Though the name is misleading, "clipless" bike pedals allow you to clip your shoe into the pedal.
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The foundation of your feet on your bike is crucial for safety, control and comfort. Bike pedal clips and straps meet each of these needs differently. Bike pedal clips are actually referred to as вЂњclipless pedalsвЂќ because the straps were originally referred to as вЂњtoe clips.вЂќ Toe clips refer to the cages and straps that are mounted on a platform pedal and don't require a specific shoe. Finally, straps refer to the BMX style pedal that is designed to fit a wide strap with Velcro fabric. Toe clips and straps have similar functions and uses, while clipless pedals offer a pedaling experience that is completely different. The difference between the two styles of pedals, besides the confusing elements of their names, lies in the connection between your foot and the pedal.
The Advantages of Straps and Toe Clips
Straps and toe clips are designed to keep your foot optimally placed on the pedal, whether you are riding over rough terrain, in slippery conditions or smooth pavement in good weather. Straps and toe clips create greater pedaling control and efficiency in two ways: they center the ball of the foot over the pedal and create a secure connection between the foot and pedal. Because this secure connection allows the rider to pull up at the bottom of the pedal stroke and engage the hamstring muscles, the quadriceps muscles experience less strain. Straps and toe clips can be used with almost any kind of shoe, which can be ideal for longer commutes. The exceptions are wider shoes and boots, which can be too big to fit.
The Disadvantages of Straps and Toe Clips
It is not essential to tighten the straps against your foot to ride effectively with this style of pedal, but doing so can create a more secure pedal-to-foot connection. However, this can also be potentially dangerous if the foot becomes stuck in the pedal. Toe clips and straps can be difficult to step out of when the bike comes to a stop. As with any other skill, this can improve with practice. Cycling instructor John S. Allen says one problem with toe clips and straps is that the strap can create discomfort on the top of the foot and even impair circulation. Additionally, toe clips can scratch and create scuff marks on the top of shoes.
The Advantages of Clipless Pedals
Clipless pedals are best for long commutes, long rides and racing. The clipless shoe-pedal combination offers unmatched control and efficiency by maximizing pedaling energy. The shoe-pedal combination essentially anchors your foot to the pedal and to the bike, allowing you to maximize power by pedaling in a complete circle. The system offers increased security by virtually eliminating the possibility of the foot flying off the pedal in bumpy conditions. It is also possible to avoid small obstacles in the road by pulling up on the pedals in order to bunny-hop your bike over the hazard.
The Disadvantages of Clipless Pedals
Clipless pedals require a cleat that is specifically designed for the clipless pedal. This is an expensive investment for the recreational rider. Clipless pedals come in two styles: road and mountain. Patrick Loftus, service manager of the Community Cycling Center, describes the difference between the two styles of clipless pedals. Road pedals feature a cleat receiver on one side of the pedal and a shoe with a big cleat. These shoes can be uncomfortable and awkward to walk in. Mountain pedals are two sided and use a smaller cleat. The shoes that accompany the mountain pedal feature a tread surrounding the cleat that makes the shoe easier to walk in. It can be difficult to learn how to clip in and out of the pedal; this is particularly true of the one-sided road bike shoes and pedals.