#PTonICE Daily Show – Friday, September 1st, 2023 – Clipped in, clipless, and clueless

In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, Endurance Athlete faculty member Matt Koester discusses the evolution of cycling pedals, including clipped in riding, and changes in the safety & efficiency of clipless pedals. 

Take a listen to the episode or read the episode transcription below.

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00:00 INTRO

Hey everybody, welcome to today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show. Before we get started with today’s episode, I just want to take a moment and talk about our show’s sponsor, Jane. If you don’t know about Jane, Jane is an all-in-one practice management software that offers a fully integrated payment solution called Jane Payments. Although the world of payment processing can be complex, Jane Payments was built to help make things as simple as possible to help you get paid, and it’s very easy to get started. Here’s how you can get started. Go on over to jane.app slash payments and book a one-on-one demo with a member of Jane’s support team. This can give you a better sense of how Jane Payments can integrate with your practice by seeing some popular features in action. Once you know you’re ready to get started, you can sign up for Jane. If you’re following on the podcast, you can use the code ICEPT1MO for a one-month grace period while you get settled with your new account. Once you’re in your new Jane account, you can flip the switch for Jane Payments at any time. Ideally, as soon as you get started, you can take advantage of Jane’s time and money saving features. It only takes a few minutes and you can start processing online payments right away. Jane’s promise to you is transparent rates and unlimited support from a team that truly cares. Find out more at jane.app slash physical therapy. Thanks everybody. Enjoy today’s episode of the P10i’s Daily Show.


Alright guys, welcome to another episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show. I’m Matt Koester, lead faculty in the endurance athlete division with a specific specialty in bike fit. The title of today’s episode, clipped in, clipless and clueless. I want to spend a little time today diving into a topic that I think is really fun. It’s also really, really confusing, especially for people who don’t understand the cycling industry, the cycling world. It’s a very, very basic part of terminology that I think will help you to get a little bit more credibility having conversations with cyclists when you’re discussing the pain that they’re experiencing. Before we dive fully in on the topics for today though, I do want to take a moment and just give a quick shout out to our last bike fit host, bike fit course of the year. That’s going to be down in Knoxville, Tennessee, September 23rd and 24th. Sadly a sad thing to say, our last one of the year, but we are super pumped for it. And if you’re unable to make it and join us this year, have a good look into next year. We are currently ramping up probably what’s going to be the biggest year for this course we’ve ever had. We’ll be coast to coast and all over the place in between. So we’re really, really excited for that. But if you like what you hear what we’re talking about today, you want to learn more, you want to dive in, you’re definitely going to have an opportunity to jump in in about a month. You can also learn from us on virtual ice where I’m going to be doing some podcast, some lectures on this content in a little while as well. So those are the things that are coming up down the road.


As we shift into today’s topic, as I mentioned clipped in or clipless those are some of the things that you’re going to hear people talk about all the time and they can be relatively confusing and what we really mean is how is the foot interacting with the pedal? So the big part to talk about here right away is just terminology. I just want you to be able to hear somebody talk about this or bring it up yourself and actually know what the heck it is because otherwise it’s really confusing. So in general, I brought some props today that I think will be helpful. If you’re watching this on Instagram, it’ll be really easy to keep up watching on YouTube. Same deal. If you’re on the podcast, I certainly recommend you jump back onto one of these platforms so you can see if you’re a visual learner because it’ll help out in that sense. We’re all pretty used to this style of pedal. It is just a flat pedal. Both sides look the same. Basically this is just going to go right into the crank. If you put your foot on it, they’re going to go forward. That’s as simple as it gets. At some point during the evolution of the sport of cycling, the idea was our feet are jumping around and we want to be more efficient on the bike. So how can we try to improve that sensation, be more connected to the bike? Well, the idea for the clipped in version of this, the original idea behind that was actually a cage or a strap that went over the foot and it had a little clip on the side that allows you to snap that thing down and it would lock your foot to the pedal. Some of them had plastic, some of them were really truly just more of a fabric cage, some of them were like a strap. Now, I don’t have one of those with me today, but it is funny. My Nordstick rig mount actually is a perfect example of this. I’m going to use this for the purposes of this. Foot would slide into this space. It would be set down and then you would basically cinch and pull down on the strap on the side. What that would do for it was essentially lock the foot to the pedal. We were seeing cyclists get more efficient. The feet were mousing up the pedals. They were quicker, all kinds of good things there.


The next evolution of that was the clipless pedal. Now the clipless pedal or clipless pedal shoe interface, the idea was to get rid of this strap. I’ll talk more about why you really want to get rid of that in a second. Just to explain that piece, if we talk about we went from flat pedal to one that had a cage over it or a strap to now this thing that we’re used to seeing all the time, which has just these little pincers on it, these little things that grab onto what’s at the bottom of the shoe. What that does is it operates kind of like den settings on ski boots and the way that they interact with your skis. When you step in, they click in, you’re in a spot where now you can move around and do what you need to do, but if enough force is applied to it in a sketchy situation, whether beyond the mountain or on the road, they will come out. And in fact, on the bike, they come out pretty darn easy and it’s usually modifiable to do so. The reason they’re called clipless pedals, even though you are clipping in, is because they don’t have that toe cage on them. And the main reason to get rid of that toe cage in many ways was actually a safety thing, as well as just an improvement upon the actual interaction between the foot and the pedal. The safety side of this is if I’m falling down and I’m going to the ground and I have an option to save myself by getting my foot off the pedal, if I’m running a clipless shoe or a clipless pedal interface right now, if I twist my foot a little bit or pull, it’s going to come right off and I can put that thing on the ground and I’m going to be in a really good spot to save myself or at least not be attached to the bike when it goes down. Now the other side of that is if my foot is in this cage and I have strapped my foot down and it is nice and snug, when I go to tip over, my foot’s not coming out of that. That’s going to be really hard to get out. You’re going to see those cyclists go with the bike, get slammed down to the ground. It’s safer. That’s the first part of it. That’s kind of nice. It does seem a little bit scary to some folks to attach their feet to the pedals, especially when they’re used to going from this to what now is this shoe that feels clunky and hard to walk in but snaps in just the same. Now that right there is just the general gist of it. So flat pedals, the original clip pedals just had a cage, went over the top. We go to clipless pedals. Those things are basically the shoe attaching to the pedal itself, easy to twist and pull in case of an emergency or kind of a sketchy situation. Now why does this matter to our patients? Why would they make that shift? I’m going to be honest with you that the first one that most people are going to actually say, it just looks more professional. It looks more legit. They’ve been riding with a couple of friends. Everybody’s been riding clipped in and they’re like, dude, why are you still riding flats? Well at that point, they’re ready to make that jump. They’ve been doing this for a while. They’re thinking to themselves, everybody else is doing it. They’re thinking it’s going to be more stable. They’re thinking it’s going to make me look better. You know, that’s an important piece in this whole thing. You want to fill in with your peers when you’re out for your rides. On our end though, and more importantly, it’s going to give that person a reference point, a starting point, especially in the bike fit world. What we are trying to do is essentially get rid of as many variables as we can or at least control the variables that we can control. That way, when we talk about making modifications to some of these bike, we’re actually going to know where we started from. In the bike fit process, it starts from the floor and it works its way up. We start at the feet, we go to the seat, and then we go to the hands or back to the feet if needed. In that scenario, there’s a good chance we could spend two thirds of a 90 minute appointment doing just things with the feet, getting this all set up. In the case of somebody who has, let’s say knee pain, I want to kind of pose this for why this nomenclature, why this stuff matters. Someone who’s in a case where they have active knee pain while riding their bike. Let’s liken this to somebody who comes in and says, I have knee pain with squatting. If I say, what type of bike are you riding? And they say something about their pedals and they’re like, yeah, I’ve been riding flat pedals. What that tells me is that they have no idea where their feet are the majority of the time. Imagine somebody coming in who has knee pain with squats and you’re like, hey, show me your squat. And they step back and they spread their feet out and they do one and then they kind of bring them in and they do another one and they’re like, I don’t really know where I want to be at and this is actually kind of what I do every time I’m at the gym. I don’t know where I want my feet to be at. It’d be pretty hard to get good information from that, to not know where you’re starting from. So in the case of somebody who’s dealing with a specific pain complaint, it’s nice to be able to at least educate them on, hey, I’m going to make sure that you have a reference on your flat pedal for where your foot should go.


But more importantly, if you’re serious about this and you’re doing it long term, we should get you a set of clipless pedals and a shoe that interacts with it appropriately. That way we can find the position that you’re comfortable riding in. Because as soon as we know that we have a fixed position at the foot, we can then go adjust the seat and just other factors that are going to improve that person’s knee pain. But if you don’t know where their foot is relative to the pedal or relative to the crank arm and you go to adjust things on the seat, it’s very unlikely you’re going to get to where you want to be. If they move their foot even a half centimeter forward or back, all the angles that you used as a reference are going to be totally off. That can be a really frustrating place to start from. Now this isn’t to say you can’t do bike fits with somebody who is using flat pedals. We are going to talk about references. In the course a lot of times we talk about just saying that first MTP, that first knuckle, trying to get that in line with the pedal spindle, so this center piece as it attaches into the crank arm, is going to be a good reference for that person. But at the end of the day, if that person is A, riding on rough terrain like a mountain bike, every bump is going to shift their feet a little bit. Even with some of the best pedals out there where things stick well to the pins or the more pointy parts of the pedal. Shifting that person over to clipless pedals is going to allow them to stay in one spot the whole time. They may know the reference, but at least they’re not going to get out of that reference position, so that’s going to be really, really important for this person. Or that person, maybe they ride really consistent terrain, but they’re getting better at the idea of improving their cadence. They’re talking about trying to run 90 RPM for an extended period of time, which is the recommended RPM in most cases, especially on a road bike, for being the most efficient in any given gear for any given scenario, whether it’s going up or down or in a good position. When you try to carry that much RPM on a road bike out in the street, it is actually pretty darn hard to keep your feet fixed in one position and staying still. That is actually a pretty big challenge. So for that individual, when they attach their foot to the pedal, all of a sudden now they can push the pace go faster because their feet aren’t trying to slide off. There’s less clunkiness in that pedal stroke. They’re going to move a lot better at higher RPMs and be less frustrated trying to do so. More power down in those scenarios. Now the last thing for that person who is jumping into this or is curious about jumping into it, is what it does is it’s going to, as I mentioned, smooth out the pedal stroke. So as somebody starts pedaling, in general we are putting the most of our power down. That is where we are most efficient. Our quads, our glutes, everything that drives down on the pedal, working with gravity, is what’s going to propel us forward. However, that’s not to say that it’s not valuable to be able to pull through and pull up and over with the other foot. Now it’s not your main power, it’s not a big driver of the motion, but it does allow you to create a much more smooth and cyclical cycle stroke.


So the idea here is if you could have your feet attached to the pedals, you could have more influence over that pedal stroke. You can pull through, you can pull that foot up and over, you can counter what’s happening on the other side so that things get much smoother and much more efficient. Athletes that go to a clipless pedal, that go to being clicked into the pedal, are going to have way better engagement when they’re trying to run higher RPMs, pedal smoother, and be more efficient in the long run. Now the last thing I want to talk about is that safety piece, again, just because this is one of the things that always ends up being the determining factor for somebody jumping in or not. In general, people know that it’s probably a more professional thing to do, but they’re kind of like, ah, I don’t know if it’s for me. The truth is, there is a bit of a hurdle. There’s a bit of a hurdle in terms of safety. Somebody gets on, they’re nervous about getting on and off the bike, they think they’re going to get to a stop sign and fall over, and in all reality, it does happen. I mean, it happens like the very first time everybody rides, you get one situation where you clip your right foot out because you’re going to put your right foot down, but you end up leaning left and now your left foot’s stuck in and you go over. It happens. You want to try to avoid it, but this is how you actually would do that, try to avoid it. The idea would be if you’re on your bike trainer or with a friend holding it still, the idea is you click in, get your foot set, maybe you stand up, sit back down, take your foot out, put it back in. The idea is just get exposure to that mechanism and how that interacts so that you can get your foot in and out easily. As I mentioned really early on, we also have this little setting on the pedal that allows us to change, I kind of like the DIN settings on your skis, but you can change how easy it is for someone to get in or out of those pedals. For the beginner, getting out really easily might feel great. They might really, really like the idea that, okay, this is super easy to get in and out, but as soon as they go to put power down, they might be a little bit irritated by the fact that their foot keeps clicking out. They may want to crank that thing up because now they understand how to get in and out, they’re more confident, they want to put the power down and pedal hard. Same way, an aggressive skier, he doesn’t want those DIN settings super light. In fact, some people get to that point where they’d rather die than have them come off. People want those things firm so they can do what they need to do. So a couple of things just to wrap this whole piece up. The clipless pedal is a really interesting misnomer. The idea is it gets rid of the clip that used to be on the toe cage. It gets rid of that idea that now when I go to dismount the bike, my foot is locked in so I can’t get off. So clipless pedals get rid of that locked in position and give you more of a temporary lockable position so that you can be more efficient while you’re pedaling on the bike. To our patients, a lot of times it’s just like the next evolution in their cycling journey. They end up wanting to go that route because everybody else is doing it. They know that it’s a more professional look, it’s a more professional feel, they know that it’s a more efficient ride. For us, we love that because if we can get that person into that type of a shoe, into that type of pedal interface, we know that when we go to fit their bike, talk about the pain they’re experiencing, we have a reference point that’s going to be consistent and fixed the whole time. If we don’t know where we’re starting, it’s hard to fix the issues that pop up. If you’re going to come to a bike fit course, you’re going to learn that we spent a lot of our time on the pedal and this is a big reason why. Understanding where somebody starts, understanding what you can modify and understanding how that can affect somebody’s symptoms are paramount in this space. Alright, that’s all I got for you. Have a great Friday, y’all. Appreciate your time. Thanks for jumping on.

16:23 OUTRO

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