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pedaling efficiency of clipless vs platform tested

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pedaling efficiency of clipless vs platform tested

Old 01-05-15, 06:55 AM
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spectastic
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pedaling efficiency of clipless vs platform tested

I've ridden both clipless and platform pretty extensively. on a lot of my group rides, I've shown up in toe clips and hiking shoes, and people thought I was really strong to still be able to keep up. but to be honest, I don't find any loss in performance riding platform unless I'm accelerating or in an all out sprint, where the upstroke actually plays a role in my pedaling output. And while this is important in competitive situations, I don't believe this is important for casual riding or touring. even when climbing, most of that effort is spinning, until the rider stands up and starts pulling the pedals on the upstroke. So I felt compelled to find some evidence supporting clipless in pedaling efficiency over platform pedals.

Here's a video of them testing clipless and platform
https://www.bikeforums.net/www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNedIJBZpgM Granted, this experiment with only 1 data point is not too convincing. So I pulled this off of another forum that someone posted. It indicates that while the upstroke does play a role in clipless setups, it actually decreases your mechanical efficiency, which support the idea that the upstroke is only relevant when you're trying to beat someone up a climb or to a finishline/corner - it's not sustainable in a long ride.

Abstract

The aim of this study was to determine the influence of different shoe-pedal interfaces and of an active pulling-up action during the upstroke phase on the pedalling technique. Eight elite cyclists (C) and seven non-cyclists (NC) performed three different bouts at 90 rev · min−1 and 60 % of their maximal aerobic power. They pedalled with single pedals (PED), with clipless pedals (CLIP) and with a pedal force feedback (CLIPFBACK) where subjects were asked to pull up on the pedal during the upstroke. There was no significant difference for pedalling effectiveness, net mechanical efficiency (NE) and muscular activity between PED and CLIP. When compared to CLIP, CLIPFBACK resulted in a significant increase in pedalling effectiveness during upstroke (86 % for C and 57 % NC, respectively), as well as higher biceps femoris and tibialis anterior muscle activity (p < 0.001). However, NE was significantly reduced (p < 0.008) with 9 % and 3.3 % reduction for C and NC, respectively. Consequently, shoe-pedal interface (PED vs. CLIP) did not significantly influence cycling technique during submaximal exercise. However, an active pulling-up action on the pedal during upstroke increased the pedalling effectiveness, while reducing net mechanical efficiency.

What do you think? I feel like the whole argument that clipless being more efficient than platform pedals, while true in certain situations, is mere exaggerated hyperbole in most other situations. Foot retention is also important for a variety of reasons, but platform pedals can do that very well with toe clips (imo) for road riding anyway.
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Old 01-05-15, 07:13 AM
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I agree, however you and I may find ourselves in the minority here

I used clips & straps, and then clipless, from about 1971 to the middle of 2011 - 40 years - and then switched to platforms. With platforms I have seen no reduction in speed or perceived increase in effort. I have no scientific tests or anything like that, it's just my personal experience. Additionally, riding has gotten a little more comfortable and more convenient.
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Old 01-05-15, 07:17 AM
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The advantage to clipless pedals isn't efficiency. I don't think there's much doubt that pedaling along at a submaximal steady effort, platform pedals work as well as clipless.

But riding a bike, certainly racing a bike, involves more than submaximal steady state efforts.

If you never sprint, never accelerate to close a gap, or catch another rider, never climb a hill as fast as you can, there probably is not a big advantage to using clipless pedals.

There is likely a reason that all racing cyclists, and the vast majority of fast recreational riders use a pedal system that firmly attaches their foot to the pedal.
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Old 01-05-15, 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
The advantage to clipless pedals isn't efficiency. I don't think there's much doubt that pedaling along at a submaximal steady effort, platform pedals work as well as clipless.

But riding a bike, certainly racing a bike, involves more than submaximal steady state efforts.

If you never sprint, never accelerate to close a gap, or catch another rider, never climb a hill as fast as you can, there probably is not a big advantage to using clipless pedals.

There is likely a reason that all racing cyclists, and the vast majority of fast recreational riders use a pedal system that firmly attaches their foot to the pedal.
Which means that the answer oftentimes comes down to the question: Why are we cycling? Here in the Road forum, where people do "accelerate to close a gap, or catch another rider, climb a hill as fast as you can" - riding competitively - clipless is necessary. If I watch the end of the flat stages at the tdf, the insane sprints, I can't imagine trying that without having feet attached to pedals. But if this thread started in - say - the Commuting forum, there might be a completely different set of answers.
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Old 01-05-15, 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by tractorlegs View Post
But if this thread started in - say - the Commuting forum, there might be a completely different set of answers.
Or the Touring forum ... for example.
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Old 01-05-15, 07:32 AM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
The advantage to clipless pedals isn't efficiency. I don't think there's much doubt that pedaling along at a submaximal steady effort, platform pedals work as well as clipless.

But riding a bike, certainly racing a bike, involves more than submaximal steady state efforts.

If you never sprint, never accelerate to close a gap, or catch another rider, never climb a hill as fast as you can, there probably is not a big advantage to using clipless pedals.

There is likely a reason that all racing cyclists, and the vast majority of fast recreational riders use a pedal system that firmly attaches their foot to the pedal.
one could argue that the sponsors give them to pros. the roadies see the pros use it, so they use it and buy it from the sponsors. It's the wonderful game of marketing that cycling is so good at. But I guess compared to the two bolt spd, the three bolt system allows your shoe to be a little lighter, and the improved support area gives you a little more power transfer. In any case, I don't think even that difference is enough to matter for anyone less than elite, and most people are probably better off getting mtb shoes for practicality. But that's not the case, because we're all vain as hell
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Old 01-05-15, 07:41 AM
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I like being able to spell the pushing muscles. But I can't pull for an extended period. Not having my feet come off due to an unexpected bounce is a bonus.
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Old 01-05-15, 08:02 AM
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Originally Posted by spectastic View Post
one could argue that the sponsors give them to pros. the roadies see the pros use it, so they use it and buy it from the sponsors. It's the wonderful game of marketing that cycling is so good at...
That's often not how it works. Top pros demand the equipment that works for them, and the providers of that equipment end up as sponsors. For example Speedplay is a small privately held company with not a big marketing budget. Many elite teams are on Speedplays because riders on the team insisted upon them. https://velonews.competitor.com/2010/...he-tour_128526

Other examples outside of pedals; Ulrich used to buy his own Lightweight Wheels, with no sponsorship, and its been widely known for years that top riders often had frames built for them other than their sponsor's bikes.

Bicycle equipment used at the highest level of cycling is selected because it works for the purpose, within the confines of UCI regulations.

Its debatable how much the average recreational rider benefits from such technology, but its just flat silly to suggest that pro riders use clipless pedals because their sponsors tell them to.
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Old 01-05-15, 08:13 AM
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There are two disciplines of cycling that I take part in where I think clipless are advantageous. The first is group road riding or solo riding really hard with lots of steep rolling hills. The second is mountain biking. These types of riding include sudden accelerations, standing, rapid power changes....so clipless just help. It certainly doesn't hurt.
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Old 01-05-15, 08:15 AM
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OK a Rivendale rider endorses clipless pedals. [/thread]
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Old 01-05-15, 08:22 AM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
OK a Rivendale rider endorses clipless pedals. [/thread]
+ 1, .
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Old 01-05-15, 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
OK a Rivendale rider endorses clipless pedals. [/thread]


Although, clipless didn't help when that fixie rider showed up to our group ride wearing flip flops and kicked all our butts this past spring.
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Old 01-05-15, 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by spectastic View Post
. Foot retention is also important for a variety of reasons, but platform pedals can do that very well with toe clips (imo) for road riding anyway.
I find that for riding Fixed Gear on the road clipless pedals are easier to engage/disengage, more secure and comfortable than clips and straps.

A quick clip-in as the off side crank comes up I'm off w/ no drama or wobble as can happen when one leans down to tighten an off side strap.
No awkward loosening/re-tightening for traffic controls, just un-clip at stoplights proceed and re-clip.
To get similar retention to clipless straps have to be very snug, not as comfortable for extended FG rides.
The efforts to climb a grade on FG can be considerable, the RPM required to descend exceeds what most riders produce: clipless gives the security for both.
I've used clipless on all of my road bikes since the 1st Look pedals, not having to remember what retention system I'm using makes riding simpler.

-Bandera
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Old 01-05-15, 08:34 AM
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Aside from the major efforts in sprinting or bunnyhopping, I agree that a casual rider wouldn't gain much benefit from a clipless pedal. The test only looks at the "normal" pedal stroke common for most of our riding, so this doesn't surprise me much. I believe the bigger issue for the platform pedals is the placement of the foot on the pedal. If the foot doesn't sit in the proper position fore/aft, or the rider tends to twist their foot/knees during the stoke this could potentially lead to problems. Over a 50+ mile ride this may be more pronounced as the rider gets more tired and sloppy. To me, its not so much about the efficiency of the pedal stroke, but keeping the foot in the proper place without having to think about it.
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Old 01-05-15, 08:39 AM
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Most of us don't use clipless because of perceived efficiency or because of some performance advantage.
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Old 01-05-15, 09:12 AM
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Originally Posted by tractorlegs View Post
But if this thread started in - say - the Commuting forum, there might be a completely different set of answers.
I commute on a bike 5 times a week and during my commute there a couple of steep sections where I always pull up hard on the pedals. I think most people who've used them just find them more comfortable.
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Old 01-05-15, 09:13 AM
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Originally Posted by spectastic View Post
So I pulled this off of another forum that someone posted.
Link to the abstract.
Link to the paper.
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Old 01-05-15, 09:36 AM
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90 RPM at 60% threshold power?

That's a pace most decent cyclists can sustain all day. Literally.

"We found that, when walking across the living room to turn on your TV, shoe specifics don't really matter."

What about dealing with a loaded touring bike in stop-and-go traffic? What about an all-out sprint at 140 rpm and 700% of max aerobic power?
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Old 01-05-15, 10:24 AM
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To me, these are really funny threads. But it's just BF. You gotta laugh.

So when I was given my first bike at 6, it was a robin's egg blue 20" girls bike with flat rubber pedals. I put a lot of miles on that bike, riding it the 3 miles to school and back, etc. Then I inherited a 26" bike from my brother, also with flat pedals, and put a lot of miles on that bike. Finally at 12 I saved up the $50 for a Montgomery Wards 3-speed, also with flat rubber pedals, and put a really lot of miles on that bike, riding 20 miles or so a day in the summer.

When I went to college I got really lucky and bought a used full-Campy Legnano with rat traps and toe clips for $125. I guess a lot of people have simply never ridden a bike with either toe clips or clipless or these threads wouldn't even happen. I got on that Legnano and the angels shouted hallelujah! OMG. I was turbine powered. It felt like I could bring the front wheel off the ground just with pedaling power. It was a revelation. Why don't other folks experience this? Maybe it's just a lack of strength? I was always a runner and a skier and on the college Nordic team, so I had some serious leg power.

So that's my advice anyway: if you don't think clips or clipless is better than flat pedals, get your butt in gear and develop some legs. I only have a 6" commute, so I commute in walking shoes, but all my bike riding, touring, etc., is done clipless. I have up toe clips long ago: too dangerous, too limiting, and they made my feet cold in winter.

Most of the folks I ride with can pedal uphill faster with one leg than most of the folks on bicycles can pedal uphill with two. It's not that hard. Anyone can do it. Just takes a little work, that's all. Well, maybe more than a little but it's totally worth it.
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Old 01-05-15, 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
To me, these are really funny threads. But it's just BF. You gotta laugh.

So when I was given my first bike at 6, it was a robin's egg blue 20" girls bike with flat rubber pedals. I put a lot of miles on that bike, riding it the 3 miles to school and back, etc. Then I inherited a 26" bike from my brother, also with flat pedals, and put a lot of miles on that bike. Finally at 12 I saved up the $50 for a Montgomery Wards 3-speed, also with flat rubber pedals, and put a really lot of miles on that bike, riding 20 miles or so a day in the summer.

When I went to college I got really lucky and bought a used full-Campy Legnano with rat traps and toe clips for $125. I guess a lot of people have simply never ridden a bike with either toe clips or clipless or these threads wouldn't even happen. I got on that Legnano and the angels shouted hallelujah! OMG. I was turbine powered. It felt like I could bring the front wheel off the ground just with pedaling power. It was a revelation. Why don't other folks experience this? Maybe it's just a lack of strength? I was always a runner and a skier and on the college Nordic team, so I had some serious leg power.

So that's my advice anyway: if you don't think clips or clipless is better than flat pedals, get your butt in gear and develop some legs. I only have a 6" commute, so I commute in walking shoes, but all my bike riding, touring, etc., is done clipless. I have up toe clips long ago: too dangerous, too limiting, and they made my feet cold in winter.

Most of the folks I ride with can pedal uphill faster with one leg than most of the folks on bicycles can pedal uphill with two. It's not that hard. Anyone can do it. Just takes a little work, that's all. Well, maybe more than a little but it's totally worth it.
Now you've done it.

The vehement "I don't want to be one of THOSE cyclists!" posters are now going to explain how clipless pedals cause cooties.
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Old 01-05-15, 10:51 AM
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Yeah, I've discussed similar studies before. There's lots of data to this effect. I'm pretty sure I've referenced this study too.

Foot retention does offer benefits over platforms, namely:
• It gives you more control in high-RPM / high-power situations
• It helps ensure your foot is in the proper spot for your fit
• Modern bike shoes ensure you're using a rigid sole

Foot retention offers very little benefit strictly in terms of power generation, though. As the study demonstrates (p5) amateurs and pros alike apply very little power on the upstroke, and a bicycle operates like a 2-stroke engine. Even when you show people charts and data, though, many refuse to believe it, or insist that the extremely tiny and nearly immeasurable amounts do matter somehow. C'est la guerre.
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Old 01-05-15, 10:57 AM
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When I first got clipless, I felt like they were way faster. But recently I started experimenting with switching back to flats, and found that I would often feel faster on clipless - but not actually be any faster looking at my speedometer. So I'm not sure if there's any real speed advantage or not. I've been riding with clipless for years, and went through adjusting how I pedalling with a fitter and everything.

What clipless seems to achieve well is foot retention. You're not spinning at high speeds, or riding in the rain, and have your foot coming off the pedal.

They used to use straps and racing where you would physically attach your foot to the pedal with straps that you would reach down and tighten. "clipless" replaced this, and clipless is far better than a toe cage at letting your foot disconnect from the pedal in an emergency. It's not flawless, but it's far far better at it vs any sort of toe clips.

I do think "pedalling efficiency" with clipless is both overhyped, and clipless can give you a feeling that you're getting a lot more power when you're not. Whether it gives you a little more power is debateable, and I don't think there's a reasonable conclusion one can reach on that topic on the internet. They are very good at keeping your feet attached to the pedals in a way that mostly lets your feet unclip in an emergency, though.
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Old 01-05-15, 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by FLvector View Post
Aside from the major efforts in sprinting or bunnyhopping, I agree that a casual rider wouldn't gain much benefit from a clipless pedal. The test only looks at the "normal" pedal stroke common for most of our riding, so this doesn't surprise me much. I believe the bigger issue for the platform pedals is the placement of the foot on the pedal. If the foot doesn't sit in the proper position fore/aft, or the rider tends to twist their foot/knees during the stoke this could potentially lead to problems. Over a 50+ mile ride this may be more pronounced as the rider gets more tired and sloppy. To me, its not so much about the efficiency of the pedal stroke, but keeping the foot in the proper place without having to think about it.
Not being able to adjust foot position for different riding conditions is the one thing I really miss on clipless pedals. I also never had problems with knee pain or toe numbness when I was on platforms.
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Old 01-05-15, 11:31 AM
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Originally Posted by spectastic View Post
I've ridden both clipless and platform pretty extensively. on a lot of my group rides, I've shown up in toe clips and hiking shoes, and people thought I was really strong to still be able to keep up. but to be honest, I don't find any loss in performance riding platform unless I'm accelerating or in an all out sprint, where the upstroke actually plays a role in my pedaling output. And while this is important in competitive situations, I don't believe this is important for casual riding or touring. even when climbing, most of that effort is spinning, until the rider stands up and starts pulling the pedals on the upstroke. So I felt compelled to find some evidence supporting clipless in pedaling efficiency over platform pedals.

Here's a video of them testing clipless and platform
https://www.bikeforums.net/www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNedIJBZpgM Granted, this experiment with only 1 data point is not too convincing. So I pulled this off of another forum that someone posted. It indicates that while the upstroke does play a role in clipless setups, it actually decreases your mechanical efficiency, which support the idea that the upstroke is only relevant when you're trying to beat someone up a climb or to a finishline/corner - it's not sustainable in a long ride.




What do you think? I feel like the whole argument that clipless being more efficient than platform pedals, while true in certain situations, is mere exaggerated hyperbole in most other situations. Foot retention is also important for a variety of reasons, but platform pedals can do that very well with toe clips (imo) for road riding anyway.
Any chance they factored in safety?

Having spent most of my younger life riding and racing in toe clips, I've seen a lot of broken legs and ankles from clips because the foot does not come out of the pedal.

Platforms? I was riding with a guy and we were climbing a hill and he was on platforms. It was a little wet. His foot slipped off the front of the pedal, drove his toes into the ground, the crank arm came up and hit him at the top of his ankle snapping it in half.

And as far as exaggeration, toe clips with a cleat and clipless are about the same with my many miles but unscientific study. It's safety.
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Old 01-05-15, 11:54 AM
  #25  
nuke_diver
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Bikes: early 80's steel 12speed, CAAD10-3 2013

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My experience as a non competitive solo rider is that clips (I continue to refuse to call something you clip into clipless ) are not faster than platforms but over a long hilly ride the clips give you improved efficiency (that's what I'll call it). I found when I switched (only 1 year ago) that I was less tired at the end of the same ride with the clips that without. I still find that unclipping can be a little disconcerning under certain conditions where platforms never are and I still use platforms for commuting as a result (lots more stops and starts). But for the long rides I have clips now
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