If you’re a mountain biking and are riding in sneakers and toe clips, you may want to consider making the upgrade to mountain biking shoes and clipless pedals. Here are three reasons why clipless pedals will make your next ride safer, more efficient and more comfortable.
You’ll notice instant efficiency gains when moving to a clipless system. While most mountain biking shoes don’t have soles as stiff as road cycling shoes, they are much stiffer than a running shoe. The more a shoe flexes, the more energy from the legs is lost. A clipless system allows better energy transfer through a more rigid platform and more precise foot placement. You don’t have to worry about your feet being properly positioned on the pedals because the cleats force you into the optimal position.
Once you get the hang of clipping-in and clipping-out, you’ll find clipless pedals to be safer than toe clips. Toe clips have a tendency to snag your feet in a fall and are difficult to get out of in a pinch. That said, there is a learning curve with clipless pedals and you’ll probably fall a few times before you get the feel of twisting your foot to clip-out. However, once you’ve become accustomed to that motion, it becomes second nature when you have to bail at the last second. If for some reason you don’t have time to clip-out before a crash, you’ll probably disengage from the force of fall if you don’t have the cleat tension set too high. If you’re nervous about a tricky section of trail, you can also use the pedal platform without clipping in. Some pedals have wider platforms specifically for this use.
If you’ve ever hammered the pedals for an hour or so in sneakers, you’ve probably felt some soreness and fatigue in your feet. This can result from the constant flexing of the foot and improper positioning of the foot on the pedal. Mountain bike shoes are made for this very specific foot motion and are built to keep your feet comfortable pedal stroke after pedal stroke. You wouldn’t run five miles in stiff mountain bike shoes, so why would you hit the single-track in running shoes?
If most of your rides are two and from the coffee shop and are less than two miles, it may not make sense to go with clipless pedals. However, with the discussed considerations in mind, it makes sense for many recreational mountain bikers to ditch the sneakers and toe clips in favor of mountain bike shoes and clipless pedals.