I’ve been skimming a number of cycling-related blogs lately and it seems like there is alot of recent talk about clipless pedals. Now I find myself weighing in on the subject, guess this is just how “news” travels in the blog age…
I’ve been a big fan of clipless pedals for years now and I have to say I don’t really buy into the idea that clipless pedals give you a huge pedaling efficiency advantage. One of the commentors on the above post mentioned a study that found little upstroke power in cycling and for me, this is definitely true (though my form is not professional grade by any means). For mountain bikers especially, there is often little time to focus on cadence and pedal strokes when bombing down steep terrain and jumping logs, let alone eeking out micro power from upward pedal motion.
For me, the biggest reason for mountain bikers to use clipless pedals is for control. I’ve often compared mountain biking without cleats to skiing without being attached to your skis. The amount of control you have when clipped onto your bike is infinitely greater than when you’re bouncing on top of the pedals and I have a hard time riding without being firmly attached to my bike.
I would argue that adding clipless pedals to a mountain bike is the single most beneficial upgrade you can make to a bike, more than shocks or components or anything else. In fact my first mountain bike was a Bridgestone MB-5 (rigid fork) and I learned to ride clipless pedals on the mean trails of Georgia and North Carolina without a care in the world about front or rear suspension. Who needs springs when you can just bounce with the bike?