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Could you complete without clipless pedals?

Quick question – Could you complete this ride without clipless pedals? I know the route changes every year, but I’m not quite familiar with Iowa terrain….I recently broke my wrist after a pedals incident and it’s been a financially and physically painful nightmare that sort of has me burned out on the idea of clips…

39 Replies

CyclingRoberto, May 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Riding with pedals that accommodate cleats is just safer. Once you get the hang of how to use them, you are firmly attached to your bike.


Topher, May 22, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Riding with pedals that accommodate cleats is just safer.Once you get the hang of how to use them, you are firmly attached to your bike.

Riding with pedals that accommodate cleats is just safer.Once you get the hang of how to use them, you are firmly attached to your bike.

Except for aggressive downhill MTB riding I’ve never understood how being attached to the bike makes it safer?


Spenser, May 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Riding with pedals that accommodate cleats is just safer.Once you get the hang of how to use them, you are firmly attached to your bike.

lol unless you break a limb? I was in a position where I had to hop off pretty quickly – the whole incident took about 2 seconds.

I agree that there are some great benefits to going clipless, but to discount the negative and assume that it is “safer” is just silly. Unfortunately, there are times where you don’t want to be firmly attached to your bike…


Michrider !!!, May 22, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Ride with any pedals you want, LOL!!!!!!


CyclingRoberto, May 22, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Why do things always turn into a massive “do it your way” debate? Look at any pro cyclist (I know, WE AREN’T PROS). Every one of them has pedals that go with cleats. Being connected to your bike gives you more control. It’s like wearing seatbelts.


jsm, May 22, 2012 at 6:41 pm

The great thing about this is that you get to do what you want. People who have different opinions are entitled to them. Smile and ride on.


champgabe, May 22, 2012 at 6:48 pm

The only time I’ve fallen with cleats is when I’m stopping. I’ve had a few times that my bike has leaned the wrong way & my other foot was still connected. I’ve been working on unclipping both feet for a safer stop.
I rode the ride of silence last week with clips and had to make a sudden stop when a cyclist in front of me went over his handlebars. If you are thinking of going with cleats, I would suggest that you practice unclipping out of the pedals at different times of your training. Not just when you are ready to stop. I’ve learned that neccessary times to unclip may not just be at the end of my ride.

I can tell the difference in my cycling when I am using cleats versus flat pedals. Especially when I am riding into headwinds and uphils. On the flip side, my sister can ride circles around me and she usese flat pedals. She is always telling me how nervous she is to see me mount my bicycle with my clips. She has no interst in being fully attached to her bicycle, as she feels more comfortable and is OK with the less effecient method.


Topher, May 22, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Why do things always turn into a massive “do it your way” debate?Look at any pro cyclist (I know, WE AREN’T PROS).Every one of them has pedals that go with cleats.Being connected to your bike gives you more control.It’s like wearing seatbelts.

I’m also not trying to be senselessly argumentative but what the Pro’s do has very little bearing on what I do.

Professional car drivers wear helmets, neck braces, 5 point harnesses and have roll bars but I still comfortable with just a baseball cap and over the shoulder belt when I get behind the wheel of my Subaru. Just like on my bike …. I don’t ride or drive in the conditions or situations the Pros do, so I don’t need the same equipment.

I know I don’t put in near as many miles as you do, but still feel plenty safe doing my 3,000+ per year without being connected to the bike.


longrider42, May 22, 2012 at 7:01 pm

As a commuter bike rider, who has traffic and stopsigns and signals to deal with every day. I am way more comfortable with Flat pedals. I’ve been using a pair of the old Beartrap pedals for 10years now. First on one recumbent,thenon my newest recumbent. But for Ragbrai,I’ve decided to try a pair of the Power Grip Straps, on a new pair of pedals. Time to retire the old beartraps. I’m hoping to get abit more power out of my pedalling.

We’ll see, hope I dnt fall over too many times. :)


Tony, May 22, 2012 at 7:24 pm

The question is can you do the ride without clipless pedals? The simple answer is yes. Many riders do it on platform or quill pedals. That said there are very good reasons to use clipless or toe clips. With the foot secured to the pedal. the power transfer is greatly increased. This translates into endurance improvements to get you farther down the road with less effort. It also keeps the foot and legs alignment in optimum position. This reduces or eliminates pain/injury to joints and muscles. But there are trade offs. For non competitive riders. The biggest concern is dismount the bike and being able to walk in the bicycle shoes. Road shoe cleats are very prone to damage if they are walked on. They are also very slick to walk on hard surfaces. For a ride like RAGBRAI. You are continually dismounting your bike. MTB style shoes and pedals are a better option. On MTB shoes the cleat is recessed into the sole. This allows normal walking off the bike. But the cleat can easily get clogged with mud and debris off the bike. This debris transfers to the pedal. It then can cause the pedal not to release or engage the cleat properly. Platform or quill pedals and toe clips allow use of street athletic shoes. Which gives you normal walking off the bike. Yet the benefit of full pedal stroke power transfer. The problem with them is when the toe clip is cinched. You can not release quickly. You have to reach down and release the strap with your hand. So lots of choices. Personally I prefer Time ATAC or Crankbrothers Candy style MTB pedals. But I still enjoy riding traps. My Centurion has MKS platforms with toe clips. What every you decide to use. The key is being familiar enough with your equipment to use it safely and to your benefit.


gas gas, May 22, 2012 at 7:41 pm

In 1984, the French company LOOK applied downhill snow skiing binding or cleat technology to pedals producing the first widely used clipless pedals. Initially used by triathletes in order to facilitate faster “transitions”, Bernard Hinault’s victory in Tour de France in 1985 then helped secure the acceptance of quick-release clipless pedal systems by cyclists.

So I would think that not many cyclists on RAGBRAI would have used clipless pedals before before 1985 .


CyclingRoberto, May 22, 2012 at 7:43 pm

“Unclipping” both feet is a sure-fire way to crash. If you want to practice with your cleats, try using your bicycle like a scooter. Keep one foot free and on the ground to push your bike along. Bring your bike to a stop, and repeat. Do this exercise for about 10 minutes. Never clip in the free foot. Do not get up on the saddle. Just lift your foot off the ground to coast for 10-20 feet and stop. After 10 minutes, do the same thing only this time add putting your butt up on the saddle and off again as you stop. Still do not clip in. Do this for another 10 minutes repeatedly. Finally, put it all together, and clip in, and out and stop. Do this for the final 10 minutes. If you do this 30 minute drill, you will become super familiar with stopping with your cleats. And remember, never unclip both at once. And if you’re going to stop for more than a few seconds, unclip the other foot. Good luck.

And of course you can do the ride without cleats. Remember skateboard dude? And the high wheelers? But without a doubt, once you master using cleats, you will never want to do a long ride again without them.


GetAClue Blue, May 22, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Yes you can. Put I use a peddle that is clipless on one side and flat on the other. It works well for starting and stopping in crowds. I don’t clip in until I can ride along without having to worry about quick stopping. I also unclip my left foot sometimes because it develops a pain due to a surgery I had on it many years ago. I can cruise along with one foot clipped in and my left foot on the flat peddle and the pain in that left foot will go away.


Peggy Kerr, May 22, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Yes, it’s certainly been done – by thousands, I’m sure. My first year I rode a hybrid wearing running shoes. It can be done. Would I do it again? NO WAY! Got SPD pedals the 2nd year – the kind getaclueblue referenced. I felt SO much less fatigue. The 3rd year I bought a decent Giant road bike that I could actually lift over my head it is so light ;^) and I had so much more fun because the ride was not a grueling test of endurance. Is RAGBRAI fun no matter what pedal system or bike you ride? Absolutely – I came back every year in spite of the difficulty I caused myself!! It’s an experience like no other.


“Bicycle Bill”, May 23, 2012 at 12:40 am

From a non-pro standpoint — it has long been accepted that there is an optimal position for the foot and the pedal to come into contact, usually right about the ball of the feet, in order to fully utilize the leg muscles and deliver the most power to the pedal and in turn to the rear wheel. Toeclips and straps (including the PowerGrip straps) tend to hold your foot in the same position on the pedal, eliminating the need for you, the rider, to waste even a small amount of energy concentrating on keeping an untethered foot in the proper position. Clips (such as the original Look ‘ski-binding’ pedals) were just a more techogeeky way of doing the same thing. THAT’S the reason why being attached to the bike is a definite benefit.



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