If you’ve read my tips for picking the best SPD shoes for bike touring article, you’ll be well aware that my bike racing background has made the extra power and efficiency of clip in pedals really important to me. I always use clip in pedals, whether I’m riding a few minutes down the street, or on extended bike rides – cycling shoes always on my feet.
In this article I’d like to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of clip in pedal systems. I’m also going to cover options for those less sold on the idea of clipping in!
Advantages for Bike Touring
More efficient pedalling action
THE most important feature about the clip in system is that you can pull up AND push down with both legs. You are also able to ‘shuffle’ through the top and bottom part of the pedal stroke. I have read studies which suggest the performance gains are anything from 10-40%, however one thing is for sure; there is a gain. This gain will be felt most on climbs!
Clip in pedals make sure that your feet sit in the same spot, every time. This allows for a more precise position on your bike as it is all to easy to put your feet in different positions on flat pedals. A bike fitter at a bike shop will be able to set your seat height and cleat postion correctly which, among other things, will result in maximum comfort and efficiency.
Your feet will not move off the pedals
On rough and corrugated roads, your feet will stay in the right spot, always. This means you can can spend more time focussing on pedalling and sightseeing, than constantly adjusting your feet.
Engage more muscles
As your range of motion changes from flat pedalling and riding clipped in, you will engage more muscles on the up stroke, namely your glutes and hamstrings.
Disadvantages for Bike Touring
Extra pair of shoes need to be taken touring
If you’re planning to do more than just riding, you will probably need to take an extra pair of shoes. These come at a cost of 600-800g. For every kilometre you ride, I think it is safe to say that the efficiency gain you receive from being clipped in negates the extra weight you will need to ride with. The clip in pedals will prove even more worthwhile on any hill!
They’re another thing to go wrong
Although this is true, I can’t actually remember the last time I broke a Shimano clip in pedal! And I ride a lot.
You sometimes have to walk up hills when you’re bike touring
It is true – sometimes the terrain gets too steep or rough and you have to push your bike. This is the reason why I use clip in pedals which have a platform on one side, so that I can wear walking shoes when I need.
It’s best to change your shoes to walk about
It is true – cycling shoes are not ideal for walking in. Even the ones that are designed for touring are not the best to walk in. You may have to change your shoes slightly more frequently when sightseeing. Or you can just deal with it – lots of people do.
Recommended shoes for bike touring
You can read all about the best shoes for bike touring HERE.
Recommended pedals for bike touring
It depends on the tour which you’d like to undertake. If you think you’ll be on and off the bike a lot, there are platform pedals with a clip in mechanism on just one side. These pedals allow you to do short missions in casual shoes, and long days in the saddle in bike shoes.
If you tend to ride all day and wander around at night, double sided clip in pedals are the most suitable. I have found Shimano pedals to be the most reliable. My Look, Time and Crank Brothers MTB pedals have not lasted as well.
I don’t recommend the use of road bike pedals and shoes. Although they are lighter and more stable when clipped in, you cannot walk around easily and the parts are not designed to be anywhere near as bombproof.
What is the next best thing, if I don’t want to tour with the clip in system?
I haven’t actually used any of the following personally, but have heard great things about them from those who prefer these over clip in pedals.
Power Grips Straps
These straps will fit many different pedals. You enter the straps at an angle, and the diagonal straps tension as you straighten your foot, allowing you to pull on the upstroke. Cost around $60 AUD.
Restrap – Horizontal foot straps
For those that want straps, but prefer a horizontal strap – look no further than the Restrap. They are pretty indestructible and cost around $60 AUD.
My general advice is to avoid toe clips.
The above two options are far better for bike touring.
These pedals have a concave design which allows your foot to sit nicely in them. They also have a ridge on the inside which keeps your feet from moving inwards towards the cranks.
I have used clip in pedals for too long to ever go back. As a result, I am able to employ a super-efficient pedalling action which generates more power for less effort. I believe that the extra weight of carrying walking shoes is completely negated by the benefits of clip in shoes.
If you haven’t tried clip in pedals – give it a go. It might change your cycling forever.