How to Choose The Best Bike Pedals
Cycling comes in many different disciplines, and bicycles come in many different styles. Similarly pedals come in a range of types and styles to suit different style riding and rider personal preference. When choosing your bicycle pedals you need to consider what type of riding you want to get into. Whether you're getting into weekend rides with the family or want to join your local peloton; the choice of pedal can make your riding experience much more enjoyable and efficient! If you're focus is power and efficiency a clipless system can improve your ride. Perhaps you want the security and stability of a flat pedal for control in technical sections. There are even pedals that offer both the benefits of clipless and flat pedals in one package.
- What is you're riding style?
- Road cyclist, mountain biker, urban commuter? Will clipless pedals help improve your ride? Would flat pedals be convenient for taking your feet off the pedals often while on your commute?
- Clipless Vs. Flat Pedals
- Clipless pedals will provide more pedal efficiency and control. With your feet connected to the pedals your power transfer is increased with each stroke of the pedals, both upwards and downwards. Flat pedals will provide the security of being able to put your foot down quickly and without resistance. Flat pedals also allow the rider to wear sneakers or dress shoes should your commute demand certain footwear.
- What type of shoes?
- When selecting a pedal type, also consider what type of footwear your route demands. If you prefer riding in sneakers or shoes that can be walked around in comfortable, flat pedals would be the better choice. Clipless shoes are often stiff, and not sufficient for walking long distances or remaining on your feet for long periods of time. Mountain bike specific cleats often are recessed in the shoe's sole, and are a great option for providing both the clipped in benefits, as well as a decent walking shoe.
Clipless Vs. Flat Pedals
The big question surrounding pedal selection is clipless versus flats. Do you want to be clipped into the pedal; with your shoe locked to the pedal unless you release the shoe by twisting your heel outward? Would you prefer having your feet free to step off the pedal without resistance? Both options have their best application, and every rider hast their own preference.
Clipless pedals are confusing by the nature of their name, as the use of the work "clipless" is counter intuitive to the action of "clipping in". The term comes from cycling history as to distinguish these new type of pedals from the older style known as "tow clips". With a clipless pedal system the pedals are designed to accept cleats and lock into place. The cleat is installed onto the sole of a cycling shoe and then the rider is able to clip their shoe into the pedal, achieving a secure connection between pedal and shoe. Clipless pedals come with either a 2-bolt (commonly mountain) or 3-bolt (commonly road) system. A clipless pedal is the ideal choice for any road rider wanting to push their speed, control, and efficiency. In addition mountain bikers can gain added control and the ability to maneuver the bike better by being clipped into their pedals. Commuters also use clipless systems, typically with mountain bike shoes featuring a recessed cleat. This provides pedal power and a shoe they can walk around in.
Platform pedals, or better known as flat pedals, are the typical pedal found on a standard bicycle. Flat pedals can come in many different versions; featuring different materials, designs, and intended uses. The platform pedal provides exactly that, a stable platform that can comfortable support your feet. Platform pedals are double sided and intended to be used with any type of shoe; although certain shoes will work better than others. Riders who enjoy the comfort and security of being able to put their foot down often will enjoy the benefits of a flat pedal. This includes urban commuters dealing with heavy traffic as well as downhill mountain bikers navigating technical terrain at high speeds. Flat pedals can be paired with cycling shoes designed specifically for platform pedals. This type of shoe is often stiffer than average and features a rubber sole designed for maximum grip and pedal friction.
What is Your Riding Style?
Road Riding: The benefits of road cycling with clipless pedals are immense, and the majority of road enthusiasts are running a clipless pedal system. Featuring a 3-bolt cleat design offers the most secure connection between the rider and their pedals. Road cleats are typically larger, plastic, and protrude from the sole of the shoe when compared to a mountain bike 2-bolt cleat. The improved connection point of the 3-bolt system is proven to offer the highers power transfer while reducing fatigue.
Mountain Biking: The 2-bolt clipless system can be the perfect fit for someone seeking the benefits of riding clipless but also enjoys the ability to walk around comfortably. Mountain bikers benefit from a clipless setup with the increased pedal efficiency and the improved control of their bikes. They experience more power while climbing and sprinting; as well as worry less about their foot slipping off the pedals when it counts.
Recreational Biking: For the occasional, casual rider a flat pedal is typically the best choice. A 2-bolt cleat system can also work well for anyone looking for a higher quality ride.
Commuting: Commuting to work, especially over long distances, often demands the benefits of a clipless pedal system. Many commuters either bring shoes in a bag to change into, or opt for flat pedals to wear their work shoes on the ride.
Hybrid Clipless Pedals: Clipless pedals exist that feature a flat pedal on one side, and a clipless pedal on the reverse side. This allows riders the option to wear either a causal shoe or a cycling shoe, and use the same pedals on the bike. This type of pedal is common with urban commuters and mountain bikers.
How to Use Clipless Pedals
A huge barrier to switching over to clipless pedals is the fear of falling over due to not unclipping from your pedal. This often happens to riders that are first adjusting to the clipless system and have to stop abruptly, or come to a stop and forget they are clipped in. Once you get the motions of clipping in and out down, the action comes second nature. It's best to practice at first, somewhere safe such as a grass field. Once you're used to entering and exiting the pedal system hit the roadways!
- While applying the brakes insert your cleat into the first pedal.
- Apply front force to the pedal, release the brake, and roll forward.
- Once motion and balance are achieved, clip into the second pedal.
*Clipping in is generally easier when rolling slightly downhill or on flat.
- Choose a stopping point; as you approach the stopping point prepare to rotate your heel outward as you are coming to a stop. Unclip from the pedal by rotating your heel outward before you come to a stop.
- When twisting your heel outward you will hear the "click" or "pop" of the cleat releasing. At that point you know your foot is free and you can make contact with the ground when ready.
Pedals take some wear and tear from the entry/exit, as well as collect dirt, grit, and grime. If your pedals start to engage and disengage less smoothly as they once did it's time to service your pedals.
- Inspect pedal for proper function. Note and damage.
- Clean pedal with warm water to remove dirt and debris.
- Air dry pedal then apply lube lightly to the clips on both sides of the pedals.
- If this does not solve pedal performance seek advice from your local bike mechanic.
Thanks for reading our article on cycling pedal selection. If you have any questions or want pedal recommendations drop us a line and we'll get you rolling! We also have a great article on How to Choose the Best Kids' Bike, How to Choose the Best BMX Bike, and How to Choose the Best Bike Shoes.