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February 20, 2020
Last modified: February 25, 2020

Clipless pedals are built with some variation of a spring-loaded claw that attaches to a cleat on the bottom of a shoe specifically designed for cycling. They’re often cited as the first thing you need to get “when you’re ready to get serious.” They can boost a cyclist’s efficiency, and provide a confidence-inspiring interface between bike and rider. Clipless pedals have a short learning curve, but for countless cyclists, there’s no turning back after “going clipless.”

Why Are They Called Clipless Pedals?

Prior to clipless pedals, riders looking for a more efficient pedal stroke used basket-like toe clips and straps.

Original toe clips
Original toe clips

They came from the belief that having your feet REALLY connected to the pedal would provide the ability to gain power from pulling up almost as much as you push down. But for the system to work, you needed to have the straps tight. Scary, if not terrifying, when you need to stop quickly.

So, why are they called clipless pedals? The term “clipless” just refers to the absence of clips and straps, even though you’re still technically “clipped in” to a clipless pedal. Just one of those things it’s best not to think too much about.

Benefits of Using Clipless Pedals

The introduction of clipless pedals preserved all the benefits of toe clips and straps without the danger. If you’re unsure how to use clipless pedals, they are simpler than you might think. Step in and ride harder while feeling safe and comfortable. Need to dismount? A simple twist outward and away from the bike and you’re free. It takes some trial and error to get into a clipless pedal without having to look down, but it’ll probably take less time than you think.

A set of clipless pedals in action
A set of clipless pedals in action

Despite the petite size of the interface and the pedal body itself, clipless compatible shoes have a stiffer sole that all but removes the pressure point you might expect. Additionally, modern cleats can have varied degrees of “float” before you disengage so you can still rotate joints a little for relief if they need it. iSSi pedals offer different spindle lengths to accommodate diverse body dimensions and their subsequent kinematics. Get more information on spindle length and why it’s important.

Yellow clipless pedal on a green bike
Clipless pedals should match your use case

What to Know About Different Types of Clipless Pedals

Going clipless requires a bit of an investment if you’re going to purchase shoes at the same time. However, clipless pedals like the iSSi Flip feature a clip on one side and a flat platform on the other if you like having the option to ride in casual shoes. If you’re looking for a dedicated clipless pedal, the iSSi Flash has a simple release mechanism for easy dismounting.

Clipless pedals are an important touchpoint with your bike
Clipless pedals are an important touchpoint with your bike

Even entry-level clipless pedals will likely feel much nicer than pedals that come stock on many bike builds. Like most things, as the price goes up, the return on investment may be much greater: Well-protected bearings mated to perfectly machined tolerances around incredibly durable materials make a good pedal design outstanding to ride on.

Make Sure to Use the Right Cleats

Clipless pedals and their cleats are designed to work together. While some manufacturers share cleat designs that are cross compatible, some utilize very specific cleats that can become jammed and even locked into the wrong pedal – a situation you’d likely prefer to avoid. iSSi offers cleats that are Shimano SPD compatible and Look Keo compatible, ensuring you can always find the right cleats for your pedals.

Clipless pedals should match your use case

Wondering how to replace your cleats once you’ve found the perfect clipless pedals? Check out our guide to switching out cleats when it’s time for an upgrade.