If you're new to cycling, getting new pedals and shoes (both are required for going clipless) might seem a bit much. The way to decide whether it's worth the expense is considering your cycling. If you ride regularly on loops of 10 miles or more and expect to continue riding, we think you'll love the way a clipless system enhances the cycling experience by boosting your pedal power, comfort and safety.
To help you understand this important component, we’ve put together this buyers' guide (use the table of contents below to jump to the different sections).
What are Clipless Pedals?
Clips and Straps Versus Clipless
Just like there are two places to ride, on and off road, there are two types of clipless systems. The most popular are walkable clipless systems, on which the cleats are recessed into the shoe soles. This means the cleats don't contact the ground when you walk so this clipless system is ideal for walking and even hiking. Yet, it's still incredibly efficient for maximum pedal power. Walkable clipless pedals and shoes are ideal for off-road riding, commuting, touring and century riding, too.
Many of them utilize a double-sided pedal (photo, right), which means you can click into the pedal on either side so you don't have to look down to get your feet in. This also means that if you ride your bike with regular street shoes, you'll have a decent pedaling surface even though you're not using your special cleated cycling shoes.
The other system is road (photo, below) and as the name implies it's designed for use on road bikes where maximum efficiency, aerodynamics and minimum weight are all important. Road shoes are lighter and stiffer than walkable models because the soles aren't lugged.
The other difference in road clipless systems is that the cleats protrude from the soles of the shoes because the soles are so thin and light. This makes it difficult to walk in the shoes (though there are cleat covers available to protect the cleat and improve traction).
Also, road systems usually are single-sided so you must find the correct side of the pedal to click in when you start out. Most road pedals hang a certain way to make this relatively easy.
Float And Tension Adjustment
The majority of clipless systems today feature float. This is a few degrees of built-in lateral play allowing your feet to move slightly and find the optimum pedaling position. Float ensures that you won't injure your knees by riding with your feet misaligned with your knees, which was a common problem before pedals with float were invented.
Keep in mind that even though most clipless pedals offer float, it's still important to align the cleats carefully. They must be positioned to hold the balls of your feet over the pedals and to match your natural foot inclination. Our bike fitters are experts at this.
Another adjustment many clipless pedals offer is fine-tuning the ease of entry and exit. Competitive riders often set their pedals very firm because they don't want their feet popping out in all-out sprinting efforts. Meanwhile, mountain bikers like a loose setting so that they can get out with very little effort should they need to get their feet down in a hurry. A loose setting is also helpful if you're just starting out with clipless pedals.
When buying clipless pedals be sure to tell us how you'd like the pedals set-up so we can get them just right. We can also show you how to fine-tune the adjustment.
Getting Used To Riding Clipless