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Clipless and efficency

Old 06-01-07, 08:24 AM
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jim p
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Clipless and efficency

I am not interested in riding harder but I am interested in riding easier. I am wondering if anyone has any information about how much efficency you gain by using clipless system. Just to make sure that we are in agreement about what efficiency is. To me efficency is defined as my body putting out 150 watts and 140 watts going to the rear wheel of the bike as opposed to me putting out 150 watts and 100 watts going to the rear wheel of the bike.

If clipless systems will allow me to increase my bodys output from 150 watts to 170 watts because I can pull up on the pedals and therefore get more power out of each pedal stroke, then this is not the kind of efficency I am looking for.

If anyone has any links to information about this please give them to me.

I am hoping that with the clipless system some of the muscles, that are having to work to stabilize the legs on a platform pedal, can be relaxed and therfore save energy and increase efficiency. But I sure would like to see some scientific data about how clipless pedals save energy while riding.

If this has already been answered in previous post, I apologize for asking it again. I did search for it and came up empty or really with so many hits that I could not sort through all the information. Maybe I need to know how to use the search function better. So any help on the search system would be appreciated also.
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Old 06-01-07, 08:39 AM
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Check this out...https://www.computrainer.com/html/coa...t-example.html

It does not directly address your question. I think one can see that without clipless pedals, it is impossible to achieve contant torque as discussed and measured by the trainer / computer. I saw a presentation of this system with a pro cyclist on the trainer and she got pretty close to perfect pedal stroke.

Edit: Bike fit and good pedal technique is an area that IMHO the 50+ gang can get a lot of bang for the buck and potentially reduce pain and fatigue. Loss of flexibility and and other problems of aging can be handled by repositioning and adjustments on the bike/ type of bike. The key is to find a service / guru that knows what they are doing. One may be able to get this at an LBS or NOT.

Last edited by Hermes; 06-01-07 at 08:51 AM.
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Old 06-01-07, 10:05 AM
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I seem to be nearly alone in my non-fascination with clipless pedals. I've tried two different setups several times on roads I ride often, and I've found no difference in time, speed or perceived effort.
That's the short version. Here's the long one: I've done the 25-mile round-trip commute to the same office regularly since 1981--hundreds of rides, if not thousands. For years, I rode in toe clips and what used to be called "touring" shoes, and I had a really good idea of my average time and speed, as well as how I felt coming back uphill, usually into the wind.
When clipless came along, I got some shoes and pedals and rode that way for awhile, did the mandatory falls before I learned to get out of them etc--but they didn't seem to make a difference in efficiency or speed, and the clipless pedals limited me to cycling shoes. I couldn't ride to lunch or out for coffee in my street clothes.
I've gone back and forth many times, trying Looks and SPDs on three different road bikes and two mountain bikes, and I just don't see a significant difference, certainly not enough to justify the cost of tossing usable shoes and decent-quality platform pedals and buying all new stuff. Right now I have toe clips on the Atlantis, which I ride to work, and clipless on the Rambouillet, which I use for longer rides, day trips and stuff. As far as I can tell, there's no difference.
The notion that you'll pull up on the pedals with clipless is probably bogus, by the way. There have been several studies done using strain gauges to see how people really pedal, and almost nobody actually pedals all the way around in a circle for more than a few seconds at a time. Certainly if you're comfortable with clipless and like the feel, they're fine, but don't expect a big improvement.
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Old 06-01-07, 10:06 AM
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Hello Jim

I don't really have any objective answer to your question, and I think that you're looking for more of a scientific than subjective answer - but all the same

I'm a fairly retro, tourist type cyclist, and a latecomer to clipless pedals on my 1995 tandem and 1990 solo.

What I have felt, though, is whenever I tell myself "stop pushing, start pulling" my bike goes faster and my quads stop burning.

Used to do the same with clips and straps - but to a lesser extent

Just offered for what it's worth - maybe nothing!
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Old 06-01-07, 10:54 AM
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This is a topic that folks will argue about forever. Clipless pedals are only part of the equation. If you go clipless, then develop an efficient pedaling stroke to go with it, then yes, you will be more efficient (How much more efficient is hotly debated). If you do clipless but keep the same pedaling stroke you have now, then you won't gain much.

You also involve more muscles in your pedaling with an efficient clipless pedal stroke. That's especially advantageous for recumbent riders like me, since we can't change positions and thereby recruit as many different muscles for pedaling as an upright rider can.
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Old 06-01-07, 11:00 AM
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Give 'em a try.

If you like them, use them all the time.

If you don't, then bag them.

That's really all we can do for you around here.
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Old 06-01-07, 11:14 AM
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As for me---going clipless was one of the best upgrades I have done. Yep---did the falling thing. In fact fell again this week and I have been riding clipless for over a year (Just takes a momements inattention). But that aside---I feel as though I pedal much more efficientlly clipless. I kept arguing that my toe clips were just as good as clipless until I tried clipless. I was wrong. Each to their own however.
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Old 06-01-07, 11:35 AM
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After riding clips for years, I've been clipless for the last 3 years--I'd never go back. Clipless allows me to more effectively push through the top and (especially)pull through the bottom of the pedal stroke, which gets me a few extra RPM when I remember to do it (still trying to get to the point where it's automatic). It's really a matter of being able to apply power through as many degrees of the pedal stroke as possible--for me clipless makes it way easier.
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Old 06-01-07, 11:53 AM
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Pulling on the up stroke means you will be putting out more effort. More energy will get to the rear wheel, but no real gain in efficliency. bk
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Old 06-01-07, 12:54 PM
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peddling pedals

This is a hot button in my book. It has long been my contention that the only thing foot retention does is encourage confidence, to spin like a madman, at a proper cadence, for maximum performance, in all weather, wet or dry. Having said that, I can site a reference from a book by a former trainer of U.S. Team cyclists who has coached racers to more than 50 U.S. National Championships who is himself a medical doctor, a consultant to US Cycling and the USCF plus, he is a Cat 1 USCF racer and 5 time national champion. Dr. Arnie Baker states on pg. 118 of his book, on the subject of pedal stroke, he says," pulling up forces were once thought to be significant......however, re-examination of the data and subtraction of the inertial forces of the legs has shown that these forces are not as strong as was formerly believed. Elite cyclists are more effective because of their greater downward forces, rather than because they unweight their pedals or pull up more than recreational cyclists."

I believe the only benefit to pulling up with retention is, it rests your muscles slightly and at the same time allows your feet to stay on the pedals. Of course the same thing can be done without attachment by just slightly lifting the upward traveling leg but thats not something you do in a race.
For recreational cyclists, clip in retention is hardly neccessary and good foot retention can be accomplished by other methods without the drawbacks of clip ins or simply by using wider platform pedals with traction and regular shoes with a softer sole. This combo actually for me has proven to be supremely comfortable as I use sandals and my toes are free to wiggle around, keeping my feet from going numb. The wide pedal surface area lowers psi and you get no hot spots or pressure points. This is simular to walking on flat ground as opposed to walking on the edge of a narrow rail. It also dispences with the need for overly stiff shoes since the pedal is wide enough to spread the load. Of course this approach doesn't sell shoes and pedals so its not popular and for those with $$$ invested in clip ins they won't want to admit to having purchased or promoted a solution to a non existant problem.


To each his own ultimately.

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Old 06-01-07, 12:54 PM
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"I am not interested in riding harder but I am interested in riding easier. "

I'm also looking for this answer. I just started about a month ago to ride clipless, again, a Shimano SPD system with Nashbar two sided pedals. I had tried clipless a year ago with one sided pedals and they were a PIA to get into. Pedal always rotated to clip in side down. My near falls occurred while trying to rotate and clip in. So now I have two sided, but the left shoe remains stubborn to clip in. Will probably try SpeedPlay next. This time around I seem to like the clipless system, as I am perceiving easier riding, if only slightly. My search in the forums earlier brought out that one doesn't so much PULL up on the opposite pedal as just lift to unload weight of your foot. Ergo your power down stroke is 100% applied to moving bike and not some of it lifting your opposite foot. However the son in law did mention pulling with opposite leg used different muscles, so apparently some do in fact pull. All quite confusing.

Should I even mention another theory I read, I believe in road forum, regards moving cleats back to foot or shoe arch, as opposed to ball of foot. Suppose to be a slight percent gain for riders??
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Old 06-01-07, 01:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Hermes
I think one can see that without clipless pedals, it is impossible to achieve contant torque as discussed and measured by the trainer / computer
I don't think so. What evens out your torque is not the clips or cleats, it's your brain and legs learning to pedal smoothly so that each leg complements the other. In the hypothetical diagram below you can see that even if you let your leg go somewhat limp on the upstroke, so that the other leg is both propelling the bike and lifting the opposite leg, you could have steady torque as long as the total effort of both legs adds up to the same number at every point around the pedal stroke.
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Old 06-01-07, 01:23 PM
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My understanding is exactly how charles vail put it. And the old "scrape gum off the bottom of your shoe" technique (that you do with clipless) only hurt the knees.

In MTB clipless is pretty darn helpful to keep your feet stable when you're being tossed around. It also helps climbing, as if you don't make it up the hill, and you stall and have trouble clipping out, you will endure at least several moments of intense pain. It can be a real motivator.

It sounds backwards, but when I got used to clipless on the trails, using them on the roads was pretty easy.

In any case, you look like a real wuss without them. And you have no cajones.
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Old 06-01-07, 01:26 PM
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info

Originally Posted by Hermes
Check this out...https://www.computrainer.com/html/coa...t-example.html

It does not directly address your question. I think one can see that without clipless pedals, it is impossible to achieve contant torque as discussed and measured by the trainer / computer. I saw a presentation of this system with a pro cyclist on the trainer and she got pretty close to perfect pedal stroke.

Edit: Bike fit and good pedal technique is an area that IMHO the 50+ gang can get a lot of bang for the buck and potentially reduce pain and fatigue. Loss of flexibility and and other problems of aging can be handled by repositioning and adjustments on the bike/ type of bike. The key is to find a service / guru that knows what they are doing. One may be able to get this at an LBS or NOT.
Thanks for the link......I enjoyed reading the information and was pleased that the report supported my contention, at least partly.
The decrease in performance as the result of leg length discrepancy, while not a total surprise, was very good to read about ( I have this problem) and the concept of a smooth spin as being a key performance feature of elite cyclists, further supports my opinions. One point we differ on however is, the idea that you need to be attached to the pedals to achive full power transfer/torque in your spin. The article doesn't really support that position completely from what I can tell. I'll re-read it to be sure.
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Old 06-01-07, 01:27 PM
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I know that for me there are times I would not be able to make it up some hills without being able to use both legs at the same time. Just going on down the road, I can't tell much difference, but on steep hills, they rock for me.
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Old 06-01-07, 01:50 PM
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spinner

Originally Posted by cooker
I don't think so. What evens out your torque is not the clips or cleats, it's your brain and legs learning to pedal smoothly so that each leg complements the other. In the hypothetical diagram below you can see that even if you let your leg go somewhat limp on the upstoke, so that the other leg is both propelling the bike and lifting the opposite leg, you could have steady torque as long as the total effort of both legs adds up to the same number at every point around the pedal stroke.
I see your point and agree. I have long thought that riding clipped in, makes your legs/brain lazy, when it comes to spinning smoothly and fast. I tried after using retention for a long time to ride platforms and I got nervous thinking, my feet might slip off the pedals but after a few miles I re-trained my brain/legs to "keep em on" shall we say. I can see the point about foot slippage on really rough mountain biking courses, as has been mentioned but after my testing, I still think no retention is better, as it allows uninhibited release when neccessary. If a cyclist is riding that fast, over that rough of terrain and his shocks aren't working, then maybe he should slow down! I know... I know.....this is not something adrenaline junkies want to hear. But hey! motocross racers don't clip in!
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Old 06-01-07, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by charles vail
If a cyclist is riding that fast, over that rough of terrain and his shocks aren't working, then maybe he should slow down! I know... I know.....this is not something adrenaline junkies want to hear. But hey! motocross racers don't clip in!
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Old 06-01-07, 02:11 PM
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huh

Originally Posted by The Weak Link
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Old 06-01-07, 02:12 PM
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I agree that there's nothing to be gained by pulling on the upstroke. Pedal stroke improvements for me are in the 11 to 1 o'clock and 5 to 7 o'clock areas of the stroke, and I think clipless is very helpful there, at least for me. Plus, my big old feet don't fit in clips very well in anything other than cycling shoes anyway, and I find clipless way easier to get into from a dead stop than clips. YMMV.
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Old 06-01-07, 02:40 PM
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Originally Posted by xlrogue
I agree that there's nothing to be gained by pulling on the upstroke. Pedal stroke improvements for me are in the 11 to 1 o'clock and 5 to 7 o'clock areas of the stroke, and I think clipless is very helpful there, at least for me. Plus, my big old feet don't fit in clips very well in anything other than cycling shoes anyway, and I find clipless way easier to get into from a dead stop than clips. YMMV.
It is in the area of the arc of pedal movement that you have to understand. without clipless- you will put power in from say 10 oclock to 5. As the foot moves out of this area- it will not be of any benefit so you learn not to pedal out of this range. In fact 10 to 5 is probably the extreme that any one can pedal. With me on clipless- I will still start at 10 but will continue round to at least 7 without thinking about it. When I do start thinking about the pedal stroke- It will be from 10 right throught to 10. In other words full circle. That does take some practice and I do this frequently but if you learn to pedal in a full circle and don't even know you are doing it- Then you can imagine the extra power that is getting to the back wheel. And once the system is learnt- The body doesn't feel it- Does not take any extra effort and the legs do not realise they are doing any extra work.
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Old 06-01-07, 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by charles vail But hey! motocross racers don't clip in![/SIZE
[/FONT]

But their motor is in a different place and doesnt put much stress on the pedals either.
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Old 06-01-07, 03:15 PM
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Not a technical answer, but I'd have a hard time believing that pros would use a pedal system that didn't improve performance. And, while you indicated that you wanted to ride easier, would improved performance be a function of using one's power output to the greatest advantage? Hence, it would be an issue of taking the output you have and getting the most out of it.
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Old 06-01-07, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by BSLeVan
Not a technical answer, but I'd have a hard time believing that pros would use a pedal system that didn't improve performance.
Amen.
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Old 06-01-07, 03:42 PM
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Thanks for all the great replys and the links. From what I am reading there is not much increase in efficiency to be had by going from platforms to clipless. It seems that the riding style and the terain may be the best argument for going clipless. In my case I ride on smooth surfaces and do not race so I can slow down for the occasional rough spots. A racer would not have this luxury and therefore would need the clipless system to keep his feet on the pedals.

If I could pick up a 10% increase in efficiency I would probably go with the clipless system but since I ride for exercise maybe I would be cheating myself out of a good workout. I know that the clipless system has some great advantages for many riders but for my relaxed riding I would probably have a hard time getting much use out of their advantages. Maybe one day I can get in good enough shape to justify the clipless system and then I can ride with some of the groups around here that don't want to ride slower than 18 mph.
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Old 06-01-07, 03:54 PM
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For me it is comfort and confidence. I just feel better with clipless. I started out with platforms, went to cages, and then clipless. I have the least knee pain with the properly adjusted clipless. That lack of pain is very important to me. I don't care about the potential efficiency increase. I just want comfort.
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