History of Clipless Pedal

August 26, 2017 / no comments

History of the Clipless Pedal

Cycling is known for its dichotomy of innovation in design and upkeep of traditionalist ways. There is no better example than the humble bicycle pedal; Perhaps taken for granted by the average cyclist, the once simplistic metal platform was at the centre of a technology race. A race which built the reputation of many of today’s household brands, and even snatched companies from other sports. Yet, the cycling community was slow to adopt unfamiliar designs. Pedal innovation has not stopped, as it remains an integral part of improving performance. Through their own research, Nikola are continuing this pioneering legacy.

From no clips, to clips, and back to clipless again?

The first bicycles used simple flat pedals, which today are still the norm on many bicycles. It wasn’t until the 1890’s that anything really changed; around this time toe clips and straps were adopted and fixed to pedals. These devices attached to the pedal and allowed the shoe to slide into and stay secure to the pedal. Such set ups are still common today, with the advantage of not needing specialist shoes. As these became popular, purpose built pedals with toe clips attached as standard were designed. For a long time these pedals remained the only choice for professional riders to aid their pedalling performance.

And this is why modern pedals you ‘clip into’ are confusingly called ‘clipless pedals’; before the clipping in system, professional riders all rode with the preferred metal toe clips which were secured to the pedal platform. When early pioneering manufactures of ‘clip in’ pedals were adopted by professionals, they were missing the distinct metal toe clips – they were indeed clipless pedals. In the place, a pedal with a small platform allowed for a specialist shoe to lock into through a cleat on the sole.

So now we know how the cycling world got to the ‘clipless pedal’ and the reason for its confusing name, lets have a look and some iconic designs which helped innovate the pedal:

Cinelli M71 (1st Generation) 1970


Cinelli claim to have invented the first clipless pedal – The rare 1st generation Cinelli M71. This early version pedal replaced toe-clips and straps with a sole-mounted cleat that locked the shoe in position. Its cleat was originally made of aluminium, but later versions of M71 pedal cleats were made of moulded plastic for durability. Also, the pedal platform was made of chromed steel and looked quite different from the aluminium platforms with a round hole found on later M71 pedals. Designed by Cino Cinelli. The rider would clip out using a hand operated lever.

NaturaLimits Quick Release Cleats 1980


These novel “clipless” pedal adapters attached to the bodies of typical quill flat racing pedals and the cleats would attach to ordinary cycling shoes. This retro-fit system was intended as a replacement for toe clips and straps and turned ordinary quill pedals into clipless pedals. Before this, you would have had to change the whole pedal to be able to run clipless. The idea of adapting pedals and shoes for clipless did not take off however.

Look #PP65 1984


While Cinelli claim to have invented the clipless pedal, Look rightfully are seen as the key catalysts to making clipless technology successful. The French company produced the first commercially successful clipless pedal. As a ski binding manufacturer, Look began designing what it termed pédales automatiques – a style of spring loaded pedal from which you could release your foot with a sideways twisting motion. This feature meant a rider could safely detach from the bicycle ultimately accepted by professional riders and teams. This in turn kick started the pedal revolution, as other manufacturers followed suit. This design included the three-hole cleat mounting standard, which remains the standard design for racing pedals today. A testament to Look’s design.

Time TBT 1988


This was the first commercially successful clipless pedal that had float (spring-recentered). Float is the ability for the foot to move in the pedal without un-clipping. This reduced the strain on knee joints and became an integral feature of future designs. This model was created by the original inventor of the Look #PP65 pedal – Jean Beyl.

Speedplay X 1989
The Speedplay X Series’ innovative design and unrestricted float changed the shape of clipless pedals and proved that user-friendliness, comfort, and improved performance are all attainable in a simple, lightweight package. The unique shape of X pedals provided knee-saving lateral rotation, without the self-centering action inherent in most pedals as knees didn’t have to work against spring tension. The compact, low-profile shape of X pedals positioned your foot closer to the spindle. X Series Pedals were Speedplay’s first double-sided design. Unlike other designs, the pedal is essentially the cleat – as unusually it fits into the shoe.

Shimano PD7410 1993


Shimano’s first in-house designed clipless road pedal. Shimano named their range ‘Shimano Pedal Dynamic (SPD). They miniaturized Look’s design using a proprietary 2-hole mounting standard instead of 3.

Shimano M737 1993
Shimano also launched the M737 which was a compact 2 bolt version of its road pedal. The smaller design was aimed at mountain bikers, and was quickly adopted. This design became popular and Shimano has continued to produce pedals with the same basic mechanism. The relatively tiny SPD cleat recessed into the shoe sole, making walking a breeze. It’s little surprise that as the years went on, the technology grew from mountain bikers to everyday cyclists. This pedal brought the racing bike clipless system to the wider mass market.

August 2017 Patent of the Month-Bike Fitting Measurement Tool for Pedals

August 18, 2017 / no comments

August 2017 Patent of the Month-Bike Fitting Measurement Tool for PedalsA  pedal-fitting apparatus for dynamically fitting a generally laterally-moving bicycle pedal to an individual cyclist. Although the pedal-fitting apparatus is illustrated in the figures with a traditional “flat” pedal body, the present invention can also be practiced with various pedal configurations, for example, with a clipless pedal to which a cleat on a cycling shoe can be attached. Likewise, the pedal body can be single-sided or multi-sided, such that the cyclist can optionally clip into the pedal body while the pedal body is at various rotational orientations with respect to the elongated axle.

  • The pedal-fitting apparatus can be included as part of a bicycle-fitting system. The system can be adapted to a stationary bicycle or a traditional bicycle. In the case of a traditional bicycle, it is preferred that the bicycle be altered to be made stationary by, for example, employing a mechanical frame that permits pedaling so that motion other than the repetitive motion of the generally laterally-moving pedal-fitting apparatus can be normalized. It is also contemplated that a single pedal-fitting apparatus can be employed in combination with a traditional pedal. That is, a bicycle can include one pedal-fitting apparatus, for example, as a left pedal, and a traditional pedal, for example, as a right pedal. Alternatively, a bicycle can be equipped with right and left pedal-fitting apparatuses, and as such, can collect and process data for each of a cyclist’s right and left leg.

Nikola Innovation – The Backstory

December 28, 2016 / no comments

Nikola Innovation – The Backstory

The idea was born while I was rollerblading with friends. After many miles of skating, I recognized the muscle fatigue associated with rollerblading, which felt significantly different, then when biking. This fatigue with my leg motion began my interest in understanding body mechanics and how to fully utilize my lower body muscles when riding a bike. As an avid cyclist who loved to ride and compete, I sought to find a better way to apply and transfer the power of the body into the bike. Realizing the similarities between skating and cycling began the theory for the idea. The hypothesis formulated was if a person can use a broader range of muscles to propel a bike, then they should realize higher speeds, or need less effort to ride with the added muscles. Think of a car out of gas and you need to push it. One person will be challenged, much easier with two people, and even easier with three. More people pushing the car require less effort from each.



In 1962 General Motors introduced the first production car engine with a turbocharger. “The Cutlas Turbo Jetfire” This was monumental because they discovered by adding a turbocharger onto and engine, it increases the performance with added power and efficiency. A turbocharger increases horsepower allowing the car to accelerate faster. Since the car now has more power and can move faster, this allows car manufactures to reduce the size of the engines while maintaining the same power of larger engines. A smaller engine size uses less fuel therefore improves the cars MPG (miles per gallon). Turbochargers are used in cars, jets, boats and many performance engines.

Nikola pedals do for cycling what turbo chargers do for engines. We determined by adding new muscle groups from our legs, you can increase your power on the bike. We took the motion of a speed skater and integrated it into a bike creating a skating/pedaling motion. The new motion works just like a standard pedal except it uses more of the inner thigh and glute muscles in addition to quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles. This creates additional power because just like the car out of gas example, with more people pushing, we have more muscles working. Because a Nikola pedal has more muscles pushing and pulling, they require less effort just like a turbocharger, which in cycling is measured in joules. Think of joules like MPG. If you have a turbocharged engine you need less gas, if you use Nikola pedals you need less effort.

The sensation you experience when riding the pedal surprises everyone because they are expecting something very different. Our team spent a year studying the motion and created a natural feeling movement unnoticeable to almost all riders. The pedal skates back and forth by the developed technology inside the pedal. The second most surprising realization from riders is that you do not move the pedal side to side because it does it for you.

When your foot is on the pedal and positioned at the lowest point nearest the ground the pedal is at the outer most position away from the bike. Think of skating and your legs extending outward to move forward. As you pedal your leg begins to move inward toward the bike and is closest to the bike at the top at 12 o’clock position. The pedal moves circularly and elliptically at the same time.

What will a bicycle look like in 50 years?

November 8, 2016 / no comments

What will a bicycle look like in 50 years?

I love playing the future game during our ideation sessions challenging status quo thinking and imagining what-if. The best way to put together a futuristic picture of a bike is to break it down into smaller parts. I have seen great new technologies that are a few years from market that will likely be the new norm and here is what we’ll see.


Carbon Frames fashioned by 3-D printers- Science exists today to print bicycle pedals using print materials resilient enough to withstand the weight of a person. 3D printers today are capable of printing carbon fiber materials and a bike frame is feasible. Carbon fiber costs will drop as automotive federal MPG requirements mature making carbon fiber abundant as steel. Buying your new road bike will be a simple file download onto your home printer and print your tailored bike matching your exact size.


Anti-lock breaks with automatic stopping sensors. Going over your handlebars will be an event of the past. Just like cars of today with stopping sensors, this technology will be on most bikes in the future. The basis of science for stopping is similar between bikes and cars. Bikes will automatically slow or stop using a parallel technology . Anti-lock bike breaks are being tested in the market today and will be standard equipment.


300-mile range e-bikes. A local Cleveland start-up incubator lives a company who developed an e-bike that can travel up to 200 miles using a portable hydrogen fuel cell. I love how they are thinking already proving it can be done. Elon Musk’s Tesla will probably beat them to the market punch with a small lithium ion battery fit for a bike. Hydrogen fuel cells are a bit challenging to ship so I’m betting on the lithium battery to be first to market. You can bank on this one to come true.


Direct drive bike. Chains falling off while switching gears will be an old school bikes 50 years from now. Direct drive will not only eliminate the issue, it also maximizes power transfer. Direct drive will remove the need for a chain or drive shaft aligning the rider optimally on the bike. Power transfer will be improved with direct drive appealing to the triathletes and road market with the lower body positioning. Direct drive will bring fitting challenges however likely helping prosthetic riders aligning their center of gravity above the center of power.


Saddles. No pain you say? Likely not, but seats with improved blood circulation will be more widely available maximizing riding enjoyment. Think of a seat where pressure maps look more dynamic than static. I never understood the mantra “you’ll get used to it”. I could get used to sleeping on a bed of nails too but see no reason for it. Bike seats will decrease in length and increase in width as dynamic positioning evolves.


Optional EquipmentBuilt in cell phone chargers. E-bike commuters will charge their phone on their prolonged battery life. Built in air bags– Bike helmets with built in airbags exists today. Airbag incorporated into the handlebars or bike frame will be likely in 2066. Hands free biking – Could happen…not sure why but it’s the same science in self-steering cars or gyroscopes in Segways and Hoverboards. Just plug in your destination on your phone and pedal away while the bike steers itself.

Bike Carrier for Railroad

October 14, 2016 / no comments

Bike Carrier for Railroad


THOMAS COLEMAN DU PONT, of Johnstown, Pennsylvania invented a bicycle-carrier for the purpose of carrying a bike on a train or streetcar.  This patent was filed on September 29, 1897 and likely the genesis for today’s bike rack carriers seen on many public transportation system across the world.

Thomas Du Pont was of the same well known family. A brief bio on his storied past can be found here.

While this invention may not have fulfilled the commercial success that he wished for, it’s fun to imagine how he may have come up with the idea. Bicycles in the late 1800’s weighed between 30-35 pounds and unless actually riding them, cumbersome to transport.  He owned a public rail system and likely saw passengers struggling to schlep a bike onto one of his rail cars and thought there must be a better way.  Cheers to you Thomas.

The Day My Daughter’s Lemonade Stand Outsold Our Global Business

September 16, 2016 / no comments

The Day My Daughter’s Lemonade Stand Outsold Our Global Business
lemonade stand

2016 will go down as the summer of heat. Record breaking temperatures inspires a lemonade stand moguls dreams to come true. Arriving home one recent hot Friday, I noticed a lemonade stand as I turned the corner onto my street. A smile on my face grew when I realized it was one of my kids promoting her thirst quenching products. Ice water with slice of lemon- 25¢, Lemonade – 50¢, and duct-tape wallets- $3.00.

Pulling into our driveway was not happening since the lemonade stand was well positioned near the street in full visibility of passerby’s. To her credit she realized people needed to see her and the simple homemade sign showing products and prices appropriately displayed. “How are sales?” I asked. “Ok- we made $42.50 so far” said my daughter. I was so happy for her and her fellow partner. She undoubtedly had over 80 customers visit her pop-up kiosk in about 4 hours.

I was grumpy because no new sales occurred that day in our business and wondered how the heck did she outsell our company. Being a newer brand I realize zero sales can occur until word of mouth and awareness are established. That does not mean I like the fact that a lemonade stand outsold us even if it is my daughter. So I decided to look at our website just to be sure no technical issues exists and blown away with what I saw. The good news was the site was there and visible. The bad news is it took 19 seconds to load the site on my mobile phone – Yes I measure the time. In today’s instant response, need-it-now world, 19 seconds is the kiss of death.

My research shows 95% of web traffic abandons the site for a webpage taking over six seconds to load. To put it in the context of my daughters lemonade stand, it is the equivalent if she setup shop in our backyard garage with the door closed, midwinter, open from midnight to 4 am. Lesson learned- find the right web-host service- (email me if you want help based upon my experience.)

Fast-forward to a recent trip visiting a bike shop in the northeast US. I recognized an opposite visibility issue yet ending in a similar net result. This particular shop was unmistakably visible with bikes out front and a small sign above the door. They also have a great website accurately reflecting location, hours of operation, services provided, and the history of the shop.

After entering the store I was taken aback by what I saw. While waiting for the proprietor to meet with me, I perused the store eyeing for the pedal section scrutinizing who they presently support. Hundreds of products, signs, visual stimuli of all kinds “Pedals are in the back corner near the shoe section” he pronounced. The issue was the visibility was lopsided by the excess. New items mixed with old clearly visible by products which were dust-free and those which were not. As a first-time visitor I was a clearly lost, yet could understand what they were attempting to do by satisfying as many customers needs as possible.

Visibility is an important attribute to a great product/service. The purpose of this is not just to bring awareness to our company, but bring visibility to the many great ideas unseen. Our office once resided in a business incubator radiating with passionate people filled with creativity and perseverance. Incredible ideas evolving through the startup eco system in hopes to be seen through the merits of their respective virtues. It was so fun to see the many unique ideas and the struggle to bring distinguishability. We’ll strive to do a better job sharing our developments and improvements making sure we are clear and not lost on the shelf or invisible. We raise our lemonade glass to all entrepreneurs making the world a better place and clearly seen.

220-221-Whatever It Takes

July 7, 2016 / no comments

Lessons in Product Development

In 1983 there was a classic John Hughes movie called “Mr. Mom” staring Michael Keaton. The movie is about a recently laid off dad who decides to stay at home and raise the kids while his wife accepts a new corporate job.  I remember one scene vividly where he is talking about tackling a major home remodeling job he clearly has no idea what he’s doing while attempting to sound like he does. His wife’s new boss asks what type of wiring he plans to use in the new addition. “ Are you going to make it all 220 wiring?”  Keaton responds, “220, 221.  What ever it takes.”  The joke is 220 refers to a standard voltage used in homes.  221 is not an option. Here is the scene. (Mr. Mom 220, 221 scene)mr-mom-chainsaw

During the creation of a product, the process begins in a similar path to that of Michael Keaton. You think of various speculative concepts that make no sense under the current environment. Sometimes you can be dead wrong because you have no idea what you are doing. Occasionally with persistency and discovery, understanding begins to develop and the possibilities of how to bring the concept come to fruition. The notion is clear in your mind, yet the challenge remains how to bring it to realization. You may earn a few chuckles at your own expense that eventually become your earned stripes of accomplishment. Five years into the process, I have recognized product experience is gold with no substitute for it.

One area I have been optimistic yet consistently off the mark is the length of time to complete the mission at hand. Working with the engineers and suppliers to determine a date, we set a plan and deliverables and move forward. Like the game of whack-a-mole, things pop up and delay, delay, delay. Sending updates to customers with the belief the product will be ready by a certain date only to fall short is frustrating to say the least.  I lament over having to do so however realize the importance of even bad news needing to be shared.  The best advice I received was own it and move on with a plan to fix it.

Building a new company and creating a new brand in a massive bike industry can be a formidable task. Knowing there exists a multitude of manufacturing companies and millions of varying cyclists is exciting to be part of.  Nikola entered the bike industry knowing we put smart people in the charge giving them time and resources to do it right.  Yes it takes longer then most companies realize, but that comes with the territory.  Search in Google “Apple production delays” and 658,000 hits are uncovered. I am sure they loathed each one but became a better company for it. Wonder if any of their delays was because they tried 221 wiring?

Buying a “Real” Bike

June 21, 2016 / no comments

Buying a “Real” Bike



Countless family members and friends have approached me for advice on buying a real bike. Real bike meaning they’re committed to buy a reliable quality bike and ditch the bike owned since high school. It’s apparent there exists a large population who have not purchased a bike in years caught between overwhelmed with information and intimidated by what they see. Expensive does not always translate to better so I find the best guidance to give is helping narrow down the many options. By answering a few questions before you step into a shop, you’ll be better prepared to buy.


The first step is to understand, what are the reasons you are looking to buy a bike?  This answer helps filter a huge amount of options by determining if this is a new hobby, entering a race, or just looking to get in shape.  The next question to ask is what is the price point you’re targeting?  This is where the intimidation element comes in with many stating no desire to spend thousands of dollars therefore unsure where to shop.  Good news is many great options are available for under $1000.  Great customer service from a store is a huge plus and with a helpful sales person properly narrowing down the right bike for you.


Guidelines to use for buying are:


  1. Budget 20% of the total purchase toward accessories like a helmet, water bottle and cage, computer, clothes, lights, bags, and pedals.  If your out the door budget is $1000, look at bikes around the $800 range to account for the add-ons.  Don’t be surprised if you look at a bike over $800 that typically does not come with pedals.  We can help you with buying pedals. (:
  2. Buy from a local shop you can access easily.  Most shops offer a check up or tune up after you have ridden for a few weeks which you’ll want to take advantage of.  Some offer more than one visit so for this reason it’s nice to be in close proximity to the shop.
  3. Many shops have a specialty like triathlon bikes, mountain bikes, or recumbent bikes so know what type of riding you plan to do first which helps filter the store to shop in.  Be honest with yourself on what you really will do with the bike.  No sense buying a $4000 carbon frame bike if it serves as a clothes hanger more than a bike, and on the flip side no reason to buy a squishy beach bike if you truly plan to enter a few races or longer distance charity rides.
  4. Ask someone who rides where to go.  I guarantee you have an experienced rider in your circle of friends who shops bike stores. 14 million people ride a bike twice a week in the US.  This averages to every 25 people you know- one of them is that rider you’ll want to speak with.
  5. Visit more than one store.  There are countless options to satisfy just about any consumer so you’ll likely be happy with the choice made after you see what’s is in the market.  Most folks gravitate toward the shop that has the best options for their type riding as well as helpful with questions.  Be sure to ask any questions you may have have as most shops are friendly and willing to work with you to make sure you leave as a happy customer.


Human Performance Study on Lateral Pedals By Kenneth Sparks, Ph.D.

June 7, 2016 / no comments

Human Performance Study on Lateral Pedals By Kenneth Sparks, Ph.D.

Ken Sparks Report on Lateral Pedals


Ken Sparks Report–  This link is for the data and research conducted by Professor Kenneth Sparks of Cleveland State University. This bicycle pedal study where data was obtained for the comparison of a prototype bicycle pedal to a traditional pedal on 4 trained cyclists.

Report Prepared by:
Kenneth Sparks, Ph.D.
Human Performance Laboratory
Cleveland Stave University
Cleveland, OH

Switching to Clipless Pedals

June 6, 2016 / no comments

Switching to Clipless Pedals

Nikola Innovation

In a previous blog we mentioned that over 2 million patents exist on bike pedals giving you the magnitude of variation and styles in existence. Generally there are three categories of bike pedals: platform or flat, toe cage or straps, and clipless. Platform pedals are the style we most likely all began riding and most common. From an ease of use and safety this is as simple as you can get.


Toe cages and strap fundamentally serve a similar purpose. This pedals style secures your shoe a bit more firmly onto the pedal providing certain ability to push and pull through a pedal cycle. The benefits of this type pedal include the ability to wear virtually any shoe eliminating need for special bike shoes, easy entry and exit from the cage or strap so the learning curve is minimal. These style pedals have very little additional maintenance if any.


Clipless pedals are a great indication you are a bit more of a serious rider. Most cited reasons for using this style pedal are aligned with improved performance whether speed, distance, or some quantifiable benefit. If you are debating the pluses and minuses of using this style pedal then be mindful of the learning curve and correct use of a clipless pedal system.


Speaking with my riding friends, I found easily a majority of cyclists experienced a small spill at the beginning of their clipless pedal phase, me included. My incident occurred as I was approaching a red light while rolling less than five mile per hour. As I approached the light I un-clipped my right shoe which is my typical foot I put down first at a stop. What I failed to notice was a slope in the road leaning my center of gravity to the left. Not realizing this until too late I panicked and tried to pull my shoe out vertically which doesn’t work therefore unable to unclip my shoe. Down I went meeting Mr. Asphalt. No sustained injuries occurred other than shredded pride as I looked like a total goof. For those cars near by inexperienced in clipless pedals wondering why would a rider keep his foot on the pedal?! Thankfully the cars were a safe distance from me. I had a heck of a time getting vertical again as my shoe was still engaged in the pedal and I was tangled with the bike.


This is a typical scenario you need to be prepared for when starting out with a clipless pedal. The need to disengage immediately should be practiced in a driveway or a safe area. Become comfortable with removing both feet out of your pedals quickly and minimize the chance of an accident. Don’t be surprised when a riding situation requires a quick response and a panic sets in trying to pull your foot up instead of the required heel pivot.