation or transportation), or do you believe that it can (and should) be avoided?


  1. One of the reasons I don't wear a helmet is that I know from experience that I have (everyone has?) reflex actions to protect the head. If you fall, you may hurt your knees, elbows, hands, etc., but you're unlikely to hurt your head.

    There is a video clip (on Copenhagenize?) showing a succession of people all falling off their bike, one after another, at a particular corner on an icy bike path. Not one of them hurt their head.

    If I were going to wear protective gear, it would be for my knees and elbows, not my head.

  2. I compare not falling to never having failed at something. It's great to get something right and succeed, but sometimes it may mean because you haven't pushed yourself to what you can do next. sometimes it's good to fall and then realize, hey it wasn't so bad at all.
    The fear of falling for me is (1) pain (2) sensation of falling . Number is the hardest one and I think is the strongest mental barrier. I mountain bike as well as commute and poodle around town (seems to be an increase in mtbikers commenting here lately) and I don't believe in suicidal missions or pushing when you're simply not ready. Falling should be avoided. it's stupid to put yourself in a situation where you hurt yourself. But fear of falling or potential of falling shouldn't be a barrier to you learning something new or gaining a new skill. So I say falling is essential to learning. Riding around carelessly without regards to consequence is one thing, but being fearful is another. I hope that makes sense. Also time tends to slow when I am about to fall. I think I train my brain to unclip, look for a soft spot and don't stick limbs out for fear of awkward landing :D

  3. When I got my first clipless pedals, I was told that everyone falls once. Once is enough, evidently, but everyone has to fall once in order to learn.

    I rode for a couple of weeks and racked up a couple of hundred kilometers and I thought I had the hang of it and that I'd gotten away with not falling. Then I slowed down at a stop sign without unclipping and thought I saw it was clear and was about to proceed when a car came into view. I hit the brakes and started teetering and went into a dramatic slow-motion struggle with my bike as I panicked and forgot how to unclip. In this struggle, I stood on my pedals and managed to hook the horn of my saddle on my cycling tights, which pulled my tights down, exposing my bare ass to the world.

    Then I fell. I fell properly, apparently. I didn't stick my hand out to break my fall, which could have ended in a broken hand or arm or separated shoulder. I contacted the street with my meaty parts -- my thigh and my shoulder.

    As I lay there with my shoes still clipped into my pedals and my bare left buttock in contact with the road, a helpful couple across the street shouted out, "are you okay?" I fell over myself assuring them that I was fine, and that they shouldn't come over to check on me.

    Sure, it's humiliating, but it hurts less than you think. And your fall will probably be a lot less humiliating than mine was.

    I've put well over 10,000 km on my bike and I've never fallen a second time. That lesson is learned.

  4. I like to avoid falls at all costs and, happily, have largely been successful - only two 'offs' in the past thirty-five years (knock on wood). On of those was when I was hit by a farm truck, another was when I came a cropper at speed while descending a long curving hill ad discovered the bitumen came to an end without notice. I did not enjoy either experience.

    I still use toe-clips and old-fashioned pedals although not, strangely enough, because I think they might make me fall, I've no doubt whatever i could intuitively free my foot when I came to stoplights etc. I dislike clipless pedals on aesthetic grounds - I prefer my bicycle pedals to look like bicycle pedals, not the paddle on somebody's bread-making machine.


  5. I hate falling, and don't consider it a normal part of learning at all (sometimes one does, but there's absolutely no need to expect it), but I love clipless pedals.

    I guess it maybe depends on the particular model/brand, but really, clipless shoes are great: they're better than clips and casual pedals in almost every way while biking, and are not hard to use once you get a feel for them. [Maybe half an hour and some care; the "weeks" above sounds pretty dubious...]

    In return for the short acclimatization period, you get a huge improvement in efficiency and a dramatic feeling of "oneness" with the bike. They really make biking more fun. Compared to old-style clips, they're much easier to use and safer (declipping with clipless pedals in an emergency: easy, intuitive, and fast; yanking out of clips in an emergency: stressful and likely to fail).

    There are (or at least used to be!) models where the shoes have a normal flat sole that are usable off the bike (though you probably don't want to wear them out by walking around too much), if you don't want the inconvenience of the somewhat awkward biking-only kind that are usually used on road-bikes.

    The only real drawbacks I can see are the cost, and the annoyance of changing shoes for very short neighborhood rides where efficiency/"oneness" don't matter so much.

    Still, if you do any kind of riding beyond the "ride around the block to the store" sort, check out the various types of clipless pedals; they're just too cool to ignore.

  6. I'm a life long skier and biker, so I've had my share of falls. Now, as I get older (I'm 45), I'm getting more and more afraid of crashes. It never occured to me, up in my 30's, that I could get hurt in fall (I did get hurt, btw...). Now, not so much.
    What's worth noting too, is that a crash on the pavement hurt (usualy) much more than a crash on snow or offroad. So, your fears are not irrational, compared to the "reckless" attitude of moutain bikers...

  7. my first "fall" was a serious one. i fell incorrectly (although didn't have time to think), and broke my wrist and ribs. this gave me a horrible fear of falling, which other people don't seem to have. another guy at work is always coming off his bike, but never having broke anything he doesn't see it as a problem. since that first fall, i've had a couple of wobbles (once i fell off my bike, for no reason whatsoever), and not broke anything. slowly, it's building my confidence. i'd love to learn to instinctively fall correctly though, i've plenty of squashy bits to cushion me!

  8. I suppose it shows my age but I tend to smile when I read people - obviously much younger - describe toe-clips as risky and likely to trap your foot in an emergency. I grew up with toe-clips, as did everybody in my generation in the 60s and 70s, and not once in many, many tens of thousands of miles have I ever caught my foot in a toe-clip or found it stressful to free myself in an emergency.

    Obviously this is a case of my having grown up with them so that their use became second nature - but even when I was first using them, about 40 years ago, I never had the least bit of problem. No doubt people who came of age in the cycling sense in the late-90s onwards can, and do, say the same of clipless pedals - and fair enough too. it is what they are accustomed to.

    My point is there is absolutely nothing inherently dangerous or risky in using toeclips - it is simply a matter of what you become comfortable with using.

  9. For years my riding friends hassled me about getting clipless pedals for my mountain bike. But I have a mortal fear of falling, and I figured I push through enough fear just getting out riding on rocky, rooty, steep and often muddy tracks without strapping my feet into the bike!
    Like you, I discovered powergrips and found them really intuitive to use, and secure feeling when I didn't want to slip off the pedals.
    Then I met my current beau and he knew how to deal with me.. he bought me some shoes and set up the pedals (just so I could try them out, "no pressure, you don't ever have to use them again!"). Then he took me around some back streets and parks 'trying' them out, and getting in and out on the grass etc.
    I found that the powergrips had prepared me for real pedals, the twisting motion to get in and out is the same for both! And several years down the track, I would feel naked without being able to clip in. They really do feel secure like having your seatbelt on, you can move the pedals into different positions, and you get alot more power out of your pedalling.
    As for falling, well I have had some upsets, mostly of the close call variety! And I think the falls I have had relate to the nature of mountain biking, and my timidity. Sometimes I go too slow to get over obstacles and the bike just stalls and leans over. It's very hard to get out of your pedals when you are already half way to the ground, but even then I get out most times!
    I imagine that you would have an easier time using these for road riding, as it's a more predictable sport. Good luck if you do decide to give them a go!

  10. They used to say something similar when I was learning to ride horses - you can't ride until you've fallen or been thrown 7 times. But that was as a child when we're all made of rubber (and we were riding on sawdust-filled arenas). As an adult I see no reason to risk breaking bones and tearing tendons that don't repair themselves so quickly - and I especially don't want to risk it on the road where however well you fall, there are huge fast chunks of metal hurtling about.

    Don't let anyone tell you you're not riding a bike 'properly'. The only bad way to ride a bike is not to ride it at all

  11. I have cycled from way before you were born, and I have never been injured riding a bike, but I had to fall more than you.
    I had two revelations that led to my not having additional crashes:
    falling is a lousy experience, and falling slows one down much more than avoiding it does. It has been decades since I crashed.
    Apparently I don't qualify as a cyclist since I have no story of having my helmet save my life.
    I don't consider falling and injury a part of riding a bike, but drafting is a very high level skill.

  12. I absolutely hate falling because there are so many other bicyclists and walkers here in NL that *someone* will see you. Don't like the idea of injuring myself either.

    When you are overweight and disabled a bit, you already go through life feeling like people are staring at you, inspecting you and judging you. Most of the time people are just curious, but occasionally there will be that one person who stares a bit too long and makes that weird pause happen in time.

    You learn to laugh it off and act like you're okay, get back up on your bike and go home. Check out your bruises and scratches later. You learn to turn your head and pretend you're not noticing the people watching you.

    And sometimes, you fall and it really is funny and you laugh at yourself genuinely. You mount, catch your foot on something, move your weight, fall face forward, watch your groceries spill out of the basket, your sweater then catches on the saddle and you hear it tear, you find yourself in a lump of slowly spinning wheels and your floral skirt waving a bit too high and all you can do is wish you had gotten it on video tape because it was better than "America's Funniest Home Videos". Five people rush up to help you and they are warm and friendly and you are laughing and they are afraid to laugh with you, but somehow.. it's all good. You dust yourself off and get back on and conquer it.

  13. I think that one of your little polls would be cool, especially if it could account for years riding, number of falls, mit clips/cleats or not.

    Personally, I have fallen higher than rabbits can count as long as sixty years ago, as recently as last week, mostly when coming to the first stop after using clips after an hiatus even though I anticipate its happening. I have been extremely fortunate in that humiliation has always caused greatest pain.

  14. I used to ride fully strapped in with toe clips that you had to loosen to get your foot out and never once fell off because of them. I too have an aversion to such things as falling. I recommend not letting cars hit you though but that is another story. It is not like playing rugby or skiing, falling does not have to be an integral part of riding. Just my humble opinion of course.
    Matt K

  15. I live in a country where safety legislation is an instant reflex of politicians. So, if word gets out that falling off when first wearing cleats, as we call them, is inevitable, then someone will surely move to ban them.
    I have written about my first calamitous outings with them on http://twowheelsgood.posterous.com/cleats-mad-bastards-and-life

  16. This is something I feel strongly about – “paying your dues” by falling is ridiculous. That’s the attitude of a lot of the kids / jocks / adult kids on our shop ride, that if you don’t fall, you’re not a “real” cyclist. “Keepin’ it real, dude”. Perhaps an attitude that comes from extreme sports, wherein you wear your scars, like tattoos, to show the tribe you’re from. Bro! dude! Because you’re too stupid to do everything you can to avoid falling. If you’re racing, if you’re in a particularly aggressive training ride, and you want to pretend to be a pro, to never yield, to win at all cost, then yeah, you’re going to crash eventually, and just like getting hit by a car, or running into a tree if you’re skiing on a trail over your ability, the consequences can be long lasting, or even fatal. Or if people crash in front of you, and there’s no way to avoid it, you’re probably going down. Clipped in or not. But the idea that this is a part of riding, that it’s a part of riding – that’s ridiculous. As an old rider, I can tell you that the guys I learned from in Prospect Park in the 70s (immigrants from Europe who raced pro there (not very successfully) before coming here, viewed falling, and being injured, as something only for chumps.

    But falling racing or from crashes is different from falling over at stop signs from being clipped in though. The first few months, keep the tension extremely low, and before your first rides practice a lot, on getting your feet out. That said, I know of several people who broke their wrists falling at stop signs, or in their driveway; the above commenter made the correct point about falling; years of martial arts, gymnastics training, etc, shows the “proper” way to fall. But it’s counterintuitive and hard to do if you don’t know from other sports stuff prior to getting yr clippless pedals.

    And FYI, powergrips set tight for good hardsoled shoes or sneakers (or even set for SPD shoes without the cleats, ie for the excellent sole) are just as good (and just as hard to get out of) as clippless pedals, the only benefit being that in addition to lateral float, you have fore and aft adjustability as you ride. I do think that there are huge advantages of having your feet affixed to pedals (disagree with Grant P, who, like Jan Heine must be a far superior athlete to most of us, or at least to me; there are definite speed advantages to being affixed to pedals, and perhaps only people like Grant have the ability to keep up with the pack, not noticing that they are working far harder without being affixed, than when they are affixed

    (but that’s another topic (ok, I’ll digress…and yeah, love the Jan Heine low trail fendered and racked bike formula, but to pretend I can keep up with guys on 15 lb bikes when my bike is 25 lbs…I drop down a grade or 2 when I have the 25 lb bike; I don’t know too many people who can ride with the 10lb handicap and stick with the front of the A ride. If that’s your goal (not mine))

    So clipped in…practice a lot, do everything you can to learn how to get out; and if you fall, it’s not a failure, but do your best not to, all the while continuing to love the experience. The breath, the exhilaration, that’s why we ride; not for the scars.

  17. The first bike I had with toeclips was the mountain bike which was also the first bike I bought as an adult. I was told similar things about clipless pedals as you have. I was also told I should spend a fair amount of time getting used to toeclips before I even tried clipless pedals. After far too many incidents riding offroad where I fell over because I couldn't get my feet out of the toeclips fast enough and far too many incidents where I had my feet come out of the toeclips when I most definitely wanted them to stay in (hopping logs etc.) I went out and bought SPD pedals and have been using them happily with no incidents for sixteen years now.

    As for falling, I don't particularly fear it anymore. This despite not being a very athletic youth. A few years riding offroad made it familiar enough to me that I realize that it rarely produces anything more than a colourful bruise or two. A fall on the road might be a bit more serious, asphalt and concrete being rather hard. So far though, I've been over the bars once and had a few crashes on ice with no lasting ill effects (to me or the bike!).

  18. Years ago I was told (in reference to motorcycles) and i believe it to be true of cyclists as well "there are two types of riders those that have laid down a bike, and those that will".

    If you actually ride your bike, eventually will come a time when you do.

    I got clipless pedals and shoes this past fall, and for me it was an unexpectedly smooth transition. I do remember approaching a stop and having that immediate panic through your whole body but I never laid it down. Not, until a tractor trailer i was riding behind on my commute one day just stopped dead and started backing up on me. We never actually hit, but as i slowed and tried to maneuver around the right of him i was actualy going so slowly at this point, i just fell over. I remember being initially very shaken, then angry. My seemingly new beautiful Rivendell had a few scratches in various places from hitting the curb in the fall, and then after about 10 mins I thought, those with pristine bikes don't ride them, patina is good.

    But i digress, I don't think you have to fall 1X of lots, but you may, it is a unique experience for everyone.
    Also, one thing that was helpful to me was, my pedals were used (i wasn't sure i'd like it so i thought i'd buy used first) and they were already broken in and loosened up a bit and it was incredibly easy to pop right out. They are adjustable too (spd's at least).

    Go for it, try! you'll be surprised how easily you take to it!

  19. The brilliant thing about cycling is staying upright. The trick is to do all those things - going fast, going slow, uphill, downhill, round corners - without hitting the ground.
    Falling off is a sudden unexpected encounter with good luck or bad luck. It's the shock of it, the sudden loss of faith in the bike's capacity to defy gravity, that hurts the longest, and it can sometimes take a while to trust yourself on your bike afterwards. Nothing good about it - and nothing good in welcoming bad luck into your life. Do everything you can to stay upright, is my belief.

  20. Can't see the point of clipless pedals myself, but then Velouria's revelations about her Paceline ride cured me of ever needing to contemplate the 'necessity' of them.

    But I have fallen. Three times in three years. Each time it was so fast, like the respondent above there was no time to put out a hand. On the first two times it was my head hit the road first (still don't quite don't know how that was). On the last it was my shoulder, followed by my head. Each time I was doing less than 20 km/h.

    First time was I got caught in a tram track (think SF cable car). Pretty dumb for a boy born and raised in the city with more kms of trams than any other in the world, and after 35 years of riding around them.

    Second time was a small patch of loose gravel at the apex of a corner, riding on 1 inch tyres. Fortunately I was transitioning onto the footpath (pavement). The road next to it is one of the busiest in my city. Had I fallen there my wife would have become a single parent.

    Third time was a poorly-tensioned chain coming off under full power - my fault totally, but still a smidge unlucky (although I'll never ride with a loose chain again...)

    All three times I got a concussion, ie not knocked unconscious but spacy for 24 hours. Quite pleasant actually and a bit like the effects of Temazepam, which in retrospect was pretty scary. All three times it was luck there wasn't a car right behind itching to run me over. And all three times the helmet I was wearing was destroyed. Weeks after the most recent time I was seeing a physio about sudden problems with my back seizing up, which it turned out were referred pain from the whiplash I experienced when I hit the ground (shoulder hits but head keeps travelling, hyperextending the neck sideways. Nice.) And to top it off I found that when you pass forty, the after-effects of hitting the road hard are longer lasting. Things don't always come back 100%.

    So I see falling off a bike as about as necessary as being doored. It's not the hitting the ground that's so bad (although it is) but, like being doored, it's what might happen next. Maybe that makes me a bit of a wuss. But I have children whose lives would be measurably worse if I never came home. b

  21. Crashing stinks. Road rash, etc. Falling isn't so bad. No worse than tripping, and not as bad as falling down stairs.

    As snogglethorpe suggests, I find clipless pedals safer than toe clips with straps. But make sure they're set up properly or you'll be buying yourself some new knees someday.

  22. I have fallen three times in the last three years (not counting the half dozen falls I took on the ice on one morning last winter. In none of the cases would the type of pedal have made a difference. In the final analysis, you are a lot more likely to fall than to crash into a car and I can see advantages to falling with less hurt. The trick is to be able to practice a skill that can keep you from being hurt without getting hurt. It is a skill I have not learned in Bike Ed and do not know how to teach.

    Come to think of it, my various ski and snowboard lessons were weak in that regard...

  23. Like others have said, clipless pedal falls typically occur when coming to a stop. They're not likely to cause injury other than embarrassment. In a short time, you'll develop muscle-memory that automatically pivots your heel when you disengage the foot (make like Dorothy in the wizard of oz).

    In the same way you became acclimatized to drop bars and the geometry of the Seven, you'll probably get used to clipless and wonder how you ever got along without them.

    I recommend "mountain/cyclo-cross" pedals like spd's or crank bros candy. They aren't as fickle about cleat position adjustment as the "road" pedals and one can walk relatively comfortably. Rando people like them.

  24. Never rode clipless so no comment on that. However I have fallen on a bike on occasion, usually when I got tangled up somehow at low speed on an trail. I have crashed at speed when racing, I don't really consider that a fall.

    I suppose you could go your whole life without falling, but when you do things at 100%+ you are bound to have some sort of incident sooner or later.


  25. My favorite are shimano spd "multirelease" cleats. I've run into bike shop people who don't know what these are, ask for number sm-sh55. These will hold your foot against vertical force, but if you yank your foot any direction but straight up they come right off. I've only fallen once in the past 25 years and that was due to a collision with a dog. I use clipless pedals on my more aggressive bikes, and they do have some value but I find them largely over rated. I'm an aggressive rider by nature, weather it's the aluminum/carbon cannondale or the pashley or flying pigeon, I tend to ride them as fast as I can make them go and my feet stay put on the flat pedals just fine too. On our tandem we use shimano's hybrid pedals (PD-MS24) flats on one side and clipless on the other. As for needing to fall, like I need to fall down the stairs. Besides, I don't like scratching the bike.

  26. I hate the look of clipless pedals too - except the ones I have called Speedplays, they look like a lolipop to me. I fell once years ago, kinda slow motion when it happens, and you hope none sees you do it.

  27. Falling should be avoided, although it is unavoidable sometimes. Chances are you won't break anything or suffer a serious injury. I don't really buy the claims to knowing how to fall well: either you don't break anything or have a serious injury, or you're unlucky and do.

    As for clipless, they're not that hard. Getting the hang of them takes minutes; but it may take a week or so for them to become completely intuitive. Any falls that do occur because of the pedals/shoes will typically occur at 0 or .00025 mph, when you are coming to a stop and forget that you're in them, and those falls really aren't a big deal. Special care and attention for the first week of using them can eliminate the likelihood of such a fall. Clipless have their place, but I disagree with snogglethorpe about how great they are. I have them on my road bike, and they improve efficiency somewhat, but they eliminate the possibility of using that bike for anything remotely practical and guarantee that it is nothing other than a recreational machine. Point A and Point B are always home, and I hate that. I'd also hate to have them on a tour bike and have my feet and knees locked in a rigid position for hours over hours, or for days on end.

  28. What? You are simply to be commended on your safety record.
    Gravity is a universal constant. Two-wheeled vehicles will tip over. Anyone who says falling should be welcomed needs an invitation to hit themself in the head with a hammer.
    If the clipless learning curve necessarily included falls, even one fall, I wouldn't use them. Or recommend them to anyone. If it was even likely the learning curve included falls I wouldn't recommend them to anyone.

    I've seen two models of pedal (out of 100) that were just seriously defective and should never have been marketed. They are off market now. Will name names if that's OK on this blog.
    Thankfully most falls off bikes are 'spills' not 'crashes'. The most frequent casualties are your shorts. Losing paint is more traumatic and you want to keep your paint as long as you can. After that it's roadrash, collarbones, ribs, minor concussions, things that heal pretty quick. I'd cycled dozens of years and seen hundreds of broken collarbones (racing) before ever hearing of a separated shoulder so yes, people are falling "wrong". This is not a rationale to practice being injured.
    Severe injuries when cycling are almost - not entirely - to be considered freak accidents. Your excellent safety record thus far is an indicator. Keep yourself safe and the rubber down.

    The easiest, most intuitive, least-threatening, most problem-free clipless system AFAIK is the Time ATAC. It's marketed as a mountain pedal. The low price ($60) model called ATAC Alium is the best for a novice because it looks like and can be used as a plain flat pedal. I've an older version, ugly yellow and black, well-used, I could just give you. But surely someone local could do the same.
    Is there any downside to Powergrips other than they're not cool? They're not for track but so what?

  29. I don't like to fall. I fell lots when I was a kid and have the scars from scraped knees to show for it.

    When I used clipless pedals, I fell a few times, usually on a stop on a hill when the bike slowed more quickly than I thought it would, and I just didn't have time to unclip before I went over. I don't ride clipless anymore, since most of my riding is very stop-and-go in town. And honestly, my knees aren't great, and I REALLY don't want to be in a place where I might twist a knee painfully.

    My last fall was pretty minor. I rode into some sand in a park. I was going really slowly, and the bike and I went over in slow motion. I actually rolled all the way over off the bike and came to a stop back on my my knees. The onlookers were highly amused. I was just embarrassed. And sandy.

  30. I don't need the practice--I've fallen a number of times. I use toe clip, not the clipless pedals, but image the kinds of tumbles you would take in getting used to them would be in stopping and unclipping. That is, they would be low-speed accidents, less likely to cause serious damage to you or your bike.

  31. I fell down twice as an adult:

    The first time was the second or third time I wore clips, and it was because I completely forgot I was wearing them. Stopped at a light, I just went straight down, with that same slow-motion realization of what was happening that Ben described above. (But without my ass being bared to the world!).

    The second time, I was mounting my bike (the "proper" way, with a rolling start with one foot on the pedal). The ground was smooth and slippery, and the bike tire slipped, causing the bike to fall.

    I don't generally have a fear of falling or the pain associated with it, but ever since hitting 40 years old my biggest fear is the time it takes to heal! (Ironically, after both recent falls, I was barely sore, and was fine the next day). As a kid, I fell off my bike constantly, but teenagers seem to heal overnight unless a bone is actually broken, so it was never a big deal to me. My other big fear is that my precious bikes will get hopelessly mangled, or my expensive-as-all-hell wool cycling clothes will get torn. Again, non-issues to a kid.

  32. I got used to clipless pedals when they first became popular and liked them a great deal - even on a mountain bike. When I returned to cycling several years ago, I wanted it to be easy and without a lot of accessories, which meant cycling in street cloths.

    But I still had a set of old, old clipless pedals and shoes. I thought I would try fixed gear riding and the seller of the fixed gear convinced me to put the clipless on that bike. After getting back into the clipless, I've got to say that they have advantages in some situations. While some have said they make no difference in the ability to turn the pedals if your spin is good, I found them very useful in adding torque when pedaling more slowly up hills (as often happens with a fixed gear). I also find that they help me jockey the frame around because one can hop the bike more easily with feet firmly attached to the pedals.

    I am no sports jock and did not find getting used to these pedals that difficult. It did not involve a lot of falling at stops.

    On the subject of falls, they do happen from time to time. They happen with greater frequency on a mountain bike. It happens so fast, you're down before you know it. Sometimes there is some 'road rash' and gloves / hands can take a beating - which is why one should always wear gloves when cycling. The bike may sustain a bit of damage, though except for the times I was hit by a car, the bike was always fixable. Cloths don't fare well when scraped on pavement. Falls can be bad, but my falls haven't been too traumatic thus far. Sometimes they can even be comical.

    Riding in a cold climate can increase the risk of falling because of ice. Given the severity of winters in your area, I'm surprised you haven't taken a tumble because of it.

    Your falls will happen and hopefully you won't sustain any damage beyond a few abrasions.

    On the subject of 'intellectual' and 'jock' - I don't fit entirely into either category and can enjoy the company of either stereotype. Also, I don't think these traits have to be mutually exclusive. While I do believe it is easier to do things one has done since childhood, we can still enjoy, and perhaps even do well at, skills learned as an adult.

  33. Nobody likes falling down and I can say that since age 6 I have only fallen a handfull of times. Two weeks to get used to clipless pedals sounds like allot to me!? Like most people I think I only fell once, though I will say it does depend on the pedal system used and whether it's adjusted properly. The one time I fell on clipless pedals (and I think it's fairly typical) I had been riding clips and I just switched a couple days before. I "thought" I had it figured out, but sure enough I rolled to a stop and my old toe clip muscle memory took over and by the time I remembered I was now riding clipless, well I was already going over! It's an odd feeling of helpless resignation!! You are going down and even though you are fighting it it's going anyway! The good thing about clipless pedal falls is most people fall when they are at a stand still. It usually turns out being more embarrassing then anything and afterwards you will laugh and curse yourself at the same time.
    Regarding pedal systems I recommend SPD type systems even for people who ride road bikes, unless they are serious racers, because they are the most versitle and easy to learn to use.

    Regarding falling properly, the times that I have fallen at speed I went down so fast and unexpectedly that I did not have time to "put my hand out" The time that sticks in my head,I was riding my B-stone XO-1 in the rain @ night, I came around a corner going pretty fast, there was a van coming the other way and I steered harder to the right to give them some space,when I did my front wheel hit an uneven expansion joint in the road and BAM! just like that, I was down!! Ironically the guy in the van stpped and asked if "my bike was O.K.?) I was skinned up pretty good, but I told him my bike was O.K.!!! LOL!!


  34. Ha! This is a timely post. I have been an on again off again transport cyclist for years while living in small towns and working in health care. I just didn't know what it was called. Monday, I have my first fall in all my adult life due to mechanical failure on my bike. (More tune ups, please) In fact I did a quick calculation and it was my first fall in at least 26 years.

    And... I broke my wrist. My scaphoid bone. It's this peanut shaped bone that breaks at the waist when you FOOSH (fall on out stretched hand).

    I admit after 12 years in the x-ray department, I am very biased. I only see people who get hurt from falls, not those who walk away fine. I have a very hard time with the idea that the human body should be having even low speed impacts with concrete.

    Sigh. Yes. Hater emails engage.... NOW!

    On the other hand, I do know how to stick a landing if the bike slips to the side on wet pavement. Actual falls - as in crashing to the ground - are different.

    Boston must have an indoor bike track (or an indoor track that has bike hours) so that you can learn on a sprung surface and have people around if you need help. I live in the middle of nowhere and we have two.

  35. I have fallen once or twice, never on purpose, and generally am quite skilled at pulling out of a fall and preventing it. I had more riding falls as a child, simply because I believe I was not as adept at judging my road conditions and adjusting my approach accordingly!

    Like you, not eager to switch to clipless to just get the benefit of a little bit extra out of my cycling stroke at the risk of falling! I have a hard time believing I'd get enough improvement to make the risk worth it!

    Still, I am also being encouraged to switch.

  36. Hmm. I don't use clipless pedals, but I'd expect that falling because of them would be different from the way an experienced cyclist falls. Possibly more like the way a kid who's just learning to ride a bike falls: there you are, not going all that fast, and suddenly you stop being able to keep your bike upright, so you tip over and down you go.

    By contrast, the times I've fallen off my bike as an adult include: the time an ambulance turned onto my street and turned on its siren right behind me, causing me to swerve into a pothole and fly over the handlebars, breaking a rib and knocking out my front teeth; the time a car shot out of a side street without stopping and knocked me down; and the time I learned that it's a bad idea to use only the front brakes on my new tenspeed by going over the handlebars at speed. Which is to say: these are bad, bad falls; much worse than just tipping over. As an adult, I haven't had any other kind. And if I thought that learning to use clipless pedals involved *this* kind of fall, as opposed to just tipping over, I'd be terrified.

  37. I think they're crazy. I've been riding clipless for almost a year, and here are my falling stories: Once, before I got clipless pedals, my son stopped suddenly, swerving in front of me, and I crashed into a hedge. And the second time, after I took the clipless pedals off my bike for the winter, my lousy landlord had packed all of the snow down into ice on the driveway and I sneezed as I was stopping. The first one would have been more funny if the sap had ever washed out of that shirt, and the second one hurt like hell and I don't recommend it.

    I rode with fairly loose toe clips/cages/whatever for a month or so before switching to clipless, and before i put those on I practiced riding very slow. I have a many speed mountain bike, so track stands aren't really going to ever happen for me, but I can almost not move.

    My buddy at work went right from platforms to clipless, was terrible at riding slow, and rides erratically, barely paying attention as far as I can tell. He fell almost every time we stopped, and it got to be pretty funny. A couple of times I'm sure he only fell because he coasted off the edge of the trail so he'd fall on grass if he fell, and then hit a rut w/ the skinny tires :)

    I also think it helps to pay attention to the road ahead, slow down as you approach traffic lights if you see the don't walk sign lit, look both ways, have a mirror, etc. If I'm going to fall off my bike, it's not going to have anything to do with my cleats...

  38. Well, let me tell you something about falling. I fell while bicycling and it cost me a complete hip replacement and nearly my life due to bleeding in my head. Yes I was wearing a helmet. Enough said!

  39. I dislike the notion of crashing much more than the notion of falling and try to avoid both. Sadly, it happens. Only a handful of times in my many, many years of cycling but certainly not a reason to avoid something i love doing. The spills were actually more embarrassing than painful.

    As for clipless pedals, I think the rider who took a couple weeks to get used to them is perhaps on the uncoordinated end of the scale. I'm extremely cautious and awkward but it only took a day of practice before the removal of my foot became second nature. Putting the foot back onto the clip, however, was more problematic and I found myself almost crashing a few times as I 'over thunk' the whole thing. Bottom line is, falling happens to most of us, being careful helps but being paralyzed by fear does not--at least in my case. As always, wonderful to read your posts.

  40. When you purchase your clipless you should be put on a trainer to learn how to use them. I disagree with those that say falling off a bike is part of the cycling experience. When I got my toe clips I fell once but that was due to me having them too tight. I would have much perfered not to have fallen at all. You should however practice tucking and rolling in the event that you fall off your bike you will know how to protect your sensitive parts. I grew up on a horse ranch so I know a thing or two about falling from things and it is not a fun experience at all nor is it funny. You could get hurt really bad. BTW I perfer toe clips because I am a utilitarian cyclist. I don't always want to use special cycling shoes just to run down to the corner to get milk. Also the sales person could not tell me why cleats are better than clips? To me they are equal and serve the same function which is to give you more torque.

  41. I've fallen off my bike 2 times this year and I don't have clipless pedals. I went for a tour to a hilly nation park a long the seaside on offroad. It was at the end of the day, when I was exhausted and the soil road was too steep and too slippery with small soil grind. When I couldn't pedal any more, I jumped off my saddle and my legs couldn't support me. So ops, I did it, twice. I had no idea that I would fall or not, so it came natural.

    I think clipless pedals are for speed and performance. So if you think it's time to try then go ahead. Otherwise take you time. And don't get "hearsays" too much. After all they are somebody else's experience

  42. A friend and I were just talking about falling yesterday. I'm re-learning to ride after twenty years, and she has been commuting by bike for over a decade, but both of us are 49, and we agree that as we get older, the idea of impacting the ground seems less and less atrractive. It isn’t just the pain, but the reality that we’ve both had (non-biking) injuries in the past that took months heal from, and now that we’re looking at 50, falling and potential injuries that could take even longer to heal from seems like a bigger deal than it did in our 20’s and 30’s.

    This fear isn’t keeping us off of bikes, but it does make us think twice (or three or four times) before taking on an activity that has an increased risk of falling.

  43. Honestly I think it's best not to think about it too much. Just accept that in all likelihood a fall will happen at some point, but you'll deal with it then. Then put it out of your mind.

    The thought of falling is absolutely worse than the actual event -- you can't practice adrenaline. I've had two run-ins with cars over the last few years (NYC commuter...) and two regular ole' falls due to my own ineptitude, and in all instances my body and brain just kind of took care of things -- time seemed to slow down, and I was hyper-aware of where all my limbs were and was able to more or less arrange them properly on the way down.

    All of them have turned out to be good stories to tell after the fact, too (badges of honor, of sorts), so I say just try to find some sort of Zen peace with the thought and you'll be fine. And don't practice.

  44. I've been riding clipless on my road bike since 2006, and just started riding clipless on my mountain bike this season. The only time I've fallen because of clipless was of course mid cranking through a deep mud puddle where I came to a complete stop, all my weight on my left leg, and promptly fell over into the mud puddle because I couldn't unclip where all my weight was.

    I've never fallen on my road bike through long road bike trips or even riding my fixie around Boston. I don't think its a rite of passage as people say, and I really don't think you'll have a problem with it.

    I assume most of the people who say you're going to fall right when you get clipless are people who also started riding very consistently at the same time they got clipless. Obviously there will be people on here who are exceptions, but thats my general unscientific feeling.

  45. I've only fallen once in 20+ years of riding clipless. I was riding very slowly through the food stand area of a pass through town on RAGBRAI, first day, late for lunch, very hungery. Suddenly, to my right was a huge sign proclaiming, "MEAT ON A STICK". I couldn't take my eyes of that sign and fell flat. Several folks came to my aid exclaining, "Are you OK?" "Oh my god! Do you need help?" and then one guy came by and asked, "Never mind if you're OK, are you embarassed?" That was the best!!

    Seriously though, they are much more efficient than cage clips or power grips for longer, fast rides.

  46. I'll be 60 this year. I'm planning to NOT FALL DOWN. When I used to ride a motorcycle (for you vintage lovers, a '69 BSA Victor) I would say "I'm not afraid of dying, but I just don't want to fall down."
    Here's a plan, fall down "metaphorically" Make a mistake and learn from it; hurt someone and apologize; go bankrupt and spend 7 years repairing your credit.
    Rasberries really hurt!

  47. Just a reminder for those new here to please not turn this into a helmet issue (either pro or anti). I did not want to delete the comments already made, since they include interesting commentary, but please abstain from bringing helmet ideology into this.

  48. I binned it two days ago. I got back on and rode to my destination.

    It hurts.


  49. 1. Does anybody advise a new car driver to go and wreck a car in the process of learning how to drive? Break wheel traction, yes. Wreck it, no.
    2. You have a trainer in your house. Learn on that. Pile up the pillows on either side. Have the co-habitant spot you. When you can get on and clip in, and unclip and put a foot out without thinking about it, try it outside on some grass.
    Careful, creative gradients avoid crashes. Some people don't care about crashes and bash through gradients to get there as quickly as possible. I'm sure you've run into such people in photography and drawing classes, their crashes exist on pages ;-)

  50. I forgot: mountain-style cleats allow for non-duck walking and easier disengagement. Those one shoes you have are way stiffer than the Adidas.

    The real deal is carbon-soled, lightweight shoes with road pedals. It's the dif btwn Seven and Riv. As always, depends on power output.

  51. elissatheragamuffinJune 25, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    I have boring old platform pedals on both of my bikes.

    But, the last time I fell off of my bike I broke my leg, displaced my pelvis, and chipped a vertabrae. I view falling off my bike as a very bad thing.

  52. I am in your camp, Velouria. My fear of falling has actually kept me from learning how to start and stop "correctly" or using the pedal to get up into the saddles while moving. It seems so sill to worry about it, but when I am standing there and ready to try it, I picture myself falling and I can't do it. It is also the thing that inhibits my standing up and pedaling. I visualize my foot slipping and down I go. I think I need to work on my imagination skills.

  53. so, I've fallen off my bike four times now. The first was when I nearly got right hooked by a car, and in the swerve wound up being forced onto a curb. The second time was the 2008 D2R2. The third time was in the opening hours of the 2009 Westfield 400, and then most recently on this Memorial Day tour that I did in Vermont.

    All of these circumstances were because of some kind of hazard (either traffic or gravel terrain). none of them were because of riding clipless* and I do not believe that going clipless automatically means that you will eventually fall. It's just a consequence of being on a bike a lot and bicycle with two wheels being inherently unstable.

    A friend of a friend once said to me, while on a skiing vacation, "if you haven't fallen once today, you aren't skiing hard enough." Another friend also said, "if it doesn't have a small chance of maiming you, it isn't a sport. It's a hobby.**" That's all bravado that points at being able to make calculations on and trying to manage risk. So, to answer your question -- falling is something that should be avoided, but it should be avoided by taking precautions and if it happens, you shouldn't beat yourself over it. It isn't a failure, or a condemnation of your skills. It's just one of those things that happens.

    Nowadays, my crashes have certainly gotten me to back off from certain pursuits. I'm less enthusiastic about doing mixed terrain rides at the moment, since my confidence in those scenarios needs to be built up again. But when crashes do happen, I know how to run diagnostics on myself, and I have a drill for treating wounds, and I have a mental workflow for getting myself to safety and medical treatment. I have learned from skiing and golf and rambunctious childhood playmates, what a concussion feels like, what a broken bone feels like and what levels of road rash still allow me to continue riding and which ones will need me to hitch a ride. I kind of wish I didn't have to go through those experiences, but I feel more resilient for having gone through it and being able to tell a tale.

    To that point, btw, I will say that the first comment in this thread is hopelessly naive. I have reflexive actions to protect my head as well, partially natural and partially gained from studying martial arts and having crashed before. I will say, for a certainty, that on two of my crashes (the D2R2 and the Memorial Day crash) I'm pretty sure that I would have had a concussion and some kind brain trauma if I did not have a helmet. Choose to not wear one for reasons of fashion or comfort, and because you hope to ride cautiously enough that you will never have a crash. Don't choose to avoid one simply because you think that you're arms and shoulders are going to be "good enough."

    * though now that I think about it, there was one time when I was just out for a ride and I just fell off my bike while trackstanding and forgetting where a foot was in relationship to my wheel, but that had more to do with toe overlap than being clipped in. I'm pretty sure I would've had the same fall (and possibly twisted an ankle) if I was on platforms.

    ** ... oh, most debilitating injury after six years of rugby and fifteen years of riding bikes? Breaking a finger while playing golf.

  54. I prefer plain block pedals to Clips/Clipless. I haven't fallen, yet. But I got off of a motorcycle a few decades back at speed, and still have medical problems as a result. I'm with Velouria on this one (as well as most everything else).

  55. I recall five falls as an adult. Two happened on ice/snow. One resulted when I pitched over the handlebars after somebody had dug a wheel-swallowing trench across the bottom of a steep single-track. I had bought a helmet just weeks earlier. Had I not been wearing it, I'm sure I would have sustained a serious head injury. One resulted from having my clipless pedals adjusted too tight. Couldn't get out of them without tipping over. Fortunately I fell on nice soft grass.

  56. Most embarrassing crash... Pedaling my upright single speed with a bag dangling from my hands on the handlebar. My knee somehow got caught up with the bag (don't ask me how) and I looked up to see I was drifting towards a telephone poll. Yes, I hit it and fell over. Clearly, I just froze. No witnesses to this red faced incident, but it had nothing to do with pedals.

  57. Whiile I don't doubt that it's very easy to hurt yourself badly falling from a bicycle, not every fall results in a terrible injury either. I've fallen from my bike plenty of times over the years, including while learning to use clipless pedals and not really ever been seriously injured.

    The clipless pedal incidents were probably the easiest. It's like you stop, then just suddenly you're falling over on your side. It didn't hurt. I just felt stupid and laughed at myself, then got back up again. It only happened a couple of times and then I was good to go with the clipless. I stopped using clipless mostly because I hated having to change to special shoes each time I wanted to ride.

    other times I've fallen, it's mostly been ice related, in the winter time. Again, not all that bad. Mostly I've just fallen right to the side and hit my shoulder, often right into a snow bank. Once, in the late autumn, I hit a patch of leaves. It had snowed the night before and mostly melted, but the inside of the leaf pile was still frozen and therefore, super slick. I was coming to a stop when I hit it, so not going fast, but basically got tangled all around my bike somehow as I went down and badly sprained my thumb. I wasn't clipped in or anything, just sort of fell left as my bike was falling right or something like that. That's been my worst falling incident ever. That thumb still isn't as strong as it was before.

    Still, now that I'm 40 something, I'm getting a little scared of falling, like I never was before. It's just an awareness that the body doesn't fix itself as quickly when you're older. I'm riding slower through turns if the roads are wet. There were snowy/icy days this winter that i took a cab to and from work, where years previous, I'd have hopped on the bike without a thought in simillar conditions. If I were thinking about trying to use clipless pedals again though, I wouldn't let the learning curve bother me, because the falls weren't hard and only a few of them. Actually, the previous poster who said you could use the trainer to learn inside had it right. That's a pretty good idea if you have that option.

  58. Velouria said...
    "Either way, when I am told that a specific behaviour - like learning to ride clipless - is pretty much guaranteed to make me fall multiple times, I am highly motivated to avoid that behaviour."

    Then I take that you have no masochistic tendencies like so many other cyclist today that do ride clipless?

    I've said it before and I'll say it again.........
    Clipless does NOT belong on the street. Save'm for the racing circuit.

  59. Unfortunately one of the two times that I've fallen as an adult on a cycle, I tore my ACL and am only just feeling close to 90% a year after corrective surgery. I don't recommend falling -- nope, not one bit.

  60. I was told the same that falling was part of the learning process when I first started learning how to ride clipless; it terrified me.  But, the learning process was not as bad as I had imagined.  Yes, I did fall  - in slow motion.  Once I learned why I fell; I learned not to do it again. It becomes instinctual when to clip in and when to unclip.  I even learned how to stop with one foot still clipped in, but it took me awhile to get comfortable enough to do it.  And at times I still unclip both feet when coming to a stop.  Remember, there are no set rules, just do what you're comfortable with.  Just like you learned how to mount and dismount a bike your way; you will find your own way on how to clip in and know when to unclip.

    The only thing I would recommend is don't let anyone tell you, which  clipless pedals to go with.  Try a few different types and go with what you're truly comfortable with.  For me personally, I prefer not having to deal with pedals where I have to adjust the tension.  Just my preference. I like having a little platform for those times when I'm in heavy traffic and I can just rest my feet and pedal without being clipped in.  

    Anon. 8:04 has the right idea for those who truly fear trying clipless pedals.

  61. If you do decide to try the clipless route, just don't get too fatigued the first few times you ride with them. I don't use foot retention, but my husband is generally quite comfortable with them. However, once after a particularly strenuous single track ride (with no falls) he stopped to talk to a friend, found he was too fatigued to clip out in time, and fell. Unfortunately his bars twisted and he landed with all his weight on the end of his bars essentially giving himself the Heimlich maneuver. He had a perfect imprint of the Specialized logo on his abdomen for a week. We have a photo somewhere. . .

  62. No clipless pedals on my vintage 3-speed, but I did manage to fall off last week and while stopped at a crosswalk. I just lost my balance and toppled over, and got a lovely big bruise on my leg shaped like Mickey Mouse.

    In my karate class last year our teacher taught us to fall properly (bend knees, tuck chin towards chest, butt hits the ground first, roll backwards and slap hands on ground) and would make us do it 10 or 20 times in class. A bit complicated-sounding, and probably impossible to do when falling sideways off a bike, but effective nonetheless!

  63. Falling may or may not be a necessary part of cycling. When you increase your speed on the bike, you increase the risk. Is there a point at which it becomes unavoidable (in a general sense, not in a particular incident)? No. But it doesn't matter. You'll crash or you won't. So ride how you feel comfortable and don't worry about it.

    When it happens, there won't be anything to worry about, really. If you are in a situation where you are going to crash, there's nothing you can do. If there was, you wouldn't crash. So you crash. It will hurt, more or less. You most likely won't do any real damage (to yourself or the bike). What is there to worry about? The crash is finished by the time you realize it's happening. There's nothing to worry about anymore, just deal with the consequences. I've been hit from behind on several occasions while riding moderately on the proper part of the road with appropriate lighting (in other words, situations that all of us are in fairly frequently). If I allowed myself to worry about it happening again, I wouldn't be able to ride a bike. This isn't a discussion of being hit, but I think of all types of crashing in a similar manner.

    So, really, you can't spend too much time worrying beforehand because you don't know if it will ever happen. You don't have time to worry while it is happening because there is nothing you can do at that point. And you can't worry about it after because it's already done.

    Do what you feel is necessary to prevent it. Ride however you feel comfortable. Take on greater risk when you think it is worth the reward (which, atmo, clipless pedals are by a large margin).

    Since no one has suggested it, what I've always recommend to new clipless users is to put on one cycling shoe and one sneaker and practice clipping in and unclipping while riding around a parking lot. Then switch feet. Haven't had any complaints from that method.

  64. I just put clipless pedals on my mountain bike. Test riding on the road/driveway = no problem. Yesterday was my first ride off road with them. On my first attempt to stop before I really got anywhere, I fell over. Clipped out the right foot and leaned left, landed on my shoulder. It hurts today. No problems the rest of my ride. I find I have more trouble getting into the clips than getting out. The learning curve seems worth it as I have never ridden as well as I did yesterday.

  65. If you give clipless pedals a chance I think you might have the same revelations about how they changed the way you feel about pacelines and riding sportier bikes like your seven. The same way you are now thinking about how the geometry of the Seven feels better and more intuitive might be the way you eventually feel about clipless pedals.

    I love mine and have been using them for 20 years. I've used road and spd style and as long as the tension is set correctly you can get quite proficient in a short amount of time. You are a very adept rider and seem to learn quickly.

    Yes you are going to take at least one VERY slo-motion fall. Think Chariots of Fire slow. Mine came at a stop sign with a nice grassy embankment to fall on. You won't get hurt but you will learn from it.

  66. I started riding again last summer and rides with friends up hills (who were already clipless) convinced me to try them out. So I bought Shimano pedals and compatible shoes with soles that would allow for some walking. The one fall I've had was right after getting them on in my underground parkade pretty much at a stop as I fumbled for my key fob at the gate. Fell right onto my arse and was fine otherwise. I almost keeled over again at a crosswalk but got my right leg out in time though I'm sure it looked hilarious. So I agree that it's the first few times one comes to a stop and thoughts of other things intrude before you un-clip at least one leg that are the most dangerous. Now I won't go back as it's very satisfying to chug on up hills past people standing up.

  67. Avoid falling.... lol, I fell 7 weeks ago, broke my arm, had surgery, and now 7 weeks later on and still not back at work or riding, am in a splint, still swollen and no movement in wrist.... and that had nothing to do with the pedals either lol...... so falling off a bike to me is not a good thing.

  68. I've fallen off my bike as an adult once so far, and my bike wasn't even moving :-/ That was embarrassing. There was a bus next to me.

    As to the first comment about not wearing helmets, whatever our head protective insticts may be, I didn't have time to protect my head. I didn't hit it on the ground either (I wasn't moving so I hit the ground at slow speed and kept my neck straight), but I was not in a position to protect myself either.

    So I'm definitely going to continue wearing mine! :-p

  69. GOR has a problem.
    No concern for personal safety. No perception of bodily integrity.
    Meeting the clipless freaking pedal norm is important, living to tell the tale is not.
    Mortification of the flesh at that level is only laughably easy when you're already catching Hell seven ways from Sunday.
    Risk-taking at that level only works if you think your own person is not much to lose.
    I've known women athletes like GOR.
    Occasionally they are accompanied by high pressure Cycling Boyfriend. Other times their whole life is a mess, cycling is a relief and a respite. They might crash a lot but they have a chance to have fun too.

    GOR needs a friend
    Be nice to GOR. Do not try to be like GOR.

  70. "their whole life is a mess, cycling is a relief and a respite"

    Hey, that describes me pretty well actually : )
    What's wrong with that?

    As for " high pressure Cycling Boyfriend," most women doing the paceline rides I've gone to are in it on their own accord. Sometimes their SOs even "disapprove," though tolerate their involvement in road cycling.

  71. I don't like to fall or crash and I wouldn't practice how to do it. During an accident/crash things happen so quickly that you don't really have time to react once you are hit or hit something that you shouldn't have.
    I started using clipless pedals about 3 years ago because of numbness in my feet. The stiff soles of the clipless shoes helps disperse some of the pressure between your feet in the pedals. I started with mountain bike clips which are generally easier to get in and out of. The other benefit of mountain clips is their are more variety of shoes available and you can get a pedal with one side platform/ one side clipless.
    I never fell off the bike when I was using the mountain clipless pedals. At first I put the bike in the trainer and practiced clipping in and out.
    When I got my Carbon road bike I decided to try the road clipless pedals because they have more platform area to push against which I thought would help with foot numbness. I find the road pedals harder to clip into but just as easy to unclip as the mountain pedals. I have fallen with the road pedals because at first the tension was set to high and I had trouble unclipping. Usually these types of falls are just that you fall over, so most of the time you don't suffer any injury. Since I have adjusted the tension I haven't had any more problems with falling over. By the way the few times I fell my feet broke out of the clips by the time I hit the ground.

  72. I've fallen off my bike twice as an adult, and I'd like to keep that number down. Once was indeed the obligatory clipless-pedal fall (steep hill, couldn't shift down fast enough, ground to a halt, fell over). The other was because of brake fluid spilled on a road in the dark, when I went down so fast there was no time to be scared. That time I bruised one hand badly enough to think I might have broken it, but otherwise I escaped unscathed.

    IMHO falling is entirely undesirable and definitely not necessary to becoming an accomplished cyclist. The risk does seem higher in a tight group or paceline, though.

  73. This comment has been removed by the author.

  74. " I've fallen from my bike plenty of times over the years, including while learning to use clipless pedals and not really ever been seriously injured."
    I've fallen numerous times over the years without serious injury also. Then one day --- a fall cost be a lot! The hospital bill was $346,000 for a complete hip replacement and bleeding in my cranium. I still cycle but I don't use clipless pedals.

  75. I tend to fall- often- but also I tend not to break anything. Fell over once in my livingroom. <sitting on my bike to find right saaddle height. Tipped over and fell, I was sick and my body did not react to avoid the fall at all.

    Fell with clippless once, did not use after that since I almost always ride w the dog. This time he stopped suddenly to "do his buisness" and I could not do a controlled stopp. Fell on my side in the ditch, lots of snow. since I was still clipped in when landing I was kind of "locked" in the situation, bike on top of one leg kept me from getting loose, but at last I did.

    The dog has now learned how to suddenly stop the bike by pulling suddenly to one side in the right angel (exactely like I would do if trying to stop a horse or a cow that is heavyer and stronger than me). Often makes me fall off since he is REALLT quick. I tell him what I think about him and then continue riding. I tend to land on my hands and knees, never once hit my head. Last autumn I fell off once, sometimes twice a week. Now I learned how to fighth his methods. Often riding w him loose instead of on a roap. He is a good dog so that is no problem.

    I am getting too old for this falling thing but been lucky so far. Never broke one singel bone and I`ve fallen off horses and bikes and crashed cars.

  76. That's a hilarious exchange! I'm all for avoiding falling. I did enough of it as a kid doing stupidI made a huge mess earlier cutting up a watermelon. It was like the veggie version of hacking up a corpse. Had juice everywhere. :) things and still have the scars. Don't practice falling. That just seems like saying to a driver that one day you are going to wreck your car so go out there and practice hitting things.

  77. When my dad first taught me to ride a bike, he pushed me down a hill but forgot to tell me how to brake. Getting me stable was more important. So as two other kids on bikes were coming at me from different directions and they couldn't brake for whatever reason..probably couldn't see me teetering at a hill around the side...I crashed head on into one going perpendicular to me. I guess he figured let momentum do its thing and ill *eventually* stop.

  78. I think "everybody falls when they first go clipless" would be best modified to "many cyclists tip over while they are still getting used to a foot-retention system." You're already used to PowerGrips, I don't think you'd find clipless pedals all that challenging or spill-inducing, since you're already "unclipping" when you stop.

    I've had more than my share of falls and crashes, through a combination of my own klutziness and a moderately aggressive riding style. Most of them were off-road and none of them, fortunately, caused any serious injury to my person. Through years of falling off my bike, I've learned that I don't particularly enjoy falling off my bike, so I've gotten pretty good at avoiding such things (mostly through skills I learned doing things that made me fall off my bike, it's all very circular).

    Falling isn't an inevitable part of riding, although the risk increases with how much you push the limits of your riding and handling skills (which is why racing runs the highest risk). You can do a lifetime of commuting, trekking and even fast group rides without a single incident if you're lucky.

    I do have a "falling the first time I ever wore clipless pedals" story, but it's not because I forgot I was wearing them. When I bought my first-ever pair, I rode to the LBS, bought shoes and pedals and had them installed, then rode the half-mile home with my sneakers in a plastic shopping bag hanging off my handlebars. A gust of wind blew the plastic bag into my front wheel and made me crash. I was OK, but embarrassed. .

  79. To clarify one thing: I did not mean to imply that I am considering riding clipless on my transportation bikes. That would be a sight. I am considering it for whatever roadbike I end up riding on the paceline rides, etc. (etc. = I want to go to the velodrome as soon as I feel comfortable).

    But the problem with paceline rides it this: They don't occur in a vacuum, and I have to cycle almost 10 miles, partly in traffic, to get to them - on the same roadbike.

    What I don't understand about the attitude that it's okay to fall over in clipless at first, is: what about in traffic? At an intersection, when the car behind you is ready to go and you falter while starting? Scares me to even imagine it...

  80. After a short adjustment period I think that you will like clipless pedals. My Look keos have a very easy release, much easier than my spds. After you get used to them there is very free feeling to using clipless pedals.

    As far as crashing, do try to avoid that. My last crash was on a tandem and was bad because I was fine and my partner landed on her shoulder. Not good.

  81. I'm a toe clip person. Never fallen with toe clips. I'd been told that if I haven't fallen, I haven't ridden enough. I've been riding plenty. Finally, last year I fell. I was not using clipless pedals but getting on my bike too close to a sidewalk drop. Down we went,very fast, me holding onto the handlebars - which is what I'm told to do if you can. I carefully lifted my bike and hadn't damaged the paint. Then I realized I was hurt, maybe bad. I used the bike to get back inside the building with a 2-inch swelling on the side of my left foot growing and a lot of pain. I had sliced a small piece of bone in the left side of my left foot, hitting the edge of the cement sidewalk. For two months I transitioned from a wheelchair to a walker to partial weight then I was on my bike again. I'm frankly glad a fall is over because it was something that think about more after a friend or two calls you a fall virgin.

  82. "fall virgin"

    Gosh, they have clever terms for everything nowadays.

    Some of the stories posted here are even more awful than others I've heard; I almost feel as though I should be giving awards!

    I suspect that if/when I fall, it will be something similar to what Ben described... I am gifted that way.

  83. cris said:
    "** ... oh, most debilitating injury after six years of rugby and fifteen years of riding bikes? Breaking a finger while playing golf."

    My dad broke his back playing golf when he was in the army. This was after jumping out of planes. He's fine now. : )

  84. I broke my arm falling off a chair when I was 4...

  85. This is a very timely post because I had my first experience with clipless pedals one week ago, after a two-minute "lesson"/practice session with a friend who rides exclusively clipless and before we set out on a 60-mile ride that was to be mostly on car-free paths and trails. But we live in Brooklyn and had to pass through a dense (ie, typical in terms of lots of traffic, lots of stoplights, lots of unpredictably crazy drivers, jaywalking peds, etc.) part of lower Manhattan to get to the greenway. After my meager practice, I was *not* feeling prepared to stay clipped in through that kind of environment so I stay clipped in on one side and out on the other (pedals were not dual-sided). It was a little awkward and I'm not sure I would have wanted to keep it up for 10 miles but it put my mind at ease until we did get away from car traffic. That being said, I did fall three times that day, but only time I would say was not really preventable, given my level of experience. But each fall was less traumatic than the previous and by the time we had to ride back through Manhattan to return to Brooklyn, I was feeling comfortable enough to stay clipped in throughout the ride. I was, however, being extremely cautious and making sure to clip out well before I needed to stop at stoplights.

    I don't think I'll be totally comfortable riding clipless in NYC traffic but falling is definitely preventable in most city riding situations. I think once/if you do start riding clipless for paceline rides/at the velodrome, your feet and knees will thank you and you'll love the experience. (An option for riding in city traffic that doesn't involve being clipped in are pedals with a platform on one side/clipless entry on the other so you can wear regular shoes until you want to clip in. I have them and they're a bit heavy but I find them convenient for short rides when I want to ride my road bike but wear regular shoes and, as a novice, I appreciate that I can ride to a park or other car-free zone, change shoes, and then practice/ride without worry.

  86. Velouria said...
    "What I don't understand about the attitude that it's okay to fall over in clipless at first, is: what about in traffic? At an intersection, when the car behind you is ready to go and you falter while starting? Scares me to even imagine it..."

    You will find , as I did, that there is a good deal of denial among those that choose to ride clipless and little understanding of the dangers of falling , or worse yet a wreck, from the clipless pedals.

    It seems to be some sort of perverse badge of honor to use clipless in spite of the clear and present danger they present to the rider.

    Clipless give the rider a sense of being a racer boy with their use on the street. It is very much like having a through the hood blower on your bread and butter car.....it's all about looks. It's nothing more that being a "wanna be".........

  87. I fell just recently trying out a bike. Luckily it didn't hurt too bad and I didn't scratch or dent the bike. I was glad I had a long skirt on so the bike shop couldn't see the long cut on my shin. What I learned is that I need a mirror on my handlebars because I fell looking back before I turned. I'm not very coordinated at times, so I will always be wearing a helmet for sure.

  88. I think it's amazing that you can ride in a paceline, but that you're afraid to tip over on the grass :). Seriously! Riding inches off someone else's back wheel at high speeds seems incredibly dangerous to me, because in addition to HATING to fall, I also HATE going fast. Going 30 mph and crashing when the woman in front drops her chain or whatever would be far, far worse than falling over while stopped.

    That said, I agree that falling over in traffic would be scary. So practice on bike trails for a while, away from traffic. On the rides to the paceline, be very aware of your pedals. People who are afraid to fall, fall less often because we're careful and cautious.

    I've had two over-the-handlebars falls. One at about 15 mph. I hit my head, but avoided a concussion due to that unmentionable thing I was wearing on my head, I think. I also broke two ribs and a bone in my hand, got severe road rash... and you know what? That was three years ago. I ride ten times as much now. Guess it didn't scare me off. The second time, my rear brake failed as I was stopping. I went over the handlebars at nearly zero mph. Got a bit of scuffed skin on my hands, didn't hit my head, was a bit sore the next day. Falling at low speeds is *generally* not a big deal. If your biggest fear of clipless pedals is falling over at low speeds, I'd go for it.

    That paceline thing sounds super scary, and you're brave enough for that. Clipless should be easy.

  89. I used clipless (SPD) pedals and shoes when I lived in Arlington (MA) and worked in Waltham. My route to work was mostly on Concord Ave, and it became much easier when I changed to pedals that allowed me to pull up on the backstroke. I never had any desire or intention to either race or look like a racer (sorry to disappoint you, Walt D) -- I chose to try the clipless pedals because I was much more comfortable with the release mechanism than I was with toe clips and straps.

    I can recall two falls caused by an inability to unclip. The first was shortly after I bought them, stopped on Mass Ave in Arlington Center. I unclipped the right foot as I stopped, but the bike started to lean to the left, and with all my weight on that foot, I couldn't twist it free. It was a scary fall, out into a motor vehicle lane, but I was unhurt. The second fall I remember was more recent, and was caused by equipment failure. One of my cleats was slightly loose on the bottom of the shoe, and that allowed the shoe to twist without releasing the cleat from the pedal. That fall was even slower; I was on a fixed-gear bike, and my ability to balance a bicycle is much better than it was eight years ago (when I first tried clipless pedals). I had some bruises on my legs (apparently chromoly is harder and stronger than I am).

    On the other side of the coin, there was one time last summer when I may have avoided a crash because I was clipped in. Broken pavement in heavy rain shifted one wheel under me suddenly, but I managed to pull out of the fall, and I felt that I wouldn't have been able to if my feet had not been secured to the pedals.

    My feelings about falling are much as you describe them, Velouria. I have an aversion to falling that may be much greater than the expected damage from a fall. I do think that if you decide to give clipless pedals a try, there is a chance that you'll tip over at a stoplight once or twice, but I wouldn't hazard any guess about the probability of that event or the likely outcome. However, I think I can offer you the benefit of my experience, which might possibly prove useful in avoiding such a fall and gaining confidence in your ability to use them safely.

    Some others have already mentioned the importance of getting the tension on the pedal release mechanism adjusted properly. I'm only personally familiar with SPD pedals, but I would suggest starting out with them as loose as possible. Those who are concerned primarily with performance presumably want them adjusted such that they will be as efficient as possible in a race, but if you're just trying to get comfortable with them, that's really not so important. I wouldn't worry about your feet coming out unexpectedly while pedaling; I keep mine very loose, and while I'm no track sprinter, I sometimes pull up pretty hard while accelerating on my fixed-gear bike, and I've never had that happen.

    I remember when I was becoming accustomed to them that I would unclip one shoe while coasting to a stop, and make sure to lean the bike to that side as my forward motion came to an end. This was because I couldn't unclip a shoe if all my weight was on that pedal. Nowaday, I've learned to unclip that shoe even with all my weight on it. It is possible, at least with loosely-adjusted pedals, and it should be something you can practice with a bike in a trainer. When I do it, I imagine I'm pushing my leg through the pedal, heel first. It's not as easy as unclipping an unweighted foot, but I can do it at will now, and I don't need to think about it. There's no reason, if you're patient, that you can't become well-accustomed to unclipping from a bike in a trainer before ever trying it on the road.

  90. Well, I've fallen off my bike three times in the last 4 years or so of riding a bike.

    One time it was on the sidewalk in front of our apartment, as I was pulling up to stop, and I hit a patch of wet moss and the front wheel slid sideways. I almost didn't fall, but tripped over the bike and fell over on my hands.

    Another time, I was riding in a bike lane on the right side of the road, down a hill. The automobile traffic next to me was stopped still in a line. There was a bus in the line of traffic, and the bus decided to let people off right there where it was sitting, and one guy jumped out of the bus, right into the bike lane, about a foot in front of me. We collided. I rolled sideways off my bike with some kind of profanity issuing from my mouth and skinned up my hands a little, but didn't have a hard impact on any other part of my body. The guy who jumped off the bus was ok too, and very apologetic.

    The last time I fell of was mostly my own fault, I was riding down a hill on campus at my work, and there are these sort of tracks across the road that delineate pieces of the concrete used to make the road. They are metal tracks with rubber in the middle, and they make a little bit of a gap, and a bump. I just happened to hit one while I was holding the bars with one hand, and the bump and the slippery of the metal (it was raining) made the bars twist, and I went down fairly hard on my shoulder and hip. My right crank got a little bent, which was remedied (yay steel), and my shoulder and hip were sore for a few days. I always keep both hands on the bars riding through there now.

    I've never used clipless pedals though (hah, on my Raleigh DL-1, that would be awesome) :) I've always wondered why people use them for riding in a city for non-racing purposes, it seems exceedingly inconvenient if nothing else, having to unclip and reclip at every stop. And in fact, I see people with clipless pedals often nearly causing collisions coming out of a stop, because the group of people behind them nearly run into them as they struggle to get their foot clipped in again.

  91. I fell off my bike for the first time a couple of weeks ago: mere days after moving to Philly. My roadbike tire got caught in the trolley tracks on Passyunk Ave, and I flipped over the handlebars and hit my head, shoulder and shin on the pavement. Bad news. Last night I got back on the bike and braved those same tracks and I was much more conscious and totally fine! I don't agree that falling is a "rite of passage" for cycling because it is a horrible feeling, especially when you get a goose egg on your temple, but now at least I know how it feels. But more than that: I know that be more aware of my surroundings and how different city streets make for more risky cycling. Falling happens so fast it's hard to say what is the "best" strategy for the fall: I say just try to avoid it, be safe and hope you don't hit your head! Mine hurt for days...

  92. Wow, just read back through to my comment and found that the phone had pasted something from the clipboard in my comment! Feel free to delete that out if you want, since watermelons are totally irrelevant to falling from bikes. :)

  93. Patience - Oh no, trolley tracks : (( Sorry to hear about your experience; I avoid them like the plague.

  94. We have streetcar and light-rail tracks all over the place in Portland, and thankfully I've never had a bad experience with them yet, but a friend of ours (who we just bought the Secret Service from) did crash on them once, with her daughter in a bobike seat on the back of the bike. Thankfully her daughter was fine (the seat wraps around a bit, so no part of her body really hit the ground), but the bike took a nice chunk out of our friend's leg, and tweaked her knee out.

    You definitely have to pay attention to what you're doing around tracks, especially if it's wet, and/or you have skinny tires.

    Also, I don't think crashing is any kind of right of passage or sign that you've "pushed yourself far enough" - it may be inevitable that you fall over at some point, but it could be during the most stupid, mundane moment of cycling. It just is what it is. Personally, I fell over more, and harder, walking on ice for a few months in Lithuania than I have in 4 years of riding a bike in Portland.

  95. Well first off falling ain't no badge of honor, the "your not trying hard enough if you don't fall off" crowd is... well... misguided and probably under 25 ;-).
    That said it is very likely that if you ride enough you will eventually fall off, biff it, crash, endoo, etc. I have crashed at speed and crashed going <5 miles an hour, that one rung my bell so hard I literally saw stars like I was in a bugs bunny cartoon- thank god for my helmet, I have crashed because I was inattentive or just stupid and also just because of circumstances beyond my control. It happens. I do think going to a gym set up with a nice soft mat room or area where you can have someone (cyclist, Martial artist, gymnast) show you how to fall is a good idea. Think of it as tumbling lessons. Finally riding clip-less does not have to equal falling at the beginning. Buy a decent brand that will work smoothly. Have someone who knows what they are doing check the tension setting so its easy for you to clip in and out. Practice on your trainer clipping in and clipping out especially when coming to a stop (that is when most falls happen for beginners). Ain't nothing wrong with skipping the clip-less because you don't want to deal with the hassles but don't let fear rule your decision. You found out pace lines can be fun if you know what your doing right? If someone had suggested, a year ago, that riding 6 inches off another cyclists wheel at 20+ mph with someone behind you doing the same was no big deal would have believed them? been scared to do it? And now? Same deal.

  96. I'm really clumsy so I can't imagine using clipless pedals!

    That said, the most recent fall in memory was about 6 years ago and was entirely the result of my own stupidity. I happened to be riding my crappy, aluminium Schwinn down this huge hill near my house when my chain slipped off. The bike pretty much just stopped underneath me, but the laws of physics were unfavourable and I flew over the handlebars. Quite unfortunately, this resulted in some delicate anatomy meeting a very unyielding top-tube as well as a bit of nasty road rash where my feet and arms skidded on the gravel. I also lost two toenails in the process.

    Since then, there have been a lot of extremely near misses that I think would have been a lot scarier involving cars and doors and things like that, but so far nothing has happened. I try to cycle slowly in the city and I have a big, steel bike that puts me higher than most in traffic as well as some decent lights, so I'd like to think that helps me stay somewhat safe. We'll see! :)

  97. Velouria ,still enjoy reading your blog if your looking for a road bike checkout Competitive Cyclist they do bike builds on line and they have some nice looking rides Willier is a beautiful race machine or Look and Cervelo and buy some good clip pedals and shoes and stop being a woos after the first day of riding and climbing you'll be thinking this is no big deal . You will feel more connected to your bike riding of the seat and climbing and keep your knees in glenn in the northwest

  98. Patience Meliora Blythe,trolley tracks... zonks! A tough lesson to learn. I was similarly baptized with half buried old trolley tracks breaking through crumbling asphalt. I wouldn't say that city streets are "more risky" than suburban or rural cycling. If anything I'd say it is safer, and the statistics support that view. But yes, urban riding involves different challenges and new skills need to be learned.

  99. Conversely, I just almost crashed because I WASN'T clipped in. Coming home in a light rain the other night, through an underpass I missed seeing a new hole in the ground (there's a ton of construction going on at the moment), both feel slipped off the pedals and I was left wobbling along with both feet loose, sliding all over the wet road with cars behind me and coming the other direction and no shoulder for a few feet. A bit of a wake up after a sleepy late-night commute!

    However, in spite of my earlier comment about how pushing your limits makes crashing more likely, I in no way feel that falling off is the sign of a better or more dedicated cyclist. If the epidermis meets the asphalt you've done something wrong, the better cyclist is the one who doesn't crash.

    As for the relative safety of toe clips vs clipless pedals, it's been my experience that if you're using the toe clips and straps tight enough to get any real efficiency benefit out of them, then they're somewhat harder to get out of quickly than clipless pedals, and if, god forbid, you do crash, you're more likely to wrench your ankle and do some damage while strapped in than with clipless, which, like ski bindings, will pop loose with enough lateral or rotational force.

    The other thing about toe straps is that in order to get them "racing tight" you have to tighten them down AFTER your feet are in them, which means reaching down and fiddling with the straps while you're in motion, and then being able to hit the release on the strap before you stop, which is why clipless pedals, once LOOK made them reliable, quickly became a standard, they were hands-free. This is especially fun on a fixie in traffic (it's not as impossible as it sounds, you need good slow-speed handling skills and a good awareness of where your feet are at any given moment). Most people don't use their clips that tight (and they don't use a cleat on their shoe to lock onto the pedal), which is much saner in stop-and-go situations.

    What I'm trying to get at is, in my experience (and professional "bike shop" opinion) is that clipless pedals are safer than toe straps. I've used both pretty extensively over the years, but I only use foot retention at all on "sporty" rides. For commuting - about 95% of my riding these days - I use BMX pedals and street shoes, and go nearly as fast as when clipped/strapped in (not that that's very fast in either case!).

  100. There is no reason to be scared of clipless pedals, if you can't get your foot out, you have them too tight around your cleat. Do not let the error of others dissuade you from what is a wonderful and wonderfully easy thing.

    I have fallen (for other reasons), I have no interest in falling again, but it could happen. On any given day I don't think about it, just like I don't think about getting hit by a meteorite.

  101. When someone gives me advice along the lines of "you need to get used to falling," I feel even more determined to prove them wrong. I know it's good to be prepared for the possibility, but if I can avoid it, I will. I'm not just scared of falling - I'm scared of injuring myself and not being able to enjoy the things I love to do. Even a relatively minor injury to a joint could sideline me (as it has to a number of my friends at one time or another).

    I have fallen on my bike, though. It was the evil trolley tracks that did it. I thought, "Oh no, trolley tracks! Danger! Danger!" Then down I went. I ended up a little scraped up and sore, but no real injuries, thank goodness. I felt oddly proud to have survived my first (and, I hope, only) crash.

    I haven't tried clipless pedals, but I have a set of cheap plastic half-clips that I love. I bought them as a temporary fix until the nice ones came back in stock, but I found the plastic ones work amazingly well - easy to get in and out of, comfortable with all my shoes, etc. I don't think I want clipless pedals on my commuter bikes, but maybe someday I'll want them for my road bike. I don't know if I'd want to wear clipless for commuting though, but I know lots of people who do. With clips, I can choose not to use them in tricky situations, which isn't an option for clipless. Sometimes I ride in pretty tight spaces next to traffic, and that slo-mo fall that people describe could be extremely dangerous - not from the fall so much, but from cars who might not see me go down.

  102. I fell once because of clipless pedals (I assume that we're talking about lack of toe clips here) I don't remember it hurting that much, but I did feel a bit of an idiot. Now I have them on my mountain bikes and on one of my touring bikes.

    The big plus of clipless pedals is the enormous increase in pedal power and in endurance. One can drive the pedals through 360 degrees which not only increases power output but also enables one to conserve muscle use and so prevent fatigue.

    I almost fell today using a bike with toeclips, tried to twist my foot to release my foot and only just realized in time to prevent a fall. I suggest playing with the tension so that one can pull up with full force while still easily releasing them. But in all honesty it's only a question of practice. It will become automatic.

    For technical mtb stuff these clipless pedals are essential. No hassle with getting back on the pedal and being fixed to the bike makes riding so much easier.

  103. Further to my previous rambling post, my advice for your paceline rides is to try clipless pedals, you'll find that you can accelerate faster, and go for longer. Ask Lance Armstrong why he uses them. I don't think you'll have a problem with the 10 mile cycle to get to your start point.

    Suggestion, find a way to get accustomed to the pedals during a long off-road ride over soft ground. Not so hard if you fall.

  104. i often wonder this myself when i hear people say real cyclists have at least one dooring or hitting a car. i've been riding for transportation for over a year and no i've never had that happen. the closest thing i've come to falling was hitting a patch of sand, and then as my bike tilting over i dismounted very quickly. the bike flopped over onto the ground with my hands still holding on to the handlebars. it was kind of funny, but i felt lucky that happened on a bike path and not the road!

  105. I have never actually fallen off my bike except for one occasion where I got hit by a car, it did little damage to me or the bike luckily, though I was badly bruised for a few weeks. I cannot see the advantage of falling off a bike at all, it leaves both bike and rider open to injury. When I saw Youtube footage of a bike rider being hit by a car and he managed to kick himself off the bike by quickly putting his foot on the front of the car and pushing, I think that would have been a useful skill for me to have had, but it is not something I would ever practise.

  106. Ludicrous!
    Let's have an accident so we can know what it's like to have an accident lol!

    "There. Now I've cut my finger nice and deep with my kitchen knife. Good. When I do that by accident in the future I'll know milliseconds beforehand that it's going to hurt like hell. Valuable information. Glad I had the foresight to practice that. Perhaps again for good measure."

    Great material for a Monty Python movie.

    Athletic or not, all the practice in the world in falling (I laugh when I think about people actually doing that) will not make falling any better. It is far better to NOT FALL.

    -Practice NOT falling...(Oh you should just do it! It's really easy, honest.)
    -Ride at a SAFE speed...
    -Obey traffic laws, just like an automobile...
    -Pay ATTENTION to what is going on around you, what is 100 feet in front of you, and 40 feet just ahead on the road surface.
    -Maintain your machine properly.
    -And for the sake of intelligence, don't hamper the ability to get OFF the bike as fast as you can. You might as well put a time delay on your brake levers.

  107. Nobody likes to fall. Almost every cyclist does, at some time or another.

    I don't see how having one's feet fastened to pedals causes one to fall. At least, it's never happened to me, and I've used both clipped and clipless pedals. Then again, I never used Cinelli M-71 pedals, and don't think I want to.

  108. Really funny dialogue! So true!

    Agree with what others have said. Clipless not being a crash hazard, more of a tip over and fall down thing. And only for a short while of becoming accustomed to a new “twist” in your routine.

    I use Look style pedals/cleats by the way. They are totally easy. The red ones.

    If I can even remember I think I probably tipped over a couple times while initially getting used to clipless. Kind of a slow motion thing resulting in minor bruises maybe, including to my pride. Typically at a stop light or stop sign. The culprit IMO being daydreaming.

    Anyhow, at first there’s all this worry about somehow not being able to unclip, or forgetting to unclip early enough or whatever. At first you are super attentive, unclipping way sooner than you need to, etc. After awhile you realize it’s a piece of cake and no big deal and you really don’t need to be so on guard about it. So you relax and start going back to what normally do. Thing is that the unclipping motion is still not quite automatic in your brain yet. Pull up to a stop light, not thinking about what you’re doing (i.e.daydreaming), and without a thought in the world you automatically proceed to put your foot down. But its bolted to the pedal... and won’t…. let…. go! …Ahhhh!

    Pedestrians and drivers all stare and wonder why on earth you would just suddenly tip over like that. After a couple tip overs the brain must get the idea that this new little motion needs to be added into the default mode. Soon you are back to daydreaming, clipping and unclipping, without a care in the world. Once you finally learn you never forget, its like riding a bicycle.

    As an aside, what would be the harm in a one-time post dedicated to “helmet ideology” and just let the ensuing cage fight serve to release all that pent up energy?

  109. I haven't fallen as an adult, and honestly -- if I thought I was very likely to, I wouldn't ride. I ride on asphalt, in traffic, and falling would be potentially lethal (although I'm sure I would have the presence of mind to throw myself over to the side AWAY from traffic if possible).

    I'm a cautious slow rider, I'm on a big heavy upright bike that rides like a tank, and I've never even come close to falling on the thing. I HAVE stopped abruptly, staggered around, realized the bike was going, and let it fall over between my legs, but never hit the pavement myself.

  110. This is part of the reason I have never wanted clipless pedals: everyone falls at least once. I fall off my bicycle enough, thank you very much. (For the record: I have toe cages without straps and I've never had a problem with them, and I had metal toe cages with straps before that. I have no idea why people say they're hard to get out of, unless they had the straps tight. I find them just as easy as platform pedals.)

    I'm a total klutz, to be honest. If I hadn't learned to ride a bicycle as a child (which involved many scraped knees and crying) it's unlikely I'd have learned as an adult.

    I fall off my bicycle several times a year. Usually I injure my dignity more than anything, but I've got a few fading scars on my elbows and knees from other falls, and I had a fall/crash put me in the hospital for a few days last fall.

    And it's not like I don't know what I'm doing--I ride my bicycles everywhere, for pete's sake.

    But it's not necessarily the pain I fear. It's that terrible moment when you realize you're going to fall, that you've lost control of your bicycle and you're going to eat it. That's the worst part, to me.

    And that fear of losing control of my bicycle sometimes makes me so over-cautious that, ironically, I make myself more likely to fall. But it's hard to get past that panic reaction.

  111. I have Shimano pedals that are SPD on one side and regular flat on the other. I believe they are mountain bike cleats. I tried riding clipless last year and had a hard time getting my foot out and fell several times. I told this to my bike shop guy and he loosened the clippy thing in the pedals several months ago, but I didn't get up the nerve to try them again until reading the advice on this post. Yesterday, I put on my bike shoes and set off to learn again and it was easy as pie. Loosening the clip made all the difference. My foot stayed attached when lifted vertically while pedaling, but I was able to get it out with the slightest twist of the heal. I can't wait to take a long clipless ride this afternoon! I highly recommend Shimano mountain SPDs on a loose setting to learn how to ride clipless. Practice on the grass.

  112. I've fallen about 10 times in 25 years. I'm 45. I ride virtually every day, all year, day and night. Maybe a few more times, but so minor/painless as not to be memorable. 3 times there has been blood (minor). 1 fractured wrist, 1 fractured ulna. I haven't fallen at all in the last 5 years. I've fallen only twice in the last 10 years (minor), so I guess I got my learning/stupidity out in earlier years.

    most falls have been a result of me doing something i would acknowledge as stupid or risky even at the time. even now, wet steel and black ice can show me that i'm not careful enough, though nowadays they let me off with a warning slip or 3.

    i avoid falling, of course, but am not particularly afraid of it. it will happen, and chances are it won't be a big deal. relative to the amount of time i spend doing it, i fall far more often on stairs than on bicycles. one of these days i will learn that socks and gloss-paint stair treads are worse than ice, especially with some alcohol in the system!

    i don't ride with foot retention, but long ago i did. herewith my obligatory couldn't-get-foot-down story:

    i was wearing traditional clips and straps with cleated shoes on my first "serious" road bike, out in a german suburb of frankfurt. i had the straps tight for a steep climb. as i arrived panting at the top, instead of reaching down to loosen a strap, i reached out to lean against a fat metal utility pole. just then, a school bus let out a group of young teenagers, mostly girls, about 50 yards away. my front wheel went sideways out from under me, away from the pole, while i hugged the pole hard, cheek to metal, struggling to pull the bike back underneath me. i was all sweaty, so slid slowly down the pole as i convulsed... i finally gave up and fell the remaining 2 feet as the teenagers exploded in laughter. that never happened again.

  113. When I was in college I fell while stopping to park my bike before class in front of a huge crowd, including a math professor who also owned the bike shop I frequented. My sneakers got caught in straps pulled a wee bit too tight, nothing I could do but topple over.

    I've only fallen at speed twice in 30+ years of road riding, one minor (snagged a curb at slow speed while looking backward, unclipped but my shoes slipped on the grass) and one decent fall. I hit a dip in the road at 20mph reaching for my water bottle, handlebars went 90 degrees to the right and I was airborne. I don't even remember how my feet came unclipped, but I surely didn't do it consciously. I rolled so that the impact was on my side - my leg was black and blue from hip to knee. My helmet broke from the impact, but no bones fortunately. I would have rather avoided that one - it certainly makes me a little nervous still when I am going fast and I can't completely see the road in front of me (shadows, etc...).

    I use Speedplay X pedals, lots of float, dual entry, easy in/out. I find that clipless really helps me be more efficient when climbing, especially if I need to accelerate uphill. I am in no way a racer wanna-be (50+ 240lbs ex-high-school-jock with a realistic self-image), but I enjoy riding hard, and I like the feeling of pedaling with my feet locked to my bike.

  114. Clips and falling are two separate items:

    Clips are easy - I just learned at the age of 57. It's another reflex action. Just practice.

    You can learn this skill easily. Start leaning against a wall. Clip & unclip a few times - both feets. Got it down? Take the bike to a soft grassy area. Ride around a bit and clip and unclip without stopping. Got it down? No? Keep at it, carefully unclipped on both feet when you want to stop. Now you got it down? OK, pick a dominant side. I'm a lefty, chosen because I ride in traffic all the time, and it makes a very slight improvement in positioning at lights. That's the side you will always unclip first to stop and last to start. Try it on the grass. See - easy. Now practice until it becomes a reflex to unclip the same foot before stopping. At least a few more times.

    I wore a heavy sweatshirt and ( of course) the helmet when I went out the first time... No falls no problem. The only sticky part was remembering to think and plan ahead when stopping.

    Looks like falls, which have a similar reflex solution, will be another post...


  115. My boyfriend set me up with multi-directional Shimano spds and pedals. I did forget to loosen the tension screws on the pedals before my first ride, and hit the deck!

    Eventually, i found the engagement too loose, tightened them up, changed my set up to Time ATAC Aliums etc etc. Riding without cleats frustrates me, as do straps!

    I dislike falling, but am pretty accepting of it as I play bike polo. I prefer riding clipped in for polo as well - but I have chosen some totally clapped out ATAC cleats that retain my foot at the relatively low polo speed, but whilst commuting my feet can disengage accidentally.

    I reckon give cleats a go! As somebody else said, your tastes and feel for what is comfortable has evolved - you might find the same with your pedal preferences.

  116. Thought I'd comment on this three year old thread as there are glaring omissions that ought to be addressed for those who encounter this article.

    Firstly, if you ride ANY two-wheeled vehicle - be it a carbon road bicycle or vintage Rene Herse, all the way to a 150 hp sport motorcycle - you have to accept the statistical fact that at some point you WILL fall/crash/come apart from your vehicle.

    This is not the same as wanting to fall or `paying your dues'; if you ride any considerable amount, you have to accept that you WILL fall off at some point.

    If you cannot, then hang up that Rivendell on your living room wall or park your vintage Triumph T100 in the garage and drive a car.

    Having said this, attention is best paid to proper training - that is, how to AVOID falling or crashing. It is a lot more than the `being careful' rubbish offered above and is far more effective than riding in fear of falling.

    At a minimum, you have to master two things: (1) Turning and (2) Braking.

    1. Turning

    All two wheel single-track vehicles turn by leaning, and the ONLY positive method to induce this is to COUNTERSTEER.

    If you don't understand countersteering, STOP riding your bike/motorcycle immediately, read on and PRACTICE and INTERNALISE this technique.

    Countersteering is momentarily steering IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION of the direction you want to turn.

    That is, steer right to turn left and conversely, steer left to turn right.

    Another way to remember this is to push on the INSIDE BAR of the direction you wish to turn.

    The bike will automatically steer in the correct direction, but only after the initial lean is established through countersteering.

    To tighten the turn, countersteer more (pressure on the inside bar) and to widen the turn or pick the bike upright, push on the outside bar (or pull on the inside bar).

    Everyone who rides a bicycle intuitively does this because it is the ONLY way to initiate a turn; however, knowing how this works can save your skin in an emergency.

    2. Braking

    The front brake is the single most powerful control on your bicycle. It can provide ALL the stopping power you require and experienced cyclists and motorcyclists often use only the front brake.

    It ought to be obvious that (1) you must brace BOTH arms on the bars when braking heavily to prevent steering the bike, (2) application of the brake must be PROGRESSIVE (squeeze, don't grab), and (3) heavy
    braking ought to be done when the bike is upright and travelling straight.

    The caveats above will avoid the `over the bars' scenario touted by those who deride, or rather fear the front brake.

    The rear brake is effective when traction is miserable or arguablywhen your speed is very low; however, 100% braking is achieved when the front brake is (progressively) applied to the point where the rear
    wheel lifts from the ground.

    Mastering turning and braking are absolutely fundamental for riding safely, whether you are a racer or a utility/commuter cyclist.

    Other fundamentals include visual skills (looking ahead, looking where you want to go, avoiding`target fixation') and managing traction. Articles on these subjects abound online and are definitely worth reading if you take cycling halfway seriously.

    Enough of my rant, what about clipless pedals? Having started using toe clips/straps and transitioned to clipless early on, I could never imagine going back. Learning to unclip by turning your feet is facile
    and becomes automatic within a few rides. Not having to reach down to loosen a toestrap seriously reduces your workload!

    I never fell once when I started using clipless pedals and I assure you, assuming you take learning seriously, you won't either.



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