Clip-in questions

It’s time to talk about pedals, shoes, hip muscles and more.

Pro downhiller Steve Wentz runs carbon-soled Shimano race shoes pretty much all the time — and he pays for them himself. Why? Because they’re light and stiff.

Hey Lee, what’s up? I have a few questions about adjusting to clip in pedals. I have the Mallet C pedals and have been trying to use a Shimano cross country style shoe and an oakley radar shoe. The Radar has a lot more grip on the pedal, but the shoe body is so wide that my rearward foot (when the pedals are even) cant unclip because the shoe just presses into the crank arm.

The Shimanos offer better pedals but are a bit sketch at the same time. Also, is clipping in and out with higher spring tension also about building the muscle that rotates your foot in that weird direction because i feel especially like my non dominant leg is weak at unclipping. Do you have any suggestions as to exercises I can do on the bike to become good at unclipping? (I am going to Whistler in early july so I dont have much time to learn.) I have also heard of people gluing soles from other shoes onto their clip shoes for better grip? Thanks for your time.


Brian Lopes rocks his Radars in Whistler last summer. Why? Because they’re fine shoes, and he works for Oakley.

Hi, Bret.

Thanks for the note. Here are some ideas:

– I can’t imagine many situations when you would need to unclip with your pedals level. It seems like you’d want to stand on one foot before you unclip the other. But I guess you never know what’ll happen on the trail.

– Check the placement of the cleat. You might try running it closer to the inside (toward the crank) of your Radars.

– When you’re in the position you described, you can unclip by rotating the back of your foot INWARD. But watch those spokes!

– Unclipping uses a combination of coordination and strength. I’d say more coordination, because the muscles that rotate your legs are pretty big.

– Practice clipping and unclipping. When I first got clipless pedals (back in like 1874), I leaned my bike against a wall and clipped in and out while I watched TV. That builds coordination and strength, and it teaches you to clip in while looking forward and paying attention to something else — which is key!

I really enjoyed testing these prototype Specialized shoes. Why? They’re basically an XC race shoe gone extreme: carbon insoles, sticky rubber outsoles, plus ankle pads. Yes.

– Also try this: Rather than trying to twist with your ankle, rotate your entire leg (from the femur down) from your hip. Your ankle muscles are puny, but your hip muscles are massive. Stand up right now and turn your entire leg so your heel faces outward. Just like that.

– I have tried gluing tire tread to the middle part of my Sidis, and it did help the shoes grip the pedals when my arch was on the pedals. But when you try to clip in you’re rarely that far off; you’re usually somewhere near your cleat. Shoes with sticky rubber soles (like the Radars) definitely grip more when you’re not clipped in, but they make it harder to slip into place when you get close. If you want to clip in and out with maximum speed, shoes with hard soles (like your Shimanos) are hard to beat.

– For Whistler and other terrain-intensive action, I suggest soft-bottomed shoes like your Radars. They give you plenty of pedal power, protect your feet from rocks, and provide lots of traction when it’s time to dab (or walk) through a gnarly section.

I hope this helps. Tell me how it goes!

— Lee