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I bought my first pair of clipless bike shoes (Northwave MTB) and pedals (Shimano 8100). The connection is SPD, since they're MTB shoes.

I had them show me in the store how to connect and disconnect the shoes:

  • to connect: first push the cleats forward into the pedal and then press down hard on the heel of the shoe to connect the back part
  • to disconnect: push down hard on the heel of the shoe and then rotate the heel outward

I didn't manage to get it working in the store and after a while I decided to try it at home, since I wanted to leave the store due to a long time in an enclosed space in these Covid times.

My question is: is it possible to break the cleats/shoes/pedals if I do the motions wrong? If so, what do I want to do (apart from the motions listed above), and what do I NOT want to do?

Thanks for the help and any other suggestions!

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    In order to disengage, there's no need to press on the heel. Just turn it outwards, or even inwards. Most important is practice, practice. Best stationary, hold to a fence, a lamppost, a door jamb, clip in and clip out until it becomes an automatism.
    – Carel
    Apr 28 at 20:40
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    Have the adjustment screws (presuming the pedals have them) been loosened as far as possible?
    – mattnz
    Apr 28 at 20:47
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    “Press/push down the heel” is nonsensical advice, for the simple reason that the pedal will just rotate backwards then which has no useful effect. Apr 29 at 11:12
  • @mattnz Yes, I asked them to make the tension as light as possible
    – Cerulean
    Apr 29 at 12:32
  • @Cerulean The tension adjusters are the 3mm hex screws on the rear “claw” of the mechanism, for when you want to increase it later on. Remember to adjust all four of them.
    – MaplePanda
    Apr 29 at 15:27
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You're not going to break them, and really, their advice is too complicated.

To clip in, just stomp your foot on the pedal in the right spot. If you don't get it right, try again. Pretty quickly it will become second nature.

To clip out, rotate your heel outward. That's it.

This pedal lets you set the disengagement resistance with a screw on the back if you want to make it harder/easier to clip out. You'll need to set it for both sides. And you can reposition the cleat on the shoe to get a better position, but make sure to really tighten it down—if you don't, the cleat can stay locked in the pedal and the shoe will move.

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    Regarding tightening the cleat: Use grease or at least some lube on the threads to prevent them getting stuck in the future. Alternate between both screws.
    – Michael
    Apr 29 at 5:17
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    Anti-sieze compound is a far better option than grease. It's designed to allow screws to stay tight, yet not become bonded together due to corrosion, dirt, etc. It strikes me that "plain old grease" would allow the screws to work themselves loose over time. You don't want those screws working loose and the cleat coming off during a tight down hill corner, or when accelerating away from a light with a line of cars behind you.
    – FreeMan
    Apr 29 at 13:29
  • @FreeMan My personal choice for cleat bolts is threadlocker. It does help prevent corrosion. A properly torqued fastener will not self-loosen, even with grease.
    – MaplePanda
    Apr 30 at 6:25
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    With some SPD pedals and some shores, clipping in is far easier with a bit of forwards motion, in case you start a touch forwards of where you need to be. But there's definitely no need to do anything other than twist to get out. Personally I'd grease cleat bolts. They need quite a lot of torque and won't loosen when greased, but threadlocker combined with a countersunk head that gets battered and dirty may mean you can't get the bolt out at all. It can be hard enough anyway
    – Chris H
    Apr 30 at 13:13
  • Thanks (to everyone). I've been practicing for a couple of days -- started with leaning against the wall and then went out and rode around in empty places, practicing clipping and unclipping. Seems to be going well. The only times I've come close to falling were when I had to stop unexpectedly, or when I lost momentum suddenly, like going up an incline. How do you safeguard against this? Practice? I've taken to riding with my dominant foot unclipped but resting on the pedal as I coast if I'm in a situation where I think I might have to make a sudden stop, and that seems OK for the moment.
    – Cerulean
    May 1 at 10:56
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No, you cannot break the cleats nor the shoes or pedals with any reasonable movements. They are made to withstand even large forces directly pulling the cleats from the shoes and various forces that happen in heavy terrain.

Jest turn your heel outward and that should unclip you easily (at least that's what I do in the MTB pedals made by CB but I believe Shimano is the same, there is no need for any push down hard - correct me if I am wrong for Shimano). Do not try to unclip by pulling the shoe up.

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    Yep - no pushing needed with Shimano. I presume the advice is to encourage people to swing their foot outwards only, not in a diagonally up motion as would be more natural.
    – MaplePanda
    Apr 28 at 20:14
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    @Carel I've heard about these but would not recommend them since bad habbits are learned. I decided to ignore them in the answer as they clearly cannot be the cleats in question. But, although quite convinced that no, I was not completely sure if some downward force is not used for some other cleats.
    – Vladimir F
    Apr 28 at 20:54
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    @Carel You got the model numbers reversed. SH51 is single release, while SH56 is multi-release.
    – MaplePanda
    Apr 28 at 22:47
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    @Cerulean I tend to unclip at the bottom of the stroke for precisely that reason; if unclipping at the top I move my heel inwards. That's a habit formed from freewheeling bikes, and not one that served me well on the rare occasions I've ridden fixed.
    – Chris H
    Apr 30 at 13:20
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    I have no problem disconnecting both feet at the same time if I need it. And in that case both feet cannot be at the bottom, I'd even say that I rather disconnect at the top because when I keep the other foot connected, I have it at the bottom when standing at an intersection. Also in the cyclocross dismount you stand on the left foot and disconnect the other foot before swinging it over the rear wheel.
    – Vladimir F
    Apr 30 at 13:41
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I suspect you're doing this in the air, before fitting the pedals to your bike.

Or possibly you're putting a bare cleat in the pedal.

Either way, its really hard to get things working like that. Instead, fit a pedal to your bike, and install a cleat on your shoe. Then back off the release tension to minimum to begin with if your pedals have a tension adjust.

The length of your shoe should provide enough leverage to unclip.

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    Agreed, it’s very hard to clip in and unclip with just the force of your hands/arms. You pretty much need full body weight to clip in.
    – Michael
    Apr 29 at 5:19
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    No, I'm practicing with the bike and shoes with cleats, holding myself against a wall, as suggested
    – Cerulean
    Apr 29 at 11:43
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Those Cleats are practically indestructible! You will be running in those shoes over rocks and gravel in a race! Kick and stomp in and twist out. Way safer then toe clips for MTB!

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Most of what you need to know has already been explained in the other answers:

  • No need to "push down hard on the heel of the shoe" when unclipping. A simple twist of the foot suffices.
  • Adjusting the tension on the mechanism is important. Higher tension means less likelihood of accidentally unclipping, but does mean it's a little harder to get in and out of the pedal. You'll want to balance your concerns of convenience, security, and even crash-worthiness (you don't want your foot staying in the pedal if you fall)

However, there's one really useful piece of advice that I don't see anywhere:

  • When clipping into the pedal, you want the pedal position to work with you. If you are stationary, the easiest way to do that is rotate the crank to put the pedal at its lowest point. Then you can just put some weight on that leg and the cleat will clip right in.

    Alternatively, I find that I like to get secured as I proceed from a stop. In that case, starting with the pedal just past the high point of its rotation works best for me. The force applied to accelerate the bike is also just right for securing the cleat in the clip.

    I typically combine both of these techniques. I get one foot clipped in before I start moving. Then to start, I rotate that foot to the just-past-high point where I can then apply the usual push down to get the bike moving. Finally, as the other side's pedal comes around, that foot is placed onto the pedal and clipped in during its downstroke.

It takes a little practice, but before too long it'll be second nature.

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