Clipless and fixed gear

I gave up clips and straps for clipless pedals back in 1987. When I first tried riding fixed gear in 2005, I briefly tried going back to straps, but for me it turns out clipless pedals are much easier to use.

Socks du jour

It seems like every fixie rider I see rides with straps, though. Is it a style thing? Are straps better / easier / quicker than bindings? If you ride fixed, how do you roll?

One things for certain: riding fixed with clipless pedals means you learn how to clip in quickly after a stop. I can generally get clipped in within half a pedal stroke as you can see in the video my daughter shot of me.

The bike shown in the photo and video is Kona’s Band Wagon, new for 2010. Watch for comments and reviews of this bike in the coming weeks.

23 Comments

  • March 24, 2010 - 10:09 am | Permalink

    Pretty sure that most fixie riders I see around London (UK) are using clipless pedals – could this be a stylistic difference from one side of the Atlantic to the other? For the record, I use clipless (Shimano SPDs) on mine.

    On a separate note, that Kona is a rip off of my bike (On One 'Il Pompino' – see link)!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/goleo/3782172087/s

  • March 24, 2010 - 10:23 am | Permalink

    I love clips but if I'm riding to get to a destination then I have to bring a pair of shoes, because I don't like walking around with my clip shoes on. I wish I did have straps–I'd probably ride my bike more.

  • March 24, 2010 - 10:27 am | Permalink

    My general assumption is that, for the urban rider in general, bike shoes with cleats are too much trouble. Not stylish, inconvenient to show up at somebody's house and scrape up their floor, hard to dance in, and adds too much cost to a bike that is already a heavy theft risk.

    Also, if you check out the track cycling folks, they don't trust clipless pedals. I've seen a few guides for how to take an SPD-SL pedal and add a toe clip and strap to it.

  • March 24, 2010 - 10:32 am | Permalink

    Track is different — you want to be cinched down tight, which is precisely why I went to clipless over 20 years ago, because I don't want to be cinched down while riding with traffic :-)

  • March 24, 2010 - 10:33 am | Permalink

    Kelly: You might like these bike shoes.

  • March 24, 2010 - 10:36 am | Permalink

    Wow, thanks! You know, I would actually wear those in public!

  • ET
    March 24, 2010 - 10:56 am | Permalink

    i rode clips for years and generally hated it. from shoe to shoe, the variation in sole width kept me adjusting the straps all the time, and the variation in sole height meant my bike didn't always feel the same.
    in the past year i have switched all of my bikes to clipless, and couldn't be happier about it. i even ride MTB clipless and fixed. i found a pair of shoes i can walk in that don't eat floors, so i don't mind wearing them for hours. they look goofy sure, but i really don't care.
    all that said, i am kicking around the idea of throwing together a beater out of parts-bin stuff, with clips and straps, just for the few times i don't really want to ride clipless.

  • Matt
    March 24, 2010 - 11:07 am | Permalink

    I use Power Grips on my fixed gear. Just got new pedals and almost go half and half pedals (SPD + a platform), but they were significantly wider than my current pedals, so I was worried about ground strike.

  • March 24, 2010 - 11:12 am | Permalink

    Man, straps just look cool and let you pedal a couple strokes before hooking in the second foot (wait, not like I know what I'm talking about, but that's what I've seen). I have seen both clipless and straps on the SJF kids, but the straps are definitely more common. It probably is a style thing. The straps just look old school and cool and you can still use whatever shoes you're wearing.

    This morning I was just telling Aaron that I was thinking about getting some bike shorts for longer rides and he mentioned that it's only a matter of time before I end up buying straps or clipless. Oh man…

    That said, I have been looking at getting straps…

  • Chris
    March 24, 2010 - 11:33 am | Permalink

    I have both for my fixed gear. If I am going on a long ride on the weekend, I will switch to clipless, but for the most part, I use clips and straps. Its a lot easier when you just want to cruise over to 711 or the grocery store to pick something up really quick. Honestly, I think clipless looks cooler and cleaner and is more functional if you aren't headed to a destination a short ways away.

  • jake_m
    March 24, 2010 - 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I alternate. I'll go months with clips and straps, but I just switched back to SPDs the other day. I forgot how great it is to use clipless with a fixed gear. Here in Portland, OR you see all kinds. I'd say the number of people riding fixed with clipless is equal to the number of people riding brakeless without foot retention. Of course, we also have people who ride singlespeed freewheels with only a front brake. Guess it takes all kinds.

  • Aa
    March 24, 2010 - 12:21 pm | Permalink

    My fixed gear is my cheapo wet-weather bike. Straps and cages are a lot cheaper than clipless pedals.

    I can get my foot into the cage within half a rotation too.

  • March 24, 2010 - 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Like you, I have been using clipless pedals on all my bikes, including fixed gear road bikes and track bikes, since the late 80's. My current fixed gear has old style Times with a lot of surface area, so I can also use them as platform pedals for short rides around the neighborhood.

  • jamesmallon
    March 24, 2010 - 2:37 pm | Permalink

    I ride clipless on fixed too. I have missed too many clips off a red. Now I wail on that pedal a few spins with it under my instep, then fit in my foot while some distance ahead of the autoheads.

  • jamesmallon
    March 24, 2010 - 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Yuck. Nobody should ever wear shoes inside a house. Do you know what you step on outside?

  • dr. whassup
    March 25, 2010 - 4:43 am | Permalink

    i use clipless pedals if all i'm planing to do is ride my bike, like if i'm mtn biking or heading out for a ride on my road/touring bike. i use my fixed-gear for short rides that generally involve a fair amount of time off the bike, hanging out etc. i supose if i planned to do a 30+ mile ride on my fix, i would throw on clipless pedals. BTW, it shouldn't take half a stroke to get in and out of your pedals, it should take half a second.

  • March 25, 2010 - 8:40 am | Permalink

    Good point about ride distance and purpose, Doc. I'm pretty sure half a second falls “within half a pedal stroke,” but I could be wrong.

  • March 25, 2010 - 8:42 am | Permalink

    I've been known to ride w/ sandals on SPDs :-) Not the most comfortable deal but it works in a pinch. I've though about getting wider pedals, but concerned about pedal strike like @Matt mentioned above.

  • March 25, 2010 - 8:43 am | Permalink

    Aa – good point about price! And I never even thought about that if I went back to using clips and straps a lot I'd probably get decently fast at it. (I know, obvious, but never even considered it before).

  • March 25, 2010 - 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Another option is making small platforms for SPD pedals using a couple small scraps of plywood and old cleats. One of my neighbors has that setup so he can ride barefoot to the pool in the summer on his singlespeed MTB

  • doug in seattle.
    March 25, 2010 - 7:06 pm | Permalink

    I use clipsnstraps for my bikes, none of which are fixed.

    I even use them when I’m out for 80+ mile rides or big tours. I’ve never used clipless systems for more than a few minutes and it might be that I’d love it. I just can’t be bothered to go out and spend a lot of money on them.

    For now, though, I like being able to wear normal shoes for all my riding — I wear a lightweight hiking shoe for all my long bike rides, so changing sole thickness is not an issue.

    I seriously doubt either system is better than the other. I have no problems getting anywhere with my archaic pedal system.

  • doug in seattle.
    March 25, 2010 - 7:06 pm | Permalink

    I use clipsnstraps for my bikes, none of which are fixed.

    I even use them when I’m out for 80+ mile rides or big tours. I’ve never used clipless systems for more than a few minutes and it might be that I’d love it. I just can’t be bothered to go out and spend a lot of money on them.

    For now, though, I like being able to wear normal shoes for all my riding — I wear a lightweight hiking shoe for all my long bike rides, so changing sole thickness is not an issue.

    I seriously doubt either system is better than the other. I have no problems getting anywhere with my archaic pedal system.

  • doug in seattle.
    March 25, 2010 - 12:06 pm | Permalink

    I use clipsnstraps for my bikes, none of which are fixed.

    I even use them when I’m out for 80+ mile rides or big tours. I’ve never used clipless systems for more than a few minutes and it might be that I’d love it. I just can’t be bothered to go out and spend a lot of money on them.

    For now, though, I like being able to wear normal shoes for all my riding — I wear a lightweight hiking shoe for all my long bike rides, so changing sole thickness is not an issue.

    I seriously doubt either system is better than the other. I have no problems getting anywhere with my archaic pedal system.

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