Beginner's advice on pedals & shoes?

by parksey   January 29, 2014  

Ok, so in a blatant show of my complete lack of road cycling knowledge, I'm after advice please on the subject of road bike pedals and shoes.

Having had my road bike for a couple of months now, I feel sufficiently confident on it to be thinking about upgrading from the toe clips that came with it.

However, I literally have no idea where to start...

I'm broadly aware that there are different types of pedal system out there, but quite how they differ (or put another way, which one is better), I don't know.

What are people's thoughts on this?

I don't spend hours on the bike or ride competitively, so I'm not looking for the lightest, stiffest, high-end stuff, just some serviceable kit to help me do some reasonable weekend mileage.

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parksey wrote:

Having visited another L(ish)BS to look at few options, these came away as my preference on a combination of factors, not least the surprising ease of walking in them.

I have to admit to having then ordered them from Chain Reaction...

Better hope your LBS doesn't read road.cc!

Seriously. Good luck with clipless. But if you go to try before you buy, then buy online...

Hmmm.

The way i did it, i just bought some cheap 2nd hand pedals and shoes on ebay, that was my "try before you buy" (or, before i commit too much cash), then i bought proper shoes online from Evans and CRC, with a clean conscience Smile

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posted by PJ McNally [596 posts]
14th February 2014 - 10:38

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This is exactly what I did - bought a cheap set on Ebay and then upgraded to carbon soles and whatnot once I was well up to speed (and had broken the plastic sole on the Ebay pair!)

http://www.matmitchellcycling.co.uk
The usual commuter/racer/audaxer blog with some stuff about Pros too.

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posted by mtm_01 [195 posts]
14th February 2014 - 10:48

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PJ McNally wrote:
Better hope your LBS doesn't read road.cc!

Seriously. Good luck with clipless. But if you go to try before you buy, then buy online...

Hmmm.

It's alright, they wouldn't know me by this name anyway... Wink

To put it in a bit of perspective, I was in the area of another reasonably local, much larger store, and so deliberately stopped by as I knew they carried a good stock of shoes. By comparison, my proper LBS only had older models in and nothing in my size, so they would have had to order stuff in just for me to try on. All a bit of a faff.

I didn't get a great deal of attention in the store I was in anyway, they were admittedly busy, but the guy just got the shoes from the back and basically left me to try them out by myself. Not a service particularly deserving of my money, even if it was only £100 or so. Was the same when I went looking at actual bikes, you'd basically need to put your money on the counter before they'd give you the time of day.

As for my proper LBS, he gets all of my maintenance/servicing work as I'm useless at that sort of thing, plus he's not exactly short of people dropping 6 grand on bikes in there, so I don't think he's too worried about me not buying a cheap set of pedals and shoes!

Besides, the £60 saved also treats the other half to a Valentine's meal tonight, which then smooths things over as far as my continued, and ever-more-expensive, obsession with cycling is concerned! Laughing

posted by parksey [362 posts]
14th February 2014 - 11:44

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Ooh can I take this opportunity to express my love for the Look Keo Easy pedals? I personally really struggled with clip-in pedals for ages. I tried some different pairs and just could not get my feet out of them in time. However, and this is pretty personal to me, my ankles are hypermobile and I think that's why. I switched to SPDs and they were fine. Much easier.

After about a year one of my soles split (on a pair of dhb shoes which were otherwise, incredbily comfy and very good value, check them out for width - I'm not a skinny-soled person) and that was it. Couldn't find any SPD road shoes which were reasonably priced so bought some Look keo easy pedals and a pair of Specialized shoes in the sale (I've got small feet so tend to get decent prices). And luckily, they worked. Not easy to walk in (but neither were the others).

Do you need clip ins? Probably not, but I much prefer them especially in the wet when slipping off pedals more likely, that is uncomforatble and possibly dangerous. Toe clips I find extremely uncomfortable too. For mega sprinting the easy might not be so good because it's easier to clip out but for club rides and sportives they have done me fine. They are also reasonably priced and very light - mostly becuase they can't be adjusted. So if you think you need float and four way adjustment and all that, they are not for you. Good luck!

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posted by charlie_elise [16 posts]
14th February 2014 - 14:13

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My personal opinion is that double sided MTB style PDs are a waste of money unless you MTB. Start with toe clips and then get the one-sided clipless. The Shimano 105s represent good value.

Toe clips get you used to rotating the pedal for the one-sided clipless. The MTB two-sided has far too much play and so quite a bit of the 'efficiencies' are negated. I have both (an MTB and road bike) and now hate my MTB pedals. Though wearing shoes for those clips is more convenient if you should have to walk anywhere....but why would you?!?

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1532 posts]
14th February 2014 - 14:29

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Look Keo Easy pedals were one of the recommendations from my LBS, so will definitely bear those in mind if I don't get on with the SPD-SLs.

My shoes seem to take pretty much any 2 or 3 bolt cleats, so it's only a case of £40 or so on the new pedals if I do want to change.

posted by parksey [362 posts]
14th February 2014 - 14:36

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Nearly went for the 105 pedals, but just couldn't really see why they were worth the extra £30 or so over the R550s, other than to match the other kit on my bike... Rolling Eyes

Have to admit that rotating the toe-clip pedals round was a pain in the ass, whereas at least these clipless ones seem to be weighted so they always hang in the same place when you're not clipped in.

posted by parksey [362 posts]
14th February 2014 - 14:41

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I'm so glad I came across this thread as I was going to ask exactly this question. As a result of the feedback and input above I have taken the plunge and ordered some RT82s and a pair of A530s as this would seem to give me a good balance of clips that are easier for a newbie to use, plus the convenience of pedals I can use with normal shoes when doing slow family rides / Centerparcs etc.

My questions is - do I need to get a professional to fit the pedals to the bike and/or the cleats to the shoes? I know pretty much nothing about bike maintenance, so unless it's utterly foolproof then advice would be great.

Thanks guys!

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posted by omikin [8 posts]
21st July 2014 - 9:18

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Fitting pedals requires nothing more than a spanner (note that the thread is in the opposite direction to the pedaling rotation), be sure to apply some grease to the threads before adding your new pedals.

There is loads of information out there about cleat fitting. You can either pay a professional or have a go yourself. I personally wasn't particularly impressed with my fitting at my LBS - they just don't have the time to set up anything other than the "average" person ideal position - which may or may not work for you.

There are lots of articles on the web about this topic (http://www.stevehoggbikefitting.com/articles/footloose/ is one of my favorites), personally I'd give it a go yourself to start with after doing some reading - see a professional if you start doing lots of distance and start experiencing pain.

posted by sergius [234 posts]
21st July 2014 - 9:42

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Ah, always good to see an old thread resurrected. Smile

As for the fitting, this is a simple job if you've got the right-sized spanner, I had a cheap adjustable one knocking about the toolbox with a head narrow enough to fit between the crank and the pedal itself so as to tighten the nut. They don't need loads of torque as they effectively self-tighten as you pedal, and watch the reverse threading too.

Cleat fitting is again a DIY job with an allen key, but a bit of trial and error with the outright positioning as to what then feels comfortable when riding the bike. I don't know exactly what the adjustability is like with SPD cleats, but experiment with moving them around over the course of a few rides. There may be other threads on here re cleat positioning which address it more, err, scientifically...

Good luck with getting used to them. You *will* fall off a few times whilst practising, in my experience it was simply due to not thinking to unclip when coming to a stop rather than not actually being able to release my foot from the pedal. After a few goes it really does become second nature.

posted by parksey [362 posts]
21st July 2014 - 9:59

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They say everyone falls over three times when they make the move to clipless pedals. I must be special because I've done it four times so far, including once in a column of traffic at a junction and once in front of my wife and kids on a family joyride. But hey, perseverance is the mother of, you know, whatever...

Big Grin

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posted by Him Up North [241 posts]
21st July 2014 - 11:47

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Thanks for the help - I am reassured that I might be able to manage this!

I'm not sure I do have an appropriate spanner for the pedals - will have a rummage in the tool box this evening to see.

That link on cleat fitting will be really useful when the shoes arrive.

I was going to hold off longer until I clipped in, but I find the toe cages really fiddly, and I figure why struggle to get used to them then switch to clips and struggle to get used to them when I can just struggle to get used to clips straight away!

Plus - I have noticed that as well as the friendly nods I get from other road cyclists, these are also accompanied by a puzzled glance at my feet as I have been wearing Converse hi-tops...

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posted by omikin [8 posts]
21st July 2014 - 12:28

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As with many cycling related things, there is a bit of unnecessary bad press on the difficulty of some things, like clipless pedals. Really, given a bit of dedicated time somewhere like an empty carpark practicing (in, out, in , out, left , right, both, in, out, right , left... ad nauseam) for an hour or two its not that hard! It is tedious doing that but think of it as an investment in your cycling pleasure for the future. Once you have done a few hundred in and outs, you'll be sorted.

posted by edster99 [299 posts]
21st July 2014 - 12:39

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omikin wrote:
Plus - I have noticed that as well as the friendly nods I get from other road cyclists, these are also accompanied by a puzzled glance at my feet as I have been wearing Converse hi-tops...

That's just because you're obviously a style icon Laughing
Actually, just bought myself some one-sided SPD pedals, so I can still wear the trendy daps when I want...

posted by JeevesBath [145 posts]
21st July 2014 - 12:51

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omikin wrote:
I'm not sure I do have an appropriate spanner for the pedals - will have a rummage in the tool box this evening to see...

A normal 15mm open spanner should do the job. Main thing is how wide the head of the spanner is, as you don't have a lot of clearance between the pedal body and the crank arm to get in there and tighten it up.

If you don't, I'm pretty sure this month's Cycling Plus magazine has a "free" pedal spanner with it. Doubtless it won't be the most exquisitely-engineered tool you'll ever use, but it'll do the job and you've then got something to read when you're done.

posted by parksey [362 posts]
21st July 2014 - 13:43

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sergius wrote:
Fitting pedals requires nothing more than a spanner (note that the thread is in the opposite direction to the pedaling rotation), be sure to apply some grease to the threads before adding your new pedals.

Thats not strictly true;
1. A lot of systems use a allen key in the axle as opposed to flats (the 3 pairs of Looks I own follow this) for a spanner.
2. You can't just get any spanner, an adjustable is usually too wide, and some spanners themselves are too wide. A dedicated pedal spanner is best if your pedals have the flats on, slightly longer for leverage when removing.

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posted by glynr36 [638 posts]
21st July 2014 - 14:34

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You learn something new every day Smile

All the pedals I've ever had (a few pairs of shimanos + various flats on the MTB/BMX) have used a spanner, I've not had Look pedals before.

I've never had a problem finding a spanner that fits when changing pedals, but I do happen to have about 40 of the things in my toolkit.

posted by sergius [234 posts]
21st July 2014 - 16:01

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Just remembered I bought Cycling Plus magazine this month so I have that pedal spanner!

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posted by omikin [8 posts]
22nd July 2014 - 10:59

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I have an update:

Last night I fitted the pedals to the bike, and the cleats to the shoes. Then I practiced.

I managed to fall over just getting the bike out of the garden as I had already clipped in one leg. Then I mounted properly and rode about a bit clipping both feet in and out - no problem. I was feeling pretty confident. I then decided to stop and practice going from a standstill. I clipped my right foot out then fell over to the left. Big graze on my left knee, and bruised hand and shoulder. Ouch.

Was more concerned about any damage to the bike / shoes, but they seem fine. Felt really stupid as I clearly hadn't thought it through.

What advice do you guys have about technique to help me develop a good unclipping routine? Do you usually unclip the same side all the time?

Fortunately I work for a wound dressing manufacturer so I have a very expensive and high quality dressing on my knee and it is healing nicely, but obviously if I can limit the amount of falls I would really like that. Smile

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posted by omikin [8 posts]
25th July 2014 - 9:18

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omikin wrote:
I have an update:

Last night I fitted the pedals to the bike, and the cleats to the shoes. Then I practiced.

I managed to fall over just getting the bike out of the garden as I had already clipped in one leg. Then I mounted properly and rode about a bit clipping both feet in and out - no problem. I was feeling pretty confident. I then decided to stop and practice going from a standstill. I clipped my right foot out then fell over to the left. Big graze on my left knee, and bruised hand and shoulder. Ouch.

Was more concerned about any damage to the bike / shoes, but they seem fine. Felt really stupid as I clearly hadn't thought it through.

What advice do you guys have about technique to help me develop a good unclipping routine? Do you usually unclip the same side all the time?

Fortunately I work for a wound dressing manufacturer so I have a very expensive and high quality dressing on my knee and it is healing nicely, but obviously if I can limit the amount of falls I would really like that. Smile

Firstly relax and remember you can keep going forward with only one foot clipped in. Start in a very low gear and if you miss the clip in first time, keep turning with your engaged foot. Concentrate on just one side at first so you develop the memory of leaning and disengaging from the same side. Once you've got that down, learn to do the other side. Always clip out before you get to a stop. As you're a starter, clip out well ahead so you don't come to a halt and panic still attached to your bike. Clip out whilst still carrying momentum.

It will vwery quickly become second nature. Don't fear it!

posted by ajmarshal1 [402 posts]
25th July 2014 - 9:27

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I first practiced with the bike stationary, one hand against my garage wall, clipping and unclipping without going anywhere. If you have an exercise bike or a turbo trainer that would work too. Only after I felt comfortable with my technique did I (with much trepidation, I have to say) do a few lengths of the road where I live.

Easiest mistake to make is to leave unclipping til it's too late. Panic ensues and it's not uncommon to unclip one foot then lean the wrong way. That split second between realisation and hitting the deck... At Wits End It's not a crime to unclip in advance; you can pedal one-footed with the foot that is still clipped in if you feel you're coming up short. Anticipation is the key and comes with practice.

Now I've had some experience I unclip the left foot and that is my standing foot. I keep the right foot clipped in for taking off again.

I bear the scars of getting used to clipless pedals too. I've also found myself questioning whether they are for me, but I persevered. Keep going and good luck!

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posted by Him Up North [241 posts]
25th July 2014 - 9:34

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I've not had a clip-in fall yet, so it can be done. Been one or two near misses, though, including when crossing the finishing line at a sportive in front of dozens of people Smile

http://www.suffolkcycling.com
Blog and GoPro videos

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posted by Suffolk Cycling [73 posts]
25th July 2014 - 9:44

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Suffolk Cycling wrote:
I've not had a clip-in fall yet, so it can be done. Been one or two near misses, though, including when crossing the finishing line at a sportive in front of dozens of people Smile

Only time I've ever gone down stationary is when I got dominoed by a clip out failure to my left. He took three of us down at a feed station on a sportive. Poor bloke was mortified!

posted by ajmarshal1 [402 posts]
25th July 2014 - 9:57

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I once pulled a big skid-to-stop in front of my wife.

While clipped in.

Timmmmbeeerrrrrr. Big Grin

Everyone does it. I'm the worst person in the world at clipping in - just the other day I thought I was in and put "the power" down, only for my foot to slip out and gash my ankle against the pedal...

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

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posted by Gizmo_ [1162 posts]
25th July 2014 - 10:32

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You may find that it helps to add some consistency. I always clip out with my left, always put my left foot down at traffic lights. It's not uncommon for me to do a four hour ride with the right foot staying clipped in the whole way.

If you always put the same foot down, it becomes much easier to know what you are doing when you have to react on instinct rather than with some mental forethought.

posted by sergius [234 posts]
25th July 2014 - 10:59

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I'm in the same camp of always unclipping the same foot first, the left one too. I always prefer to set off with the right foot, so generally leave that one clipped in, plus I can rest my left foot on the kerb if I want to. The key is anticipating the need to stop so you *think* to unclip in advance.

As has been said, stationary falls are just part of learning to ride clipless, both my left knee and my saddle bear the scars of my efforts! It doesn't take long to get used to it though, as is apparent from this topic, I've only been riding clipless for 6 months and am now perfectly confident doing it.

posted by parksey [362 posts]
25th July 2014 - 11:30

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I was cycling with friends a few years ago when one came to a halt at lights while clipped in. The 'oh shit!' look on his face was priceless. Rolling On The Floor

That said, I still have to venture into clipless pedals.

“Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling.” James E Starrs

posted by truffy [649 posts]
25th July 2014 - 14:20

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I started out unclipping one or the other side but quickly changed to only unclipping the left foot. Sometimes my brain would say, "Unclip right foot" and my body would say, "Yup, unclipping left" but my weight would be leaned toward the still clipped in right side causing some near misses or actual falls. Would recommend unclipping on the left mainly because it's the non-drive train side so you don't have to worry about getting chain grease on your right leg clipping in and out at stops. I also practiced in a very low traffic area (residential street although empty parking lots are great too) for hundreds of times before I took off on the roads so that it was pretty body memory for me when I wanted to unclip.

Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling. ~James E. Starrs

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posted by movingtarget [142 posts]
25th July 2014 - 19:43

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Out of interest, you people who do not always unclip the same foot: what's your reasoning?

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posted by userfriendly [445 posts]
25th July 2014 - 20:37

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In my first week with clipless pedals, feeling confident and empowered, I decided to find out if I could ride up a very steep gradient with a hairpin bend and some gravel chippings on it. Needless to say, there was slowness, then wheelspin, an abrupt and total loss of forward momentum, and I ended up lying on my back like a beetle with both feet still clipped in and the bike upside down between my legs.

Swapped those damn carbon shoes for trainers and toeclips, and never looked back.

posted by chokofingrz [390 posts]
26th July 2014 - 1:52

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