Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Power Grips

I've ridden many thousands of miles on Power Grips and I find them to be a terrific way to keep my feet on the pedals. But a lot of "serious" cyclists find my pedal choice to be rather odd, so I wind up having the same discussion many times over. This past summer I had this very discussion with Alan Tilling, one of my fellow racers on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Race. Here is the scene, an excerpt from my forthcoming book The Way of the Mountain Turtle.


June 21st, 2005

The skies are looking nasty when we roll up to the Grasshopper Inn at 7:40 PM. Over dinner, we talk about the ride, equipment, life, and choices. Alan is intrigued that I prefer Power Grips to clipless pedals. It’s a discussion I’ve had with various folks over the years, so my well-rehearsed side of the conversation goes something like this:

You have three places where you interface with the bike: your hands, your butt, and your feet.

Now let’s say you’re going to do something crazy, like ride your bike in the mountains for 2,500 miles, trying to ride at least 100 miles per day. Somebody comes to you and says, “Hey, we’ve got this handlebar system. You clip your hands into this one place and that’s the only place they can be. But science is telling us that this is the best place for your hands.”

You’d probably say, “No thanks.”

And let’s say they have a saddle with his little clip. The clip will lock your butt on the saddle and science says that it’s the best possible place for your butt to be.

You’d probably say, “No thanks.”

Now let’s say they have these pedals . . .

I don’t convince Alan but I didn’t expect that I would. Clipless aficionados like to talk about float, but rotational freedom is only one dimension. One of the things I like with Power Grips is that I can also move my foot in the fore and aft plane as well as rotationally, but the bottom line is that they just work well for me.


By the way, while I was telling Alan this, he was sitting with a large bag of ice on his knees. And when we'd stop to rest, he would scarf down ibuprofin in much the same way that I would swallow M&Ms. Alan is a very tough rider, but he wound up abandoning the Great Divide Mountain Bike Race when various pains and numbness got to be too much for him. I didn't win the race, but I did finish it in a time of 22 days, 3 hours and 9 minutes. And while I did get very, very tired, I didn't take any ibuprofin or other pain medications. I'm not tough, but I do know what works for me. Power Grips are one of those things that work.

And in case you are wondering, Power Grips did sponsor me on the Divide Race by giving me a new set of their grips. But over the years I've bought at least half a dozen pairs with my own hard earned money.


Anonymous said...

i'm glad you're writing a book. i'll want to read it. when you've got a complete manuscript, i'd be interested in seeing it and pitching a review to cyclingnews. let me know.

Hjalti said...

I'm going to have to give Power Grips a try. Right now I use pedals with a platform on one side and "clipless" on the other (Shimano 323, 324 or clones) on all but the tandem. I find I ride about 95% clipped in on road, but when I hit the trail it drops to about 50%, just to give me more options for placement and balance. I agree with fatty about looking forward to your book!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kent,
I like your argument for Power Grips, but then shouldn't you be using BMX flats? I rode with retention for years and now much prefer flats for all offroad riding, for exactly the reasons you give for P-grips.
I'm just half serious here, I know you've had enough experience to know what works for you and that's P-grips.
bruce from the iBOB (originally HPV) list.

Joe said...

And, although it isn't advertised, you can combine BMX pedals and Power Grips! The MKS RMX pedals sold by Rivendell Bicycle Works and others take PGs with little fuss. Just pop out the reflectors and bolt-em on. I've found the long, wide pedals open up the PGs for my big feet.

Anonymous said...


Inspired by your blog I went out and bought some powergrips. I have had them a couple months and put many miles in different weathers on them. They are starting to fray at the edges and actually starting to come apart on the side closest to the crank. Do yours last longer than this? I really like this system especially this past winter when I wore some sport/hiking shoes that were much warmer than my cycling specific shoes.
Phil Randall
Pennyrile region, KY

Kent Peterson said...

Hi Phil,

My Powergrips also get frayed on the inside but it's pretty much just a cosmetic problem. Structurally, they're still plenty strong. Eventually they do fray enough that it's a problem and I did let one set go long enough that I did manage to snap one strap. But I'd say get something like 20,000 miles on a set of straps, far more than I'd ever get with any cleat on a clipless pedal system.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget that Power Grips grip when you want them to, and release when you really need them to. I crashed in the weeds at 17MPH. The front wheel hit something, and I went flying over the handlebars, somersaulting three times. My feet came right out of the straps, and I am not going to use anything other than Power Grips. Incidentally, my Power Grips are 10 years old and still going strong. I just bought a recumbent bike, and guess what is going on those pedals? You guessed it, Power Grips!

Anonymous said...

DIY Power Grips, next projekt Kent? ;)

Love reading your articles!
Wish you a rely Good New Year!

ted kohn said...

i'm not a serious rider. no touring. no races. but i had the same pair of power grips on my GT timberline for the past 14 years. they died (one of them) last week. i'm ordering new ones online and have come across a lot of people weighing in frankly i'm just happy they're still available. i love them but agree, it's preference. i do want to say, they will go from new to ugly pretty fast with the fray, and if you mountain bike the hardware can take a beating (bending). but they're so simple in design, there's little that can go wrong outside of cosmetic failure. love them love them love them. and frankly, i love the 'what the $&^% are those?' looks people give me when they see my pedals.

Anonymous said...

I made something like this before I even heard about power grips. Just take an old leather belt, cut to length, and then trim the ends so that they fit in the pedal. I just used some nuts and bolts to secure the strap. Has lasted me many years, and I have the rest of the belt when I need it.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the post!

16 years ago I was 20 with a $230 Nishiki MTB, on which I was riding 20 miles of road each day. I was by no means a serious cyclist, just a fat kid who was getting in shape on a mountain bike I bought for commuting to class.

I saw a pack of Power Grips on clearance, at the bike shop one afternoon, and thought they looked like they would work, were in my price range, and I didn't know any better! so I gave them a try. I still remember my "wow" moment the first time I rode with them and my average MPH for my 20 mile loop improved by 2 MPH!!! I could really make those knobbies hum!!

Well, I rode off 70 lbs that summer, and continued to ride that bike for many more years and many thousand miles of road and trail with the same pair of Power Grips.

Fast foward to years bikes got more expensive (and supposedly more sophisticated). First was a Fisher MTB in 99' with caged pedals. I hated these, because I could never get into them well, and never get out of them when I need to!

Next, just last spring, in my 30's and fat, I decided to lose the lbs the way I did it the first time, hit the road with a bike. Except this time, I've got some dough ($$$) and I'm going to get a road bike! No more humming the knobbies! I bought a $1500 Cyclocross bike (so I could still ride on gravel with slightly wider tires) with egg-beater clip pedals and a fancy pair of Bontrager MTB shoes.

I only put 100 miles on that combo, and was in so much pain and frustration, I decided to just sell it!!!

I could never get the clips/shoes adjusted properly to where my ankles/shins/knees/hips weren't either numbing out during a ride or in throbbing pain after a ride!

I was telling another rider that I just wish I could have another set of Power Grips, but I was told they didn't make them anymore. He suggested I "google" them. I felt like an idiot for not thinking of something so obvious before. I was pleased to see they were still around and I ordered my pair!!!

Installed them a few days ago on my new bike (Giant Escape 2), a better suited, comfort-hybrid, and it is like being united with an old friend!

I've ridden every nigh this week, and when I get home, I can still walk!!!....Having used the clips and now switching back to the Power Grips, I am realizing how much I move/change position on my pedals during a ride and for various conditions/circumstances. With the Power Grips I can change position all I want and still be able to power pedal on the upstroke!

They may not look "sophisticated" but I love them!! And so do my feet, ankles, shins, knees and hips!!!

Anonymous said...

I installed my first pair of Power Grips on my bike in college because I wanted something that would allow me to have more efficient power transfer, but didn't want to struggle with toeclips and didn't have the money for clipless pedals and shoes. I loved them and always wondered why they haven't caught on more than they have.

Now, it's 12 years later, and I just got a new bike to get back into biking (been busy with finishing med school, residency, fellowship), and was thrilled to find some Power Grips at the local REI.


overbyte said...

I ride 2 recumbent bikes, one with SPD pedals and the other with PowerGrips. The SPDs make the ball of my foot uncomfortable, even numb or sore on long rides. I've tried 2 different SPD shoes, placing metal flashing under the inner sole to distribute the pressure, using gel insoles, but still the SPDs make my feet sore. However, the ordinary pedals with PowerGrips are very comfortable and work just as well keeping my feet on the pedals. I can wear any shoe, and when I'm off the bike I can walk around as normal without a hunk of metal under my feet. The force distribution on the ball of my foot is broader and more easily varied by slight changes in foot position with an ordinary mountain-bike pedal than with SPD pedals.

I can endorse the comment here by the guy who crashed over his handlebars and switched to a recumbent. Accidents like that are virtually impossible to happen on a recumbent. If you crash, you flop to the side, not forward over onto your head. Recumbents aren't great for hill climbing and off-road use, but make up for it on the downhill due to less air resistance, and they sure are ergonomically comfortable on the hands, wrists, and butt, compared with upright bikes. I'm going to put PowerGrips on my other recumbent and give up on SPDs.

Dave said...

I agree with you on the power grips. I'm a recreational rider, but ride my mtb in the So Calif mountains where I live. What I do like, is not having to wear specific shoes, can wear regular shoes. Have hikng shoes that I use, makes those times when have to push the bike up a hill a bit easier. Also nice when decide to stop by a friend's house to take a break.

Greg said...


I have been using Power Grips for a year now and plan on using them on my Tour Divide attempt next summer. What pedals did you use with the Power Grips on your Divide ride? I'm looking for something reliable that works well with them. Thanks!

Kent Peterson said...


I think I used an old pair of Suntour touring pedals for my 2005 ride but those aren't made any more. You want a flat pedal that is grippy, but not too grippy (so your foot can slide into and out of the grip as needed). Velo Orange has a couple of good, Power Grip compatible pedals. The VO Touring Pedals or the MKS Sylvan Touring Pedals would work fine.