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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.

100 comments

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andycoventry [110 posts] 2 years ago
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Everyone here will have an opinion one way or the other - I use speedplays, whereas frinds use SPD SLs - its a personal choice.

Go for a road specific type, but I would suggest going to your local bike shop with your bike who can show you the different options and more importantly do an initial set-up for you.

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Yorkshie Whippet [530 posts] 2 years ago
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Well if you ride one of the other stories avoid lampost or looking behind you.  1

Seriously. Good advice given above. I too prefer Speedplays as they have more float to save the old knees and are double sided. Wish I'd gone to a shop to be properly set-up first.

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VeloPeo [303 posts] 2 years ago
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I started on SPDs and moved to Speedplays

Like both (and still keep SPD on my Cross bike) - but prefer the Speedplays. One factor is that shoes to go with SPDs will be more comfortable to walk in off the bike if, for example, you have a mechanical or you commute and have to walk from where you lock the bike up

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Simon E [2727 posts] 2 years ago
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I have ridden Shimano SPD, SPD-SL and Look Delta. The former are touted as a MTB and leisure/touring system while the latter two are road types. Speedplay are an expensive road type that some people prefer but I've never tried them.

SPD is so good that I can't see a reason to bother with the other systems. I have used Shimano M520 pedals for commuting (now on their 6th winter), MTBing, training rides and time trialling. Benefits:
- they are easier to get your shoes in and out of, you can adjust the spring tension
- the M520 double-sided pedals are cheap (e.g. absolutecycles on ebay), and there's plenty of choice
- you can actually walk safely in the shoes as the cleats are recessed
- they have lots of 'float' (side-to-side free movement), good for dodgy knees
- they will easily take SM-PD22 clip-in reflectors on one side for extra visibility
No downsides IME.

Road cleats make you walk like a duck and wear out easily (Deltas are scarily slippery on a smooth surface). When racing they can give the sensation of being really secured to the pedal but there's less float and they don't make you any faster. You're also more likely to miss clipping in, it's not stamp-and-go, and the pedal can bang your shins. Ouch!

You can't mix'n'match, they are not cross-compatible, though some shoes have drillings for both SPD & road types.

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PJ McNally [591 posts] 2 years ago
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Go for SPD

You know it makes sense

(I'm more of a commuter than a roadie, but even most amateur roadies will admit that it's no fun walking anywhere in road-specific cleats. Whereas in SPD, I can walk most places that it's too short to cycle to!

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allez neg [497 posts] 2 years ago
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I've stuck with Shimano SPDs on my 2 road bikes with no intention of changing.

I've gotten used to them over the last 20 years on mountain bikes, and thus can use the same shoes on all my bikes.

If catastrophic failure dictates (ie tyre blow out, happened to a mate last summer), I can walk home too.

I chuckle at my mate with his speedplays, reaching for the cleat covers or taking his shoes off prior to walking on hard surfaces.

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arfa [748 posts] 2 years ago
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+1 for spd's for all the reasons above. I would only bother with spd sl's if I was ultra competitive.

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movingtarget [144 posts] 2 years ago
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What type of riding do you do? If you mainly do training rides with only the occasional stop (ie- intersections or stopping to get your kit sorted) then a non-recessed cleat like Look might be just fine (a lot of people find them comfortable). If you're mainly doing commuting or rides where you get off and on your bike (cafe rides, having to do the dreaded gravel skip...) you'll probably be happier with a recessed cleat system (like SPDs) where you won't damage the cleat with walking on them. Also, if you're riding on mucky roads with debris where you have to unclip at stops (Portland roads are horrible, they only clean the streets twice a year so there's mud, decomposing leaves, ...) which can get stuck in your cleats when you clip in making it hard to unclip with some exposed cleat systems cuz the muck gets jammed in there when you clip in. Not an issue with recessed cleats which are usually favored by MTB and cyclocross riders who revel in the muck  1

Do you have any knee problems or ankle stiffness? There's varying degrees of knee float with different brands allowing your knee to shift in or out slightly with your stroke motion (the older we get, the less comfortable it is to pedal in a fixed position for hours so the knee appreciates a bit of float). My husband has decreased ankle flexibility (it's almost fused in some places) so a system with an ankle twist instead of requiring you to flex and release your ankle might work better in that situation.

I have pretty normal knees and ankles but do mainly urban riding (long rides with fun climbs but in the city where you have to deal with stop lights and dodging traffic/pedestrians) so I use Speedplay Frogs which are their MTB system. I like Speedplay because road or MTB platforms are dual-sided (you can clip in to either top or bottom of the pedal so less fumbling at starts), the recessed Frog cleat is easy to walk on and because you twist your ankle to get in/out of the pedal, any debris that happens to get into the cleat will be squished out before you lock in so you won't get trapped in the pedal and fall trying to uncouple. I've also found that after several hours, my knees still feel great with the 15 degrees of free float (their Zero road racing pedals allow for 30 degrees whereas Shimano SPD with red cleats allow zero float which some people say gives you more power transfer?). I love reading what people think and have learned about their riding experience but if you have a LBS that you like, it's always nice to be able to look and test. Mine even had a set up where I could test out the different systems on one of the bikes in the store, just brought my Sidi's and they switched out cleats for me.

Sorry for the dissertation. Hope this made sense  1

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Shanefutcher [98 posts] 2 years ago
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Look keo are excellent pedals,you can buy cleats with 9 degree float.have you got road shoes?there's always great offers on shoes.

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parksey [343 posts] 2 years ago
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Thanks all for the input so far, it's appreciated, and exactly why I joined this site.

Interesting to see the positive comments towards regular SPDs, as they certainly seem the more prevalent and affordable, better fitting my anticipated budget.

I like the idea of a recessed cleat too, as I likely will need to do a bit of walking in the shoe, particularly when using the bike for summer commuting.

My riding is a mix of urban commuting and then solo weekend efforts of around 90-120 minutes without really stopping. I will take a look at the more race-derived stuff, but a double-sided SPD seems to make some sense as a first foray.

The concept of float is a bit alien to me, so something I need to explore. I don't have any immediate problems with my knees or ankles, but then I'm also not as young as I used to be!

The bike needs to go in for a once over soon, so while they're fiddling with it I can have a go on the turbo with a few different setups.

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parksey [343 posts] 2 years ago
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Oh and yeah, the irony wasn't lost on me posting this the same day as a news article reporting the death of a cyclist while using clipless for the first time.

Will definitely make sure I get comfortable with them before going out on the roads proper.

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Matt eaton [742 posts] 2 years ago
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FWIW I have run SPDs and SPD SL. I actually prefer SPD SL, especially with the zero-float cleats but I'm now running SPDs on all of my bikes simply because SPD SL doesn't work for 'cross and the benefits of a single pedal system outweigh any downsides to using SPDs on the road in my view.

I also commuted on SPD SL for about a year. I didn't find them too bad to walk short distances in but they were a PITA if I had to use the stairs at the station to change platforms. If you are doing any kind of practical riding (commuting, to the shops etc. ) them SPD or similar are the obvious choice. If you only cycle for fun then perhaps SPD SL or similar are worth looking at.

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IngloriousLou [139 posts] 2 years ago
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parksey wrote:

Will definitely make sure I get comfortable with them before going out on the roads proper.

You'll still fall off a few times, everyone does  1

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Miles253 [198 posts] 2 years ago
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I must be one of the few people that use Time pedals. With lots of float but a still a solid platform to push against I find them to be brilliant. I have used SPd and look keos, though I enjoyed the keos I had a persistent problem with creaking, not sure why, even after greasing and cleaning. Perhaps Time jus fit me as I've got poor knees, but the entry system is just so easy. Step in and click!

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adamthekiwi [110 posts] 2 years ago
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+1 for Time, but only because that's what I had on the commuter, as it was inherited from the MTB. I used SPD for many years before switching for Time's greater simplicity, float and mud-clearing ability (the last of which is clearly worthless on a road bike!).

I'm slightly surprised to see so much love for MTB clipless systems as I thought I was some kind of pariah for using MTB boots on the road bike! Much easier to walk in, though, as others have said, and I'm certain I don't notice the extra few grams.

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pants [238 posts] 2 years ago
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I use SPDs for everything, I like being able to walk around.

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VeloPeo [303 posts] 2 years ago
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IngloriousLou wrote:
parksey wrote:

Will definitely make sure I get comfortable with them before going out on the roads proper.

You'll still fall off a few times, everyone does  1

And try not to do it stopping at traffic lights.

In front of a pub with a beer garden

On a very hot day

When the beer garden is full with drunk lairy people who laugh at cyclists falling over.

I'd imagine that would be highly embarrassing.

**Ahem**

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jason.timothy.jones [294 posts] 2 years ago
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I would recommend SPD's for starters, in part as they are fairly affordable, can take a beating, but more importantly easier to get out of in a hurry that 'road' pedals

PS, the only time I have taken a fall was when I put my SPD-Sl cleated foot down on a wet while line at a stop sign  14

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Kapelmuur [325 posts] 2 years ago
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I have Shimano M424's which I've been using since I went clipless a couple of years ago. The only downside is that they look a little out of place on a road bike and I have had a roadie comment that I've fitted the wrong pedals  29

The pedals have a fairly big platform and can be used with street shoes, although not for long rides as the metal cleat mechanism is slightly proud of the platform.

I'm interested in the comments about 'float'. Bad knees forced me to give up running, but I've had no knee pain with these pedals (my summer rides are 3/4 hours) - do they 'float' or have I been lucky so far?

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NickK123 [93 posts] 2 years ago
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I have had Campag Deltas and Look Keos over the years, and found them both ok. Accept comments from others re ease of walking about in SPDs (and nearly fell over big time at a Sportive stop on the Campag cleats - think Fred Astaire!) Top tips, when starting, set minimum spring tension, unclip early on one side when coming to a stop, minimise heroics when traffic comes to a crawl by unclipping ... Not that I have been caught out by these things you understand ...

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Dunluce [53 posts] 2 years ago
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Since I started cycling again a couple of years ago I have never used any sort of clipless system but used pedal straps. At present I use the Ynot strap which I find hold my feet well are easy to get in and out of and I can wear pretty much any shoe I want. I commute every day and have done several sportives including the Dunwich Dynamo last year. So my question is, if I'm not a racer or enter time trials is there any real need for clipless; what benefits would they give me?

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parksey [343 posts] 2 years ago
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Thanks again for all the input.  1

Whilst the recommendations for road-specific pedals are appreciated, I think I am leaning towards some regular SPDs as a first attempt at clipless. With the nature of my riding, including the need to walk in the shoes, they seem to make the more sense.

Any recommendations on which ones to go with?

I have seen some "touring" SPDs which seem more road-like in their weight and appearance, such as these. Any good?

http://www.wiggle.co.uk/shimano-pd-a520-touring-pedals/

The bike is booked in with the LBS for once-over on Saturday, so will see what they've can offer.

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southseabythesea [148 posts] 2 years ago
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Speedplays is where it's at!

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movingtarget [144 posts] 2 years ago
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Crosshouses wrote:

I have Shimano M424's which I've been using since I went clipless a couple of years ago. The only downside is that they look a little out of place on a road bike and I have had a roadie comment that I've fitted the wrong pedals  29

The pedals have a fairly big platform and can be used with street shoes, although not for long rides as the metal cleat mechanism is slightly proud of the platform.

I'm interested in the comments about 'float'. Bad knees forced me to give up running, but I've had no knee pain with these pedals (my summer rides are 3/4 hours) - do they 'float' or have I been lucky so far?

From what I've read they have 5 degrees of float so just enough to keep your runner's knees happy?

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movingtarget [144 posts] 2 years ago
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@parksey: I'd agree that a recessed cleat would work well for the type of riding you do (urban commuting mixed with longer weekend rides). My one concern on the Shimano A520s that they appear to be a single-sided entry pedal (in the second pic the left is the underside of the pedal and the right is the topside where you click in, dual-sided pedals look identical on top or bottom) meaning that when you're at a standstill ie traffic light you'll be fumbling a bit to click back in which get be a bit stressful with traffic breathing down your neck. Great price tho, gotta love Wiggle. Speedplay Frogs, which I've been happy with for the last 5 years, are pricey new (£63-152 depending on if you go for chromoly vs titanium) but it's easy to get a pair of well cared for used ones for ~£36-49. Had the same pair of stainless Frogs for 4 years with almost no wear on them till I upgraded to a pristine used titanium pair (husband now calls me a weight weenie :P). There's also a great review for dual-sided Shimano M520s here on road.cc too and they're about the same weight as the A520s if you care about those things.

http://road.cc/content/review/43776-shimano-pd-m520-spd-pedal

@Dunluce: Not familiar with strap systems so hopefully someone else will chime in [nudge nudge]

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Jack Osbourne snr [440 posts] 2 years ago
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Mtb pedals and shoes are probably fine up to Cat3 racer level. If you don't race then don't even consider road pedals as they have no practical advantages and one major flaw ie lack of walkability and several other minor ones such as being harder to clip into and being harder to set up to avoid knee issues.

I switched from Look (after years of slipping and sliding off the bike) to Crank Brothers Candy and mtb shoes and do thousands of miles every year on them. The commuter has the same pedals as the audax bike which technically means I only need one pair of shoes for everything. (The reality though is that I'm the cycling version of Imelda Marcos)

I have bog standard shoes and boots for commuting and carbon soled jobs for "performance" riding. In my experience, at a non-competitive level the stiffness of the shoe makes more difference than whether it's a road or mtb pedal.

Aesthetics are perhaps a factor, in that road pedals may look prettier, but that's really the only reason to go down the road pedal line for 90% of people who ride road bikes.

I can also recommend Time Atac mtb pedals as several people I know swear by them.

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Sniffer [282 posts] 2 years ago
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I have used Shimano A520s on my commuting bike for the last 5 or 6 years. They were my first experience of clipless pedals and they have been reliable, maintenance free and feel very stable with the relatively big platform. I have not found the one sided design a big deal. They are great value at £25.

You will need a little practice and yes most of us have fallen over at some point on the early days. It is worth the effort to learn though. Recessed cleats are by far the most sensible if you walk more than a few steps around your ride.

I do have SPD-SLs on my 'best bike'. I like the feel of them, but they are less practical. It also an investment as I ended up with two pairs of shoes and winter boots.

Start with SPDs and there is no compelling reason to make a leap to anything else. I have not tried Speedplays though.

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Simon E [2727 posts] 2 years ago
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@movingtarget - yes, the A520s are single-sided SPDs. You need to get the knack of gently flicking the pedal before clipping in so not as convenient but I like mine. Shimano A600 (http://road.cc/16799) are a slightly lighter version.

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matthewn5 [776 posts] 2 years ago
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Shimano RT82 shoes take SPD cleats and look like a road shoe, so you won't attract comments from the roadies and the Rules...

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VeloPeo [303 posts] 2 years ago
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drmatthewhardy wrote:

Shimano RT82 shoes take SPD cleats and look like a road shoe, so you won't attract comments from the roadies and the Rules...

Having wide feet I find Shimano cripple me on longer rides. Specialized are the ones to go for if you're slightly wider of foot - their lower end road shoes also have fittings for both 2 hole (SPD style) and 3 hole (roadie style) cleats

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