I biked to work this morning on the Dolce so I could ride directly from the office to Spokes for a personalized fitting. And since I was getting the fitting, I decided that I may as well switch out the pedals and get some clipless shoes and cleats. I chose the Shimano PD-A530 SPD pedals (I think... I'm too tired to get up and verify) which have a clip on one side and a platform on the other and Specialized's Women's Spirita Touring Shoes (surprisingly comfy!). Alexander took his time measuring my angles and adjusting my posture. Everything seemed to line up satisfactorily and he suggested trying a shorter stem if I continue to experience hand pain. I think that particular issue is clearing up as I can now ride in the horns for ten miles before my hands start hurting.
After the fitting, he let me stay on the trainer and practice clipping and unclipping until I felt comfortable to try it on the open road. My sometimes-elegant (-ish) dismount method off platform pedals didn't really lend itself to a clipless dismount and I had to talk aloud to commit "move pedal to 6:00 position, unclip, coast, brake, lean to unclipped side, put unclipped foot down, and get clipped foot into 2:00/10:00 or 3:00/9:00 position for take-off" to memory. My platform dismount is "move pedal to 6:00 position, coast, brake, stop, take foot off 12:00 pedal and sail forward off saddle so I can touch the ground, step off 6:00 pedal and kick it up to 3:00/9:00 for the next take-off".
Anyway, I finally felt like I had the process figured out and I hit the open road -- literally; the shop is about four miles from the W&OD trail -- and, as luck would have it didn't need to unclip until I got to the gravel turn-off for my neighborhood. Yes, you have to "turn off the paved road" to get from the trail to my neighborhood. It amused me that every single stop light was green and every single intersection was free of oncoming vehicles. I successfully unclipped to leave the trail and successfully clipped back in on the neighborhood street. My only issue was when I got home, unclipped on the left, and promptly fell to the right. Luckily, I caught myself on the side of my truck and was able to correct before hitting asphalt. D'oh.
Impression? I LOVED riding in cleats. I was able to power up hills more easily and I could feel different muscles working. I can see how using this style of pedal/shoe combination will make it easier to ride longer distances. I wasn't nearly as psyched out by having my feet attached to my bike as I was afraid I'd be. Some day I'll fall with my feet clipped in but I'm almost used to falling with my feet on platforms so no big.