June 24, 2009

A case for clipless

By Elisa | 22 Comments »

(can you tell I enjoy taking on the saddle shots?)

Well, I have done it. I have gone clipless. Sold out, gone roady…say what you will. I can take it. Go ahead.

ok, done?

Cycling friends (and the local bike shop guys) have extolled the virtues of clipless riding since the beginning. I eschewed the very idea, saying that I didn’t want to be a ‘clippy person’, clicking into shops and being forced to wear special shoes. I was perfectly happy with my Power Strips. I loved them actually, as much as I loved being able to hop on my bike in heels, or Vans, or flip flops. I was simply not ready to commit to being a ‘roadie’ (a term I hate, like fixie kid, or commuter…can’t we all just be cyclists? I digress…).

Then I did a really, really hard ride. My feet kept slipping from my Power Grips, they broke off midway through an uphill climb, the soles of my feet were aching from soft soles and I knew I could get more power if only I could pull on the uphill. Not to mention the hiking I had to do in soft soled Vans (still my favorite shoes for riding, btw). Power Grips are incredible on normal hills, but major climbing is a bit of a strain for them.

A week went by and I talked to my ‘clippy’ friends. I visited the bike shop. Most importantly, I found out that I could get reversible pedals! Not forced to wear only clipless shoes?! This is getting better. Wait, there are shoes that I can wear that don’t click?! All for under $200. Things were looking up. I was still nervous and, honestly, a bit worried about what friends would think. We have always said that we want cycling to be more accessible and scoff at the idea of full spandex kits, choosing a bike for it’s weight and spending all of our money on accessories.

I was at a crossroads. Do I go clipless and increase my speed and make my climb over the mountain easier, or do I hold tight to my ‘urban riding’ pride? For a flat city, there would be no question-no clipless. However, with a mountain to traverse and rolling hills the entire way, a little help would be nice.

In the end, efficiency won out (hey, I do have a degree in Economics). I bought the pedals and shoes, had a quick lesson at Homewood Cycles and was ready.

I love it. I was really kind of hoping to hate it. Nope. My average speed increased 3.5 mph and my knees feel better. My climb each day is still hard, but not as hard as it used to be. Between the heat and the mountain, my commute is a bitch. However, now it is my bitch.

Shoes: Bontrager Race Mountain Shoes $89.99
Pedals: Shimano PD-M545 $89.99

If you decide to take the plunge, I highly recommend these for beginners who don’t want to fully commit. I can take off for the bars in heels, or clip in for a serious ride. Best of both worlds.

Oh, and I have only fallen twice. I consider that a success.

Are you clipless? What do you think of it?

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  1. On June 24th, 2009 Philip said:

    I am sure I echo the thoughts of all readers by saying that as soon as you turn to the dark side, it is actually quite bright and you kick yourself thinking 'Hell why didnt i do this ages ago' If I now ride a bike without clips I feel naked.As well as all the advantages you have outlinned It also gives me a greater sense of togetherness with my bike. As if we are 'in it together' whatever trip we decide to undertake, I hope you find the same connection.
    I think its great news !!!!!

  2. On June 24th, 2009 Jen said:

    I did it at the beginning of the summer. I found a pair of Nike Mountain shoes on sale at my local shop for $35. I purchased the Shimano
    PD-M520. I got them on sale at Performance for $49.99.

    I, too, fell twice… on the first day. Once right in my own driveway. But I love them. I haven't commuted on this bike yet because I'm not totally comfortable but I have taken the bike to the trail. I have so much power now.

    I have certain bikes for certain tasks and I put the new pedals on my touring bike. It's for longer rides. I have a hybrid and a three speed for commuting/errands. So it made sense to go clipless on the touring bike.

  3. On June 24th, 2009 ecomarci said:

    I just went clipless this summer when I got my first road bike. I definitely wouldn't go back! Just be especially careful clipping in and out at traffic stops, I've had a few frighteningly close calls/falls.

    I'm still in the market for a "real" communter bike (as opposed to my mountain and road bikes), but I think I'd go hybrid for that.

  4. On June 24th, 2009 Trisha said:

    So question: why are pedals you clip into called "clipless"?!? I have always found this so confusing.

    Living in a hilly area myself, I've considered it, but speed is not that important to me, and not packing an extra pair of shoes to wear at my destination is. Of course, my commute and daily errands do not include an actual mountain. :-) Might give those Power Grips a try, though!

  5. On June 24th, 2009 Cyclin' Missy said:

    I went clipless this spring when I bought my first actual road bike. I confirm the facts that power and ease increase when your feet are firmly attached to the pedals.

    Like you, I also noticed that my knees hurt less. The cleats actually help me keep my feet and legs in the proper position instead of turning them out when I get tired. This puts less stress on my knees. Who knew?

    I also got mountain shoes even though I use them on a road bike. They're much easier to walk around in.

    I endorse!

  6. On June 24th, 2009 wle said:


    though you can get decent 2 sided mtb pedals for $20

    and mtb shoes for $40

    and they will all go on any bike, including a high-zoot road bike


  7. On June 24th, 2009 pinedae said:

    I am still in my Power Grips. You will have to drag me — kicking and screaming — to the bike shop. Of course, my local terrain is not mountainous. Hilly, yes.

  8. On June 24th, 2009 Filigree said:

    I have a pretty bad sense of balance when dismounting my bike as it is, so I don't ever see myself adding the clipping/unclipping factor to it. It is fascinating though!

  9. On June 24th, 2009 suburbanbikemama said:

    I'm with filigree. I just borrowed a Road bike with the foot holder pedals for my tri. I had the husband take off the holder thing ( aren't I so techie?) b/c I was already about to fall on my ass. Having my feet stuck to the pedals would freak me the frick out. and yes, I don't get "less" part of the clip action…. I guess it refers to what i call the foot holder-less part.. no?

  10. On June 24th, 2009 wle said:

    the whole clip/clipless terminology is totally confusing

    no one understands it :)


  11. On June 24th, 2009 Simon said:


    The old toe-cage and strap arrangements were referred to as 'clip-in', and so cleat-pedals became known as 'clip-less'.

    @Elisa M

    I went clipless about 6 months back, and it really has become one of those headslap, derrrr purchases. I can pedal harder, pull up on the back of a pedal stroke, I no longer slip out of the pedals in the wet, AND I'm not destroying Hi-tops at a rate of a pair a month (the teeth on platform pedals chew right through them).


    Practice for a month before switching to clipless by twisting your foot as you take it off your platform pedal. Once this motion becomes muscle memory the chances of falling off are greatly reduced.

  12. On June 24th, 2009 merider (M.E.-rider) said:

    next thing you know, you're going to be wearing those funny padded shorts too. ;-) you have crossed to the dark side and will never go back (insert evil laugh here). I personally have never understood the great divide between the 'roadies' and all others. I just ride a bike and happen to wear spandex (probably shouldn't as I scare children and small animals) and cleats. by the way, I dig your vans.

  13. On June 25th, 2009 Mumbleboy said:

    I used to have the reversible pedals too until they wore out and then I got the Crank Brothers Candy pedals thinking I could ride in regular shoes if I wanted. WRONG. While for clipping in, these are so much superior as they are so easy to click in and out of, but they are not made for regular shoes at all.

    I'm still waiting for the perfect pedal, ones you can click in on both sides and also ride in regular shoes.

  14. On June 25th, 2009 April said:

    Sweet, I love my pedals…they keep the feet in alignment and maximize your pedaling power especially important with all the mountain, ahem, hills! :D

  15. On June 25th, 2009 Tinker said:

    I'm waiting for LED un-powered/self-powered, no toe clips clipless pedals myself. Until I can find THAT EXACT combination, I'll just stay with the $1.98 Raleigh pedals that I found on my ressu-Raleigh.

    Have you argued the benefits of half-inch pedals compared to the benefits of 15mm (yet?)?

  16. On June 25th, 2009 Yokota Fritz said:

    I've been riding clipless since 1987, when the term "clipless" made perfect sense :-)

    The previous generation of foot retention systems on pedals are called "toe clips." Pedals with ski-inspired bindings don't have toe clips on them, hence they are "clipless."

  17. On June 26th, 2009 Meaghan said:

    I myself just made the transition to clipless. A self-pronounced klutz and "non-athletic althlete" I never ever ever thought I'd be able to master the art of clipless without racking up a few thousand bucks in hospital bills. However, after a few graceful, slow-motion falls at stop signs in front of throngs of onlookers, I have finally gotten the hang of it. Of course it helps that the guys I ride with are constantly shouting as we near stop signs, "Clip out, Meaghan! CLIP OUT!"

  18. On June 26th, 2009 quesnel62 said:

    Trend bucker here. I used to go clipless, but now prefer toe clips and straps, left loose like a stirrup. It's fine for my needs, and I get to wear my Chucks or work boots. But I do appreciate the power generated by clipless pedals.

  19. On June 27th, 2009 Mark said:

    I went clipless for "performance" reasons. What surprised me was the fact that the biggest advantage was relaxation. With my foot well attached to the pedal I just relaxed and enjoyed cycling more. It actually took a couple of years to fully learn to take advantage of the pulling up etc.

  20. On June 29th, 2009 Chris said:

    I rode clipless for many years, and you know what?
    I don't miss it at all.
    In the countries where cycling is seen as a "normal" activity, one never sees a cyclist wearing cycling shoes or lycra.
    If you're racing, all bets are off. But not very many people do that.

  21. On June 29th, 2009 wle said:

    there are plenty of cycling shoes that don;t look dorky and you can walk in them


    road bike or not, SPD


  22. On June 29th, 2009 Wickham said:

    Welcome to the clip-less world. I wear my Sidi Dominator's everywhere. I used to hate the clicking around everywhere I walk. Now I am just proud that everyone knows I am a cyclist even when my bike is locked up outside.

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