Clipless pedals

Serious question: has anyone tried road/trail riding (as opposed to hard MUni etc.) with clipless pedals?

My choice of pedals appears to be:
Heavy, pinned mountainbike style pedals.
Beartrap style mountianbike pedals.
Cheap rather crummy road bike pedals.
Plastic pedals.
Or… experiment with some light, good quality clipless pedals.

The obvious problems: mounting and engaging the clip(less) and the danger of a sudden faceplant.

Anyone have any experience in this area?

(P.S. Why “clipless”? The old things we used to call “toe clips” weren’t “clips” because they didn’t “clip” anything. The new “clipless” ones do actually clip something.)

This is something I’ve considered many times. Someone will be along in a bit to say “No! Don’t do it! I know <well known unicyclist who has never tried clipless pedals on a bike> tried it and hurt themselves.” I think it can be done, if you’re careful, and wear arm padding, wrist guards and probably a full face helmet. The thing that has made me decide against it is the dubious value - top speed on a uni isn’t limited by the power you can put through the pedals, but the spinning speed, which won’t be helped that much by clipless pedals. The extra force for stopping and accelerating might be handy though, and it would stop UPDs from the foot coming off the pedal. Basically, it might be potentially faster, but the extra caution needed to avoid injury might cancel out any benefit. It depends on wether you’re doing this for practicallity (never mind then) or as a matter of curiosity.

OIne problem I have heard described is that the twisting of the foot to un-clip will just twist the uni. I don’t think that will be a problem if you’re used to clipless pedals - good technique is to twist the foot, not just move your ankle outwards. On a bike, that has the same effect, on a uni it would make you turn instead of un-clipping.

I will have to try half clips at some point though.

As for the name ‘clipless’ I think the issue is with calling strappy pedals ‘toe-clips’, because that’s a silly name - should be toe straps, surely - and cleated pedals have to make it clear that they do a similar function without the straps (clips). It’s jargon - we need some way of knowing if the people we talk to are also in the know.


P.S. 2nd paragraph added by editing, incase anyone thinks they missed a bit. You aren’t going mad (yet).

I have always pondered the ‘clipless’ moniker for pedals that clip in. Never made any sense to me.

The thought of even a moderate speed UPD while being locked in to the unicycle scares the crap outa me. Maybe using an old style toe clip, cut just a little bit short and without the strap would secure one’s foot in the most efficient position and still allow it to slide out to the side for a quick disengagement when necessary. Still seems a little scarey to me.

I once wrote a jokey note about UPDs where I mentioned the idea of using toe-clips.

In reality, there is no reason to use toe-clips on a uni – too dangerous. Instead, get really grippy pedals. Even those will present some risk, but it’s nothing compared to the clips or straps.

clipless thread

Try this older thread:

Personally, I think you’re bonkers. Or you’ll at least be making a bonking sound if you try them.

I don’t know any long-term users of toeclips/clipless pedals on their unicycles. I do know many who have tried them. I remember George Peck had tried some form of clipless pedals. Then we didn’t hear from him for a long, long time.

Never heard the results on the clipless, but George is okay.

There was this other well-known rider who tried clippless for racing, with the end result of a broken finger. This person can remain nameless unless she wants to name herself… :slight_smile:

I am not experienced with clipless on a bike, but I have tried them on a unicycle. They were fine until I went to hop up a little curb and forgot my feet were clipped in. That was enough for me. I would not want to ride fast with my feet clipped in. There is ZERO TIME to mess around when you UPD and want to land on your feet. For even an experienced user of clipless, I believe this takes too much time.

I continue to wait to be proven wrong. In 25 years of riding I have yet to hear from someone who does anything other than casual riding and thinks being clipped in is useful. As David Stone says, a match of grippy pedals and shoes is more than enough to pedal really fast.

The reason I’m even considering clipless is nothing to do with grip or control, but with rotating weight and directional stability.

Simple experiments show that the weight of the pedals has some effect on acceleration and deceleration, and also on wheel-wobble at high speed.

And partly, it’s just a whimsy that I’m following. We seldom choose to ride unicycles for reasons of common sense and practicality. :sunglasses:

they just offer no real advantage.

they do on bikes because you have your arms way out in front of you, and they are the only real way to lift the back of the bike (if you can’t bunny hop)

the handle on your seat does anything clipless pedals can do

(other than lock you to your unicycle)

what advantages are you looking for?

Do you want to always have your feet in the same position on the pedal? I use enough sideways pressure on my pedals that I would most likely continually click out. (I was a clipless bike rider, so I know how they work, but have no uni-clipless experience because I see no advantage at all, and only disadvantages…no backwards falling escape mechanism, having to wear clipless shoes, static foot placement, even with the ones that provide float)

I bet you would fall over, and be able to get one foot unlocked, only for it to land in manure causing the locals to guffaw mercilessly

But your feet weigh an awful lot more than your pedals. So this isn’t relevant in a big way. I’ve tried super-light pedals, but didn’t notice a difference in wheel wobble. A narrower axle helps, but makes your wheel weaker. Your feet and legs will always be there, and they are the vast majority of the mass that causes your (and my) wobble.

How would being clipped in change this? Though your feet may be better connected to the pedals, the forces would still be the same.

clipless on a coker

Linked from the thread I posted above:

Is it just me, or does that thing only need a scythe to become one-wheeled death? shudder

I rode the Mount Diablo Challenge (uphill, on road) on a 29" with clipless pedals.

I would strongly disagree with Brian’s suggestion that there is no benefit to them. On normal unicycle pedals, you spend a lot of energy over the course of a ride just keeping your feet on the pedals; there is a constant tension in your feet and ankles that goes away when you’re clipped in. Your pedaling can be smoother, and you can also recover from unexpected bumps better.

It is a bit scary riding with them, and I think that affects how useful they can be in general use. However, the only time I actually had a fall related to the pedals was when I was trying to stop and hold onto a signpost for a rest; I got a little squirrely and went down sideways.

It is quite difficult freemounting into clipless pedals; that was the biggest problem with them in use. On a bike, you can always put pressure on the pedals at the appropriate point in the pedal stroke to get your cleat in, while on a unicycle, the same motion will mess up your balance. I was using SPDs; if I were going to try it again, I would try it with pedals which are easier to get into, like Egg Beaters.

I just recently picked up a pair of crankbrothers egg beaters. I’ve only had a chance to take them for a spin around the block. They feel awesome. you can sit harder on the seat, less weight on the pedals, wich seems to allow a higher rpm. Also, I’ve found that I can pull up on the back pedal when going uphill. I’t feels like I have so much uphill power. The egg beaters are super easy to clip into.

I was messing around, trying to get used to the feeling before taking them our for a spin. I tried a little still stand without ever having unclipped before. I lost my balance, and my foot automaticly swung out to the side enough for my shoe to unclip, and I came off with control. it feels like if I ever fall, I should be able to unclip, and be able to land on my feet. But I won’t know till it happens.

I belive Des from Wales has been known to use clipless pedals to ride muni on a coker.

A few other people use clipless on unis.

Don’t put them on a unicycle before you’ve learnt to use them on a bike. Everyone has a few weeks of forgetting to unclip before they learn to unclip naturally. Getting that instinct on a bike, where a failure to unclip is usually at worst embarrasing, would make much more sense than on a uni, where not unclipping leads to crashes like the unicycle riders who had the accidents described earlier.

Bear in mind the weight of the cleat + bolts should be added to the stated pedal weight, plus the difference in weight of the new pair of shoes you’d need.


Though I’m far from the skill on the uni to try attaching my feet to the pedals, I would expect an advantage on uphill road rides from toe-clips/clipless, as much leverage would be gained from the opposing foot motions.

There was a guy who rode with us in Crossville, TN that used some kind of toe clips on all of his unicycles. We rode some steep, rocky, downhill MUni and I never saw him fall. At least he did not fall with his toes still stuck to the pedals. He could slide his feet in and out really quick.

He even used toe clips on a 6 foot giraffe and he could jump rope on the giraffe. (That takes a long and heavy rope.)

Memphis Mud might remember his name. I think his first name was Mike and he was from the general area. He was a clown. No, really, he was a parttime clown. He used unicycles in his act and he could juggle real bowling pins.

Proper spinning will negate any advantage over being able to ‘pull up on the other pedal’

My experience is only from biking, so I could be wrong.

My unicycling experience, on the other hand, indicates that I ride with my feet in several different positions on the pedal, fore/aft, in/out.

You are now the test monkey…you have a loop around the tarmack that you have taken many many times and can average a speed on it.

I would be interested in the same testing with clipless pedals.

I have a pair of speedplay frogs (at the time, they offered the most float) Cover the shipping and a large coffee from Tim Horton’s and they’re yours. I haven’t used them since I learned to pedal effeciently

I’ve been contemplating the use of clipless pedals on my 700C for longer touring rides. I don’t fall very often while touring but I’m not immune to UPD’s. I have noticed, however, that probably 99.9% of my UPD’s are the direct result of my foot either sliding off the pedal or getting disoriented on the pedal. (The other .1% is when I’m not paying attention and I hit a pothole or rock in the road). In light of this, clipless pedals would alleviate the foot/pedal slippage and prevent the 99.9% of my falls. But I’ve refrained from actually trying them because of that pesky 0.1% that exists. All it takes is one UPD where you can’t escape from your pedals and your toast, especially on the larger wheels.

I agree with Tholub. Riding uphill with clipless pedals must be awesome. Even on the flats your cadence would be much smoother. The muscular workload would be evenly distributed between pushing down and pulling up which would reduce muscle fatigue, especially on those 30+ mile rides.

Having ridden thousands of miles on my road bike with clipless pedals I have to conclude that the advantages for clipless on a touring unicycle would be phenominal. Just don’t try it without your safety gear especially the helmet and wrist guards.

I have a video on my computer called “clipless_pedal_guy_way_cool.mpg”, of somebody doing some rather crazy trials with clipless pedals. I can’t remember who it is or where the video came from (some event in the US, by the accents of the onlookers) but if trials is possible with clipless pedals then distance riding should be a breeze… :slight_smile:


This summer a member of my unicycle club rode the entire distance of RAGBRAI on a coker with clipless pedals. He did so with I believe only one UPD, and wasn’t injured. RAGBRAI is over 500 miles, for those that don’t know.

I was going to mention this as well. His name was indeed Mike, and he used to post on this forum occasionally. Forgot what he posted as.

I watched him fall many times since most everyone was ahead of me when we were riding, and he never had issues as a result of clipless pedals staying “clipped”. It really gave him an advantage when hopping.

It is true that he was a proffesional clown for some time. I think it was acually a 7 foot Giraffe! And the rope was heavy.

Wheel Rider, who are you?