Whether you’re new to fixed-gear riding or a seasoned cyclist, you’re here because you have a burning question; why do you need foot retention straps? And what are the advantages of toe cages and pedal straps?
Toe cages (sometimes referred to as toe clips) and pedal straps are bike accessories used to secure a rider’s foot to the pedals for maximum stroke efficiency. They allow you to pull the pedal on both the downstroke and upstroke, giving you a more controlled, powerful, and efficient stroke.
But there’s a lot more to it than that. So, in this article, you will learn about the advantages of toe cages and pedal straps, why you need foot retention, what their benefits are, and why you should consider getting your hands on a pair. I will also suggest some options to choose from, so you can pedal more efficiently without breaking the bank.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on June 7, 2022, to include additional information regarding bike pedals and straps.
What are toe cages?
Toe cages, also referred to as toe cages, are frames that attach to the front of platform pedals and surround your toes. They allow you to pull the pedal on the upstroke, giving you a more controlled, powerful, and efficient stroke. Some toe cages come with adjustable straps to secure your foot. Toe cages should not be confused with pedal straps.
These are the toe cages I use on my own* bike. Below are some examples of different toe cages.
What are pedal straps?
Pedal straps are similar to a toe cage in that they allow you to pull the pedal on the upstroke. However, there are some disadvantages. Unlike toe clips, which attach to the front of your foot, pedal straps go around and over your foot, securing them into place from the sides rather than the front. In addition, pedal straps are relatively inexpensive and come in various colors and styles, making them excellent for fixie customization.
Need some foot retention? Below are a few examples of pedal straps.
I would be remiss if I did not talk about a third popular pedal configuration; clipless pedals.
What are clipless pedals?
Clipless pedals are considered one of the most significant bicycle innovations of all time. Clipless pedals are an entire pedal system that includes pedals and cleats that attach to the bottom of specially designed cycling shoes.
Clipless pedals work similarly to skis in that they clip on and off your foot. You will need to select pedals and shoes that work together to use a clipless system (everyday sneakers won’t do). This makes them a far more complicated and expensive option, so this foot retention system may not be for everyone.
What is the difference between toe cages, pedal straps, and clipless pedals?
The most significant difference between toe cages and pedal straps is how they secure your foot. As previously mentioned, toe cages secure your foot into place by providing a cage for the front of your foot. On the other hand, pedal straps secure your feet from the sides. Clipless pedals secure your foot by attaching the entire shoe to the pedal.
Price is also a significant differentiator. Toe clips and straps are far less complicated than clipless pedals, making them significantly less expensive. An average toe cage or strap will run you around $20-$30, while most clipless pedals start at approximately $60-$70, not including the necessary shoes.
The look and style of these accessories will also vary. I have taken a liking to the classic, almost elegant look of toe cages; they add a classy look to the bike. On the other hand, toe straps have a much more youthful style and come in many colors and printed patterns.
If you’re new to cycling, wearing cycling shoes with clipless pedals will take some time to get used to. This is another reason why many fixie riders go with toe cages or straps. They are a more convenient and comfortable form of foot retention because you can wear your everyday footwear while cycling, making the transition from home to bike to work, college, or any other destination much easier. In addition, there is no need to ‘clack’ around in cleats just to pop into the office or carry a change of shoes with you when you arrive.
What are the advantages of toe cages and pedal straps?
A few years ago, I was biking on the side of the road, and I wanted to accelerate quickly, so I stood on the pedals and exerted more pressure. And with all my weight bearing down, my foot slipped off the pedal, and I ate dirt.
The crash was awkward, ugly, and painful. I was lucky not to get hit by any vehicles as I plowed into the asphalt. An incident like this shakes your confidence. A few weeks after the accident, I got a set of toe cages, and I’ve never looked back. I’ve never experienced my foot slipping off a pedal with toe cages, not even in the worst of winter conditions. And I regularly ride throughout the winter, snow or otherwise.
Additionally, toe clips and straps are essential if your fixie is not equipped with hand brakes. Even with brakes, toe clips are still beneficial because they improve your pedal stroke and give you a greater sense of confidence and connection with the bike. When your feet are strapped to the pedals, it’s much easier to skid stop or use your pedal stroke to slow down or quickly bring the bike to a stop.
Even on a bike that has a front brake, if you’re riding in hilly terrain, it might not be enough to stop the bike. However, with pedal straps, the push-pull action controls the skid, and the braking power of the drive chain against any downslope can be controlled easier and more precisely.
Are toe clips better than toe cages for foot retention?
I’m not saying toe clips are better foot retention straps than clipless pedals, but they are far more practical for the average fixie rider.
Clipless pedals provide many benefits, but many fixie riders find the additional cost and inconvenience associated with them not worth the trouble. Toe clips give you virtually the same advantage but are more comfortable, practical, and, as a bonus, cost a fraction of the price of the clipless combo.
If you are more of a visual person, check out this video from Zach Gallardo as he explains the advantages of toe cages and pedal straps.
Video on toe clips vs. toe straps vs. clipless pedals.
I strongly recommend grabbing a pair of conventional toe clips or straps if you are just starting. Even if you do eventually end up using clipless pedals, toe clips can serve as a way to become familiar with the feeling of slipping in and out of a foot retention system.
If you need some guidance on picking out a set of pedals, check out our guide on choosing fixed gear pedals. And while you’re at it, check out our article on the best fixie bikes of the year.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about the advantages of toe cages and pedal straps.
What is the main benefit of having toe clips?
Keeping the rider’s feet in the proper position, preventing them from slipping off the pedals, increasing pedaling efficiency, and cost savings are just a few of the benefits of toe clips.
Are pedal straps necessary?
If you wonder whether foot retention for single-speed bikes is necessary, the answer is no. However, foot retention pedal straps are required to ride a fixed-gear bike without brakes. Pedal straps allow you to skid stop and assist in slowing you down on your fixed gear bike.
Do people still use toe clip pedals?
Yes, toe clip pedals are still popular. Yet, they are seldom used correctly. They leave them to their own devices most of the time. You should grip down and tighten your toe clips after you begin pedaling. Otherwise, you’ll lose most of the advantages.
Are bike pedal straps worth it?
All in all, bike pedal straps are definitely worth the investment. So, if you’re thinking of buying one, make sure to do your research first!
Some cyclists prefer pedal straps because of their modern look. Some prefer toe cages for that more refined, classic look, while others prefer the maximum control offered from clipless pedals. The choice is yours. But no matter what your riding style is or which foot retention or pedal configuration you choose, the advantages of toe cages and pedal straps are so significant that there’s simply no reason not to use them.
This article covered the distances between pedal straps and toe cages. Here are some key takeaways:
- Toe clips, straps, and clipless pedals help you pedal more efficiently.
- Foot retention is essential for fixed gear cycling.
- They all prevent your foot from slipping off when riding.
- Toe clips and straps are more practical and convenient.
- Clipless pedals are better suited for long rides and competitions.
- Clipless pedals can be very expensive.
- Toe straps are the least costly option.
So, are you a biker that rides with toe clips, pedal straps, or clipless pedals? What kind of foot retention do you use? Let us know in the comments below (we read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, check out our full blog for more tips and tricks on everything fixie. Thanks for reading, and stay fixed.