Clipless pedals are a pedal system that keeps your foot attached to the pedal of your bicycle with a spring-loaded system similar to that of a ski binding. Traditional pedals, those with flat sides that are ridden with everyday shoes, can allow your feet to slide around and even off the pedal resulting in a sore shin or potentially a crash. Clipless pedals are a three part system that not only keeps your foot from sliding off the pedal but also provides greater pedaling efficiency. The two types of clipless pedals can help improve your riding and make it more efficient and enjoyable.
What are Clipless Pedals
The three part system that makes up a clipless pedal starts with the pedal itself. This has a spindle just like a normal platform pedal but the plastic or metal platform is shaped in a way to allow the second part of the system, a matching cleat, to snap into it. A spring-loaded mechanism then secures the cleat in place so it doesn’t slide around nor pull out. The cleat is then attached to the final part of a clipless pedal system, the shoe. Shoes are made specifically for these cleats to be attached to the bottom of them via bolts. This three part system works in sync to keep your foot where it should be on the pedal as well as allowing you to pull up during the pedal stroke.
In this three part system, the cleats always come with the pedal as they are made to fit exclusively with each other. The shoes come in two styles, mentioned below, and can be used with their particular system, road or mountain.
How it Works
On the pedal there is a spring mechanism that holds the cleat to the pedal. To clip in, line the cleat up with the pedal and then push down, just like a ski binding. To release the shoe from the pedal, a simple twist of the heal outward releases the cleat. In the event of a fall, the pedal will release the cleat allowing your foot to come free from the bike.
A mountain setup, also referred to as a touring setup, consists of a pedal that can be clipped in easily on both sides. The cleat, which is attached with two bolts, is a smaller metal piece that is recessed into the shoe which is for mountain and touring only. The shoe has a walkable sole with a bit of tread on it to allow for easy and functional walking. This type of pedal is the only choice for mountain biking but also is a great choice if you are riding on the road but have frequent stops where you are walking around.
A road pedal set-up is made for road riding where walking is mostly avoided and efficiency is a high priority. Road pedals consist of a lightweight pedal that accepts a lightweight, typically plastic, cleat. The cleat is then attached to a “road” shoe with three bolts in a triangle pattern. This system creates a lighter and more aerodynamic pedal and shoe combo that is optimized for road riding.
Clipless pedals are a great way to improve your cycling and as you start to ride longer and farther it becomes a logical choice. A simple, non-high end, pedal and shoe system can actually be quite cheap and as your cycling progresses you can always upgrade. Cycling is full of technological advances and clipless pedals, although simple, provide an incredible advantage to both racers and recreational riders alike.