Clipless pedals: My Pros and Cons List
What are clipless pedals?
Clipless pedals allow you to attach the sole to the pedal. The goal is to keep your foot in the best pedaling position. You want the ball of your foot to be in the center of the pedal. Clipless pedals are popular among road cyclists, mountain bikers, commuters, cyclists, and more.
To immobilize your feet, all you need to do is press the pedals. Most systems click so you know you’re locked out. When you stop to remove your foot, you swing your heel out and the cleat disengages from the pedal.
Components of a clipless pedal system
The clipless pedal system consists of three parts: the pedal, the shoe and the cleat. The spikes are fastened to the sole. The shoes are then attached to the pedals. The cleats allow you to attach and detach the shoe from the pedals quickly and easily.
Often, shoes or pedals have cleats. Sometimes you have to buy them separately. Cleats wear out over time and must be replaced regularly. They usually last 3,000-5,000 miles.
Your pedals, shoes and cleats must all be designed for the same type of clipless system. They are not cross compatible. I’ll discuss the different types of clipless systems in more detail later.
Why are they called clipless pedals?
The name Clipless is a bit of a misnomer. After all, clipless pedals clip onto your shoes, while flat pedals have no clips at all. They’re called clipless because they don’t have toe straps or cages. These are replaced by the locking mechanisms the pedals use to attach the cleats.
Before clipless pedals became popular, the only way to keep the foot attached to the pedal was to use some type of strap on the shoe. These straps or clips are clipless as the name implies.
Advantages of clipless pedals
Clipless pedals can improve pedaling efficiency in some cases – most studies show clipless pedals by themselves do not improve efficiency. With the best pedaling technique, flat pedals and clipless pedals perform about the same in terms of efficiency. That being said, clipless pedals can improve efficiency for some riders. They do this by encouraging better pedaling technique. Clipless pedals ensure your feet are always in the correct position on the pedals. This allows you to pedal smoothly and powerfully without having to worry about your feet wandering around on the pedals. Clipless pedals also help you apply power through more pedal travel. For example, you can pull up the pedal. If you are born with sloppy or
imperfect pedal travel, you may find that clipping in helps. If you already have perfect pedal travel, you probably won’t see any improvement in terms of efficiency.
Clipless pedals give you more control – when you attach yourself to the bike, you can use your feet and legs to help maneuver. This allows you to navigate technical routes with greater precision. Imagine being able to jump over obstacles on a trail or lift a tire with ease. You can also use your body weight to maneuver the bike without slipping.
You Can Put More Power With No Clips – No clips allow you to put more power on the pedals because your feet are always in the ideal position and you can do more pedal travel by pulling up on the pedals. This allows for faster climbing and acceleration.
Clipless pedals are less stressful on the knee joint – According to a scientific study of interventions at the foot-shoe-pedal interface in competitive cyclists in the International Journal of Sports Physiotherapy, “Clipless fixed pedals produce the largest axial knee joint and varus moment, attenuated by the use of a clipless system that allows lateral rotation, the internal rotational moment is reduced by 50% at 250W power output.” As I understand it, clipless pedals relieve knee pain by reducing unhealthy knee motion Joint pressure. Of course, this is a finding of a study, not a real conclusion.
Clipless shoes and pedals are more technologically advanced – most pros these days ride clipless. This is for road and mountain bikers. These people need the best, most advanced gear to deliver the best performance. Because of this, a lot of time and money is invested in research and development to improve clipless shoes and pedals. Regular cyclists like you and me can take advantage of the same technology.
Your feet won’t slip off the pedals – cleats keep your feet on the pedals, even when riding on slippery surfaces or rough terrain. This can inspire confidence through rough roads or technical sections. Getting your feet off the pedals is one less thing to worry about.
You can pull up on the pedals – if you are on a steep climb and your legs are exhausted, you can give your muscles a break by pulling up on the pedals. This uses a different set of muscles and helps you gain more strength to reach the top. Keep in mind that pulling up the pedals is inefficient and not the right technique. That being said, most people who ride clipless do it occasionally.
Cleatless Shoes Improve Efficiency – According to this scientific study, rigid shoes with cleatless pedals are more effective than sneakers and flat pedals.
More comfort on the foot while riding – Clipless shoes tend to be stiffer than regular sneakers. These rigid shoes spread your weight over your entire foot instead of putting all your weight on the ball of your foot. Hard shoes also prevent the foot from flexing. Clipless riding reduces foot pain and fatigue after a long day in the saddle.
Clipless pedals allow you to ride at a higher cadence – when you’re riding at a high cadence, your feet will sometimes want to lift the pedals or move around. When this happens, you lose your rhythm and slow down. Clipless pedals keep your feet exactly where you want them to be. Instead of keeping your feet in place, you can focus on your rhythm.
Clipless pedals make the bike narrower—with a thinner profile, you can ride between tighter gaps without getting hung up on trees or rocks.
Reduced shin and calf chafing and bruising – Because your foot is immobilized, you won’t have to endure more pedals hitting your leg when it’s off.
Clipless is better on rough terrain – it’s easier to pedal over potholes, rocks and bumps when you keep your foot on the bike. They won’t slip or bounce when the trail gets rough.
You can ride faster with clipless pedals – the added power allows you to cover more ground in the same amount of time than with flat pedals. For example, perhaps clipless will allow you to ride an average of a mile per hour faster due to the increased power output. On a month-long trip, it’s possible to drive another 200 miles and spend the same amount of time in the saddle. For some riders, that’s a big deal.
Clipless pedals are the current trend – if you’re the type of person who always has to have the latest and greatest tech gear, clipless pedals are what you’re looking for. After all, almost every racer rides clipless. They also look stylish, minimal and cool.
Disadvantages of clipless pedals
Clipless Pedals Can Cause Injuries – If you don’t properly adjust your bike’s fit and clipless cleats, you can seriously injure your knees and hips. Knee pain is probably the most common sign that your clipless pedals are not properly adjusted. Don’t worry too much about this though. You will quickly know if there is a problem because you will start to experience pain during or shortly after the ride. Pain indicates that you need to make adjustments. If you don’t feel any pain, keep riding. everything is fine.
Clipless riding is more expensive—you have to buy clipless-specific shoes, cleats, and pedals. Clipless pedals cost about 2-3 times as much as comparable flat pedals. Expect to spend $35-70 for a decent pair. Clipless shoes will set you back $60 to $120. You don’t have to pay this fee when you pedal as you can use any shoe you have. This additional cost may come from research, development and manufacturing. Clipless systems are more complex than flat pedals.
Clipless pedals don’t really improve efficiency—many riders find clipless pedals more efficient than flat-bottomed pedals for a variety of reasons. When tested, there was actually no discernible difference. Most of the studies that have been done show that clipless and flat pedals perform about the same when riding with constant power on flat roads. For proof, check out this awesome Youtube video from GCN. This scientific study showed similar results.
There’s a learning curve to clipless riding – at first, clipping yourself to the bike can feel awkward and even scary. Give it a fair chance before giving up. Let your body develop some muscle memory and feel the new way of riding. I would say by the 5th ride you should feel pretty confident about clipless. Most people will love it.
You may collapse – at some point, you will stop, forget you are caught in it, and fall. It’s embarrassing, but it happens to everyone.
You have to set and adjust the cleats – they need to be perfect for a safe and comfortable ride. You can adjust the front/rear and left and right positions and angles. This can take a lot of trial and error if you don’t know what you’re doing. There is a bit of a learning curve to setting up the splint. When you’re just starting out, you may want a bike shop to help you. To get you started, check out this guide to setting up your bike radar’s cleats.
Clampless gears are hard to find in developing countries – if you’re traveling in remote parts of the world, you’ll have a hard time finding replacement clipless gears if parts are damaged or missing. For example, if your cleats are worn out or your cleats break, you may not be able to find a replacement. Clipless gears are not used in many parts of the world. Small bike shops and department stores don’t stock it. If you need new gear, you may have to wait for shipment or travel to the nearest capital to buy what you need. You can fix this by packing up some spare cleats and bolts and using clipless pedals that are flat on one side.
You must wear clipless shoes – you must purchase and wear special shoes to use the clipless shoe system. That means you can’t just hop on a bike and go for a spin in just your running shoes or sandals. It’s a little annoying if you just want to go to a bar or buy something at the grocery store.
Uncomfortable walking in clipless shoes – Clipless shoes are not ideal if you have to ride your bike a lot, or if you plan to walk around in cycling shoes when you get out of the car. With most clipless shoes, you can always feel the cleats as you walk. This gets annoying after a while. Some clipless shoes have cleats built into the shoe to make walking more comfortable. This is common in clipless shoes designed for mountain biking. Another problem is that the cleats can scratch the floor. You don’t want to run around someone else’s hardwood floors in your cycling shoes. One solution is to remove the cleats, but this is time consuming.
When traveling by bike, you have to bring an extra pair of shoes – when you’re not cycling, you’ll want to wear a regular pair of shoes. Buckle-up shoes are not comfortable enough for casual wear and when traveling. This adds an extra 1.5-2.5 pounds of gear you have to carry. A pair of shoes also takes up a fair amount of weight in a pack.
You can’t easily adjust your foot position with no clips – during a long day, it’s best to move your feet on the footrests for more comfort. Most clipless setups offer some float, but that may not be enough. To get your feet in different positions without the clip, you have to stop and adjust the cleats. You still may not get the position you want.
Clipless pedals give the bike a higher center of gravity – this is because when your body is clipped, your body becomes an extension of the bike.
There are more parts that can break – clipless riding adds to the complexity of the setup. This is another thing you have to worry about maintaining and carrying spares. For example, a cleat may fail or a bolt may be lost. If you’re in the middle of nowhere, this can be a real annoyance.
Clipless pedals are not for learning proper technique – if you’re new to cycling, cycling can teach you some bad habits. Basically, they encourage laziness. For example, you can’t learn how to put your feet on the pedals properly because clipless pedals do that for you. Also, you may not be able to learn how to move your legs with an effective pedaling motion. You don’t want to develop a bad pedal stroke. To overcome this, you may want to ride the pedals once in a while to make sure you’re not developing any bad habits.
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