Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
Before we get to today’s topic, let’s backpedal to last week when the subject was how many hand and body positions there are on dropped handlebars. I counted 9 and asked you for more.
Props to regular contributors, “Fixieguy” and “JeffvdD” for identifying a few more. Fixieguy pointed out that when you hold onto the tops with your thumbs over the handlebars (not under them) it’s actually another grip since the heels of your hands instead of the palms can rest on the bars. This affects the reach, too.
That made me realize on rides last week that I often just put my fingers on the tops and have my thumbs behind the bars – a very relaxed grip but with the thumbs and palms close enough if I need to grip the bars in a hurry.
Then JeffvdD made the excellent point that there’s a relatively new position that places your forearms on the bars and is likely even more aero than any of the on-the-drops positions. He provided this link to a great photo: https://capovelo.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/forearms-on-bars.jpg.
Thanks a lot, guys!
Dick’s Slow Release Pedal
This week’s technical question comes from reader, Dick Rogers. He asked,
“I sometimes have trouble getting out of my Shimano SPD double-sided right pedal. The tension is already set as far as it goes to the (-). This is the pedal I get out of last when I want to get off the bike.
The reason I’m having trouble is because of a spinal cord injury that left my right foot considerably weaker than the left which releases easily when stopping on the road. I’ve had these pedals for at least 15 years and have struggled with the problem off and on, probably after the foot gets more tired than usual.
I couldn’t find the model number but they were basic SPD pedals for maybe $40. My fear is that I’ll get locked into this pedal but it’s never happened as I approach 80. Here are my questions:
- Does oiling the spring inside of the pedal help this problem? I’ve done it several times in the past but it’s not clear to me that it helps. Probably does a little bit is my guess.
- Would a newer pedal of the same type possibly be easier to exit? I’d like to stay with a mountain bike style pedal because having two sides is much easier for me.”
That’s an interesting problem you have, Dick. I’m not a physical therapist but I wonder if there are any exercises that would help improve your right foot’s strength? Another idea is if maybe you have more strength turning your foot to the inside versus turning it to the outside? Since you’ve already stopped and have your other foot on the ground, I think it would be safe to try both. Maybe you’re stronger in one direction?
Also, do you have the flexibility to reach your right foot with your hand to push on your leg and help it release? Don’t even try this maneuver if you’ll risk falling over. You can break bones that way. But if can do it without risk, it might help you.
As for pedal tips, I have a lot of ideas. And, you’ll probably get some helpful ideas and tips in the comments from readers, too.
1. Test the ease-of-release by hand
Have you ever held each shoe in your hand and clicked them in to their respective pedals and then pulled sideways on the shoes to feel with your hands how hard/easy they are to enter/exit the pedals? With your hands you can feel the effort it takes to get out much better than you can with your feet.
If you try it, do it carefully because the bike might fall over or you could slip pulling on the shoes with your hands.
You might find pulling on the right shoe that it’s harder to get it out of the pedal. Then maybe you can experiment with lubes (next tip) and see if you can make it easier to release.
2. Lubing the pedals & cleats is a good idea
Yes, oiling the pedal could work. Oil the spring but be sure to also oil the cleat engagement points on your cleats and on the pedal jaws. Those are metal-to-metal contacts and maybe some corrosion got on the cleats or jaws. There could be a burr on the cleats or jaws, too. Lube might help it release. Or if it’s got a burr or corrosion, you might improve release by sanding/polishing them smooth.
3. Check that any Philips screws on the pedals aren’t sticking up/interfering
You should look at the pedals, too. SPD pedals usually have little Philips screws on them. Sometimes they loosen and start to protrude from the pedal a little. That might cause interference with the cleat. You want to tighten the screws back down so they’re flush with the pedal. But, the screw head can be full of dirt meaning you can’t get a screwdriver tip to drive it. If so, use an awl or pick to clean the dirt out first.
4. Did the right shoe’s cleat move out of position?
The right shoe’s cleat position might be the issue. If by any chance the right cleat became loose on the shoe and changed position, then you would turn your ankle to get out of the pedal but the cleat would not rotate enough to open the jaws on the pedal and release. This would be hard to see unless you turn your shoes upside down and compare your left and right cleat position. Usually they will be similar to each other. You can imagine a straight line down the center of your shoe and gauge the cleat positions by that.
If the cleat needs to be repositioned you might find that the cleat screws/bolts are a little loose, too. So you’ll fix that when you move the cleat back where it should be and tighten them.
5. Maybe the cleats are worn out – or only the right cleat
Since only one shoe is coming out hard, my next idea probably isn’t your problem, but I’ll mention it anyway because it is something that causes difficulty releasing/exiting.
As the cleats click in and out of the pedals, the engagement points on the cleats wear. And this means that when you turn your ankle to get out of the pedals the cleat tips can’t spread the pedal jaws as far apart as they used to, meaning it’s harder to get out of the pedals. When the cleats are really, really worn, it can get really hard to get out of the pedals.
So if you’ve never replaced the cleats on your 15 year old pedals, that might be worth trying – or just replacing the right cleat.
6. Maybe consider Shimano’s new easier clipless pedals
Lastly, Shimano makes pedals for people new to clipless pedals under their CLICK’R name and those are supposed to be their easiest to get in and out of. If it turns out that you need even easier release you might find a shop that sells these that would let you try them to see if they’re any easier. Don’t buy them until you try them because I am not sure how much easier they are. You want to make sure they actually are easier for you than the pedals/cleats you have.
Here’s a link to Shimano’s page on these pedals:
I hope something here helps you solve the problem, Dick. Readers, please pitch in with your ideas.
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s cycling streak ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.