What is clipping in and why is it beneficial?
Learn the benefits of using SPD cleats to ramp up your indoor cycling game.
Visit any cycling studio and you’ll likely hear about the benefits of “clipping in.” Specially designed cycling shoes with cleats attached to the bottom can help boost your power and improve your stability and safety on the bike. By keeping your feet securely in place and connected to the pedals, clipping in will help you ride farther and push harder.
Sounds great, but what exactly is clipping in and how does it lead to a better workout and better cycling performance?
Clipping in refers to the connection between your foot and the pedal on your bike. There are three key components to this system that include your cycling shoes, a cleat bolted to the bottom of each shoe, and your bike's pedals. The cleats engage with the pedals to create a secure attachment as you ride, which helps boost power and efficiency. And then, to disengage the cleat from the pedal, simply twist your heel outward and the cleat will release and free your foot.
Cycling shoes have a stiff sole that features either two or three holes for bolting on your cleats. There are two types of cleats to choose from: the SPD cleat design attaches to your shoe using two bolts while the Delta or SPD-SL cleat uses a 3-bolt system.
Choosing what type of cleat is right for you depends on the type of pedal your bike or your cycling studio uses. Most studios will have SPD pedals that work with the 2-bolt SPD cleat system. These cleats are smaller and more convenient to walk around in and they’re also easier to unclip or disengage from the pedals.
The 3-bolt cleat system offers a bigger engagement platform with the pedal so they feel slightly more stable on the bike. However, the large Delta cleats make walking awkward and unstable. Some cycling studios will offer dual-sided pedals, which are compatible with both SPD and Delta cleats. But it's best to check with your studio to ensure you pick the right kind of shoe and cleat system.
Performance benefits of clipping in
Unlike sneakers, which have a flexible sole designed for running or walking, cycling shoes are stiffer and hold your foot securely in place on the pedal. By reducing foot movement, your pedaling efficiency goes up, meaning more of the energy you put into the pedals directly translates to your power score.
Clipping in also provides a more stable and safer pedaling platform. Your foot is securely connected to the pedal so you can both push down and pull up on the pedals more efficiently throughout the full circle of your pedal stroke. And even under the hardest efforts, your foot will stay planted on the pedal so you can give it everything you have without fear of slipping off the pedals mid-sprint.
To realize the benefits of clipping in and to keep your knees happy, cycling shoes and cleats need to be set up and aligned correctly. Most local bike shops or the cycling instructors at your studio can help install and align your cleats to deliver a powerful, comfortable, and safe pedal stroke.
Don’t be intimidated by the terminology or setup of cycling shoes and cleats. Once you get your hands, or rather, your feet, on these key pieces, you’ll see how easy it is to clip in. With a stiffer shoe design and stable cleat and pedal system, you'll see higher power numbers and feel more confident every time you clip in and ride.