An obviously very necessary component of the bike, many higher end rigs will come without pedals, specifically because the choice is very personal.
Here’s a look at some of the options..
Most cyclists will start out on flat pedals. The benefit is that there is nothing holding your foot to the pedal at all, so coming to a stop is as simple as putting a foot down. Also, you don’t need any special footwear, so you can wear anything you choose.
The negative side of flat pedals is that your foot will sometimes slip on the pedal, and you can’t use the ‘pull’ part of your pedal stroke as you can when clipped in, therefore forward propulsion comes only from the ‘push’. The result of all this is that the rider doesn’t get the full benefit of their leg strength.
If you’re just riding to get somewhere efficiency probably isn’t an issue and flat pedals are a simple and uncomplicated option.
CAGES OR PEDAL STRAPS
Cages or pedal straps are a middle ground – the foot slips into a cage and a clasp can be used to tighten this around the foot. These often come on new bikes, and I’ve heard a fair few struggles with them. The benefit is that you’ll get more of the ‘pull’, but though cages can seem less intimidating than riding clipped, they can actually be a bit more tricky to get in and out of. In particular, clipped pedals (see below), are designed to release you in an accident situation, whereas you can get stuck in the cages.
On the plus side, if you don’t want to use them, you can usually flip the pedal over and use the flat side alone, though this does tend to mean the cage drags on the road.
Clipless pedals have a confusing name. The ‘clipless’ term refers to the lack of cage and ‘toe clip strap’ on the option above. However, a lot of people call them ‘clip in’ pedals, because you literally clip into them.
The idea behind clipless pedals came from ski binding technology and they’ve been on the racing scene since the late 1980s. When riding with clipless pedals, your foot is interlocked with the pedal via a cleat on your shoe. This means you get the full benefit of a good strong pedal stroke. The thing that puts a lot of people off is that you are attached to the bike.
Unclipping is very simple, you just twist your ankle outwards to be released. However, the brain does need to learn that this needs to be done before coming to a stop. It’s not uncommon for someone new to clip in pedals to take a zero speed tumble because they’ve stopped and not unclipped. This said, nearly every beginner to clipless pedals has one of these moments, and they very rarely bruise anything more than their pride. Learning to ride clipless isn’t scary, and there is no art to it – it just takes practice. The best option is to practice when stationary, first (on a turbo/holding onto a wall), then practice on grass, before taking to the roads.
TYPES OF CLIPLESS PEDALS
There are several options when choosing clipless pedals. If you’re taking the plunge for the first time, you’ll need to buy pedals, and shoes to clip in with. Cleats, which attach to the bottom of the shoe to form the bond, usually come with the pedals but need replacing every few months, depending how much you ride.
Ask for help when you first attach the cleats, or do some reading – as cleat position needs to be set up right to avoid knee injury. Once set up correctly, your new pedalling style should put less pressure on your knees as you can use your hamstrings and quads more efficiently.
Pedals designed for road cycling have a wide base, and the majority of the ball of the foot is engaged with the pedal. These offer the strongest power transfer, giving the rider the most efficient pedal stroke. They are the hardest option to get in and out of, but that isn’t to say this is difficult – it just takes a little practice before it becomes second nature.
The cleat on a road shoe is wide and sticks out from the bottom of the shoe, meaning that you don’t want to be walking far in them.
Take a look at road bike pedals.
Mountain bike pedals, or SPDs, are much smaller. Designed for off road riding, they’re super quick to clip out of, and the cleats don’t collect mud like road options do. The other benefit to MTB pedals is that the clear is recessed into the shoe – so you can walk as normal.
MTB pedals are a really popular option amongst commuters for the reasons above.
Take a look at MTB pedals.
Best of both worlds – Double sided or Clik’r pedals
A fantastic option for commuters, double sided pedals usually allow you to clip in on one side, or use a flat pedal on the other. The Clik’r from Shimano has a clip in SPD within a flat pedal, offering both the ease and security of flats, plus the extra power of a clipless pedal.
What pedals do you use?