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Advantages of Toe Cages and Pedal Straps (Which are Better)

Are they the same? Not exactly.

Upgrade your fixie's pedals.

Whether you’re new to the world of fixed-gear riding, or a seasoned cyclist, you’re here because you have a burning question; 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 in 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, along with the differences between these types of pedal accessories, 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 November 10, 2021, to include additional information regarding bike pedals and straps.

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Strapless bike pedal spinning.

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 in 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.

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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 in the upstroke. However, 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. Pedal straps are fairly inexpensive and come in a variety of colors and styles, making them excellent for fixie customization.

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 biggest 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 in order to use a clipless system. This makes them a far more complicated and expensive option. 

Shimano clipless pedal, advantages of toe cages and pedal straps.
Shimano clipless pedals.

If you’re interested in clipless pedals, check out this article from cycling weekly where they cover the best clipless bike pedals of the year.

Difference between toe cages, pedal straps, and clipless pedals? 

The biggest difference between toe cages and pedal straps is the way that they secure your foot. As previously mentioned, toe cages secure your foot into place by providing a cage for the front of your foot. Pedal straps, on the other hand, secure your foot from the sides. Clipless pedals secure your foot by attaching the entire shoe to the pedal.

Price is also a major 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 around $60-$70, and that does not include the necessary shoes.

Man pedaling with toe cages.

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. Toe straps have a much more youthful style and come in many different 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 more convenient and comfortable, as you can wear your normal footwear while cycling, which makes transitioning from home to bike to work, college, or any other destination much easier. No need to ‘clack’ around in cleats just to pop into the office, or to carry a change of shoes with you for 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. With toe cages, I’ve never experienced my foot slipping off a pedal, not even in the worst of winter conditions. And I regularly ride throughout the winter, snow or otherwise.

Riding green fixie in the snow,  advantages of toe cages and pedal straps.
Riding fixie with toe cages in the snow.

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 bring the bike to a stop quickly. 

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. 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.

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Are toe clips better than toe cages?

I’m not saying toe clips are better than clipless pedals, but I am saying 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.

If you are just starting out, I strongly recommend grabbing a pair of conventional toe clips or straps. Even if you do eventually end up using clipless pedals, toe clips can serve as a way to become familiar with the feeling and can help transition to use shoes with cleats and clipless pedals as normal.

If you need some guidance on picking out a set of pedals, check out our guide on how to choose fixed gear pedals.

Conclusion

Some 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 or which pedal configuration you prefer, the advantages of toe cages and pedal straps are so great that there’s simply no reason not to use them.

In this article, we covered the distances between pedal straps and toe cages. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • Toe clips, straps, and clipless pedals help you pedal more efficiently.
  • 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 expensive option.
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Do you ride with toe clips, pedal straps, or clipless pedals? 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.

Written by Bradly Knight

As a native New Yorker, Bradley is no stranger to the fixed gear scene. He’s been riding fixed for over ten years. When he’s not on the bike, you can find him practicing his many hobbies including playing guitar, video production, and photography.

2 Comments

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  1. I’ve used cages since high school when I bought a racing bike off a friend who upgraded. I’ve yet to hear a convincing argument to make me drop the extra money, be limited in footwear, and have to develop a reflex to get my foot off the pedal in time when time is limited and my attention is elsewhere.

    When I bought a used Pinarello, I just swapped the pedals with the “rat traps” off my old Bridgestone. I need to switch to a touring/gravel bike, and the ones I’m looking at come with toe clips, which I expect to keep.

    • Hey Miles. Thanks a ton for the info. I love to hear other perspectives on this topic. I agree. The limited footwear and reflex development is asking a-lot! All the best of luck to you and stay fixed!

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