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Toe Clips, Need Some Schooling

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Toe Clips, Need Some Schooling

Old 01-07-20, 10:14 PM
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garryg
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Toe Clips, Need Some Schooling

I am 62 and have been riding bikes since i was like four years old. I did take about a 40 year break from riding after the age of 15.
Some of the nicer vintage bikes i have picked up have Toe clips/straps.
Do many of you guys and gals still ride with toe clips. Is there a high likelyhood of me falling on my ass if i just jump on and give them a go? Do the feet of the uninitiated get stuck in the clips?
Thanks for your input.
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Old 01-07-20, 10:28 PM
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It depends on how confident you feel starting with them. If you need to ease in, try with very loose straps. You can also put the bike on a trainer to practice. It’s really just learning about pulling your foot back to get off the pedal rather than to the side.
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Old 01-07-20, 10:40 PM
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A long time ago, I used to tighten the straps and loosen them when needed. Loosening the strap on your preferred foot is a pretty simple fraction of a second thing. But, for the last 25 years or so, I've just tightened the straps enough to keep my feet oriented and leave the straps that way. I guess the change happened when I came back from my unfortunate couple of years trying to use clipless. If you're worried about it, just ride with them pretty loose and, as mentioned, just pull your foot back. Then, learn how to enter the clips without even thinking about it. Everything is easy once you know how to do it.

There used to be "touring shoes" that had a smooth but stiff sole and made it easy to enter and retract. I had a pair of Cateye shoes and my wife had Avocet. I've not seen anything similar in a long time as the trend has moved to clipless, which are probably a better choice for most people. But, they don't work for everybody.
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Old 01-07-20, 10:42 PM
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Stan and Desconhecido are right on the money. Back, not sideways. Pull your foot out a little early when you're coming to a stop. Ride with the straps a little loose. Maybe don't use cleats until you're comfortable (or never use cleats, I mostly never do). You'll be ok. I just use Shimano SPD shoes with no cleats in 'em. Or sandals or hiking boots or Crocks or clogs or whatever. That's the beauty of toe clips. You really can ride any bike with anything on your feet.

I realized when I recently crashed my tandem (don't worry; low-speed on soft sand) that I kick back like a mule when I fall on a bike now, probably having built that reflex to separate myself from the toe clips in a crash. I was actually afraid my heels had struck my stoker, but luckily she was spared.

I remember the most annoying part of learning being flipping the pedal over. To this end, you can buy or make toe-kick tabs (link to MKS version) to help you flip the pedals easily. Some pedals crimp the toe strap awkwardly and keep wider shoes from getting in even after you flip them. You may want to avoid these if you find they're troublesome. You'll develop a favorite pedal after a while.
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Old 01-07-20, 11:11 PM
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... ( I use clips and straps on all my bikes),and if I might add an observation : There are very few tooe straps being made and sold these days that work well.
What you want is something that is stiff enough to hold a loop, so you can move your shoe in and out, but still flexible enough to thread through the pedal and clip slots.

Performance sold a good laminated leather toe strap until the business folded. Pake and some of the other plastic ones work pretty well, but I have trouble finding them for sale, even online.

The first generation of braided nylon worked reasonably well, because they were made from a stiffer cordage in the braiding ( I think). The black braided nylon ones most commonly seen today are junk. They are an additional distraction when you are just learning to slip your foot in and out without crashing and ruining your day. They can be made to work a little better with a toe clip that has two insertion supports, often sold as MTB clips.




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Old 01-07-20, 11:27 PM
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I used toe clips back in the 1970s-early '80s, for everday use -- racing, recreational rides and commuting. I wouldn't go back to them now unless an event demanded it.

For commuting I had to leave the left strap very loose, especially wearing casual shoes or whatever athletic shoes I planned to wear that day for racquetball or jogging. With some running shoes I had to bend the metal outward so the shoe would snag -- remember, this was the 1970s, the era of running shoes with waffle soles that snagged pedals, or soles that extended outward like outriggers. I had a few panicky moments jerking my foot free from that damned trap.

Nowadays I use clipless on my road bikes, and large platform pedals on my hybrids and free-foot it. That way I can wear heavy winter boots or light summer shoes, with maybe a slight adjustment to the seat post height depending on shoe thickness. No hipster straps either. Good platform pedals with pegs that grab the shoe soles already feel very secure.

If I haven't ridden my hybrid for awhile it takes maybe a few minutes to adjust my pedal stroke slightly compared with clipless. Although a few months ago I did manage to bark my shin when I tried frantically twisting my foot to get free of the non-existent cleats, instead of just lifting my foot up and setting it down. I hadn't ridden that hybrid for about a month so I was on autopilot.

I've seen a few folks locally using toe clips without straps. Not sure I see the advantage to that. Most use mountain bike type clipless with shoes that are friendly for walking. I prefer Look and Shimano SPD-SL on my road bikes but those shoes aren't great for walking -- the protruding plastic cleats are like high heels in reverse.
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Old 01-08-20, 01:52 AM
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Originally Posted by 3alarmer View Post
.


Those look like Soma clips, which, in my experience, are the best. They are a copy of an ICS design. Their straps are pretty damn good, too. Not cheap, but you get what you pay for.

I had some All City double straps for a while, but I could never get them tight enough for some reason. Replaced them with some Cinelli straps which have been great.
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Old 01-08-20, 03:36 AM
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All of my finished bikes (25+) have clips and straps except the 3-speed. One thing I might suggest is that you wear a smooth-soled shoe at least while you're getting used to them, if not after as well. I often wear a pair of dress shoes because they slip in and out quite easily even when the strap is pulled tight. When I wear running shoes with a more knobby tread pattern I usually have at least one moment of mild panic on each ride, and it's quite a bit more difficult to slip my feet in when I'm fighting to get the tread past the pedal cage.
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Old 01-08-20, 04:15 AM
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I think the typical running shoe of today is quite different from the typical running shoe of the 70s, with a much thicker, and wider, midsole, and more textured bottom sole. These makes it hard to slide a modern running shoe into a toe clip. Even some modern dress shoes are being built more like modern running shoes. I've been searching for some shoe options myself to try to get back to some toe clips & straps, but frankly have gone to using SPD pedals on most of my vintage bikes. Some look out of place, but a few, like the Shimano PD A520, look okay IMHO....
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Old 01-08-20, 05:47 AM
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Do we still use toe straps and do we fall over from them? Well, yes and no. Yes we use them, and no we don't fall over because if we did we wouldn't use them!

I do what they said. Don't need them tight in most cases. I used to tighten them and make it a point to loosen them before coming to a stop. Then one time I got caught at a stoplight and didn't think to reach down to loosen one. My foot came out anyway. So I stopped worrying about it. Later I came to realize I didn't need them so tight anyway.

With almost any strap, they take a set to your foot shape once they have been exposed to enough road dirt and use.
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Last edited by jimmuller; 01-08-20 at 12:51 PM. Reason: do, don't, same thing
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Old 01-08-20, 06:16 AM
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BITD yes I used them but not today. I have two sets of pedals for the older bikes, Look Keo and traps. Shoes for both too. Early in my biking experience with drop bar bikes I sued the traps with running shoes that were fairly small in cross section. Then, as mentioned, they ballooned in the sole and it killed the approach. This was back in my youth when I could not afford good shoes and didn't know or was apprehensive about cleats.
I try, infrequently succeed, in color matching the pedal with the bike in some way.
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Old 01-08-20, 06:59 AM
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I used toe clips for a long time. I had consistent foot pain for a long time. Went to SPDs and platforms. Foot pain went away. Ymmv.
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Old 01-08-20, 07:51 AM
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Originally Posted by garryg View Post
Do many of you guys and gals still ride with toe clips. Is there a high likelyhood of me falling on my ass if i just jump on and give them a go? Do the feet of the uninitiated get stuck in the clips?
I have toeclips on several of my bikes. If you're concerned about being able to get your feet out quickly, leave the straps loose until your confidence builds. Tightening the straps makes them more efficient, and it soon becomes second nature to reach down and loosen one strap when you feel a need to put a foot down. Unless you're using slotted cleats, it's not difficult to pull your foot out even with the straps tight, but the tight strap makes it harder to get your foot back in until you loosen the strap. Slotted cleats make toeclips and straps just as efficient as modern "clipless" pedals, but until you develop the "second nature" of loosening a strap before putting a foot down, it's best to leave one strap loose.
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Old 01-08-20, 10:22 AM
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I have used them but find I am much more comfortable on a nice flat pedal like the MKS Sneaker (RMX) which has nubs on it that prevent my foot from slipping around. I have them on about 3 bikes. YMMV
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Old 01-08-20, 10:36 AM
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Even on my vintage steeds, I use SPD pedals. They work soooo good. I have tried clips - pooey-stinko! I will never use a set of traps and straps again. SPD for me...
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Old 01-08-20, 11:12 AM
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Smooth soles and hard soles. Hard leather soles. Clips and straps were created before sponge rubber existed. A smooth sole dress shoe that just happens to have an expanded polyurethane sole is going to trap your foot just as effectively as a nobbly running shoe. Over time the pedal will cut a groove into a soft sole that is the same thing as a cleat. Even on hard leather soles a groove (a useful one) will be worn over time.

You will also find that clips and straps don't work well with large and wide soles. Shoes that effectively have a boot size sole aren't going to work. Simply having a size 14 foot may make clips and straps non-functional even in best possible shoes.

Clips and straps work best with genuine dedicated traditional cycling shoe. Or with dancing shoes. And with small feet. If you still qualify after all these reservations then it is a great system. I use them and would never go back to clipless
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Old 01-08-20, 11:18 AM
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One more note. I have simply never fallen off the bike due to a clip/strap issue or due to a clipless cleat. 400,000 miles zero falls. OP is over 60 years of age. Do not fall. Do not take a chance of falling. It is easy when you do it right. Easy and comfortable and a good experience. If you feel trapped just don't do it.
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Old 01-08-20, 11:26 AM
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I used toe clips for many years; I never used the clipless system of attaching to the pedal. For the last couple of years I've been riding platforms like Grip Kings and the VO touring platforms with little spikes.. Maybe I lose a little power going up hills, but I really don't care; I'll be 79 nextmonth. Another reason I don't attach my feet is that there is a lot more traffic in my area, and I have to put my foot down a lot more often. not being attached seems safer:. perhaps my reactions are a fraction of a second slower. Grant Petersen has written afbout not being attached, and I agree with him. It is fine for some riders, but you can enjoy yourself just as much with your feet free.
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Old 01-08-20, 11:52 AM
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...
....I might be alone in this experience, but I once ended up in an ambulance (with a rather impressive concussion) from losing a pedal at speed on a Raleigh 3 speed when I hit a pothole. Anyway, I've had clips and straps on everything since that time, long ago. It is difficult to find shoes that work well with clips and straps nowadays, but if you shop around, you can find them. For a while I was using Shimano cheapie MTB shoes with the soles thinned out using an angle grinder.

These days I've been wearing something made by Pearl Izumi that looks like a standard running shoe, but with a bicycle specific sole and stiffener.
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Old 01-08-20, 11:57 AM
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Perhaps this will be useful. Here are some basic tips for using toe clips:
  • Don't tighten the straps until you get used to them. Leave them quite loose.
  • When you are used to them, leave loose in town and when warming up, snug the straps when you get to hills or go fast portions of rides.
  • Don't tuck the loose end of the strap through the other side of the buckle. Let it stick out. That way they can be instantly loosened with one flick of a thumb on the buckle.
  • Forget using running shoes or any sort of shoe with a lugged sole. They make it hard to get in and out.
  • Smooth soled tennis shoes, leather dress shoes, and cycling shoes (vintage touring or vintage cleats) will all work pretty well.
  • The main point is that you can get more torque for climbing and sprints, also you can move around and vary the pedaling muscles used.
  • Also keeps your feet on the pedals when really spun out.
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Old 01-08-20, 01:05 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
I used toe clips back in the 1970s-early '80s, for everday use -- racing, recreational rides and commuting. I wouldn't go back to them now unless an event demanded it.

For commuting I had to leave the left strap very loose, especially wearing casual shoes or whatever athletic shoes I planned to wear that day for racquetball or jogging. With some running shoes I had to bend the metal outward so the shoe would snag -- remember, this was the 1970s, the era of running shoes with waffle soles that snagged pedals, or soles that extended outward like outriggers. I had a few panicky moments jerking my foot free from that damned trap.

Nowadays I use clipless on my road bikes, and large platform pedals on my hybrids and free-foot it. That way I can wear heavy winter boots or light summer shoes, with maybe a slight adjustment to the seat post height depending on shoe thickness. No hipster straps either. Good platform pedals with pegs that grab the shoe soles already feel very secure.

If I haven't ridden my hybrid for awhile it takes maybe a few minutes to adjust my pedal stroke slightly compared with clipless. Although a few months ago I did manage to bark my shin when I tried frantically twisting my foot to get free of the non-existent cleats, instead of just lifting my foot up and setting it down. I hadn't ridden that hybrid for about a month so I was on autopilot.

I've seen a few folks locally using toe clips without straps. Not sure I see the advantage to that. Most use mountain bike type clipless with shoes that are friendly for walking. I prefer Look and Shimano SPD-SL on my road bikes but those shoes aren't great for walking -- the protruding plastic cleats are like high heels in reverse.
For the OP, I would echo your advice and much of the rest of what's been said:

Keep your toe straps only slightly snug. For most riding there's no need to tie your feet to the pedal.
The same toe strap setting should be easy to tip the foot into when you start up.
Train yourself to pull your foot back, not sideways.
Find shoes with a reasonably stiff sole and set your saddle height so your foot pressure at bottom is not too high.
Shoes for long distance need a stiffer sole than for short distances.
Whatever the stiffness, the sole must be smooth to allow easy entry and exit.
Don't put slotted cleats on your shoes.
Practice slowing down with brakes on the level, uphills and downhills, removing one foot from a pedal, and putting it down as you stop, remaining elegantly in balance. Don't release the brakes until you have two feet on the ground and are comfortably back in balance.
Practice starting up with one foot its toeclip, getting on the saddle in the first downstroke, and tipping into the second pedal as the it comes up. If you master this you can start up from a stoplight with nearly full power, spinning quickly up to cadence and with your mind free to consider the next shifts.

I don't own any bikes with clipless pedals so I can't say anything about switching back and forth between them. I would think that if you are starting from clipless, you should stay carefully on your toeclip bike until you have it mastered, then transition back to use both of your good skill-sets.
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Old 01-08-20, 01:24 PM
  #22  
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I would suggest getting a set of pedals that are two sided flat and spd and move to spd clipless. IMHO, this set up is far superior to toe-straps. I only use clips and straps on my eroica ready bike.
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Old 01-08-20, 01:48 PM
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I went back to riding toe clips and straps for about a year a few years back. I found it was no big deal, but I'd started with them when I was like 12, which was a long time ago now... Still had the muscle memory for it. Overall though, clipless is a better system. Functionally it's about the same as toe clips, straps and cleats, but much more comfortable. That said I didn't find going back to toe clips to be any huge hindrance. For a commuter bike there's still a lot to be said for clips/straps. That's what I always used before I moved to LA. (bike commuting here is too dangerous)

The main problem with clips/straps is that cycling shoes appropriate for them are no longer easily available. For commuting and casual riding the shoes aren't necessary. However, for more 'serious' riding, they are, IMHO. Almost everyone BITD with enough interest in bkes to have a Reynolds 531 or Columbus fancy bike would have been riding with cleated leather cycling shoes, that is to say all racer types and most club riders. Some club riders used Avocets or Bata bikers instead.
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Old 01-08-20, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by garryg View Post
Do many of you guys and gals still ride with toe clips.
Yes, I won't ride without them. For me, it's more of a safety issue. Without foot retention, my foot may slip off when I hit a bump I don't see. Then a crash is more probable. I don't like to crash. It feels really weird now to ride without them, like riding naked, but worse, far less secure. The bike feels more a part of me with clips. I'm in it, not just on it.

After a couple rides you will get used to them. It is still difficult for me on rare occasion to clip in, especially on an incline from a dead stop. But there are workarounds...
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Old 01-08-20, 03:45 PM
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I've been using toe clips since I was 14, and I'm 58 now. I'm perfectly adept at them, but I prefer SPD cleats. SPDs are easier to get into and out of, especially if you're learning for the first time or have taken a break from toe clips. But if you try toe clips, you'll know soon enough if they're for you. They're not for everyone, and don't let anyone bully you into thinking you need them or you need cleats. It's a matter of preference. I ride a lot, and I have foot problems, so my pain is less when I use cleats. But my wife tried both toe clips and cleats. She just didn't like them and doesn't use either now.

If you're pretty sure you want some form of foot retention, I recommend SPD cleats. There are lots of different pedal styles and shoe styles available. Some of the shoes have recessed cleats so walking in them is no problem. There are even SPD sandals for warm summer days. There are pedals that allow plain street shoes on one side and cleats on the other so you're not limited to a kind of footwear on your bike. I have these pedals on my commuter bike, as sometimes I wear dress shoes or sneakers or work boots.
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Tom Reingold, tom@noglider.com
New York City and High Falls, NY
Blogs: The Experienced Cyclist; noglider's ride blog

“When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments.” — Elizabeth West, US author

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