Published on June 25th, 2012 | by JT0
Which pedals should I use?
Most people will be familiar with flat pedals and toe clips, but there are a lot of other standards and formats out there to improve your pedal efficiency and control. Contact points (the areas where your body contacts the bike i.e. pedals, bars/grips and saddle) are some of the most important parts of a bike – get them wrong and you can end up feeling a serious amount of discomfort or even pain.
Flat or platform pedals are probably the most common pedals available. You don’t need any specific shoes and you can just jump on them and ride. Some mountain bikers choose flat pedals as it’s easier to take your foot off and stomp it back on. However, you do lose a lot of pedal efficiency so it’s generally downhill or freeriders who opt for ‘flats’.
Spending more than £20 on pedals will get you a grippy platform that is great for aggressive use. The DMR V8 is a bit of a legend in the flat pedal market, for just £25 you have a choice of about 7 colours, get replaceable pins (which practically stick to your shoes) and a serviceable axle. They are a really common upgrade and a pretty bomb-proof if you keep them greased.
Clipless pedals, sometimes known as SPDs, are different in the fact you actually attach your shoe to the pedal in the same way you attach a ski to a binding. I know this sounds scary but it’s really not when you get used to it, however it’s better to practice clipping in and out before you go out and take on a mountain.
When you clip your shoe to the pedal, you have two main benefits. First, you’ll gain around 60% more power transfer by being able to pull up and push forward and back. Second, when riding rough terrain there will be less chance of losing your footing and you can pull the bike up when you jump.
The term SPD has become synonymous with clipless pedals, but in fact it stands for Shimano Pedalling Dynamics and only refers to Shimano made, clipless pedals.
Cleats are a small metal attachment that bolts on to the bottom of a clipless compatible shoe. The cleat has to be the correct type for the pedal you have, but most mountain shoes are compatible with mountain cleats and the same for road.
Road or mountain
There is a distinct difference between road and mountain bike pedals and cleats. First, they aren’t compatible, so if you want to use one pair of shoes to use on two bikes, you’ll need the pedals to match. This is quite common with mountain bikers who buy a road bike for training – they simply fit MTB clipless pedals to the road bike. They aren’t as ‘aero’ and might not have the same power transfer, but if you’re not going to be racing on them there’s no problem.