Foot Retention With Brakes

A quick question - do I still need foot retention if I have both a front & rear brake? (Working out options for a new build.)


Cheers mate! Short & sweet - I like it!

You probably don’t need a back brake if you’ve got a front brake and a fixed gear drive train.

The taller the gearing the less often it would matter.

You still need foot retention to prevent your feet coming free from the pedals at higher cadences - imagine trying to get them back on.

However, you do not need the rigid/tight retention you need if riding brakeless where you have to lift up on one of the pedals during braking. Simple toe clips and straps worn firm enough to slip into and out of are fine and indeed, that’s all I’ve used for the last decade of fixed gear riding. However, the tighter you are fixed to the pedals, the more uplift you can give to the rear pedal which, in some situations (eg, climbing a hill), will increase the amount of power you can put into the pedals.

Rear brakes aren’t essential but they give you extra options (eg, useful for controlling your speed down a steep hill) and if you develop the skills needed, help balance your bike during heavy braking. If you use drop bars, you’ll want two brake levers anyway so you’d might as well have the brake to go with it. If you do fit a rear brake, learn how to use it. A front brake alone is a relatively blunt tool for slowing your bike.

But none of that’s essential, many people ride effectively with a front brake only.

Recently, in a bike shop, I came across some mtb shoes that not only had the recessed cleat for SPD pedals, but also had a relatively flexible sole that would make walking quite comfortable, not sneakers but not rigid either. Something to consider.

I personally use skate shoes (stiffer sole than sneakers, grippy sole, not cleats), toe clips and straps. Have done so for years. On a performance scale though, I’m a comfortably proportioned gentleman, not an athlete, and ride accordingly.

Cheers Europa, lots of good advice there mate! It’s funny you should mention drop bars - my “new build” is a fixie with drop bars & aero levers. (I only want aero levers for the “clean lines” thing.) I’ve read of bikes with 2 levers, but only a front brake - the un-used lever there just to “balance” the look of the bike. I figure if I’m going to have 2 levers, I may as well have 2 brakes. Might just keep the toe clips on anyway.

I think I’m a bit like you on the last point - “I’m not an athlete, & I ride accordingly” - good stuff!

Be warned, I’m probably well into retrogrouch territory now and I was born in Renmark (last baby born before the hospital was evacuated during the flood of '56).

Give me a yell if you get back this way! Things probably haven’t changed much - maybe more empty shops… Still a nice place to live though!

I’d love to move back and still have family in the area, it’s just that my immediate family is here in Adelaide.