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How much am I losing by using clip pedals?

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How much am I losing by using clip pedals?

Old 05-12-22, 03:41 PM
  #1  
greatbasin
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How much am I losing by using clip pedals?

I have some pedals, I think they're KKT and they have the Christophe cages and leather straps.
I want to know how great a disadvantage I would put myself at to use these with cycling shoes or sneakers rather than SPD pedals and modest SPD shoes.

I read various sources that compared variables with respect to efficiency and comfort.

https://www.researchgate.net/publica...utdoor_sprints
This study focused on power output or mechanical efficiency and my summarization is that it found it difficult to quantify any mechanical advantage from extremely stiff (carbon fiber sole) cycling shoes to more flexible ones (nylon soles). However, it did not compare cycling shoes to much more flexible athletic shoes with EVA foam, polyurethane or rubber soles.

https://gizmodo.com/why-you-should-s...pedals-5990381
This article advocates clipless pedals, but it primarily contrasts their benefits compared to platform pedals and not pedals with clips. A lot of the advantages they cite for clipless, could be valid for clips.

https://www.bikeradar.com/features/d...tually-matter/
This article mentions the study in my first link, but also discusses a 2019 study comparing running shoes. That study found substantial benefit to cycling shoes over running shoes, but it also compared clipless pedals to platforms -- so it's not clear what portion of the benefit comes from the pedals and what portion can be ascribed to the shoe type.

One criticism of softer or flexible-soled shoes that I've read isn't related to any measurable inefficiency, but due to their tendency to focus pressure on the ball of the foot rather than disperse it over a larger portion of the shoe sole. This is a comfort issue and outside sprinting disciplines, a very valid one. But we're not proposing pushing tiny track pedals that won't drag on the banked velodrome with flexible-soled running shoes. If we're not going clipless, we're much more likely to be pedaling on reasonably large platforms and possibly with clips and straps.

I realize clips and straps are pretty much relegated to vintage status at this point -- hence posting this question in the vintage section here. I'm also asking from a perspective of touring -- perhaps 70 to 100 mile days but not at race pace. In this context, 80 seconds over 25 miles is irrelevant. The comfort factor is easy to test and that's really the only way to get the answer that's meaningful. What's not so obvious is how much energy is wasted and to what degree muscle engagement is hindered by pedaling with sneakers in clips, and how much cycling shoes in clips ameliorates those losses.

Prior to researching this, I would have thought that repeatedly compressing rubber soles would waste a lot of energy compared to hard soles that would transfer energy better. The studies that show no measurable advantage to carbon fiber soles over nylon cast doubt on the significance of the hardest soles, but don't go as far as to compare with rubber soles. Comparisons with rubber soles usually also use platform pedals and so combine any penalty of rubber soles with those of platform pedals. It's probably been a long time since anyone seriously considered whether cycling shoes with clip pedals were at any disadvantage to clipless, but for the vintage bike that gets ridden, it's a question that still matters over the long-haul.
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Old 05-12-22, 03:45 PM
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As long as you can pull up off the downstroke with some kind of foot retention then I would think the differences are negligible in spd vs clips.

Wearing better fitting clothing or changing your position to be more aerodynamic is probably an easier way to save watts.
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Old 05-12-22, 04:13 PM
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I have used toeclips since 1968 and have no plans or desire to change. I keep them just loose enough to enable me to jerk either foot straight back and out when desired or needed.

What really impacts my power output is seat height / leg extension. I got on the Bianchi on Sunday morning and unremarkably felt like Superman compared to my performance on the mountain bike, but only about half of the difference was attributable to differences in tire width and bike weight. The rest resulted from my seat post having gradually slipped downward by about 3 cm or so on the mountain bike. Raising the saddle on the mountain bike let me push a higher gear and climb far better than I had been.
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Old 05-12-22, 04:16 PM
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My experience is purely unscientific. But when I bought a modern bike a few years ago I had never rode clipless, did not have the shoes for them and didn't see the point for my casual riding. The guy at the LBS I bought it from just gave me a pair of cheap Wellgo pedals with cheap plastic cages and nylon straps. However after a few weeks, I noticed that the black finish was wearing off of my crank arms and I was wearing through the rubber holder for my cadence sensor magnet. That was evidence my feet were all over the place. I made the switch to SPDs and I can't honestly say I remember the actual numbers, but my cadence improved and I want to say there was a 2 mph improvement in average speed over routes I was riding. The only new issue was "hot spots" on my feet when I rode with a lot of climbing and those were coming from my SPD pedals. Once I switched to Look compatible pedals and cleats, that went away probably due to better distribution of force when pedaling.

One of these days as an experiment, I should try that with one of my vintage bikes. But I'm sure I wouldn't like the looks of modern pedals on them even though they are just old bike boom bikes.
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Old 05-12-22, 04:32 PM
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Forms of clipless pedals, suchs as SPD, have no performance advantage over traditional cycling shoes with cleats. The advantages are primarily comfort, safety and injury prevention. Most early clipless adopters remarked on the increased comfort of not having their feet encased in a tightly cinched strap. From a safety perspective, clipless offers quicker and hands-free release. Finally. most traditional cycling shoes have fixed cleats, while most clipless systems allow some float. An improperly positioned fixed cleat can lead to injury (generally associated with the kness), while floating cleats greatly reduce this probability.

Few cyclists, actually pull on the upstoke, including professionals. It's more a case of unweighting the foot on the upstroke. That can be achieved with any shoe. Cleated shoes do however have a performance advantage in driving the cranks through the top and bottom of the pedal stroke.

BTW, did anybody see Jeopardy a few nights ago, where the clue contained SPDs? The host, Ken Jennings, pronounced it as ess-pee-deee-ess instead of ess-pee-dees. He may be knowledgeable but he isn't bicycle savy.

Last edited by T-Mar; 05-12-22 at 04:37 PM.
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Old 05-12-22, 04:39 PM
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If you're not going for a PR, does it matter?

I rode exclusively on eggbeaters since they came out in '02 until a few years ago after a hip injury. (The reason I stopped wasn't float, it was the shock of unclipping that spring echoing through my leg...) Since then I've been riding just clips/straps, even on the occasional fixie day and soft-soled casual shoes (Chucks or Vans). If' you already have a decent spin and aren't going out to hammer competitively, the soft sole keeps you for over exerting and the clips/straps don't need to be cinched tight.
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Old 05-12-22, 04:55 PM
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Prior to clipless pedals, toeclips and straps would often make my foot fall asleep, especially on colder days. Once I went clipless, these issues went away. I'm pretty sure that I could do just fine with platform pedals, but I feel addicted to clipless. Eroica/Cino rides are the only times I use toeclips and straps. I keep the straps very, very loose on those rides as I'm not confident I can pull out quickly if needed.
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Old 05-12-22, 05:10 PM
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I find clipless pedals to be much more convenient. Getting in and out is always the hassle for me. I run Clips on my Panasonic, and clipless on the rest. I find it more nostalgic and taking me back in time, but it can be a pain. I know, with practice comes perfection...but...
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Old 05-12-22, 05:27 PM
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Are you shaving your arms and legs too? 70secs over 40kms...


Depends on what you want. I like clipless pedals and always hated toe straps. I also like shaving my legs, it just feels great.

If you're racing, it only makes sense to do everything the top racers are doing, get the advantage of all the R&D they've done to achieve the best times in the most efficient ways.
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Old 05-12-22, 05:39 PM
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My experience - my first cycling performance breakthrough was toeclips and straps. Big. Pulling the straps tight. Bigger. A few years later, cycling shoes and cleats. Another big jump. I raced that combo back when that's what everybody did. Loved it. Pulled performances that I didn't think were possible for this body.

During that time, I encountered knee issues. (Fallout from a very serious injury, rapid work to get back into racing form, breaking a bunch of "rules" surrounding that knee condition and probably genetics and luck; not the pedals.) Over the following years I came to realize that the cleat which locked my feet in place were a gift for my knees.

Clipless came along. I stayed away until a salesman told me about the black LOOK cleats that lock out float. Got on board. And you know what? My performances with clipless are exactly what I saw with toeclips, straps, cycling shoes and cleats; all but the decidedly different starts and stops. I use the same model shoes, just different cleats for the two. And forget which system I am on. Sometimes it's "oh yeah, I'm riding fix gear. Gotta remember those straps! Sometimes I forget and gracefully fall over.

I talk of cycling shoes. I also used a leather moccasin style shoe with a thick rubber sole reinforced with a steel shank. Soft leather so toestraps pulled tight gripped them well. Soles wore to a cleat-like groove. (I rode up both sides of Seattle's N 65th St to Aurora on my 42-17 fix gear with that combo a few times.) The shoes I hate to ride in are soft soled running shoes and the like. I find them completely inferior to cycling shoes, those moccasin shoes (which I wish were still around) and nearly all men's dress shoes. (Slippery leather soles can be an issue and they do not stay "dress" if I'm riding them but they suit the ride well. I can easily imagine adding cleats and being quite happy.

I haven't directly answered your question but I'm guessing you can find something here that helps. If you do want to try cleats - the old (now discontinued?) Exustar aluminum track cleats (~$34 not the far more expensive ones that are for the velodrome only) are very good cleats. The issue is that they use the 3-bolt LOOK pattern so you need shoes compatible with those. SPD shoes are not compatible (but a lot of the Lake shoes have bolts for both; the cheap Lakes work very well for my feet).

I hope Exustar brings those aluminum slotted cleats back or someone else copies them. (I've been buying them since ~2000. Any patents should have expired by now.)
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Old 05-12-22, 06:51 PM
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I currently use SPD's as well as clips & straps. With the clips & straps, I use both shoes with rigid soles and slotted cleats as well as "touring" style shoes with stiff rubber soles.
In all of these, the stiffness is important for comfort. Any flex that produces local pressure points on the feet is a bad thing.

The use of cleats, either SPD or older slotted cleats, provides the ability to generate force over more of the pedal circle. Whether or not that is important is a personal choice.

A quick photo of one of pairs of shoes with slotted cleats that I routinely wear. In fact, I just rode these on a 68 mile ride today...



Steve in Peoria
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Old 05-12-22, 07:34 PM
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I am by no means a expert but have used both. I really much prefer the SPD because of the safety factor. No reaching down to snug up and instant release when instant release is needed. I also feel that they offer more positive power transmission but that is just me. Put another way, nothing on Earth would ever get me to put my feet into traps and rats again as long as I live. I use SPD mountain bike shoes with recessed cleats and love them. Just got a new set after wearing my other set out after thousands of miles of use riding and, sadly walking while carrying the bike, now and again.
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Old 05-12-22, 08:49 PM
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Cleats! Use cleats, safer.
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Old 05-12-22, 11:45 PM
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Cool set-up but how do you keep the metal cages from digging into the tops of your leather shoes?
Before I moved to SPD system, I used my leather cycling shoes with cages and the tops were soon shredded.

Originally Posted by steelbikeguy View Post
I currently use SPD's as well as clips & straps. With the clips & straps, I use both shoes with rigid soles and slotted cleats as well as "touring" style shoes with stiff rubber soles.
In all of these, the stiffness is important for comfort. Any flex that produces local pressure points on the feet is a bad thing.

The use of cleats, either SPD or older slotted cleats, provides the ability to generate force over more of the pedal circle. Whether or not that is important is a personal choice.

A quick photo of one of pairs of shoes with slotted cleats that I routinely wear. In fact, I just rode these on a 68 mile ride today...



Steve in Peoria
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Old 05-13-22, 12:36 AM
  #15  
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Dylan has something to say :-)

Then again, when doing a triathlon I go SPD otherwise I'm likely to go flat.
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Old 05-13-22, 02:45 AM
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Traps and straps for me ! I am not a power rider , although I still push my self to get the most out of my rides. I leave my straps loose enough to slip in and out without fussing with them like I used to when I was young and faster. I have never used those new fangled options so I can’t comment on which is better, I just don’t feel like changing at this point .
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Old 05-13-22, 04:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Kabuki12 View Post
Traps and straps for me ! I am not a power rider , although I still push my self to get the most out of my rides. I leave my straps loose enough to slip in and out without fussing with them like I used to when I was young and faster. I have never used those new fangled options so I canít comment on which is better, I just donít feel like changing at this point .
+1. Another old fart here. All my road bikes are quill pedals, leather straps and steel toe cages. Straps are set to be easy to slide into and out of but snug enough to enable pulling up. Then the straps are wired down and donít change. I now ride Adidas Sambas with an ABS plastic liner to improve stiffness. But I can walk about and drive and go shopping just fine. And Iím, apparently, the last human on the planet the pulls up on the back stroke. I learned this as I dealt with a patella tracking error and pulling up uses a different set of muscles which rests the others. Good for me on occasion. My experience includes about 450 miles of fully loaded touring on unpaved rail trails. No worries. But, then, I always ride solo so no one laughs at my ancient pedals n straps.

No, the cages never tear the tops of my shoes apart. Never heard of that. No never used cleats. I ride for fun and cardio at my pace of the day. Rather go further than faster.
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Old 05-13-22, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Biketiger View Post
Cool set-up but how do you keep the metal cages from digging into the tops of your leather shoes?
Before I moved to SPD system, I used my leather cycling shoes with cages and the tops were soon shredded.
Are you talking about the instep or on the top of the toebox? If it's the latter, the toebox should not be touching the toe clip. With the cleat properly positioned so that the ball of the foot is over the pedal spindle, there should be a small gap between the toebox and the toe clip. If not, you need a longer toe clip or to add washers between the pedal and toe clip mounting bracket. The toe clip is only to hold the strap open, to facilitate shoe entry and removal, and to hold the strap's position on the instep. The toe clip should not touch the shoe at any point other than in the immediate vicinity of the strap loop.

If you're talikng about the strap mounting loop on the instep, then the cleats should hold the shoes in a stable enough position that there should little, if any, movement between the shoe and toe clip. However, shoe damage in this are can reduced by fabricating a buffer between the shoe and toe clip. Cut a couple of slits in it, so that the toe strap can be fed through it, to hold it in place. You can use leatrher or any other suitable material. I made mine from old, thin, foam insoles. They may also ease some discomfort.

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Old 05-13-22, 08:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Biketiger View Post
Cool set-up but how do you keep the metal cages from digging into the tops of your leather shoes?
Before I moved to SPD system, I used my leather cycling shoes with cages and the tops were soon shredded.
The toe clips should be shaped to provide space for the shoes. If they don't, the toe clips might be bent. This can result from various events, such as the rider stepping on the cages while trying to flip the pedals into position, or even from the forward tip of the toe clip striking the ground while riding (usually when trying to get the feet into the clips).

On my bikes with low bottom brackets, this second scenario happens to me now and then.

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Old 05-13-22, 09:13 AM
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Old fart here who dumped toe clips when he was a young fart. I started using Look road pedals in the late 80s and both Shimano and Onza pedals in the early 90s. I won’t use road clipless pedals…the cleat is too hard to walk in and there is no advantage to them…but double sided mountain bike clipless pedals are far superior to toe clips. Trying to flip a pedal while riding up a rocky trail was nearly impossible and the toeclips catching on the rocks was a hazard.

As to the power advantage and the whole “people don’t pull up on the pedals” issue, try riding up that same rocky trail without being attached to the pedal. You’ll soon find that you do pull up on hard effort and being clipped into clipless is advantageous.
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Old 05-13-22, 09:28 AM
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My experience is that it is not really a matter of gaining or losing some kind of advantage, other than what works best for you and the style of riding you are doing. I still have and use flat, spd and spd-sl and like all of them on the bikes they are on. I also have 2 bikes with one side spd and the other flat. Lately, I have been going to mostly spd simply for the reason I get off the bike more often and take more steps than I used to. I absolutely prefer spd pedals with both sides spd. I find the spd/flat dual side, while not really hard, sometimes I miss getting the spd side flipped up with the toe of the shoe.
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Old 05-13-22, 09:38 AM
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Originally Posted by T-Mar View Post
BTW, did anybody see Jeopardy a few nights ago, where the clue contained SPDs? The host, Ken Jennings, pronounced it as ess-pee-deee-ess instead of ess-pee-dees. He may be knowledgeable but he isn't bicycle savvy.
I caught that right away, mentioned it to my significant other. She just looked at me blankly (Speedplay people, don't go there). I prefer Ken Jennings, but that faux pas bordered on the unforgiveable. I blame NBC. It took like 15 seconds to put it out of my mind. I think Mattea is good, very well-read, depending on categories. My money is on a Matt/Amy battle to the death. I'd rather have Amy over for a beer, because I think her sarcasm is much greater than she lets on.

There has been a lot of research done. I'm not sure I agree with any of it, or all of it, some of it or naught.

I can say, after doing triathlons with toe clips and straps on running shoes, that the combination sucked for me. It hurt and I sure didn't feel faster.

I can say, after watching a certain BF member ride Dairyland Dare on a 2-sp 1933 bike while wearing Vanns (I think) that I don't see a huge advantage in clipless, either.

I can say, after watching my former road champion friend fall against a curb and get 17 staples in his head, that multiple straps can be a hazard to get out of.

I can say, after running two spokes into my own leg from the front wheel, that remaining strapped in during a front-ender may not be the best idea.

I can say, after falling over several times onto other people, that even clipless can be difficult if your left leg doesn't work as well as it should.

I've watched dozens of young guys in tennis shoes climb very well on 23-lb Surly Long Haul Truckers, because, well, who would wear clipless on a bike with that name?

The best riders I know are messengers. They never clip in, on the job or not. There's that.

But everyone hadda have those original Looks.
I run Keo2Max or equivalents on everything.
Can't walk worth a lick at rest stops.
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Last edited by bamboobike4; 05-13-22 at 09:48 AM.
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Old 05-13-22, 10:13 AM
  #23  
squirtdad
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my 2 cents, worth just about that

I use all spd, spd-sl clipless and to a much lesser amount clips and straps.

I find the common advantage to all 3 is that my food is positioned correctly on the pedal and no energy is spent adjusting position

IMHO the shoe you are wearing makes more difference that the clip or clipless systems, you get more efficiency from a stiff sole than a soft tennis shoe

I like clipless, it is for me, convenient, use use clip on my Cino/ Eroica bike

I use spd for commuting, as it is the easiest to get in and out of multiple times

I use spd-sl for long rides, training (I tell my self it is training) as it feels more efficient and spreads pressure out
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Old 05-13-22, 11:35 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
As to the power advantage and the whole ďpeople donít pull up on the pedalsĒ issue, try riding up that same rocky trail without being attached to the pedal. Youíll soon find that you do pull up on hard effort and being clipped into clipless is advantageous.
Good point. 99.99% of the time I don't pull up, but when it's needed, that extra bit of power can make the difference between walking and riding. More significantly, on bumpy roads (paved or otherwise) clips or clipless pedals keep your foot from falling off the pedal.
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Old 05-13-22, 11:51 AM
  #25  
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I use clips and straps. I no longer use cleats. The straps are cinched down but not uber-tightly.

Stiff-soled shoes really help - clipped or clipless.

Clips damage the tips/toes of your shoes - metal on leather. C'est la vie. I wear mine as a badge of honor. It's not a beauty contest.
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