To cleat or not to cleat?
One thing I weirdly developed an anxiety around was descents. Not climbs. Descents. I'd become so fearful of going fast downhill that I’d actually resorted to dismounting and walking my bike down. After discussing this problem with my 'Work Mum'/cycling buddy, we narrowed it down to a fear of not being able to unclip my cleats if I needed to. She suggested that I put my platform pedals back on instead of the cleats and I’ve honestly not looked back! I feel faster, stronger and more confident, flying down hills so fast I swear I could almost give Mr Froome a run for his money (if perhaps he was blindfold with one arm tied behind his back!).
My advice to any fellow weirdo's reading this is to remember to stay loose, avoid rigidity, relax and look up, focus on the road ahead, not immediately in front of you or you'll feel unstable. You need to look where you want to be, not where you don’t because ultimately that's where you'll finish up.
Cleats suit some people, but clearly not all. For those of you who don't know, cleats are a mechanism which is part of a cycling specific shoe that allows the wearer to clip in and out of 'clipless pedals' (sounds back to front doesn't it. but the 'clipless' part actually refers to the toe clips and straps not being present) . Don't beat yourself up if they're not for you. It really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things.
However lots of people swear by cleats and if you do want to give them a go, practice, practice, practice. They can seem intimidating so you need to try clipping and unclipping while your bike's stationary, progressing to doing the same while you're riding slowly in order to get used to it. Cleats do give you increased efficiency and power when pushing though your pedals and powering up hills. They also ensure that your feet don’t slip off and remain in the correct position.
You should certainly consider having your cleats set up professionally via a bike fit, you can easily end up with sore knees, hips, ankles and/or feet if they're incorrectly positioned.
There are two main types of cleat to consider.
The 'road systems' tend to have a smooth and rigid sole with the cleat protruding and coming into contact with the ground as you walk. These are ideal for those who spend very little time walking while they're out, they're really awkward to walk in and t he cleats are easily damaged by doing so.
The 'off road systems' have the cleat recessed into the sole of your cycling shoe, which teamed with a more flexible sole, make them comfier to walk in should you need to while out and about.
It is highly likely that you will fall off when getting used to being attached to your pedals. It will only hurt your pride. You will feel like a massive div. Get over it and try again.