To preface this. Clipless unicycling is dangerous, stupid and anyone doing it is resposible for every broken bone they get… If you are stupid enough to try it, wear a helmet and every piece of padding you have.
Given this topic seems to not be around at the moment I’ve decided to share what I have learned from the first 2 months of my foray into clipless unicycling.
1) Pedals and Cleats.
My experience so far is only with Shimano SPD pedals and cleats and given that I know they work, I will deal with them exclusively. From what I understand speedplay would be suicidal and I am unsure whether crank brothers can release upwards.
The biggest, most important thing for safer clipless unicycling is using the right cleats. SH56 multi release cleats are a must as they can unclip with a sharp upward tug (such as in a UPD). The single release SH51 are less likely to disengage locking you to the pedal while you go flat on your face. Positioning the cleat and shoe choice is your decision and there is a lot of relevant information available.
Pedal wise, you want a double sided pedal with a cage such as an M530 or M785 (if you want to commit) which makes clipping in far easier. There are also dual purpose pedals with flat sides and single sided pedals but they do not hang consistently meaning more messing about, usually with one foot already attached. The cage is very useful during mounting. The tension screw on each side should be set to minimum to start off with.
Is almost the same as any other freemount with a couple of minor differences. To clip in, I aim my foot behind where it needs to be and slide it forwards. The cage helps push the cleat retainer into the right position. As my foot slides forwards, the front of the cleat catches the lip, a natural downward push and a satisfying click tells me that I am in. It you don’t get your top foot first time, you can use the pedal cage as a pedal until you get a chance to try again.
The first time you mount, use a wall for support, then practice clipping in and unclipping each foot repeatedly until you are comfortable (having a brake helps here).
Getting off is terrifying until you have done it. I dismount to the rear, only twisting my feet to the side when I come off the pedals. This might start with some rather silly sideways kicking but will get more controlled with practice.
The first ride will be underwhelming. I felt like nothing had changed apart from the fact that the pedals felt wrong and my wallet was £100 lighter. This is because I was still treating the pedal like a flat. Lighten up on the downward pressure and power your feet through the entire stroke and you will start to notice a difference. Unfortunately this is that your calves and thighs hurt more. Naturally, it is a good sign that you are starting to use the upstroke. With time you will find that you are going faster, more in control, using less energy and flats feel weird.
It is disconcerting when your feet suddenly gain the ability to rotate quite extensively. It helps find a comfortable position during rides but, compared to the locked in feeling of flats, it takes some getting used to.
The lack of pins and the addition of float makes idling harder. Throw in multi release cleats to top it off. When you idle with clipless pedals, your top foot will float about making it harder to apply force where you want to. Too much force to drag a misbehaving wheel back in line will result in an unclip and thus a UPD. The solution of course is more practice and to make smaller, more controlled motions and adjustments. I find this more of a problem as I am often boxed in while idling by cars and cyclists on uneven road surfaces.
So far I have not had a single UPD where I have remained clipped in. That is not to say that there haven’t been several UPDs where the pedals have made the UPD worse. To even it out, the clipless pedals help reduce UPDs by allowing you to deliver more power when needed to prevent falls.
Is anyone else riding clipless at the moment and do they have any tips?