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pedaling efficiency of clipless vs platform tested

Old 01-05-15, 06:47 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

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, 06:52 AM
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This is the Touring forum ... not the Racing forum.

Here, it is often less about efficiency, power, and speed ... and more about comfort.

I like my dual-sided pedals because they allow me to ride clipped in if I want ... but I can also ride to the shops or the beach or somewhere wearing sandals at the end of the day if I want too.
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Old 01-05-15, 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
This is the Touring forum ... not the Racing forum.

I like my dual-sided pedals because they allow me to ride clipped in if I want ... but I can also ride to the shops or the beach or somewhere wearing sandals at the end of the day if I want too.
I am too old to race. I liked the toe cages most of my life. And only went clipless in recent years. And to be completely honest.... the reason I switched to clipless is because they look more appropriate with my spandex than do tennis shoes... period.

It is rare I have ever needed (or used) the extra pulling power afforded by ether clips or clipless. Other than the occasional scary dog. And I've always believed that the best reason (other than racing) to use foot retention is to assure that my feet stay on the pedals.

But [like Machka] I have a pair of campus (duel sided) pedals on my rain/trainer bike. So I can always just hop on the bike for a short spin while it's mounted on the trainer.... or grab it to ride down the road for a coffee after mowing the lawn (without changing).

But when I ride my old steel vintage bikes.... I like clips (and old fashion tennis shoes). Although I prefer the plastic modern clips. And I will generally wear mountain bike like shorts (with pockets) and built-in chamois. And a tee shirt with some kind of message on it. I think the outfit is reminiscent of the decades past.... except I always wear a helmet now-a-days.

Does this post sound like I am implying IMHO that much of the cycling equipment in use today is more fashion orientated than performance tested???? If it does... that's good.

Last edited by Dave Cutter; 01-05-15 at 07:26 AM.
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Old 01-05-15, 07:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
This is the Touring forum ... not the Racing forum.

Here, it is often less about efficiency, power, and speed ... and more about comfort.

I like my dual-sided pedals because they allow me to ride clipped in if I want ... but I can also ride to the shops or the beach or somewhere wearing sandals at the end of the day if I want too.
that doesn't make this question any less relevant. even a 1% advantage over a longer distance is significant. While I agree comfort is first, that doesn't mean it takes the cake. If I can save 10-15 minutes a day by having better shoes, lighter bike, more aero position, without sacrificing comfort, I'll take it.
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Old 01-05-15, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Dave Cutter View Post
...Does this post sound like I am implying IMHO that much of the cycling equipment in use today is more fashion orientated than performance tested???? If it does... that's good.
Thumbs up to this!

Another factor not often mentioned is cost. I'm a retired engineer and I always had to factor cost into my efficiency decisions and designs. The client wouldn't pay for a design that didn't pay back in a reasonable time. I get sticker shock when I see the cost of shoes and pedals. Many cyclists I see spend more on those two items than my entire bike cost.
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Old 01-05-15, 08:17 AM
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I chose to use toe clips and straps on my last major tour. They work fine esp. for touring.

Don't get me wrong. I used toe clips and straps back in the day and switched to clipless once it came out. Most of my bikes have clipless pledals.

But touring is about your mind frame as much as it is about an athletic event. Having comfortable shoes to kick around in isn't a bad thing. Nothing wrong with clipless shoes in terms of comfort but I prefer my hiking shoes.
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Old 01-05-15, 08:41 AM
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I have used clipless pedals since 1992 and while people should use what they want, here are my preferences for clipless
-I still feel that there is a certain percentage of advantage using them, specifically when climbing, so I will always take any advantage I can get, especially over a long day riding with a heavy bike. I'm not a strong rider, so like the other guy, I'll take it whatever it is.
-using other muscles is nice just for a change even when on the flats, I like to change up my pedal stroke once in a while and clipless allows this easier imo.
-as I have clipless on the two bikes I ride, its nice to be able to hop stuff and be more secure over rough stuff when going fast (not really a touring thing, but the bikes are used mostly unloaded or commuting)
-pedal life....this will be completely subjective to the actual pedals, but my 1992 shimano spd clipless are still in use, have never been opened and still spin with hardly any play. I figure I'll use them til they break.

I still say that the shoes are just as important, that they fit you really well, give really good support and are stiff to be most efficient for power transfer and foot comfort.
If you have regular pedals and shoes that are good to your feet, thats great. I just prefer spds for my riding.

*all that said, I could see if you are touring in areas with very rough roads all the time, it could be nice to be able to get off the pedals super fast and or not have a spd cleat slipping on rocks etc if you have to walk a lot pushing your bike, but this sort of touring is usually going to be a minority for most of us here and even then, for me would still be a hard decision considering the positives of clipless for riding that I feel are worth it.
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Old 01-05-15, 08:53 AM
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I use clipless pedals (SPDs) for all of my cycling. However, I use mtn biking shoes that are easy and comfortable for walking, so it's no big deal not having platforms. Back in the day, I was proficient at using toe clips and cages, but I have no desire to rig up my touring bike different than my other bikes. All of my bikes are mostly compatible regarding components and gear, go I can swap wheels and other parts without worrying about it. If I put toe clips and cages on one of my bikes, I would probably forget and grab the wrong shoes on occasion.
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Old 01-05-15, 09:23 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

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.
When looking at an experiment of any kind, you should always keep George E.P. Box's in mind: "All models are wrong. Some are useful." Both of these "studies" have flaws as pointed out in the video at about the 7:30 minute point. The video was done under laboratory conditions without the need to react to road conditions. As the rider pointed out, having the ability to pull up on climbs and sprints is important and does make using clipless worthwhile. Touring cyclists may not need to sprint but we do have to climb.

As for the abstract, it isn't kosher to just go grabbing an abstract without providing a reference. We have no way of knowing under what conditions the experiment was performed nor what they are really measuring nor what they are defining.

On a more personal note, you can ride whatever you feel like riding and I'll do the same. I know from my experience that pulling up on the backstroke while climbing greatly enhances my riding. If you don't want to use clipless, don't use them. I would also suggest you try clipless before you poopoo their effectiveness. I've used platforms and don't find anything useful about them in any situation.
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Old 01-05-15, 09:37 AM
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Just my opinion, but...
If you want a retention system clipless is better by a significant factor. For clips and straps to do any good they need to be tightened and then they are harder to get out of than clipless while also being less comfortable. I started biking long before clipless was readily available and found it a great change over clips and straps. I gladly embraced the new technology and never looked back

BTW, those little half clips with no straps are pretty much totally worthless in my estimation. Some folks like them though. I never tried power grip straps, but I can see where they might be a good compromise for some riders

How important having a retention system is will vary widely depending on the rider's preferences and the tour. For example, if they will be riding most of their waking hours, then bikes shoes with clipless retention will probably be way more of a plus than a minus. If on the other hand they will be hiking or sightseeing as much as riding then some trail runners become a big plus. In either case I like having clipless pedals and nice bike shoes, but I can see where others would differ. If the tour is expected to have a lot of hiking that is more than a few miles at a time or over especially challenging terrain, I also take some trail runners. I have been know to just buy some trail runners for one part of a tour and would consider mailing them home. I did that when we decided to spend a week in Yosemite hiking and sightseeing before continuing the tour.
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Old 01-05-15, 09:58 AM
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I feel somewhat safer with some sort of retention than none at all, and as staehpj1 said, I much prefer clipless to toe clips and straps.
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Old 01-05-15, 11:15 AM
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GCN do some excellent youtube videos. They give lots of good advice for the cyclist, be they tourists or weekend racers. Everyone can benefit from a bit of better technique and advice from professionals who are used to long days in the saddle. There's too much segregation of both attitude and equipment in cycling.

As far as pedal retention is concerned I'll take clipless because it's simple and stops your foot from slipping off the pedal in the rain.

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Old 01-05-15, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
This is the Touring forum ... not the Racing forum.

Here, it is often less about efficiency, power, and speed ... and more about comfort.

I like my dual-sided pedals because they allow me to ride clipped in if I want ... but I can also ride to the shops or the beach or somewhere wearing sandals at the end of the day if I want too.

Even with long days on multi day touring journeys where comfort is important, I still enjoy the athletic component of the ride. I have used toe cages and straps but I prefer clipless because of their simplicity and efficiency.
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Old 01-05-15, 12:47 PM
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Stumbled on a sack full of M737 first gen spd pedals, so ended up putting them on most of my bikes over the summer. They are heavier than quills, but I thought I would try them, as I really like to ride in my spd sandals. Most of my lighter bikes already have newer spds. Come winter, I put platforms with toe clips back on my rough weather bike, and have to admit that I really feel the difference on the hills, particularly short sharp rises, but overall on the long uphill slogs. thinking about getting some winter shoes with clips now, if I find any on sale.
I still might be using platforms for some tours, but since most of my trips are about saddle time and distance, will probably stick with clipless. My last tour averaged 120 miles a day, and I don't think that I could have done that as easily without them. The vintage retro curmudgeon in me is sad, but at least I am using vintage spds!
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Old 01-05-15, 02:35 PM
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Originally Posted by shipwreck View Post
Stumbled on a sack full of M737 first gen spd pedals,.....The vintage retro curmudgeon in me is sad, but at least I am using vintage spds!
I suspect these are what mine are. When quickly taking these photos just now with my phone, again I am amazed by how smoothly they spin, no crunchiness, no apparent play when pulled outwards--a real achievement of the bearings when I think of how some of my old regular pedals before this with ball bearings and cones never felt this good for so long. I'm sure that I wasn't really doing much mtn biking with them helped by not being in mud etc very much.

and yes they do weigh a ton.
I seem to recall them costing about $80 or $90.
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Old 01-05-15, 04:45 PM
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I sold a NOS in the box set for 100 dollars on ebay. Someone out there knows what they like. I almost regret not using them myself, but with four other pairs in good condition(they are very smooth, no play, hardly scuffed) I used that money to defray the purchase of the touring frame they came with. When I sold the other set of NOS in box Specialized quill touring pedals that came with the deal, I broke even.
The only issue is that there is very little float on these pedals, but that does not seem to be an issue for me.
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Old 01-05-15, 05:47 PM
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Fashion is more reproducible than science. Even internet-fashion is more reproducible than internet-science.

BTW: I prefer clipless.
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Old 01-05-15, 06:17 PM
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I've been touring for 30 years and I am convinced that the rate of knee problems increased dramatically with the rise of clipless pedals for touring. Not only that, but it's another example of paying a lot more for specialized equipment that has only one functional use. More power - or maybe not that much more power - to those who want to tour clipless. But I don't.
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Old 01-05-15, 06:41 PM
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Originally Posted by shipwreck View Post
The only issue is that there is very little float on these pedals, but that does not seem to be an issue for me.
use them for 22 years, they develop a fair amount of float ;-) I sometimes remark how worn they are and how much my feet move around, even when I got the new M520s, but for just regular riding its never an issue. I suspect if I stand and twist a lot they may release, but with regular riding they are still safe.
I assume the newer ones will be just as good over the long term re the bearings inside, I hope so anyway and going from 5 years of use, they seem to be just as good.

as with all bike maintenance, once in a while and after riding in rain I take a rag to clean out the recesses, and spray wd40 or whatever to clean out grit and stuff from the spring mechanisms, so Im sure this helps with them lasting a good long time. That said, the inner bearing setup must be a good design because other than surface wiping, and take care not to push grit inside when cleaning, I dont do anything to the innards.
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Old 01-05-15, 06:50 PM
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Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
I've been touring for 30 years and I am convinced that the rate of knee problems increased dramatically with the rise of clipless pedals for touring. Not only that, but it's another example of paying a lot more for specialized equipment that has only one functional use. More power - or maybe not that much more power - to those who want to tour clipless. But I don't.
I use clipless on my bikes but not on my touring bike. You spend long days in the saddle day after day touring and I think there's something to be said for not having one fixed position all day long for your joints.
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Old 01-05-15, 06:53 PM
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Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
I've been touring for 30 years and I am convinced that the rate of knee problems increased dramatically with the rise of clipless pedals for touring.
I tend to agree on principal, but funnily enough I had a bad knee issue happen to me on my first fully loaded trip, with reg pedals and toe straps.

I honestly figure it was a combination of a lot of factors-- I know I was overloaded and undertrained; there were steep steep buggers of hills that probably overtaxed my already overworked knees; I may have had bad technique when standing (maybe twisting a bit side to side) and working like a mad fiend getting up a real bugger of a hill (toe clips totally tightened, so no "float" at all); I had Biopace chainrings that could have been a factor too; and to top it off, I had pushed my seat forward to reduce the reach which I learned afterwards is bad for knees.....all I know is that my knee swelled up and I had to stay at a campground for a few days before continuing.

A year later when I got spds , I was concerned about knee issues with spd pedals so paid for a fit to be done at a good store, where they had a frame setup to take all your measurements, and also pedals that showed your natural knee angle on each side--it showed my right foot turns out naturally, so they adjusted the cleat so my foot was in its natural position and it has been fine since then. I have essentially copied that cleat position all these years now.
As mentioned, certain pedal systems have more float and are most likely easier on knees, but yes I agree, if setup badly, a clipless system can harm a knee more if someone isnt aware of cleat positioning at all and or ignores messages from ones knees.
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Old 01-05-15, 08:03 PM
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I have clipless on all my bikes. I use SPD pedals with Sidi Dominator MTB shoes, which are fine to walk in for short distances. I bring trail runners with me on tour. My shoe/pedal system is extremely comfortable over a long day and enables me to do a lot of work without tiring just one part of my leg.

These studies are all silly because they do not take into account adaptation. A good example is a year long trial of Powercranks by a very experienced cyclist and racer. Powercranks require you to you pull up slightly on the backstroke, all the time. He found that they required very little adaptation and did not change his power output, efficiency, etc., because he already pulled up on the backstroke almost constantly. Going to constantly was fairly easy and didn't change anything for him.

I don't pull up on the backstroke, though I do mostly unweight the back leg. However I do pull back and push forward on the pedals, a lot, so that I can pedal using only my hamstrings or only my quads and switch back and forth. Can't do that with platforms for sure. And for sure being able to spread the workload out among more muscles comes in real handy on long rides. Adaptation is everything in repetitive motion sports and it can take years of concentrated effort to get it just right.
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Old 01-06-15, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
I've been touring for 30 years and I am convinced that the rate of knee problems increased dramatically with the rise of clipless pedals for touring. Not only that, but it's another example of paying a lot more for specialized equipment that has only one functional use. More power - or maybe not that much more power - to those who want to tour clipless.
I'll agree that road shoes and pedals have limited functional use and probably aren't the best shoes for touring. Mountain bike shoes and pedals, on the other hand, aren't as limited. Having walked many miles in mountain bike shoes...most recently around 8 miles on a 60 mile loop this fall...I can tell you that they are quite as functional off the bike as they are on.

I've been touring for 37 years and I'm convinced that knee problems are more related to people refusing to use lower gears...it's not "manly"...then to clipless pedals.

Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
But I don't.
Then don't.
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Old 01-06-15, 10:18 AM
  #24  
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pedaling efficiency of clipless vs platform tested

Toe clips and straps work fine for me. Even loose enough to pull my foot out quickly, climbing is helped by pulling up.
I like having just one pair of (running) shoes on tour.

It really does seem to be a personal choice, and may be affected by learnt riding technique as well. I'm pretty sure TDF riders have different techniques/strokes going up steep hills than me and my fully loaded rig, hihi...

"Knees in" would be another example of this
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Old 01-06-15, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
I'm convinced that knee problems are more related to people refusing to use lower gears...it's not "manly".
Did guys all of a sudden get the "manly" urge when clipless pedals came out?
I suspect that there were just as many mashers before as after -
But that toe clips were more forgiving.
Even for "manly" men and "womanly" women.
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