Friday, January 19, 2007

Primary benefit of clipless pedals

Here's another quick and dirty poll for you, faithful readers.

Not everybody is sold on the utility of clipless pedals, in spite of their clear superiority over platforms or clips and straps. What, to you, is the primary benefit of clipless pedals over platforms and quills?

Broken SPD bicycle pedal
A. You're not applying pressure to keep your feet on the pedal during the upstroke. i.e. you're not wasting energy by pushing back with one foot while pushing forward with the other.

B. You're able to maintain better control because your feet are connected to the pedals. When you hit a bump, you won't crash because your feet slid off the pedals.

C. More efficient action by applying power during more of the pedaling stroke. i.e. circular motion instead of pumping action.

D. Lighter weight and more aero than platforms or clips & straps.

E. Easier, faster and safer entry / exit than clips and straps.

F. Cycling shoes immediately mark me as a 'pro' cyclist.

G. Other (please comment).

H. There's no 'primary' benefit -- they're all more or less equally important.

I. Clipless are only for poseur wankers with too much money to spend. My platform
pedals work perfectly fine.

J. Clipless are only for poseur wankers with too much money to spend. Long live my quills with clips and straps.

K. What's a clipless pedal and why do we 'clip' into them?
Let us know what you believe the primary benefit is for you. You might also mention if you ride road or mountain or what-not. Yes, there is a drawback or two, but we'll talk about those in another post.


Phil said...

A, B, C, D and E of course.

Their pure biomechanical benefits have been more than proven by now, of course for riding road/commuting they are indispensible.

I know a lot of commuters don't use 'em but they should, for that I highly recommend the Crank Bros. design the easiest of all to get into for those a bit iffy about the whole thing.

Anonymous said...

Intersting. I don't have the study handy but from what I've read the 'pulling up' or even 'unweighting the pedal' is not borne out by scientific studies. I think they used something like SpinScan and electrodes on the muscles but just couldn't prove it.

B and E.

We need new words, though. For those folks too young to remember clips and straps, 'clipless' makes no sense. "Isn't a cleat a clip?" they ask. Defining it by what it is not or what it is lacking is confusing. 'Step in' pedals or something, but somehow I doubt it wil catch fire.

Anonymous said...

'm sorry, but that video did *not* show the "importance" of clipping in. Let's face it. For every person who's done that there are 500, at least, who have fallen at an intersection with clipless pedals. Perhaps not as elegantly :)
You have such polarizing options. Either they're terribly important for all those go-fast reasons, or they're for poseurs.
Most of the benefits *do* relate to speed and efficiency. FOr commuters, that's a whole lot less important than having to have a stupid separate pair of shoes. For absent-minded folks, that's less important than not having to remember two more things for a ride. For frugal people, it's less important than saving the bucks. That doesn't make people using them poseurs though ;) I'm more likely to give that title to folks who have an "of course they're better... *everybody* knows that!" attitude, assume that getting-in-and-out fears are the only isses, and don't actually talk about why they're better. More efficient, definitely - but again, that's not always particularly important.
My favorite setup was a certain triangular tread pattern on Saucony shoes that would grab the ridges on my pedals nicely so I wouldn't slip on them, even in the rain, and I could get a lot of that "pullup" action with creative rotation.
I was wishing I had clipless the other day, though, when cruising over some too-interesting pavement with ice patches. Those toe clips are harder to get out of quickly, and using the top of the pedal meant those toe clips were dragging. However, had I been on the Gazelle, with my platform sandals and non-slip tread shoes, I'd prob'ly have been okay.
I might have to check out some pictures of European commuters. Are they using clipless?
(I'll wish I had 'em Sunday on the indoor time trials, too, perhaps - but again, my goal is fitness. Going a little slower means more time exercising which means *more* fitness, not less.)

_Russ_ said...

B and C primarily.
I like not having to think about my foot placement or worrying about slipping off of my pedals.

sasha said...

Having just ditched the cages on my commuter bike, one benefit you missed is that they keep your foot position consistent. Even with cages, your position changes based on the shoes you are wearing.

PowerGrips are next on my to-try list.

But basically the all-of-the-above one.

bikefridaywalter said...


Anonymous said...

It's one less thing to think about. I tend to overthink, well, everything and it interferes with my enjoyment of riding.

So, I ditched the cyclo-computer, built a fixed gear and ride clipless. I no longer squirm my feet around as I ride wondering if I'm in the best position.

FG: I know anecdotal accounts aren't real evidence but I find that pulling up on climbs makes me go faster. I'd love to read that study 'cause I can't see how pulling up wouldn't increase your power.

Jim said...

I. probably describes me most closely, but it has nothing to do with poseurs, wankers, or money. Platform pedals, in general, result in a better cycling experience for me. I say this after spending nearly a year cycling with clipless pedals almost exclusively. "Clipless" (a misleading name, I think) has far more drawbacks than advantages for the riding I do.

To me the primary advantage of clipless (or clips and straps) is most closely described by B, though I wouldn't have phrased it as you did. My feet NEVER slide off my platform pedals, and I ride platforms everywhere, even over bumps. However, I am convinced that the reason for this is that I subconsciously hold back when I'm not firmly affixed to the pedals. When I'm clipped in, I can storm up a hill like a maniac without fear. Of course, after becoming accustomed to clipless, one discovers a certain "sloppiness" on the return to platforms. This indicates to me that clipless pedaling allows one to develop bad habits.

Teemu Kalvas said...

The only benefit I find actually worthwhile is that when clipped in, the feet don't wander all around the pedal on their own and cause discomfort on the way, when the pressure gets directed on the wrong parts of the foot. And I'm a long-time user of clipless pedals. If the riding surface gets positively bad, say, four inches of new snow trampled by hordes of pedestrians into a close resemblance of a potato field, clipless are also beneficial in that they keep you attached to the bike. Otherwise you'd fall off. But this only applies if you do real off-road or live somewhere like me where this kind of weather actually happens.

I believe the other benefits exist. They are simply not all that interesting. I'm fortunate in having cycling as a lifestyle, not a profession. It matters little if I go 20 or 21. And I don't believe the benefits are as large as that, anyway.

What coelecanth says about pulling up on uphills has more to do with force, not power. Cycling power is (for most people) limited by the cardiovascular system, but you can certainly overdraft the machine for few seconds. If you do, and are stuck in a too-high gear (or a fixed gear even), it starts to matter what your achievable force is, and then it can be very beneficial to be able to pull up. But if your bike has gears and this still happens, you could have shifted better. People are more efficient in pushing down than pulling up anyway. The pulling leg lifts the leg, the pushing leg moves the bike.

Anonymous said...

A, C, E.

Not to change the subject, but what's the best clipless pedal when it comes ease of clipping in? I've always used SPDs, but I get a grass is greener feeling when I see Look and other brands.

patrick said...


when I rode my fixed gear on long rides with serious hills, I simply would not have been able to get up those hills without my crank bros pedals and sidi shoes.

now i have a geared touring/long ride bike, so the fixed gear is back to power grips, and the touring bike just has flat MKS pedals.

and i like wearing regular shoes too much to go back to clipless... for now.

Paul said...

B. I got clips because my feet were constantly wandering, and wouldn't change back (though I'm tempted by PowerGrips for my beater bike)

Anonymous said...

I haven't been able to try clipless pedals because I've got flat feet and can't find a shoe that fits comfortably. I use Power Grips but don't find that they've increased my pedal efficiency. I'm now looking for large platform pedals.