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Flat vs clipless pedals for uphill and cross-country cycling?

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Flat vs clipless pedals for uphill and cross-country cycling?

Old 06-08-22, 10:15 AM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb
It would probably be easier and cheaper to change to a mountain compact crank, perhaps in the neighborhood of 44/26, than to go whole hog and go to a triple. Even with a triple, it'll take some effort to avoid those 52-42-30 monstrosities that still won't give you a decent low gear. (FWIW, I aim for a 20 gear inch low; you're about 50% higher than that right now.).
Spent a bit of time learning the logic beyond all these chainrings vs cassette rations and options. Your advice for 44/26 now makes more sense than any other option I considered a couple of days ago. .
I'm on a heavy-ish hybrid bike carrying extra load, aerodynamics isn't great, plus I'm not a competitive racer. I guess I will reach my top speed well before I hit 100rpms with the 50t-11t combo, so 44T looks like a good compromise for me.

I will open anther thread asking for help with the custom gears setting, this is definitely out of the original subject.

Thanks a lot
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Old 06-08-22, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by alexk_il
I might be disappointed if I expect a huge performance benefit from switching to clipless.
Truth.

I've still got clipless on my singlespeed CX bike, but on everything else -- cruiser, mountain, gravel -- I've gone to platforms. The pedals and shoes have just gotten SO much better that the advantages of clipless have really diminished. I have OneUp composite pedals on almost everything, and Five-Ten Freerider shoes stick to them like glue.
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Old 06-08-22, 12:49 PM
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One fact of platform pedals (even with pins) is that there is a % grade maximum that can be ridden at a constant speed. (Ie, not having a head of steam from the previous downhill. You can quite simply calculate the grade where your weight on the pedal (including whatever force you can effectively pull on the handlebars) operating through the crank arms, gear ratio and wheel diameter exactly matches gravity's pull on you and the bike. Steeper and you go backwards.

With foot restraint, you can pull up and at the same time push down harder on the opposite downstroke. You can now ride up far steeper grades. And yes, at any given RPM, your power and cardiovascular levels skyrocket. But - you can now loaf uphill far slower, Yes, the muscular needs are high, but with slow motion, you can cap the cardio (and as a by-product, reap some awesome full body muscular strength, especially if you incorporate your arms and sway the bike as a slow motion "dance".

For the OP, this isn't something he will want to do a lot of but there might be a staircase height of steep climb near home he can do periodically; a little like lifting weights.

I know all about what I am talking about here, I've been going up hills on fix gears 45 years. I've both "gone for it" like you see in my avatar; taken at a 14% stretch of a two mile climb and me in a 42-17 gear and loafed in the same gear up Portland's Germantown Road. There's a quick pitch on Portland's Rose Garden/Zoo climb that's around 20%. A test of my toestrap quality. Poor straps that slip and I have to walk it.
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Old 06-09-22, 11:00 AM
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79pmooney has it just right. That's how it is, even for wussies like me who rides geared bikes. A very simple thing the OP can do for a proof of concept is simply to bolt toe clips and straps on his current pedals - might have to switch to rat trap pedals if his don't have bolt holes for clips. They're fairly cheap, do exactly the same thing that clipless does and use ordinary shoes.

I'd been riding bikes for fun and transportation since I was 7. When I finally got my first road bike at college in 1963, in super-hilly rural NY, it had toe clips and straps. The first time I strapped my tennies into those pedals, I was a convert. I was blown away by what I could do with that bike. I had a turbine-powered rocket ship. I've had foot retention on every bike I've owned since then. Another thing that clipless or toe clips does which is really important is these things keep your feet attached to the pedals. You can just pedal your heart out at high rpms and never worry about getting injured should your foot slip off a pedal - and get injured even worse if that pedal is covered with spikes. For pedaling around the neighborhoods on the flat, flat pedals are fine.

Flats are sorta like Books saddles. Lots of people advocate same, but you go out riding, maybe 1 bike in 100 has a Brooks, and I've never seen an adult cyclist with flats. "Cyclist" means "rides for sport." "People on bicycles" ride in civvies, usually dark colors and don't run lights at night. Not to be an elitist or anything . . .It might make a difference that wherever on rides around here, it's uphill. Even our freeways have hills. One can ride an MTB in actual mountains.

I use SPD pedals with MTB shoes so I can walk around, enough to shop, do laundry on tour, that kind of thing. Most club riders around here use MTB shoes.
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Old 06-09-22, 12:48 PM
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Though my impression is that the OP rides on roads and streets, and maybe now unpaved trails. It's all the same. MTBers use clipless off-road.

I should have addressed the OP's concern a bit more directly - clipless pedals will spread the work out among more muscles. They might enable one to go uphill faster or have more endurance at the same speed, and thus perversely encourage one to move the bike more vigorously for longer periods and thus get more tired! "It never gets easier, you just go faster."
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Last edited by Hermes; 06-21-22 at 11:08 PM. Reason: Moderation; Removed trolling comment
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Old 06-11-22, 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by alexk_il
Spent a bit of time learning the logic beyond all these chainrings vs cassette rations and options. Your advice for 44/26 now makes more sense than any other option I considered a couple of days ago. .
I'm on a heavy-ish hybrid bike carrying extra load, aerodynamics isn't great, plus I'm not a competitive racer. I guess I will reach my top speed well before I hit 100rpms with the 50t-11t combo, so 44T looks like a good compromise for me.

I will open anther thread asking for help with the custom gears setting, this is definitely out of the original subject.

Thanks a lot
Recently switched from flats to clipless (SPD MTB) , no faster but I feel more relaxed because my feet stay in place.

Gearing: I have have good luck with the inexpensive Shimano FC-MT210-3 (22-32-44) (22-30-40)
There is also a double version, FC-MT210-2 (30-46) (22-36)
Microshift Advent rear derailleur and 11-42 cassette has also worked well for me.
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Old 06-11-22, 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney
I know all about what I am talking about here, I've been going up hills on fix gears 45 years. I've both "gone for it" like you see in my avatar; taken at a 14% stretch of a two mile climb and me in a 42-17 gear and loafed in the same gear up Portland's Germantown Road. There's a quick pitch on Portland's Rose Garden/Zoo climb that's around 20%. A test of my toestrap quality. Poor straps that slip and I have to walk it.
Same here. I've done fixed gear road riding, including steep hills, for 58 years. Slippery toe straps were always a pain. And I once broke a toe strap on the first climb of a hilly 50-mile ride. Riding with a toeclip and a nailed-on cleat but without a toe strap was tricky. A lot of zigging and zagging across the road for the subsequent hills.

Still love riding fixed, though. At nearly 71, I did around 20 hours of hilly terrain on my favorite fixed-gear bike in the last week.

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Old 06-11-22, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
I've never seen an adult cyclist with flats.
"Cyclist" means "rides for sport."
"People on bicycles" ride in civvies, usually dark colors and don't run lights at night.
That's the kind of prescriptive nonsense that earns "cyclists" their reputation.

Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
Not to be an elitist or anything . . .
Not much, lol.
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Old 06-11-22, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Rolla
That's the kind of prescriptive nonsense that earns "cyclists" their reputation.
Not much, lol.
Simply an observation, not a prescription. I.e. if there were cyclists who rode flats, I would have seen them. I've been riding lots for decades. That said, I've only ridden in the eastern and western US. Maybe cyclists in the flat areas of this country do ride flats. I wouldn't know. Seems unlikely. I know a 10 y.o. cyclist who rides flats on his dad's tandem. I rode flats when I was a child, but mostly because I didn't know better. I would have put clips and straps on my 3-speed J.C. Higgins that I bought with my paper route money. Would have made what I did a lot easier.
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Old 06-11-22, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
Simply an observation, not a prescription. I.e. if there were cyclists who rode flats, I would have seen them.
Whatever. I know more riders who use flats than clipless, but since you've appointed yourself the arbiter of the term, they probably wouldn't qualify as "cyclists" under your prescriptive, elitist definition. I'll raise a middle finger to that.
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Old 06-11-22, 04:53 PM
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I switch one of my bikes from speedplays to pinned platforms when i ride gravel on it, and the 6-10% road climb up to a couple trailheads is much easier for me on the clipless speedplays. I like to climb in the saddle at a pretty high cadence, and the stability / retention is worth a lot. it just removes any effort (mental or physical) that might be required to keep your foot in the right place.
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Old 06-12-22, 06:24 PM
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Originally Posted by big john
I can't swear to the pulling up thing. I mean, I think I do it but lots of forum experts say it doesn't work.
If this were an audio forum, I'd say 'trust your ears'. There's a lot of computer-aided silliness on the web.
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Old 06-12-22, 07:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Fredo76
If this were an audio forum, I'd say 'trust your ears'. There's a lot of computer-aided silliness on the web.
Well, no one has told me I'm full of crap for a while.
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Old 06-13-22, 02:49 AM
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Originally Posted by big john
Well, no one has told me I'm full of crap for a while.
Unfortunately, I can't make the same claim...
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Old 06-14-22, 09:08 AM
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Carbonfiberboy Some of the more skilled off-road riders I know run flats on their mountain bikes for various reasons. On the regular Wednesday group trail ride in my town I estimate 60% of riders have clipless, the rest are on flats, and flats + toe clips are very rare. One of my touring partners switches between flats and clipless depending on his mood and the weather. I recently put road clipless pedals on my road bike after decades of SPD pedals, but I am likely putting my flat/SPD combo pedals back on because I like the freedom to ride on flats with regular shoes occasionally. In short, if you've never seen an adult 'cyclist' on flat pedals then I suspect you haven't looked very closely.
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Old 06-14-22, 03:00 PM
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I use the steel toe clips on my vintage bikes and I don't mind them one bit. It adds to the vintage look and I have no problems using them. I actually prefer them overall to clipless in that I would almost never get caught falling over unless I had a complete brain fart (which is not out of the question).

I've always wondered why they call riding shoes, where you have to snap into the pedal and use the same motion snapping out, clipless? I would think that motion is more akin to clipping in and out then just sliding my shoe in and out of the little rat trap?
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Old 06-14-22, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by gthomson
I've always wondered why they call riding shoes, where you have to snap into the pedal and use the same motion snapping out, clipless? I would think that motion is more akin to clipping in and out then just sliding my shoe in and out of the little rat trap?
Is that an actual question? Toe clips came first, so the later system is (toe) “clipless”.

Just for fun, I ordered some Zefal toe straps. I still have large KKT clips and the Superbe road pedal bearings are still smooth. I will try it out just to remind myself how different it feels.

Otto
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Old 06-15-22, 03:42 AM
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Watched two GCN videos on youtube about flat vs clipless, my takeaways:

Clipless are a must for quick sprints, competition or other aggressive style of cycling. No discussion here, they are just more effective. Climbs is bit more interesting subject:
  • Long climbs - the power will be limited by the cardio system, the Wt differences are insignificant.
  • Short climbs - clipless measure a better power than flats with cyclists that know how to use them properly
However, even in the case of the long climbs the cyclists noticed that clipless feel easier to cycle, because they distribute the load across multiple muscle groups (i.e. push-pull), while flats only exercise the "push" movement.

So I just bought Zefal 45 Half Toe-Clips to try, let's see how it goes.

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Old 06-15-22, 07:01 AM
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Originally Posted by gthomson
why they call riding shoes, where you have to snap into the pedal and use the same motion snapping out, clipless? I would think that motion is more akin to clipping in and out then just sliding my shoe in and out of the little rat trap?
yeah it's dumb. I call them cleated shoes & pedals
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Old 06-15-22, 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney
One fact of platform pedals (even with pins) is that there is a % grade maximum that can be ridden at a constant speed. (Ie, not having a head of steam from the previous downhill. You can quite simply calculate the grade where your weight on the pedal (including whatever force you can effectively pull on the handlebars) operating through the crank arms, gear ratio and wheel diameter exactly matches gravity's pull on you and the bike. Steeper and you go backwards.
I don't know what the formula is, and this sounds like it makes sense, but in practice, with a bike designed for off-road riding with very low gear ratios, the limiting factor is not the power you can put into the pedals but how far the bike can tip backwards before the weight of the rider is behind the rear axle and the bike flips over backwards.
On an old road bike with a small gear of 42-25, the rider might hit the limit of leverage on a medium-steep paved road, but a decent off-road bike with flats can handle grades that are steeper than most people could climb with or without foot-retention, in my experience.
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Old 06-15-22, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by alexk_il
Watched two GCN videos on youtube about flat vs clipless, my takeaways:

Clipless are a must for quick sprints, competition or other aggressive style of cycling. No discussion here, they are just more effective. Climbs is bit more interesting subject:
  • Long climbs - the power will be limited by the cardio system, the Wt differences are insignificant.
  • Short climbs - clipless measure a better power than flats with cyclists that know how to use them properly
However, even in the case of the long climbs the cyclists noticed that clipless feel easier to cycle, because they distribute the load across multiple muscle groups (i.e. push-pull), while flats only exercise the "push" movement
Am I right in guessing that these are cyclists who pretty much ride clipped in all the time and are not adapted to and expert at riding on flat pedals? Or are these cyclists who have regularly and consistently used both a lot over a long period of years?

Otto
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Old 06-15-22, 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by ofajen
Am I right in guessing that these are cyclists who pretty much ride clipped in all the time and are not adapted to and expert at riding on flat pedals? Or are these cyclists who have regularly and consistently used both a lot over a long period of years?
Otto
There will be a clean experiment soon that involves a die hard flat pedal cyclist (i.e. myself) learning to use half toe clips. Not sure if anyone will be able to draw any conclusions from it, but I will share the results. I guess it will take time for me to adjust to the new technique, might take a few weeks.
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Old 06-15-22, 11:02 PM
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Originally Posted by gthomson
I use the steel toe clips on my vintage bikes and I don't mind them one bit. It adds to the vintage look and I have no problems using them. I actually prefer them overall to clipless in that I would almost never get caught falling over unless I had a complete brain fart (which is not out of the question).

I've always wondered why they call riding shoes, where you have to snap into the pedal and use the same motion snapping out, clipless? I would think that motion is more akin to clipping in and out then just sliding my shoe in and out of the little rat trap?
They're called clipless pedals because they eliminate clips and straps. That's what they're called as in your first sentence. The clip is not the rat trap. The rat trap system is the special cleat on the bottom of your shoe which fits down into a rat trap pedal, so when you tighten the strap, you really can't pull your foot out. Of course that's seriously dangerous, a big advantage of clipless pedals. I never used cleated shoes, but my rat trap pedals wore nice grooves in the bottoms of my shoes, which served the same purpose. Impossible to pull my foot out, the whole idea of foot retention.
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Old 06-15-22, 11:12 PM
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Originally Posted by ofajen
Am I right in guessing that these are cyclists who pretty much ride clipped in all the time and are not adapted to and expert at riding on flat pedals? Or are these cyclists who have regularly and consistently used both a lot over a long period of years?

Otto
I rode flats for about 10 years and many, many miles and long days before I got toe clips and straps. I was astounded at how much better foot retention was. Night and day. I suppose I was what one would call athletic, skied both XC and Alpine for many years, ran, was on my college Nordic team, lifted weights since I was a kid. So I could put power to the pedals, almost do a power wheelie. Maybe that makes a difference, I don't know. I suppose if one had ridden flats until one was well, the age we are, it might take a while to figure out how to pedal during the rest of the circle. I'm sure it's possible to pedal 150 with flats, but it's relatively easy with foot retention and not dangerous. Well, it was easy 10 years ago anyway.
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Old 06-16-22, 01:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
I've never seen an adult cyclist with flats.
  • "Cyclist" means "rides for sport."
  • "People on bicycles" ride in civvies, usually dark colors and don't run lights at night.
​​
I probably belong to the latter group, though I do have lights regardless the time of day.

We also have "lycro-clads" here in the UK. 😁
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