These two words, when said in this order together, strike fear in the hearts of all new cyclists: Clipless Pedals. These are just words, and should inspire confidence and comfort- not fear. Here is a very quick and dirty Clipless Pedal lesson. If you have further questions, ask away!
It’s Clipless thus there are no Clips!
Clipless pedals refer to the fact that you do not have to use Toe Clips– which are the black “cages” attached to pedals and tightened onto your foot with a strap. Toe Clips have largely gone by the wayside although they are actually specified on many a new bicycle.
The Toe Clip may help keep your foot on the pedal, it is however difficult to remove your foot as you must tighten the strap around your foot creating a virtual vacuum (if you’ve had your foot stuck in a toe clip you know what I mean). The other major flaw in the toe clip is your foot may not be properly aligned at all times wreaking havoc on your knees and hips. You would likely also be on soft soled shoes this losing power and creating a very tired foot.
Clipless Pedal Land
There are many types of clipless pedals, so it may be difficult to know which ones to buy for yourself. The major clipless pedal brands are as follows:
- Shimano (SPD)
- Crank Brothers
Each brand has several different types of pedals. A few brands make “beginner” pedals which are at times referred to as “light action” meaning the pedal will release with less force. For serious riders, a racing pedal works best.
Road or Mountain Bike Pedals for Spinning or Indoor Cycling?
Amongst the choices you have are the broad choice between road and MTB pedals. In some cases you will not have a choice. your gym may only have one type of pedal on the Spin bike- however if you are Spinning or cycling indoors, I recommend MTB shoes and cleats if compatible with your indoor bikes. It is the ease of walking and and safety in the gym. Road shoes and cleats are fairly dangerous for walking in the gym. If you do not have a choice, choose to change your shoes at the bike and to not walk about the gym. Road pedals and cleats offer a larger more stable platform which is optimal for long road training rides, however not necessary for the shorter indoor cycling classes.
MTB- How to Choose
Choosing a set of clipless pedals may pose one of the biggest conundrums to a new cyclist. For the most compatibility, choose a Shimano pedal.The XTR pedal is the top of the line and looks nice, has a decent platform, and is incredibly lightweight at 306 grams per pair.
My first choice for beginners, however, are the Crank Brothers Candy pedals. They are easy to get in and out of, and have a 4-sided egg-beater style retention system and a decent sized platform for those moments you can’t get clicked in. They are forgiving and intuitive and come in a variety of colors. The eggbeater style also offers the best mud clearance. Plain Eggbeater pedals are ok, however for beginners I don’t like them. Without a platform, you loose stability even though you also lose some weight. The Candy 11 does have a weight limit and weighs in at 231 grams per pair, but the other Candy pedals are suitable for all, weight less than XTR and come with better warranties.
Road- How to Choose
I recommend Look or Shimano over all others for the road. The main reason is the ease with which you can find cleats for these pedals. Every bike shop will stock Look Keo cleats and Shimano SPD SL cleats. Your final decision will come down to price. Look Keo pedals come in under $100 for an entry level beginner pedal. I recommend Shimano Ultegra pedals for most unless you are racing. Then I recommend Dura Ace for the weight and materials. Dura Ace will be harder to get in and out of since they are designed for Professional racers.
As for dual-sided pedals- only in mountain biking is this absolutely necessary. Road pedals are weighted, so the open side is always facing your shoe.
Why the Price Discrepancy?
Clipless pedals can be heavy. Inexpensive clipless pedals can weigh up to twice as much as the top of the line pedal. Why? Materials. Inexpensive pedals will most likely have Chro-moly spindles. As you go up in price, you get stainless, hollowed out steel, then you get titanium.
Number two reason: bearings. Some low end pedals will have loose stainless steel bearings while high end pedals will have cartridge bearings- which are smoother, more precisely machined and lighter.
For most riders, titanium is not necessary. Choose strong and lasting over uber lightweight. Racing equipment such as XTR or Dura Ace is made for the racers- thus called in the bike industry: FRO (For Racing Only). Professional racers wear through equipment multiple times throughout the year. Most racing equipment also comes 1 year or no warranty! Save yourself headache and money and buy down.
At the end of the day…
Visit your Local Bike Shop and buy your shiny new pedals locally!