After many years of riding with toe clips, I am giving some thought to making a switch to cycling shoes and cleats. I have used the clips because my left foot points to the outside from a badly set fracture when I was 12 years old. The play in the clip accommodates the misalignment. Lately however, I have noticed a certain amount of lost motion in my foot/pedal link and suspect that it may be making my stroke less efficient.
I am not an aggressive rider and have no interest in racing. I typically ride my road bike 60 to 80 miles a week at a moderate pace; seldom over a 15 mph average and I seldom ride in groups. But, I plan to ride a century in the next six months and want to have my gear and my body as ready and efficient as possible. This is, I guess, the main reason for the question about the cleats.
I would appreciate hearing your opinions about the advantages and disadvantages of cleats vs toe clips. I am specifically interested in knowing whether cleats will accommodate my toe-out and any recommendations for cleat/shoe combinations.
The clipless pedal cleats that mount on cycling shoes can usually be adjusted to include some toe-in-or toe-out, so that would help with your issue.
I switched to clipless pedals earlier this year, and after an initial learning period (including, ahem, a broken wrist from tipping over on a hill...), I now love them. I feel much better in them than in the clips/cages I previously had. It's easier to get in and out, and they allow some twisting movement of my feet compared to snugged-down clips, which increases comfort and, paradoxically, power transfer.
I'm still a bit nervous using them on the mountain bike (no qualms on the road bike), but even there, they feel better than plain platform pedals - I feel like I'm much more securely connected to my bike and get much better pedaling strength.
Of course the one other downside is that you can only use them with cycling shoes, unless you get one of the double-sided SPD/platform pedals (I have a pair, and am finding I prefer to be clipped in, but it's nice to have the option for regular platforms on the commuter bike; I use full-time Shimano clipless pedals on the road (Ultegras) and mountain bike (double-sided SPDs) now).
In a nutshell, toe clips are almost obsolete. Go to your local bike shop, sporting goods store or even an online catalog to see how many new bikes feature toe clips nowdays. In fact many mid-high end bikes are sold with no pedals at all due to the huge variety of cleat/pedal systems available.
Yes you can still buy toe clips and they will always have their niche but cleats are much more efficient. Believe me, if you switch to cleats and proper cycling shoes you will see a HUGE difference in performance. But there is a learning curve and you must choose your shoe/cleat combination carefully.
The main difference in switching to cleats is not just the pedal/shoe interface but the shoe itself. "Real" cycling shoes have a very stiff sole. Flexion is detrimental to an efficient pedal stroke. That stiffness will feel foreign at first until you get used to it. It may even result in numb toes until your feet adjust.
On the plus side, clipless pedal systems spread the load over your entire shoe instead just the clip and strap so they are far more comfortable. That difference will manifest itself even more after several hours in the saddle.
You will be facing several decisions, mainly what cleat system you prefer. That will dictate which pedals and which shoes will work for you. Not all cleats work with all shoes or pedals. Most will accommodate your left foot issues because they adjust 10 degrees or so in or out. Some systems "float" to allow your foot different angles during different parts of the pedal stroke. These will feel really strange at first until you get used to them.
Have a look at online vendors such as Performance Bike or Bike Nashbar. That will get you started. For someone in your situation I strongly recommend either the Look system or Shimano SPD. Both offer the best variety of shoes and cleats.
One more thing......cleats are much harder to get out of than toe clips. After years of using the latter you will instinctively pull your foot back when you are nearing a stop. That won't do you any good with cleats. You have to twist your foot to release them. We used say there are two kinds of riders who switch to cleats: Those who have fallen down because they couldn't release in time, and those who will fall down because they couldn't release in time <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> Many pedal designs allow adjustment for the amount of pressure needed to release. Make sure yours are on the loose side. But don't make them too loose or your foot will release when you least expect it. A quick shot of spray lubricant also make release easier.
Trust me. Once you adjust to cleats on a long ride you'll never go back to toe clips.
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
I have clipless pedals and like the others, really like them. I have a pair of Shimano shoes that look a bit like a cross-trainer shoe with the cleat inset into the bottom. They are pretty stiff, but still okay for short walks.
My pedals are Shimano on one bike and Bike Nashbar on the other. They can be adjusted to cant out a bit and the tension can be adjusted also to make them easier to release.
Once you get used to twisting your foot out, you'll be fine, but I admit falling once or twice and fell at least once with toe clips too because I had them strapped down.
Don't get me started, you know how I get.
I've never used anything but toe clips and have never felt the need to switch. I've ridden many centuries and my longest ride has been 149 miles. Cleats may be more efficient, but if you have something you like you really don't need to switch. Riding a century has as much to do with attitude than anything else. You just have to decide you're going to do it and then train.
I have used the clips because my left foot points to the outside from a badly set fracture when I was 12 years old.
Most cleats have a few degrees of "float" where your foot is allowed to swivel laterally. Speedplay pedals probably have the most and require getting use too. I bought after market market cleats for my DuraAce road pedals that have extra float. Many MTB riders have gone to a pedals that look like a fat BMX pedal that can both lock you in, or allow free-riding. You'll see bike trials riders with those.
I was racing back when pedals changed from clips to clipless. There was a huge difference in comfort. First, you don't have a strap biting into the top of your foot when you're hammering up a big hill or trying to sprint. Second, it's a lighter system and much more adjustable, allowing your entire shoe to be the pedal base.
Clipless are also much safer for MTB riding. I have a 4" scar on my shin from when I stalled on a hill, yanked out my foot from the clip, and the quill came around a sliced my shin. (back in the stone ages when MTB's came with clip pedals) You can bunny hop 100% better with clipless too, road or off road. Fly right over those rail road tracks! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
I've used a few different kinds of pedals, so here are some quick thoughts...
Flats -- Inexpensive, easy learning curve, no special shoes required, movement not constrained. No firm connection to the bike, however. Still, I like these for my commuting/everyday bike.
Clips (i.e., cage with strap) -- simple add on, adds some security. However, the foot exit procedure is actually more complex than it is with most "cleat" systems, because with the clips you have to move your foot backward and then to the side (ground) to catch yourself.
SPD style -- Pretty inexpensive, and pretty universal. This style limits your side-to-side movement ("float"). They work pretty well, but if money is no concern, my preference is for...
Frog/Speedplay system -- Pricey, but a really smart and elegant design, with lots of unrestricted "float." Pika, given your remark about your left foot, you might give these a look if you can afford them.
I ride mosty on the road these days, but I usually opt for "mountain" style pedals, because it gives me the option to used a recessed shoe if I wish. Also, some pedal designs are one sided. I prefer "dual entry" style as the starting-from-a-stop-light procedure is made a little more simple.
Well, I went out yesterday and bought a pair of shoes, cleats and pedals. In an hour or so, I'm going out on a ride to try them out. I plan to ride a flat course along a road with a separate bike path and I also plan to make a lot of starts and stops to practice getting into and out of the pedals. Still, I'll probably come home with a few contusions. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" />
Made it home from my maiden voyage with cleats. I didn't fall over and found that, indeed, the pedaling is much more efficient. I wound up making a familiar loop about 2 mph faster than normal with clips and straps. Not sure whether that is the old placebo effect at work or whether the cleats and cycling shoes help that much. Time will tell.
It takes time to get good at clicking into the pedals with the cleats. I am still at the fumble and fuss stage but could see some improvement over time. It helped that I made a chalk mark on my shoe to indicate where the shoe and pedal axle were when the cleats were engaged. I'm getting so that I don't need to look at the foot as much now.
I suspect that after I have gotten a bit cocky, I will come up to a stop, try to pull back to disengage and majestically flop to one side or another. I hope nobody is watching when it happens; I'm sure it will.
I just got back from another ride. Fell over twice: once to the right and once to the left. Not sure whether that makes me a centrist, an uncommitted or an independent. I have bruises on both hips; nice to be symmetrical yet embarrassed. Another statistic for Trailrunners two categories: a) have fallen and b) will fall.
Welcome to the club Pika <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />
Ever since I started using these I haven't fallen once.
But seriously, once you get comfortable with your new system, look for conveniently placed telephone poles, street lights, or signs as you come to a stop at an intersection. You can use them to balance yourself instead of unclipping and dropping your foot down.
_________________________ If you only travel on sunny days you will never reach your destination.*
* May not apply at certain latitudes in Canada and elsewhere.
I used to ride using toe clips and found that the bar going over my foot aggrivated my right big toe. I switched to look pedals and found that much better. No more cinching down the straps and remembering to unstrap before coming to a stop. The look pedals have enough free play to allow some side to side foot movement and you can adjust the cleats to compinsate for differences in foot angle or alignment. All that is for riding on the road. I tried using the looks trail riding and got myself in trouble on some technical parts of the trail. So now when riding trails, I switch to regular old flat pedals. It's a good thing too. Last week I over estimated my ability on a section of trail and in a panic I grabbed the front brake instead of the rear and it threw me over the bike. Not sure what the outcome might have been had I been fixed to the pedals?????????
I use Soma Quad Gate toe clips, with MKS Touring pedals. I wear very wide shoes, and I have tried cleated shoes, but none of the shoe manufacturers make a bicycle shoe in wide sizes. If you have wide feet, finding cleated shoes that fit properly, might be tough.
Over the years I've used several different "systems" for attaching my feet to the pedals (nothing, cage & straps, cage-straps-cleats, SPD's) and I finally settled on what I consider the most comfortable (read most float) system out there - Power Grips. They give (I would estimate) a good 90% or more of the efficiency of "clipless" pedals while giving more float than any of them, easier on the knees and legs, allowing you to ride with any type of shoe/boot you desire (I use my old Specialized Rock Hoppers - with the clips removed - just 'cause I like them), allow much easier "release" than any clipless pedals I've seen (they were developed for mountain bikers due to riders getting hung-up with clipless setups) and - last but by no means least - they are dirt cheap compared to the total clipless package (special pedals - shoes) - this is perhaps why you don't see them pushed that much on the retail sites - nobody's making big bucks off of them. Unless you are a dedicated racer who needs to shave seconds off his/her time I think these are probably a better all-around choice.
I use the clipless system as well, but do alot of off road biking, and stay clipped in the entire time. My only regret is that you can only use your clip shoes. In the winter, my feet get cramped for space inside my biking shoes with the wool socks and waterproof cover... Oh well...
The clipless peddles are much more efficient. Also they make peddles that are dual purpose. They have the standard pedal platform on one side so you can ride unclipped and the SPD binding (clipless) on the other so you can clip in. I like having the option when mountain biking because I don't like to be clipped in in more technical situations. The pedal is the Shimano m324 or Nashbar makes a version that is cheaper that I believe they call the Rodeo.