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A bicycle clip, better known as a toe clip, is a small cage that attaches to the pedals of a bicycle. The clip can be cinched down and tightened over the foot to allow the rider to pull up on the pedals in addition to pushing down, adding power output and stability. While a bicycle clip set may be included on a new bike, they are less and less commonly used since clipless pedals were introduced to the market. Unlike the bicycle clip, clipless pedals do not use a cage that cinches over the toe, but rather a cleat affixed to the bottom of the cycling shoe to attach to a specially designed pedal.
Plastic and metals such as aluminum or steel are common materials used to make a bicycle clip. The toe clips themselves are affixed to the pedal by bolts, and a nylon strap often runs through the pedal and the bicycle clip. This strap will allow the rider to cinch the toe clip down over the shoe, reducing the amount of excess movement a foot can make while riding and allowing the rider to solidly pull up on the pedal when riding. This allows the rider to put out more pedaling power, thus promoting higher speeds or faster sprints.
Toe clips can be difficult to enter and exit. If the strap is tightened down during riding, a rider may have difficulty getting out of the bicycle clip when stopping, in turn potentially leading to a crash. The motion the rider must use to get into the toe clips is also sometimes difficult, as he or she must drag a foot backward on the pedal until the bicycle clip is in the horizontal position, then the foot must slide forward into the unit. If the rider begins to ride forward with the toe clip in the down position, the cage itself may drag on the ground and get caught on obstacles, potentially leading to a crash.
Clipless pedals were designed as an easier and more effective alternative to toe clips. The pedals themselves are generally spring-loaded devices that accept a specially designed cleat that is mounted to the rider's cycling shoes. The rider presses down on the pedal, and the cleat engages. To get out of the pedals quickly, the rider simply kicks his or her heel outward, disengaging the pedal. Clipless pedals are much smaller and unobtrusive, but they are more difficult to ride without cycling shoes that have the proper cleats mounted to them.
Bicycle clips were popular accessories on ten speed bicycles used before the advent of mountain bikes. I remember having a difficult time getting my shoe to remain inside the clip. The only good way to do it was to have someone else clamp the clip around the rider's shoe after mounting the bike. This also meant that the bicyclist was attached to the bike no matter what happened.
I do remember getting more power from the pedals whenever I had to climb steep hills, and the extra upstroke did make it easier to generate more speed on flat terrain.
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