Folding Bikes Blog

Clipless or Not? The Great Pedal Debate

There are a lot of different kinds of pedals out there in the bike world, but they fall roughly into two categories: clipless and not.

Riding clipless on the X90.

Non-clipless pedals are probably what you think of when you think of a bicycle pedal – flat, made of plastic or metal, platform. Clipless pedals, on the other hand, attach to a cleat mounted on the bottom of special cycling shoes – and the rider clips in to the pedals.

In one of the strange twists in cycling language, yes, you clip into clipless pedals. How did these pedals get this name?

Well before there were clipless pedals, there were (and still are) toe clips – straps or cages that attach to the pedal that cyclists use to keep their foot from sliding around. These toe clips provide more retention than a basic platform alone, but not as much (says conventional wisdom) as a cleat. The reason clipless pedals are called “clipless” is because lack the toe clip/strap.

A platform pedal with a toe clip

Some of you may already know that Montague’s SwissBike X90 doesn’t come with pedals. That’s because oftentimes, riders who are interested in high performance prefer to use clipless pedals, and there’s more than one style of clipless pedal on the market.

If you’ve never tried it (or even if you have), you might be wondering if clipless pedals are a good option for you. (And yes, all Montague bikes can be fit with clipless pedals).

Benefits of Clipless Pedals

Some different brands of clipless pedal.

• Better power transfer – this makes it easier to go up hills. You can also stand without the risk of slipping off the back of your pedals.

• More efficient riding – you can use both your quads (forward pedal stroke) and hamstrings (back pedal stroke). This efficiency also means more power.

• Your feet don’t slip – you will appreciate this if you ride in the rain and have had your feet slip off your pedals.

Drawbacks of Clipless Pedals

• They take some getting used to – the first time I rode clipless, I thought I was going to be stuck to my bike forever. It was scary. Then I learned how to unclip.

• Riding clipless in heavy traffic can be kind of a pain (and the first time you do it, you will probably fall over from slowing down too much before unclipping).

• Cost – there’s a range on everything, of course, but platform pedals can be had for pretty cheap. With clipless, you’ve got the initial pedal/cleat/shoe set-up, plus the cost of replacements over time.

Moving Forward…

Really it’s up to you – when I go on longer rides, I use clipless pedals. For commuting, with all the stopping and starting, I use platform pedals. But I know some riders have strong preferences one way or the other.

How about you? Do you prefer clipless or platform pedals? What made you decide one way or the other? Have any good “Falling Over” stories? Photos of your Montague bike with clipless pedals?

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  1. George T.
    Posted May 25, 2012 at 4:41 am | Permalink


  2. John O.
    Posted May 25, 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Campus pedals (SPD cleat on one side, flat platform on the other.) Gives me the option to clip in or not depending on the situation. Can also ride in regular shoes.

  3. Howard
    Posted May 25, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I agree that there are pros and cons to both. But for us, flat peddles with clips (clip and strap) are the way to go. However, we have folding peddles, and like them. I have modified them to take clips without straps, but would like them designed to take clips with straps without having to modify.

  4. Posted May 29, 2012 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    I’ve always liked the feel and convenience of clips and straps myself but they’re never quite as efficient as clipless. Although, being able to use any shoe is a huge advantage.

    And John, great suggestion with the Campus pedals. The best of both worlds!

  5. Philip
    Posted May 29, 2012 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    As a commuter, I prefer toe clips- they give me increased efficiency for my 13 mile round trip, hilly commute. I tried using clipless pedals as a commuter- they add an element of risk because even though I use them frequently, they do add another couple of crucial seconds to stopping. The toe clip dismount is fast. As a recreational cyclist, for events that I do not have to start and stop often, I prefer clipless pedals, which add another level of efficiency, particularly for going up hills.

  6. Tim Cork
    Posted December 27, 2014 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    I use clipless pedals on my recumbent. When the crank arms are verticle and you hit a dip or bump in the road, your feet can drop off the pedals. If you think upright bikes take getting used to, try clipless pedals on a recumbent with under seat steering.
    For urban riding with my upright bike, I commute through the week all year in all kinds of weather, I prefer platform pedals. I think they are safer.
    There are many types of platform pedals for different riding conditions so choice is also a consideration.

  7. Jonathan F.V.
    Posted March 23, 2015 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    Old post, but I prefer toe clips. Easy and fast to put my feet in or out, no need for special equipment, if I want to just drop the bike and start running or climbing, I can wear good shoes for that. Sounds dumb, but more than once I had to throw my bike over a fairly high fence, hop over, grab my bike, run and jump over a ditch and start biking again. Also, for traveling, I don’t need to bring an extra pair of shoes just for biking.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By These Shoes were Made for Riding… on June 20, 2012 at 5:27 am

    […] couple of weeks ago, we talked about clipless pedals. Along with these pedals are special cycling shoes – they have cleats on the bottom. Not all […]

  2. […] couple of weeks ago, we talked about clipless pedals. Along with these pedals are special cycling shoes – they have cleats on the bottom. Not all […]

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