The history of the toe strap dates back to the dawn of bicycle racing, with the original pedal for racing cyclists being a strap over the shoe with a steel cage as reinforcement. As sprinters, especially on the track, got stronger and stronger, the need for much more durable double leather straps came in and has been the go-to ever since. Even since the invention and rise of clipless pedals from Look, Time, Shimano and the likes, powerful track sprinters have sought more safety and opted for the extra support of the double leather toe straps over and above the standard clipless pedal and cleat.
Why? Simple: the standard clipless pedal alone is simply not enough to support the power these riders produce. With watts close to and above the 2500 marker, a pedal designed for road riding is not enough. When these riders need every single watt to go through the pedal and into the drive chain to get maximum speed, and when the torque and acceleration they produce being so high it’s comparable with a family sedan, they cannot afford to waste any power!
Horizontal and diagonal movements by millimetres can waste valuable watts! Pedal strokes that aren’t 100% smooth and efficient aren’t good enough. Cycling shoe manufacturers make big carbon fibre shoes covering the entire foot to minimize wasted watts; and straps only enforce that! What’s the use you have the rider and bike, but no way of making them stick together? Riders need a zero friction connection of shoe to pedal and an efficient transfer of power.
It’s as much as a mental issue than a pure mechanical issue. A rider must have confidence that they’ll be secure enough to put maximal force through the pedals and not have to worry about pulling their foot out! In the space of 5-6 seconds, where a rider goes from 0-60kph and produces the power they do, they cannot afford their mind to wander around other issues like: “will my foot come out?” – They need to feel safe and secure so they can focus solely on the task at hand.
As much as there is a stigma attached to straps, like “you aren’t a real sprinter unless you use straps”, it is an incredibly important piece of equipment, and vital to any sprinter, from part time rider trying to crack the 12 sec barrier, to Olympic champion!
Over the years, the focus has shifted from traditional leather to more aerodynamic options such as the Velcro versions. These are much more aerodynamic as there is no big bulging leather clips and loose hanging leather straps flapping in the wind. I always wondered how riders can be okay with that – spending thousands of dollars on aero helmets, skinsuits and bikes, but having these leather straps flapping in the wind! It baffled me!
The Velcro straps also offer a larger surface area of up to 50mm in width, which allows a more secure position. They are also at times a lot easier to clip in and out of, and also don’t damage expensive shoes as much a traditional leather.
We’ve seen that in recent years with many of the top riders making the switch from traditional leather to the Velcro options. Riders such as Matthew Glaetzer from Australia trusted Velcro to ride the first ever sub 1 min kilo in at sea level Manchester last week! Olympic champions Kristina Vogel and Elis Ligtlee; and the Russian duo of Daria Schmeleva and Anastasia Voinova trust Velcro over leather. Not to mention the likes of Stephanie Morton, Harrie Lavreysen, Max Levy, Miriam Welte, and Denis Dmitriv all have made the switch!
Although the switch to Velcro has been increasing, especially in recent years, some sprinters still prefer leather for various reasons. Philip Hindes told me that strapping in with leather is so engraved into his mental regime before dong a start he simply cannot get his head around changing to anything else. This seems to be the case with a few of the top start lap riders such as Rene Enders and Robert Forstermann. As anything, it’s always an individual preference, and one that the rider must feel 100% comfortable and confident with.
I have always never quite trusted a product until the world’s best riders have used and put it through its paces and it’s survived, so if all these riders are using Velcro, I can with confidence say Velcro is the way to go!
So if you’re an aspiring sprinter, or an experienced power house, you should seriously consider the importance of straps! Whether that’s old school traditional leather, or newer Velcro, it’ll definitely improve your sprinting and give you the confidence to push harder than ever before!
To emphasize the importance of toe straps in performance, and the importance of proper skills training and coaching – BLS alongside Track Cycling Academy are having a competition this festive season! Simply by entering the competition you’ll stand a chance to win:
- 1 x BLS Velodrome bag valued at US$175
- 1 x BLS Velcro Toe Straps valued at US$60
- TCA Skills Product – Lifetime Access (AU$59.00 once off)
- 1 Month of Free Coaching and Support from a TCA Physiologist (Value: AU$399)
That’s an unbelievable $693 (over AU$1000) prize!
Also check out a recent blog post by TCA about the importance of toe straps.