Member Question: Do Clipless Pedals Really Matter?

author : Amy Kuitse
comments : 13

I have pedals with the cage and when I ride 2+ hours my legs feel much more tired then if I took out my husband's bike with clipless pedals. Do clipless pedals truly make the difference?

Member Question

Currently I have normal pedals with the cage on them and lately when I ride 2+ hours my legs feel much more tired and sore then if I took out my husband's bike with clipless pedals - then I'm fine.  Do clipless pedals truly make that much of a difference?


Answer by Coach Amy



Great question about the clips and pedals. Using a clip and pedal system (clipless) is really much better than using your running shoes and cages. Many people think cages save time in T2 because you are in your running shoes already, but this is not the case. What you may save in time by not changing shoes you will lose in energy expended due to a less efficient pedal stroke.


The benefits of using a clip and pedal system (clipless) is pretty clear across the board in most articles you read. There is greater efficiency noted in the power you generate and less energy expended. When using this system you are better able to maintain your power through the upward stroke as efficiently as you push through the downward cycle of the pedal stroke. So, when you look at the entire 360 degrees of rotation in your pedal stroke, you are able create a more constant application of force throughout.

Clipless refers to the fact that the older 'cage' system was a 'toe-clip'.  Nowadays, in the conventional 'clipless' system, you are not clipping in at the toe, but by a cleat at the bottom of your shoe that attaches to the pedal. Confusing?  Yes!

Now that we know that clipless pedals are more efficient we need to determine what type of system is best for us. There are multiple brands out there and choosing is a personal preference. I would recommend talking with other triathletes, as well as looking at systems that have a built in “float” to it. This allows side to side movement of your feet while clipped in. It also helps to avoid knee injuries as it allows for great mobility.


Here are a few of the more popular systems out there, but not the only ones you can find: Speedplay, Look, Shimano, Time. My personal preference is Speedplay as I like the “lollipop” style pedal that allows me to clip onto either side of the pedal. Again, a personal preference.



Cage/'Clips'                                     Clipless


User Reviews:


--> Look Keo Classic

--> Shimano PD-R540

--> Speedplay Zero Stainless Steel


Another important aspect of the system you choose is the riding shoes you will need to have. You want to make sure your shoes are compatible with the clips and pedals you choose. There are shoes made specifically for triathlon and worth the consideration when you go to make this purchase. Triathlon shoes are usually lined inside so they can be worn without socks. They have a velcro strap(s) made to pull away from the inside of the foot to the outside (reverse strap closure). They will also have a heel loop to help pull them on and remove them more quickly. All these things help to make for a faster transition over time.


Improving our transition times, as it relates to what we are discussing, does take time and practice and practice also increases our safety and comfort with the clip and pedal system. One way to improve safety and comfort is by using the clipless system inside on your spinner before trying it out on the road for the first time. You can practice clipping in and out of the pedals while not having to worry about maintaining your balance on the bike. Initially you will feel the need to look down at the pedals to see if you are making contact on the right spot with your shoes.


As you transition to riding outside, do things like slowing down sooner when you approach a stop sign so you can clip out of the pedal a bit earlier than needed; ride in a neighborhood where you can practice coming to a stop and clip in/out of the pedals; and have a sense of humor. You are likely to have at least one fall as you learn to use this new system. Trust me, we have all done it and hope our neighbors did not see us!

Enjoy the process of choosing a clipless pedal system that works best for you and finding the shoes that are compatible with this system. It is worth the practice time to learn how to use this. In the long run the time you will you used for purchasing and practicing with the clips and pedals will be time you take off your overall race results.

All the best,




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date: February 17, 2009

Amy Kuitse