Wheel Advice - Clipless Pedals|
Wednesday, June 25, 2003
DirtWorld’s mission in life is to make getting on your bike and riding as simple as possible. To this end, we now offer a weekly advice column for all things related to mountain biking. Got a question? Ask Wheel Advice by sending your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
About Wheel Advice
Jeff Reeds, your friendly advisor, has been mountain biking since the late eighties. He’s endured broken spokes, seats, forks, and one nasty knee injury, in pursuit of the sport, but keeps coming back for more. He is a freelance writer of other outdoor sports (skiing, running and backpacking), travel and gear articles, and he wrote the Cycling and Snow Sports Learn & Share articles at REI.com. A co-founder of the progenitor of DirtWorld, Dirt Northwest, he also writes the monthly Wanderlust column on this site.
Why should I upgrade to clipless?
I've been riding for years with "toe clips" and haven't had any problems. But over the years, my riding buddies have switched to clipless. Now they tease me relentlessly, call me "old school" and in general give me grief. I'm never going to race and I'm definitely not some hardcore hucker. I just love to ride. Am I missing something?
Why indeed? Toe clips work fine, it would seem, so why shell out all that money on new pedals and the shoes that go with them? They answer is simple: Control. I resisted the urge to go clipless for years. Then I found a bargain on some mountain biking shoes and another bargain on the cleats that go in them. Splurging on the pedals appropriate for the cleat, I now had a set of clipless pedals on my old clunker. The first thing I noticed was how different it looked. Without the big toe clips on there, the bike looked sleeker, somehow more professional. I took the bike to the park and practiced getting in and out of the pedals. One bruised hip and knee later, I figured I had it down and went that weekend for a ride on a local trail. The difference was astounding and immediate. One problem I have always had is clearing obstacles with my rear wheel. I could get the front over fine, but getting my weight shifted and lifting up that rear was a problem. Not so with the clipless pedals. I could simply pull up on my pedals and the bike responded dramatically. Soon I was doing smooth bunny hops over low logs and rocks. Schweet.
While laboring up a hill, I found the another advantage. The whole push/pull pedal movement is a well known device to add power (see my article in REI’s Cycling Learn & Share section). That power is amplified by the use of clipless pedals. Toe clips have so much room for movement that much of your pull power is wasted. With clipless pedals there is no wasted energy. The energy you put into your pedals is carried throughout the drivetrain.
One concern with clipless pedals is the fear of being unable to clip out. Except for one case where I had let my pedal get completely gummed up with mud, this has never been a problem. And my new clipless pedals, Crank Brothers Egg Beaters, have plenty of float and are very easy to get in and out of. Float, by the way, is how much movement you have in the pedal before clipping out.
In short, anyone can improve their riding experience by upgrading to clipless pedals. I highly recommend it.
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