Cycling Shoes: The Clipless Pedal System
When riding a bicycle, it’s a given that you want to pick out the proper clothes, such as shorts, a jersey and of course the proper helmet. Yet, the type of shoes to wear can often be overlooked.
We’re so used to just getting on the bike and riding around, and most of us put a pair of sneakers without even thinking about how they will affect our feet in relation to the pedals. Cycling shoes, especially those that work with a clipless pedal system can provide a more efficient experience, depending on the type of riding involved.
Why Go Clipless?
Now, cycling shoes have come a long way, baby, since the old fashioned toe clip mechanism that looked like something out of a science fiction film. In fact, the clipless pedal is obviously the most popular system for bicyclists, as the specially designed shoe has a fastened cleat that locks into the actual pedal to keep the foot firmly fastened.
Surprisingly enough, clipless pedals have actually been around since the late 19th century. Charles Hanson first patented the system in 1895, and there have been many variations since from other inventors, some of which involved suction cups, springs and even a magnetic system that is still used to some extent today. Designed specifically for racing, they provide an easy way to lock your feet in and out, very similar to how ski boots work. Today’s clipless cycling shoes feature a three-hole system that fastens the cleat to a compatible pedal. Of course, if you’re planning on using clipless pedals and shoes, you need to replace your old pedals and invest in clipless ones.
As for the shoes, most cycling shoes that use the clipless pedal system have built in cleats that adjust to the pedal. Typical, everyday walking in these shoes is not recommended as they are specifically designed for riding.
It’s basically a system that has two unique parts. The pedal itself features a mechanism that will lock into a specially designed cleat that attaches to your shoe. The cleat locks into the cleat and firmly secures your feet, giving you better overall control and stability of your bicycle. Here’s how it works: pushing your foot down onto the cleat will help secure it; to release your feet, simply twist your foot outward.
This type of system gives you greater efficiency as you’re using more of a sweeping motion to motivate the bicycle as opposed to using all your energy on the down stroke. It also helps improve the quality of your leg and hip muscles and will make you go faster, especially if you’re racing.
Other Types of Shoes
While the clipless pedal is the most commonly used pedal/shoe system for racing, basically any kind of shoe can be worn while bicycling, depending on what kind of riding is involved. You don’t necessarily need clipless pedals if you’re riding on a casual bike trail, for instance.
In fact, a casual riding shoe may be just what you need if you’re taking an easy, stress free ride. If your riding isn’t all that intense, you may just want to stick with a regular pair of sneakers. However, it is best to find shoes with stiff soles, which will help improve your pedaling. If you’re looking at shoes and you can easily twist it, then it’s not what you’re looking for. Stiff soles are great if you’re doing some hiking in the mountains, and they can greatly benefit your feet if you’re doing some off road riding.
It should be noted that the clipless pedal system has branched out into mountain bikes, touring and track, among others, so there exists a wide assortment to choose from.