Bicycling (South Africa) - - STORIES - Joe Lind­sey is a con­tribut­ing writer for Bicycling who has been rid­ing bikes for al­most 30 years.

ICOULD HAVE SWORN THE CAR AP­PEARED OUT OF nowhere. But as I lay sprawled be­hind its rear bumper, I re­flected that this was un­likely – after all, it was parked. Blame dis­tracted rid­ing: I was look­ing down, try­ing to clip in to my new ped­als. At that time – al­most 30 years ago – cli­p­less ped­als fea­tured some re­gret­table de­signs. My first pair had an anti-ro­ta­tion fea­ture that held the pedal body in what­ever po­si­tion it was in when you un­clipped. In the­ory, this meant it’d al­ways be right-side up. In prac­tice, it meant it could be in any num­ber of po­si­tions – of­ten, un­help­fully, up­side down. I had just up­graded from toe clip-and-strap ped­als, and was rolling around my neigh­bor­hood try­ing to learn how to use my new se-up when I ran into the car.

For months af­ter­wards, I feared more crashes. It af­fected my rid­ing: I’d clip out early ap­proach­ing stop­lights, so I could fid­dle with the ori­en­ta­tion. I’d start at the back of the pack in races, so I wouldn’t wob­ble into other rid­ers while I blindly fum­bled for the pedal. When a traf­fic light turned green, I’d pedal up to speed one-legged, and then try to clip in. Even­tu­ally, I gave up: I scrapped my ped­als and got new ones. The Looks I bought helped a lot – the heav­ier back end of the ped­als meant they would al­ways re­vert to the same ver­ti­cal po­si­tion when I un­clipped, and I think the ba­sic tri­an­gle-shaped cleat (sim­i­lar to the one on Shi­mano’s SPD-SL sys­tem) is eas­i­est to en­gage, es­pe­cially for new­bies.

Once I had non-sucky ped­als, steady prac­tice grad­u­ally al­layed my fears. To­day, I’m al­most al­ways able to clip into my SPD-SLs im­me­di­ately, with­out look­ing down. Some­times, the right gear – and some per­sis­tence – is all it takes.

WHAT HE DID RIGHT GOT BET­TER GEAR Bikes with up­right ge­ome­tries, or more travel, can in­spire con­fi­dence. Pro­tec­tive gear (e.g. full-face hel­mets, pads) can make it less trau­matic if you do go down. Scared of down­hills in the rain? Try disc brakes.

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