Yesterday, I went for a ride and my legs felt really great (hadn't been cycling for about 2 weeks) so when I was climbing on a hill, I decided to go on a full blown sprint and unfortunately... somehow my leg got released from the pedal and on the push down, my foot hit the ground and that was enough to get myself flying over the bars.

I got used to the regular road bike clipless pedals and that never would've happened with them, what should I do in order to not fly over the bars again on my next sprint?

I use the clipless MTB pedals on my road because the extra I had really helped me with my knee.

Solution: It's quite apparent that the springs were just too loose.

I can now lift the bike with the shoe on it easily.

  • 2
    Certainly SPD "mountain" pedals are about as popular as "road" clipless for ordinary road riding/touring. I can recall having the cleat come loose unexpectedly a few times when I first got mine, until I got them reasonably well adjusted. Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 20:43

3 Answers 3


This answer is for SPD pedals, which are the most common MTB pedals. Other systems do not have multi release cleat, and some don't even have adjustable springs.

First: make sure you do not have multi-release cleats. They are designed to release when pulled up hard enough, and can be distinguished by letter "M" stamped to them. If the cleats are too worn to tell whether they have the marking, it's probably best to replace them anyway.

Second: Adjust the release spring tension so that the pedals are easy to unclip but not any looser. Too loose pedals may release unintentionally.

Third: If these do not help, it's probably time for new pedals.

  • 3. New pedals, the same type, or a different type?
    – Swifty
    Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 17:33
  • 1
    I'm not aware that any system had systematic problems with unintentional release, so I guess if they're otherwise happy with their old pedals, no reason to change.
    – ojs
    Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 17:42
  • I've got my SPDs set very easy to release (not multi release), and they never release accidentally. I mean not once in tens of thousands of km. I climb by sitting down and gearing down, but do pull up on the pedals with a reasonable amount of force.
    – Chris H
    Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 18:21
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    I had one accidental release when I initially set the spring too loose when first trying SPDs. I tightened the springs to "still easy to release without effort" and never had another unintended release.
    – ojs
    Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 19:58

I use MTB shoes and pedals (Crank Bros Candy) on the road all the time and have never had a problem.

I don't see why MTB style pedals would present a greater risk of the cleat coming out of the pedal under high power than a road style pedal would. Mountain riding probably involves more short, high power bursts than road riding does.

I believe road pedals have a wider base and different retention system because there is less need to accommodate frequent clipping in and out, not to support higher pedaling force.

You should examine your pedals and cleats and look for excessive wear and play between the pedal and shoe, or low disengagement effort. A new set of cleats and adjusting the depth of the cleat in the shoe sole will probably help.

  • Sprinters often have power bursts between 1500 and 2000 W. It's quite common to see some unclip accidentally.
    – Carel
    Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 8:27
  • 1
    @Carel yeah, but those are the pros, I'm talking about the other 99% of riders Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 12:40

I used to swear by Speedplay Zero Road pedals before I got into racing gravel and MTB. After that, it just made total sense to have shoes and pedals that can be used on all surfaces and all of my bikes. I still have some friends that use those 3 bolt SPDs and are always fidgeting with them, picking rocks out, or kvetching about squeaking and duck-walking

You don't necessarily have to switch shoes either. There are adapters to convert a 3 bolt shoe to a 2 bolt cleat.

Singlespeed MTB doesn't allow for a light touch on pedals on the hills, and there's no dancing up them like Contador. It's a gut-wrenching, muscle searing slog up steep pitches that are constantly fighting back with every bit of rock, grit, and inch of incline. I'd also point out that MTB pedals most likely experience more pulling on the upstroke than any road pedal, as inclines off-pavement are often steeper and more technical, thus requiring more effort on the upstroke (granted, I haven't found any specific study to validate this) I think it'd be difficult, nigh impossible, to find objective studies on pedal stroke efficiency that weren't from biased sources like pedal mfrs.

I don't recall where I read it but, other than in pure sprints and steep inclines; it's largely a myth that riders pull on the upstroke. It's more that riders will unload the rising crank arm, but maintain connection and begin engagement on that side as the pedal crests over the top.

My personal favorite on the road bike has become Ritchey's WCS cleats and their Road-WCS pedal. The Ritchey cleat works with all Shimano MTB pedals as well. (But not vise-versa.)


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