In the 80s, the toe clip and strap enjoyed its most glorious existence, not only were roadies using them, but mountain bikers, and in small but selective numbers, BMX racers, too…all hooked on the power a rider could produce by strapping foot to pedal.
Like all inventions, a need and available technology turned to evolution and in a move reminiscent of the birth of music videos, the toe clip and strap was killed off the “clipless” pedal. Cue the Buggles…
To the newer generation of cyclists it is unimaginable that riders would have resorted to such manual operations as to reach down after placing their foot into the toe clip and pull the strap tight before really cranking out the efforts. Or, that knee issues were far more prevalent and a head-over-heels wipe out resulted in a pavement meets body collision with your bike still firmly attached to your person. Despite the widespread popularity of the clipless pedal, the toe clip remains a strong entity, achieving an almost cult status among track racers, restoration projects, and, of course, those who commute.
The toe strap, however, has been elevated to an entirely new level of functionality. It is incredibly simple with the clamp being a symbol of perfect design, a flawless blend of simplicity and reliability. The toe strap is the perfect item for any cyclist with an almost limitless number of useful outlets.
Off the bike, the toe strap serves as a third hand during maintenance, pairing wheels during cross season and securing a spare tube under the seat. It’s an amazing stand-in for the plastic wheel strap that continually breaks on your roof rack, and for a trunk-mounted rack, it keeps the bars straight and free from unintentional top tube damage. The toe strap is the cycling world’s equivalent to duct tape. You can fix almost anything with a toe strap.
Over the years, I have amassed many orphaned toe straps; the majority of my collection consists of nylon straps, durable and cheap versions that during the bike shop days were ordered by the thousands. Aside the mountain of cheap and utilitarian nylon straps lies the coveted supply of classics that are used for only special applications. The classics range in age and brand, but all are made from leather. Leather toe straps have an element nylon does not. Leather seamlessly blends equal parts class and function. The leather toe strap has a feel unique to itself: the leather pulls differently than the nylon, the amount of stretch differs, even the feel against your foot is different. The leather strap is as useful as the nylon, but in my world, the leather straps are given the light duty jobs, the jobs that are more show than go. What better way to display their elegance?
There are so many uses for the toe strap that a cyclist is limited only by the imagination. If you don’t have a few laying around already, dig into that miscellaneous parts pin or head to the shop and pick up some new ones. Toss them into your travel case, your travel tool box, or just leave them accessible on your tool bench. Like me, you will be continually amazed at the ways a toe strap can assist in daily life.