Re: [CR] Touring Shoes and Clipless

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Date: Wed, 11 Feb 2009 09:06:59 -0700
From: "Mitch Harris" <>
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Subject: Re: [CR] Touring Shoes and Clipless

On Wed, Feb 11, 2009 at 7:54 AM, Kirke Campbell <> wrote:
> Hey list! (sorry if this went through twice, I dont know if the email cle ared the first time!)
> I was wondering if anyone knows of a company that still makes non-cliples s cycling-specific shoes in the style of old Avocet touring shoes? Things l ike this show up on ebay occasionally, but they are rarely in my size and I dont really want to buy used shoes.
> If you have any tips please share!

Consider getting shoes made for spd cleats and just not removing the piece of the sole that reveals the cleat holes. I don't know of any Avocet style colorful nylon cycling shoes, although the rare and expensive Carnac touring shoes are a classy version similarly shaped but in black leather. But there are many spd shoes that work great with clips and straps. Shimano is a favorite brand of mine for shoes like you describe--well styled, not gaudy, but still ok looking, durable, reasonably priced, great for pedaling and walking.
> Also, I currently have clips and straps on all my bikes and (believe it o r not) have never used a clipless system! Now, everyone likes to tell me th at going clipless is the best way to improve your pedaling. I was wondering if anyone has decided to use clipless pedals on their otherwise "period co rrect," on-topic bikes for the sake of improving technique and efficiency?

Maybe think about clipless more as something that can solve problems with clips and straps. Problems mitght include discomfort from the pedal edge, from the strap, from the impossibility/difficulty of finding slot cleat shoes anymore, the difficulty of finding a clip/strap shoe that is as comfortable and well made as a Sidi shoe for clipless... And some people have difficulty pulling up on the pedal with clip/straps at low rpm and like clipless if they feel this works better for them.

There are lots of reasons people have been uncomfortable with clips/straps and clipless can solve these problems and make loyal clipless riders. However, if someone is telling you that clipless allow one to pedal more smoothly then you're talking to someone who doesn't know anything about riding with clips/straps; even if that person has ridden a lot with clips/straps and prefers his pedaling with clipless, his inability to pedal as smoothly with clips/straps has nothing to do with the limitations of clips/straps but with his own pedaling. Consider that the two groups of cyclists perhaps most associated with smooth high-rpm pedaling have been the least interested in clipless: track riders were long reluctant and many still reluctant to go to clipless, and good BMX riders pedal more smoothly than any of us without any foot retention at all.

On the other hand the two groups of riders that went quickest to clipless are long distance road racers who were most likely to have long-ride comfort issues with clips/straps, and mostly likely to appreciate the new comfort offered by clipless shoes in 1984 and to like the Look sponsorship money. And the other group was rank and file mountain bikers who from the late 80s on found that clipless pedals allowed them to get in and out of pedals faster in technical riding than they could with clips/straps, and felt they could pull up better at low rpm, and liked the way that clipless pedals never dragged a clip when you couldn't clip in right away. Both groups coincided with a period where cycling was seen more and more as a specialized sporting activity that required that you drive your bike to the starting point using a car, and that made irrelavent whether you could hop on a bike with ordinary shoes for utility riding. The quality and variety of spd shoes reduces that utility riding problem and makes clipless pedals quite practical for general riding again if you find an spd shoe you like.

So, if you are not having problems with clips/straps you are not likely to find much advantage for clipless. But you should still try them if you like, so that you can see if you prefer them, if they solve problems you didn't know you had.

One of the most common problems that clipless pedals solve is the problem of the cool kids at the bike shop or at your group ride who think you are a loser for still using clips and straps. Many of the people who use and recommend clipless switched for this reason, and many are too young to have ridden with clips and straps and think of clips/strap pedals as someting like a penny farthing bicycle. A good friend and riding partner gave me a pair of clipless pedals for my mtb once because he just felt sorry for me ;-) and that was in 1995. He didn't believe me when I said that althoguh I liked them fien after riding them--thanks, pal--but they didn't really allow me to do anything that I did with my clips/straps.

I tried clipless in 1985 and found it worked fine but didn't solve any problem for me since I didn't have any comfort issues with clips and straps. Since then I've tried maybe a dozen clipless systems just because I used to get plenty of opportunities to ride new stuff and try it out. But I still have clips and straps on all of my bikes, except for one mtb (the ones my friend gave me) which I never ride around town for utility anyway.

If you just want to improve your pedaling, try fixed gear riding, or rollers, or BMX, or just spin for three minutes at a time at the highest rpm you can maintain for that period, and repeat. But do try clipless for curiosity, possible benefits that might emerge, for fun, or to respond to social pressure ;-)