A question of bike pedals

These often-forgotten pieces of kit are really bothering me at the moment.   Having three bikes that I use regularly, each with a different pedal set-up, I’m finding it difficult to find a happy compromise between comfort, stability and power.

Standard Bike Pedals

My commuter bike had the pedals that came with it, some black plastic jobs that I rode with for some time until I got to realise that if I did something about them, my ride might be more efficient and less clunky so I quickly replaced with some MKS touring pedals (ยฃ26.99, Evans Cycles) with toe clips and straps. 

These pedals really are good, with good grip and traction for almost any shoe, but I found the toe clips to be annoying principally because I wear lots of different shoes to cycle in, from ballerina pumps in the summer to trail running shoes and boots.  So, I took the toe clips off and bought some Power Grips.  Sadly, these are languishing in the black hole of kit because I haven’t bothered to put them on yet!  I’m just not sure that they will be any better than the toe clips and you have to adjust these ones with an Allen key rather than just pulling the loose strap when your shoes are too big or small for the loop.

My Mixte has a pair of pedals that came with the bike circa 1980’s and they’re getting rusty and not very nice.  I’m thinking of taking the bike up to Racer Rosa for an overhaul and my next job will be to sort out the pedals on her.  (BTW, does anyone have experience of Racer Rosa?) Look?  Speedplay?  Crank Bros?  Do I want clipless pedals at all or just a pair of the MKS that I have on my commuter bike?  I’m tending towards a clipless pedal but it does limit one’s option somewhat in terms of footwear doesn’t it?

Clipless Bike Pedals

My road bike, the Wilier has clipless pedals.   I couldn’t really get a carbon frame and put heavy metal pedals on it, but I wish I could.   The combination of  entry-level Shimano pedals and SPD-SL cleats isn’t working so well for me.   When I’m riding long distances and don’t have to fiddle about, I’m fine.   When I have to stop, I’m OK with unclipping, coasting and then making a decision to stop or clip back in and carry on.   My saddle isn’t set at a height that makes it difficult for me to place a toe on the ground so that feels more secure than it did when it was so high that I had to hop on and off the saddle all the time.   I can almost get away from a junction and clip in immediately, but when it’s uphill and I have to apply pressure on the first revolution, I always miss!   When I’m riding in an urban setting and I come upon junction, aggressive traffic and gradient, I’m toast.   My mind takes over, telling me ‘you can’t do it, you can’t do it’ and I can’t.

(See also: Which pedals do you recommend for commuting?)

Is it my nervousness?  Inexperience?  Wrong pedal/cleat combination?  I use SPD cleats and shoes in the gym, the same shoes that I use on my Wilier, so I know the shoes are good.  They have multi-use holes so I can use any combination of cleats.   Theoretically, it shouldn’t be that expensive to change and try something else, but what?   I need something that’s easy to clip in and out of, where I don’t have to wait for the pedal to right itself, or am I doing something wrong?  Is it just my nervousness?

Maybe I want to use this bike in situations where I’d be better using something else.  Is it really only made for long-distance rides that don’t require anything more than hopping on at the start and off at the finish?  Could I get used to riding it around town and for rides that involve more of a stop-start route?

Can anyone help me sort this one out?

Thanks all to those Random Cyclists who came on the ride on Saturday.  We had one lone male but he was cycling with six other women so I think he felt quite good about that! Details here and details of the planned rides will be on my blog in future, for all those who wish to come along. The more, the merrier….

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50 Responses to A question of bike pedals

  1. matt_fantastic 08/03/2011 at 11:29 am #

    For commuting, double-sides SPD’s every time…

  2. Matt Ox 08/03/2011 at 11:35 am #

    I can’t stand SPD pedals and shoes either(mainly because you have to carry extra shoes with you or look like a gimp all day), so I use flatbeds with a lot of grip like the DMR V8 or V12’s. The V12s are lighter but both have the same wide platform and are really grippy in all conditions.

  3. matt_fantastic 08/03/2011 at 11:46 am #

    … perhaps I enjoy looking like a gimp (!), but you’re right, and the “normal” shoes do take up space in the backpack. Spotted these recently… http://www.dzrshoes.com/product/strasse/ still looking for a UK dealer… if only I didn’t have to wear a suit @ work…

  4. botogol 08/03/2011 at 12:01 pm #

    I use double sided SPDs – I find I can clip my feet in and out very easily, much more easily than toe-straps etc, and SPD work well for me.

    I keep a pair of office shoes at work to change into when I get there, – but i think that the two-pairs-of-shoes problem is a complete red herring – even when I had flat pedals (for a short time) I didn’t cycle in my shiny black office shoes! Just like now I kept my office shoes at work and I cycled in trainers.

    Having (quickly) got used to cleats I would never go back to flat pedals.

  5. jtb 08/03/2011 at 12:33 pm #

    Get some double sided pedals:

    Best of both worlds. Problem solved.

  6. Dave 08/03/2011 at 1:19 pm #

    SPDs – wouldn’t go back to platform pedals. I used Wellgo flat pedals for a while and found the prongs wrecked the soles of my shoes so I ended having to carry my work shoes in my bag anyway.

  7. Howard 08/03/2011 at 2:03 pm #

    Your experience with SPD-SL style clipless systems is similar to mine.

    I use SPDs on my commuting bike and single speed and now find them second nature. Even the A530 single sided pedals I have on the commuter just work. As noted above they fall clip side up, making clip ins a breeze. And my Mavic shoes frankly look bloody brilliant.

    I’ve never quite managed to get the same level of confidence with the Look pedals I have on my road bike though – as you say, a gradient combined with traffic just causes everything to fall apart. Failed clip-ins and bruised shins abound.

    It’s got the point where I’m considering buying some Shimano XTR spd pedals to fit to my road bike. Yes – they are heavier than the Look pedals, but if it makes the ride more pleasant then I can accept the cost of that in a bike that’s a couple of hundred grams heavier and a slightly lighter wallet!

    Best of luck with the pedals question. Surprised nobody has mentioned crank bros or speedplay yet ๐Ÿ™‚

    • nicolep 10/03/2011 at 1:05 pm #

      I think that the weight question is not one I’m serious about either.

      When my physique reaches pro levels of body fat, then I might consider a few extra grams on the pedal but while I’m carrying the equivalent of another bike on my ass, i’m not that bothered….

      Double-sided SPD’s seem to be the way forward.

  8. ely_peddler 08/03/2011 at 2:05 pm #

    I thought I was the only person who swore by double sided SPDs, nice to know I’m not ๐Ÿ™‚

    Def. the best solution I have ’em on all my bikes except my road bike.

  9. ely_peddler 08/03/2011 at 2:08 pm #

    Oh and if you’re having issues clipping in as you pull away then get the ones that end up flat side up, you can then ride off unclipped and flip them over once you are going to clip in.

  10. Mike 08/03/2011 at 2:21 pm #

    My choice are Shimano XT SPDs – I have them on all my bikes, including my commuter and roadie bike. They are ultra-reliable, in my experience.

    Never really been tempted to use “proper” roadie cleats & pedals, I like the fact that the SPD cleats are recessed so you can walk about in them.

    Also, you could look at the multi-release SPD cleats, which disengage over a broader range of movement. They are stamped with an M on them. http://bit.ly/i40by3

  11. JonF 08/03/2011 at 3:44 pm #

    I use Shimano SPD M324 pedals that have a platform on one side and an SPD on the other. That way I can comfortably pedal in either Doc Martens, deck shoes or SPD cycling shoes, or whatever. I can’t quite imagine cycling in Ballerina Pumps – never tried it myself, but for those I’d guess you’d want someting comfortable and un-knobbly, like VP 607 alloy-bodied, rubber-grip platform pedals as fitted to Pashleys etc – the sort you might find on millions of bikes in the Netherlands.

    You’re right – well maintained pedals do make a world of difference. Good to get pedals that you can maintain – with end caps you can remove to get at the bearings.

    • nicolep 10/03/2011 at 1:11 pm #


      You might want to give ballet pumps a try? They’d go well with all of your flouro…

      I’d never even thought about pedal maintenance! But you’re right, all parts well-maintained make a world of difference.

  12. Anonimo 08/03/2011 at 4:02 pm #

    This pedals are not good for the gold with snow weather! In the spring are perfect!

  13. Von Cheam 08/03/2011 at 4:03 pm #

    Re. Clipping-in vs. quick getaway from the lights.

    Make sure you stop in a lower gear than normal (triple on the Wilier?) and push away with your clipped-out foot before getting into the saddle, to give you a little more momentum? Shimano pedals are supposed to be one of the easiest to clip into under these circumstances!

    If this doesn’t work, maybe some mtb pedals; mtb cleats, recessed into the shoe, make the footwear range much more diverse and fashionable..


  14. Dan 08/03/2011 at 4:55 pm #

    Thanks to SPDs I have a 2 inch scar on my inner right ankle and have been in the unique position of seeing my own shin bone.

    That said I remain convinced they’re still the way to go. I use them to commute with and only have one sided pedals. I get the same traffic light/hill anxiety. I’ve just started to take it real slow and calm pulling away, I also find pulling away in a harder gear means you get a bit more bang for your buck so allowing you to turn a bit slower and catch the pedal on its way round. I have also learned to pedal one legged should I miss the first clipping opportunity.

    I would join the others in recommending the DMR speed 8 or 12s. As an ex BMXer flat pedals with replaceable studs were the only way to fly.


    PS although I ended up with a hole in my shin, it was an odd and rare accident and shouldn’t put anyone off!

    • Dan 08/03/2011 at 5:04 pm #

      I forgot to add that I use a lot of street furniture to prop myself up on so avoid this problem quite often, and have learnt trackstands!

      I guess it is all in the practice.

      • nicolep 10/03/2011 at 1:12 pm #

        I need to learn to trackstand! I’m in awe of all those who can do it and I very rarely see women doing it.


  15. Gaz 08/03/2011 at 4:57 pm #

    Stick with the SPD-SL’s!! it only takes experience to get more confident with them in heavy traffic. I only use SPD-SL, including for my 15mile commute through central London.

    As to starting with them up hill, It’s all about technique. Whilst stopped move your foot left clipped in to the 2 oclock position. Then when you set off push down hard until the pedal is at 6 oclock. Now you know the position of the free pedal is at 12 oclock and you can guide your free foot to it easily. With practice, this will become very smooth.
    Of course this is dependant on your gear chooice being right, if you choose too low and you won’t get enough speed, too high and you will be having to many difficulties.

    If all else fails, you could just learn to trackstand ๐Ÿ˜‰

  16. John 08/03/2011 at 6:20 pm #

    Best buy for me has been the flat BMX type aluminium pedals with the replaceable pins, you put your foot on them and you know it is not going to slip on the pedal whatever the weather and don’t have to worry that it’s the right side up, but wearing pumps might be just a bit too painful with those spikes!!!


  17. Rose 08/03/2011 at 6:33 pm #

    I bought a second hand refurbished bike from Racer Rosa – and found them excellent. I don’t know much about bikes but they were v helpful and really know their stuff. In the end I went for a single speed conversion, despite the general lack of hills in London, I was a bit concerned about the lack of gear-age – but they gave me the option to come back and get gears fitted at cost price if I couldnโ€™t hack it. I am really pleased with the bike โ€“ it runs like a dream โ€“ and I donโ€™t think I could do my 9 miles each-way commute without it!

    On this bike i got MKS road with plastic toe-clips – they have lasted well and you can wear any shoe, and they are pretty easy to put your foot in and out (after a bit of practice)…

  18. Angi 08/03/2011 at 9:14 pm #

    Have got double sided spd pedals on the same mixte. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Had a couple of moments and falls but it gets easier with time.
    The tread on the mbt shoes makes it easier to walk in. Never tried road shoes before though.
    Like others here, I keep a few pairs of shoes at work and if I’m going out, I bung a spare pair of shoes into my bag. It’s really not that much of an inconvenience.

    I found that I got more shin bruises and laddered tights with flat pedals (or even worse, the spiky metal pedals that came on the mixte)!

    Oh…and the tread on mbt shoes allows you to sort of pedal without being clipped in if you’re stuck in a bit of traffic and don’t feel like clipping in and out all the time.

  19. Yant 08/03/2011 at 9:50 pm #

    Crank brothers egg beaters are 4 sided so almost impossible not to clip into, but I found they had too much float for my liking. But I found it’s just down to practice, practice and more practice.

  20. benji 09/03/2011 at 7:22 am #

    The mountain-bike SPD pedals are much easier to clip in/out of than the SPD-SL pedals. Especially the double sided ones, you just stamp and forget, don’t even have to have particularly accurate aim with most shoe designs.

    The cheap m520 pedals work better than the ones with additional platform attached around the pedal ime http://www.wiggle.co.uk/shimano-pd-m520-pedals/

  21. Aggi 09/03/2011 at 1:52 pm #

    I normally use the M520 pedals and they’re nice and easy to use..

    I’m pondering getting some of these for my commuter bike though http://www.wiggle.co.uk/shimano-m424-spd-pedals/ so I can wear normal trainers too at times. Has anyone used them, how easy is it to clip in on them? With the M520 ones the pedal is always in the right alignment but I’m wondering if these will drop vertical when you’re not clipped in.

    • Adrian 10/03/2011 at 1:59 pm #

      I’ve got the next model up (M545). I think the only difference is that they have an aluminium rather than pastic cage.

      I wouldn’t bother if you’re already used to the M520’s. The SPD mech sticks up beyond the cage, so unless you have some fairly stiff shoes, or deep tread, it feels like you’re using a normal SPD anyway.

      On top of that after 9 months of use the bolt that held the cage tight has come off meaning the cage rattles, and spins around too far on accasion, and prevents me from clipping in.

  22. Aggi 09/03/2011 at 2:08 pm #

    And whoever mentioned the DZR shoes, you can get them here in the UK http://www.alwaysriding.co.uk/footwear-148/cycling-shoes-218/

  23. Mike Smith 09/03/2011 at 8:02 pm #

    Double sided MTB cleats and pedals.
    Doesn’t matter which way up the pedals is, and walking in the shoes is no different from ordinary trainers.
    They’ve taken me to paris twice, and all my commute/leisure cycling and starting off uphill in sunny Cornwall presents no probs at all (apart from the effort needed to get up the damn hills in the first place!)

  24. Phil 10/03/2011 at 10:36 am #

    DMR V12s for me. I can wear any shoes or boots I want, I never slip off, I’m not trapped if the bike goes from under me and I don’t have to buy single purpose shoes with cleats. I had Look clipless MTB pedals a long time ago, which were rendered useless when one day a cleat bolt came loose and fell out- by which time the pedals, cleats and spares were out of production.

  25. Bluenose 10/03/2011 at 12:16 pm #

    I have just started to switch from clips and straps to clipless. I always used straps and clips and throught they were great. I bought a MTB which came with Wellgo WA01 spds and I took to them easily and find them easier to get into and out of than straps, I didn’t even need to fall over as unclipping is not really that different to straps, just a different movement.

    I’ve moved the Wa-01s to my road bike, and bought M324 for my old hybrid. I get on with those fine. I got M324s as I though I may need to ride in normal shoes at some point.

    I bought M545s for my new MTB, these seem harder to get outof, perhaps because they are surrounded by a platform but should be OK when I get more used to them.

    I must say I have got very quickly converted to SPDs, by the way I can’t stand just platforms as having used straps all my life I expect the pedal to rise with my foot and not stay where it is, but should be OK for the rare time I use normal shoes.

  26. Matt Taber 10/03/2011 at 12:18 pm #

    Persevere with the SPD – SLs, it will come in time and with practice. The problem with the plain SPDs (MTB spds) is that they are designed to have much more float and not hold your cleat in as solidly. this is fine and what you need on a mountain bike, but not necessary on the road bike.

    See if you can get some bike training or coaching because all of that can help.

  27. nilling 10/03/2011 at 12:20 pm #

    I use SPD pedals on both my everyday and fixie bike but I seem to have trouble finding non-MTB style shoes.

  28. Andrew Russell 10/03/2011 at 12:32 pm #

    Power Grips are good for a commute, not so good for pulling the pedals rather than pedaling squares but if carrying shoes in a bag is a hassle then these should be considered.
    For long distance road and offroad I have Time Atak, they work fine and good on the knees if you are of a certain age. If I had to upgrade all my bikes (5-off) and money was no object I would buy eggbeaters

  29. K8 10/03/2011 at 1:13 pm #

    I have Cranks Eggbeaters on all four of my bikes and love them so much. They are a work of art to look at for a start, and are the most comfortable pedals I’ve ever had. I quite like the little bit of float, as I think it is better for my knees. If you want them to be more rigid, I think you are supposed to turn the cleats round on your shoes.

    I can stand up on the pedals to get up them hills with no fear of coming unstuck, yet they are a million times easier than SPDs to unclip in an emergency.

    I would recommend them to anybody who wants to start using clipless but is worried about getting stuck, etc.

    One gripe for all clipless pedals, though. Why doesn’t someone invent any that have a reflective surface so as to comply with the legal standards for bike pedals?

    • nicolep 10/03/2011 at 5:05 pm #


      I think I was writing my reply that appears below while you were posting this. What kind of cleats do you use with Eggbeaters? What are they compatible with?

      I agree with your argument about reflective edges. But all of the shoes should have reflective backs too. A lot of running shoes have them and they’re very effective.

    • Shreds 10/03/2011 at 6:40 pm #


      Time originally produced the forerunner of their atac pedals which they promoted as Time walk technology or TWT with reflective panels as per standard pedals o. The rear. Problem was they had a hard life especially with cleats on the bottom of your shoes and eventually broke off. I still have the pedals and they are serviceable even though they are 20 years old! But the reflective bits are long gone. Nothing to stop anyone sticking or velcro-ing some reflective material on any pedal though, and I am sure motorists would be appreciative as the movement really does catch the attention of any motorist following you.

      NB would have gone for egg beaters years ago but couldn’t afford them. Now I have standardised on Time Atacs there is little incentive to start afresh with new pedals and shoes on all the bikes.

  30. nicolep 10/03/2011 at 1:22 pm #

    Thanks for all those recommendations.

    I think I’m going to try some double-sided SPD’s that fall flat side up on my Mixte. That way, I can get more confidence clipping in and out at busy junctions and I’ll stick with the Look style cleats on my road bike and see if that confidence works.

    If it doesn’t, and I feel ok with the SPD’s, then I’ll swap them on my road bike too.

  31. Shreds 10/03/2011 at 6:27 pm #

    Lots of spd supporters here, but do consider the alternatives.

    I found it is very easy for your foot to ‘skate’ across the pedal on spds when trying to attach if you are inexperienced with these pedals and due to poor float on them at the time I went over to Time Atacs. I would never entertain spds anymore. Atacs are better support, better float and very secure when you need it, though easy to get out of. All my bikes now have them and occasionally I even use ordinary shoes(!) when necessary although that defeats the object, I mention it just to point out that they are not uncomfortable. Time Atacs are also far superior off road in the mud.

    So think about getting away from all the Shimanobmarketing hype and try something different. You won’t regret it.

  32. Matt Taber 10/03/2011 at 6:30 pm #

    I go back to my original comment, it’s all about practice. SPD, although a shimano name, is used synonymously with lots of other clipless pedals out there.

    Having cycled as a commuter in London for over ten years, I swore by them, but had the MTB version.

    Whatever you go for, clipless is definitely the way forward. However, like I say PRACTICE is the key!!!

  33. stevec 10/03/2011 at 10:05 pm #

    Another vote for the eggbeaters from me. They do use specific Crank Brother cleats, but these come with the pedals and you can buy extras.

    For my commuting I need to be able to wear a variety of shoes, so have used power grips in the past, but now use Re-strap pedal grips that are much better and easily adjustable using the velcro fastenings.


  34. Angi 10/03/2011 at 11:25 pm #

    A few questions about the egg beater pedals…
    Do the cleats fit onto normal two hole mbt shoes?
    Can you adjust the tension on the pedals for clipping in and out?

    Also, Googling about, the pedals seem a lot more open than SPDs…does this mean they are less likely or morel likely to go rusty?
    (I’ve found my SPDs start to go a bit rusty over time and it’s difficult to reach inside them to clean the rusty bits off).

    • stevec 11/03/2011 at 7:43 pm #

      Yes, the crank brothers cleats fit normal two hole mbt shoes. You can’t adjust the tension on the pedals, the tension is fine for clipping in, but irrelevant for clipping out as this is achieved by twisting your foot. There are two settings for how much you have to twist your foot to escape and this is set by which cleat you put on which shoe.

      You should find all the details here:


  35. Paul Bunnell 12/03/2011 at 9:39 pm #

    SPDs … Double sided on two bikes I use most, one other bike has SPD/platform arrangement, but for me really unnecessary. Have bike looking shoes, but also a pair that look like skaters … in all cases fine to walk in.

    Something not often mentioned — with Spds you can unclip twisting either direction, and I’ve found “heel in” (or toe out) a lot easier than the more conventional heel out. (I keep my tension really low for urban riding, and check your clearances). I was developing an ankle prob going heel out, and realized toe out much more natural — just stand and look at the natural range of motion and comfort as you turn your foot in or out!

    I unclip my right foot any time I approach a potential stop, and simply put my instep on the pedal. Not much practice and the SPDs easy to stomp back into.

  36. Rob 13/03/2011 at 11:53 pm #

    Please read this http://www.rivbike.com/article/clothing/the_shoes_ruse before getting hung up on clipless pedals and stiff soled shoes – (hint, it’s not actually all that important)

    Personally, I’d give your Power Grips a go. And if not, can I have them? ๐Ÿ™‚

  37. julian 20/03/2011 at 5:49 pm #

    hi ive only had a road bike for 6 months but out of curosity i have just had shimano spd pedals fitted that are flat on one side so i can wear normal shoes/trainers or i can flip the pedal over and clip in with cycle shoes so i just bought a pair of specialised mtb shoes that were in a sale in cycle surgery, still praticing clipping in and out!

  38. Vans Trainers 26/03/2011 at 12:40 pm #

    Nice article, thanks for the post. Out of interest, how do you find out about a lot of the things you post?

  39. Sean 26/03/2011 at 2:55 pm #

    I had a similar series of difficulties and have found a solution that may also work for you.

    I’ve tried using clips and straps but I stopped using them for two reasons. Firstly as you say they dont fit all shoes without having to fiddle with them. I”ve never used Powergrips or similar – maybe they are better for fit, but they still share my second problem which is that all the advantages you get from them you get to a much greater extent with a clipless setup. I figure if you’re going to faff about with clips you may as well faff with clipless. Otherwise just buy nice mountain bike flats I suppose.

    I have three bikes:

    A road bike with SPD-SL shoes, cleats and pedals. I ride this bike purely recreationally and almost never leave it locked up. I also ride this bike on days that are more about the riding than what I do when I get there. Walking about in SPD-SL cleats is a annoying and wears away at the (not very cheap) cleats.

    A commuting bike with (This is the clever bit) Shimano A530 SPD Touring Pedals ( http://www.wiggle.co.uk/shimano-a530-spd-single-sided-touring-pedals ) which mean I can ride in my mountain bike shoes (which are okay to walk in) and SPD cleats when I want to go far / fast, or I can use the other side and wear any shoes I want.

    My third bike is a another road bike and has normal double sided SPD pedals, so I have to wear my mountain bike shoes to ride it, but as I said, they’re fine to walk about in anyway.

    If you find you just don’t like SPD-SL (or don’t want to own two pairs of cycling shoes), then just use SPD exclusively. As long as one of your more practical bikes has the touring pedals you have a bike to ride about on with normal shoes, but you can also ride all your bikes in your road shoes (assuming you swap your cleats to SPDs)

    Clipless is doubtless the way forward though – it just takes practice. It’s more comfortable, safer in the wet as you can’t slip, allows you to pull your starting foot up at the lights faster and is generally more efficient. You just have to wear dorktastic shoes sometimes!

  40. skippy 28/03/2011 at 8:54 pm #

    With the amount of cycling i have to do on the routes of the Pro Tour Races i find that i have to wear the Mtb shoes and clip into the onesided shimano pedals . With their being flat on the oneside i am able to use down force between the short distance slow mode if needed and fully clip in on the other side when in speed mode .

    Your blog post on “Stolen Bikes” has formed the platform for my latest post in http://www.skippi-cyclist.blogspot.com about ” Bike Theft” with of course reference back to your site for the valuable comments that readers will enjoy referring to for further advice !

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