How To Clip Into Mountain Bike Pedals – A Complete Guide

Transitioning to clipless pedals can be a daunting task, but you will wonder how you ever used to ride without them once you get there. 

This article will show you how to use them and then provide some top tips and essential advice to make sure your transition is as quick and painless as possible!

The Setup

The first thing to make sure you have installed your pedals and cleats correctly. You can check out our articles on that here if you need more information on that.

How to Clip In and Out

Now let’s get straight into it, so how do you clip in and out of these mysterious pedals?

Clipping In

The hardest part about this is making sure that the cleat on your shoe finds the mechanism on the pedal. Once you find that it’s easy, simply press down slightly toe heavy, and providing everything is set up correctly the pedal will just clip in.

If it doesn’t, it’s possible that you may be using the wrong cleats for the pedals or that the lugs on your shoes are resting on the platform preventing the cleat from clipping in.

Clipping Out

Now, more importantly, how do you get out of these things? Well, fortunately, this is super easy as well. All you need to do is twist your foot outwards away from the bike and the pedal will release the cleat and you are free.

It sounds easy but certainly takes some practice for it to become second nature. All too often you will try and lift your foot straight off then panic. But don’t worry you soon pick it up.

Check out some of our tips below to make your transition to clipless pedals much smoother and a lot less embarrassing!

How and Where to Practice For Beginners

So I believe the most important thing is to start slowly and gradually build up to shredding the trails.

The best place to start is to jump on your bike and lean up against something solid like a wall. Then just sit there and keep clipping your foot in and out. You will soon get bored of this and that is when you know you’re ready to take it up a notch.

The next step is to find a nice open space with the softest grass you can find. Then simply ride around and practice stopping and starting. You want to get to the point where it feels natural to unclip when stopping.

Once you get this, you are away and can start building your confidence out on the easy trails and working your way up. 

I can assure you that you will wonder how you used to ride in flats once you get your confidence back!

Top Tips For Transitioning to Clips

Here are some great tips to make sure you set yourself up for success when starting with clipless pedals.

Adjust the Clip Tension 

If you’re riding Shimano pedals, then you can change how easy or hard it is to clip in and out. If you are just starting, then wind this right back so it is nice and easy to unclip.

You can then keep winding up the tension as you get more confident with clipless pedals.

Check The Lugs On Your Shoes

Clipless pedals that have a platform are great as they give the foot extra support; however, some shoes and pedals may need a little extra adjusting.

If the cleat really won’t connect, check that the lugs on the shoe are not restricting the cleat from engaging with the mechanism.

Most cleats will come with a spacer that will mean the cleat sticks out more from the shoe, which should mean that it will engage correctly.

Keep The Cleats Clean 

To prevent the cleats from becoming stiff to engage and unclip, it is important that they remain clean and don’t develop any rust. The best way to do this is to make sure they are not left out in the rain and to make sure your bike and pedals are regularly cleaned.

Keeping them clean and dry will prevent them from rusting, which will only make your life much more difficult!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here we have included some common questions and answers for switching to clipless pedals. Make sure you know all the facts before making the switch.

Are Clipless Pedals Better?

Now this one is somewhat up to personal preference. However, for the most part, they are better. They provide greater support for your feet and stop them from bouncing around. Also, they improve pedaling efficiency so you can go faster.

So yes, overall they are better and once you get used to them, you will wonder how you used to ride without them. For more on the benefits, check out our clips vs clipless pedals.

Are Clip Pedals Dangerous

To be honest, when you first start out with clipless pedals, they can be a bit of a danger. However, it can be easily managed by slowly working up to using them for full trail riding.

Once you get used to them, they are no more dangerous than riding flat pedals and can definitely help in certain situations, especially when the trail gets rough. 

How Tight Should Clipless Pedals Be?

Again this is another personal preference thing. When you start out, you want the pedals to be loose so that you can easily unclip. However, over time when you become more confident, you can wind up the tension.

You eventually want to get to the stage where your foot is secure and will never accidentally unclip. However, it’s a process and won’t happen overnight. 


Using clip pedals really isn’t that bad and just takes a bit of time to get used to. Hopefully, this guide has been useful, and you are now well on your way to being a full-time clipless pedal user!

If you haven’t yet purchased some clipless pedals, then check out our top picks for beginners. Starting out with the right pedals can have a huge impact on how quickly you progress.

More importantly, enjoy the process of learning clipless pedals and you will soon be a master in them.