Twenty years ago, road cycling shoes still came with a set of slotted cleats. During the 1990s, shoe companies dropped this practice, because no one who mattered was using old-style road pedals and toe straps. A dark age began for the toeclip user. But the sun may be rising again.
Thank the retro cyclists, be they true geezers or fashionable posers. Thank the fixie hipsters with their double toestraps. Most of all, thank Yellow Jersey, Ltd., of Madison, Wisconsin, because they have gone back into the slotted cleat business.
My co-mechanic, George, has been exploring his interest in cycling after a busy life pursuing other endeavors, including a career as an engineer. He liked the idea of slotted cleats and toe straps, for the many advantages they offer over step-in pedals. He was even starting to plan how he might make us some cleats. Today, however, I did one of my occasional searches and found Yellow Jersey's offering. They're ridiculously pricey for something so simple, but no one else is doing it (that I can find). The price is not quite ridiculous enough for me to call it exorbitant. The fact that they care at all, combined with their small market in the face of so much propaganda supporting step-ins, makes them a worthy underdog in my book -- or blog. I'm still farming my old stash of Sidis, bought for a song from City Cycle in San Francisco, but I might buy a set of Yellow Jersey's just to support them.
Now that I know there's a source, I will step up my own advocacy for clips, straps and slotted cleats.
Here's how it works: with a nice old-style road pedal you can use a non-cleated shoe for short errands or leisurely tours and a stiff-soled, cleated shoe for rides where you want more performance and don't care about walking. The toe strap lets you get some connection to the pedal even in your non-cleated shoe. You would not have that with a step-in, even if it had a platform around the binding or a flat side and a step-in side.
You do have to flip up a toeclip pedal to insert your foot. If you don't have a reliable track stand, this can complicate starts at intersections. In the olden days cyclists might take a few strokes before attempting the flip. The toe clip would scrape on the pavement. Riders who scraped the clips a lot would wear through them. Nothing's perfect. With a flat pedal you lose a lot of power. If your riding venue involves more stop-and-go than steady riding, a flat pedal may be a good choice. Even a step-in requires you to find the interface and snap into it.
A track stand will serve you well. Not only do you get to jump away from the intersection faster than anyone will believe, you hypnotize potentially critical motorists by your miraculous ability to stay upright without moving forward.
They do laugh when you blow it. C'est la vie.
Racers used to complain that they signaled their attacks to other riders by reaching down to tighten their toe straps. Now they do it by reaching down to tighten their shoe straps. Step-ins are easier to engage in the slow-rolling cluster-hump of a mass start race. If I had a dedicated race bike and I was actually racing it I would probably have step-ins. I might even have to get brifters. But how many of us are really racing? There's a huge fun zone in which you can do plenty of sporty riding using the "outmoded" pedal and shoe technology.