Broken Hip New Hip

When I fell and broke my hip I was riding a Raleigh bike.

It was Raleigh mountain bike, aluminum frame, large frame, hard tail—no rear suspension.  Rockshox (the brand) on the front fork, 1.75 inch knobby tires and caliper brakes.  I bought it new in 1995 and rode it maybe 200 miles in 10 years.

The bike came with platform pedals that I replaced with clipless pedals.  The term, clipless pedal, is misleading until one knows how the term came about.  Sheldon Brown, the bike guru, offers a good explanation. (

Sheldon  Brown says that up until the late ’80s, the choice for pedals was between plain pedals or pedals with toe clips and straps. As the next generation of  pedals came along with a way to secure the bike shoe to the pedal without the clip, the “clipless” pedal name stuck, even though it is sometimes confusing to newcomers.

“Clipless pedals (think: no toe clip) use a cleat which is bolted to the bottom of the shoe. When the rider steps on the pedal with the cleat, the cleat locks into the pedal mechanism, and is held firmly in place (similar to ski boots and bindings.)

“With most clipless pedal systems, the foot is disengaged by twisting the heel outward.”

The clipless style I used was SPD, which stands for Shimano Pedaling Dynamics.  SPD pedals were introduced in 1993. Separate cleats mount to the bike shoes. Once clipped in, turning the foot outward releases the shoe.

With new clipless pedals and wearing shoes with cleats, I mounted the bike next to a concrete curb and practiced tilting the ball of the foot downward and forward and pushed the cleat on the ball of the shoe into the pedal mechanism and pushed forward to secure the cleat to the pedal.  Then I twisted my heel outward and pulled up with the ball of my foot to release the cleat from the pedal mechanism.  I figured a dozen or so reps would be enough to try releasing while riding the bike.

I rode around our neighborhood, rolling toward a stop sign.  I twisted my heel and pulled up and backward to release my foot from the pedal.   Then I tipped the bike and dropped my newly released foot to brace myself as I stopped.  It seemed to work just fine.  I rode around the block and came to a stop sign.   As the bike slowed I tipped the bike and began to move my foot to brace myself–forgetting my feet were clipped to the bike pedals.  The bike stopped, I paused and tipped over, banging my elbow and hip.  No permanent damage.

After moving to our present home a few years later I began riding again, both on paved roads in the country and on sandy dirt roads around our house set amongst the sage brush.  I talked with several seasoned bike riders who explained the added power from riding clipless so I installed SPD-style clipless pedals and bought me shoes to match the clips.  They explained that without the shoe being fastened to the pedal all the power to propel the bike comes from the down stroke using the quadriceps, the four prevailing muscles on the front of the thigh.  By fastening the shoe to the pedal power can be applied in the downward stroke and the upward stroke, that is pulling the pedal up with the hamstrings, the three muscles behind the thigh, and the gluteus maximus, or butt muscle.

So I traded my platform pedals for clipless pedals on my mountain bike.  I practiced clipping and unclipping dozens of times sitting on the bike leaning against the wall of our garage.  I rode around a local parking lot and practiced unclipping and stopping.  But the release action was not a habit and that’s why I fell when the bike slowed to a stop riding up the embankment of the new road.  Mentally I knew I was clipped in, but my reaction time was too slow and the release movement was too slow.

So, laying in the hospital with a broken hip, I told the doctor to go ahead and replace it.