To Clip or Not to Clip


When I bought my first mountain bike, 20 years ago, (ya I know I’m old), it came with these bizarre little cages attached to the pedals.


The guys I rode with said they were called toe clips, and that it wasn’t safe to ride without them because my feet would slip off the pedals, and I’d lose control of the bike.  Well guess what?  It’s not safe to ride with them, either.  They’re not too bad on flat, easy places, but those places don’t cause your feet to fly off the pedals.  But on hills?  OMG!  They’re gonna make you die!!!!

When you ride with a group, often everyone stops at the top of the hill.  Then they walk around, and look at the hill, and decide the best way to ride it.  Then people go, one at a time, with the rest of the group cheering or laughing, as needed.  Well, it’s easy to get the first foot into the little cage before you take your turn down the hill.  Then, as you fly down, you have to figure out a way to get the second foot in.  You need to use your toe to flip it right-side-up, and then slide your foot in.   While you are doing this, you’re flying ever faster down the hill and over bumps and roots, which flip the pedal back upside down.  If you watch the pedal, you can’t see where you’re going (bad).  If you don’t get your foot in, the little cage hangs upside down and gets snagged on stuff (worse).  In either case, you end up running into things (worst).

Enter clipless pedals. These pedals have clips (clipless, right!) that hook onto cleats on the bottom of your shoe.


So why are the called “clipless”?  Especially since you say you are “clipped in” when riding with them.  Because they don’t have toe clips?  Confusing or what??

The problem with this system is you are stuck to your bike.  (There is a theory that they make you pedal more efficiently, but that’s another discussion.) Stuck to the bike is bad.  It means when the bike hits a tree or tips over, you do the same.  You can twist your feet out of the pedals, but that never seems to happen as fast as the crash.

So when I started mountain biking again at 50, I decided that clipless was not healthy for my old bones and joints.  I tried riding in running shoes, but my feet kept slipping on the pedals…still not safe.  Then I saw this video.  Danny Macaskill is amazing!

And he wears shoes, real shoes, and rides down crazy things.  So I decided to find shoes like his.


Here they are.  They look like skate shoes, and have sticky rubber on the bottom.


And you use them with pedals like this.  They are low profile, and have screws sticking out of them to grab the bottom of the shoes.  Downsides?  A few.  If you get your legs caught on the pedals, they take off lots of skin.  I usually wear minimalist shoes, and these shoes are heavy and stiff.  So they are not comfortable off the bike or to drive.  Which means taking an extra pair of shoes for driving or walking around.  But that’s a small price to pay to get rid of clips and clipless, and the confusion that goes with them.

So, pick whatever system of shoes and pedals makes you happy.  But please get outside, and be the most happy.



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