Pedals – Beginner’s Guide

One of the biggest changes you can make to improve your bike riding is moving from regular shoes or trainers, to specific cycling shoes and pedals. So what are the options? Read on for beginner’s tips for moving into ‘click-in’ pedals.

Why Do I Need Them?

Shoes for riding bikes have a stiffer sole for transferring power from the rider to the bike, whereas regular shoes or running shoes are designed to flex while walking or running. If your rides consist of a 2 minute trip to the shops, specific riding shoes and pedals might not transform your world. If you are riding for longer than that, they will improve your riding experience.

How do they Work?

Clip-in cycling shoes, have a stiffer sole, pre drilled soles for mounting ‘cleats’ which click into pedals. The foot is then held in position on the pedal.

Why is That Better?

Having shoes connected to the bike makes most types of riding easier. It smoothes out your pedal stroke and increases pedalling efficiency. This is because the foot cannot move around or slip off the pedal. Cleats can still allow a little movement (also known as ‘float’) while they are attached.

Having shoes attached to pedals also means that as well as pushing down, riders can pull up and produce a more powerful pedal stroke.

Flats or SPD’s?

However, being attached to the bike don’t suit everyone. Around 50% of mountain bike riders (particularly gnarly shredders) prefer to use flat pedals and shoes. Flat mountain bike shoes have stiffer soles for improved power transfer, matched with flat pedals which usually feature pins which firmly grip the sole. Many gravel bike riders also prefer the freedom of foot movement allowed through flat pedals and shoes.

Are They Safe?

Initially the thought of having feet connected to a bike can seem slightly unnerving. However, all pedals are designed to release the foot in the event of a fall. They require a twisting force (to the side) to release the foot. To ‘click in’, they need the foot to be pushed down onto the base of the pedal. Many manufacturers include adjustable springs in their products, to reduce or increase the force required to twist out of the pedal.

Changing to ‘click-in’ pedals, can be a daunting step for new riders, however practise makes perfect and you will soon wonder how you ever rode without them.

Are All Cycling Shoes the same?

There are two main types of shoe. The main differences in shoes are in the sole. Off Road shoes tend to have a slightly more flexible, deeper treaded sole and fixings for 2 bolt (SPD) style cleats. Road cycling shoes tend to be lighter and have a stiffer sole. They can have 2 bolt or 3 bolt options for SPD or Look style cleats. Gravel bike, leisure & commuter riders often use Off Road shoes as they are much easier and more comfortable to walk in. Before purchasing, check shoes and pedals are compatible (eg. both 3 bolt or 2 bolt fitting).

2 Bolt – Shimano SPD, Look X Track, Time Atac, Crank Brothers

3 Bolt – Shimano SPD-SL, Look Keo, Time I Clic & Xpresso, Speedplay (with adapter)

Look Keo & Wellgo SPD Cleats

Are all Clipless systems the same?

As with shoes, pedals fall broadly into two categories, Off-Road and Road Bike. Road pedals tend to have a larger surface area to maximise power transfer and are often single sided (except Speedplay pedals). Off-Road ones tend to be double sided, have better seals on the bearings and a smaller body, they are also designed to continue to work even in muddy conditions.

Road Shoes

Merlin RC2
Crono CR1
Northwave Mistral

See our full range of Road Cycling Shoes here

Road Pedals

Shimano R7000 SPD-SL
Time Xpresso 2 Pedals
Look Keo 2 Max

See our full range of Road Pedals here

Off Road Shoes

Sidi MTB Gravel

Giro Riddance
Crono CX3

See our full range of Off Road Shoes here

Off Road Pedals

Shimano M520 SPD
Time Atac MX2
Crank Brothers Stamp 1
Look X Track Race
Hope Union RC

See our full range of Off Road Pedals here

Click and Go!

Once pedals are fitted and cleats are attached, it is time to take your first ride. Before you do, the below video clip shows good advice before heading off.