By Mary Paterson
MOUNTAIN BIKE PEDALS
With many different models, Shimano SPD pedals are one of the most popular pedal choices today. They have between 5 and 6 degrees of float, are dual-sided and are easy to get in and out of. But beware! do not buy imitation SPD pedals. They don’t have enough float.
Shimano has a couple of multi-purpose pedals. The PD-M324 pedals have a platform on one side and a clip on the other side. That way, you can use the platform in traffic and for crossing busy intersections and clip in on the quieter roads where it is safer and you are more comfortable. You can even use regular shoes if you like. The PD-A530 pedal incorporates a metal platform into the pedal to increase surface area. Great idea, but a rubber-soled shoe against the metal platform creates friction and ultimately there is no float—just a knee injury waiting to happen.
Crankbrothers Eggbeater pedals have 15 to 20 degrees of float. They are multi-sided, making them the easiest pedals to get in and out of. They are also less likely to get clogged with mud, making them a favourite for mountain bikers. Crankbrother Candy has also added a platform to the pedal, but it is made of plastic and doesn’t seem to affect the float.
Time ATAC pedals have 10 degrees of float. They are easy to clip out of, but require more effort to clip in.
Speedplay Frog pedals offer 26 degrees of float and are a cinch to get in and out of. They can be used for mountain biking and are ideal for road riders who prefer a recessed, walkable cleat.
Look is the pioneer of road clipless pedals. The one-sided triangular-shaped pedals come with a choice of 3 different coloured cleats with varying degrees of float. Black cleats have no float (not sure why they even exist), Grey have 4.5 degrees and Red have 9 degrees. I personally like the red cleats but some find they have too much float and prefer the grey cleats. With only 4 degrees of float there is very little room for error in cleat placement. But if your knees and hips are happy, then stick with the grey cleats.
Shimano road pedals have very little float so I am not a big fan. But there are plenty of cyclists who like a smaller amount of float and choose this system.
Speedplay pedals have tons of float. Zeros have up to 15 degrees of micro-adjustable float, while the X Series have unlimited float. Some people find these too floaty. They are both dual-sided, making it easier to clip in without looking and fumbling to get the right side up like most road pedals.
Time road pedals have 10 degrees of float. They are one-sided and take a little more effort to get clipped in.
IF YOU’RE NEW to CLIPLESS PEDALS
- If you want to try clipless pedals, I recommend starting with mountain bike pedals. The clips are easier to get in and out of, and you will have comfortable shoes to walk in. A good choice is a Shimano pedal, with the platform on one side and the clip on the other side, so you can choose when you want to practice riding with the new clips. Or you can choose a dual-sided pedal, so you don’t have to look down to clip in. You can cross an intersection resting your foot on the pedal without being clipped in.
- Set your cleats to a loose setting to make clipping and unclipping easier. But not too loose. You don’t want your foot to release as you’re pedalling.
- Your goal is to clip in and out as quickly and easily as possible for safety and to avoid twisting your knee. A simple sideways kick of the heel will get you out.
- If you have a stationary trainer, that’s the best place to start practicing clipping in and out of your new pedals.
- Next, practice clipping in and out outdoors on a quiet path or road. Practice starting and stopping, and clipping in and out while coasting.
- Do not practise on uneven grass as it is harder to get the bike rolling.
- You may want an experienced friend to accompany you for support.
- Your goal is to be able to clip in without looking down. This allows you to look straight ahead when riding, which is important for safe cycling.
- You will find that you have a favourite side to clip out of first and step down on. That’s usually the right side, close to the curb.
- Keep the other foot clipped in at intersections. That will make it easier to get started again.
- Planning ahead and unclipping well before you stop is always essential when using clipless pedals.
- With practise, clipping in and out of pedals should quickly become second nature.
- Warning: Everyone gets the same initiation to clipless pedals— one or two tumbles — when you forget to clip out on time. Usually the biggest thing you bruise is your ego.
- Clipless pedals aren’t suitable for everyone. If after practicing and practicing you find it is still a struggle to get comfortable with them, clipless pedals may not be for you.
Next issue I’ll address proper cleat placement.
Mary Paterson is a physiotherapist and a certified bike fit professional. An avid road and mountain cyclist, Mary has over 19 years of sports medicine experience. Her business, Bike 2 Body, offers physiotherapy and bike fitting for cyclists.
Mary brings her medical knowledge of sports injuries and biomechanics to the diagnosis and treatment of cycling injuries and applies them to the ideal bike fit.