riding clipless pedals - my experience

Hi all,

I have been unicycling for about 11 years and have used clipless pedals on my bicycles for much longer than that, so the obvious question has always intrigued me: what would it be like to ride those pedals on the unicycle. The predominant opinion on the web seems to be that this is crazy and suicidal, and I agreed - until yesterday.

On the bicycles, I have tried Look and SPD clipless pedals. Both these systems are springloaded. You need to push your foot into the pedal until it clicks into the lock, which will then give you a fairly strong binding between your foot and the pedal. To get out, you have to twist your foot fairly hard until it snaps out of the lock again. On the bicycle, most clipless-pedal beginners fall on the ground a few times when stopping, especially on traffic lights, until they have learned to disengage the foot before the bike comes to a complete stop.
The thought of falling backwards on my unicycle and smashing my head into the ground with the feet locked to the uni scared me enough to never try this at home.

A few weeks ago I got a pair of Speedplay Frog clipless pedals (http://www.speedplay.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.frog). This system is very different from the clipless pedals I’ve had before. Instead of a springloaded click mechanism, the design is ingeniously simple and completely passive - there are no moving parts at all, just two metal pieces that slide into each other. To lock the foot to the pedal, the heel is rotated outward by about 30 degrees. In that position you slice the foot onto the pedal and then twist inward until the foot is parallel to the crank. There is no click, the only feedback you get about having the foot in the pedal correctly is that it won’t rotate inwards any further. To get out of the pedal, simply rotate the foot outwards again by about 30 degrees. The has a little ramp that lifts the foot out of the pedal when twisting outwards. Since there is no spring, rotating outwards requires no resistance to be overcome. You just twist, and you are out.

When I rode these pedals on the bicycle for the first time, I was very impressed how easy it is to disengage them (I fact, being used to other clipless pedals that provide a much stronger connection between foot and pedal, I had to learn to not accidentally disengage the pedal by twisting too much), and I immediately thought about putting them on the uni.

Well, yesterday I finally dared to do just that. I got a pair of wristguards, put on my bicycle helment, and checked my health insurance (not). First test: mounting on the wall and locking feet into the pedals. I thought: Ok, this is crazy. Let’s put the normal pedals back on. After a few moments of gathering courage, I tried it anyway and went for a few meters on the driveway and then tried to dismount. I normally use my right leg to mount and dismount, so the right foot came off first without any problems. The left foot came off in time, but nearly got stuck in the pedal. Then I tried freemounting. I put the right foot into the pedal, went on the uni, found my balance, and then locked the left foot onto the pedal as well. I practiced freemounting and dismounting a few more times, remembering to twist the feet outwards for getting out of the pedals. After doing that I few times, I felt confident enough to go for a ride.

Over the day, I did about 20km of riding, and one hour of doing tricks and jumps. After overcoming the initial fear of the clipless pedals, I started to appreciate the extra amount of control I had over the uni. I ride a normal 24" uni and do mostly long distance rides. Most of my UPDs are due to the feet losing contact with the pedals. Well, using clipless pedals eliminates that kind of UPD completely. To go fast, I simply leaned forward and started spinning. I also ride a recumbent bicycle with clipless pedals, and I’m used to spin very fast on that (up to 150 rotations per minute according to the cycle computer). I won’t try that cadence on the uni yet, but with the clipless pedals I could definitely spin much faster than without, and because the feet were locked to the pedals, they didn’t come off one single time.

Halfway through the day I had become quite confident with those pedals. Dismounting had become a reflex to twist both feet outwards at the same time, and they always disengaged. I had one UPD where that didn’t happen when I tried to go backwards, and in that case the wristguards saved me from serious injury.
I also tried some jumping. I have never been much of a jumper, because after 2 or 3 jumps I would loose my balance or my feet would slide off the pedals. With the clipless pedals, jumping is incredibly easy. Since I could lift the uni with my feed, there was no need to hold on to the seat, and since the feed would not come off the pedals, I always had time to regain balance. So suddenly I was able to do ten or more freehanded jumps and then continue riding. The clipless pedals just provide so much additional control over the uni that it is much easier to regain balance by simple continuing to pedal.

In conclusion, I am very happy that I didn’t break my wrists or my legs or smash my head into the ground. After one day of riding clipless pedals, I have decided that they will stay on the uni. The extra amount of control is extremely impressive and gives me the confidence to go faster and to do other things I wouldn’t normally do. I’m also confident that I can disengage in time, and at the end of the day it had become an automatic reflex to twist my feet outwards almost every time. However, I will continue to wear wristguards, and perhaps even more safety gear for trying new stuff.

So there you are. There is at least one happy unicyclist riding clipless pedals without killing himself. Would I recommend this to others? Not generally. But if you are very confident on your uni, and are very confident with clipless pedals on your bicycle, and wear safety gear, especially wristguards, then I think it’s quite doable and definitely worth a try.


I have had the same idea for my 29er…
But i haven’t got any clipless pedals and shoes for them, so i havent been able to try it, yet…

i love the story though!
The link for the pedals seems to be broken, i’m quite interested to see what pedals it is!


Here is the link again, hope it works this time:

Kai went across Iowa on RAGBRAI (crowded streets - 500 miles) with standard shimano clipless. It was supposidly a lot better once you got used to it.

i think he used crank brothers, egg beater pedals. iirc. but yeah standard spd cleats. he did break a wrist during a training ride though.

That’s the thing. With any clipless pedals there is the small chance of an UPD where your feet don’t disengage. This leaves you liable to hit the ground with your upper body or/and to break your legs or ankles.
Wristguards let you dampen the fall more safely, so at least you won’t break your wrist as easily. That’s why I strongly recommend them for this. I’m still scared about hurting the legs, though…


I was a witness to this experiment, the hands free sit down hops were incredible, I’ve never seen a move quite like that on a uni before, the ability to hop without using your hands or standing up to hold the saddle between your knees could come in very useful.

Last year, I rode with a guy who rides with some kind of clips. He does MUni with toe clips, even jumps rope on a girrafe with toe clips.

I never saw him fall with his feet stuck to the pedals. He always got them off and he could do some crazy riding.

I heard a story (rumor?) about a guy riding trials with clipless pedals who could get insane height because he lifted the uni with his legs. I’d never do it, though. Too dangerous.

Bike or unicycle trials?

Unicycle. He was at the Minnesota NAUCC.

For a hill climb race on a 29er I can see using clipless pedals. On a hill climb race you’re not going to have as far to fall forwards if you do UPD and you won’t be going too fast anyways if the hill is steep enough to be a challenge. I wouldn’t feel comfortable riding clipless down the hill though.

I’ve never tried the Speedplay pedals. I’ve heard good things about them from people who have tried them.

Im wondering if that would be legal at high jump competition ?

huh… that’d be hard to say…

Yes, unless rules are changed in the future to address clipless pedals.

High jump sounds like one of those places where being clipped in could cause some ugly landings…

One thing worth noting is that mountain bikers used to be adamantly against being clipped in, and now they’ve pretty much all gotten used to it. I think SPD pedals are quite poor for unicycling, but there are other clipless systems (like the Egg Beaters) which can work fairly well. And I think if we put some brain power into it we could design a cleat system specifically for unicycling.

It would not surprise me to see a significant number of riders using clipless at some point.

my friend from poland is using that system for playing games and muni and keeps telling me that its very good especialy for muni :slight_smile:

so it is possible to ride with it…

I think some sort of toe clips or clipless pedals would be excellent on a unicycle up until the point I fall off :wink:

They make such a difference to the pedalling on a bike that I feel pretty unsafe riding a bike without clips now - feels sort of like driving a car without a seat belt. In fact, most of my uphill (steep road hills) UPDs on a unicycle are because I subconsiously try to pull up on the back pedal or push forward at the top of the stroke.

But I don’t think I’m either good enough or brave enough to try anything like that on a unicycle, at least not without a full suit of armour and a motorcycle helmet… I’ve only got one face and I want to keep it on the front of my head :slight_smile:

On the other hand, if you’re good/confident enough to do it, good luck to you. I’d try it if I had the guts and a couple more years experience.


Re: riding clipless pedals - my experience

On Sun, 23 Oct 2005 23:11:53 -0500, john_childs wrote:

>For a hill climb race on a 29er I can see using clipless pedals.

Mount Ventoux in France was climbed on a uni (on separate occasions)
by Janklaas Claeys and by Lode de Paepe. One of them used clipless
pedals, I think it was Lode - he did the climb three times in one
single day.

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

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if you use multi release cleats like the sh56 it should be eaiser to disengage from the uni