Newbie question!

Hi! I’m a RAGBRAI virgin. I have the bike shoes that clip into the pedal—I won’t wear them because I’m a klutz! Im wondering if I should just wear the shoes for the support and stability or if gym shoes are ok to wear. Thank you for your help!

25 Replies

KenH, May 23, 2018 at 1:06 pm

Actually a number of studies of the pedal strokes of “elite” cyclists show that for grinding out the miles at a steady pace the subject’s production of propulsive torque during the upstroke phase varied all the way from very little to none. During brief periods of extreme effort, to win a sprint for example, torque production on the upstroke may be significant. But for RAGBRAI, for most of us, those periods do not occur. My experience with producing torque on the upstroke was that it tires my legs out almost instantly. During all the years I used SPDs I NEVER pulled up on the pedal to produce torque!

An all-day ride, efficient pedal stroke involves push forward, push down, pull back to varying degrees. Pinned platform pedals allow you to do all that very well as lab tests have confirmed. If you want to win a race you must have clipless, if you want to get across Iowa efficiently you do not.

If you are happy with your clipless there is no reason for you to change.

If you are having problems with your current pedals and shoes, or if you just do not want to go clipless for some reason, then platform pedals may be a viable option for you.


swiifg, May 24, 2018 at 3:03 pm

In the 3 years I have ridden RAGBRAI my shoes have either been tennis shoes or regular Keen sandals. They have worked well for me and my style of riding. Add to that……most of the time when somebody toppled over near me it seemed they were having difficulty getting their shoes unclipped form the pedals. I agree with so many others here, whether it’s your bike, your gear or your shoes – whatever you are comfortable with and use when you ride at home will most likely be just fine for RAGBRAI week. Go and have a great time!


T. Gap Woo, May 24, 2018 at 8:31 pm


Thanks for your usually insightful analysis on the subject of propulsive torque production. Spoken like a true engineer (which, if I recall correctly from prior year posts, you are)! Now I need two aspirin to conquer the massive headache I got from trying to wrap my head around this.

Regarding the whole pedal issue, as Daddy Woo used to say, “Whatever floats your boat!” And I say, as have many other posters, “It’s your Ragbrai. Ride it however you like.” BTW, Ragbrai don’t care (right, Michrider?).

See you along the I-O-Way in July.


JLVanPelt, May 25, 2018 at 6:40 am

I did my first two RAGBRAIs with mountain bike shoes and no clips at all due to a combination of fear, prior bad experiences with falling while trying clipless pedals and not being a strong cyclist in crowds. It was doable and for me to gain the confidence of one less thing to worry about, it was the right decision at that time. I’ve been in clipless the past two years. I have the KEEN sandals which are nice for RAGBRAI. I’ll never go back to regular shoes for all the detailed reasons above but my comment is do whatever thinks will make you most comfortable. One of the scariest things for me on RAGBRAI is seeing a rider who can’t handle their bike, avert dangerous situations quickly or is making panic decisions. If you get 30 days out and still feel a clipless shoe choice gives you more control, do it!


Jason Stoller, June 24, 2018 at 6:30 pm

For me the answer is simple. Since I ride Recumbent Bicycles and Trikes I always uses Clipless. The reason for this because there is an issue when riding this type of Bike or Trike called Leg Suck. Believe me Leg Suck hurts. You Leg can get sucked rearwards and you can be seriously injured from it.

While there are other benefits from using clipless shoes and pedals, one very important one is safety because it does keep your feet where they need to be.



Heidi S, June 24, 2018 at 7:46 pm

Thank you for starting this discussion! I’ve been riding clipless, in sneakers. I was thinking of getting a pair of Keens for the ride, and the comments here have convinced me that that is the way to go! do what works best for you! I totally understand that I am losing potential efficiency, but i also know that i’m just not that comfortable with clips!


Norm Ovens, June 24, 2018 at 8:30 pm

One option is Shimano pedal (search PD-M324) that is a platform on one side, spd on the other, I’ve used these for over 15 years and they are great. I’ve ridden many miles in my running shoes, or sandals without problems. When you want to swap to cycling shoes, pull them out of your bag for the day, or not, as you choose… Grant Petersen wrote a book called “just ride” it’s a good book, my first reaction was that he wrote blasphemy, contradicting all the things I’d learned (been told) about riding a bike, then I tried them out for myself and discovered that a lot of things we’ve learned are not the only way to do things. If you want to ride the whole way on platform pedals and trainers you’ll be OK..


Jon Hopcia, June 25, 2018 at 7:29 am

I’ve done The Terrible Two, Markleeville Death Ride, The Bay Area Triple Century…. clipless, sort of. Good touring shoes without cleats using toe clips or half clips. Last year RAGBRAI the same. It’s great to be able to walk or run with them. This year…. Keens with toe clips. I didn’t like my wet feet when it rained last year.


Elizabeth Moreau, June 25, 2018 at 8:51 pm

I rode last year for the first time, and wore gym sneakers and rode a beat-up hybrid with platform pedals. And I had a great time! This year, I’m looking forward to riding my road bike with clipless pedals (I have the single sided ones that are platformed on the other side so I have the option of riding fairly comfortably with one or no feet clipped in) and I am absolutely sure that I will forget to unclip at least once and make an embarrassing spectacle of myself.

#1289180, June 29, 2018 at 3:44 pm

Make the effort to learn how to use your clips. You will have a better experience with the security of being clipped in. Just take your time. Get some help. Enjoy yourself.

You will have a great time on RAGBRAI. I have ridden twice after doing 4 rides supporting another rider. This year we have added another rider to the experience.

Good ride,



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