Welcome to our newest installment, #AskPedalPT! If you have a question you’d like answered in the future by our bike PT experts, e-mail us HERE !
‘I’m a bike commuter looking to increase my cycling for longer rides/touring. I’ve been using regular, flat pedals and was wondering: Should I get clipless pedals and shoes?’ -New (but stoked!) Rider
Thanks for your question! Clipless (or ‘clip-less’) pedals are a specialy-designed pedal + shoe/cleat system where the shoe integrates and ‘clips-in’ directly to the pedal surface. This is accomplished by stepping the cleat of your shoe onto the pedal until you hear/feel a ‘click’ and you are then locked in. Trying to pull up to get your foot off does not work, and coming-to-a-stop, embarrassing falls are a general right-of-passage. Just be sure to laugh at yourself- See Fig A.
[Side note: The term ‘clipless’ was created in response to the original cage-style coverings with straps installed on a pedal (called ‘toe-clips‘) as a convenient way to keep the foot anchored to the pedal, and are commonly still used today by many. (See Fig B). Since there is no need for the toe-clips with these newer cleat/pedal systems, the term ‘clipless’ was born, and still used in bike industry today. ]
There are LOTS of different clipless systems and shoes available, but some of the more common are the Shimano SPD, Speedplay, Look, and Crankbrothers Egg Beaters-(See Fig C). Depending on the style of the shoe/cleat, some systems are recessed into the shoe to allow for better walking when off the bike (the cleat is recessed), vs a cleat mounted on top of the sole to the of the shoe, like in Fig D
Generally speaking, we advise new riders considering clipless pedals to meet these 2 simple safety criteria first:
Of course, there are pros/cons for riding clipless pedals, but for most riders exploring longer rides (15-20+miles), clipless pedals/shoes are a really great way to go, and are fully adjustable to your individual body and cycling goals. And, for that reason, we strongly recommend getting your cleats fit by a professional initially, or with any equipment changes, as you’ll be pedaling literally thousands of repetitions in that fixed-foot position, and being off a few millimeters can lead to knee, hip, and ankle pain/injury.
We’ll see you next time on #AskPedalPT!
If you have any questions, comments or feedback, we’d love to hear it! Feel free to contact us HERE
– Kevin Schmidt, PT, MSPT, CMP, Bike PT is the owner and founder of Pedal PT in Portland, Oregon.