Are Clipless Pedals Worth It? Pros & Cons Explained (2023)

If you have been riding a bike for some time, you know there are two basic types of pedals: flat and clipless.

The switch from flat pedals to clipless is a change that will affect how you interact with your bike.

So, are clipless pedals worth it? I believe so, but not to all riders…

Cyclists who often need to stop at intersections, when riding across a city, etc., will probably benefit more from platforms. This also applies to riders who need to take feet off pedals when needed quickly.

On the other hand, clipless pedals are a must-have for most road cycling, gravel, cyclo-cross, cross-country, and other enthusiasts because they bring many benefits.

Continue reading to learn when to consider buying clipless pedals if they make you faster and much more.

Table of Contents

  1. Why Are Clipless Pedals Called Clipless Pedals?
  2. Benefits of Clipless Pedals
  3. Disadvantages of Clipless Pedals
  4. Clipless Pedals FAQ
  5. Conclusion

Why Are Clipless Pedals Called Clipless Pedals?

The first question I asked myself when I heard about clipless pedals was:

Why are they called clipless pedals when I have to clip in and out of them?

The answer is simple. In the past, cyclists used toe-clip pedals. These pedals had actual clips and straps that secured their feet’ position.

The clipless pedals have no ‘clips’ or ‘straps.’ They use cycling cleats instead. Therefore, manufacturers started to call them ‘clipless pedals’ to differentiate them from toe-clips. (Source)

TIP: Learn more about the different types of cycling pedals in my how to choose bike pedals guide.

Benefits of Clipless Pedals

The benefits of using clipless pedals are similar to the benefits of using cycling shoes. They include:

  1. Fixed Position of Your Feet
  2. Pedaling Efficiency

Fixed Position of Your Feet

Clipless pedals will keep your feet in a fixed position. This brings two benefits: safety and injury prevention.


Once you learn to use clipless pedals and get used to them, your feet won’t slip off pedals. This is one of the most helpful features of clipless pedals.

(Video) Clipless Pedals Vs Flat Pedals | To Clip In Or Not To Clip In

Naturally, fixed foot increases safety in some situations only. For example, when sprinting, climbing, bunny hopping, etc.

When you are clipped into your bike, it feels like you can control it more easily, and you will feel more confident.

Remember that clipless pedals are unsuitable for some use cases and riding styles. These include MTB disciplines or commuting in a city where you need to quickly take your feet of pedals (more about this in the disadvantages section).

Other Injury Prevention

Flat pedals usually come with pins that can cause shin injuries when you misstep the pedal. These are pretty rare with clipless pedals.

A professional bike fitter I talked with during my bike fit confirmed that a fixed feet position helps prevent injuries if you have correctly set your bike, like its saddle height, the position of your cleats, etc.

TIP: If you are afraid of knee pain caused by fixed feet position on pedals, use cleats with float. This study confirmed that larger float doesn’t affect your pedaling efficiency.

If you use platforms with soft-sole shoes, they can almost wrap around the pedal, causing a different feet position every time and leading to injuries from overusing certain muscle groups.

Pedaling Efficiency

The pedaling efficiency is questionable.

Do clipless pedals really make you faster?

Based on multiple studies (see below), it seems that clipless pedals won’t make you faster. However, these studies are limited because they were carried out on a stationary trainer and didn’t test sprinting or climbing.

*Referenced studies:

But, if you pedal with soft-sole shoes, you experience energy losses caused by the flexing soles.

This study showed that stiff-soled cycling shoes combined with clip-in pedals improved the maximum sprint power by 10.2% compared to running shoes with classic aluminum quill pedals with toe clips and straps.

The result is that serious cyclists (especially road cyclists) should use clipless pedals with dedicated road cycling shoes.





(Video) Clipless vs. Flat Pedals - The Pros and Cons of Both

Disadvantages of Clipless Pedals

In this part, I explain the disadvantages of clipless pedals and the reasons why they may not be the best choice for your riding style.

Clipping Off Is not Instant

Unlike on flat pedals, the cleats of your cycling shoes are ‘locked’ in the pedals. This is an advantage for some situations but also a disadvantage for others.

Unless you are a very experienced rider with a technique, clipless pedals won’t allow you to quickly take feet of pedals, for example, to regain balance when riding technical sections on singletracks.

If you cycle across a city, you often have to quickly react to pedestrians, traffic lights, drivers, and other situations that may require you to take your feet off the pedals.

Clipping your feet out of pedals is not as quick as taking your foot off flat pedals.

Clipping In and Off Takes Practice

I remember my first ride with road bike pedals. I wore brand new cycling shoes. Do you know what happened when I sharply turned my front wheel?

Yes, I scratched them with the front tire.

Learning to ride with clipless pedals takes some practice and time to get used to it.

Even some experienced riders sometimes make a mistake and scratch their shoes or forget to clip out when needed.

I like to give Matt Stephens, a former pro rider and a GCN presenter, as an example.


Clipless cycling pedals are more expensive on average than flat pedals. Depending on their type and brand, they start at around $50.

I recommend buying pedals from renowned brands like Shimano, Look, Wahoo Speedplay, Crankbrothers, etc.

I have a bad experience with cheap clipless pedals. They failed me during a sprint. As a result, I crashed and broke my collarbone.

Remember, you have to use clipless pedals with cycling shoes that have soles compatible with cycling cleats. So, the initial costs can be pretty high.

In the long run, you will also need to replace the cleats from time to time.

LEARN: When to replace cycling cleats?

Clipless Pedals FAQ

Are clipless pedals safe?

Clipless pedals are safe once you learn how to use them. Beginners may struggle with clipless pedals for a few rides. Their biggest fear is often forgetting to clip out and losing their balance.
Once you get used to clipless pedals, they will feel more natural than standard flat pedals.
Remember that clipless pedals are not suitable for all riders and cyclists. To learn more, read this entire article.

Do clipless pedals make you faster?

Multiple studies have shown that clipless pedals with cycling shoes have the same efficiency as non-cycling shoes with flat pedals.
Although the clipless pedals will keep your feet in a fixed position and allow you to pull during the upstroke, the studies didn’t show performance benefits.
However, it needs to be said that these studies were limited because they were done on a stationary trainer and didn’t test sprints or efforts out of the saddle where the fixed feet position may play a role.
You can learn more about these studies in this article.

Can you use clipless pedals with non-cycling shoes?

Yes, you can use clipless pedals with non-cycling shoes, but your ride won’t be comfortable. Due to the small form factor of clipless pedals, shoes with soft soles will wrap around them.
Riding a bike with clipless pedals and standard shoes is only suitable for short distances, for example, when you go to a grocery store, etc.

(Video) Beginner's Guide To Clipless Pedals | Clipless Pedal Skills


So, do clipless pedals make a difference? Based on my experience, they do.

However, I don’t recommend them to all cyclists but to just a few groups of cyclists:

  • Road cyclists, cross-country, cyclocross, gravel, and similar types of riders
  • Cycling enthusiasts who ride often, and will benefit from the fixed feet position, better connection with their bike, and comfort from cycling shoes

Feel free to browse:

(Video) Clipless Pedals Explained | How To Use Clipless Pedals




Clipless pedals, on the other hand, are not suitable for:

  • Riders who need to quickly take their feet of pedals to regain balance (e.g., when riding trails, singletracks, etc.)
  • People who commute and need to stop often at traffic lights, intersections, etc.

Remember, the usage of clipless pedals depends mainly on your riding style and preference.

If you are still not sure whether to use them or not, describe your riding style in the comments below, and I will recommend the best solution for you.

Browse Cycling Shoes& Pedals

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How to Choose Cycling Shoes?
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(Video) Are Clipless Pedals Actually More Efficient Than Flat Pedals? The Answer Might Surprise You.


1. SPD VS SPD-SL - Clipless Pedals Explained - West Pointer
(West Point Cycles)
2. SPD Pedals for Road Cycling (pros & cons)
(Cam Nicholls)
3. Pros and Cons of Clips (Clipless Pedals) as Told by a Flats Rider
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4. How To Use Clip-In Pedals & Cleats | Clipless Tips For Beginners
(Global Cycling Network)
5. SPD-SL, Look Keo & Speedplay: Pedal Systems Explained | Which Is Right For You?
(Global Triathlon Network)
6. SPEEDPLAY COMP PEDALS (why they win for beginner cyclists)
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