Cycling 101: Why should I use clipless pedals?

In an effort to keep this post a REASONABLE length, I am going to create two post.  One to discuss why you should use clipless pedals – and one to explain how to use them.  I recently wrote a long article about shoes and pedals.  If you need info on the various types, you should check that out!  (Let’s talk about your feet!)

Now, the $1,000,000 question – Why should you use clipless pedals?  I’ve got 5 reasons for you!

They are NOT dangerous:  I’m going to take on the “big one” first.  To many people, attaching their feet to a bicycle is very scary.  It’s not “natural”.  They worry about what could happen!  Others have tipped over (some dramatically, some just slowly.)  None of this is fun, but everybody reading this learned to walk at some point, and that wasn’t natural!  You can do this!

I’ve been riding and racing a bicycle for the better part of 45 years.  Over 30 of those years, my feet were attached to my pedals in some way or another.  I’ve never been hurt seriously as a result of being strapped or clipped in.  I’ve been hurt by other factors (mostly the GROUND), but my pedal attachment has not been a big issue.  You see, if you weigh 150 pounds and ride a 25 pound bicycle, the bike is only 16% of your weight.  When getting off your bike unexpectedly, it isn’t heavy enough to do much damage.  The thing you have to worry about is large immovable objects!  They hurt.  Feet attached or not, the worst thing a bike is probably going to do to you is give you a few oddly placed bruises.

Now – if you are new to this, you’re going to say “But Scott, what if I tip over because I cannot get my foot out?”  You’re not going to get hurt too bad, especially if you relax and let it happen.  Usually a skinned knee and a bruised ego.  Here is an ancient Chinese secret – We have all done it!  Everybody.  It’s okay!

You probably use a large knife to carve a turkey or slice a watermelon?  That’s could be dangerous – but you take steps to keep it safe.  We will discuss those in my “how to” article!  You can do this!

Improved Safety:  While this is a small factor, as feet rarely fly off the pedals, having a good connection ensures if you it a bump or something gets funky, your feet stay put and your bicycle stability remains in tact.  The key thing is learning how to safely enter and exit your pedals.  With a little practice – it becomes a natural and instinctive maneuver!

Proper Positioning:  Bicycle fit gurus around the world agree on one thing – having the ball of your foot on or near the pedal spindle adds to your efficiency and power transfer.  If you are riding without toe clips or clipless pedals, chances are your feet are moving all over the place.  That means your effective seat height, pedal stroke and power transfer is changing constantly.  The more it changes, the less change of being optimal.  By getting your cleats set up right – you ensure your in a good position at all times.

Added “Umph”:  The effect is not HUGE, but with clipless pedals you can actually pedal for a larger portion of your pedal circle.  Normally, you can only push down on your pedals and only get a small amount of power delivered through the bottom of the pedal stroke.  With the cleats engaged in the pedals, imitating the “wiping do poop off the bottom of your shoe” maneuver, you can pull through the bottom.  This is exceptionally effective when climbing hills.  The more you can get power to the pedals – the faster you are over the hill!

Comfort:  Piggy backing on the proper positioning, if you feet are properly positioned, in comfortable cycling shoes, your feet will be more comfortable.  If you’re not connected, you will like pedal in the middle of your foot which is inefficient and wears out your calves.

If you’re headed out for 100 miles, or a 3 day, 220 mile adventure – you should really consider clipless pedals.  You’re moving from “a person with a bike” to a “recreational cyclist!”  You deserve this little upgrade!