What is the reason for pedal straps? They look as if they are more awkward and I can't see what the benefits are.

I can't remember the last time my feet slipped off my mountain bike, so why would they on a road bike?

  • As a complement to answers below, I'd say that it's much easier to get your feet out of clipless pedals than straps, which is one of the reasons why they aren't used that much anymore.
    – dee-see
    Oct 11, 2010 at 1:52
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    @domsterr - untrue unless you keep the straps very tight. Some people speak of having to reach down and loosen the straps to get their feet out, which seems ridiculously unsafe. My bike shop looks at my pedals and calls them unsafe, but I've never had a problem with them. At the same time, a "clipless fall" is a relatively common event among new clipless riders. On the other hand, from a power-transmission standpoint, clipless is the way to go. Oct 11, 2010 at 20:15
  • They can be helpful but if u slow down to a stop and don't get your feet out in time you will take a tumble I fell and almost broke my leg. ( you have been warned)
    – user11385
    May 25, 2014 at 2:10

12 Answers 12


There are a number of reasons for using either toe-clips (pedal straps) or clipless pedals:

  • It allows you to pull up as well as down, increasing the efficiency of your pedalling. This is something that you need to work at to get full effect from, as it is not a natural motion to most people. In Cadel Evans' book "Close to Flying" there is talk of a bike he uses for training that has a "freewheel" mechanism for the cranks which forces you to practice lifting the pedals as well as pushing them.
  • It positions the pedal under the ball of the foot giving you better leverage. While you don't need straps or clipless to do this, it does help keep your foot in the right place.
  • It helps to stop your feet coming off in rough ground while mountain biking.
  • It gives you more control over the rear of the bike allowing you to lift and shift the rear more easily. This makes it easier to bunny hop, and helps with controlling the bike on rough ground.
  • The "freewheel" cranks are called Power Cranks and have a one-way ratcheting mechanism. Your legs move independently with them. Most people I know use them for maybe a year before giving up on them.
    – John Lam
    Oct 13, 2010 at 6:37

The answer "so you can pull up on the pedals" makes good sense, but I don't buy it. I don't pull up on the pedals unless I'm climbing a steep, sudden hill. I suspect many, many cyclists don't pedal with full efficiency on the flats. (This is my gut feeling, I have no proof or numbers on this. I remember seeing a study that agreed with this, but I also recall that it was limited in such a way as to cast doubt on the data.)

The reason I use clips and straps is that a lot of energy is expended simply keeping the balls of your feet centered on the pedals. If you don't believe me, try pedaling exclusively with clips and straps until you're used to them, then remove them. You'll find that your feet keep slipping off the pedals. This demonstrates that you were expending effort to keep your feet on-target.

(The only reason I don't use clipless pedals and shoes -- which are a much more elegant way to achieve the same effect clips and straps are going for -- is that I don't want to have to deal with an extra pair of shoes, and I want comfortable shoes when I get off the bike.)

An experienced cyclist will make constant, small adjustments to keep their feet in the optimal location on the pedals. Clips and straps keep the cyclist's feet in the best places to deliver the most power to the pedals (the balls of the feet), saving the cyclist that effort. (I have a regrettable habit of pedaling on the arches of my feet, which clips and straps correct.) As a bonus, the straps are there when you turn a corner and then see a sudden hill you didn't have a chance to build up momentum to climb.

Edit: I'm at least half retro-grouch touring cyclist, so take this with a grain of salt! I'm a non-racer, saddle-level-with-the-handlebars-for-comfort cyclist.

  • I also pull when starting, sprinting and when facing strong winds. Although the rest of your post is very interesting, and probably right, pulling is pretty useful.
    – dee-see
    Oct 11, 2010 at 1:54
  • @domsterr - Well, my post is my very strongly-held opinion. Feel free to downvote, of course! Headwinds... that's an interesting point. The next time I'm in a headwind, I'll take note if I'm pulling or not. Oct 11, 2010 at 4:54
  • I was wondering why my feet kept slipping off the pedals... then realized that I'd just taken my toe clips off because the shoes I was wearing didn't fit well into them. Oct 11, 2010 at 4:56
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    @neilfein: I should mention than I ride a "race" bike, even when commuting. So that might have an effect on my pedalling. Pulling is a bit more natural with that type of geometry.
    – dee-see
    Oct 11, 2010 at 15:15
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    The studies I've seen suggest than even experienced riders don't pull up much if at all, but the big advantage of straps is that you don't have to push down on the upstroke to keep your feet on the pedals. This can be a significant energy savings. Nov 2, 2014 at 1:17

The reason for using pedal straps is to allow you to transfer power from your legs to the pedals while both pushing down and pulling up. If your pedals do not have straps you can only transfer power to the pedals when pushing down on them.

While road cycling you typically don't need to take your feet off of the pedals as often as you do when mountain biking. By having pedal straps or "clip-less" pedals you can transfer power from your legs to the pedals for the full pedal stroke.


I practice XC, DH, Touring and Urban Commuting types of cycling, and have been using cleated shoes since 2002. By now I recognize several advantages of foot retention systems, even though I haven't used pedal straps. I will share some of the advantages I have found, as I assume they are the same as correctly used straps.

For XC on rough terrain and DH, they simply offer a lot of control, prevent injury by avoiding foot slip-off. They also allow for power-surge pedalling when acceleration after a slowing obstacle.

For Touring It helps me to keep the foot on the right spot when I'm tired. It also helps me a lot to have the possibility of pulling the pedals up. Of course I'm tired, but pulling uses a different set of muscles, so at least one minute of pulling-only can relieve some strain on the more demanded muscles. The idea is to alternate one minute of pulling only with 10-15 minutes of circular pedalling.

There is less benefit for urban commuting, but for parts of the city where I need to stop repeatedly, having the cleats lets me place the pedal right at the beginning of the down stroke so I'm ready for the next sprint in just one no-need-to-think movement.

At the time of writing this answer, I have recently moved to a different country and could't bring my bike. I bought one locally but it still lacks the necessary customization, and I miss my cleats a lot!. I use the bike for commuting and road-ish training. For commuting I miss the thing I mentioned in the previous paragraph. For training what happens is that I'm used to pedal in a full circle, pulling towards front in the upper part of the circle and pushing rearwards at the bottom. Without retention, when pushing forward my feet tend to roll the pedal and fall towards the front of it. (Pulling rearwards is not problematic).

An alternative to straps or cleats

A friend of mine was not fond of cleats, but he was also afraid of complete pedal strap setup, so he got a set of straps that came with plastic toe clip and shortened it by cutting and re-joining with bolts and nuts, and removed the part of the clip where the straps are bucled so the left only a rather small hook that retained the toes and kept his feet ball-over-axle. (He did't used the straps).

He implemented this system on XC trails on a Trek VRX, and I could say it was very effective. The feet where easy to remove from the pedals, almost any kind of shoe could be used, It didn't add much wheigt. It surely helped to push forward on the upper part of the cycle.


After a while getting re-accustomed to my platform pedals, my commuting has become more fluent. My feet has learnt a weird to describe motion that allows me to move the pedal upward to have it ready to start the next sprint. However, I still roll the pedal over when training and trying to do an outburst...

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    Your friend's modified toe clips sound rather like the "half clips" I've seen commercially available.
    – Chris H
    May 9, 2015 at 22:31
  • Thanks @ChrisH for pointing out the term. I didn't know how to reference the item. Indeed that was what my friend assembled, starting from complete pedal clips/straps.
    – Jahaziel
    May 11, 2015 at 15:15

The reason for straps is that properly tightened straps give you the best absolute power transmission, because you can both push and pull on the pedals at the same time, with zero risk of the pedals unclipping themselves. Clipless pedals, while they have been getting better, could historically unclip randomly at crucial moments such as sprints, with usually catastrophic results.

In the old times, you would find straps (toeclips) on road and track racing bikes, or bikes of people who had some pretence to racing. The advent of mountain biking occurred simultaneously to the invention of clipless pedals, so it's rare to find clips on the MTB. They are still used in track racing.

  • Old post I know, but clipless pedals today are not just getting better, they are superior to straps in ever aspect except for cost and the need for special shoes. Straps are responsible for far more catastrophic results, because you cannot quickly undo them before a collision like you can with clipless. Mar 9, 2014 at 5:15

The other answers rightly point out that being able to pull up on peddles can help improve power output but completely overlook low speed bike control.

To help with balance when the bike is stationary it is very useful to be able to pull the forward pedal up just slightly and apply a tiny amount of pressure. This can allow you to stay clipped in and immediately accelerate rapidly when a traffic light turns green (because proper cyclists stop at red lights). And that applies to a fixie or a freewheel.

Toe straps and cleats both allow this kind of pedal control.


It helps those who have a disability that causes the foot to come off the pedal or keeping it in the safe natural position. I know its not safe for me to ride my mountain bike without it since my stroke last summer. It is a device created to help those with physical disabilities to be able to ride a bike.


I still use straps, i am the only one in the Gatineau hills who still uses them i think, but first of all people spend thousands on light bikes and then have a relatively heavy toe clip and shoe and pedal. Toe straps are a lot lighter. Also the expense. Bicycling is kind of a fetish of style and very snobby, i am an old bicyclist from the seventies. Finally did get bike shorts on sale though. Good upgrade, i am not sold on toes clips, i prefer straps, for weight, for lack of expense and for not joining the bike tech cult.


I use trad clips because they suit my damaged legs and you can wear regular shoes or even boots!

  • This is a 9 year old question, and while someone did allude to "regular shoes" this is the first answer that directly states that. Well done and welcome to Stack Exchange. Do take a moment to browse the tour to help keep you on track with answers.
    – Criggie
    Oct 19, 2019 at 22:08

Grew up riding with straps. Imo i have much better, smoother, stronger, faster, cadence being able to use my whole leg to spin the crank... feels like driving a fast car when your accelerator and clutch makes it seem like you're in a rubber band. Yes, that good lol


I prefer using straps, been using them for 40+ years now and love 'em. As mentioned by previous posters pulling up can have its advantages. While setting myself up for a sprint I worked on bouncing the back wheel as I was already in motion, this has to be timed just right,the wheel would hop and you get that xtra spin like a burnout as you're just about to give it your all.

I once did that and my chain decided to break at the same time I was over the handlebars going for the finish, that hurt a lot skating on my chest on hot asphalt.


My one and only reason: Fixed / Brakeless (wearing flip-flops) Hence the best answer to the OP's question of why PEDAL STRAPS - (not why cages / clips are better/not better....sheesh)

To elaborate: My toesies get crunched in the cage and there aint no clips on the bottom of my slaps.

*btw, I love the "pull up pedal" answers.

  • 2
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