A cycling cleat is a small triangular metal or plastic wedge, which is attached into the sole of a cyclist’s shoe. It is a sprung mechanism that allows the cyclist to clip their feet in and out of their pedals. To accompany the cleats, the standard bike pedals are replaced with smaller clip-less pedals. These pedals have a mechanism, which connects to the specially designed shoe cleat, similar to a ski boot fitting and "locks" the rider’s feet firmly in place.
The clip-less mechanism was derived from ski boot bindings, originally by the French company LOOK for road use. With almost all cleats, to release the clip, the cyclist twists their heel outwards, and the cleat releases. However, some cleats allow the cyclist to unclip in any direction other than straight up. This ensures that in an accident the shoes release automatically, and the cyclist can unclip easily rather than having to bend down and release a buckle as with the older clip and strap model.
The benefits of using cycle cleats are widely publicised. Cyclists who responded to the RoSPA survey cited that cleats:
- Hold your feet in the right place on the pedal
- Make cycling more efficient
- Prevent your feet slipping off the pedals in wet weather
However, there can be some disadvantages of cycle cleats. Incorrectly adjusted cleats can contribute to knee pain; to minimise the likelihood of this type of injury riders are advised to seek advice from the retailer in the correct set up.
There is also a widely held belief that the use of cleats is contributing to cyclist injuries as a result of failure to unclip in time. However, research suggests that the use of clipless pedals has become widespread over the last 20 years and most injuries from clipless pedals are minor.
In 2018, 99 cyclists were killed, 4,106 were seriously injured and 13,345 were slightly injured on Great Britain’s roads. Although cyclists suffer a number of different types of injury during accidents, head injury has been identified as an important cause of death and serious injury in cycling collisions. One way in which cyclists can prevent or reduce the extent of a head injury in a cycle accident is to wear a cycle helmet.
Although helmets cannot be expected to be effective in preventing or reducing the extent of head injury in all scenarios, evidence does suggest that helmets are effective in reducing injuries. The effectiveness of the helmet is therefore dependent on the type of collision that the cyclist is involved in, the injury tolerance of the rider and the surface that the helmet makes contact with (e.g. a kerb or a car bonnet).
A review of research showed the large protective effect of helmets. The review suggested that helmets decreased the risk of injury to the head and the brain by 65%-88% and the upper and mid-face by 65%. However, the review did acknowledge that little to no protection is offered to the lower face and jaw.