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Flat Pedals vs. Clipping In - What do you prefer? Does it depend on the type of ride?

Nearly 3 years ago I started clipping in with SPD MTB pedals when I bought a road bike. I loved it - especially after it became second nature to clip in.

Last summer I changed out my track and road bikes to use SpeedPlay Light Action and I fell in love with the lightweight lollipop pedals. 

On the other hand, my commuter/touring bike needs the combination flat/clip pedal because I like to wear my boots when I am riding to a party or meeting friends for brunch. 

So I am curious - what do you use when you ride? Does it depend on the bike or the type of riding? 

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If your foot slips like 3/4 off the pedal you are like "oh how nice" I'll keep going like this for a while"? Of course you don't because you say you use them in foul weather and I'm gonna guess that's why. But that is how they improve "efficiency". If you don't have a riding style that causes that to happen in dry weather then they would not improve "efficiency" in that circumstance.

Andy Moss 9.5 said:

Not having to (or being able to) readjust your foot position is not a positive quality, IMHO.

Irvin Steinert said:

Weird that you sorta describe one reason riding "clipless" is more efficient: you don't slip off the pedal or have to readjust your foot position [ever].

"Clipless" pedals don't make the bike more efficient or even the rider more efficient they make the combination of the two more efficient - less energy output per mile for a given riding style. Another factor is direction of force application: for the trained rider, an application of force that is optimal to power delivery is forward/down. A "clipless" pedal allows that to be optimized without concern of the foot slipping off the pedal during forward force application. [so essentially almost the same thing- keeps the foot on the pedal]. Lastly, the upstroke can be utilized for power delivery which makes the rider able do deliver more power per mile ridden.[I suppose that technically is "efficiency of the system"] For some riders (amateurs like me) when the quads get tired on longer rides the hamstrings can be used as the primary muscle group to give the quads a break.

These qualities also apply to clipped pedals (I call them straps).

Trick riders and down hill riders will almost certainly use platforms.

I do like platform pedals for some reasons. For one, they will work the leg muscles somewhat differently and are good to "cross train" the muscles a bit. I seem to feel it more in the glutes.



Andy Moss 9.5 said:

I am unconvinced that clipless does anything for efficiency.  That said, I like riding clipless, especially in the winter and in wet weather.  I have several different pairs of Shimano dual platforms, including the rat-trap style ones, which I like, and the A530, which is so-so (it's cheap, light and durable, but the platform sucks IMHO).  I just switched to a dual-sided pedal (M540), and I think I like it better than the dual platform.

For platforms, I use the MKS Touring Pedal.  Best ever, especially if you have wide feet.

Holdfast straps with BMX-style platforms. Lets me use all types of shoes (or even heavy winter boots), and with a little practice, I'm just as fast at getting into/out of the straps as I was with SPD clips.

I have a road bike with road pedals & a cross bike with mountain pedals, but the bike I love to ride most is my cheap single speed fixie, with combo pedals it's good for riding hard clipped in or jumping on for a quick spin in sneakers. This one is purely a matter of preference. 

I use Power Grips http://www.powergrips.com/, a larger pair for winter with larger shoes and boots and a regular size for the summer. They allow me to push forward and down and back and up which spreads the workload between the quads and hamstrings on my recumbent trike. I do not like clipless; I change shoes often due to weather changes, and with the soles of my shoes facing forwards the hole in the bottom the clipless booties lets too much cold air in during the winter. I do not like toe cages, because my forward push presses my toes into the front of my shoes which is uncomfortable and sometimes painful.

I, too, use platform pedals, with clips with the straps removed. 

On long distance touring I tend to slip forward and pedal with my arch instead of the ball of my foot.  The unstrapped clip prevents that.  I can also flip it over when I want, even when it scrapes on the ground.

JeffB (7+ miles) said:

I prefer the platform pedals with toe cages. I don't have to wear special shoes and the cages let me pull up and push forward on each pedal stroke.

Platforms, with VO half clips.

I find it is generally not a problem to ride on SPD pedals wearing regular shoes. I wouldn't want to do it all the time, but sometimes I do it. For example, I ride to work wearing cycle shoes. I go out to run an errand and don't feel like changing out of my work shoes.  I've riden a mile or two several times like that.... could have gone further.

On the other hand, I recently put flat pedals on my commuter bike and usually wear insulated work boots for the trip. I  have done several 50-60 mile rides with sneakers.

The type of pedal, like the type of tires I put on the bike, is totally dependent on the type of bike I'm riding and the specific purpose I am riding it for.

On my road bike (basically a rando bike although I never ride more than 200k in one day) I use clipless (Vintage pre-2012 Eggbeaters usually.) The bike is used almost exclusively for rides >45 miles.

On my CX bike I swap between vintage 'beaters and platforms with VO "Half-clips" without straps.  I use this bike for bombing around town when I don't have any load to carry, shorter training rides, and some light "gravel-grinding."  Hoping to do more of this kind of riding.  I like platfoms for the bombing around town because I don't have to worry about SPD shoes. 

On my City Bike truck (3-speed upright with front basket and panniers) it is more of a hauling mule and I use big studded BMX type platforms.  I'm not opposed to riding clipped-in around town but the advantages I find with being clipped-in are not as big of a deal, and for short trips riding on old-fashioned platforms is not a hardship.  Being able to wear regular shoes is a bonus too.

That's basically it for me.  For longer rides riding clipped-in is ultimately "easier" and more pleasant for me, regardless of how "efficient" it is or is not moment by moment (the science is a little blurry on that.)  When I've been riding many miles not having to worry about keeping my feet on the pedals makes it easier for me to just keep spinning my legs without wasting any physical effort or mental "clock cycles" in my CPU keeping my feet firmly planted on the pedals at the same time as just putting energy into the crank. When I'm riding on platforms I get tired quicker and want to stop  and get off the bike more often and take longer breaks.  I find myself slipping off the pedals when I'm tired or just sliding around and feeling less stable. There are a million things to think about when riding a bike (traffic, avoiding potholes, puddles, mud, or other debris, and stuff like that) where I don't want to add "keeping my feet in a good position on the pedals" to the list.  As my feet start moving around on the pedals my seatheight is not quite right any more, or I feel myself wanting to slide more forward on the saddle which makes my ass hurt since my sitbones are not properly positioned on my brooks.  When I'm clipped-in I'm locked into the correct position which I've spent a lot of time and effort adjusting to be "just right."  

I'm a fan of Eggbeaters pedals, but not the newer ones that are impossible to take apart fully down to the springs and replace the tiny O-ring seals on the inner sleeve that don't come with the official CB rebuild kits.  (Crankbrothers doesn't like you to take apart any of their pedals that far because they want to sell you new pedals when the inner seals fail and the bearings get polluted by gunk so much faster between rebuilds using their expensive kits.) I also don't like the  new-style fussy needle bearings either, that fail and chew up the spindle when even one tiny bit of gunk gets inside past the mediocre seals and can't get back out again.  Needle bearings are a mistake in a pedal like this and the nylon bushing is so much better and easier to replace.   Going to needles looks good on paper and a lot of folks think that they are "better" but I don't feel this is the case in an application like this.  It's all marketing. 

I have a pair of Eggbeater 3's that I really hated the needle bearings on so I talked the guys at Hubdoctor (they make replacement bushings for all sorts of bike things like hubs, suspension linkages and pedals -including Crankbrothers pedals that are a fraction of the cost of the Crankbrothers rebuild kit prices)  into making me a set of special prototype bushings for the newer-style Eggbeater pedals to "downgrade" them so as to not need the crappy/fussy needle bearings.   It works great but there is still the issue of the inner o-rigng seals not be accessible, and I don't like the "modern" look of the newer pedals compared to the classic Stainless Steel eggbeaters.  

The real downside of the older eggbeater version was their poorly-made spindle that was more prone to breaking due to improper engineering and machining practices, which led to stress risers that would eventually cause the spindles to break while riding (Eggbeaters have a bad reputation for that in the older version)  but the first thing I like to do is buy a new set of titanium replacement spindles for my older 'beaters from http://titaniumspindles.com/ which fixes this issue and makes for a lighter pedal that is better than what the pedal came with or even Crankbrother's own Ti replacements.  I then fully tear it down and rebuild it with all new seals, bushings and bearings  (that I source in bulk) and they are better than new -even better than the factory Ti pedals that cost hundreds of dollars.

The downside of eggbeaters is that they are pretty much impossible to ride with regular shoes although you can make platform conversions for them using a piece of wood or sheet of lexan with an eggbeaters cleat.  One of these days I'm going to try that.   

You are describing efficiency and the "science" behind it, and its overall benefits! Qudos to you!

Self-sealing Stembolt said:

That's basically it for me.  For longer rides riding clipped-in is ultimately "easier" and more pleasant for me, regardless of how "efficient" it is or is not moment by moment (the science is a little blurry on that.)  When I've been riding many miles not having to worry about keeping my feet on the pedals makes it easier for me to just keep spinning my legs without wasting any physical effort or mental "clock cycles" in my CPU keeping my feet firmly planted on the pedals at the same time as just putting energy into the crank. When I'm riding on platforms I get tired quicker and want to stop  and get off the bike more often and take longer breaks.  I find myself slipping off the pedals when I'm tired or just sliding around and feeling less stable. There are a million things to think about when riding a bike (traffic, avoiding potholes, puddles, mud, or other debris, and stuff like that) where I don't want to add "keeping my feet in a good position on the pedals" to the list.  As my feet start moving around on the pedals my seatheight is not quite right any more, or I feel myself wanting to slide more forward on the saddle which makes my ass hurt since my sitbones are not properly positioned on my brooks.  When I'm clipped-in I'm locked into the correct position which I've spent a lot of time and effort adjusting to be "just right."  


 

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