Clipless Pedals - How Much Improvement?

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by Jim Moore, Apr 14, 2011.

  1. Jim Moore

    Jim Moore New Member

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    I'm thinking about getting some clipless pedals. The guys at the lbs say I'll be "20%-30% more efficient." I'm not sure how that relates to speed. Can you folks quantify that a little better / differently for me? How much difference will it make to my average speed? For instance, last night I averaged right at 18.0 mph for an hour. How much faster (roughly) would I be with clipless pedals? I'm just looking for a ballpark figure. Anecdotal stories would be great also.

    Thanks,

    Jim Moore
    Jax, FL
     
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  2. maydog

    maydog Well-Known Member

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    I love clipless, but I suspect that 20% to 30% number is overstated and pulled from the air. I think that the big advantage for clipless vs. a regular platform pedal is that you need to focus less on keeping your foot in the right spot when pedaling hard, in a high cadence or hammering out of the saddle.
     
  3. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming New Member

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    +1, secure attachment to the pedals is great for bike handling and safety reasons and it does let you pedal with a consistent and known relationship to the pedal which likely improves efficiency over someone moving their foot all over the place and randomly mashing with their toes, arches or heels but 20% to 30% efficiency improvements... unlikely.

    One look at published pedal force curves from Kautz or Coyle and it's clear that rider's, especially national level elite racers do NOT spin smoothly around the pedal stroke or generate significant power by pulling up, scraping mud or otherwise doing the things that firm attachment to the pedals is supposed to allow:

    Kautz SA, Feltner ME, Coyle EF, Baylor AM: "The pedaling technique of elite
    endurance cyclists: changes with increasing workload at constant cadence".
    International Journal of Sport Biomechanics 7:29-53, 1991.

    Coyle EF, Feltner ME, Kautz SA, Hamilton MT, Montain SJ, Baylor AM, Abrahams
    LD, Petrek GW: "Physiological and biochemical determinants of elite
    endurance cycling performance". Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
    23:93-107, 1991.

    But I still wouldn't race without good pedals and sure clipless are much more convenient and comfortable than toe clips and straps but IMHO their real value is related to bike handling, cornering, safety on rougher roads and other times where you can take advantage of a secure shoe/pedal connection to use body english to steer with your hips, angulate and countersteer into turns, bunny hop small obstacles easily and stay firmly connected to the bike when you hit unexpected potholes or road transitions. Pretty darn useful for full out sprinting without any concerns about losing contact with the pedals as well.

    A good shoe/cleat/pedal system is a really good idea but the efficiency claims tend to be unsubstantiated and there's plenty of folks doing long hard rides including long hard technical off road rides with platform pedals and doing just fine that way.

    -Dave
     
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  4. BrianTX

    BrianTX New Member

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    anecdotal - I picked up ~ 3mph average after getting clipless pedals/shoes/cleats. I was cycling in a pair of old running (worn out) tennis shoes. I picked up ~ 5-7mph top speed. Again, this is purely anecdotal.

    More importantly, what clipless pedals did for me: fixed hot-spots in feet, allowed me to ride longer than 15-16 miles before feet went numb, allowed me to put more power to the pedals, allowed me a much smoother pedal stroke, took care of my cramping calves, allowed me to alternate which muscles I'm working while pedaling, very secure foot placement. The secure foot placement is really important to me when I come out of the saddle or get really aggressive with my pedaling.

    Of all my bike related expenditures, clipless pedals is without a doubt the best purchase. As always, YRMV.
     
  5. davereo

    davereo Well-Known Member

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    Must be going down longer hills. Anecdotal no. Bullshit yes. I would surely like to hear how you are alternating different muscles.
     
  6. davereo

    davereo Well-Known Member

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    30% increase would put you at 23.4 MPH average if you are currently doing 18. Not going to happen by just going to clipless pedals.
     
  7. Yojimbo_

    Yojimbo_ Member

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    I agree with most of the other posters here - clipless pedals won't do anything for your speed.

    On the other hand, you can hurt yourself if cleat / pedal combination isn't set up right. I had a lengthy lingering knee problem that almost caused me to quit riding. Eventually I decided it was seat height and insufficient out-turn in my foot (my left leg has lots of natural out-turn and even more since I broke it a number of years back).

    I prefer clipless pedals on my road bike and I prefer toe clips on my commuting bike.
     
  8. spanj007

    spanj007 New Member

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    It depends on what you are using now. If you are using toe clips and have them tightly fastened, you may not notice much of a difference. I concur that 20% to 30% is overstated. The big difference is that you feel you are more in sync with your pedal strokes and are "one with the bike"!
     
  9. CyclinYooper

    CyclinYooper New Member

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    I converted to clipless pedals pretty quickly, so I'm not sure if my average speed changed or not. Here are some of my observations, however:
    1. With toe-clips and running shoes, I had a tendency to have my foot jammed all the way in the clip ... however, I'm not sure that was the correct location for my "fit." I found that I would have to "pull" my foot out and angle it occasionally to keep my foot from getting really sore. I don't know if this was because running shoes are not as rigid as cycling shoes, because the clips did not properly position the ball of my foot over the pedal axle, or a combination of both. I have not had those problems with properly fitted clipless pedals, cleats, and shoes.
    2. I was not able to get my running shoes in the toe-clips without a look down at the pedal ... and, of course, the pedal was always upside down and needed be carefully flipped over before my foot could be inserted. I can, however, get into my clipless pedals without looking (most of the time). /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif Definitely a safety advantage when starting at big intersections. I can keep my eyes on the road.
    3. This is the superficial one ... everybody else you see, that looks serious, uses them. My riding partner had them, and I always felt like a duffer at intersections. He'd be clipped in ASAP and pedaling ... I was fumbling trying to get my foot into my toe clips.

    Scott
     
  10. Phil85207

    Phil85207 New Member

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    Wow this thread has been all over the place. Here is my opinion, and my experience. When I first got them the only real benefit was taking off from a stop, as I could pull hard and push at the same time. The more I worked at keeping in the power for the full stroke the stronger I became. I was using new muscles and the more I worked at it the better and easer it got. I like to do longer rides and this made a difference as I had more muscles to draw on. Now on being faster? Yes I am when I need to be. If I need to spring for a while and using the full stroke in power mode, I am much faster than if I were on regular peddles. As with anything, it's not a cure all or easy fix. A Properly fit system will cure hot spots and help with knee problems too.
    There is a reason that every serious cyclist uses them.
     
  11. finnrambo

    finnrambo New Member

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    if you switch from pedaling with the "scraping dogsh!t off your foot" to just leading your heels through it'll give your calves a rest...... well at least it seems to work for me, now to hear what brianTX to say.....
     
  12. doctorold

    doctorold Member

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    The biggest benefit I have with clipless are the times when I'm riding into the wind. I seem to tackle that much better when I'm generating extra torque on the upstroke. Strong headwinds are just miserable but the winds that are just a nuisance are tamed with my clipless pedal strokes. I switched to them during the winter when I could practice getting in and out of them on the cycle trainer. When I got back on the roads I was 1 to 1.5 mph faster. Was that due to clipless? or to the fact that I was cycle training all winter...can't answer that.
     
  13. simonetti

    simonetti New Member

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    20 mph average (equates to about 200 watts on your own, flat terrain, calm wind conditions) is the standard that you should be aiming for (in order to hold your place in most pack rides).

    I'd say if you are holding 18 without clipless you should be able to hold 20-21 with the same effort (you will also be able to spin your cranks faster and more smoothly).

    Make sure that you get cleats with lots of "float" and get a very experienced cycling friend (or good bikeshop) to help with the cleat fitment (also buy the best shoes that you can afford).

    Cleat position is very important for good power transfer and the prevention of any knee issues.

    Practice by riding around in a quiet carpark or sidesteets by clipping in and out of your shoes also practice starts and stops (it will take about 2 weeks for you to adapt).
     
  14. Jim Moore

    Jim Moore New Member

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    Hey, thanks guys. I hadn't checked this thread in a few days. I appreciate the input. I think I know what I need for my anniversary present in June. i should have well over 1000 miles on my bike by then, so I'll be able to tell how much the cliples pedals help.
     
  15. ProdigalCyclist

    ProdigalCyclist New Member

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    Quote:Originally Posted by davereo .

     


    30% increase would put you at 23.4 MPH average if you are currently doing 18. Not going to happen by just going to clipless pedals.
     
     
  16. ProdigalCyclist

    ProdigalCyclist New Member

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    Quote:Originally Posted by davereo .

     


    30% increase would put you at 23.4 MPH average if you are currently doing 18. Not going to happen by just going to clipless pedals.
     
     
  17. ProdigalCyclist

    ProdigalCyclist New Member

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    OK... let me try this again, since my last post didn't go through. The OP said he was told he could see a 20%-30% increase in EFFICIENCY.... he never said anything about seeing an increase of that amount in speed. The two are VERY different subjects.

    As for seeing a 20%-30% increase in efficiency. I can see that. Due to the fact that with clipless pedals (as opposed to regular platform) you are applying pressure at all points of the revolution and using MANY more muscle groups. A 20%-30% increase in efficiency is not out of the question at all... you could probably even see more.


    If you get a chance.... Follow a rider's return to the bike after a 15+ year "offseason" http://theprodigalcyclistca.blogspot.com/
     
  18. maydog

    maydog Well-Known Member

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    Prodigal, what you describe is not efficiency. Efficiency is energy out / energy in, using more muscles does not reduce the energy required to push a bicycle forward (energy out). Using more muscles may help reduce fatigue and enable one to go farther and harder.

    Perhaps going clipless helps to improve ones form which will reduce pedaling effort. However, a 20-30% difference in expenditure would be huge, I doubt an experienced cyclist's form could be that bad.

    Anecdotally I have not noticed a significant difference in speeds or energy expenditure on the few occasions I actually use the platform side of my clipless pedals. I like clipless, but I still believe the 20-30% claim to be pulled from the air, or a misuse of the term efficiency when perhaps something more subjective such as perceived effort or effectivity was intended.
     
  19. ProdigalCyclist

    ProdigalCyclist New Member

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    LOL... ok so I guess it's a matter of semantics. But my statement is based on a comparison between platform pedals vs clipless pedals straight up.

    When you are pulling one pedal you are easing the pressure it takes to push the other and visa versa... which is more efficient. Because if you are only pushing you will fatigue more in your quads and do it faster. You also have to concentrate on keeping your feet on the pedals when your cadence is high... AND.... if you are using platform pedals, the chances are you are in flexible sole shoes which will cause discomfort in the soles of your feet (called a hot spot)... all that taken in to consideration I don't see how it's hard to come to the conclusion that you will see an increase in SOMETHING POSITIVE of 20%-30%... I guess I just wont call it efficiency. If you want to use calculus to describe the term efficiency then that's cool. But I think I conveyed my message clearly.
     
  20. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming New Member

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    Go back and read those pedal force studies linked on the first page of this thread. Yes, cycling mythology is steeped in the need to 'pull up', 'scrape mud', 'spin circles', etc. but when it's actually been studied with force measuring pedals the faster riders simply push down harder during the power phase and do little more than move the rising pedal up and out of the way but without contributing any significant power via the upstroke.

    The '91 Coyle study is particularly interesting in that well trained state level 40K time trialists spun smoother circles with slightly 'better' force application around the stroke but generated less power and went slower than national caliber time trialists that simply pushed down harder on the downstroke.

    FWIW, I was heavily coached on the need to spin and the evils of mashing back in the day, worked on scraping mud, pushing through the top of the stroke, ankling, spinning round circles, training in fixed gears on the road to improve spin, you name it. But when researchers have actually looked closely at this they've found that a lot of the tradition isn't grounded in how fast riders actually pedal.

    Secure attachment to the pedals is great for a lot of reasons including safety but attempts to measure increased efficiency resulting from the ability to apply forces during the upstroke or across the top and bottom of the stroke have not demonstrated any advantages over free floating platform pedals. The closest pedal systems seem to come to delivering better efficiency or ability to sustain higher power seems to come from reliable foot positioning relative to the pedal so that riders don't find themselves pedaling with their heels or the tips of their toes but that really isn't much of an issue for experienced cyclists.

    -Dave
     
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