Recumbents Don’t Need Clip-in Pedals- Who Knew? – BionicOldGuy

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Let me first define a few terms. Pedals that I refer to as “clip-in” are more often known as “clipless.” This strange time period is what sets them apart from more traditional pedals like those with toe clips and straps. A cleat on the bottom of the shoe known as a “clipless” connects directly to a mechanism on the pedal. I’ll continue to refer to them as “clip-in” pedals because it better reflects how they work.

Clip-in pedals are the only way to ride. What if the pedal wasn’t connected to the foot? Wouldn’t the foot just fall off?

Recumbents, I concluded, needed clip-in pedals because their feet protrude forward and the weight of their legs would cause them to slide off the pedals. Using clip-ins on any bike has advantages and disadvantages.

Clip-ins’ greatest benefit is that they help you pedal more sustainably. The biggest drawback is that you may accidentally clip your foot out while placing it on the ground. The majority of us have experienced a humiliating slow-motion speed-bump because we didn’t get our foot out in time. In recumbents, the situation is worse because they wobble at slow speeds and your foot has to go a longer distance to the bottom before you can stop. While driving recently, I experienced one of those steady speed drops because I lost my momentum while turning a hairpin at the top of a pedestrian overpass and didn’t remove my foot in time.

Clip-ins’ greatest benefit is that they help you pedal more sustainably. The biggest drawback is that you may accidentally clip your foot out while placing it on the ground. The majority of us have experienced a humiliating slow-motion speed-bump because we didn’t get our foot out in time. In recumbents, the situation is worse because they wobble at slow speeds and your foot has to go a longer distance to the bottom before you can stop. While driving recently, I experienced one of those steady speed drops because I lost my momentum while turning a hairpin at the top of a pedestrian overpass and didn’t remove my foot in time.

After utilising ‘bents for nearly two decades, it never occurred to me to look into whether or not I actually needed clip-ins. And on our recumbent group ride last Sunday, I noticed that many of the riders weren’t using them. As a result, I switched to flat mountain pedals in time for yesterday’s ride.

Shimano SPD clip-in pedals (left), and mountain pedals put in on my ‘bent (right)

Some mountain bikers dislike clip-ins because they force them to put their feet down more often when confronted with unexpected difficulties. However, an extremely sticky pedal is required so that the rider’s feet do not slide about when pedalling. Flat mountain pedals, often known as “platform” pedals, provide a workaround for this problem.

Mounting mountain pedals on my ‘bent while using Shimano SPD clip-in pedals (on the left) (right)

When I go on mixed bike/hike trips, I dismount more frequently and like to wear walking shoes that are more comfortable for mountaineering than bicycling shoes with cleats, thus I got into the habit of using flat mountain pedals on my uprights instead. So, on my recumbent bike, I gave this concoction a shot. And it’s a pleasure to use! Lucky for me, I got to spend the morning doing hairpin turns while travelling about. There was no discernible difference in pedalling efficiency. And your foot doesn’t show any signs of wanting to let off of the pedal. Sooner or later, this will be my go-to plan of action

Pedal Efficiency and Clip-ins

This topic, at least for leisure motorcyclists, seems exaggerated to me. After all, for racing, you’ll take every small advantage you can get. However, the pedals on my upright bike are clip-in on one side and flat on the other (with a sticky floor similar to a flat mountain pedal). When I ride this bike, I should time myself on the same route in regular sneakers vs. clip-in cycling footwear to see which is faster. I’ve compared the two and found there to be minimal difference. In both directions, I’ve completed group rides and don’t have any additional hassles with the usual shoes versus the biking sneakers to maintain. I’ll use my clip-in bike shoes if I ever do something extreme like a time trial, but for casual riding, the flat pedals are perfect for me.

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