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Basic Guide: How to Clip Into Mountain Bike Pedals

How to Clip Into Mountain Bike Pedals

Making the switch from flat pedals to clipless pedals is a little like graduating from training wheels to a regular bike. Being clipped in increases balance and control, and gives you a more connected feel with your bike when riding over rough terrain.

Clipless pedals also make it easier to dial-in your fit, because your feet don’t move around on your pedals as much. It simply takes a little practice.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you shorten the learning curve. Follow these directions and you’ll be smoothly clipping in and out of your pedals in no time.



  • Get a feel for how they operate. This is best done somewhere where you can mount your bike and grab hold of a wall or railing to steady yourself. Once stabilized, practice clipping in and out of your pedals. Remember that different types of mountain bike pedals have a slightly unique feel, so make sure you’re familiar with its feel and operation before heading out to the trail.


  • Getting in and out of your pedals should be fairly easy when in a stationary position. Most mountain bike pedals are dual-sided, meaning you can click in on either side. To clip in, slide your foot forward along the pedal until you feel the nose of your cleat engage the body of the pedal. Then apply downward pressure until you hear your cleat click into place. To assure you’ve done it right, pull up with your foot to make sure you’re fully engaged and can’t pull your foot out.


  • To disengage your foot from your pedal, rotate your heel away from your bike and your foot will release. Clipless pedals use a spring-loaded mechanism, so you’ll feel yourself pulling against that spring as you release (note: if you happen to crash while riding, your pedals are designed to release just like a ski binding).


  • Once you’re comfortable clipping in and out, head outside and practice starting and stopping. It’s a good idea to do this in a parking lot or even a grassy field, so if you take a spill, the damage will be minimal. Identify the foot that you typically start pedaling with when starting from a stopped position. This is the foot you’ll want to clip in first.


  • Start in a low gear so it’ll easy to get rolling. Then, clip in your first foot and start pedaling. Once you’re rolling and have your balance, clip in your other foot. Don’t worry if you can’t get your second foot clipped in right away. It’s okay to turn the cranks a few times before fully engaging the second pedal. Just remember that when your foot is not engaged, it can slip off the pedal more easily.


  • After pedaling around for a few minutes to get the feel of being clipped in, practice stopping. Start by determining which foot you are more comfortable planting with. Often, this is the opposite foot that you started pedaling with. Next, gently apply the brakes while at the same time unclipping one foot and placing it on the ground, just as the bike comes to a stop.


  • Begin practicing, gradually working your way onto more varied and technical terrain. Don’t be surprised if you topple over a few times. It happens to every rider starting out on clipless pedals. But once you get the hang of it, clipping in and clipping becomes second nature.


If you have any questions about clipping in and out of road pedals, call the Performance Bicycle Spin Doctor product support line at 1-800-553-TECH, or stop by your local Performance store; we’re always happy to help! Happy riding.


Mountain Biking