Many called it crazy, but clipless pedals are one of the greatest innovations in the history of cycling. If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about and if clipless is right for you, here’s some info to help you decide.
But first off, why are they called “clipless” when you actually clip into them? Simple…the predecessor to the clipless pedal is the toe clip, those devices comprised of straps and cages that attach to your pedals so you can keep your feet on the pedals.
So why switch to clipless pedals? It’s fairly simple, if you want to be more efficient, locking your shoes into your pedals will transfer energy to your crank more efficiently. Also, clipless pedals can stop your foot from slipping off the pedal, which can cause problems in both road and mountain situations.
Ask yourself the following:
- Am I a road cyclist who is considering racing, or training to race?
- Am I a mountain biker who rides some pretty fast, gnarly trails?
- Am I riding for fitness and pushing myself to get stronger?
- Am I considering touring (multi-day bike odyssey with packs, etc.)?
If you answer yes to any of these, clipless pedals will to improve your riding experience.
But of course you’re wondering...
Doesn’t everyone fall when they first try riding with clipless pedals? The answer: Well…no, not everyone…probably. We can only say that we and everyone else we know fell the first time. To save your elbows and knees, learn to clip and unclip while holding onto a wall or railing, and then try it riding on grass. To save face…well, sorry, can’t help you there.
A crash course on clipless systems (no pun intended):
In basic terms, two categories exist: road and mountain. An important caveat…it’s really more like road and not road. Here are some details:
Road shoes have stiff soles and slick bottoms which are not suitable for walking. Most road shoes have a 3-bolt pattern for road cleats, and some (like this Pearl Izumi Select Road Shoe) also have 2-bolt compatibility in case you want to use mountain pedals.
Crank Bros Eggbeaters are very popular (and affordable) mountain pedals with a 4-sided entry.
What’s right for you?
When going clipless, it’s largely about preference. Some casual road riders prefer to sacrifice a little stiffness and go with mountain pedals because of the better walkability. For touring or casual mountain biking, there are even shoes that are as much for walking as biking:
When choosing, consider what is important to you. If you’re all about optimal efficiency (a la racing/hard training), use lighter, stiffer shoes. Otherwise, consider versatility, comfort, and price. The only hard and fast rule is don’t use road pedals for mountain biking…they could break.
And once you get past that learning stage, odds are you’ll never go back because clipless is awesome.