Bicycles Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people who build and repair bicycles, people who train cycling, or commute on bicycles. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Clipless shoes are the ones with cleats and clips on the pedal that the cleat clips into. So why in the world are the called clipless?

share|improve this question
Link to the Terminology community wiki Clipless Pedals – Andrew Lowe Aug 27 '10 at 10:33
Here's a cool blog post with some vintage catalog scans.…. Also note that some of the clip-and-strap systems had cleats. – jqning Jun 3 '15 at 4:37
up vote 28 down vote accepted

It has to do with the difference between pedals with toe clips and clipless pedals.

Pedals with Toe Clips

alt text

Clipless Pedals (and shoes)

alt text

The clipless shoes are for the clipless pedals.

The wikipedia page says the following:

Clipless refers to the lack of an external toe clip, but not to be confused with platform pedals without toe clips.

share|improve this answer
Just to clarify, there is a bit of difference in terminology here. The 'toe clip' or 'clips' (black plastic in the first image above) should not be called a 'cage' or 'cages'. A 'cage' on a pedal is the metal surrounding the pedal body; in the above image, it is the silver part. In that sense, 'clipless' pedals are 'cageless' as well. – Dustin Aug 26 '10 at 17:56
@Dustin, thanks, you're right - I'm removing the word 'cage' from the post. – b.roth Aug 27 '10 at 8:55

The confusion comes from the word "clip" being both a noun and a verb.

Clip as a noun:

  1. to hold in a tight grip : clutch
  2. to clasp, fasten, or secure with a clip

This describes the old-school pedals with the leather (or vinyl) straps that strap the foot down to the pedal.

"Clip-less" pedals do not have the aforementioned securing strap. They (obviously) use a different system.

Using "Clip" as a verb to refer to securing something (and not cutting something) is called "conversion" (linguistic term) or "verbing" (non offial term).

So, saying "Clip into your pedals." is similar to saying "I'm tabling this discussion." It's taking a noun and converting it into a verb.

So, we cyclists confused ourselves :D

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.