My first serious purchase as a young cyclist was rattrap pedals and toe clips. These are a marvellous invention. They keep your feet in the optimal position on the pedals for maximum efficiency. They also stop foot pain from pedalling with the arch of the foot taking the pressure of the pedals. I found it almost impossible to stop my feet shifting on the pedals until I had the clips in place. For long trips they are a boon.
The next purchase from Deane Toseland's bike shop was a pair of cycling shoes and lead cleats. You put the shoes on, rode a mile to get the mark of the pedals well into the leather and then went down to the old boot maker on O'Connell Street and had him nail the cleats into position.
These were more than marvellous. You could strap your feet down tight and pull the pedal on the upstroke, which was great for acceleration. I still swap between push and pull on some climbs to give muscles a rest.
The problem with the old cleats was the straps. At each light you had to bend down and use the quick release to let your foot out to the ground… or hang onto the traffic light. Occasionally one would forget…
I finished Uni and went up to the desert for six years. No bike riding there. Not long after coming back I joined the theological college hockey team, and one day after a match, spotted a pretty young woman riding towards us with shoes that were clearly attached to the pedals, but had no straps. I spun around in the front seat to get a better view.
"Did you see those shoes?" I asked in amazement. There was that silence where you think back, wondering what you said wrong. Finally a voice in the back seat said, "We weren't watching her shoes!'
Today's strapless cleats had arrived. They are a gift! No more toe straps. You can buy mountain bike shoes with recessed cleats so you can walk without looking like a duck who is tap dancing.
People worry about falling off with cleats. It only happens once.
They are not only a great efficiency boost. They make riding safer. A bad pothole or patch of sand that could have you losing your footing on a pedal is far less dangerous. You stay on the bike.
If it sounds too hard, start with old fashioned toe clips and keep the leather strap loose. You'll soon want more.