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For the past few months, I have been thinking about clipless pedals.
I am mostly a long distance rider. I go for the randonneuring and long distance triathlons.

From various sources, I am informed that I can increase speed wearing clipless pedals but not ride long distances like 600 km or 1000 km. These are not expert sources. I want to hear from experts.

Can you please tell me if I can go for clipless shoes and pedals for long distances?

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+1 for all the answers below. I have to buy and start using them before choosing the correct answer. Please wait until then guys. –  Freakyuser Jan 15 at 3:07
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I've ridden dozens of 70-mile days with SPDs. And before that I used toe clips. With the toe clips, after 5 hours or so in the saddle, the toe strap would begin to bite into my foot pretty badly. I do not have this problem with SPDs. –  Daniel R Hicks Jan 15 at 12:16
    
Bought SPD shoes and pedals, will soon report about the experience. –  Freakyuser Mar 11 at 5:35

6 Answers 6

Clipless pedals let you pull up a bit and road shoes are rigid-ish, so you can get some more power from each turn (of course, you're using your muscles in a bit of a different way). This also gives a bit of a different pressure distribution than platform pedals (look at the layout of say, a Look pedal versus a platform pedal). In an off road situation, they prevent you from bouncing off the pedals as well. You can use them for going for long distances just fine -- in fact, thats where they're primarily advantageous (note that for riding long distances, you need to be sufficiently physically fit and have a sufficiently well suited bike, such as a well bike fitted touring bike -- if you don't, no shoe can help/hurt you). However, walking around in them can be annoying (there are cleat covers and other things for dealing with this) due to the cleat and the type of sole in most cycling shoes. Note that just because something is labeled mountain doesn't mean it won't work with road (you just need the same type of cleat and pedal). They do make one side platform one side SPD (a type of clipless) pedals for people who ride with regular shoes sometimes and SPD shoes at other times / are transitioning.

http://sheldonbrown.com/shoe-pedal.html is good reading. http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/bike-pedals.html is as well, though note that SPD is also available for road use.

The most important thing is fit and knowledge of how to use them - you don't want to fall down while stopping or have uncomfortable shoes for long distances, so you may want to invest in shoe fitting when giving them a shot. Much like buying boots, you may not use the same size cycling shoe as you do sneakers (especially if you wear US 13 sneakers like me...).

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+1: Clarifying you comment about walking around: Generally road shoes, cleats and pedals are made solely to maximize riding performance. MTB shoes make various tradeoffs between riding and walking. MTB Shoes can range from stiff, almost road style shoes, to soft walking shoes. Most MTB shows have some tread for traction. Its now possible to get street and work shoes that take MTB cleats. I would recommend MTB style pedals and cleats for this reason, as most long distance riding requires a degree of walking around, and frankly, walking in road shows looks like something from Monty Python. –  mattnz Jan 13 at 6:43
    
+1: Totally agree. Personally I use SPD pedals for all kinds of riding, including an 800km tour. It's great to be able to walk normally in the shoes. @mattnz Enjoyed the Ministry of Silly Walks reference :-) –  andy256 Jan 13 at 7:33
    
Will there not be any knee pain while wearing clipless pedals? Many friends say that... I am going to ride 1000 km within 75 hours. –  Freakyuser Jan 13 at 8:18
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When the bike and shoes are fit properly, there should not be pain due to the clipless pedals (it is conceivable that they prevent some pain, but I don't have hard evidence of this). However, riding 1000km in 75 hours is probably going to cause pain regardless of clipless or not - this requires a good deal of physical conditioning and preparation, especially if you're going over non-flat land and carrying stuff. –  Batman Jan 13 at 11:10
    
In addition to SPD pedals with a platform on one side and SPD clips on the other (which seem to never be "right-side-up" for whichever purpose I want them for), there are also SPD pedals with the platform and clips on both sides, with the clip sticking out enough to clip in, but if you use a non-clipless shoe, it pushes down into the platform. These work well, but may have trouble with shoes that have deeply recessed cleats. –  Johnny Jan 14 at 20:57

To answer your question directly, you certainly can use clipless over long distances.

However, scientific studies have actually shown that clipless pedals offer no discernible performance advantages over long distances. They have shown that a small advantage can be gained on sprints, but that's about it.

That said, many cyclists do report increased comfort and/or reduction in pain when switching to clipless pedals. Some (yours truly) have the opposite experience. It simply depends on your anatomy.

In the end, there are a lot of arguments for clipless and some against them, but not enough evidence to be compelling one way or the other. I'd say go ahead and give 'em a shot. The worst case scenario is that you put the shoes and pedals on ebay.

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Aside from what the others have said here (with details on how to use clipless pedals), your original question was can you ride long distances in them.

That is one of the things they are designed for. By keeping your foot exactly placed on the pedal, they maximize your pedaling efficiency. You foot never falls off the pedal. I rode over 3,000 miles last year using my SPD shoes and pedals. My friend rode over 5,000 miles last year in his Look shoes & pedals. We both rode Ragbrai, an annual 450 - 500 mile ride across Iowa. This ride has well over 10,000 riders and at least 90% of them use clipless pedals. Most of the remaining 10% use toe clips. It is unusual to see someone without these types of pedals on this ride.

As others have stated here, log distance riding often requires some walking. I use SPD shoes and pedals because you can walk in them. Both my shoes and pedals are designed for long distance riding- and while you can walk, the sole does not flex very much. You can't run in them and need to be careful when walking. The other major style shoe/pedal system is called Look and you have a much harder time walking in those shoes. It is possible to purchase snap on covers for Look shoes that make it easier to walk in them. However, you see a lot of these covers lying on the ground during Ragbrai- they fall off Look shoes.

One final note on walking- don't assume a long ride is going to be done entirely on your bike. Forget about bike failures and walking your bike- what about bathroom stops? What about food stops? What about water? Unless you have some giant support team you are going to do a fair amount of walking.

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+1 for the point about walking. Many audaxing friends have advised that SPD is the way to go as you can get more walkable "touring" shoes with a recessed cleat. You never know when a mechanical failure or unexpectedly bad road/weather means you have to walk for a bit. I would guess SPD ws the most popular option on rides like: londonedinburghlondon.com (1400km) –  James Bradbury Jan 14 at 9:38
    
Actually, Eggbeaters are a good option too, because the cleats are thinner and hence don't project from the sole of MTB shoes as much. –  arne Jan 15 at 6:55

You can absolutely ride long distances in clipless pedals.

There are countless examples of this - at the extreme, look at any picture of a Race Across America participant, there is a very strong chance are they will be using clipless pedals of some kind (RAAM being a 4800km race, completed solo in less than 8 days by the winners..)

Clipless pedals are essentially ubiquitous in modern cycling, from "recreational" level up to madness like the aforementioned Race Across America.

However, it is vitally important to have the bike properly setup for you ("bike fit"), a major part of this being the pedals+cleats. Like all adjustments, you should be careful to slowly adapt to the new setup (i.e don't attaching the pedals and going straight out on a 1000km ride!)

I am informed that I can increase speed wearing clipless pedals

This part is more debatable - clipless pedals don't necessarily make you faster, but they do have other benefits - e.g keeping the feet in the ideal position (potentially avoiding knee injuries etc), preventing your feet from slipping off the pedals (e.g in the rain, going over a pothole)

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Like some of the other answerers, I have used clipless pedals over long distances.

I have both Look pedals and SPD pedals, with the Look pedals, I have taken part in Audax UK events with distances of up to 400km in a 24 hour session, some of the rides being longer than this, but spread over several days.

One I remember well was a 300km ride (187.5 miles) completed in around 20 hours using Look pedals. I was comfortable, more so than trying to ride a similar distance with toe clips and straps, although walking was a little difficult (and slightly comical) at the Café stops.

I now tend to use my SPD pedals a lot more, as the shoes are a lot easier to walk in, having an inset cleat and a "proper" sole. I use these in combination with SPD pedals with a proper cage around them for more support, similar to the Shimano M424 Clipless SPD Pedals but a lot older, and find these are more than adequate for rides of up to 200km. Anything longer and I will swap back to using Look pedals, as the shoe sole is a lot stiffer.

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The advice previously given is very good and I won't repeat that. When buying shoes, go for a comfy fit, and not a tight squeeze, and they must not flex. Make sure your cleats are aligned so that your legs will spin comfortably. To get the most, your bike and riding position also needs to be optimised.

Once you get used to cycling cleats on your shoes/'clipless' pedals without toestraps, you'll look back and wonder how you ever lived without them! Yes, they will allow you to significantly increase your power, speed, distance, comfort, and energy output (especially on hills and accelerating), and overall increase your enjoyment of cycling. Ive used them for over 20 years.

Safe and happy cycling, all the best for 2014.

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Its OK for shoes to flex if they are designed to - usually to trade pedal efficiency and walking comfort. I agree with you from my personal experience, but not everyone reports the same benefits. It is perfectly acceptable to prefer flats or clips. –  mattnz Jan 14 at 0:32
    
You should stress your second point more -- make sure the cleats are properly aligned. An out-of-true cleat can cause massive knee pain after only a short ride. Maybe go to your LBS to get you started and carry the proper tool at least on the first rides. –  arne Jan 15 at 6:57

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