When considering different types of bicycle pedals and footwear (toe clips vs clipless), there are several options that cyclists have. Here are some tips and tricks to help you decide which is right for you – depending on your budget, your intended use, and your values.
Toe Clips vs Clipless vs Platform:
These are the three main pedal type options that both mountain and road cyclists have to choose from. Let’s break it down a bit and analyze the pros/cons of each. Unlike bicycle retailers, I am not trying to sell you anything. Therefore, this is my unbiased review of the three different pedal options – to the best of my ability.
Toe clips have been around for a long time. They incorporate a cage and/or a strap (straps vs clips is mostly preference). When combined, your shoe remains very much strapped on to the pedal, allowing for very little movement.
Pros: Increased efficiency over platforms (foot remains stable at optimal position [ball of foot over pedal], uses upward momentum of foot when pulling up), very low cost, easy to install, allows use of nearly any everyday shoe, are versatile; can be flipped over and used like normal platform pedals when needed (for shorter commutes, etc.)
Cons: The most dangerous of the three (if you crash, your feet have a high chance of getting stuck to the pedal), not quite as efficient as a clipless setup, must take time to buckle strap (if using a strap)
Clipless setups incorporate appropriate pedals, cleats, and shoes. Cleats are usually sold with the pedals, and compatible shoes must be purchased (cleat must fit both the shoe and pedal properly). They are ideal for people wanting the optimal efficiency out of their pedaling (mountain or road bike racing, touring, etc.).
Pros: Most efficient option (lighter, stiffest shoes, optimal energy transfer), very safe (easy to clip out of in emergencies, yet still keeps feet from slipping off pedals), convenient (quick clipping in/out)
Cons: Most expensive option, somewhat difficult to install and ensure compatibility, most clipless pedals are not versatile; they do not allow for use with regular shoes (although platform/clipless dual pedals do), difficult to walk around in (very stiff shoes – can have recessed cleat or non-recessed – might require bringing an extra pair of shoes)
Pros: Require no extra time or money investment, extremely easy to get on/off the bike when necessary
Cons: The most inefficient option (does not make use of the pulling up motion at all, and does not help keep foot in optimal position).
I hope this helps you when looking at what options cyclists have regarding pedal setups. If you are a cyclist who is more serious about getting optimal efficiency out of your pedaling, consider purchasing either toe clips or a clipless setup. If you cycle less often and do not care much about the very slight benefit from clipless/toe clips setups, you should stick with platform pedals.