≡ Menu

The Ultimate Guide To Pedals For Sportive Cyclists 2017

The Ultimate Guide To Pedals For Sportive Cyclists 2017 post image


Well that’s a bold statement to start things off with – to suggest that I’ve identified the best road bike pedals out there.

(“Oi cock! This Grimper fella reckons ‘e’s got the ‘ultimate’ guide t’ pedals“, “Nah, tha’s collops mate.”)

Fair point. This post is unlikely to represent the last word written on the subject. But some of you people seem to like it when I write about things. So today I’m writing about pedals.

Anyway, it’s ‘ultimate’ as in Ultimate Warrior, who did not appear to be the ultimate wrestler, never mind warrior.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you introduce a post about pedals.

Recommended Pedals Mentioned In This Post

Why Should You Care About Pedals?

The pedals are one of the three components on your bike that touch you (the others being the saddle and the handlebars). More than that though, they’re the only point at which you transfer the exertions of your muscles into movement on the bike*.

(* Well they should be – let’s politely ignore the fact that my arms jerk the handlebars around when I’m out of the saddle, desperately trying to keep going up a steep incline.)

It’s worth giving at least some thought to making that transfer of effort as efficient as possible.

Furtherly, a poor choice of pedal can cause or exacerbate injury. My long-running knee pain saga (which concluded happily last July) certainly wasn’t helped by using the wrong sort of pedal (the wrong one for me at least).

Let’s Start At The Beginning

Pedals come in all shapes and sizes (within reason). Let’s keep it simple and say there are three main types:

1. Flat pedals

Sometimes known as ‘platform pedals’ (no, me neither, I just looked it up), flat pedals do exactly what they say on the tin. They’re the type of pedal fitted to your old Raleigh Mini Burner, your hybrid and your heavy duty downhill mountain bike.

Some flat pedals come with impressive, and potentially lethal, teeth that stick into the treads of your shoes, in order to aid grip. And also to help you remove that pesky skin that you insist on having on your shins.

2. Pedals with toe clips

Like flat pedals, but with a clip at the toe end of the pedal in which to slide your foot, and straps to hold it in position. The idea is that the pedal remains attached to your shoe, even as you lift your foot on the upward side of your pedal stroke (when the pedal goes from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock).

Largely superseded by ‘clipless’ pedals for many purposes, you sometimes see them fitted by manufacturers to new hybrid bikes and lower end road bikes (often with the expectation that they’ll be removed and replaced with the rider’s pedal of choice). They’re a fixture on classic bikes used in retro gravel fests such as L’Eroica (“a poem written with a bicycle”).

3. Clipless pedals

The main, dare I say it, defining feature of clipless pedals is that they feature A FUGGING CLIP.

I can see it. There! [Points vigorously at either shoe or pedal depending on pedal system used]

You clip your foot to the pedal. If you pull up to some traffic lights, you clip out (unless you’re some sort of track start balance hero). Then you clip in again and cycle off.

Anyway, whatever you do, the point of such pedals is that you have a cleat attached to your shoe. This cleat then attaches firmly to your pedal, allowing you (theoretically) to deploy power to it throughout the whole of your pedal stroke.

(Yeah, I know they’re called ‘clipless’ because the toestrap brigade had already bagsied the term, ‘clip’).

Going Clipless

If you haven’t done so already, I recommend using a clipless pedal if you’re going to be cycling for any significant distances. And I’d classify any sportive training ride as a significant distance.

As I re-discovered this weekend on my hybrid, going clipless-less can lead to your foot losing touch with the pedal on a pretty frequent basis.

I haven’t cycled without clipping in for some years (my hybrid has ‘hybrid’ pedals – clipless on one side; flat on the other – and 99% of the time I wear shoes with cleats). My pedalling wazzockry was actually demonstrating a skill that I’d unlearned – that in order to keep the rising foot attached to the pedal, you actually have to exert a little downward pressure.

So you’re pushing against the pedal that is being forced up as your other (main) leg exerts downward pressure in order to turn the chainrings and power the bike. Now I’m no physicist (unlike my uncle, who I now discover has a Wikipedia entry!), but that doesn’t sound efficient at all.

(It Takes) Diff’rent Strokes

An oft-stated argument in favour of clipless pedals is that they allow you to deploy power throughout the whole pedal stroke. For me, the ‘whole stroke’ is probably a claim too far, but I’m pretty sure I am able to exert force for longer on the pedal than simply the main down stroke (the bit between 2 and 5 on the clock face).

Now crazy as this sounds, in the early days of this blog, I used to consult scientific papers on cycling issues of note (!!). As you can read from the post I wrote on the topic of pedalling technique, my synthesis of their findings was not exactly incisive.

Headline message: sports scientists don’t agree unanimously that being able to apply power throughout the pedal stroke leads to greater efficiency and therefore stronger performance.

Still, most people agree that clipless pedals for road (and, by extension, sportive) cyclists are A GOOD THING. Hundreds (thousands?) of pro cyclists can’t be wrong.

So get over that fear of performing a sideways pratfall (think: Delboy; winebar*) when you prove unable to clip out.

(*UK comedy gold reference – apologies to foreign viewers and those under the age of 27)

Types of Clipless Pedal

Again we start with generalisations.

Clipless pedals fall into two camps: road and mountain bike. As far as I can see, there are two main differences:

  • the size of cleat (and thus the pedal): the mountain bike ones tend to be smaller. Road cleats and pedals are wider, providing a larger, stiffer surface area through which power is transmitted; and
  • mountain bike pedals are more commonly double-sided, allowing you to clip in whichever way up they’re facing, whilst road pedals generally* have a top (which you clip into) and a bottom (which you don’t).

(* see the next section for the two-sided road biking pedal exception)

As a sportive rider, you’ll want to be choosing road pedals…

Double-sided Sticky Pedal

For many years, I used a pair of Shimano SPD (mountain bike) pedals on a woefully ill-fitting road bike. I used it primarily for commuting in London and I laboured under the belief that mountain bike pedals were easier to clip in and out of (at traffic lights and rising suspension bridges) and that you couldn’t buy a two-sided clipless road pedal.

I obviously hadn’t spent particularly long researching the subject.

Whilst most pedal makers (Shimano, Look, Time etc) stick to one-sided road pedals, a company called Speedplay make a range of two-sided ones. They look like lollipops, which is both cute and irrelevant.

I own a pair of Speedplay Zero pedals and cannot recommend them highly enough. There are more important reasons why I use Speedplays (engage baited breath until the next section), but a nice side benefit is that their two-sided nature means I don’t to think about which way they’re oriented before attempting the clip in.

Oh yes, and that thing about mountain bike cleats being easier to clip in than road ones. I’m pretty sure that’s nonsense. You can adjust the spring tension in most pedals to suit your own clip in/out needs.

What To Look For In A Pedal

That you’ve bought two of them.

Assuming you’ve successfully avoided that potential pitfall, the main things to consider when buying a pedal are:

Float

‘Float’ is the degree of rotational movement about the ball of your fit that a pedal will allow whilst your foot is clipped into it. A pedal with a large amount of float will allow your heel to move from side to side without unclipping. A ski binding (which provided the inspiration for the first clipless pedals) has zero float: the foot (ski boot) is locked in position and no lateral movement is possible.

Most people (if not everyone) have a little lateral rotational movement of their feet when pedalling. Having a pedal that can accommodate this, via float, without sacrificing too much stability and power transfer, means that you’re less likely to force yourself into an unnatural pedal stroke, causing injury.

Choosing the right amount of float is a bit more complicated. Too much float can be unhelpful, since it might allow the rider too much freedom to employ a poor pedal stroke (knees moving sideways for instance), without any correction at all.

As someone with ‘bio-mechanical issues’ in my legs (and hips… and feet…), float was my key consideration in choosing Speedplay pedals. I had them fitted, and the float adjusted to my requirements, by a professional bike fitter. If you are susceptible to pain in your knees, ankles or hips when riding, I recommend you consult a qualified fitter, who can determined exactly what you need.

Compatibility

Do the cleats that come with the pedals fit on your bike shoes – either the ones you own or the ones you plan to buy? If not, is there an adaptor available?

It’s important to think about these things. I bought a pair of Specialized Road Elite (Elite – ha ha ha!) shoes because I’m used to the Specialized fit and they offer good arch support. It would have been disappointing to find that choosing a pair of shoes to help deal with my ‘biomechanical issues’ meant that I couldn’t go with pedals suited to the same purpose (don’t worry though, my shoes and pedal cleats fit just fine).

Most road cleats use three screws in order to attach to the sole of your shoes. They therefore require three holes…

I think (don’t quote me) that the Shimano SPD-SL arrangement of holes is the most common for bike shoes to be compatible with. Other pedal manufacturers, such as Look and Time, might use 3 holes as well, but they’re not necessarily spaced out in the same arrangement. Many shoes are, however, compatible with a number of different cleats (e.g. a quick search on Wiggle finds me a dhb shoe that is compatible with both Shimano SPD-SL and Look Keo cleat/pedal systems).

Speedplay cleats (“stop bleating on about those fugging Speedplays”) attach with four screws, rather than three, and hence need an adaptor in order to fit onto SPD-SL compatible shoes. Which means you have to use seven screws. Per shoe. Which is a lot of screws. In your shoes.

Maintenance

I’d be a hypocrite if I wrote too much under this heading. A fastidious maintainer of mechanical apparatus I am not.

But.

My understanding is that for some pedals (such as my Speedplays), you need to put a bit of extra effort in to keep them clean and lubricated, if you want them to last.

Which reminds me, I really must clean and lubricate my pedals…

How They Look?

As with most things cycling, looks are an important (most important?) consideration. I’ll have to leave this one to your own personal preference.

And then remind you that the pedals are hidden under your shoe when you’re attached to the bike.

How Much Does A Set of Road Pedals Cost?

Good quality pedals start at around £35, with top end models costing between £200 – £250 (excluding the top-of-the-range Speedplay pedal which has a mind-boggling list price of £599!).

What Do You Get When You Pay More

Generally you see the use of higher quality materials and more sophisticated mechanisms as you pay more moolah.

Expensive pedals use carbon and titanium in order to bring the weight down, and the desirability factor up.

Higher-priced pedals will have more ‘adjustability’*, in terms of setting float and the level of tension on the clip.

(* apostrophied because spellchecker tells me this is not a word. Neither is apostrophied).

How To Fit A Pair Of Pedals

This is maybe a topic for a longer post with photos, but the essential message is that it’s very easy… provided you have the right tool.

In this case the right tool is a pedal wrench (I own this one, made by Park Tools). Using a substantial wrench with a long, easy-to-grip handle makes loosening the pedal spindle from the crank arm a pleasure. Using the small spanner that came free with your first Raleigh BMX is not a pleasure, and is likely to result in a set of bloody knuckles when you slip and ram them against the chain rings.

Final pro-tip: the pedal on the left hand side of the bike screws out (and in) the ‘wrong way’. So, for loosening the pedal, you’ll need to turn it clockwise. The right hand pedal follows the normal in/out conventions.

Actually, it turns out that Condor Cycles have conveniently prepared a longer post with photos. Don’t say I never give you anything.

Proving Pedal Power

If you have a healthy disregard for saving money, you can, if you wish, get a power meter that fits inside your pedal and records your power output as you ride. Yes, inside your pedal. What next? Monkey tennis?

After a protracted development period (something like 3 years), with a number of false starts, Garmin released its Vector pedal-based power meter in September 2013. At the very least, it comes in an attractive box (it should do, given the £1,350 cost).

This is not something I’d recommend for your average sportive cyclist (or even your above-average sportive cyclist, since there are cheaper, more accurate power meters available).

If you’re interested, you can take a gander at Garmin’s promo video, which as usual features some glorious scenery (and an annoying voice-over).

Pedal Buying Options For Sportive Cyclists

So which pedals are right for you? Here are a selection of choices that might fit the bill.

I’ll say at the outset, I own and highly recommend a set of Speedplay Zero Stainless pedals (my mid-range choice). I believe that switching to these pedals was a vital component in solving the knee problems that had plagued my cycling for years.

The pedal-buying ‘landscape’ can be a confusing one (particularly when those crazy continentals get involved). I’ve tried to simplify things by:

  1. Concentrating on the three main pedal ‘families’. Whilst there are other pedal manufacturers, my (ill-informed) guess would be that the majority of riders use Shimano, Look or Speedplay pedals;
  2. Setting out the model ranges in a reasonably coherent order (generally starting with the lowest cost and then moving up the price spectrum). If nothing else, you can identify whether you’re a lower cost guy or a middle of the range gal and identify the starting point of your search accordingly.

Note: The links below are affiliate links to either Amazon or specialist online cycling retailers. If you click on one and buy something, I’ll get a small commission. You won’t pay any extra, but you will get an immediate happiness boost from knowing that you’ve supported this site.

Shimano
Shimano's road pedal range follows its usual naming convention. Dura-Ace, Ultegra and 105 all get their own dedicated pedal, with a price point to match its position in the range. 'Below 105' (Tiagra and Sora in gearspeak) is covered by a single pedal, catchily named the R540 SPD SL. Lovely.

The amount of float is dictated by which cleats you buy, not the pedal itself. Red cleats give zero float, blue provide two degrees, yellow give you six.
Shimano R540 road bike pedals Value choice:
Shimano R540


Shimano's entry level road pedal. They work the same as more expensive models in the range but the materials aren't as high tech (that said, they're not made of iron...). The clip in mechanism can be set be quite loose so a good choice for beginners.

Over 2,000 reviews on the Wiggle website (most of them positive) can't be wrong...

Click here for latest prices
Shimano 105 SPD-SL road pedals Mid-range choice:
Shimano 105 pedals


The 105 pedal uses the same spring-based mechanism as the R540s for keeping the cleat on your shoe attached to the pedal (on your bikes...). In fact all of Shimano's range uses essentially the same mechanism.

The body of the pedals are made of carbon in order to reduce weight (versus the R540s). That weight comes in at ~285g for the pair. With Ultegra and Dura-Ace not being significantly lighter, many people view the 105s are being the best value pedal in Shimano's range.

Click here for latest prices
Shimano-6800-Ultegra-road-pedals High end choice:
Shimano Ultegra pedals


Road cyclists are not immune from cognitive dissonance. We can simultaneously accept the arguments in favour of the 105 pedals being the best value choice, only to make exactly the same argument in favour of the more expensive Ultegras.

But, we say, the Ultegras are also great same value because, once again, they're cheaper than the Dura-Ace and, once again, only marginally heavier.

And so, because we fancy the Ultegras, we buy the Ultegras and all is right with the world.

Click here for latest prices
Shimano-Dura-Ace-road-pedals Top of the range:
Shimano Dura-Ace pedals


Oh but I'll never buy a full Dura-Ace groupset. Too expensive. Excessive for my bike.

But, I think, wouldn't it be nice to treat myself to one 'ickle Dura-Ace component...?

These are the new R9100 Dura-Ace pedals. The previous version got 4.8 out of 5 stars amongst Wiggle customers (from 150+ reviews). With 2 reviews in at the time of writing, the new design has 5 out of 5. And the price isn't bad for 'top of the range'.

And one extra bearing in the axle system versus the Ultegras. Who says Shimano doesn't give you anything?

Click here for more info
Speedplay
There are two main differences between Speedplay pedals and those made by Shimano and Look:

1. The "springy bit" that holds the cleat onto the pedal is located within the cleat, rather than within the pedal - this means it can be (and... is) double-sided; and

2. 'Float' (see above) is super (micro-)adjustable: up to 15 degrees (versus, say, 6 degrees for one of the Shimano cleat options)

They are more expensive versus other manufacturers, but for me it was worth it to spend more - I've been very happy with mine and will buy again.

(Ooh and don't they look like lovely colourful lollipops...? You can pretty much pick any colour for any of these pedals so, er, go wild...!)
Speedplay Zero Stainless pedal Mid-range choice:
Speedplay Zero Stainless


These are the pedals that I've owned for over four years now. They're still going strong, even though I ride in pretty miserable conditions and don't look after them quite as well as I should.

I bought them as a result of a bike fit, where the fitter said that the large amount of float afforded by Speedplay would help resolve my knee pain. And he was right.

When my current pair (finally) wear out, I'll be buying another set of these pedals.

Click here for latest prices
Speedplay Zero Titanium pedal High end choice:
Speedplay Zero Titanium


I *did* briefly consider buying the titanium version when I bought my stainless steel Speedplays because, you know, titanium...

But at twice the cost of the stainless versions, the 50g weight saving wasn't quite justifiable (it was close though - come on, 50g, Tour de Frances have been decided on less.....!).

That said, there are a lot of favourable reviews on Wiggle, with many riders saying they detect a noticeable benefit. So they may be worth you looking into.

Click here for latest prices
Speedplay Nanogram Zero Titanium pedal Top of the range:
Speedplay Nanogram Zero Titanium


Whereas the three options above are essentially the same pedal, the Nanogram Zero is total different (albeit it does look very similar....).

Very much aimed at the top end of the market, titanium and alloy replaces stainless steel in the construction. The cleats are made with carbon fibre and alloy.

Just look at the eye-watering price though...

Click here for more info
Look
Whilst there could well be more Shimano road pedals in the world (a guess), if there is a 'standard' for clip in systems then it would be the one used by Look. If you look (ha) at third party manufactured pedals (e.g. power meter ones) then often they'll use Keo cleats.

The Look road pedal range is somewhat muddled, with similar sounding names thrown around in different combinations (trust the French to be complicated). I've tried to simplify things by listing them in order of price and therefore, hopefully, specification...
Look Cycle Keo Classic 3 Value choice:
Keo Classic 3


Look's base model, the Classic 3s comprise a body made of 'composite' (posh plastic) around a chromoly steel spindle.

The spring tension on the pedal is adjustable on a somewhat arbitrary scale from 8 (beginner) to 12 (experienced).

Wiggle purchasers seem happy with them (4.6 out of 5...).

Click here for latest prices
Look Cycle Keo 2 Max Mid range choice 1:
Keo 2 Max


Positioned by Look as being for Gran Fondos (and therefore presumably for sportives), Keo 2 Max pedals are in the same price ballpark as Shimano 105.

They're a touch lighter than the Keo Classics. A touch wider. Probably a touch better looking.

In other words, for the Cockneys, a right touch.

Click here for latest pricesT
Look Keo Blade road bike pedal Mid range choice 2:
Keo Blade


The 'Blade' nomenclature refers to the fact that the bit that provides the tension, holding the cleat onto the pedal is a blade (rather than a spring).

Apparently this makes them easier and quicker to clip in and out of, and the pedals themselves more aero (hashtag more aero).

Click here for more info
Look Keo Blade Carbon (Almost) Top of the range:
Keo Blade Carbon


These pedals again use a blade to provide tension on the cleat. This time the blade material is carbon (which is also what the pedals themselves are made of).

In addition to the carbon blade, this version of the Keo Blade has a 'completely redesigned' spindle, which provides more rigidity and therefore saves 2 watts at 100 RPM. Every little helps!

Click here for more info
Look Keo Blade Carbon Ti Top of the range:
Keo Blade Carbon Titanium


Carbon blade once again. Indeed carbon body once again.

The titanium is found in the pedal spindles (not that you can tell from the photo). The standard Blade Carbon has a chromoly spindle.

Why do you want titanium spindles? To save weight of course (15g per pedal). These are super light (95g each) and super aero pedals. With a super price tag to match.

Click here for more info

Fin

I hope you found this post useful. If you did, and you’re in the market for a new pair of pedals, I would be very appreciative if you click through one of the links above to begin your search.

Otherwise, I’m interested to know what pedals you use and what you recommend. Let me know by leaving a comment below this post.

{ 26 comments… add one }
  • Tom Metcalfe says:

    One things add is that the size of the platform (or contact area) is important in terms of comfort because it’s more stable: I’m sure any one who has used SPDs had has the sensation of having a walnut for a pedal and hence the SPD-R, a direct copy of the LOOK pedal. I’m not sure how speedplay match up in this regard.

    Clips are lethally dangerous. If you fall off, often the bike remains attached and they do not do well will running shoes.

    I’d say look pedals and those cleats with the rubber (non-slip better lasting), relatively cheap are the best option for the sportive cyclist.

    • Andrew Montgomery says:

      Thanks Tom. With the Speedplays, the contact area is increased by the cleat (where the sprung mechanism is). These are larger than the pedals and effectively envelop them when you clip in.

  • roninsteel says:

    As a fellow stainless speedplay pedal owner I recommend the grease gun they sell for lubricating the pedals as the bearings are prone becoming dry or corroded if you enjoy salty winter riding.

    I always keep a spare set of shoe cleats as they do the clipping in and out best lubricant for them is chain lube sprayed on before every ride

    • Andrew Montgomery says:

      Thanks Ron (Ronin?). Good advice, particularly around the chain lube before each ride.

      • roninsteel says:

        As a guy who makes wildcat 4×4’s I’m full of useful comments ! But my real joy is cycling dartmoor and south Devon.

  • Kristian says:

    Can you use the Speedplays with normal shoes? If yes how does pedaling feel compared with flats?

    Any suggestions for a flat/SPD clip in pedal? Best of both worlds, where for short distances or in city would simply use the flat bit and for sportive the clip in side?

    • roninsteel says:

      the thing with speed plays once you have used them they become second nature, even in traffic its like having sticky shoes

    • Andrew Montgomery says:

      Hi Kristian,

      No, you can’t use the Speedplays with normal shoes – the pedals themselves are small; the cleats are larger (forming the wide, stable base through which to transmit the power). You could probably cycle a few meters with them using normal shoes; any more than that would be a nightmare.

      Rather than a flat/clipless hybrid pedal, my thought would be to go for a clipless pedal and buy an adaptor that converts it into a flat pedal. I’m pretty sure that’s what I have on my hybrid – I think I have a standard SPD and then the plastic flat bit clips in to one of the sides of the pedal.

      I’ve never tried this for the Speedplays, but here is a Chain Reaction link for the ‘platformer’ adaptor that they use to convert a Speedplay Zero (clipless) pedal into a flat platform version: Speedplay Platformers

  • paul keeler says:

    I went with the showman 105s , purely to match the rest of my bike (gears , brakes ).
    I find them very comfortable to time long distance and it feels like I can put more power through them.
    Also easy to set up .

  • Paul keeler says:

    The auto texting changed shimano to showmanship.
    Sorry about that.

  • Ian says:

    I got some cheap look keo copies when I first got my bike, now upgraded to the Look Keo Carbons.. costly but fantastic quality and the platform size does improve comfort on longer rides.. it’s all very personal at the end of the day!

  • Paul Bonham says:

    Did you ever try using SPD pedals with a decent quality carbon soled shoe? I certainly don’t have any “”walnut for a pedal” sensations using mine. The ability to walk around in mtb shoes is a huge positive for me.

    • Andrew Montgomery says:

      Hi Paul – I certainly agree with that – my mountain bike shoes were very comfortable and safe to walk in.

  • You guys are doing it properly, we feel ashamed as a family but all ended up using the oversized double-sided Shimano SPDs, the ones that look like a normal pedal but have the clip part in the middle. Doesn’t matter which way up the pedal is, just tickle it with your toe then push and you’re in. Reason is if you are setting off at a junction and don’t get the clip first time, you can just use it as a standard pedal to get going and slip the clip in afterwards when rolling properly. Wifey got the first set then we all tried the alternatives and followed suit. You purists will cringe at our klutziness but we use MTB shoes but always go for the ratchet side ones to get proper clamping on the foot, mine are Shimano, hers are Scott branded in a natty white pearl. We see fatties at cafes in team Lycra clopping around on racer cleats but prefer not to pretend to be Tour De France types and stick with the burlier deep soled shoes so you can walk around pretty normally.
    Depends on your riding, we ride for exercise, charity and fun, but no doubt snobs will spot our excessively convenient footwear and clip less pedals and dismiss us as beyond the pale…

    • Andrew Montgomery says:

      Thanks Kevin. And the ‘no gits’ policy on Sportive Cyclist hopefully means that there won’t be too many snobs in this neck of the internet woods. Whatever works for you is absolutely the best choice. And I’m a massive fan of excessive convenience. You can’t get enough convenience….

    • Richard Biron says:

      What shimano pedal part number would it be ?

  • James says:

    Nice article, Monty. I rode Shimano SPD (mountain bike) pedals for years, and still have them on my rain bike. I “upgraded” to Shimano Ultegra SPD-SL pedals (almost identical to the 105s you reference) a couple of years ago on my road bike, but cannot detect any difference in terms of efficiency. The pedal platform size is irrelevant if your sole is sufficiently rigid, as any good cycling sole should be (and that certainly includes my Sidis). Instead, what I got from the Ultegra pedals was: less float, inability to walk in the shoes without waddling like a duck (and occasionally falling down), and the requirement to replace the plastic cleats every year or two (whereas the metal MTB cleats are recessed and never wear out). Unless you’re a weight weenie, I’d say the MTB version wins hands-down over the road version, at least for Shimano.

    • Reiffel Range says:

      Yes to that, James. I put my cycling shoes on in my condo (hardwood floors) and walk 200 m to the bike room to get my bike. MTB shoes allow me to do that without scuffing my clips or incurring the wrath of my wife for making little dints all over our hardwood floors. Hell, even I wouldn’t like the dints! MTB shoes and pedals are the ticket for me, and have been for ~ 20 years.

  • Nigel says:

    Speaking of pedal spanners/wrenches, the secret to loosening or tightening a pedal nut ( and most other nuts) is to position the tool close to the pedal crank so that you can grab the tool and crank in one hand and squeeze them together. You will usually be surprised how effective this low effort is compared to the two arm push and pull method.

  • Barry Webster says:

    A highly desirable feature of SPD cleats is that the the shoes are easy to walk in because the cleats are recessed into the sole of the shoe. Also there is no wear and tear on the cleats from occasional walking as the cleats do not touch the road surface

  • Andy says:

    Clear covers are your friend!

  • Guy says:

    I’m new to the world of Sportives but I’ve got a place on the Ride London in July so I’m trying to learn fast. I’m now the proud possessor of a Giant Contend 1 and the next item on the shopping list are shoes and clipless pedals but I’m not sure about the order to go shopping!

    Is it best to find a pair of shoes that fit and are comfortable and then buy compatible pedals at a suitable price or is it easier to treat the whole purchase as a single unit? I’m concerned that getting this the wrong way round I could end up with a less than optimum combination.

    Hope that makes sense – any advice gratefully received.

    Many thanks

  • Rob Sims says:

    And still yet to find a convincing argument against just using SPDs (i.e. MTB) pedals on all my bikes – easy to clip into (double sided), cheap (about £15 for Shimano M520), near indestructible, can jump of bike and walk easily to cafe/into office/into home etc without waddling.

    I’ve done TT races on mine and 100 mile plus rides, as well as commuting….still don’t get the point of ‘road’ pedals!

  • RobF says:

    Just to throw my two pennies worth in….I don’t think there is a vast amount of difference between spd’s and look/spd sl systems in terms of efficiency or comfort. Certainly not for the likes of you and I. For years all the Shimano sponsored teams in the pro peleton used to ride single sided spd pedals. If they were that inefficient no Shimano sponsored teams would have won any races. I dont race anymore (too old and fat) but do club rides and the odd sportive and ride up mountains on holiday so all recreational stuff. I use Ritchey single sided road spd’s and they are fine (though the bearings are going). This is so I can hop between MTB and road bike and turbo trainer all with the same pedal system. However, word of warning going down this route….the Ritchey spd pedals don’t work with the Shimano SPD cleats!!!!! God knows why but they don’t engage. However Ritchey spd cleats work with Shimano, so I can’t use my MTB shoes on the road bike (unless I put Ritchey cleats on them). This is a slight faff. I do sometimes use my road shoes on the mtb if I’m going on fire tracks or fully rideable off road routes. I would saw the inefficiencies come in the shoes not the pedals as my road shoes are way stiffer than my very flexy MTB slippers. PS it is pretty difficult to get decent SPD road shoes nowadays…I few of the mid to lower end Shminao shoes are ok….so I may be forced to change when my shoes wear out…PS back in my racing days I used to use Look’s so I’m not some massive fan of Shimano in general, but I do think SPDs are a good system if you want to hop between mountain biking and road biking etc.

  • Tom Metcalfe April 3, 2014, 11:41 am

    One things add is that the size of the platform (or contact area) is important in terms of comfort because it’s more stable: I’m sure any one who has used SPDs had has the sensation of having a walnut for a pedal and hence the SPD-R, a direct copy of the LOOK pedal. I’m not sure how speedplay match up in this regard.

    Clips are lethally dangerous. If you fall off, often the bike remains attached and they do not do well will running shoes.

    I’d say look pedals and those cleats with the rubber (non-slip better lasting), relatively cheap are the best option for the sportive cyclist.

    • Andrew Montgomery April 3, 2014, 6:30 pm

      Thanks Tom. With the Speedplays, the contact area is increased by the cleat (where the sprung mechanism is). These are larger than the pedals and effectively envelop them when you clip in.

  • roninsteel April 3, 2014, 3:50 pm

    As a fellow stainless speedplay pedal owner I recommend the grease gun they sell for lubricating the pedals as the bearings are prone becoming dry or corroded if you enjoy salty winter riding.

    I always keep a spare set of shoe cleats as they do the clipping in and out best lubricant for them is chain lube sprayed on before every ride

    • Andrew Montgomery April 3, 2014, 6:31 pm

      Thanks Ron (Ronin?). Good advice, particularly around the chain lube before each ride.

      • roninsteel April 3, 2014, 8:03 pm

        As a guy who makes wildcat 4×4’s I’m full of useful comments ! But my real joy is cycling dartmoor and south Devon.

  • Kristian April 3, 2014, 11:17 pm

    Can you use the Speedplays with normal shoes? If yes how does pedaling feel compared with flats?

    Any suggestions for a flat/SPD clip in pedal? Best of both worlds, where for short distances or in city would simply use the flat bit and for sportive the clip in side?

    • roninsteel April 4, 2014, 9:43 am

      the thing with speed plays once you have used them they become second nature, even in traffic its like having sticky shoes

    • Andrew Montgomery April 4, 2014, 1:33 pm

      Hi Kristian,

      No, you can’t use the Speedplays with normal shoes – the pedals themselves are small; the cleats are larger (forming the wide, stable base through which to transmit the power). You could probably cycle a few meters with them using normal shoes; any more than that would be a nightmare.

      Rather than a flat/clipless hybrid pedal, my thought would be to go for a clipless pedal and buy an adaptor that converts it into a flat pedal. I’m pretty sure that’s what I have on my hybrid – I think I have a standard SPD and then the plastic flat bit clips in to one of the sides of the pedal.

      I’ve never tried this for the Speedplays, but here is a Chain Reaction link for the ‘platformer’ adaptor that they use to convert a Speedplay Zero (clipless) pedal into a flat platform version: Speedplay Platformers

  • paul keeler April 4, 2014, 12:21 am

    I went with the showman 105s , purely to match the rest of my bike (gears , brakes ).
    I find them very comfortable to time long distance and it feels like I can put more power through them.
    Also easy to set up .

  • Paul keeler April 4, 2014, 12:23 am

    The auto texting changed shimano to showmanship.
    Sorry about that.

    • Andrew Montgomery April 4, 2014, 1:34 pm

      ha ha! I quite liked the description of them as showman 105s!

  • Ian April 9, 2014, 9:03 am

    I got some cheap look keo copies when I first got my bike, now upgraded to the Look Keo Carbons.. costly but fantastic quality and the platform size does improve comfort on longer rides.. it’s all very personal at the end of the day!

    • Andrew Montgomery April 9, 2014, 8:34 pm

      Thanks Ian. You’re right – different horses (pedals) for different courses (people)…

  • Paul Bonham April 11, 2014, 9:40 am

    Did you ever try using SPD pedals with a decent quality carbon soled shoe? I certainly don’t have any “”walnut for a pedal” sensations using mine. The ability to walk around in mtb shoes is a huge positive for me.

    • Andrew Montgomery April 28, 2014, 7:26 pm

      Hi Paul – I certainly agree with that – my mountain bike shoes were very comfortable and safe to walk in.

  • Kevin Armstrong April 15, 2014, 12:54 am

    You guys are doing it properly, we feel ashamed as a family but all ended up using the oversized double-sided Shimano SPDs, the ones that look like a normal pedal but have the clip part in the middle. Doesn’t matter which way up the pedal is, just tickle it with your toe then push and you’re in. Reason is if you are setting off at a junction and don’t get the clip first time, you can just use it as a standard pedal to get going and slip the clip in afterwards when rolling properly. Wifey got the first set then we all tried the alternatives and followed suit. You purists will cringe at our klutziness but we use MTB shoes but always go for the ratchet side ones to get proper clamping on the foot, mine are Shimano, hers are Scott branded in a natty white pearl. We see fatties at cafes in team Lycra clopping around on racer cleats but prefer not to pretend to be Tour De France types and stick with the burlier deep soled shoes so you can walk around pretty normally.
    Depends on your riding, we ride for exercise, charity and fun, but no doubt snobs will spot our excessively convenient footwear and clip less pedals and dismiss us as beyond the pale…

    • Andrew Montgomery April 28, 2014, 7:29 pm

      Thanks Kevin. And the ‘no gits’ policy on Sportive Cyclist hopefully means that there won’t be too many snobs in this neck of the internet woods. Whatever works for you is absolutely the best choice. And I’m a massive fan of excessive convenience. You can’t get enough convenience….

    • Richard Biron August 25, 2015, 9:11 pm

      What shimano pedal part number would it be ?

  • James April 24, 2016, 10:57 pm

    Nice article, Monty. I rode Shimano SPD (mountain bike) pedals for years, and still have them on my rain bike. I “upgraded” to Shimano Ultegra SPD-SL pedals (almost identical to the 105s you reference) a couple of years ago on my road bike, but cannot detect any difference in terms of efficiency. The pedal platform size is irrelevant if your sole is sufficiently rigid, as any good cycling sole should be (and that certainly includes my Sidis). Instead, what I got from the Ultegra pedals was: less float, inability to walk in the shoes without waddling like a duck (and occasionally falling down), and the requirement to replace the plastic cleats every year or two (whereas the metal MTB cleats are recessed and never wear out). Unless you’re a weight weenie, I’d say the MTB version wins hands-down over the road version, at least for Shimano.

    • Reiffel Range July 18, 2016, 2:16 pm

      Yes to that, James. I put my cycling shoes on in my condo (hardwood floors) and walk 200 m to the bike room to get my bike. MTB shoes allow me to do that without scuffing my clips or incurring the wrath of my wife for making little dints all over our hardwood floors. Hell, even I wouldn’t like the dints! MTB shoes and pedals are the ticket for me, and have been for ~ 20 years.

  • Nigel January 25, 2017, 8:42 pm

    Speaking of pedal spanners/wrenches, the secret to loosening or tightening a pedal nut ( and most other nuts) is to position the tool close to the pedal crank so that you can grab the tool and crank in one hand and squeeze them together. You will usually be surprised how effective this low effort is compared to the two arm push and pull method.

  • Barry Webster February 12, 2017, 5:04 pm

    A highly desirable feature of SPD cleats is that the the shoes are easy to walk in because the cleats are recessed into the sole of the shoe. Also there is no wear and tear on the cleats from occasional walking as the cleats do not touch the road surface

  • Andy February 13, 2017, 10:02 pm

    Clear covers are your friend!

  • Guy April 6, 2017, 4:29 pm

    I’m new to the world of Sportives but I’ve got a place on the Ride London in July so I’m trying to learn fast. I’m now the proud possessor of a Giant Contend 1 and the next item on the shopping list are shoes and clipless pedals but I’m not sure about the order to go shopping!

    Is it best to find a pair of shoes that fit and are comfortable and then buy compatible pedals at a suitable price or is it easier to treat the whole purchase as a single unit? I’m concerned that getting this the wrong way round I could end up with a less than optimum combination.

    Hope that makes sense – any advice gratefully received.

    Many thanks

  • Rob Sims May 22, 2017, 10:10 am

    And still yet to find a convincing argument against just using SPDs (i.e. MTB) pedals on all my bikes – easy to clip into (double sided), cheap (about £15 for Shimano M520), near indestructible, can jump of bike and walk easily to cafe/into office/into home etc without waddling.

    I’ve done TT races on mine and 100 mile plus rides, as well as commuting….still don’t get the point of ‘road’ pedals!

  • RobF July 28, 2017, 9:09 am

    Just to throw my two pennies worth in….I don’t think there is a vast amount of difference between spd’s and look/spd sl systems in terms of efficiency or comfort. Certainly not for the likes of you and I. For years all the Shimano sponsored teams in the pro peleton used to ride single sided spd pedals. If they were that inefficient no Shimano sponsored teams would have won any races. I dont race anymore (too old and fat) but do club rides and the odd sportive and ride up mountains on holiday so all recreational stuff. I use Ritchey single sided road spd’s and they are fine (though the bearings are going). This is so I can hop between MTB and road bike and turbo trainer all with the same pedal system. However, word of warning going down this route….the Ritchey spd pedals don’t work with the Shimano SPD cleats!!!!! God knows why but they don’t engage. However Ritchey spd cleats work with Shimano, so I can’t use my MTB shoes on the road bike (unless I put Ritchey cleats on them). This is a slight faff. I do sometimes use my road shoes on the mtb if I’m going on fire tracks or fully rideable off road routes. I would saw the inefficiencies come in the shoes not the pedals as my road shoes are way stiffer than my very flexy MTB slippers. PS it is pretty difficult to get decent SPD road shoes nowadays…I few of the mid to lower end Shminao shoes are ok….so I may be forced to change when my shoes wear out…PS back in my racing days I used to use Look’s so I’m not some massive fan of Shimano in general, but I do think SPDs are a good system if you want to hop between mountain biking and road biking etc.

Leave a Reply