Pedal Cliques: Top Five Reasons to Go Clipless (not)

“All real cyclists ride clipless pedals.”
“No real cyclists use platform (“flat”) pedals.”

That’s what you’d think, anyway, from reading many biking websites and magazines. They’ll tell you, in not so many words, that you’re not “serious” about biking if you’re not walking around in clunky plastic shoes and clicking on linoleum like a castanet.

It’s utter hogwash. Wear what you want. Pedal what you will. It’s the miles you put on your bike that make you a cyclist, not the gear that you buy.

Ride in Extra Tough rubber boots. Ride in sneakers. Ride in flipflops (well, maybe not far). Ride in steel-toed paratrooper boots. Ride in carbon fiber mountain bike shoes. Ride in whatever the heck you want. Just ride.

If you’re being paid to sprint on your bike across town with freaky fast sandwiches, and you want to be clipped into your fixed-gear pedals, then do that.

If you’re riding to school with your kids, and you want to be able to hop on your bike without special gear, then do that, too.

If you like big, fat velcro straps, or shiny, aluminum toe cages, use them. But don’t put straps or cages on your pedals just because you think they look good on your hipster fixie.

If you’re lucky and skilled enough to be paid to ride, then ride with your sponsor’s pedals. If you’re racing your buddies or riding your tenth centuries, then clip in.

If you just want to ride your bike to the park and then ignore it in the garage for a few months, then do that, too. You don’t need special pedals for that.

The best bicycle to ride is the one that you’re riding. There is no perfect bike. There are no perfect pedals. You cannot buy yourself into the company of “real” cyclists.

Author Wesley Cheney takes a break from riding singletrack on Montana Mountain in the Yukon, wearing a wool jersey and a synthetic Sport Kilt over viscostatic body armor and bike cleats. He rides the Beast, a rigid mountain bike with downhill, clipless pedals. He clipped in when he “Everested” Alaska’s White Pass, but opts for Crocs when he’s leading bike tours down the Klondike Highway for Sockeye Cycle Co.


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