Cleats, clips or platform pedals? Whats the right pedal for you?
Riders always wonder what the best pedal for them. In this article we are going to cover in broad strokes the pros and cons of generic flat pedals, cages ( with and without straps ) and cleats that engage into the pedal with a mounting mechanism. Lets get to it! Regular Flat Pedals Pros: These pedals are user friendly and generally easy to learn how to use. They come in a variety of types from metal, plastic to rubber. The most common alternative design is pedals with different kinds of teeth patterns that grip the rubber soles of shoes better. This is the most common type of pedal and it is found virtually on every type of bicycle - even those that eventually get their pedals replaced/upgraded to any of the other types Cons: Platform pedals are not that great once you start getting into more serious riding. From personal experience one of the main issues is that there is no mechanism holding your shoe to the pedal when the intent is that they dont separate. For example when mountain biking one may experience jumps and the foot may not land exactly back on the pedal as intended. This can be especially painful for men. Another situation that comes up is grip during the rain. As the foot slips off the pedal it can cause one to land painfully on the saddle or the top bar. To compensate pedals try to leverage rubberized or serrated surfaces but theyre just not as good as other pedal options. The most important issue with platform pedals when you get into more serious riding is that they are not as effective at energy transfer. If you visualize your crank as two circles on either side - you can only push on 1/4th of each circle or 2/8ths of the rotational potential of the entire drivetrain system. Cages ( with or without straps ) Pros: Cages allow for some amount of pull and push on the entire rotational potential of each pedal. Cages that have straps are even better of keeping the foot in the pedal without loss of force due to lateral movement that dissipates force during energy transfer. Using cages without straps is also a great way to add some energy transfer while staying casual and for some models being able to slip your foot in and out from the side without having to aim to insert it Cons: Cages are really no good when youre in a stop-and-go urban setting. Every time you stop at a light you have to get out of the cage and when you start up again youre primarily focused on looking down at and flicking your pedal into the right orientation to insert your foot instead of paying attention to the vehicle traffic.They dont offer a perfect lossless contact point like cleats; and are not as convenient as platforms either. Metal cages can really bite into your foot through your shoe. If you prefer to use the other side of your pedal they often scrape against the ground in that grating way where you can hear them destroying themselves on each pedal stroke. Cleats ( with Bike Shoes ) Pros: The &quot;LOOK pattern&quot; was popularized in the pro racing circuit in the mid-80s and since then anyone without cleats was left behind. The secret sauce is a solid engagement between the foot and the pedal that aids in optimal and continuous energy transfer from the rider into the drivetrain. To visualize this system as two circles on each side of the crank - the rider can push and pull continously through the rotation on both sides simultaneously. Additionally this solution prevents accidental dismounting of the foot from the pedal while overcoming high speed mtb terrain or road obstacles such as potholes. It also does not come apart during rain when a platform pedal would get slippery or just regular riding where human error can lead to sub-optimal foot position. Cons: The two biggest issues to overcome with cleats is cost and fear. Most cleat systems require a cleat pedal, the disposable cleat and the shoe ( some also the disposable heel ). This can set a rider back several hundred dollars and is not cheap for the highest quality options. On the fear side many riders are concerned with falling over since theyre really completely engaged into their bike and do not believe they could place their foot on the ground in an emergency situation. One can find plenty of videos on youTube of riders falling over while clipped in. The recommendation is to find the right style that works for you. Cages are an antique attempt at a cleat/shoe system and dont really offer the best for casual or serious riders. If you want a casual bike get platforms and once you progress to more serious riding get cleats. Cost seems prohibitive and the recommendation is to get the following: Shimano SPD-105 pedals $50, SIDI Shoes ( preferably used ) ~$200. Shimano makes the best low cost option and the cleat is actually omni-directional because it is weighted to always return to a neutral position - unlike an eggbeater medal which has 4 clip-in sides and likewise 4 sides which dont work! SIDI basically invented the system and makes some of the best shoes in the industry for cycling as well as motorcycles. Their shoes can last a decade or more compared with other brands, are comfortable and will save you money in the long run. You might fall over the first day you try cleats but once you fall in love with them theres no going back 7 Sprocket App Founder