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Cycling With Clip-In Pedals: I Tried It!



Being a sort of last-minute person, I finally got myself a pair of cycling shoes and clip in pedals 10 weeks into SHAPE’s 12-week training plan. Better late than never, right? The truth is, I actually spent that long deciding if I wanted to use them or not—they’re scary! (More on that below.) But in the end, not using anything at all means you’re only getting power on the downstroke (securing your foot to the pedal allows you to use your hamstrings and hip flexors to pull up as well) and cages are deceivingly fear-inducing themselves (it’s verrry hard to pull a sneaker out of those, as I found out during several falls). 
I’ve ridden with my clip-in pedals a couple times now, and they’ve definitely made my 8- and 10-mile rides fly by (it’s amazing how much faster you can pedal when you’re getting twice the power). I feel like a Lance-Armstrong-in-the-making as I zoom up and down the West Side Highway bike path. 
It’s once I head back onto the city streets that the terror sets in. Riding in NYC on small one-lane streets—some with bike lanes, some without—with tons of traffic and cars parked (and double-parked) on either side isn’t easy. There are lots of cars, pedestrians, and other cyclists coming at you from all directions. (If you’ve ever ridden in a NYC cab, harken back to that experience and then imagine being outside the vehicle with it barreling towards you.…) All of those elements + feet locked to my bicycle = scariest thing I have ever done. Yes, I understand that I can clip out, but it’s that extra step that has to be completed before stopping that is so psychologically wearing ("What if I start to fall over and can’t get unclipped?!"). 
I’ve been told that I just need to get used to the motion of clipping out and clipping in as I ride so that it becomes second-nature. So I’ve been riding in circles around an empty pier, clipping in, clipping out—and wiping out. It’s getting a bit easier, but I’m definitely not fully comfortable yet. Hopefully I won’t have to deal with too much traffic during the NJ State Triathlon!
By the way, if you still haven’t signed up for a tri, don’t pay your entry fee just yet: SHAPE and Vitacost are giving away free entry into upcoming Ironman and Half-Ironman triathlons, plus a training plan. Enter here for a chance to win! And as always, let me know your thoughts in the comments or tweet me @DaniSMcNally.

Danielle McNally is the associate fitness editor at SHAPE magazine, where she reports on the latest news, trends, and gear in the exercise world, along with the occasional travel and pop culture piece. She was previously an assistant editor at Food Network Magazine, but left shortly after completing the ING New York City Marathon, when she realized her passion for working out. She’s run seven half marathons, and regularly practices yoga and pilates. This summer she’ll be competing in the New Jersey State Triathlon (her first!) and blogging about it here!


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