/ Idiots Guide to Road Shoes & Clip In Pedals

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Gabe Oliver - on 28 May 2014
Hi everyone,

So I'm a bit of a punter when it comes to road bikes. I built my first one from scratch around 1 year ago and have since been riding with toe straps for commuting and the like.

However I'm looking to do some more long distance stuff in the near future so would like to get my hands on some clip in pedals, cleats and shoes but have no idea where to start.

Could someone recommend me a decent set up for a beginner please?

Many thanks
ClimberEd - on 28 May 2014
In reply to Gabe Oliver:

Simple really.

You need pedals.
It will need a shoe with a 'cleat' ( the bit on the bottom of the shoe' type, e.g. shimano or look)
When you buy the pedals the correct cleats will come with them.

Buy shoes, attach cleats to them that came with the pedals ( simple with an allen key.)

To start with just put them in a neutral position (mid shoe, no left or right angle).

Practice clipping in an out (probably holding onto a fence or something). Clipping in just requires a notable push through the shoe (rewarded with a click). Clipping out, a twist of the ankle, sometimes quite significant.

Away you go.

elliptic on 28 May 2014
In reply to ClimberEd:

To add to that, the different brands of cleat/pedal systems are all incompatible with each other, which is why the cleats come with the pedals not the shoes. But the bolt fittings are standardised and there are two basic types:

MTB type, two-bolt cleat: on these the cleat is quite small and sits in a recess in the sole of the shoes, so you can walk around easily off the bike.

Road type, three-bolt cleat: much bigger cleat which sticks out, so useless for walking but makes a stiffer interface when you're really putting the power down on the bike.

For pure road riding you'd pick a road-type system (obviously) but plenty of people (eg. me) do use MTB shoes and pedals cleats for everything including commuting, road training, sportive riding etc. etc. as they're more practical for everyday use and it saves duplication of kit if you're already a mountain biker.
Rigid Raider - on 29 May 2014
In reply to Gabe Oliver:

Good advice but SPD shoes, cleats and pedals are approximately double the weight of something like a Look Keo pedal, cleat and shoe. SPDs are certainly more convenient for walking around but less stiff and supportive in out of the saddle climbs.
Hat Dude on 29 May 2014
In reply to Gabe Oliver:

A quick point, when the previous posters talk about SPDs they're referring to the mountain bike type with two bolt cleats
Shimano also do SPD-SL pedals with a cleat that looks similar to a "Look" cleat but is not compatible

When you buy the pedals you will get the cleats with them.
Just make sure you have the correct type for your shoes
In reply to elliptic:



> For pure road riding you'd pick a road-type system (obviously) but plenty of people (eg. me) do use MTB shoes and pedals cleats for everything including commuting, road training, sportive riding etc. etc. as they're more practical for everyday use and it saves duplication of kit if you're already a mountain biker.

What you're actually saying is you can get off and push!

gethin_allen on 29 May 2014
In reply to A Nidderdale boulderer.:

> What you're actually saying is you can get off and push!

and you don't look so ridiculous walking from the bike store to the office when cycling to work.
I've got SPDsl shoes and pedals on my road bikes but I'm actually looking to change to a MTB spd system for commuting to work for practicality.
GrahamD - on 29 May 2014
In reply to gethin_allen:


> I've got SPDsl shoes and pedals on my road bikes but I'm actually looking to change to a MTB spd system for commuting to work for practicality.

I've just gone the other way - I started on MTB cleats on both bikes and the shoes are great for most of the time - winter, commuting, social rides etc but on my best bike I've now just changed to road cleats. Performance wise I'm sure for me the benefits are 90% phscological but they look great !
Johnny_Grunwald on 29 May 2014
In reply to Gabe Oliver:

Surprised nobody has given any advice on the obligatory falling over slowly at a junction when you mistime or completely fail to unclip. You will do it at at least one junction, it's a rite of passage. I did it twice :-)
Bob_the_Builder - on 29 May 2014
In reply to Johnny_Grunwald:

I did it once 10 years ago when I first rode clipless, then again once last year. No idea how that one happened. Rather embarrassing.

And it usually happens in front of a large crowd of onlookers.
Minneconjou Sioux - on 29 May 2014
In reply to Bob_the_Builder:


> And it usually happens in front of a large crowd of onlookers.

Always.
steev on 29 May 2014
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

In my case, in front of a lot of traffic in Bristol city centre, who then watched me crawl over 2 lanes to the kerb with bike still attached to my feet because I still couldn't unclip.
Bob_the_Builder - on 29 May 2014
In reply to steev:

Ooftae! Cringe worthy indeed.

The last time I toppled a mothering type thought I was concussed because I couldn't believe it had happened after 9 years of using them without incident!
AlisonSmiles - on 29 May 2014
In reply to Gabe Oliver:

I don't recommend trying out a new type of road pedals for the first time in Majorca where they ride on the different side of the road at the same time as suffering from labyrinthitis.

Actually, if I can do that then I suspect that in normal circumstances and in normal health you'll have no trouble at all.
malk - on 29 May 2014
In reply to Gabe Oliver:

the shimano A530 has been good for me-one side is a platform, although i did forget i was clipped in today- and of course it was in front of a shop with people looking;)
Bob_the_Builder - on 29 May 2014
In reply to AlisonSmiles:

Based on a quick google of labyrinthitis it seems like cycling at all would be a bad idea!
dr_shred - on 30 May 2014
In reply to Gabe Oliver:

Hi Gabe,

There's a FAQ over at the CycleChat forum
http://www.cyclechat.net/threads/clipless-pedals-faq.74358/
... followed by 36 pages of discussion!
AlisonSmiles - on 30 May 2014
In reply to Bob_the_Builder:

It was all I could do. Walking was too bouncy, mountain biking made me travel sick. Road cycling, provided you mostly stick with straight lines is not too bad because you don't move your head. Descending Holme Moss wasn't nice though.

Back on topic. For what it's worth, I'm on Speedplay pedals because I have IT band issues, and weird angled knees. The physio recommended these as they have the most float and let your legs work at the angles which are natural for them. If you're at all ancient and have dodgy knees these are worth at least looking at.
climbingpixie - on 30 May 2014
In reply to Gabe Oliver:

I'd recommend NOT getting Time pedals and cleats. The pedals are good but the cleats wear out ridiculously quickly - I think I only got about a thousand miles out of the last set!
Tricky Dicky - on 30 May 2014
In reply to climbingpixie:

On the other hand I get on really well with my Time ATAC pedals & cleats.......
Alun - on 30 May 2014
In reply to Rigid Raider:

> Good advice but SPD shoes, cleats and pedals are approximately double the weight of something like a Look Keo pedal, cleat and shoe

Sorry, but this is not true - the weight depends entirely on the gear you have, not necessarily the system you use. For example, Shimano A520 SPD road pedals are 40g lighter per pedal than Look Keo classics; both pedals cost about the same. My Specialized XC MTB shoes are the same weight as my Decathlon 3-bolt road shoes, and just as stiff (although about 30 quid more expensive).

What is certain is that there is a greater selection of lighter weight 3-bolt pedals and shoes, so if you wanted to spend more money, you can achieve lighter weight. But even if you spend 500 quid you wouldn't get anywhere near to halving the weight of an A520 pedal, cleats and half decent shoes.

FWIW I own both 2-bolt and 3-bolt systems, ridden both quite a lot, and prefer the 2 bolt system. Although I acknowledge that by spending more money I could get a 3 bolt system which is lighter and stiffer, but we're into marginal gains territory here.
Gabe Oliver - on 30 May 2014
In reply to Gabe Oliver:

All really useful information, thank you to all of you!

I think I prefer to sound of the Road SPD setup despite the potential for serious embarassment when I fall over for the first (and most likely 2nd time)

What's the clip in method like for the MTB system though? I know it's a kind of rotating press with the foot to clip into the Road SPD. Is it similar when using the MTB clip in pedals?

Minneconjou Sioux - on 30 May 2014
In reply to AlisonSmiles:

> I have IT band issues, and weird angled knees. The physio recommended these as they have the most float and let your legs work at the angles which are natural for them. If you're at all ancient and have dodgy knees these are worth at least looking at.

You aren't selling yourself well here, Alison ;-)
Bob_the_Builder - on 03 Jun 2014
In reply to Gabe Oliver:

The basic concept for clipping in is exactly the same for most pedals. And the falling over potential too. I believe mtb pedals are usually slightly easier to pull out of (almost all of them will pull out without the twist if enough force is applied, such as in a crash). That won't help the toppling over though, just means you can't pull on the upstroke reliably.
AndyC - on 03 Jun 2014
In reply to Bob_the_Builder:

> The basic concept for clipping in is exactly the same for most pedals.
And the falling over potential too. I believe mtb pedals are usually slightly easier to pull out of (almost all of them will pull out without the twist if enough force is applied, such as in a crash).

Yes, I can vouch for that!

>That won't help the toppling over though, just means you can't pull on the upstroke reliably.

Not my experience, have (so far) never suffered an inadvertant unclip with MTB pedals. Maybe my legs are just too weak?!!!

Bob_the_Builder - on 03 Jun 2014
In reply to AndyC:

I had it happen only once, with very worn cleats.

But a mate of mine pulled out of the pedal right in front of a bus. Luckily the bus only ran over his bike, but he still had to get his cheekbone rebuilt. Dunno how old his cleats were though. I've never pulled on the upstroke since... It's bad form anyway innit.
JamButty - on 03 Jun 2014
In reply to Bob_the_Builder:

I've wondered about this pulling on the upstroke thing. I don't knowingly do it most of the time, but if I think about it and actually pull up it feels like I'm being more efficient, but I get tired quick in my calves.
What is the right process?
Bob_the_Builder - on 03 Jun 2014
In reply to JamButty:

I think it would be hard to do without noticing, its a pretty unnatural way to use the muscles.

I believe you should start applying force through the very top of the stroke, pushing forwards initially, and continue very slightly past the bottom.

As somebody said (dunno who but my dad used to tell me) "pedal circles, not squares!" Obviously the pedals will always go in a circle but consciously thinking of it seems to help my pedaling style.

If you get tired more quickly it is less efficient. =D
As far as I know people only pull on the upstroke when trying to accelerate HARD. And its a good way to pull a muscle. Woohoo!
Enty - on 03 Jun 2014
In reply to Gabe Oliver:

I don't know why people make such a big deal about not being able to unclip and falling over.
OK, I admit it happend to me, let's face it, it's a right of passage. Outside the Little Chef approaching a roundabout, I slowed too quickly, didn't get me feet out of my new SPD's and fell over at zero mph - very embarassing as the restaurant was full and they all saw me through the window.
However that was in 1989 and it's never happened since. If you keep forgetting to unclip and falling over there's something seriously wrong.

E
Enty - on 03 Jun 2014
In reply to Bob_the_Builder:

"The myth of the upstroke" - google it.

E
Bob_the_Builder - on 03 Jun 2014
In reply to Enty:

I don't think anyone is suggesting it should happen more than once or twice. It has happened to me twice and I don't know what happened the second time.

Believe it or not it is fun to reminisce, and a good way to humorously make OP aware that if it happens to them once they shouldn't be put off.

I enjoy riding bikes, working on bikes, and talking about bikes. You seem to enjoy telling people they don't know anything about bikes. Admittedly there is room for all kinds of people in the world, but acting like anybody else's opinion is wrong and idiotic ruins the fun a bit. In case you weren't aware.
Bob_the_Builder - on 03 Jun 2014
In reply to Enty:

I'm not saying its a good idea, but some people are going to do it even if you tell them not to. If you're going to pull on the upstroke, better not to pull out of a pedal and faceplant in front of a bus.

I'm sure people know they can google the merits and/or dis merits of the upstroke themselves. But if not, they probably greatly appreciate your suggested search terms.

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