Toe clips, clip in or flat pedals and do you pull up on the pedal stroke? - CycleBlaze

Bicycle Travel Forum

Toe clips, clip in or flat pedals and do you pull up on the pedal stroke?

Mike Ayling

Firstly anyone mentioning "clipless" should immediately be banished to the outer darkness's 

They are not clipless you clip in.

I have double sided pedals on my bikes spd and flat and I select my footwear depending on the distance that I intend to ride. I like the spd because they keep my feet at the correct spot on the pedals.

I don't pull up when pedalling.

Reply    Link    Flag
1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Mike Ayling

SPD’s here, which we’ve been riding for nearly a decade.  I don’t pull up either - I probably gave up on that about the same time.  The SPD’s work great for me -very easy to engage and disengage, and easy to ride the flat side when I’m just loafing - which I do more and more all the time.

Reply    Link    Flag
1 week ago
Keith KleinTo Mike Ayling


I have used spd’s ever since I quit racing for touring and decided I needed to walk normally when off the bike, and not like a duck. My experience is that I only consciously pull up when out of the saddle climbing. But in effect I do pull up unconsciously most of the time. I’ll bet you do too. Why? Well, do you lift your foot when you walk? If you do that on flat pedals, you can lose contact with the pedal, so most people maintain a slight pressure, nothing much mind, to keep positive contact with the pedal. Toe-clips and cleats both serve to locate your foot on the pedal without the need for putting weight on your rising foot. That alone provides most of the benefit to using them. So I’ll bet you are more efficient with them than without. 
As an added and not relevant to the topic thought, I’m old enough to remember toe-clips and cleats. I was thrilled once I got the « clip less » (yes , they WERE called that at the time) pedals. Now I could crash without being tied to the bicycle, and getting started or stopping were so much easier. I still have some track pedals and cleats in my parts box if I ever want to go back, but unless I decide to get into geezer racing at the velodrome that’s not very likely.



Reply    Link    Flag
1 week ago
Bob DistelbergTo Mike Ayling

I mostly use spds, but do switch to flat pedals for winter riding. It just feels a little safer, and it allows me to wear warmer footwear. I’m too cheap to buy the outrageously expensive winter cycling shoes.

I will also occasionally throw on a set of flat pedals in the summer, just for the change of pace. I usually switch back after a few days though, after I’ve had my foot slip off a pedal a few times. 

And though I don’t consciously pull up most of the time, on a big hill climb intentionally pulling up can provide a huge sense of relief when your legs are feeling really tired.

Reply    Link    Flag
1 week ago
John PescatoreTo Bob Distelberg

SPD's for touring, with dual sided pedals allowing sneakers, too.

SPD-SL (3 hole cleats) for unloaded road riding where not going to do much/any walking and on a different bike.

Saw a test years ago - outside of professional racers, almost no one actually pulls up on cleats. At best you remove weight from the up stroke, a big increase in efficiency but just reducing power loss not adding upward pull.

My wife and I just did a week-long supported group tour in Wisconsin and the two guides (as does a friend of mine who did the TransAm tour years ago) wore, and swore by,  sandals, one on flat pedals  and one on sandals with cleats - definite packing savings but my cycling shoes seem to develop plenty of toe box scuff marks I'm pretty sure my toes would not appreciate experiencing...

Reply    Link    Flag
1 week ago
Keith AdamsTo Mike Ayling

SPDs for me for decades.  Before that, the Look-style cleat.

I prefer "mountain bike" type shoes to flat-soled road shoes, but I have a pair of cleat-equipped sandals for use on the C&O Canal towpath when it's especially messy.  Otherwise I'll stick with my regular closed-upper shoes.

My favorite LBS has tried to convince me that the latest iteration of platform pedals are the cat's meow.  They have a series of small set screws along the front and rear edges to help keep unclipped footwear from slipping off the pedals.  I'm having none of it, not least because I have something like a half-dozen sets of SPD-style pedals on hand with footwear to match and I don't need to further overfill my bin of spare and antiquated / outmoded parts.

I doubt that I pull up to any significant degree on the upstroke of the pedal revolutions.

Reply    Link    Flag
1 week ago
George HallTo Mike Ayling

I rode with toe clips for many years - mostly in the 70's.  You got used to starting off and then reaching down and pulling the leather strap to cinch your foot in tightly, and then reaching back down and loosening the strap as you were slowing.  These stirrup-like devices to hold your feet in place were known as toe clips - as pedals evolved to instead have a locking device to mate with a cleat on cycling shoes they became known as "clipless" pedals since they didn't have a toe clip- the term "clipping in" was still used to indicate that your feet were secured to the pedal even though it didn't have toe clips.  I'm old enough to have lived through that transition - while the terms may not seem logical to cyclists today, they are when you understand the history, and especially so if you lived through it.

Now for some interesting (perhaps) tidbits; 1.) My Fuji Tour bike, purchased new in Germany in 2019, came equipped with pedals and toe clips.  I had brought Shimano cycling shoes equipped with SPD cleats with me for the 6-month work assignment, but I didn't use them and instead wore sneakers and preferred the toe cleats for my daily commutes and my weekend long rides along the Rhine river.  It was a joy using toe cleats one again, and very convenient to be able to dismount and enter small cafes wearing normal shoes.  I cycled as far as 84 miles a day on my weekend adventures using the toe clips.  2.)  As was mentioned earlier by John, the concept of "pulling up" while you are pedaling is actually a commonly-help myth - we just don't do that. 

Despite what might be gleaned from reading the above paragraphs, I much prefer SPD-type "clipless" pedals to pedals equipped with toe clips for my cross-country touring journeys.  The cleats attach more securely to the pedal and you don't have to tighten and then loosen them as you do with toe clips.  For casual relaxed riding I think toe clips are great, but if you need to cover 60 miles on a loaded bike and ride  efficiently in terms of energy expenditure, I prefer "clipless" pedals. I think I have adequate experience using both toe clips and "clipless" pedals to make this judgement - of course, others may differ and I respect their opinions.  And, FWIW, like Mike I have double sided pedals on my tour bike such that I can use the SPD cleats and clip in on 1 side, or use the flat platform side to ride to dinner in my street shoes.  The only downside to this setup is that you may have to flip the pedal around when you first start to get to the proper side.  

Reply    Link    Flag
1 week ago
Gregory GarceauTo Mike Ayling

A few years ago, I switched from SPDs to flats for one reason:  I like to mix hiking into my bike tours and I hate having to carry an extra pair of shoes on my bike. (Maybe that's two reasons)  Since hiking shoes work better for cycling than SPD shoes work for hiking, my only-one-pair-of-shoes decision was easy.

Keith Adams' protestations aside, I have a pair of those flat pedals with strategically placed anti-slip set screws, and they really are great.

Oh yeah, and when I did use the SPDs, I lifted on the upstroke no more than 5% of the time.

Reply    Link    Flag
1 week ago
Bob DistelbergTo Keith Adams

When I do ride flats, I use those pedals with the little screws to increase grip, and they definitely do that. So much so, in fact, that you have to consciously pick up your foot a little to make small adjustments to your foot placement on the pedal, otherwise your foot just won't move. The only downside of those pedals is that those little screws can tear the heck out of your shins or calves if you're not careful. I think mountain bikers sometimes call them "shin graters". 

Reply    Link    Flag
1 week ago
Paul MulveyTo Mike Ayling

To ensure I am not immediately banished to the outer darkness, I will not mention the word that rhymes with "blipless." I will simply say Crank Brothers Eggbeaters, hereby referred to as CBE. 

When I raced, I was far-more concerned about further securing the foot to the bike, and I rode with Speedplay pedals. Over the years, and when I no longer raced, I did not need that connection to keep me secure in a criterium or bunny-hopping over obstacles. I still ride my road bike with the CBE and shoes, and it works fine for that.

For my bikepacking/touring adventures, I've gone over to the flat side and in addition to the pair of Crank Brothers Stamp pedals on my Inner, I also put them onto my new Specialized Diverge. Why do I ride with flats? (flat pedals, not flat tires, but you probably already knew that).

  1. It's simpler. I don't have to worry about clipping in or not, and can get around on the bike with any type of footwear. But not bare feet as it has these pins to help keep the foot more firmly in position.
  2. It's less weight. I try to keep my packing to a minimal amount of kit. By having flat pedals I only need to bring one set of shoes with me on the journey for both on bike and off bike adventures. The disadvantage is if it rains, my sole (no pun intended) pair of shoes is now wet.
  3. It's comfortable. I use Five-Ten mountain bike shoes with a "sticky" sole to join me in my adventure. But I have used trail running shoes just as well (did so on my last tour from Cincinnati to DC) so whatever footwear is most comfortable I use.

Hope that information helps. I appear to have not been transported to the outer darkness so I think I avoid the "word-which-shall-not-be-mentioned"


Reply    Link    Flag
1 week ago