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Importance of foot retention

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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

Importance of foot retention

Old 07-27-21, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by billnuke1

Easy bolt on…never had my foot slip out!

I can wear any shoes with these…easy in and out…
Ditto!!

I have those on my MTBs and my road bike. Quickest way to get the feet clear and on the ground if and when required.
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Old 07-27-21, 11:07 AM
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Never really got into clipped in shoes. In the 70s they were expensive and I was a young guy ridding with allot of old guys who just used toe straps. So today I'm the old guy, just using toe straps, although I can't really remember the last time I strapped my feet in tight.

The strap cage keeps my foot in alignment with the pedal yet when fit loosely I am still able to move my feet around inside of the cage. That helps me allot with all my arthritis, numbness, aches and pains.

So changing over to clips probably would not be of big benefit as I have been using Cage and strap for for over 50 years and I am no longer a fast learner... Ha
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Old 07-27-21, 03:12 PM
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I think the reason many think that there is a safety issue with flats is that they have never used a good set of modern mtb flat pedals with good shoes. This makes a HUGE difference.

FWIW, I road clipless exclusively for Road and MTB for about 17 years, so I am very much accustomed to - and comfortable with - being clipped in. It is just in the past 5 that I have been going back to flats a lot of the time.
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Old 07-27-21, 03:14 PM
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I raced BMX for years in the late 70s into the 80s. My shins still show the scars from the teeth/pins. Flats were still great for that sport - hard to do a one/no-footer when you're clipped in. ;-)

Now, it's mtn bikes, gravel bikes and road bikes - which includes a single speed. I couldn't imagine riding without being clipped in.

We've all heard/read how all the power comes from the downward push - that no power comes from pulling back on the pedals at the 5:00-8:00 portion. I found that to NOT be the case when, after years of being clipped in and used to a 53:15 setup on a single speed, tried to ride a bike with flats - up a hill. I kept pulling my feet off pedals. I was so use to pulling, that without the connection to the pedal, I was essentially stepping off the pedal on the backstroke.

For me, flats served a purpose... a long time ago:

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Old 07-27-21, 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
Nobody really pulls on their pedals unless they want to injure themselves. Track sprinters are an exception.
Umm, what?
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Old 07-27-21, 03:45 PM
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The main benefit of clipless is not slipping off the pedals when a homicidal driver honks his deadly horn near you and your aluminum hybrid buddies
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Old 07-27-21, 04:07 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
Nobody really pulls on their pedals unless they want to injure themselves. Track sprinters are an exception.
False.

I am an intermediate amateur rider, 51 years old and not very powerful. When sprinting up short, steep hills, I most definitely pull up on the pedals. In fact, I deliberately concentrate on exerting upward force on the pedals. I find if I concentrate on pushing down, there might be some counteracting force on the opposite pedal coming up, but a greater response comes from leverage through the handlebar. However, if I focus on pulling up hard, the downward force on the opposite side always takes care of itself as an automatic response, in addition to the forces that transfer through my torso and arms to the handlebar. I am certain this method makes a significant difference in my performance while climbing.

I'm sincerely surprised to see how many here don't agree. I would have expected many others to reply to Larry's question saying clipless pedals bring big benefits, especially for climbing.
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Old 07-27-21, 05:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Broctoon
False.

I am an intermediate amateur rider, 51 years old and not very powerful. When sprinting up short, steep hills, I most definitely pull up on the pedals. In fact, I deliberately concentrate on exerting upward force on the pedals. I find if I concentrate on pushing down, there might be some counteracting force on the opposite pedal coming up, but a greater response comes from leverage through the handlebar. However, if I focus on pulling up hard, the downward force on the opposite side always takes care of itself as an automatic response, in addition to the forces that transfer through my torso and arms to the handlebar. I am certain this method makes a significant difference in my performance while climbing.

I'm sincerely surprised to see how many here don't agree. I would have expected many others to reply to Larry's question saying clipless pedals bring big benefits, especially for climbing.
+1 The first breakthrough in my riding as an early teen was toeclips. Then pulling the straps tight. Then buying cycling shoes and nailing on the cleats. Clipless was not a gain, just an increase in convenience. (On the fix gears I still use the old cleats and toestraps because there I NEVER want my foot to come off, especially downhill. Happy to trade a few zero-speed fall-overs for that security.)

I raced long ago and was taught to "spin circles", ie power all the way around. Obviously, not with equal power at all parts of the pedal stroke but the benefits were real. 1) I acquired a very smooth, efficient pedal stroke. 2) I could favor a muscle or muscle group quite effectively. This came in very handy after injuries and also to conserve the resources in the big muscles so late in a race, I had them. Until you've raced, you have no idea how important this can be. The guys who just push down are the guys who aren't there late in the race unless they happen to be very gifted. (And if those with the gifts learned to ride as I did, they'd probably be riding races at the next level.)
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Old 07-27-21, 05:50 PM
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Sounds like I should get foot retention thanks guys
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Old 07-27-21, 05:54 PM
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For road riding and XC mountain biking being clipped in is a must for me. I've ridden flats when I had my mountain bike set up enduro style and we were riding steeps, skinnies and jumps and if you are doing technical trail riding like that I would recommend flats.

But for the most efficiency in your pedaling and the terrain isn't technical like that you can't beat being clipped in imo. Just work on your technique and profit.

And yes, I pull up as well. My goal is to get power in all directions when pedaling. It's not always the case, but it is still the goal.
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Old 07-27-21, 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote
If you want to experiment with foot retention, without spending lots of money for special pedals and shoes, I suggest duct tape.

Good idea , but you go first.
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Old 07-27-21, 05:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Broctoon
False.

I am an intermediate amateur rider, 51 years old and not very powerful. When sprinting up short, steep hills, I most definitely pull up on the pedals. In fact, I deliberately concentrate on exerting upward force on the pedals. I find if I concentrate on pushing down, there might be some counteracting force on the opposite pedal coming up, but a greater response comes from leverage through the handlebar. However, if I focus on pulling up hard, the downward force on the opposite side always takes care of itself as an automatic response, in addition to the forces that transfer through my torso and arms to the handlebar. I am certain this method makes a significant difference in my performance while climbing.

I'm sincerely surprised to see how many here don't agree. I would have expected many others to reply to Larry's question saying clipless pedals bring big benefits, especially for climbing.

False? Well you may well pull up on your pedals, but whether or not that is a good idea is highly debatable. A few articles to read here:-

https://www.cyclefit.co.uk/journal/c...ling-technique

https://gearandgrit.com/the-cycling-...aling-circles/

https://www.bikeradar.com/advice/fit...n-your-pedals/

Now there are still plenty of advocates of "pulling up" too, so ultimately you have to make up your own mind. My personal experience? Well I went from clipless mtb to flat mtb pedals a few years ago and all my PBs are with flat pedals. There is plenty of steep climbing involved in mtb and I'm pretty sure I didn't lose any power there. For road riding I still use clipless pedals and apart from the odd single leg drill, I don't make any conscious effort to pull up on the pedals. What I do though is focus on unweighting my legs on the upstroke so they are not still pushing down slightly with their own mass and tension. That's kind of my own definition of pedalling circles. But like I've read most pros actually do, I basically just mash the pedals naturally and don't overthink it. I pedal high cadence with both clipless and flat pedals too. Again being clipped in doesn't make a huge difference. But I do like the feeling and precision of being clipped in when road riding. I think it is a small advantage, but often wildly over-stated.

Last edited by PeteHski; 07-27-21 at 06:05 PM.
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Old 07-27-21, 06:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote
Umm, what?
See above. The bio-mechanics is not very compatible with producing meaningful upstroke power. But this has been debated for years.
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Old 07-27-21, 06:30 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
I think it is a small advantage, but often wildly over-stated.
This is a pretty good point and applies to pretty much all the hyperbole that gets thrown around when opinions are discussed. When someone wants to make a point it's easy to overstate how much a difference this or that makes (especially on teh Internetz).

When I was enduro riding I didn't mind flats one bit, but then I had a super low gearing to get my 35+ lb bike up the climbs and you just sit and grin until you get to the top.

For road riding I agree, it's a small advantage, but I always see things as a game of inches where you just keep chipping away to make things as efficient as possible so better is better.
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Old 07-27-21, 06:41 PM
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Originally Posted by KJ43
This is a pretty good point and applies to pretty much all the hyperbole that gets thrown around when opinions are discussed. When someone wants to make a point it's easy to overstate how much a difference this or that makes (especially on teh Internetz).

When I was enduro riding I didn't mind flats one bit, but then I had a super low gearing to get my 35+ lb bike up the climbs and you just sit and grin until you get to the top.

For road riding I agree, it's a small advantage, but I always see things as a game of inches where you just keep chipping away to make things as efficient as possible so better is better.
Yeah for sure some people greatly over-estimate how much force they are generating on the upstroke even when they are consciously trying to pull up on the pedals. Try hooking a 10 kg kettlebell on your foot and lift it up a few times. It's quite hard work. Compare that with a leg press where you can probably press at least 10x the amount.
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Old 07-27-21, 06:46 PM
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The GCN show I saw said pedal style didn't matter much! Maybe to a pro?

gm
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Old 07-27-21, 06:55 PM
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Originally Posted by gringomojado
The GCN show I saw said pedal style didn't matter much! Maybe to a pro?

gm
Haven't watched that show. But if pedal style doesn't matter much to a pro, it is likely to matter even less for the average rider.
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Old 07-27-21, 07:24 PM
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A bunny hop has saved my *** more than a few times and I don't see how that would work with flats.
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Old 07-27-21, 07:25 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
See above. The bio-mechanics is not very compatible with producing meaningful upstroke power. But this has been debated for years.
I was responding to your claim that pulling up on the pedals is injurious; it is not.
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Old 07-27-21, 07:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote
I was responding to your claim that pulling up on the pedals is injurious; it is not.
Well that is highly debatable too if you read my links, but my sleep is now more important than foot retention.

"Over-use of the hip-flexors when the hip joint is closed can cause all sorts of issues:

• Lower-back pain

• Tightness and pain in the hip "

I've certainly experienced the latter when doing single leg drills pulling up on the pedal. It also feels like it stresses my hamstrings.
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Old 07-27-21, 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by popeye
A bunny hop has saved my *** more than a few times and I don't see how that would work with flats.
You can bunny hop really well with flats. It's all technique.

I had a buddy that would bunny hop over handrails on his full suspension mountain bike into the downslope of the hill. I wasn't as skilled as him but could still bunny hop over smaller logs or up onto things maybe 18 inches high or so.
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Old 07-27-21, 08:08 PM
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Old 07-27-21, 08:45 PM
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The OP should just try it. If his flats can't be fitted with toe clips, rat trap pedals, clips and straps are all quite cheap. The big investment going clipless is the shoes. Good shoes make a difference.

I was one of those kids who rode his bike to school from our homestead in Alaska when the roads were free of snow. I'd done some fairly long rides for a kid. But when I got my first real road bike with toes clips in 1963, it was a revelation. I now was riding a rocket ship. I was turbine-powered. There's simply no comparison.

the problem with toe clips instead of clipless is that clips and tight straps cut off some circulation and the straps have to be tight or you could pull your foot out, which is not good. Tight straps on both feet mean that coming to a stop, one has to reach down and loosen a strap to be able to put a foot down. In town, I always rode one foot tight, one foot really loose. Out on the road, both feet tight. Needless to say, it's a safety hazard, which didn't seem so bad when I was 20.

Honest, the difference with or without foot retention is almost unbelievable. I find it hard to comprehend the cycling of people who say there's no or little difference. The first time I tightened my straps, I knew immediately what they were for and understood how to pedal.

Seated pedaling, no, one doesn't normally pull up. What one does is unweight the upstroke pedal. That makes it really easy to lose a pedal without retention. More importantly, one pulls back at the bottom and pushes forward at the top. One can do that to a small extent with flats if one ankles a lot, but it's not at all the same.
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Old 07-27-21, 09:05 PM
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I can't bunny hop worth a damn without foot retention. But I can trackstand, so there's pretty much no downside to it for me.

But the main reason I hugely prefer clips and straps or clipless to flats, is that I feel handicapped if I'm the only thing keeping my feet on the pedals - for one, I can't bunny hop, which blows chunks, but also, when I ride a bike with flats, I notice how much I depend on the foot retention for looking around. Trying to see past an oncoming obstacle, I'll be hanging off the front of the pedals, and looking over my shoulder, or holding the bike upright while turning in the wet, the straps or cleats keep my feet from coming off the side of the pedals.

Surprised to see so many folks saying it only counts when riding hard. I'd hardly ever ride with my straps tight, since I also find pedaling in circles just means unweighting the back leg, but having something to lean on to the side or front is pretty damn important to my general bike handling.
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Old 07-27-21, 09:23 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
Yeah for sure some people greatly over-estimate how much force they are generating on the upstroke even when they are consciously trying to pull up on the pedals. Try hooking a 10 kg kettlebell on your foot and lift it up a few times. It's quite hard work. Compare that with a leg press where you can probably press at least 10x the amount.
Hikers say "a pound on your foot is like five on your back." 🙂
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