Why use clipless pedals?
Using the example of skiing again, imagine using duct tape to secure your running shoes to the ski. It may work, but your skiing experience probably won’t be all that great. Clipless pedals provide the rider with better control over the pedals and bicycle. If you think you may want clipless pedals, continue reading. Otherwise, you can skip to the next section of the book.
DESIGN – Clipless pedals all pretty much work in the same way. A pedal “cleat” is connected to the bottom of your cycling shoes. You simply place your foot (while wearing the special shoes, of course) on top of the pedal and push down. The pedal and cleat will then lock together. There is a common misconception that once you are locked into a clipless pedal, it is difficult to get out. Don’t believe the hype! You will be able to get out just as easily as you were able to get in. If you want to un-clip, you simply push your foot sideways and towards the ground. I would strongly recommend that you have your local bike shop demonstrate the locking and unlocking procedure for the pedal that you buy.
THE CLEAT – Each clipless pedal type has a unique cleat. Not all cleats are compatible with every shoe and not all shoes can accept every cleat. This difference forces the rider to make a decision on which is more important; the shoe or the pedal. For example, if you decide to buy a shoe first, you will have a limited set of cleat/pedals to choose from. Alternatively, if you must have a certain type of cleat/pedal, you will limit your shoe options. Either way, there are more than enough options for you to choose from that will make you happy. And we all want to be happy, don’t we?
Ease of locking (clipping in), ease of unlocking (clipping out), and most importantly, “float” are the main design differences with pedals. Practice clipping in and out at home before you go out on your first ride.
FLOAT – Float is the most important factor in selecting a pedal. Float describes the amount of freedom of movement a pedal will allow without unclipping. Why is this important? When you clip into your pedal, your foot becomes restricted in its range of motion. For many people, the limited motion could cause pain or injury to the ankles, knees or hips. Selecting a pedal with float allows for greater foot freedom.
SIZE – Imagine that you are going to balance yourself on a single pedal. The smaller the pedal is, the more difficult it is to balance, and the greater the strain on your ankle. Small pedals weigh less, but are not ideal for beginners. You should choose a medium-sized pedal.
SHAPE – Shape is the most subjective factor in selecting a pedal. Keep it simple for starters. As you ride more, you can consult with other cyclists and your LBS for upgrades that compliment your riding style.