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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

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Old 05-15-12, 06:34 PM   #1
TripleAce
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Clipless pedals vs toe clip

Hi everyone, looking to purchase either clipless pedals or toe clips (straps). I'm guessing that the clipless pedals are the superior choice. However I don't really want to spend that much for extra gear considering straps can be bought for 10 bucks vs $150 plus for low grade pedals and shoes.

A few side notes, my terrain is relatively smooth designated bike routes, with minimal hills and downhills but there are a few.

My question is, is there really a drastic improvement from straps vs clipless pedals.
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Old 05-15-12, 06:47 PM   #2
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First, half your performance benefit comes from stiff close fitting cycling shoes. If you're comparing clipless to sneakers and toe clips, then you've already lost half the battle.

Comparing clipless to toe clips with quality shoes in both cases, there is little performance difference as long as you keep your toe straps tight. However, clipless will be much easier to get in and out of at stop lights and stop signs unless you keep your straps loose, which does degrade performance.

How much of a performance difference depends a lot on how hard you ride. If you're soft pedaling all the time, there is not much difference. There will be a very noticeable performance difference when you are hammering.
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Old 05-15-12, 06:47 PM   #3
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I test rode a bike at my LBS one time that had the straps on it. I didn't like them one bit. I had the hardest time getting my 2nd foot in for some reason. If you're doing a lot of stop and go riding I'd say they'd be horrible.

Clipless shoes have stiffer soles (read:less flex) than a shoe that you would wear with straps. This will allow you to put more power to the pedal.
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Old 05-15-12, 07:07 PM   #4
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I dunno about the difference between clipless and toe clips, but the difference between plain platforms and toe clips is so vast I wouldn't worry too much about it. When I started getting into road cycling I had one bike with clips and one with platforms that I rode less often. After a month with the clips the platforms made me crazy and I got a second set of inexpensive toe clip pedals. With the right shoes and a properly adjusted strap it's pretty good. Not as good as clipless, but for the price it can't be beat.
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Old 05-15-12, 07:24 PM   #5
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I took a lesson from the hiking world and put Superfeet insoles in the running shoes I use for cycling. They have a plastic sole stiffener that helps, at least marginally. I started off in the 70s with toe clips, switched to clipless in the 90s, then back to toe clips when I wore the shoes and pedals out and balked at the cost of replacing them. They were going to cost more than my bike is worth. I just don't notice enough of a difference in the way I ride now to justify the cost. Also, I combine many bike trips with hiking trips and I don't like sustained walking on metal cleats. They make me slip on rocks.

Both methods have a short learning curve, of course. You definitely don't look or sound (click! click!) as cool with toe straps.
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Old 05-15-12, 07:39 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TripleAce View Post
My question is, is there really a drastic improvement from straps vs clipless pedals.
How far do you ride? How fast?

clipless >> toe clips (how people typically use them) > raw pedals.

"Drastic" means (maybe) 2-5% extra power (which doesn't equal speed).
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Old 05-16-12, 09:54 PM   #7
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At the moment im doing about 40km, so I guess its not that far. Hopefully Ill be able to increase till maybe 50-60km by the end of the summer. As for speed im not sure, I dont have a bike computer connected but from the looks of other cyclers, I think im pretty slow, I can pedal but most of the times guys or girls (usually with better bikes) will pass me.
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Old 05-16-12, 10:23 PM   #8
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I've ridden with toeclips on my FG commuter for the past 7 months. Just this past Friday, I tried out the clipless pedals and shoes that I ordered and accelerating is much different than toeclips.

When accelerating, I can pull up with my entire foot (notably the heel) which, in turn, pulls my clipped in shoe up, which, in turn, pulls the entire pedal up.

Toeclips are convenient for just wearing your normal shoes everywhere, but accelerating and keeping an efficient pedal technique is less superior to that of clipless.

I say go clipless and just skip the toeclips altogether. While the investment will seem expensive for you now, just wait until you've ridden clipless for the summer and you'll be glad you made the choice.

For starters, I'd recommend the Shimano 105 pedals.
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Old 05-16-12, 11:06 PM   #9
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My question is, is there really a drastic improvement from straps vs clipless pedals.
Night and day.
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Old 05-17-12, 08:37 AM   #10
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I test rode a bike at my LBS one time that had the straps on it. I didn't like them one bit. I had the hardest time getting my 2nd foot in for some reason. If you're doing a lot of stop and go riding I'd say they'd be horrible.
I used toe clips (eg straps) for years, actually I'm sure it was more than a decade, before I went clipless. You get used to this very quickly, just like you do with road shoes.

Clipless pedals are much better for any number of reasons.

Sometimes you just want to tool around. With the toe cages and straps, people will just use the flat side of the pedal, and leave the cage hanging down below it. Even when they don't want to ride slowly, this tends to happen when people start from a stop, until they get the foot into the cage. So you have this thing hanging down, about an inch from the road surface. Forget it, and you're likely to hit the ground in a turn. Won't crash you, but it'll startle the hell out of you. (This has been my experience.)

To get the best performance out of clips, you want to cinch the straps down tight. And you want to do it after you get your foot in them, which means you're going forward, you lean down, and you pull a strap next to your foot. But not too tight that you won't be able to get out at the next red light. (People fall from clips/straps, too.)

Clipless pedals are safer. And they're more comfortable. And people tend to perform just a little bit better in them.
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Old 05-17-12, 08:42 AM   #11
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Toeclips are convenient for just wearing your normal shoes everywhere, but ...
... but your shoes won't last as long this way.
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Old 05-17-12, 08:43 AM   #12
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My preferred system is half toe clips (no straps) with street shoes. No problems at all. I'm sure I don't have the full efficiency of clipless, but since most of my riding is in urban traffic, I don't care; I like the thought of not having to think about unclipping.
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Old 05-17-12, 08:48 AM   #13
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I've never used clipless are clips, but I'm quite happy with toecups. I use my bike for a short commute, longer weekend rides as well as tours, and I like the fact that they give you foot retention, are very easy to get in adn out of, and allow me to wear whatever shoe I like. I'm sure there will be some benefits to clips/clipless when it comes to accelerating and climbing but I'm not out racing. I'm either getting to work, or just out enjoying my ride.

Just about the only disadvantage to them is having to do the 'flip', but you get used to that very quickly. Cheap as chips as well.



Edit: what he said:
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My preferred system is half toe clips (no straps) with street shoes. No problems at all. I'm sure I don't have the full efficiency of clipless, but since most of my riding is in urban traffic, I don't care; I like the thought of not having to think about unclipping.
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Old 05-17-12, 08:48 AM   #14
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I think you need to clarify for yourself the difference between toe clips, cages and straps, and real Straps. They are all different. In my book, toe clips don't do much but keep your feet more or less in place, cages and straps works well but tear up your shoes and get uncomfortable on long rides, and Straps like Powergrips and what your see on fixies work very well but you still to wear shoes that are cut out for the job...meaning firm soles. For me, Straps are superior to clipless, but I am in the small minority on this one.

A non-Powergrip example below:
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File Type: jpg phoenix_2011_limited_color_v2_straps2.jpg (72.8 KB, 5 views)

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Old 05-17-12, 08:52 AM   #15
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Performance-wise, there really is much less difference than some people claim. But clipless is less hassle, because to get the full benefit of clips and straps you have to tighten the straps.

However, when just riding around rather than riding at race pace, you can get a reasonable degree of foot retention while leaving the straps looser, if you want. Certainly that is fine for rides on which you may have to stop and start frequently, in town for example.

Personally I use both. I go clipless on my road bikes but use clips on my singlespeed and, often, on my touring bike, because these are bikes I will often use in street clothes.
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Old 05-17-12, 08:57 AM   #16
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To get the most benefit of clipless or toe straps with cages, your foot cannot be pulled free during maximum effort especially while pulling. I rode straps and cleats before there were clipless pedals and my feet would go numb on long rides from the strap pressure. On the track, feet would go numb right away.

So the major benefit to me with clipless is foot comfort while having a secure pedal connection.
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Old 05-17-12, 09:02 AM   #17
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I use both systems. Most people these days use clipped pedals for convenience like commuting or grocery store runs. You don't need a special shoe and any shoe will do making it easier to walk around at your destination. Clipped pedals can still be a performance type pedal but then you still need good shoes with the proper cleats as you would with clip-less so if it's performance you want then just go with clip-less. They are easier to use and IMO safer in crashing as you will just pop out like a ski binding does.


EDIT: I'm not sure why people say you need to tighten your straps so much. With proper shoes and cleats they only need to be snugged down.
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Old 05-17-12, 09:07 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TripleAce View Post
At the moment im doing about 40km, so I guess its not that far. Hopefully Ill be able to increase till maybe 50-60km by the end of the summer. As for speed im not sure, I dont have a bike computer connected but from the looks of other cyclers, I think im pretty slow, I can pedal but most of the times guys or girls (usually with better bikes) will pass me.
I wouldn't worry about it too much. As you ride more, get fitter, stronger, and faster, I think natural evolution will simply play itself out and you'll arrive to the same conclusions about pedals as most roadies have; same goes to the efficiency/comfort/performance/whathaveyou about bibs, jerseys, and other gear.

If at the moment you're doing 40km rides, that's great - keep it up. Enjoy the ride, even it that means you're more comfortable with straps.
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Old 05-17-12, 09:08 AM   #19
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I'm partial to clipless myself. I use standard SPD's, which are cheap and readily available. You can find SPD compatible pedals new for $30-40 and even less if you buy some good used ones. I'd suggest a pair of dual sided SPD/platform pedals. In stop 'n go city riding I keep one foot on the platform side. Shoes don't have to run into the hundreds either. One pair I have is some performance house brand MTB/touring shoes that were $40 on sale. Again, perfect for city riding.

Kind of on the subject, yesterday's ride of silence was interesting as we were going through downtown. We were of course riding in silence, except for a moving wave of "click-click-click-click" sounds as close to 200 people were slowing, stopping and then clipping in again. Except for the Night Riders, most of whom prefer to ride in sneakers.
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Old 05-17-12, 09:09 AM   #20
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To get the most benefit of clipless or toe straps with cages, your foot cannot be pulled free during maximum effort especially while pulling. I rode straps and cleats before there were clipless pedals and my feet would go numb on long rides from the strap pressure. On the track, feet would go numb right away.

So the major benefit to me with clipless is foot comfort while having a secure pedal connection.
Same experience here. Clipless was a huge improvement over straps.
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Old 05-17-12, 10:31 AM   #21
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For the kind of riding you describe, you won't see one damn bit of difference in performance. At this stage, go for comfort and simplicity. Clipless is certainly not a necessity, but eventually if you start going faster & longer you'll want to try them. As an interim step, you can find a decent MTB shoe for less than 50 bucks, and add the pedals later.
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Old 05-17-12, 10:38 AM   #22
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I use clipless pedals (SPD) for urban riding, including my commute to/from work. They're as easy to get in and out of as cages with straps (toe clips), probably easier.
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Old 05-17-12, 11:22 AM   #23
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clipless ftw, straps = lews

clipless, better pedal stroke, power tranfser, more efficient.
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Old 05-17-12, 11:43 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by jfmckenna View Post
I use both systems. Most people these days use clipped pedals for convenience like commuting or grocery store runs. You don't need a special shoe and any shoe will do making it easier to walk around at your destination. Clipped pedals can still be a performance type pedal but then you still need good shoes with the proper cleats as you would with clip-less so if it's performance you want then just go with clip-less. They are easier to use and IMO safer in crashing as you will just pop out like a ski binding does.

EDIT: I'm not sure why people say you need to tighten your straps so much. With proper shoes and cleats they only need to be snugged down.
Because they're not using cleats.

Vast majority of people these days don't understand how toeclips and straps are designed to be used.
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Old 05-17-12, 11:45 AM   #25
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clipless, better pedal stroke, power tranfser, more efficient.
Incorrect. Proper cleated shoe with toeclips will give you the same power transfer and efficiency.

It will just be more of a pain to get out of, and less comfortable.
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