Hold Fast or Die: First Impressions

Hold Fast

Hold Fast Or Die…

Over the years I’ve toured, my feet have been somewhat undecided.

There’s no doubt they love the stability, the efficiency, and connectivity of a set of stiff-soled pair of cycling shoes, mated to the mechanical wonder that is the SPD pedal. My thought process has always been thus: as most of my waking hours are spent on a bicycle, my pedalling should be optimised. For this reason I’ve long favoured relatively stiff, performance-orientated SPD shoes,  supplemented with a pair of featherweight Crocs for around camp. Plus, SPD pedals flatter bike handling skills – it’s hard to move back once you’ve been spoilt.

But there’s no doubt that the same mechanical wonder is not exactly the most practical footware for all those off-the-bike wanderings, an inevitable part of any long tour. Scrambling up a cliffside to take a photo, for instance. Carrying my bike up a mountain pass. Pushing it through snow, mud and muck. Even going out in the evening, if I’m not too knackered.

So after several years bound to SPDs, I’m giving platform pedals another go. I’m relearning the basics. Trying out some new models, which – compared to those of yesteryear – protrude with sharp pins that promise to grip my shoes tenaciously.

So far

I’ll be first to admit that wandering around in ‘normal’ shoes, then hoping on my bike and taking off, is definitely liberating (no precarious skating or clickety-clack soundtrack to a trip to the grocery store). And while my Keens are no match for my SPDs in stiffness and efficiency, they’re really not that bad. Still, the adaption process needs more time – right now, I’m finding my feet skittering around over washboard or rough descents, which is pretty disconcerting.

It’s with this in mind that I’m trying out the Hold Fast Foot Retention System (FRS) – a velcro grip that binds foot to pedal, originally intended for the urban antics fixie riders get up to.

My first impressions are certainly good ones. My feet feel both free and secure. The velcro  embrace of the FRS’s offers discernable help when the trail gets rough; as long as I’m quick enough to pull my foot free when things get really awkward. Made with some pride in the USA (for $57), they certainly seem stoutly constructed and, available in a palette of colours and designs, add a sense of functional style to my ride.

So far, so good. I’ll be giving the Hold Fasts a real go over the next couple of months to see how they fare, with a view to using them on the next instalment of my journey. My gut instinct is that for touring, they’re going to work really nicely – just as long as I can reprogram my brain back to flat pedals. If I can, it would certainly makes my travels a lot easier.


These straps were sent to me to try out by Hold Fast.


Hold Fasts are simple to fit, as long as you have the right kind of pedal – in this case a Thin Gripster. I’ll be trying out some other pedal combinations too, to see which feels best together.


They’re available in a few sizes, depending on shoe size and style. Pictured above are the regulars, which fit my clumpy Keens just fine. I’ve noticed though that the pins on these particular VP pedals slow down access, if the straps are done up too tight. Reaching down and adjusting them is quick and easy enough.


Wrapped up as tight as you like. No more skipping feet over rough terrain. These Hold Fasts could be a great touring solution; the straps are easily removed for more technical mountain biking pit side trips along the way. 

15 thoughts on “Hold Fast or Die: First Impressions

  1. Doug M.

    I commute (fixed) almost every day on a set of plastic BMX pedals and YNOT straps, similar to what you have there. Definitely my favorite non-clipless method of foot retention.

  2. Steve Jones

    Cass, Have you tried FIVE TEN shoes like the Impact low with the stealth soles? I find they are amazing and they grip without straps or anything on most any flat pedal. best of all they make a good hiking shoe as well. I wouldn’t go anywhere without mine.

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      I haven’t tried any skate/downhill shoes – that’s on the list. The Five Ten Impact Lows do look good. The blurb mentions the sole is a soft compound for grip – is it lasting ok?

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      I’ve come across the shoes before, and although they’re heavy, they do look cool. However, I’m considering shifting away from SPDs altogether. Even if they’re recessed, they’re still a bit awkward for hiking. I have to admit I’m missing the connectivity of clipless pedals, but the notion of a long distance touring with ‘normal’ shoes is a strong one.

  3. Nico

    I used PowerGrips on my trip, and they worked like a charm. Keens, hiking boots and normal shoes in all weather conditions for over a year. I still commute with them.

    It’ll be interesting to see how the hold fasts fare, does the fabric feel robust at the contact points with the pedal? Do you have to enter your foot at an angle and then straighten to tighten?

    The new site looks great; the content is fantastic as always.

  4. Cass Gilbert Post author


    It’s a while since I’ve used Powergrips. One of the differences to the Hold Fasts is that they can mount to slimmer profiled ‘downhill’ flat pedals, like the VP Thin Gripsters.

    The foot doesn’t need to be twisted into position to create a tight fit – that’s done with the velcro binding, which makes them more adjustable for different types of footware, though they’re a little more fiddly in use. What I do like about them is that they’re easily removed. I can imagine touring with them on dirt roads, then removing them for more involved mountain biking side trips, where they might get in the way.

    They seem very robust. Perhaps they’re more comfortable too. I should really go back and dig out my Powergrips and compare. So far, I like them a lot for more casual, dirt road touring. Still need to investigate different shoe and pedal combinations.

  5. Pingback: Hold Fast Foot Retention System | Bikeboard.me

  6. Andi

    I had some straps (http://www.zlda.nl/custom-straps-v2/) on my fatbike’s pedals (http://www.nukeproof.com/products/components/pedals/electron-pedals) but removed them after I hit the ground several times because my foot didn’t came out as fast as I wanted it or got completely stuck .. Also found those thin flat pedals uncomfortable on longer tours as they don’t have this concave middle section as thicker flat pedals have. But maybe my shoes’ soles are simply too thin. Have some “normal” ones (http://www.dmrbikes.com/products/pedals/v12-mag) on my commuting bike and they’re great. Also if you don’t use the straps and keep ’em hanging downwards or push the bike, they tend to collect stuff or get stuck somewhere. Back to clipless for me. Time is what I like. Most bikepolo players (that I know) use them because they’re the most stable but still offer a wide movement ratio and late disengagement point. For offroad use they really do shed every mud and debris when engaging. Some rare marketing statement that’s true.

    For urban riding though such as fixed bikes, straps are superior as the clipless pedals’ cleats wear unrecognizable. Then one day you want to do a skid and suddenly your foot’s in the air ..

    The hiking .. well. I can’t tell you much if there’s maybe some good shoe where the cleat is recessed enough. Guess on rocks you’ll always have contact with the cleat no matter what shoe … My girlfriend used the Shimano SH-MT91 for some hiking lately and I think she was fine.

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Funny you should say that, but I’m on the lookout for a more concave design. I tried some old Forte pedals recently, and they were great.

      I’ve got a fairly challenging bikepacking trip planned in Peru when I head back in August (in the HuayHuash area), in which I expect a lot of scrambling, and probably some side trips on foot. I’ve had a pair of Shimano MT91 hiking shoes before. They’re great shoes, but I still find the cleat gets in the way – as you say, it’s always going to be an issue on rocks.

      I’d like to be at the point in my riding where I could confidently mountain bike with flat pedals, and add in the straps for dirt road touring. We’ll see…

  7. Vik


    I MTB in non-SPD shoes and platform pedals and my feet are 100% secure. They never come off or move even on the gnarliest downhill chunk. If your feet aren’t secure without straps then the combination of shoe and pedal is the problem.

    Not all platform pedals are equally grippy and not all shoes have a good tread where you need it to mate with the pedals.

    The 5.10 shoes mentioned above are excellent – both for biking and for walking around. I’m on year 4 with a pair as my only MTB shoe and frequently a shoe I wear on tour. With some strategic application of shoe goo they are going strong.

    There are lots of pedal designs. You want one with sharp replaceable pins. Concave surface is nice. You can tune the grip by how many pins you use. As they wear our you can replace them with fresh ones.

    I was a long time SPD user, but once I went to “normal” shoes I’ve never looked back.

    It’s great to be able to hop on and off your bike without a second thought.

  8. Rob at Ocean Air Cycles

    I was reading you pedal strap review and wanted to send you a link to the comparison I recently wrote up between the Gripster and the vice:


    I did not want it to come off as spam in the comments section of the review. They are both very similar, but I really like the the flexibility and replacability of the pins on the Vice. When you are out in the middle of nowhere and your pins are knackerd from mud and rock strikes you will have a hard time getting the pins out of the gripsters. Also, others said it, but when you find the right shoe combination the straps are not needed. I use flip flops and keens for most of what I do, but extreme is usually fire roads for me. I have friends that race down hill on these or similar pedals from HT and wear the 5 10 shoes, then tour in sandals on the same pedals.

    Good luck on the trip, love the pictures. If your travels take you through Ventura, drop me a line

  9. Glenn Charles

    Cass, this is a really great topic. I too have struggled with long distance trips where I love the efficiency of mile after mile using SPDs, but then long for something more comfortable for hiking, scrambling or other situations where Crocs or Five Fingers don’t do the trick. After my recent winter tour, I committed to making my next tour using flats. I am just now beginning the search for the right shoe. As Vik mentions, I too love the 5.10s, and the sole is definitely very sticky, but I never tried riding in them. On the other hand, my GF, totally gave up on her SPDs and has been happily riding flats + 5.10’s for more than a year… I look forward to seeing what you come up with.



  10. alex retana

    How about just having a pair of spd shoes and a regular pair of sandals. That is what I do. works just fine for me.

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Likewise. I’ve always gone for SPDs and a pair of Crocs. But hike ‘a biking in normal shoes feels better, as does hopping off the bike and wandering around town.


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