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Thread: Going clipless

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    Going clipless

    Ok members, at what age do you think it's appropriate to have a child start riding clipless? My daughter is turning 13, been riding for a few years and racing (X-C) for 1 +. Also, what style would be more appropriate (SPD, Crank Brothers...)?

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  2. #2
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    I would find a pedal with a lot of float. CB have float but I was always bending the cages, so back to SPDs.

    I went from toe clips to clipless and can't ride a bike with flats.
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    Sounds like she's old enough. Some people will say SPDs because you can adjust the tension, but Crank Brothers will also work fine. On the Crank Brothers, make sure you put the cleats on so that they release at less of an angle.

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    i waited until i was 30.

    i wouldn't want much float when learning though, as your foot will move a lot without actually unclipping. if it were me, id have low spring tension, and as little float as possible.

    or, just wait until she wants to try it...

  5. #5
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    When they are proficient riders and can keep their cool and stay on the bike under stress is when they are ready, it's not about age.

    As far as pedals and shoes, good SPD's are what I would go with. Get some Shimano XT or better unless you know another pedal works well, xpedo's for example usually work great. IMO this isn't an area to try and go budget, get good pedals that consistently release cleanly. I've had terrible experiences with some Welgo and Ritchey pedals. Higher end shimano's really aren't that expensive and they work very consistently once adjusted to the rider.
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    I would think it would be entirely skill dependant and has nothing do do with age. Of your kid wants to go clipless, then she's ready. It might help with racing of she's the competitive type.

    i rode clipless for several years and went to flats last year. I don't race, but I am having more fun with flats, which is entirely subjective.

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    As soon as she is old enough to hit the deck and still have fun learning the sport.

  8. #8
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    I love using both Shimano SPD pedals and Crankbrothers. The SPD pedals are great due to the amount of adjustment you can make to the tension. Shimano SPD pedals are a great way to start on clipless pedals. You can probably get the SPD M520s for cheap if you look around. They tend to be on sale in shops and online. I use these pedals on my road bike.

    I love my Crankbrothers Mallet DH pedals because they feel like flats. For some reason, I just love these pedals and I keep using them even when I want to go back to flats.
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    I don't think you can get more float than with the Speedplay Frog, plus easy entry and exit too.

    Some people love them, some hate them. I've heard people say it feels like you're on ball bearings when you're clipped in. I really like them for the float and ease of use and maintenance.

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    Agreed I love my frogs. I even have them on my road bike. They have a ton of float. I had to run spacers but for her I think that's not an issue

  11. #11
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    I like the SPDs also. I wanted to like the Crank Brothers but after two years went back to XTRs. I came out of the egg beaters fine, but hated clicking into them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jestep View Post
    When they are proficient riders and can keep their cool and stay on the bike under stress is when they are ready, it's not about age.

    As far as pedals and shoes, good SPD's are what I would go with. Get some Shimano XT or better unless you know another pedal works well, xpedo's for example usually work great. IMO this isn't an area to try and go budget, get good pedals that consistently release cleanly. I've had terrible experiences with some Welgo and Ritchey pedals. Higher end shimano's really aren't that expensive and they work very consistently once adjusted to the rider.
    i've had very good luck with every shimano pedal i've used, even the cheap ones. today's M530 works very well although they're a little heavier than others. the mini platform makes them easier to clip in and out of, as well.

    remember the old shimano M737 "spuds"? i acquired a pair in the mid-nineties and those things were still on my 'cross bike when i sold it in 2017.

    however, as jestep says, go good SPDs but i gotta say shimano's been good to me over the years.

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    We started this spring on the road bike, kid just turned 12.

    It was his idea, so I didn't feel so bad when he fell over clipped in (rite of passage).

    For the record, his sister thought this was the dumbest idea she'd ever seen. He considers it a great success, but we'll probably stay platform on the mountain bike for a few more years.
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    First of all, there is no age requirement, if anything it is a skill requirement. The mindset of needing to evolve into clipless pedals has to stop. I think at that age all you are going to do is discourage her and give her more opportunity to lose confidence.

    The last thing a 13 yr old needs to worry about is the supposed efficiency of clipless pedaling. She needs to continue to develop fundamental skills about how to position her body and manipulate her bike without the crutch of clipless pedals.

    Give her 5 more years until pressuring her into it and then at that point she may have developed those skills and then can capitalize on the potential benefits of clipless at that time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Forest Rider View Post
    As soon as she is old enough to hit the deck and still have fun learning the sport.
    I think this is actually the best advice... When she's ready to take a few silly falls in the process of learning then go for it. That's the only tough part about learning.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fxdeg View Post
    Ok members, at what age do you think it's appropriate to have a child start riding clipless? My daughter is turning 13, been riding for a few years and racing (X-C) for 1 +. Also, what style would be more appropriate (SPD, Crank Brothers...)?
    As a personal preference, I use SPD's. I've tried CB's, but like the flexibility I find I have with SPD's. If you go that route, I suggest she start with using Shimano's SH56 cleats, which allow multi release (ranges, more or less, from straight up to 90 degrees off to one side). SH56's allow panic exits rather easily, but still don't release when under pedaling load. By contrast, the original SH51 cleats release in the traditional off to one side only fashion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fredcook View Post
    If you go that route, I suggest she start with using Shimano's SH56 cleats, which allow multi release (ranges, more or less, from straight up to 90 degrees off to one side). SH56's allow panic exits rather easily, but still don't release when under pedaling load.
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    Do you guys have a high school mountain biking team? Maybe contact the coach and pick his brain.
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    Thank you all for your various responses and opinions. Interesting that with all the technology and advances, Shimano SPD is still the crowd favorite ( as is mine, and I am a dinosaur). Completely forgot about the Speedplay option. Will most likely go with SPD, as I have a few older sets laying around that mimic the current Saint design, a nice platform that you can stand on, if you either miss a clip or don't want to be clipped in. Yes there is a slight weight penalty, but we aren't battling for WC or weight weenie wins.
    As for if I'm "pressuring" her into this...hardly, it was her idea, her decision and choice. She knows she will fall (most likely at a ridiculously slow speed or stop). If she doesn't like them, no big deal, she can go back to flats, and I glue the rubber plug back under the shoes we bought her.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fxdeg View Post
    Thank you all for your various responses and opinions. Interesting that with all the technology and advances, Shimano SPD is still the crowd favorite ( as is mine, and I am a dinosaur). Completely forgot about the Speedplay option. Will most likely go with SPD, as I have a few older sets laying around that mimic the current Saint design, a nice platform that you can stand on, if you either miss a clip or don't want to be clipped in. Yes there is a slight weight penalty, but we aren't battling for WC or weight weenie wins.
    As for if I'm "pressuring" her into this...hardly, it was her idea, her decision and choice. She knows she will fall (most likely at a ridiculously slow speed or stop). If she doesn't like them, no big deal, she can go back to flats, and I glue the rubber plug back under the shoes we bought her.
    A trick I used that I often recommend to people is to sit in a doorway on the bike (so you can hold both sides of the door jam for balance) and just clip in and out repeatedly for 20 minutes or so while you watch TV. It burns in that muscle memory before you actually try it while riding and saves you a couple falls. (Though I'd still start her on grass the first time, she will likely still take a spill or two getting used to it.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheDwayyo View Post
    A trick I used that I often recommend to people is to sit in a doorway on the bike (so you can hold both sides of the door jam for balance) and just clip in and out repeatedly for 20 minutes or so while you watch TV. It burns in that muscle memory before you actually try it while riding and saves you a couple falls. (Though I'd still start her on grass the first time, she will likely still take a spill or two getting used to it.)
    Absolutely, she will spend some time on the trainer before I turn her loose on grass or the trails. Which conversely is exactly the opposite of my 1st experience w/ clipless..

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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheDwayyo View Post
    A trick I used that I often recommend to people is to sit in a doorway on the bike (so you can hold both sides of the door jam for balance) and just clip in and out repeatedly for 20 minutes or so while you watch TV. It burns in that muscle memory before you actually try it while riding and saves you a couple falls. (Though I'd still start her on grass the first time, she will likely still take a spill or two getting used to it.)
    Hey, I just made that suggestion in a thread within the past few weeks.
    A friend told me that trick quite some time ago and I've never heard it otherwise.

  23. #23
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    I got my first SPDs in 1990 when they were first launched. I was 15. I was running toeclips and straps for around 2 or 3 years before this. So I don't think age is a constraint (within reason), more confidence and ability constraint. I'd suggest Shimano SPD with light tension and the multi-release cleats to start with. Not so much for ease, but to minimise any potential negative impact on a growing body (i.e. knee/joint issues etc).
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    Be sure to tell her she will fall over three time before it becomes instinct. Thatís been my experience with folks. Could be an interesting poll; how many times you fell after switching to clipless.


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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by horigan View Post
    Be sure to tell her she will fall over three time before it becomes instinct. Thatís been my experience with folks. Could be an interesting poll; how many times you fell after switching to clipless.
    I went clipless close to 30 years ago and I still fall once in awhile.

    Oh, you meant falling due to not being able to unclip...

  26. #26
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    I'd wait until she REALLY wants to go clipless, although since she's been racing for a year, she probably wants to.
    Learning to ride clipless is easy; it's keeping flats skills that's hard.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by MSU Alum View Post
    Learning to ride clipless is easy; it's keeping flats skills that's hard.
    No joke there. I get back on flats these days on a trail and I'm a complete mess. The bike should be attached to you...
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    Just wanted to provide an update or end of season over view.
    Over all things went well. We used some old Shimano pedals (alloy equivalent of M647) I had in storage that had plenty of life left in them. A good all Mtn flat shoe that was clipless compatible (5.10). Had her ride with the shoes and flats for a week or 3 to get used to the firm soles. Then bought and installed some cleats w/ the most float (can't remember the exact į of float, right now).
    Like stated in the OP, had her start out on a stationary trainer, with the release tension turned WAY down. Had her practice clipping in/out with both inward and outward rotation. Pedaling efficiency (push, scrape,.pull...think full circles)..to the point of boring an teenager, but not seared into muscle memory. Reaffirming that if she needed to unclip she could, and with the wider platform, if she missed a clip or was sketched out, she could still keep her foot planted on the pedals.
    Then took her to a grassy area for some dynamic practice. Told her many times that falling over while clipped in will happen, not at high, but at a ridiculously slow speed or stop (and I was told it did periodically thru out the season "just like you said" (weird right?) ).
    As her confidence and proficiency increased, I increased ever so slightly the pedal retention ( which is still dang light, but no longer to the point of spontaneous unclipping).
    Over all, it went well. So well that I had to equipe her other ride w/ my other spare (exact) set. Initially she would be clipped in on commuter rides and easy two track trails. But as the season progressed, green,blue, & black single track, and green/blue gravity trails became no problem (on a side note, she did have a higher speed crash on a gravity run and quickly learned that releasing wasn't an issue). By the time race season was in full swing, she was all in.
    Considering having her try some CB's next year as a comparison, but I know as her "chief race manager/mechanic/Sherpa" it creates more work for me swapping and aligning cleats, and the expense of pedals, and larger shoes...yeah maybe not .

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