Benefits of wearing cleats

Benefits of wearing cleats

There's more to cleats than embarrassing cycling fails; they're a key piece of kit, and can be make all the difference if you want to make your bike rides feel easier.  

When cycling you have three contact areas with the bike. The handlebars, the saddle and most importantly the pedals. This is where nearly all the force goes through to drive you forward so it's important to fully understand why and how you can achieve maximum power efficiency through your pedals.

What are clipless pedals?

Clipless pedals are a two part system for your bike. A small locking mechanism pedal that attaches to your bike, along with a cleat that attaches to the bottom of your cycling shoe. It may seem a bit daunting at first having your feet attached to your bike but becoming confident with clipless hardly takes any time at all.

Benefits of wearing cycling shoes

There are many benefits of wearing cycling shoes rather than ordinary trainers along with pedals. The first of which is the stiffness produced through using cycling shoes. Trainers have a flexible sole that when pushed against the surface area of a pedal bend, this causes a lot of the force you're using to be lost within the shoe flex. Over time this can lead to exhaustion and fatigue within your calves.

Cycling shoes provide a solid sole across the whole of the foot meaning the force through your legs is not lost in a shoe flex but is transferred straight through the pedal powering the bike forward.

Cycling shoes tend to be produced using mesh fabric or other breathable products. This allows air to circulate through the shoe, in turn venting your feet and keeping them cool. Another main benefit of cycling shoes is the fit, which tends to be a snug; the heel arch should be close fitting, offering your arch full support, whilst the heel cap should stay in place when you pedal. If you feel your feet moving within the shoe too much when pedalling then we advise you try a shoe a size down.

Benefits of clip in pedals

No slipping

When using normal pedals the force pushing down is the only thing keeping your foot in contact with the pedal itself. During the upstroke you still have to maintain a slight bit of pressure to keep your foot in place, in other words your feet are working against each other in order to keep contact with the pedals.

Using cleats over normal trainers with pedals means that you are firmly attached to the cleat base. You do not have to concentrate on your feet slipping or foot alignment. All your concentration can be on power generation and positioning your body on the right part of the bike, This can be particularly useful if you struggle with hill climbs.

Efficiency

When you're using platform pedals there's only one part of the stroke you can obtain power through, the downward stoke. With clipless pedals not only can you take full advantage of the more powerful downward stroke but also the upward motion, this allows for a more even and also efficient pedal stroke.

The pushing down stroke activates the front of your thighs while the pulling up stroke activates your gluteus maximus and hamstrings, having the two together in continuous stokes means you can gain a lot more force and power through the pedal per stroke becoming more efficient. If using the pulling and pushing strokes efficiently you can preserve energy in different muscle groups meaning you go a lot faster with a lot less energy.

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Control

By simply being attached to your pedals it means you can take advantage of the other two contact areas of your bike, especially useful in sportives or sprints. If you struggle with hill climbs then you can really push and pull on your frame to get the maximum force through your legs onto your pedals without worrying about slipping out.

More from The Cycling Bug

Posted

Would never ride anything other than SPD's. Started riding 5 years ago and from day 1 went for SPD's. Yes, as everyone will experience, you forget they are attached to a bike and ultimately you fall off, but this is all part of the learning curve. As for comment regarding a myth on a pull effect on your pedal stroke, then if you develop your pedaling style with following correct circular fluid motion, the upstroke becomes a main focus. You can then work on this by following up with single leg drills. This certainly requires a full 360 degree motion to kill dead spots. Would recommend all cyclists who wish to improve their efficiency to go to clipless pedals.

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Posted

I bought shimanos spd single sided touring pedals. I think they are great as you can use it for both touring as well as commute to work..London traffic!

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Posted

I've only just started using cleats, and despite a couple of accidents, (embarrassing rather than painful!) I find they make a hell of a difference. I generally cycle about 50-60 miles on a Sunday morning and I came home feeling tired and achy, since converting to clipless, I feel like I haven't done much and could go and do it again.

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Posted

I started to use spds back in the 90's when I dabbled at racing xc, having a fixed and planted foot position really let's you concentrate on picking your line when the going gets rough and does help power transfer too. However I had a few big crashes where I couldn't get off the bike quick enough and went back to flats for a while. I'm back on spds again on my mountain bike and my road bike and wondering why I stopped! They are definitely the way forward.

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Posted

I'm sure I read a scientific study that said that it's a myth that you pull up with your muscles on the up stroke. That the power on the down stroke and momentum turns the pedal or the other foot pushing down is supplying 100% of the power. I'm sure I read that the body just doesn't put any power in the upstroke and is almost impossible or negligible. Cleats are a fashion that does nothing to improve power delivery over flat pedals. They do however stabilise your foot in a fixed position which may not always be a good thing?

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Posted

So, I finally got round to buying some bog standard flat pedals having continued to use cleats on my commute in non bike friendly Brum. I rode to work for the first time with flat pedals and it was great. I made better progress, was able to go for smaller gaps and was much more relaxed in my ride. My conclusion is that cleats are great for longer rides with less traffic, people and busy junctions but I will continue to use flat pedals for my shorter commutes and busy traffic rides in general. The extra effort to change pedals over will be well worth it.

But ht bottom line remains - always do what you are comfortable with.

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Posted

i had been out of cycling for about 12 years and got back in to it with the cycle club once a week about 18 month ago, i used to use toegrips all the time when i used to ride so i decided to give clipless peddles and cycling shoes a go, i never had an issue adjusting and i wont go back to toegrips and trainers, ever lol

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Posted

Many pedal manufacturers offer a duel peddle that on one side has the SPD Cleat fixing, and the other side a traditional flat peddle, it allows you to wear SPD cleated cycling shoes for long rides or trainers on the short journey. Also a top tip all clipless peddles have a tension adjustment, make sure it on the lightest setting so you can clip out with minimum effort to avoid embarrassing face plants, in traffic I also try to club the foot nearest the kerb and keep my other foot clipped in this allows a smoother transition into the other foot getting clipped in.  

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Posted

I had a couple of mishaps with cleats to start with and went back to toe clips and trainers, eventually I plumped for Look Keo Classics and will never look back.

Persevere.... It's really worth it.

Just think a bit further ahead and the world is a better place.

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Posted

I've been using them on for 6 weeks now. Great on long rides with few stops and little traffic.  But just a pain in the ass and dangerous when in city rush commute. It's not the stopping it's the need to pull away quick and take advantage of small gaps on roundabouts etc. I'm going to get normal pedals and use then for my 6 mile commute but use cleats for my longer rides because they really work.

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