What Are Clipless Bike Pedals?

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Despite first making their appearance in Europe during the latter half of the 19th century, bicycles are still a fairly common form of transportation today. Thanks to modern technology, they are also more efficient than ever, and innovations are constantly being made to their simple framework.

One such innovation is the advent of clipless pedals. With their roots in skiing technology, clipless pedals are designed to be more efficient by providing greater foot-to-pedal connectivity and are safer thanks to near-instantaneous foot entry and release. 

Clipless pedals are best described as ‘trick’ pedals. Used in tandem with clip shoes, they subtly alter how riding your bicycle feels, which can understandably be a bit daunting or off-putting to newcomers and veterans alike. 

To this end, we have come up with this guide which details exactly what clip pedals are, how they work, and whether or not they may be worth the investment. So keep reading below to find out everything you need to know about clipless bike pedals. Let’s get to it!

What Are Clipless Bike Pedals?

Clipless pedals are synonymous with clipless shoes in that one’s effectiveness relies on the presence of the other. If you are considering kitting out your bicycle with some clipless pedals, you will need to invest in a pair of clipless shoes to get your money’s worth.

Understanding the relationship between clipless pedals and shoes is key to understanding how they work. Clipless pedals actually attach to the soles of clipless shoes – this system provides unparalleled performance, as well as safety and security.

Your cleats will need to be bolted to your shoes first. Once that is done, you need to step on the pedals until your feet are securely in place – most pedals emanate an audible “clicking” sound when your feet are properly secured. 

This allows your feet to remain attached to the pedals at all times for maximum efficiency. Your feet will not slip off unless you want them to. With your feet locked in, you should notice a drastic improvement in power throughout every pedal stroke – accelerating and climbing should also be much easier.

Additionally, because your feet are secured to the pedals, you will have greater control when performing difficult maneuvers and tricks such as dodging pavement tracks or clearing hurdles when they appear. Because a strap or clip does not tether your feet, you can dismount much more quickly in the event of an impending wipeout. 

In order to dismount, simply swing your feet with your heels first at an outwards angle (as if you are about to put your feet down), and you should – again – hear a “clicking” sound signaling the release of your feet. 

With all of this in mind, it is a wonder why very few bicycles are designed with clipless pedals from the get-go. For novices, this feature may seem unnecessary or redundant. However, serious cyclists or those wishing to improve their physical health by cycling extensively should heavily consider getting a pair of clipless pedals and shoes.

Clipped vs. Clipless

Bicycle design and effective cycling practices are two very esoteric topics that you do not hear about every day. However, these areas see constant innovation, making them interesting topics to discuss.

In the case of this guide, we would like to dispel any misconceptions about both clipped and clipless pedals. Both have proven to be effective, and if you simply cannot abide by investing even more money into your old bicycle, no one can hold it against you.

However, we feel that there is a case to be made for clipless pedals being vastly superior to clipped pedals, in spite of what some purists may believe. 

If you only cycle for fun every once in a while, simple rubber pedals will serve you well enough. However, as you begin to cycle more and more, embarking on longer rides with more frequency than before, you run the risk of your feet slipping off the pedals from under you. 

This may prove to be nothing more than a nuisance that briefly impedes your progress in a best-case scenario. However, in a worst-case scenario, this small slip-up could lead to a crash and serious injury. Additionally, your feet will tend to change position frequently when they are placed on rubber pedals, significantly reducing your overall efficiency. 

Ideally, the balls of your feet should always cover the center of your pedals, ensuring that you are cycling at your most effective. In order to mitigate the frequency of feet slipping off of – or moving around on – pedals, toe straps, and clips were invented. 

These nifty little devices can make the difference between an effective cyclist and an ineffective one. They are bolted to regular rubber pedals to form cages that keep your feet firmly in place, preventing them from moving around or slipping off. 

For many, this solution has proven to be both viable and cost-efficient. However, everything has its drawbacks. These drawbacks include a cumbersome setup process and a lack of blood circulation in the feet for clips and traps.

The reduced blood circulation can minimize your overall power and control, thus causing you to overexert yourself to attain the results you want. Additionally, though you are free to take your time when strapping yourself in, you will not always have that luxury should you need to take the straps off. This can be a huge problem if you can see a collision waiting to happen, but you do not have enough time to come to a stop and dismount. Additionally, the ends of the straps will dangle off of the pedals unless otherwise secured, which can cause a crash or injury. 

These drawbacks have formed the basis of the design philosophy for clipless pedals. As a result, they are much easier to fasten and allow you to ride at your maximum potential without any issues impeding your progress. The downside is that learning how to secure your feet and dismount quickly can be a challenge. Additionally, you will need to purchase a pair of clipless shoes, which can inflate your bicycle budget.

Bicycle clipless pedal

Clipless Systems – What Are They?

Clipless pedals come in two distinct forms. By far, the most popular of these are the walkable clipless systems – the cleats are recessed within the sole of the shoe, meaning they never make contact with the ground. This makes them ideal for hiking and walking and provides excellent pedal power. 

Walkable clipless systems also include double-sided pedals. Your clipless bicycle shoes can be clicked onto one of the sides, while the other side is ideal for normal streetwear. This ensures that you will always have a workable pedal surface, even when your cycling shoes have been left at home. 

The other system is simply known as “road” in the cycling community. As the name would suggest, these clipless systems are ideal for use on road bikes. They are designed for maximum efficiency, aerodynamics, and as little weight as possible. 

The shoes associated with road clipless systems are much stiffer while remaining light. They are uncomfortable to walk in due to the cleats protruding from their soles. Cleat covers that maintain traction can be purchased. 

Additionally, road clipless pedals are one-sided, meaning your feet can only be properly secured on the pedal’s right side.

Final Thoughts

Clearly, the cycling world has much more to offer than you may have initially suspected. In fact, the choice of clipped vs clipped bike pedals is just the tip of the cycling iceberg. It would be best if you now were fully equipped with the right knowledge of clipless shoes and pedals to decide whether or not they are worth your investment.

At the very least, they are worth your consideration. So visit your local bike store and consult with a specialist who can help you make the decision.

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