This year I got tired of my strapped bike pedals and decided to get a smidge more serious by purchasing clip-in pedals. Going into it, I knew that there was a high risk of falling over at a stop light or any number of the calamities other cyclists have experienced when their feet become attached to the bike frame.

I visited my local bike shop and purchased some nice Chrome shoes, cleats, and asked them to install some basic clip-in pedals on the giant bicycle I purchased years ago in San Francisco. The young man helpfully installed the cleats, helped me tweak the tightness of the clips, and gave me some tips before watching me roll off with the trepidation of a newborn deer on my wobbly legs.

Despite my best efforts, I could not clip into the pedals properly with any level of consistency. My neighbors were treated to numerous slow heads-down practice rides up and down the street, while I tried to figure out why the heck my shoes were not meeting the pedals. I could manage to force the pedals in and clip properly, but it never happened on the first try, and it definitely was always most difficult at a stop light.

Fast-forward a couple months.

My partner, who enjoys morning spin classes, finally buckled and purchased some cycling shoes with cleats of her own. Being ever so helpful, I installed the cleats for her the same way the young man had installed them into my own shoes. The next morning she returned from spin class annoyed: she could not clip in, and the instructor also wasn’t sure what the problem may have been.

We returned to the shop with the assumption that the shoes had too much moulding around the cleat preventing her from clipping in. Or perhaps the cleats were simply pedal-specific SPD cleats, or perhaps she, like me, wasn’t yet trained in clipping her feet into the bike properly.

At the front desk we explained the problem to another fellow, who picked up the shoes and took a look at the cleats.

“Oh, these are installed upside down.”

“Some dummy must have not known what he was doing” I chuckled.

Returning home, I sheepishly flipped my own cleats back around. Much to my surprise, clipping in is far easier when the cleats are properly installed.