BottomBrackets Guide to Pedals
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A Beginners Guide To Clipless Pedals...

Using clipless pedals will make your cycling much more efficient.
Especially long distance cycling and getting up hills.

You feel more 'connected' to the bike.

You are...

They also stop you slipping off the pedals when riding over rough terrain.

Clipping in takes a little bit of getting used to. Attaching your feet to the pedals is something that beginners often feel uncomfortable with.

The truth is, it's worth it!

There is a Guide to Setting up Clipless Pedals at the bottom of the page.

Types of Clipless Pedal...

There are a few main pedal types to choose from - choose your pedals and shoes depending on the type of cycling you do - MTB, road or touring...

Choose mountain bike pedals if you want to be able to get off the bike, maybe to go for a wander or just to push over rough ground.
Only fit road pedals if you don't intend to get off and walk anywhere - except possibly into 'the caff'!

You can fit any type of pedals to any type of bike - the threads are exactly the same on all adult bikes.

How Clipless Pedals Work...

On all clipless pedals, a cleat is screwed to the sole of the shoe.
This cleat "clicks" into the pedal.

Although clipless pedals come in a variety of designs, the basic concept for clipping in and out is the same.
To clip in, step in with your toes and press down with your heel . Just twist your foot outwards to release.

There are 2 types of cleat :

  • Road cleats usually use a 3 bolt fixing with a triangular hole pattern.
  • Cleats for MTB & Touring use a 2 bolt fixing - 2 holes side by side.

    Cleats are usually supplied when you buy a new pair of pedals.

    MTB cleats are smaller and less obtrusive than road cleats so you can walk (or run!) to push the bike.

    Only buy road pedals if you don't intend to walk anywhere as the cleats are much larger. This provides better power transfer to the pedals but more 'off balance ballerina' moments in the queue at the cafe!

  • The Best Clipless Pedals for Beginners?

    The best clipless MTB Pedals for beginners are probably Shimano M424s. A basic MTB pedal with a bit of extra support for the novice clipless user.

    The best beginners Clipless Road Pedals are the Shimano R540 - a budget version of the pedals used by Mark Cavendish!

    SPD (Shimano Pedalling Dynamics) compatible pedals

    Shimano make pedals for both mountain bike and road cycling.

    SPD pedals can be used with any cycling shoes from any manufacturer.

  • SPD MTB cleats (also suitable for touring) sit flush with the sole of the shoe so do not hinder walking.
  • The SPD Road cleats protrude from the sole and can make walking difficult.

    The SPD MTB cleats are fastened using 2 bolts side by side and the SPD Road cleat with 3 bolts in a triangle pattern.

    Shimano's SPD pedals and SPD compatible pedals from other manufacturers are the most commonly used and easily available for both MTB & road cycling.

    SPD compatible MTB shoes are available in casual/trainer styles.
    These shoes (and pedals) are also particularly suited for cycletouring and cycle-commuting.

  • Look, Time Road Pedals...

    These type of pedals are mostly used by mile-eating road cyclists.

    The cleats use the standard 3-bolt triangular hole pattern and so can be fitted to any road cycling shoes (or triathlon shoes) from any manufacturer.

    The cleats protrude from the shoe and this combined with a very rigid sole can make them difficult to walk in - not recommended for sight-seers or MTB.

    As with all clipless pedal systems, a twist of foot foot releases the pedal.

    Time do also make mountain bike pedals (Time ATAC etc...) These use the standard MTB 2 cleat screw hole pattern so can be used with any MTB shoe from any manufacturer.

    Crank Brothers Pedals

    Crank Brothers make MTB pedals like the Eggbeater and Candy and Mallett.

    Due to the open design of the pedal mechanism, they are less likely to clog with mud when riding off-road.
    Another nice feature of the design is that there is no need for tension adjustment - and there's tons of 'float' . This allows your foot to move more naturally while pedalling.

    Crank Brothers MTB pedals can be used with any MTB Cycling Shoes from any manufacturer.

    The Crank Brothers cleat bolts into the standard 2-hole fitting (same 2 hole pattern as SPD MTB). It sits flush with the sole of your shoe, so you can get around when off the bike.

    P.S. Only buy Crank Bros Eggbeaters if the sole of your shoe is very stiff - not a lot of support there.

    Old fashioned clips and toe-straps

    The cheap and cheerful alternative to the high tech solutions described above! Simple to set up and still widely used and ideal if you don't feel too sure about 'clipping in'. Keep the straps loose until you gain confidence. No cleat has to be fixed to your shoe, so you can ride in trainers.

    Some consider them old fashioned but the most powerful riders in the world - track sprinters - still set records using toeclips and straps!

    Setting Up Pedals & Cleats

    Set clipless pedal systems up carefully...

    Pedal 'tension' is usually adjusted using a small screw on the pedal body. + or - to increase or decrease tension.

    Fore/Aft (Front/Rear) Positioning
    Put your shoe on...

    Find the ball of your foot - this defines the front/back position of your cleat.
    If neccessary, mark the sole of your shoe directly under the ball of your foot.

    Loosely fit the cleat so the bolt centers are in line with this mark. This will locate the ball of your foot directly above the pedal-axle.

    On road cleats you should see a line marked on the side of the cleat - align this with the ball of your foot.

    This will be your starting point. You might feel more comfortable or more powerful with slight adjustments.

    Cleat Alignment
    If you are anatomically perfect, the cleats should point to the front of your shoe.
    We are rarely anatomically perfect. So, we need to fit the cleats to you.
    This method worked for me (Ed);

    Sit on a table, high enough to dangle your legs.

    Look down at your feet and imagine a front to back straight line running through them. This is the alignment your cleats should take.

    Fit 'em & tighten 'em real good.

    Go for a gentle ride and pay close attention to how you feel in the first 5-10 minutes of riding. Warm legs are more forgiving of the bad positioning that can cause sore knees. Stop and adjust if you have to.
    I carried the alan key in a pocket for the first few rides and gave them a little tweak at cafe stops until I was happy!

    If your cleat angles seem extreme or wildly mis-matched, it might be worth a trip to a physio for a quick checkover - exclude any problems with hips or knees etc. that you could make worse.

    If you are really not sure get a shop to help set them up or you could get sore knees permanently.

    P.S. Bike shops often set them to a default start point - not always perfect. A professional individual bike fitting session will usually cost you a chunk of change!

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