Re: You don’t fall off unless you stop pedalling

So I read Jen’s article on clipless pedals and pretty much agreed with everything she said. Until today…

This weekend was never set to be a great cycling weekend. Freezing conditions and a 30mph wind are enough to put off all but the hardiest cyclists. After a full day of chores and burning things (garden waste, I’m not that much of a pyromaniac), I woke up this morning and quickly dismissed the idea of going out. Fortunately there’s always a plan B, and for me that meant a session on the rollers.

The rollers are a new acquisition, fuelled partly by Meg’s amazing video of her first go (which had me in stitches) and partly by Jen stealing my Tacx Satori turbo trainer. My selection process was pretty much “what’s the cheapest one”, and thanks to Wiggle I’ve now got an Elite Arion in classic (read: reduced price) Italian national colours. The evening they turned up I had a quick go, following the usual advice of setting the rollers up in a doorway so you can hold on and get some stability. That didn’t work too well for me, and the proximity of the door frame just made me nervous and not want to let go.

That’s when I bit the bullet and set the rollers up in the middle of the room, with no support around it. This made all the difference to me! I’m not that bothered by the prospect of falling off the bike, so just spent 20 minutes trying to get on, then trying to stay on, then working out how to make it feel easier. The key for me was starting as I meant to go on. I could see that other people use the rollers this way, so  I should be able to too. Even using cleats it only took one session to get up and running, and once you’ve figured out the balance-thing you’re cooking with gas.

I made things a little more interesting for session two, setting up an interval training video and attempting that. That made things more difficult, particularly because when I saw someone go round a sharp alpine corner I leant in to follow the road – not a good idea. I was also not quite as good as I thought at getting on and staying on, so it was hard to keep a rhythm.

Back to today, and it seemed a good idea to try to get through an entire Sufferfest video. These videos are basically interval training sessions with videos of cycling races and good music to keep you motivated. And motivated I was. Alternating between gears to get the desired effort/cadence mix, I managed 42 minutes on the bike. No stopping. No hitting the side and bailing out.

Not until the end of the 42nd minute. The 42nd minute was about a minute into a section where the video tells you to stand and push a little harder. Standing on the rollers is hard. Very hard. At first I found it okay, and was suspending myself in a position which kept a reasonably even power transfer. Without that I was getting the bike to jump forward and back as I applied pressure and climbed up the roller a bit, which I figure is poor form. After a minute or so my form went a bit and the bike jigged from side to side. This is okay. I can control it. Almost got it back. Almost.

The aftermath

And then I learnt the next important lesson of rollers: make sure you have enough space to fall over, even if you don’t think you will.

I’m not sure what happened, but I ended up diving towards my fireplace when my SPD-SL cleat didn’t  release (I do need new cleats though).

After making a big deal of it and realising there was no-one to give me sympathy, I picked my sorry self off the floor and inspected the damage. The first casualty was my pride, but that can’t be helped. Other than that I have a big bruise where I smacked my arm on the fireplace, but all the equipment is fine (phew!).

So next time I think I’ll set up perpendicular to that attempt. The carpet is a lot more accommodating than the road of course.



Life Is Like Riding A Bicycle, You Don’t Fall Off Unless You Stop Pedalling

I don’t think Claude Pepper, the American politician, quite had SPD shoes in mind when he said this, but I’m sure Einstein was definitely thinking of clippy pedals when he said “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.“  But if two wise historical figures both said it, then it must be true.  In a thoroughly scientific experiment this weekend I proved both these men correct, by taking to the bike with my feet clipped on…and by falling off three times whilst stationary.

I was very confused when starting to look at purchasing myself some SPD equipment that they were often referred to as “clipless pedals”.  Surely a shoe that is clipped onto a pedal is the very antithesis of “clipless”? But apparently the “clipless” refers to the shoe no longer being in a pedal cage but instead having a locking mechanism on the bottom.


I have known for some time that I would have to get myself some clipless pedals, mostly due to Ryan constantly saying to me “you need to get yourself some clipless pedals” but also because everything I have read in every cycling book/website/magazine says the same thing.  Attaching your feet to the pedals may sound scary (it is!) but it also a more efficient way of cycling.  Instead of pushing down on flat pedals you can rotate your legs in a smooth circle and the pedals come with you.  Using clipless pedals means you use less energy for the same effect.


Left with very little choice, I took the plunge and bought myself some SPD shoes.

I choose some which are designed for commuting/touring and look more like trainers then cycle shoes, this will be useful as I don’t need a change of shoes to walk around in when not on the bike, and the clip is recessed so it’s easier to walk on (anyone who has seen Ryan waddle around on his pointy clippy shoes knows what I’m talking about!)

Ryan kindly gave me some old pedals which we attached to my bike Saturday morning, just in time for our 60 mile ride around Oxfordshire.  When I decided to make the switch to SPDs I had envisaged trying them out first, maybe on the stationary bike, or on a nice short ride…right before setting off on a whole day of riding was not my idea of good planning, but that was how it turned out and I swallowed my fear and went for it.

The positives:  I was most worried about unclipping in time for busy junctions when riding through town, but this turned out to be the easiest time as you can see junctions and traffic lights quite far away.  I was unclipping quite early for these, but I think with more use and more confidence I won’t be panic unclipping at the whiff of a junction in the distance.  Although I wasn’t racing up hills with the vigour of the Brooks pair, I was a lot faster overall than I had been on previous rides, and I think that had a lot to do with the clipless pedals.

The downsides: Ouch.  We were coming to a stop at a gate and I managed to unclip on the right but struggling on the left I looked down and toppled myself over, into poor unsuspecting Megan.  I have a very nice large bruise on the left thigh from this tumble.  Undeterred we got through the gate and continued cycling only for me to notice my saddle had been knocked and my body was twisted to the left.  I unclipped on the left but found I couldn’t quite manage on the right due to the twist of the saddle, I promptly came off again less than a minute after the first time.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I did both.  It’s a shame Ryan didn’t have his camera out as he heard a yell and turned to see me lying on the floor, legs in the air, laugh/crying and unable to get up.  The third tumble happened five minutes later, and was a little less funny as I landed hard on the sharp pointy edge of a manhole cover.  I had a brief sulk and we continued on our way.

There were a few more stumbles as I unclipped whilst falling sideways, but I managed to stay upright, admittedly with little dignity as each time I looked like I was attempting a drug-induced dance involving trying to jump away from a bike as it attacked me.

Overall, I’m quite happy with being attached to my pedals as the benefits far outweigh the negatives and I haven’t been deterred.  I even made Ryan take away my flat pedals so I wouldn’t be tempted to swap them back for commuting.  On Sunday we went out for our second ride of the weekend, 30 miles, and I managed to stay upright at all times thus proving the Pepper/Einstein theory to be true….just keep pedalling and you’ll be okay.