This article should help you make the right purchasing decision if you are outfitting a new road bike (pedals are usually not included) or upgrading from one shoe-pedal system to another.
There are basically 4 Pedal options for cyclists: The Platform Pedals, Toe Clips & Straps, Dual Pedals and Clipless Pedals.
These “flat pedals” are the ones you probably had on your first bike as a kid. They provide a wide stable surface to support your feet on both sides. Many downhill mountain bikers still prefer this type of pedal mated with a specifically designed shoe. This combination provides sufficient grip and control while being the easiest to get off of in the event of a miss hap. While clipless pedals will release in a crash, platform pedals may give you the confidence to help avoid a crash.
TOE CLIPS & STRAPS
Toe clips (also called “toe cages”) are small frames that attach to the front of a platform pedal and surround your toe. They allow you to pull up with your foot in the pedal stroke as well as pushing down, effectively doubling your efficiency. With the addition of an adjustable strap, you have a basic retention system that is lightweight, affordable and durable.
This Platform/Clipless Dual Pedal hybrid approach combines the flexibility of platform pedals with the efficiency of a clipless system. It’s an excellent transition pedal for anyone looking to ease into clipless. While most riders thinking of clipless pedals go “all in” or not at all, these offer an alternative for those who don’t always ride with a cycling shoe.
Clipless pedals are your most advanced pedal option. We highly recommend clipless pedal and shoe systems because they more efficiently transfer your pedaling power to the ground and the shoes have stiff soles to support and protect your feet for more comfort. The system works by mounting a small plastic or metal cleat on the sole of your shoe. This cleat then snaps into a set of “clips” on the face of the pedal.
As with most everything else on a bike, the lighter the pedals, the more you are going to pay. All-carbon models can get down into the 250g weight range, and well up into the $350 range. But there are plenty of long-lasting, good-performing alloy/composite models that weigh a respectable 309 g without breaking the bank at around $100.
If you’re new to cycling, getting new pedals and shoes (both are required for going clipless) might seem a bit much. The way to decide whether it’s worth the expense is considering your cycling. If you ride regularly 15 miles or more and expect to keep riding for years to come, we think you’ll love the way a clipless system enhances your cycling experience by boosting your pedal power, comfort and safety. We like clipless pedals for road and mountain biking and for everything from recreational riding to commuting and racing. They’re also great for Spinning classes.
Just a little tide bit…
“Clipless” is a rather confusing name for these pedals since you actually do “clip in” to the pedal’s cleats. The origin of the name goes back decades when pedals with “toe clips” were a cyclist’s only choice for improved pedaling efficiency. The then-new clipless pedals got rid the toe clips by offering a direct attachment between shoe and pedal…the clipless name has lived on ever since.
Clipless pedal benefits include:
– Pushing down/pulling up during the pedal stroke for maximum energy efficiency.
– A high level of control while executing moves like hopping up on to curbs or over logs.
-Improved safety: Your feet are not able to bounce off the pedals while riding through the bumps and will not slip off as you apply power in wet conditions.
To create a full clipless pedal system, you need…
– Shoes that are drilled to accept the kind of cleat you are buying, and
– Compatible cleats and pedals (which are sold together).
Proper positioning of the cleat on the shoes is necessary for the correct functioning of a clipless pedal system. An incorrectly positioned cleat and/or pedal-release tension can cause release issues and knee pain. We highly recommend when purchasing shoes, pedals & clips, you invest in a complete bike fit with an experienced bike fitter.
Using a clipless pedal system does takes some practice. To disengage your shoe from the pedal, you simply twist your foot, starting by turning your heel outward, away from the bike. At a certain point, the clip system disengages and your foot releases from the pedal. This motion is simple to learn, but it must be practiced to develop muscle memory and confidence in the process.
MOUNTAIN BIKE PEDALS
The most common mountain bike clipless pedal system is the 2-hole cleat design. It can be used for all types of riding including road cycling, mountain biking, touring and spinning at the gym. The recessed cleat option when paired with some shoes allows for easy walking.
Ideally, the cleat is mounted directly under the ball of the foot but that may not be the most comfortable position for every user. You can experiment to find the ideal position to engage the cleat most easily and pedal with the most comfort. The lateral or “twist” adjustment on the cleat allows them to be set to accommodate different pedaling styles. Some people pedal with their toes slightly inwards; others have them pointing straight ahead; still others have their heels farther inboard than their toes.
ROAD CYCLING PEDALS
Road cyclists most often use a 3-hole cleat design. The advantage of the 3-hole design is that the large cleat is able to spread the force load being applied to the pedal over a wider area. This reduces pressure on the connection points and allows a secure connection during the high stress loads that pedaling a road bike hard can create.
Most pedals and cleats have a degree of float to allow your feet to pivot slightly as you pedal. Float is measured in degrees and is the amount by which the foot can move before releasing from the pedal. Some cleats are zero-float, or fixed, which keeps your feet ‘locked in’ to the pedal. Other cleats are in the six-degree range. Most riders prefer a little bit of float, and many bike fitters insist that this wiggle room can help keep knees healthy.
Most cleats release laterally. The so-called multiple-release cleat is very similar to these models except that it releases a bit more easily and at slightly increased angles (your heel can move outward or inward and slightly upward as well). The differences are subtle, but the bottom line is that they are more forgiving than their lateral-release pedals.
Just a note:
While learning how to use clipless pedals, find a level, grassy field for practice. You are most like to fall a time or two while learning, and soft ground can help prevent injuries. Optionally, you can practice clipping in/out while on a bike trainer or by having a friend hold your handlebars.
Clipless Pedal and Shoe Systems are relatively maintenance free but you should check the mounting nuts on your shoes periodically for tightness—in time they can manage to work themselves loss.