This post compares the advantages and disadvantages of plastic and metal toe clips.
The Advantages of Plastic Toe Clips
Metal toe clips are usually made of thin steel that can break if bent a sufficient number of times. During pedaling, the toe clip flexes ever so slightly when the rider exerts a lot of effort. I’ve broken a half clip myself just from overuse.
In different, plastic toe clips are more flexible and can sustain the flexing that occurs during pedaling for a longer period. Thus, a plastic toe clip can end up being more durable in the long run.
Plastic toe clips are cheaper to produce and their price reflects that.
Plastic toe clips are less likely to damage the rider’s shoes. Nonetheless, it’s still wise to smoothen the contact edges with sandpaper.
- Easier To Paint
Most plastic toe clips are black, but they can be easily painted any color with a simple rattle can. To increase paint retention, sand the clips. It’s recommended to avoid painting the inner side (the one in contact with the shoes) as the paint may get onto the shoes, especially if they’re white.
Steel clips, however, are hard to paint as they’re chrome plated and the paint just won’t stick.
This property may be important to people who like to customize their bikes maximally.
Plastic toe clips tend to be lighter. That said, the difference in weight is tiny and has no effect on performance.
The clips can often come in contact with the ground when pushing the bike. When that happens, metal ones make a louder and arguably more annoying sound than their plastic equivalent.
Steel clips are chrome plated and shine, especially in hot weather. Thus, the people around you will often look at your pedals reactively.
Conversely, black plastic toe clips are more discreet.
The Disadvantages of Plastic Toe Clips
- Low quality
Many plastic toe clips are flimsy and flex too much. Stay away from those as they won’t keep their shape well and make it more difficult to slide your feet in.
Plastic toe clips do not compliment a vintage road bike as much as steel ones. People who want their bicycle to look as stylish as possible and of the proper era should go for steel models.
The Advantages of Steel Toe Clips
- Shape Retention
Even the cheapest steel toe clips retain their shape better than plastic models. This makes them easier to slide in.
Metal toe clips do not flex nearly as much as steel ones when pedaling. Thus, they’re more efficient.
Steel toe clips are more stylish and compliment the look of vintage bicycles.
The Disadvantages of Steel Toe Clips
- Shoe Damage
Steel toe clips require a wrap/cover to prevent shoe damage. Hence why some models are sold with leather wrapped around the rails.
- Prone to Fatigue
As already mentioned, steel toe clips can break off unexpectedly after prolonged use.
The price of quality steel toe clips is sometimes higher than one might expect.
Steel toe clips tend to weigh ever so slightly more.
- Harder to Modify
Modifying a set of steel toe clips (e.g., drilling a set of holes to adapt them to non-standard pedals) takes more effort since metal is harder to work with.
FAQ: Can toe clips be used without straps?
Yes, they can. In fact, there are many benefits to this practice (read more).