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Old 07-05-13, 09:29 PM   #1
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Toe clips vs cleat pedals

Okay, newbie question. I am considering going the next step and moving towards a more advanced pedal system. I just purchased a used 520 that has a normal platform on one side of the pedal and a clip for a cleat on the other side. Since I have never ridden with a clipped in cleat, I am worried that I might not get unclipped fast enough in order to set my feet on the ground. There is I also the whole shoe cost question as I have noticed several different styles.

The other consideration is a pedal with a toe clip. This seems a bit safer, but is it as efficient as a cleat? As I have never ridden with either options, I really do not know what I will be gaining with either system. Any pro / con opinions?
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Old 07-05-13, 10:09 PM   #2
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Probably a good idea to define "efficiency". IMO a firm connection to the pedals does not make you more efficient. It simply allows you to go a bit faster when going as fast as possible is critical. If you regularly contest field sprints and mountaintop finishes while touring, then you will want clipless. Otherwise, a truly firm connection to your pedals is relatively unimportant.

So with that in mind...

Toe clips and straps are as "efficient" as anything if you use proper shoes and good quality straps and set them up perfectly. But that is all but a lost art these days, and even if you do manage to get it right, they will actually be more difficult than clipless in use, because you will have to reach down and undo the strap each time you come to a stop.

Another way to do it (and one that I prefer) is to use clips and straps with rubber-soled touring shoes. This is comfortable and easy to get in and out of, but is not nearly as "efficient" as either clips and straps with cleat, or clipless. Clips and straps with tennis shoes or what have you generally does not work very well, because the soft soles allow the pedal cages to dig into your feet, which can become pretty unpleasant after a while.

And though I am a die-hard fan of clips and straps in general, it's hard to find any area where they really work as well as clipless. I am kind of shocked to hear all the stories of cyclists toppling over because of clipless. They really are not hard to learn. And shoes for clipless are widely available, including many styles that are perfectly "walkable" and don't make you look like some kind of alien or haute couture reject.

Short version? Big soft platform pedals with no clips and straps work fine for many tourists, using whatever shoes you like. Clips and straps with "standard" road pedals also work fine, but you'll want bicycle touring shoes to go with them, which are pretty hard to find these days. Clips and straps with stiff, cleated shoes are great on the bike but very hard to set up properly and very awkward when off the bike. Modern clipless works great and gives you all kinds of options, and the "risk" is vastly overstated.
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Old 07-05-13, 10:18 PM   #3
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Agree with Six jours. Toeclips and straps are, in practice, much harder to get into and out of than clipless. I remember back in the 90s putting toeclips and straps on my bike and having a nasty fall. After that I just rode with the straps loose. But back to clipless, when you want to unclip, you are out, hardly any more difficult to use than platforms. As for the expense, you bike already has the pedals, so all you need are shoes. Mountain style shoes can be found for about the cost of an average pair of tennis shoes.
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Old 07-05-13, 10:40 PM   #4
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Falling while standing there with one foot off the bike is all part of the fun, especially when there's traffic looking at you, waiting for you to go through the intersection.
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Old 07-06-13, 12:15 AM   #5
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I would argue that click-in (i.e., so-called "clipless") bindings are safer than toeclips and straps in a crash. Click-in bindings are derived from ski-binding technology (the first modern ones were from Look, until then better known for its ski equipment). I've crashed a few times since converting to "clipless" and my pedals have released without fail without my having consciously tried to get my feet free.

Second, you have much more time than you think to unclick when you start to tip over. Try it out in a narrow hallway where you can reach out and touch the walls while on your bike. Let yourself start to fall over and be surprised at how much time you actually have before you tip over too far to recover. Your real enemy is panic. When you freak out you're more likely to hurt yourself.
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Old 07-06-13, 06:20 AM   #6
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My opinion is that clips and straps are both less convenient and less safe. They are also less comfortable if you cinch the straps tight enough to do any good. Some folks like those little half clips with no straps, but I found that for me they offered some of the inconvenience and none of the benefit.

The only downside to clipless is that you do need to have bike specific shoes. My take on that is that I really like having nice bike shoes so it is worth the expense and minor inconvenience.

Bottom line... I wouldn't even consider clips and straps, but a few folks still like them.
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Old 07-06-13, 07:28 AM   #7
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Much depends on your cycling style. I enjoy off-bike walks as much as the cycling when I'm touring, so I appreciate walking shoes rather than (usually expensive) cycling shoes. I used clipless for many years, went back to clips and straps, and am very happy with the move. I agree with everyone above that clipless are safe and efficient, but they just don't match up perfectly with my personal cycling style (and budget).
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Old 07-06-13, 07:32 AM   #8
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You are not going to get a heck of a lot of disagreement that clipless is safer and better than toe clips and straps because they are. That said, I used toe clips and straps on my cross continental tour. It's no problem pulling out of toe clips and straps if you have smooth soled touring shoes and I also had a pair of tevas on the trip that I would sometimes cycle in so I wanted pedals that would work with different kinds of shoes. There may be some applications for which toe clips and pedals still make sense. I certainly hope so because I own a lot of high zoot old school pedals!
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Old 07-06-13, 07:53 AM   #9
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I started using strapless toe clips on my commuter bike last year and have found them to be great. I have a set of SPD pedals on another bike and used clips/straps in the past.

Each system has advantages and disadvantages - your best bet is to try each type out and see what works for you.
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Old 07-06-13, 08:03 AM   #10
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Thanks everyone. Seems like the concensus is with clip less shoes. Next question is, hard soled or soft soled with recessed cleat? I am thinking hard soled and just bring a pair of Crocks for the evening. I hear the hard soled gives you a bit more torque on the up stroke.
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Old 07-06-13, 08:17 AM   #11
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Second, you have much more time than you think to unclick when you start to tip over.
Then why do people have "clipless moments"

I have tipped or slipped over a few times using lose straps and my feet have hit the ground every time.
Touring is not about the ultimate in efficiency, but a comfortable compromise that allows you to get on touring. Hiking shoes have soles that are stiff enough to be useful on the pedals and are comfortable and tough off the bike as well.
For newbie and occasional tourists, clips and loose straps are fine.
For expedition riders, clips and straps have good failure modes, clipless can fail in several ways that make pedalling very difficult.
For performance-oriented tourists, racing folk and existing clipless users, they tend to use what they already like and know.
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Old 07-06-13, 08:33 AM   #12
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I just went clipless about a month ago and the only drawback are quick starts in traffic.

My toe clip pedals have a large platform, and I used them with regular sneakers. For a quick start at a red light in traffic, I would have one foot in the right clip, and when the light turned green I could just jump on the left pedal and go with the clip upside down. After getting the bike moving I could then flip the pedal and stick my foot in.

With clipless the pedal platform is smaller, and the road cycling shoes have a hard slippery bottom and a big cleat so my foot slips off if I'm mashing hard and miss the clip in. Now at red lights I really have to concentrate on slowing down and taking an extra second to get my second foot clipped in before I start mashing on the pedal.

I still really like them. Stops in traffic at lights are only about five minutes of my usual two to three hour rides so not a huge deal.
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Old 07-06-13, 08:51 AM   #13
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The Shoes are another part of the picture.. I got the Shoes for using the regular type road pedal modified .

to optimize the positioning, ease of rotation of foot, 'float' on the pedal. and the usefulness off the bike, walking.

to that end, sole, built up, to leave the gap for a hourglass slot for the back plate of the pedal .

More comfortable ergonomic insole added, ( Birkenstock has cork composite 3/4 length ones I like)


and a toe clip that holds the strap open , but the strap itself stiff enough to remain round, and so easy
to get the smooth sole sliding easily , into the opening, quickly and easily..

Its been a fine combination.. there Were 'touring shoes' with sole texture that were reasonable to walk in
comfortable to pedal in ... Italian, French & British shoe companies but not well distributed outside ,
as I found, of bigger European cities ,

then phased out by now.. happened to see a few , 15 + years ago , on tour , there..
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Old 07-06-13, 09:20 AM   #14
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Thanks everyone. Seems like the concensus is with clip less shoes. Next question is, hard soled or soft soled with recessed cleat? I am thinking hard soled and just bring a pair of Crocks for the evening. I hear the hard soled gives you a bit more torque on the up stroke.
For touring, I would think recessed cleat is far more practical. And, wouldn't be caught dead wearing Crocs.
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Old 07-06-13, 09:29 AM   #15
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For touring, I would think recessed cleat is far more practical. And, wouldn't be caught dead wearing Crocs.
Agree on both points! I like recessed cleats combined with a fairly stiff sole. All of the benefits of a road shoe and you can walk around without feeling like you're going to break an ankle...
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Old 07-06-13, 09:42 AM   #16
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Agree on both points! I like recessed cleats combined with a fairly stiff sole. All of the benefits of a road shoe and you can walk around without feeling like you're going to break an ankle...
Even on day rides (which is my thing), there are times where you just want to get off the bike and walk around, without having to swap shoes. I wouldn't want to be digging around in my panniers to change shoes just for a lunch break.
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Old 07-06-13, 10:51 AM   #17
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Nearly everyone who rides clip less will admit to at least one fall when learning to use them. It is just something to accept if you plan on trying them.

For touring in particular, clip less has some disadvantages. Notably, you need 'special' shoes for the bike and these shoes are never ideal for off bike use, though they can be made use of with a compromise in comfort.

For touring style riding, in particular, good platform pedals are perfectly acceptable and have little (to none) difference in pedalling 'efficiency'. If you want to compromise then a good platform pedal (I am partial to the MKS GR-10) with half clips (no straps) provide a good compromise and much of the advantage of a clip or clipless system.

More importantly, none of the possible pedal styles will make a bit of difference in your long term average speeds, distances, etc... And for touring, being able to have a single pair of shoes that are comfortable and work well on and off the bike are a worthy consideration.
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Old 07-06-13, 11:05 AM   #18
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Thanks everyone. Seems like the concensus is with clip less shoes. Next question is, hard soled or soft soled with recessed cleat? I am thinking hard soled and just bring a pair of Crocks for the evening. I hear the hard soled gives you a bit more torque on the up stroke.
I personally find very soft shoes uncomfortable with clipless. The platform on clipless pedals is relatively small and tends to concentrate pedaling force on a small area of the shoe. So soft-soled shoes often result in hot spots on the foot. Of course, if you go too stiff, then walking gets weird. The softest sole I can get away with myself is something like the Pearl Izumi X-Alp. This is a very walkable shoe and looks just like a tennis shoe, but I have to have a relatively large clipless platform to make it work for me.

More performance-oriented mountain bike shoes, like the well-regarded Sidi Dominator, work very well both for cycling and walking (and because of the stiffer soles, are less likely to cause hot spots) but are much more conspicuous in the grocery store or restaurant.

FWIW, I'd avoid road style shoes. They obviously work well on the bike, but are very awkward off it. And the very hard soles don't really provide any performance advantage, except perhaps at very high effort levels.

Also FWIW, don't feel that you have to have some type of attachment to the bike. Again, many cyclists feel that cycling is horribly inefficient without it, but that is a perception enforced more by the herd than by reality. Some of the hardest-core (and most content) tourists I ride with prefer a big set of platform pedals and whatever brand of street shoes they find comfortable.
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Old 07-06-13, 11:23 AM   #19
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Nearly everyone who rides clip less will admit to at least one fall when learning to use them. It is just something to accept if you plan on trying them.

For touring in particular, clip less has some disadvantages. Notably, you need 'special' shoes for the bike and these shoes are never ideal for off bike use, though they can be made use of with a compromise in comfort.

For touring style riding, in particular, good platform pedals are perfectly acceptable and have little (to none) difference in pedalling 'efficiency'. If you want to compromise then a good platform pedal (I am partial to the MKS GR-10) with half clips (no straps) provide a good compromise and much of the advantage of a clip or clipless system.

More importantly, none of the possible pedal styles will make a bit of difference in your long term average speeds, distances, etc... And for touring, being able to have a single pair of shoes that are comfortable and work well on and off the bike are a worthy consideration.
The nastiest fall I ever had was with toe clips and straps. That was back in the 90s. Clipless was still fairly new, to me at least, so I put toeclips and straps on my hybrid. I slowed down by some railroad tracks, then my feet got stuck as I was slowing down. I tried to reach down to loosen the straps, but it was too late, and I went down hard, right on the railroad tracks. I only had one fall with clipless, and it wasn't nearly as bad as that fall with toeclips.
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Old 07-06-13, 11:37 AM   #20
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I have bikes with clipless, clip-n-strap and BMX platform pedals. I toured last year in clip-n-stap. Will likely do the same this year. It just seems more fail-proof in my mind, dunno why. Well, maybe because pedaling with a broken clip or strap would be better than pedalling with a lost or broken cleat or broken clipless retention mechanism in the pedal

I used exclusively clip-n-stap for 20-some years, only been clipless for a few weeks. Clipping out is easy. Doubt I'll ever have a clipless "TIMBER!" fall since I've been wriggling my feet out of tight straps for years and clipless is pretty much the same motion for me.

I've wanted to do clipless for a long time but cost kept me from doing so. Got free pedals and cleats about a year ago, FINALLY splurged on some Diadora Globe shoes I found on sale for $36.
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Old 07-06-13, 11:45 AM   #21
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I have bikes with clipless, clip-n-strap and BMX platform pedals. I toured last year in clip-n-stap. Will likely do the same this year. It just seems more fail-proof in my mind, dunno why. Well, maybe because pedaling with a broken clip or strap would be better than pedalling with a lost or broken cleat or broken clipless retention mechanism in the pedal

I used exclusively clip-n-stap for 20-some years, only been clipless for a few weeks. Clipping out is easy. Doubt I'll ever have a clipless "TIMBER!" fall since I've been wriggling my feet out of tight straps for years and clipless is pretty much the same motion for me.

I've wanted to do clipless for a long time but cost kept me from doing so. Got free pedals and cleats about a year ago, FINALLY splurged on some Diadora Globe shoes I found on sale for $36.
Hmm. I suppose a pedal can fail, though going with platforms on one side, clipless on the other would seem to address that problem. If the cleat or retention system were to fail, just ride the platform side until you can get to a bike shop and replace it.
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Old 07-06-13, 11:55 AM   #22
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I use 'clipless' when touring as long as I'm away from tricky situations or heavy city traffic. Many years ago I bought a good pair of clipless shoes to match the pedals that allow me to walk about and even hike a bit, and they still work fine. My pedals have the clip on apparatus on one side, and standard platform on the other. I am not comfortable using them in tight quarters, especially alongside traffic in towns because I have seen riders fall over into traffic when having to stop quickly at slower speeds while clipped in. Under those conditions clipping in has no advantage anyway.
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Old 07-06-13, 12:01 PM   #23
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The nastiest fall I ever had was with toe clips and straps. That was back in the 90s. Clipless was still fairly new, to me at least, so I put toeclips and straps on my hybrid. I slowed down by some railroad tracks, then my feet got stuck as I was slowing down. I tried to reach down to loosen the straps, but it was too late, and I went down hard, right on the railroad tracks. I only had one fall with clipless, and it wasn't nearly as bad as that fall with toeclips.
Interesting, but how does that have any effect on my statement you were quoting. The OP was asking about clip less and fear of failling.

I was suggesting that normal platforms or perhaps platforms with half clips (which have no straps and aren't really any issue getting into or out of) are perhaps a better choice for touring.
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Old 07-06-13, 12:08 PM   #24
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Interesting, but how does that have any effect on my statement you were quoting. The OP was asking about clip less and fear of failling.

I was suggesting that normal platforms or perhaps platforms with half clips (which have no straps and aren't really any issue getting into or out of) are perhaps a better choice for touring.
OP was opining that toeclips are safer than clipless. Agree that half clips are safer than clips with straps. That is how I rode the clips after that nasty fall until I switched over to clipless.
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Old 07-06-13, 12:16 PM   #25
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When I use clips and straps with rubber-soled touring shoes the straps are kept fairly loose. This offers nearly no retention and functions only to keep my foot properly positioned over the pedal, and keep my feet from flying off the pedals on poor roads/trails. The end result is that I can pull my feet out without any effort at all. The lack of retention does prevent me from sprinting and climbing at top speed, but when I am in the mood for that, I don't ride my touring bikes...
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