The Curse of the Clipless Pedals

In spite of the title, I really do like my new clipless pedals but I have come to realize there is an added risk of injury while using them. From the time I bought my recumbent bike until I bought the clipless pedels eight months later, I fell off my bike a total of zero times, although I did have one or two close calls. In the 30 days since putting on the clipless pedals I hit the ground four times, and this was during a month were I had many problems getting out on the bike and only logged about a hundred miles.

To be fair, the first fall was not unexpected as I was trying to get used to unclipping. The second one was when my chain fell off and I lost my balance. The last two happened Monday morning within a block from my work.

I mentioned before that there is a small percentage of my ride where I use the sidewalk instead of the street because, until yesterday, I thought it was safer. I was on the sidewalk, not far from my work when I spotted a kid (I want to say “little bastard” but this is a family blog) coming toward me on his bmx bike like a bat out of hell. He was peddling as fast as he could and he was traveling in anything but a straight line. I slowed way down, expecting him to do the same, but he just kept coming as fast as he could. It was like a game of chicken and I lost.

I steered off the sidewalk to avoid a collision. I probably should have yelled. “Slow down you young wipper snapper,” but I guess I am not ready for that yet. Since I had already slowed down too much, when I hit the grass I was going too slow to keep my balance and I tried to unclip fast enough to catch myself, but the half second delay was too long.

I wasn’t hurt, just a little pissed at the…kid. I got back on the bike and traveled another two or three hundred feet until I was just across the street from my work. I looked behind me and saw there were cars coming but I had plenty of time to cross so I turned to the left and my rear wheel came out from under me and I hit the ground hard.

I was in the middle of the road with cars coming so I quickly got up, even though I was in pain, and limped to the center of the street. By then one car had already stopped and the others were slowing down. I was in too much pain to be embarrassed. I limped across the street, unlocked the door and brought my bike inside. I then had to sit down because the adrenalin had made me nauseous.

At first I attributed the accident to being distracted by what happened three minutes earlier but my co-worker pointed out something that made much more sense. He said the grass I rode onto was probably wet. That would explain everything. The bottom of the wheels had dried from the short ride but the sides were still wet, so when I leaned into the turn, the wet part of the wheels contacted the road and down I went.

It is just another example of how one bad thing can lead to another. I think the next time something happens that is bad enough to speed up my heart rate, I might just stop for a few minutes before resuming.

The ride home was difficult because, besides my leg being cut up, my butt hurt like hell. I pushed my seat forward a little because sitting forward was fine but leaning back was painful and this allowed me to push back farther in the seat so I was less reclined. Unfortunately, as a recumbent rider, less reclined in still reclined. It was the first time since I owned the bike that I would have traded it for a conventional bicycle.

I am still relatively new to the clipless pedals so I am sure I will get better at unclipping but I believe there will always be a slight delay and I will have to accept that risk. I also think it is possible that sitting upright on a conventional bike might be less risky. I don’t know. Perhaps someone with more experience could leave a comment on the subject. For now, I think once my butt heals, I will continue what I was doing but perhaps I will try to anticipate problems a unclip a bit sooner.

 

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