Many of us are familiar with the idea of clipless pedals. Of how they have changed the horizon of cycling over the past few decades, and clipless innovation is showing no signs of stopping.
While many may argue that for commuting you might not need all of these features provided by the clipless pedals, my question to you is: Why Not?
Without saying much, if you are planning on riding your bicycle with efficiency, comfort and safety, there really is no easier way to go about than to go clipless. Whether you are riding competitively or otherwise.
Note. Clipless pedals are counter intuitively named by the original manufacturers to differentiate them toe-clip pedals. Your cycling shoes essentially do ‘clip’ into these pedals.
Using Clipless Pedals for Commuting
Flat pedals have been the kings of the commute for a very long time, even today its popularity is noticeable. We too suggest flat pedals to beginners as they are easiest and the most foolproof way to get into cycling.
But thanks to innovators, clipless pedals have penetrated the commuting scene bringing with it all of its benefits for even the most casual commuter to enjoy.
But unlike flat pedals, which you can just slap on your bike and start riding, clipless pedals do have specific, and very key, requirement:
Clipless pedals will require you to have specialized cycling shoes, shoes that can mount cleats that in turn get clipped-in to the clipless pedals.
Here’s where things get a bit hazy.
Think of the pedaling system as a whole made of three key components: pedals, cleats and shoes. You have to match the pedals with the cleats that have to match the mounts on your cycling shoes.
Cycling shoes are of two types for engaging two different types of cleats:
- 3-bolted, Road Cycling variant. Pedal example: Shimano SPD-SL.
- 2-Bolted, MTB variant. Pedal Example: Shimano SPD.
If your pedals don’t match your shoe type, well, you simply can’t ride your bicycle.
While both types are available for commuting, the 2-bolted style of pedals are more accepted amongst commuters, simply because they have options of shoes that have an outer appearance of a normal pair of shoes and have more comfort features than hard-shelled cycling shoes.
Take a look at our picks of the most comfortable cycling shoes:
While not all, some of the major advantages of the clipless pedals that most road and off-road bikers enjoy can also be experienced by the commuter. Some of which are:
+ Power Efficiency
Your feet directly connect to the pedals, keeping their position constant throughout the ride. What this does is elevate the control you have over your bike.
On top of that, you are not wasting any movement. Both of your knees follow a straight path as you are pedaling, increasing your movement efficiency.
Speaking of efficiency, if you are clipped at the right position on your pedals, the power that is transferred from your hips down to the feet and into the pedals become that much more efficient. This is because you are wasting less energy by having your feet at a static position.
This could translate to you going faster with much less effort.
One of the biggest complaints that flat pedals have under their belt is slippage. Under wet conditions (even without), there is always a chance that your feet might slip off the pedals making you lose control of your pedaling and even injure yourself. Hitting your shins after slipping off the pedals is a common occurrence.
With a clipless pedal you don’t have to worry about that. You are locked on your pedals until or unless you disengage yourself from them by twisting your feet laterally.
This is the universal method of disengaging your feet from clipless pedals. There are other pedals however that have multiple unclipping methods.
Some pedals also allow you to adjust the tension at which you can unclip your feet.
+ Limitless Commute
An uncommon advantage the clipless pedal brings to commuting is the ease at which you can travel longer distances on them.
With normal gear, it can be estimated that travelling 20-30 minutes on flat pedals is fairly doable. But going beyond that, the effort that you have to keep on putting into your pedaling exponentially increases.
Continuing on from our efficiency argument, with clipless pedals the effort you put on to your pedaling has much higher returns.
– Expensive Requirements
The first, and possibly the only, glaring disadvantage of the clipless pedal are the requirements that it has. The other disadvantages can be easily overcome with enough time and effort put into working with these pedals.
The term ‘requirements’ is a really soft way to tell people that you need to invest some money before you can enjoy the benefits.
A decent pair of clipless pedals can set you back around nearly $100. Not counting the added costs that come alongside it in the form of cleats and shoes.
The cleats may not cost much and you can easily replace them when they are damaged, but the shoes bring about a different scenario.
Each pair of cycling shoes can easily cost around over $100, with more specialized options with more features can be even more expensive, crossing the $200 threshold.
Getting used to clipless pedals as a beginner can be a bit of a challenge. The feeling of having your feet locked on your pedals can be very off-putting to some, and understandable anxiety inducing. Especially when it comes to stopping for traffic lights.
Yes, traffic lights.
In the middle of traffic, suddenly coming face to face with traffic lights will make you brake and stand there for a period of time. With your feet locked, you have to unclip it every time you hit a red light or every time you get into a heavy traffic congestion.
Clipless pedals are designed to keep you pedaling forward.
This may not be easy to do if you are not used to unclipping at a moment’s notice or are unable to balance yourself without moving forward.
These are of course minor inconveniences that only need to be overcome with practice and awareness. But chances of accidents are never really zero.
- Distance: Consider the distance you will be commuting. If you are travelling under 30 minutes, flat pedals should be enough to get you through it. It is the other gear you should be focusing on. But if you commute over 30 minutes or an hour, investing in a clipless pedal system is more than worth it.
- Shoe Preferences: This is quite a faff. More on the line of style and fashion. Any shoe that can mount the cleats that match the pedals should be good enough. But investing in higher quality shoes will see you get more features, like bolt covers that you can screw over the place where the cleats go.
- Special Commuting Pedals: Dual function pedals are now available for purchase. These are clipless on one side, flat on the other. Perfect for commuting, gives you the freedom of wearing any type of shoe. Bontrager, VP and Shimano, all manufacture these special commuting pedals.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) Will clipless pedals improve speed?
Ans.: Yes, but not in the way you think. What clipless pedals does is improve pedaling efficiency. To put it simply, these pedals efficiently transfer power from the feet into the pedals because the feet are locked into place and no wasted movement occurs.
So the power that you exert has more returns on a clipless pedal than a flat pedal. This directly translates to you achieving more speed much easily.
Q2) What is the difference between SPD and SPD SL?
Ans.: The SPD line of cycling pedals are manufactured by Shimano, but their intended cycling disciplines are different.
The SPD goes on 2-bolted cleats, meaning they primarily target mountain biking and sometimes commuting.
The SPD-SL goes on 3-bolted cleats, meaning they primarily target road biking and all its competitive forms.
➥ Know more: SPD vs SPD SL
Unless you are a serious cyclist that can also shoulder the initial costs of getting clipless pedals, it is better to stick to flat pedals.
But if you plan on using clipless pedals for your daily commute, then your investment towards them should come with confidence and dedication.
At the end of the day, a clipless pedal system almost always trumps all other alternatives in terms of all the important factors that revolve around commuting. Namely efficiency, comfort and of course safety.