Thursday, 21 July 2011

Pedals (again) the world of clippless pedals.

I posted very early on in this Blog about my multiple pedal purchases. You can find the post HERE. The conclusion of the post was that I went through 3 sets of pedals in the space of 3 months with ever increasing amounts of investigation and price and by the end of it still hadn't got the right pedals - mostly because I bought cycle shoes and the meant having to change the pedals to clip less pedals.

Today, I commented on a forum post in - a guy asked which type of bike shoe to buy (Road or MTB) - to me this obviously and necessarily leads to the question of pedals - if you are a first time buyer you are going to need both obviously - DUH! And the type of shoe you buy may be affected by the pedals on offer. It then also occured to me that I never finished off the pedal saga and also had never put together a post with helpful hints on how to choose pedals and shoes.

Therefore I shall attempt to offer some advice to new cyclists who are thinking of buying pedals or bike shoes - if I had found this advice earlier (obviously from someone else) it would have saved me a lot of hassle and time.

The most important thing when deciding on pedals is to think hard about what type of cycling you are going to do - if you are unsure then go with a cheap pair until you have a good idea. Now all this might sound obvious - but if you are like me, you might end up being surprised how much more or less cycling you do than you expected. Here are some tips on the best shoe / pedal combinations.

  • If you are going to have to walk in your bike shoes then mountain bike shoes are the best way to go - it is not easy walking about in road bike shoes and you run the risk of looking a bit of a plonker as you clank down the street. MTB shoes have the ridges (sole tread) either side of the cleat so you can use them to walk on - as normally as is possible in solid soled shoes.
  • If you are just using you bike for fast road racing then the road bike shoe is best - they also can attatch to lighter road pedals (though not massively in all cases).
  • MTB shoes can be more rugged and have soles were road bike shoes will tend to have a flat sole.


Road clipless pedals with no platform

MTB Clipless SPD Pedal with platform
  • All clip less pedals take a bit of time to get used to. All clip less pedals will improve your cycling - but there is a danger of falling sideways off your bike if you forget you have them on when you stop.  It is possible to get your foot out pretty quickly but obviously it is not as fast as no clip at all, but it is easier than toe clips themselves and getting them back in is 50 times faster. You will need to think ahead a little bit. I have fallen (comedy dismount) off my bike at least 5 times - this has not been due to me thinking ahead but has been due to something extraordinary happening on the road and my concentration being distracted by this, meaning it was too late to un_clip.
  • Having little and light pedals is all wonderful if you are racing along - but if you are going to be in heavy traffic I think it is better to have a pedal with a platform (the bit around the clip). With a platform to the pedal you can cycle along in and out of tight situations in traffic with your foot unclipped without difficulty. This means that is you need to make a sudden stop or whatever you can get your foot down super quick. I strongly believe that this is an important safety factor and although you pedal unclipped on the Road pedals (or should I say pegs) it is far more convenient to use a normal platform. Additionally having a platform means you can set off without needing to clip in without any issues. Both road and MTB pedals are available with platforms but there tend to be more MTB pedals available.
  • Having a platform enables you to use the pedals with normal shoes on.
  • MTB pedals tend to use the SPD clip - road bikes use the SPDR-SL (and others including SPD)
  • Clipless pedals in my opinion look difficult to master but they are surprisingly easy to master (please remember you have them on)!
  • Clipless pedals will improve your technique and speed without question.
  • The pain and hassle of toe clips (and believe me I know about this) was just too much to bear. It is marginally slower to get your foot out of them than to unclip but the main hassle of them is trying to put your foot back in (and this includes 1/2 toe clips). I know they are trendy for fixie bike riders to use but for me functionality is way more important than looks.

Normal Pedals
  • If you are going to commute and do less than 10 miles a day - or even if you do more but don't want to race along, then just stick to normal pedals, but get ones that are recommended, have reasonable bearings and take into account that generally speaking, the more grip the less likely the pedal will function with thin soled shoes or barefoot.
  • You will loose the benefit of speed and being able to fully control you pedal through the whole 360 degree turn but it is far safer when you need to put your foot onto the floor in an emergency.
  • The major downside to me of normal pedals aside from the loss of technique and speed is when you foot slips off them and the pain to your shin is something the Geneva convention would ban as an unacceptable level of torture.

So what did I go for and why?

I went for the Shimano M545 SPD Pedals - my reasoning was as follows.

  1. I wanted a platform around the clip - for me when in dangerous and close traffic I want to be unclipped and able to get my foot on the floor quick and besides if you are stopping and starting every 5 meters what is the point of clipping in? Also I wanted a platform because I wanted to be able to pull away from lights and then clip in later. Having a platform also enables me to use the bike on a quick ride to the shops in normal shoes without any issues.
  2. These pedals are double sided - they have the cleats on the top and bottom of the pedal and they have a platform on the top and bottom. Often pedals only have one cleat - this means you are going to have to look down to make sure you have the pedal the right way up before clipping your foot in (looking at the floor in traffic is not a good thing to do). Also it occurs to me that if you have two cleats - by the law of averages you will use each one equally and therefore you will get twice as much use out of them before wearing out. 
  3. There were road pedals with a platform one side and a cleat on the other - this to me seemed pointless - you still get the hassle of making sure your pedal is the right way up depending on whether you want to use the cleat or platform and secondly you still get the "one cleat" situation and therefore short life expectancy.
  4. Finally, there are two type of the pedals I bought - one which was lighter but had a plastic platform and the one I went for which was a few grams heavier but with a metal platform. My pedals get a good few knocks so I went for the metal - the weight is minimal but the look and strength made it an easy choice.
Finally - if this is your first time in cleats make sure the pedal has the ability to adjust the strength / grip of the cleat - when you first use it set it to low so you can get out of them with more ease, then just adjust them up if needed, as my feet have never come unclipped inadvertently I have never found this necessary.


I hope the above gives you  so help in making sure you make the right choices. But never forget also in true MAMBO style you need to buy something that you think you look good in!

OVERALL MAMBO SCORE for the Shimano M545 SPD Pedals - 9/10 (it looses one point for not knowing when I had forgotten to unclip when stopping)

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