This post compares the advantages and disadvantages of nylon and leather toe straps.
Both toe and leather straps are part of an old-school foot retention system known as pedal cages or clips.
A pedal cage is either made of steel or strong plastic and has two main purposes:
- Stop the rider’s foot from slipping. This outcome is common when exerting a lot of effort (when riding uphill for example). If the foot slips off the pedals, the rider can lose balance and/or get hit in the shins by the pedals.
- Position the rider’s foot consistently at the same place so that the ball of the foot is the area in contact with the pedal at all times. This position reduces joint stress and ensures maximum power transfer.
The function of the straps is to maximally secure the foot to the pedal.
The Advantages of Nylon Straps
Nylon is a synthetic material made from petroleum. As such, it’s more stable when exposed to the elements. Unlike leather, it doesn’t age nor stretches with time.
Nylon straps are cheaper and easier to find because the material is synthetic. Meanwhile, leather straps are made from animal hide and are consequently more expensive and less common.
Nylon is extremely strong. Hence why heavy-duty luggage straps are made of it.
- Vegan Friendly
Vegans stay away from animal products as much as possible. Since leather straps are made from animal hide, nylon straps are the only option for dedicated vegans.
The Disadvantages of Nylon Straps
- Non-classic Look
Nylon, just like plastic, doesn’t compliment the look of a classic vintage bicycle. People who are concerned about appearance and want their toe cages to look appropriate for the era of the bicycle could find nylon out of place.
Nylon straps have lower friction and are therefore more likely to slip.
A nylon strap is more likely to “collapse” and may require the rider to lift it with a hand before sliding in it. Of course, this property depends on the particular model too.
The Advantages of Leather Straps
- Classic Look
Leather straps visually compliment retro road and track bikes. People seeking the vintage style are more likely to choose the leather option.
- Lower Chance of Collapse
Quality leather straps retain their arch fairly well and make it easier to slide in. This is especially true for the so-called double straps designed for toe clips with two gates.
- More Friction
Leather straps provide more friction than nylon models which reduces foot slipping.
The Disadvantages of Leather Straps
Leather straps cost more because the material is more expensive.
- Stretching and Poor Resistance To the Elements
Water and dirt severely damage leather straps. That being said, a good set should last a long time.
Quality leather straps often consist of two leather layers “sandwiching” one nylon layer. The nylon layer is added for strength and to reduce stretch.
Those models combine the best of both worlds. They’re long-lasting, keep their shape, do not stretch, and provide the vintage look that some people admire.
As already mentioned, leather straps are not vegan.