Clipless pedals, – which is actually clipped pedals!- is not a very new idea. Almost a century ago, road bikers saw the benefit of locking their feet to the pedal. Obviously, they are not like clipless pedals but did what clipless pedals are meant to do.
The idea with clipless pedals is to make the bike an extension of you – they attach your feet firmly to the pedals, so you pedal more efficiently.
I tried using clipless pedals, got used to them, but then left using these. Why? I think they’re only good for road bikes, or trainers. If you don’t ride a road bike, I don’t see any point in using one. I won’t go into road / MTB-type pedals or tech details…
I’m not a roadie, at least not my primary discipline/bike. So, here are my reasons not to use them:
1. Clipless pedals are not for daily rides.
I ride for fun. I get out of the bike a lot. There are certain places where dogs chase me, stop me, or bark at me for a pat. When I go to a new place, I occasionally stop to look around. Riding with flats is faster and foolproof. I got my first clipless pedals when I was like 45, so it’s not my second nature.
It still doesn’t matter if you ride them since you’re 5 – there is a mechanical bond between your shoes and pedals, it can stuck, it will get stuck, and eventually, you’ll fall. Either because of clipless, or not.
MTB clipless pedals are much nicer, for example, you can get off the bike and walk, unlike road clipless, which is like wearing 10″ long heels in the mud. However, MTB pedals and shoe cleats gather mud, dirt, and sand. That will wear out cleats and pedals, and make release & lock mechanisms suffer.
Also, you’ll need special shoes to ride clipless – your Converse boots or Crocs do not have cleats to lock onto pedals, and their soles are too soft to implement one. And that fact also makes biking shoes quite uncomfortable when walking. Or, you cannot go to school without a “normal” shoe.
If you use your bike as a commuter, you’ll need 2 shoes with clipless pedals.
2. Clipless pedals are expensive
Clipless pedals, especially MTB ones, are not that expensive anymore. Especially, after the release of Shimano’s PD-M520, which really modernized the MTB clipless pedals.
However, you have to buy special shoes, which are not that cheap, and they’re not stylish or comfortable to replace your sneakers. You’ll also need to buy cleats: there are cleats with varying degrees, so you’ll be probably buying 3 sets initially to find the one that fits you.
After that, you’ll notice cleats wear out. So, they’re consumables, you’ll probably need a new set at each 4000-5000 kms.
3. Clipless MTB shoes are expensive
Clipless pedals force you to buy special shoes. The most basic shoe is around 50$. Personally, I love buying shoes, I never had less than 20 pairs of them, sometimes 30 at a time. Still, I detest the idea of buying a “bike-specific” shoe. They’re not comfortable, and though I have lots of shoes, I don’t like the idea of buying extra.
4. They’ re not safe
Clipless pedals are especially great for trainers – I can “feel” putting out extra effort with less loss of watts. It’s not scientific, just anecdotal “experience”, though.
They may help keep your shoes on the pedal under some circumstances. If you’re riding in muddy terrain fast, it may help you pedal more safely.
I cannot say the same for touring, commuting, or non-competitive MTB rides. It’d probably take years before unclipping becomes second nature. I cannot imagine unclipping them when I’m falling. I don’t know you, but that’s not possible for me.
Yes; it’d unclip anyway – at least, generally – if you fall, but there have been various instances I either fall more safely or avoid it altogether, just placing my feet fast and strategically. That wouldn’t happen with clipless pedals.
Commuting or touring may look much safer than an MTB race, but really it’s not – in a race, you have adequate, licensed, and heavy protection. On a commute, you just have a dinky helmet – or touring. If you fall on an MTB race, worst-case scenario, another bike will hit you. On a tour, you may go under an 18-wheeler.
I love your blog, but here I disagree with you. I started using clipless pedals for mtb when turning 40. I’m 45 now – I haven’t fell once due to the pedals. One can find now, at relatively decent prices, shoes for mtb adequate for commuting – shoes that you can wear as standard shoes as well. For the moment, I use shimano XT mixed pedals – one side is flat, one side is clipless. The emergence of gravel madness will further diversify the shoes available.
Well, I’m clumsy and don’t seem to balance myself well. My only achievement with bikes is, I know how to fall down relatively safe 🙂
That XT pedals are the best choice, great pedals – the ones I’d definitely buy if I ride clipless.
For shoes, they’ re too rigid for my taste, as they should be. I really like softer soles for walking. I wonder if you have military background?