Platform Pedals

Initial Experience

After riding several days of Pac Tour three days on platform pedals and sandals, I was surprised to find I could ride nearly as well as when I was clipped in, both on flats and climbing long hills. The advantages of having my feet free might outweigh the few advantages of being clipped in.  However, the first time I did a test ride on these pedals in a parking lot, I smacked my right shin with a pedal resulting in a two inch hematoma.

Several authors and articles, such as Grant Peterson and the Flat Pedal Manifesto favor flat pedals.  Perhaps platforms might be the best choice for riding future transcontinentals or even summer centuries.

Disadvantages of Clipless Pedals

By clipless pedals, I mean pedals that don’t use toe clips and lock the shoe with special cleats to the pedal.  Brands include Look, Shimano, and Speedplay.  All these systems have significant disadvantages.

  • Riders who come to a sudden stop sometimes have difficulty removing the cleat from the pedal. Infrequent as this may be, I know two experienced riders who broke their hips with this type of fall, and I know many other people who have received minor injuries, or broken parts like deraileurs.
  • Riders are prone to knee and ankle injuries when their feet are locked to the pedals and the angle is not adjusted correctly.
  • Riders are prone to injury walking with some types of cleats on slippery floors.
  • Walking outside in cleats can get them clogged with dirt and grime.
Mythical Advantages of Clipless Pedals

Clipless pedals can allow an experienced rider to provide more power to the pedals under some circumstances.  However, they do not provide most advantages for which they are credited.

  • Riders do not pedal in circles. Mostly they push down.
  • With few exceptions, riders almost never apply power by pulling up on pedals.
  • There is no evidence that clipless pedals are more efficient than platforms.

If platform pedals are better than clipless pedals for long rides, then I can ride flats and climb just as well and feel more comfortable walking around, because clipless pedals do not provide any advantage in power or efficiency.

Small and Large Platform Pedals
Small and Large Platform Pedals

On Bainbridge Island, I did a test ride wearing Asics GT-2000 running shoes on the small platform pedals shown in the top of the picture.  I felt like my shoe was slipping off the outside of the pedal.

I tried the same shoes on the larger platform pedals and experienced no problems riding easy hills and flats.  The first time I tried climbing Toe Jam Hill (average grade 17%) riding seated, I noticed a tendency to pull my foot off the pedal at the bottom of the stroke, but had no trouble correcting for this problem. I climbed the hill standing on my 34-28, then again seated using my 34-32. I was not riding hard, just checking to see if I felt comfortable. Strava reports my segment time as 3:10, 6 seconds longer than my PR.

Two days later, I climbed Toe Jam Hill harder on platform pedals, perceived effort maybe 90% of max, with the goal of beating my PR.  Results: Strava reported 2:16, or 48 seconds less than my previous PR.

Moving Forward

So far, limited evidence supports my hypothesis. My plan is to continue riding  platforms for several days, including longer rides over different terrain. Also (groan) I suppose I should try Toe Jam again my Speedplay pedals with the goal of trying to beat my PR on platforms.

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Born in Harrisburg, PA. Undergrad at Drexel University. Learned to ride a bike when six years old, riding ever since. Started cooking when I was in college, stopped when I got married, started again in 2006 when my wife was out of town for a few months. Jobs: worked at post office while in college to earn money to buy a stereo. After grad school, worked at a small software company in Redmond, WA for twelve years. Afterwards, went back to school to get a certificate, then started teaching high school. Still doing that off and on, part time as the need arises.

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