Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pedal Terminology: there, I fixed it.

Today I found myself getting all fired up about bicycle pedals. Specifically, the names we have for different types of pedals has always bothered me.

It all comes from not being able to see the future. But maybe that's not where I should begin.

Okay, so let's look at what we have. First is your basic platform pedal.

Platform pedal
You may find these in the bottom of a spare parts box. They were removed within five minutes of some newly-purchased bike's homecoming (right after the pie plate behind the cassette was taken off, but those are never saved). They can also be seen on cruiser bikes (as witnessed above), or fancier models might grace the cranks of a BMX or trials bike.

The second kind of pedal is still basically just a platform pedal, but it has "toe clips" on it.

Pedal with toe clips
These are employed on hipster-style fixed-gear and gentrified randonee bicycles. Okay, and also track bikes, maybe. And in this case, my daughter's WeeHoo 3rd-wheel trailer bike thing. The straps mostly just keep your feet from being thrown from the pedal when either your bike decides it's going to keep going whether you want it to or not (fixed-gear); or when you find yourself out of your depth, cadence-wise (all other types). They are also a training mechanism for the dexterity needed to graduate to the next evolutionary stage of foot-bike interface....

Finally, we have pedals which lock onto cleats on the bottom of special-purpose cycling shoes.

Clipless pedal and cycling shoe with cleat
In one form or another, these are found on most road and mountain bikes. Aside from the obvious revenue boost to the cycling apparel industry, this kind serves a couple of purposes beyond the toe-clip variety: 1) they allow a greater amount of upward force to be applied when pedaling, which increases efficiency; and 2) they cause new would-be bike racers, having failed to wrangle their foot free in time, to fall over when they come to a stop. The latter helps the cyclist learn the humility required to be seen in public wearing brightly-colored Lycra during future bicycling ventures.

So back to my terminology gripe.

Platform pedals are reasonably named. They do, after all, provide a platform for you to push your foot down on just before it slips off and your shoelaces get caught in the chain.

But the second two types cause some major problems. You see, through an unfortunate lapse in foresight, the things that hold one's feet to the pedals of the second type were called "toe clips" rather than "toe straps." Little did they know that some genius would come along some years later and invent a pedal that you actually clip into. So once the final pedal came along, eliminating the "clips," this piece of technology came to be known as "clipless" pedals.

That's right. You clip into clipless pedals. How confusing is that?

So here's my proposal:

  1. Clipless pedals should be known as "clipful"
  2. Pedals with toe clips will be called "strapish"
  3. So long as we're renaming everything else, let's call platform pedals "backups" or "spares" or "little Billy's ticket for a new pair of shoes"
I think you'll have to agree that this arrangement clears up a lot of confusion.

You'll note that there's not a single Wikipedia reference or Sheldon Brown citation here. That's because all bike geeks suddenly know all of this stuff the second they walk into their first bike shop. Please just accept everything here as unquestionable truth.

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