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 (£26.99, 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….

Join 9,241 fellow cyclists who are subscribed to the London Cyclist newsletter

Sign up for our free newsletter to get...

  • Advice on the best cycling gear
  • A Friday roundup of all the latest London cycling news
  • Exclusive content not available on the blog

Subscribe today, and get exclusive access forever! (It's free)

*No spam, ever!

As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

50 Responses to A question of bike pedals

Leave a Reply