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Old 08-10-08, 07:49 PM   #1
Ryan_M
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Any fitness benefit to clipless pedals?

I've just gotten back into riding after a long time and have a few 20k rides under my belt now, feeling better everytime I'm out. Right now I'm using running shoes and regular pedals on my Giant FCR2. I find that my feet are moving around a bit as I'm pushing forward at the top of the stroke (that one really burns) but it's more that I'm pulling back at the bottom of the stroke that's causing my feet are moving a bit. I used clipless pedals before and even after 15 years it seems old habits die hard.

After spending more on my bike than I'd planned plus there are some accessories that I need I'm not really anxious about having to buy cycling shoes soon (I can use my old pedals I think), though I would like some proper shoes at some point. I'm wondering if there is any benefit, fitness wise, to pedaling through most of the stroke rather than just pushing down all the time. If there is then maybe I'd put the shoes in a little higher priority. Also I'm thinking maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to get them sooner than later before I loose the "habit" of pedaling all the way around.

Any thoughts?
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Old 08-10-08, 08:13 PM   #2
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I am a big fan of clipless pedals now that I have them... Helps me go faster, I feel more efficient.

That said if all you are looking for is fitness benefits you are best served saving your money for other things and just using cheap $10 toe straps. The clipless just gives you that last maybe 10%, if thats worth $100+ to you then great, but if you aren't planning on racing or anything, Id save my money.
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Old 08-11-08, 04:27 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Ryan_M View Post
I've just gotten back into riding after a long time and have a few 20k rides under my belt now, feeling better everytime I'm out. Right now I'm using running shoes and regular pedals on my Giant FCR2. I find that my feet are moving around a bit as I'm pushing forward at the top of the stroke (that one really burns) but it's more that I'm pulling back at the bottom of the stroke that's causing my feet are moving a bit. I used clipless pedals before and even after 15 years it seems old habits die hard.

After spending more on my bike than I'd planned plus there are some accessories that I need I'm not really anxious about having to buy cycling shoes soon (I can use my old pedals I think), though I would like some proper shoes at some point. I'm wondering if there is any benefit, fitness wise, to pedaling through most of the stroke rather than just pushing down all the time. If there is then maybe I'd put the shoes in a little higher priority. Also I'm thinking maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to get them sooner than later before I loose the "habit" of pedaling all the way around.

Any thoughts?

Not sure what you mean by a fitness benefit. Your heart and lungs are not going to know the difference. That said, you will be somewhat more efficient with a smooth pedal stroke and that will be facilitated by having your feet attached to the pedals whether by a modrn clipless system or by old fashion cleats and straps that were used for decades before clipless. With training the muscles in your legs will develop slightly differently as they are affected by the pedal stroke so in that respect you might consider your legs to be "more fit". At least you would be a slightly faster more efficient cyclist. Does that constitute being more fit?
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Old 08-11-08, 05:26 PM   #4
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don't bother practicing the pulling up on the clips. others will say it too. there are articles out there shooting down training with an upstroke as you exhaust yourself faster using the weaker up-pull muscles vs. the powerful down-push muscles.

what i like about clipless, though, is that you can spin at 150rpm on the cranks and not slip off the pedals if your form breaks a bit.

if you're going off road, they're kinda neat 'cause then your feet don't slip off the pedals by accident when you hit a bump you're not ready for.
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Old 08-11-08, 05:43 PM   #5
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Purely as a 'health' benefit, using clipless will allow you to use additional muscles if you pull on the upstroke. I'll do this on climbs to keep the rpm's up, but generally don't pull on the upstroke on the flats/downhill.... Now, cycling shoes are a different issue.... unless I'm going a very short distance I wear my cycling shoes just because they spread the pressure from the pedals out over a larger area. I use mtb shoes as I can still walk around on them off the bike.
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Old 08-15-08, 01:16 AM   #6
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don't bother practicing the pulling up on the clips. others will say it too. there are articles out there shooting down training with an upstroke as you exhaust yourself faster using the weaker up-pull muscles vs. the powerful down-push muscles.

what i like about clipless, though, is that you can spin at 150rpm on the cranks and not slip off the pedals if your form breaks a bit.

if you're going off road, they're kinda neat 'cause then your feet don't slip off the pedals by accident when you hit a bump you're not ready for.
Care to post links to those articles? I'd be interested in reading about that. Sorry, no offense, but I'm skeptical.
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Old 08-15-08, 05:29 AM   #7
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Health benefit from clipless, wow, u ppl from marketing?
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Old 08-15-08, 04:11 PM   #8
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Care to post links to those articles? I'd be interested in reading about that. Sorry, no offense, but I'm skeptical.
Don't worry about it, the rest of his post is the important part.

Clipless will not improve your fitness but they will allow you to focus more on the ride and less on your feet. Cycling shoes are designed specifically to work with pedals and will work better than anything else.

The improved comfort and security will eliminate one more excuse to skip riding, and that will improve your fitness.
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Old 08-15-08, 04:47 PM   #9
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Health benefit from clipless, wow, u ppl from marketing?
By that I meant would it develop other muscle groups that otherwise wouldn't be if I continued to use regular pedals, resulting in overall better fitness.

I do plan to get them anyway as I find it a little awkward riding without them especially when trying to spin fast. When climbing my feet move around on the pedals, also on a long stretch I always seem to end up with my toes over the pedal axle which I don't notice until they start to go numb.
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Old 08-15-08, 04:52 PM   #10
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Don't worry about it, the rest of his post is the important part.

Clipless will not improve your fitness but they will allow you to focus more on the ride and less on your feet. Cycling shoes are designed specifically to work with pedals and will work better than anything else.

The improved comfort and security will eliminate one more excuse to skip riding, and that will improve your fitness.
I agree with the other parts. The two exercises my coach used to have me do that I liked least were one leg drills to improve pedaling efficiency (which definately required pulling up) and speed drills to improve high rpm cadence efficiency. Much as I didn't like the drills I felt they were important and I benefit from both the smoother, more efficient pedal stroke and the high cadence even in regular riding. I always wonder were people come up with this stuff about not pulling up or clipless systems not being effective, etc. In fact though I vary my foot to pedal interface depending on the type of riding I'm doing. High top MTB shoes/Time pedals for MTB and cross bikes, Sidi shoes/Look pedals for road, and rat traps with street shoes for commuting.
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Old 08-15-08, 04:59 PM   #11
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By that I meant would it develop other muscle groups that otherwise wouldn't be if I continued to use regular pedals, resulting in overall better fitness.
Ok, then yes, given what you mean by fitness here, having your feet attached to the pedals will allow you to improve the efficiency of your pedal stroke which will develop other muscles in your legs. It doesn't necessarily have to be clipless. You could acheive the same thing with clips/straps and cleats but I can't think of any reason you would wasnt to use the old school technology like that. It won't happen automatically though. You have to train to improve your stroke which takes time.
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Old 08-15-08, 06:00 PM   #12
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i can't find the exact article. i found it originally through BF... a member posted three articles of which i read two of them. i was searching on a cure for my knee pain... so the article wasn't exactly what i needed. it was pretty, though, so it caught my interest.
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Old 08-15-08, 06:02 PM   #13
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actually no, it was a thread on lower back pain...

Lower back pain

article i read:

http://www.topbike.com.au/pdfs/colso...ly_aug2002.pdf
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Old 08-15-08, 11:49 PM   #14
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Thanks for the links. I see where the confusion is coming from. Basically I agree with what they are saying in these articles. It seems to be a matter of terminology.

This article describes pretty acurately my experience with when you are pulling on the pedals:
http://www.bikesplit.com/bsa4.htm

Each range of the pedal stroke contributes a different amount of force with inherent muscle strength limitations. I estimate that the forward push over the top contributes about 10%, the down stroke about 65% (including the small calf push near the bottom), and the pull back about 25%. Even though the muscles are working to lift the weight of the leg, the lifting action on the recovery probably contributes little or nothing for most cyclists on a flat road. But when standing on the pedals (while out of the saddle), sprinting/accelerating, or at low rpm on a climb, the hip flexors and hamstrings should supply a significant amount of temporary power. A significant amount of force can be generated by pulling up for short periods, but only when you really need it.

While this article goes into some additional detail and I'd like to comment on these three excerpts: http://www.topbike.com.au/pdfs/colso...ly_aug2002.pdf

Unfortunately since it was a PDF file I couldn't link to the graphic of correct and incorrect pedaling technique but what most folks are refering to when they say pulling on the pedals is not efficient is what is refered in these first two excerpts below:

Their conclusion was that the hamstring
and hip flexor muscles were insufficient to
be able to lift the leg at a greater rate than the
quadriceps and gluteal muscles on the other side,
which push the back crank up by pushing down on
the opposite crank.

Trying to develop an ‘upstroke’ at the back
part of the pedal stroke (around the 240 degree
position for the back foot) is asking the hamstring
and hip flexor muscles to pull the pedal up in a
shortened position, at a very quick rate.

I agree with these. When pedaling with one leg (yeah I know the last article specifically recommended against that) I can only maintain a 60-75 rpm cadence and it very quickly becomes tiring, generally 45 seconds to 1 minute. Like it says the hamstring and hip flexor muscles are not strong enough to keep up with the quadraceps. That short time however is enough to gain an extra burst of power for climbing short, steep hills. The last excerpt explains the rest of the confusion though. What they are describing as "pulling across the bottom-stroke with the hamstring muscles" is something I would also have described as pulling on the pedals. Effectively it's the same motion that is described above, pulling back from around the 5:00 o'clock to the 8:00 o'clock position in the pedal stroke.

The part that the cyclist needs to
focus on is pulling across the bottom-stroke
with the hamstring muscles. This will smooth
out power generation at the top and bottom
sections of the stroke to allow smooth transition
between the right and left leg.

At medium cadences I can do this with or without cleats holding my feet to the pedals as the force of the downstroke is enough to keep the pedal under my foot. At high cadences my feet would tend to fly off the pedals if they weren't clipped in but at low cadences (like climbing a hill) where the downstroke force is not sufficient to keep the crank arm moving fast enough I tend to pull my feet off the pedal at the bottom of the stroke when I pull back if they are not clipped in.
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Old 08-16-08, 07:46 AM   #15
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i know the articles say you shouldn't, but i find i pull up sometimes when i'm out mountain biking on the trails. i ride with clipless pedals, and sometimes unclip when i need to (maybe about to fall?). to get back it i sometimes to an upstroke on the other leg to keep the cranks spinning.
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Old 08-16-08, 08:04 AM   #16
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To answer the OP, no.

To answer the pedal stroke question, it's common sense.
When you walk or run (normally), you don't pull your knees up to your chest and push down into the pavement. Most of your effort is in the form of a forward and backward motion. Think if how much energy it would take to do an exaggerated march for 3 miles vs a regular brisk walk for 3 miles. Same thing with pedaling. You should be pushing forward from 9 oclock to 3 oclock as the pedal come over the top and then pull backwards from 3 oclock to 9 oclock as the pedal comes under the bottom of the stroke. Pulling up and pushing down (on the flats, in a seated position) is a waste of energy. Might feel weird at first but it should be more efficient because you are using the correct (larger) muscle groups.
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Old 08-16-08, 08:16 AM   #17
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i'm just curious...

is all this posting on proper pedal technique necessary? i don't consciously think about pedaling and i've not had any training. i'm a "casual" rider. still, i feel that my pedaling technique is fine. i can go out for a 50mile ride and come back... don't you just "pick up" proper technique through volume of rides?

people here are discussing what is proper... push + pull sideways vs up and down... pulling on the upstroke... pushing BEFORE 12 o'clock... angle of foot in relation to road at various positions...

the only time i THINK about how my feet are moving is when i'm spinning over 120rpm on the roads.
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Old 08-16-08, 08:28 AM   #18
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If clipless pedals offer a slight increase in "efficiency", ie allow you to waste less effort, then they don't really help cardiovascular fitness. You end up riding a tad faster or farther for the same work out.

If they increase your enjoyment or motivation and as a result you ride more or harder, then they have indirect fitness benefits.

Pro cyclists don't put much effort into "pulling up" (mountain bikers pull up a tiny bit more than roadies) but at least they don't press down much on the pedal either, so they must at least be pulling their leg up to some degree. So your pulling up muscles get a bit or a workout even with platform pedals, since you at least have to lift your leg.
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Old 08-17-08, 10:00 AM   #19
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The benefits of attaching one's feet to the pedals, with either cleats or clips and straps, will become apparent if you ever break a crank arm miles from home. This can be simulated by removing one pedal, or just pedaling with one foot. You will feel the different muscles doing their part at different parts of the stroke.

As for overall health benefits, no, your heart and lungs do not care how efficient your technique may be.
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