Monday, March 26, 2012

Navigating the World of Clipless Pedals

Last summer I wrote about trying to ride clipless and failing. Unfortunately, not much has changed since then. For background, I do ride my roadbike with foot retention: I use Power Grips, adjusted as snugly as possible. They bind my feet to the pedals effectively while still being extremely easy to get out of. Sure, they don't exactly look "pro," but they get the job done and anyone who thinks otherwise has probably never tried them. Still, it bothers me that I just can't master riding clipless after all this time, while others have no trouble with this skill at all. This year I was determined to get to the bottom of what makes it so hard for me. 

My first step was to start from scratch. Last year, the Co-Habitant gave me his old clipless pedals (Shimano M520) and I used those by default. I got as far as being able to ride around the block gingerly, but ultimately just wasn't comfortable with it. Later more than a couple of women told me that they hate these pedals and cannot use them either, and that what I should really do is go to a bike shop and try as many different pedals as possible. I didn't know you could do that, but apparently some bike shops offer this service. Since I spend a lot of time at the Ride Studio Cafe as it is, I arranged with them for a fitting. They have a trainer in the back room where you can set up either your own bike or one of their demo bikes, and they have a variety of clipless shoes and pedals to try.

To ride clipless, you have to buy a set of pedals, which are sold with cleats, and a pair of compatible shoes. The cleats that are purchased with the pedals are then attached to the shoes. There are many brands of these pedal/cleat systems, and they are generally classified into road (SPD-SL) vs mountain (SPD) - a little misleading, since in practice both are frequently used by roadcyclists. The mountain bike system (left) features small cleats with 2 attachment points. Notice also that on the shoe, the part where the cleat goes is recessed, so that when off the bike you walk on the sole and not on the cleat itself. The road system (right) features larger cleats with 3 (or 4) attachment points. And the shoe is not recessed, so that when off the bike you actually walk on the cleat (this is why roadies make those click-clacking noises on pavement). As it is explained to me, the benefit of the road system is that more of your foot is attached to the pedal. The benefit of the mountain system is that it is easier to walk off the bike. 

Popular road-compatible systems include Look, Shimano, Time and Speedplay, all shown here. The former 3 are near-identical, but the Speedplays (the smaller pedal on top) are a little different in shape and attachment style (also they are double-sided, whereas the other road pedals are one-sided). I did not bother trying these, because nearly everyone I know who uses them seems to have problems. But I tried the Shimano and Look SPD-SL, and I liked them both. The clipping mechanism felt very different than that of the (SPD) Shimano M520s I was practicing with last year. For me at least, it felt much easier to clip and unclip with the road pedals; the mechanism did not feel clunky or death-grippy. With the SPD cleats last year, even on the weakest setting I felt as if I were stomping on the pedal with all my might to clip in and jerking the bike sideways in order to unclip. With the road system, the mechanism on the pedal felt as if it grabbed the cleat without much effort on my part, and I could also unclip fairly easily. On the downside, I found the road shoes slippery to walk in, which made me nervous. A number of people I ride with discouraged me from going with the road system for this very reason.

Having already tried the typical Shimano SPDs and determined that I did not like them as much as the SPD-SL, the one system left to try was Crank Brothers. This is technically a mountain bike system, and the cleat looks very similar to SPD cleats. However, the pedals are 4-sided and use a different mechanism. I had hope for these pedals, because those who use them report that they are very easy to clip in and out of compared to the other mountain systems. I tried them, and I agree. The mechanism engages and releases very easily, and I know that I will be able to practice with these without the "what if I can't unclip?!" anxiety. The model pictured here is the Egg Beaters, but I ordered the Candys - which are the same, except with a platform. I wanted the platform version, because I do not like the feel of tiny pedals and want more support for my foot. I think the platform will also make it easier for my foot to locate the binding mechanism, before that part becomes intuitive.

It is yet to be determined whether I'll be able to master clipless, but I have a feeling that if I can do it at all then I'll be able to do it with these Crank Brothers. My biggest problem so far has been fear over the effort of unclipping, which should no longer be an issue with these. I will keep you posted on future progress or lack thereof. But for any beginners reading this, I encourage you to visit a bike shop that specialises in this stuff and talk to them, try different pedal/cleat combinations and see how they feel - as opposed to struggling with a system just because a spouse or a friend uses it. 

105 comments:

  1. I'm really surprised to hear you had so many troubles with the M520s. I work in a bike shop, and have heartily recommended those exact pedals to many cyclists, including riders like yourself, who have little experience with clipless, or are worried about falling over or being unable to unclip. One of those people includes my 'co-habitant', who had no problem adapting to them.

    With the tension set at it's lowest setting, I describe unclipping with the M520s as requiring only marginally more force than taking your foot off the pedal, and most people who've tried them seem to agree. The key is getting the tension set down.

    I had the exact opposite experience to you with Candys. I had heard rave reviews about them, and I bought some and tried to love them for several weeks, but gave up on them in frustration. I found you have to push your ankle much too far out to unclip, and a lot harder than with the Shimano's. I had my only clipless-related accident ever with those pedals, before I gave up on them and sold them.

    I'm not saying you're wrong - I just had a very different personal experience than you.

    Given that you found every road pedal easier to clip out of than the M520s, I would be inclined to think something was wrong with the Shimano pedals you tried - you're the only person I've ever heard say that the M520s were harder to clip out of than basically any road pedal. For most people new to clipless, road pedals generally seem much harder to get out of.

    But of course, all this is very much a matter of personal opinion or experience. I'm glad to hear you're giving clipless another try (although I'm by no means an adherent anymore), and I hope you have more success with the Candys.

    You've got a really great blog, which I really enjoy reading.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm also wondering if there was something wrong with the SPD pedals -- or maybe the cleats were worn. I haven't tested as many systems as you have, but the only time when I've had a hard time getting into or out of my various SPD pedals has been a) when too much ice or snow had covered them; b) when a screw on the cleats had come loose; c) when the cleats were worn out. So it might be worth giving the SPDs another try.

      Delete
    2. I hope no one takes this post to be a promotion for Crank Brothers pedals; my whole point is that it really is a personal experience and that others aren't you. Try a bunch of different systems if possible; the one you like may not be the same as the one your friend/husband/grandma likes.

      Personally, I have no problem with having to angle my foot 15deg or whatever it is in order to get out of the pedal; that's pretty much what I have to do with the Power Grips, so I am used to it. Much more important to me is how much effort it takes to pull out. I've tried several Shimano SPD pedals now, and I just don't like the feeling of the binding mechanism; it doesn't want to let me go. For whatever reason, both the SPD-SL and the Crank Bros feel easier in comparison.

      Delete
    3. "I'm also wondering if there was something wrong with the SPD pedals -- or maybe the cleats were worn."

      Nope. I've tried several now, including a set of new ones. It's just me.

      Delete
    4. I tend to agree with Velouria completely: even on the loosest setting, my Shimano SPDs engage very tightly and require significant effort to release. I vastly prefer my Look road pedals w/road shoes for ease of clip-in/clip-out, but I do appreciate the recessed SPD mountain shoes with SPD platform pedals (Shimano A520), especially if I'm doing any kind of trail riding or dirt roads that might require me to do some walking.

      Delete
    5. Ok, mtb cleats tend to be designed simply to clear muck, disengage easily, and be recessed for walkability. That said, my M520s don't have a linear, progressive feel. I know this falls under "Ew, fluids" but a drop of lube on the cleat helps, but bear in mind this is an entry-level pedal and, as such, in my HUMBLE opinion, sucks raw eggs. Mrs. GR rides my 20+ yr. old Ritchey pedals of similar design but they're vastly better.

      Lot of people who like to walk around between pedal strokes, particularly randonneurs, gravitate towards the recessed style.

      So the obvious, unaswered question is what kind of shoes are you getting?

      Delete
    6. somervillain - Wow, somehow I missed that you'd switched to road pedals, and I'm also surprised that you agree. I thought surely you & MDI would gang up on me to preach about the SPDs!

      What shoes do you use with the Looks, and how is walking in them, esp up and down stairs?

      Delete
    7. M520 is fine. I eventually "upgraded" to M540, I think, or whatever the higher end pedal is, but only because it was going on a new bike and I needed silver. My M520 survived beach sand and mud. I would grease it every now and then. There is/was a higher end one still, lighter weight. I would be very surprised if that feels/works any better than mine (or M520 for that matter).

      Delete
    8. You won't know 'til you've tried it, not that I have. You greased the springs or cleat?

      Delete
    9. Oh yeah, obviously there is a huge weight/strength discrepancy btwn you two.

      Delete
    10. So did you decide on shoes Velouria? I'm about to start exploring this myself. Needless to say it feels overwhelming...

      Delete
  2. "A number of people I ride with discouraged me from going with the road system for this very reason."

    I think those people did you a disservice. SPD-SL is the better system for the kind of cycling you are gravitating toward. My advice would have been to go with the Looks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those people are doing the kind of cycling I am gravitating toward. I am pretty sure John Bayley even races in his Shimano A600 SPDs.

      Delete
    2. I can (belatedly) confirm that rumour and I am very happy with how they have worked in those and other circumstances.

      I have a quick observation to add that I don't believe anyone else made and which relates to difficulty clipping into and releasing from SPD-type pedals. That is, the lug depth of MTB shoes varies widely, from the shallow lugs on Sidi shoes to the deep ones on Giros, two examples that I am familiar with. For a given pedal, the former allow easy entry and release along with free float, while the latter are the opposite. Or, to put it another way, one can have very different experiences with one pair of pedals while wearing different shoes.

      Delete
  3. I'd encourage you to try Time MTB pedals. I bought the first Shimano SPDs soon after they came out but switched after 50,000 miles after increasing bouts of tendinitis. 100,000 miles on the Time's pedals have not produced any similar symptoms. That the foot can move in more ways while pedalling has I think helped over the millions of times I have turned the cranks.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You'll get the hang of it! I've heard good things about the Egg Beaters, although I've never used them (I've used the Shimano SPD and Time ATAC varieties on my own bikes, and generally prefer the latter).

    I found once I got used to them, I pretty much ride either clipless or flat exclusively, and avoid toe straps. They're easier and in the event of a spill (which happens to some of us more than others) you'll pop out of clipless with enough force, whereas toe straps will hold on until you injure an ankle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Toe clips scare the hell out of me, but Power Grips are different. They are extremely intuitive to get out of, even with only milliseconds to react. 2 years now and I've never even had a close call. Cannot recommend enough.

      Delete
    2. Velouria, I have never used any kind of toe clip/ clipless etc. Do you use PowerGrip pedals for on your transport bikes too?

      Delete
    3. No, I use flat city pedals on my transportation bikes. But then transportation and road cycling are like two different worlds for me.

      Delete
    4. I've dabbled with powergrips, but I've never been able to figure out how to stop them from pinching (really wide feet), but they do seem easier to deal with than toe straps.

      Delete
    5. "But then transportation and road cycling are like two different worlds for me."

      its going to be interesting to see whether you feel this way 2 years from now.

      Delete
    6. Well I've been riding for 3 years already on a daily basis pretty much and over time my separation of the two has grown more, not less extreme. So I don't see why in 2 years it should suddenly reverse directions.

      The only way I could see things changing is if I were to move somewhere rural, with a hilly 20 mile commute.

      Delete
    7. I think its possible that as you become more accustomed to road bikes and sporty clothing your aesthetic sensibilities will change. I also think that the distinction between transport cycling and sport/fitness cycling is more a matter of aesthetics than practicality.

      Delete
    8. I think we all have different definitions of what is practical, and those definitions are based on how we dress on a daily basis and what we use our bikes for. For me an upright step-through is definitely a practical consideration. The fact that I want it to be "pretty" is aesthetic, sure.

      Delete
  5. Out of curiosity, did the RSC folks try to steer you toward any particular system?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They think road is ideal for pure roadcycling, and Rob V specifically likes the Shimano SPD-SL pedals (for their durability, as I understand it). However, the manager of the RSC uses the crank Bros for cyclocross and off road, so she likes those as well.

      Delete
    2. +1 for choosing a single pedal system for all your road, mtb, etc bikes. Keeping it simple is good.

      Delete
  6. "what if I can't unclip?!"

    "My biggest problem so far has been fear over the effort of unclipping,"

    track standing is not only an extremely useful skill but it can end the fear of toppling over. its also a far easier skill to learn than is commonly assumed.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Velouria, after years of using Look-type clipless pedals and road shoes, I switched to Speedplay Frogs and mountain bike shoes (I wanted to walk more easily off the bike). I found the Frogs to be much more comfortable, and allowed my heel to have more lateral movement and to unclip more easily - the cleat is not clipped in by spring tension. It was more comfortable and easier on my knees. So - I encourage you to consider trying them, if possible. Then again, I have since gone the Rivendell route, and now ride with sneakers and MKS touring pedals...but I'm not riding for speeed anymore. I really enjoy your blog! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I converted over to the Crankbrother's system a while ago and road exclusively clipless for about 2 years. Most days I would wear my clipless shoes all day.

    About a year ago I tried out Power Grips and almost immediately gave up clipless. I still have clipless pedals for speed riding, but leave them at home when I go touring. I like having flexibility in my feet when I pedal.

    Whatever feels good and right, go with that.

    Additionally you might want to look into the MKS EZY system, as it gets rid of that notion of "sticking" with one type of pedal design.

    ReplyDelete
  9. SPD is a good general choice.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Good luck this time around. I suspect once you get over the initial anxiousness and develop a muscle memory you'll really enjoy them. Fears are tough, i get it, but in my experience this is much easier than skating :) Plus, the pleasure of a good system in not so much the pedals but the shoes. Wow, when they're a good pair and fit properly it's the cat's meow.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Useful post for those considering a clipless system. I've been biking a long time: I first rode using cleats and clips and straps, then dropped the cleats because I had no need to be that firmly attached to the bike. I used SPD for a few years and then switched to the Look system for about a decade. I finally decided that the chief impetus for going clipless was the tremendous commercial and peer pressure associated with these products. I'm back to riding with clips and (loose) straps on my road bike and bare pedals on my townie and MTB. I am simply unpersuaded, by my own experience, that the marginal mechanical advantage associated with being firmly attached to the pedal outweighs the obvious disadvantages. You are committed to wearing an expensive bike costume, you really can't walk around much in any of these systems, so using your bike to explore new places that might involve some walking is quite impractical. No doubt you've considered all of this and then some. Although I notice that the main disadvantage you cite for considering clipless is that the system you use, and are quite happy with, "doesn't exactly look PRO".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've certainly considered it, and the argument makes sense for bikes that are used for a variety of activities. But in practice I have to say that I do not use my fast roadbike to explore new places on foot; I use it on nonstop rides. I already look like an idiot in my tight shorts and jersey, so why not shoes.

      To be honest, I am also not convinced that the clipless system will offer a sufficient advantage over my Power Grips to justify the trouble and expense. However, I can't say for sure until I master clipless and actually use it on a real ride as opposed to around the block. I can always sell the pedals afterwards if I don't like them, and the loss I incur is a price I am willing to pay to find out.

      As for this:

      "I notice that the main disadvantage you cite for considering clipless is that the system you use, and are quite happy with, "doesn't exactly look PRO"."

      Nah. I am fine not looking pro, in fact I think it's pretty funny. What bothers me is that it's not a choice, that I can't do it. Every time I ride with people who easily use clipless it's like a failure staring me in the face. Don't like.

      Delete
    2. PRO isn't about what you wear, but how you pedal the bike.

      Delete
    3. Most of the performance advantage of any pedal/cleat/shoe system is in the shoes. Current production quality shoes are narrowly designed to work with clipless pedals. Buying and using the complete system is the path of least resistance.

      Solidly attaching shoe to pedal is a necessity for sprinting, if you do that. It may help for climbing, depends a lot on pedal style. Good shoes help all the time.

      Delete
  12. Can we all take a moment to remember how embarrassing it is to topple over like a tree? As a rule, this is most likely to occur when you are wearing your most ridiculous lycra and cycling slowly past an audience of bewildered non-cyclists.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, my most embarrassing topples had nothing to do with pedals and cleats! If one rides enough there's a wealth of opportunities.

      Delete
    2. Oh it's not embarrassment I am worried about. Its a car running me over as I fall over right in front of it in traffic on my way to a ride!

      Delete
    3. In my brief time trying clipless pedals I fell over at a light in front of traffic. I had a bone bruise on my hip that lasted for at least 6 months and was happy I was not run over.

      Needless to say I no longer use those clipless pedals. When I was thinking about riding my old road bike last summer, the first thing I did was put the old toe-clip pedals back on it.

      I'm not saying this to scare you or talk you out of it, I just would argue that it's a good idea to get very comfortable with them before riding in real traffic.

      Delete
    4. When I was first learning to ride clipless I would have nightmares about falling over in front of speeding semi trucks, almost every night for two weeks.

      I fell over way more times than I care to mention, and I'm still afraid to ride with them in traffic, but I'm getting there.

      My main problem these days is that I go back and forth between my road bike and my cross/commuter bike, and so if I'm not concentrating on the fact that my road bike has a death grip on my feet I sometimes just simply forget to clip out.

      Good luck! I'm looking forward to reading about how things go.

      Delete
    5. A friend of mine, who rode a couple of hundred miles a week year in and year out, has broken both hips in different falls because he didn't get out of his toe clips fast enough. I'd need a couple of lifetimes to do all the biking he's done, but the lesson stuck anyway. My Rivendell/MKS Grip Kings work flawlessly--I have no joint or tendinitis problems, and I can bike in whatever shoes I happen to be wearing when I walk out the door. Oh, and the Grip Kings are several times cheaper than a pair of clipless pedals and the accompanying shoes. Call me a Luddite.

      Delete
  13. You'll be fine--as with anything, it just takes practice.
    Practice clipping in and out 100 times on each side...on the grass (I did it in my living room, but make sure there is no furniture to fall into). Seriously. 100 times.
    Then do drills: find a short, flat and quiet stretch of road or bike path and practice just starting and stopping (clipping in/out) for an hour or two--this builds both muscle memory and confidence to help lose that "what if I can't unclip!" feeling.

    I started with 2-sided Shimano SPDs and MTB shoes which worked well for me.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I rode on Crank Bros Candy pedals (my first clipless system) for more than three years. I really liked how you can clip into them in either direction.

    Recently, I moved to Shimano A530 (clipless on one side, platform on the other since I often want to wear ordinary shoes on short distances).

    After 1000km, on the SPD system, I can't really say I have a strong preference. I occasionally miss being able to clip in backwards but it's no big deal.

    Speaking of adjustment on the SPDs, I had to fiddle with the spring tension to get a feeling I liked. If I remember correctly, they were almost impossible to get out of until they were adjusted. Some people like a really tight clip I guess.

    I know this is a silly thing to figure out over the internet, but if you felt you were jerking the bike around to un-clip, I'd guess you were using the whole leg to un-clip. It should be possible just to swing your heel (pivot on the clip) out to get out of the clip.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I think some people may assume that having 4 (Eggbeater) entry points instead of 2 (M520 and similar) is better, but in fact the double sided SPD pedals rotate into position when you go to clip in, regardless of initial orientation, just like platform pedals do when you put your foot down.

    What I like about the SPD system is that it never accidentally pops out and I still have some movement on maximum tension. It never hurt my knees, ankles, etc, so I trust it now. It's important to develop this level of comfort with a system, or else it's better to go back to what worked.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right, the 4 sides are not any easier than the 2 sides of your SPD. What I prefer about the Crank Bros is purely how easy (i.e. less effortful) it is to clip in and unclip.

      Delete
    2. I think that MDI hits upon a good point. Everyone can hoot and holler about how good xx pedals are, but the fact is that everyone is different. Some enjoy road-style pedals while others favor mountain pedals. Personally I use both.

      When using my bike for exercise, I hop it a set of Look Keos and I'm off. Road style pedals typically have far more adjust-ability to the system than mountain pedals; ie force to clip in, unclip, amount of float while clipped in, angle needed to unclip, and the force of 'ejection'. I have my Keos with the least amount of float and quite a high retention force tuned in. I found that I was having knee problems from too MUCH float and need to 'lock' in my leg geometry. On top of that, I was capable of ripping my foot right out of the pedals when going up hills without a really high retention setting dialed in. All personal preferences which Look (and most of the other road-style manufacturers) have accounted for and added adjust-ability.

      However, I use Shimano PD A600 and SPD cleats when I'm commuting. Most recently I purchased some shoes from DZR that, I think, pull of the 'look like normal yet still clip in the pedal' shoe ideal pretty well. Even if the style isn't your taste, they DO NOT look like bicycle shoes and I really don't want to be pegged as 'the bicycle guy' wherever I go. Anyways, the little SH-51 cleats do have the benefit of hiding when I don't need them and providing that extra efficiency and security when I do. If I could get the same adjust-ability with them as I do my Keos, I wouldn't use two separate pedal styles.

      I have to say that being someone who has ridden with clips for more than half their life (I'm only 20, so its just more than half now), I feel more secure on a bicycle with clipless pedals than one with toe straps or nothing. The action of unclipping in so ingrained that I feel lost when I can power up a hill, hop a pothole etc.

      I know this is long, but I'll say one more thing. I find that what most beginners (I talk to plenty of new kids on team rides on weekends) say about road-style pedals is that they actually help one unclip and are thereby better for the beginners. None-the-less, every weekend someone falls over when waiting as a light or in line to do a hill sprint...

      Its all about forcing yourself to get back up. My Looks have so many scratches on the sides of them you would think that I took a file to them. I learned on the pedals, replaced their bearings 3 times during my years of riding and I still can't bring myself to buy a new set. I like them THAT much, even though they have showed me the pavement many times. Not to scare you, most pavement investigations happen in races.

      So have a ball with the crystal slipper Crank Bros pedals. You will fall with your feet still hooked in, everyone does; but, confidence on your feet is the most important thing.

      Ok, one more tip. When we get a bunch of new kids on the rides (generally April is the month for the new arrivals), I always get all of them corralled into a soccer field and have them practice coming to a stop, unclipping and setting their foot down. Falling on grass hurts them and their bikes less, even if it makes the actual riding of the bike more difficult... Just one more thing to think about.

      Ok, I'm done now. I promise!

      Delete
  16. Lazy bunnyhops... my best justification for clipless...

    ReplyDelete
  17. If I remember correctly, you have posted that you are basically not able to repair any problem-including punctures- with the bike. You have to choose shoes that you can walk in if this is right.
    I gave up Look for SPD for this reason (walking) though there few problems I can't fix myself.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I would recommend the Speedplay Frogs. Easy in and out, double sided. Easy on the knees.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I have the Candys on one bike and I love them! Will be buying them for my other bikes that have SPD pedals. Can't wait to swap them all out and be able to wear any shoes on any bike. I think you will be fine with them.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I hope you do well with the crank bros. i know folks who swear by them, and i know ppl who call the "leg beaters" and hate them. I don't care either way, but i think the pricing is waaaaay out of line, considering they're produced in forced-labor sweatshops. Personally, I'm phasing clipless systems out of my life, especially now that I've found that riding trails in sneakers with quill-type pedals is more my thing. I've never cared much for riding clipless on the road.

    Anyway, we're 26 posts in, and no one has mentioned that there are different Shimano SPD cleats, with different float and angles of disengagement. I suspect that using the 520s with the "downhill" sh56 cleats may have solved your problems, for less money.(fwiw, the m520s come stock with the sh51 cleats, which are the stiffest version, with only lateral disengagement.) But, you should do fine with the crank bros, too.

    I've done my time with clipless, but once my current pair of shoes is dead, I'll be selling/donating my pedals. I frankly don't see enough benefit, unless you're racing (or pretending to be a racer). Wow, this blog certainly has evolved quite a bit, hasn't it? =D

    -rob

    ReplyDelete
  21. Alright Velouria I'm cheering you!!! You'll prevail and the day you have one of those ohhhh shittt I'm going down moments, ahhh dust yourself and laugh it off!!! as for ridiculous lycra I prefer toppling over in woven burlap??? Rule V if you get a chance read the "Rules" Keepers of the Cog good luck Glenn in the NW

    ReplyDelete
  22. I definitely second the Speedplays. Never had any problems. They are especially great if you have any bio-mechanical probs.

    ReplyDelete
  23. There are two types of SPD cleats which drastically change the ease of use. SM-SH51 come with most shoes and should be avoided at all costs. SM-SH56 makes getting out so easy I can't imaging using something else.

    I rode LOOKs for a while and though the width is nice clipping in and out is much harder than with the SM-SH56.

    The SPD pedals I use are single sided (PD-A530) and have yet to fall. I fell twice with the LOOks in a few months because I couldn't clip in or out correctly.

    When I get my fair weather bike I'll likely get Ultegra (PD-A600) as I won't need to wear normal clothes/shoes with it.

    As for crank bros Iv'e had a co-worker who went through 3 pairs before giving up and getting Shimano pedals because the springs break so often.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i disagree completely. when i used sh56 i would wear through a set of cleats every 9-12 months (they become useless when they start unclipping on the up). now i use use sh51 (really just wellgo 98a at $11 online) exclusively and can get them to least 12-16 months.

      Delete
  24. I have been riding Look pedals for about 30 years and still used my original 1984 pair regularly. But the springs are finally starting to go, so I switched to a newer pair of 1995 Shimano Dura Ace pedals that work just fine.

    As for slipping - a $10 pair of rubber cleat covers work well. I think mine are bbb but I suspect other makers have them also. I carry them in a jersey pocket ready for quick application at controls.

    Lee

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have yet to go clipless and may never go clipless, though my cycling friends urge me to. At my age I really don't want to keep up with a pack. One or two riding friends are fine. Since I have a knee prone to injury, I'm especially concerned about having to get out of clipless pedals. They do have to be periodically adjusted and checked and when they have some age and wear, who knows what can happen.

      Delete
    2. I've used all sorts of clipless pedals -- Samson Stratics! -- and never have found much need to adjust cleats or tension once dialed in (that is a key provision), at least on SPDs and Looks. I've found SPD clones don't "click in" as cleanly and don't retain as well: Ritchey, Wellgo, Onza and the worst of the lot, WTB. Oddly, for several years I went back to old slotted cleats and straps and still find it harder to click in to Looks and single sided SPDs than the slotted cleats -- this on fixed gears, too. But I found that my feet kept migrating sideways and rubbing the crank arms, so back to clipless.

      One option is clips and straps with no cleats. For several years for commuting or errands in hot weather I fancied boat- or moccasin-type shoes with home-made stiffening insoles (got the leather from a Brooks saddle repairer in England) since the leather uppers mold nicely to your feet while allowing needed foot movement, and they have grippy Vibram soles that are thin enough to slip into the pedal easily. Ditto in colder weather for Safari boot-type shoes: snugly comfortable, grippy, not too bulky.

      However, that all of this is as with saddles: personal preference is indicated by the fact that a very fit and hard riding off road ss afficionado swears that he is most effective with retentionless pedals, Grip Kings or somesuch.

      Delete
  25. Pedal platform size and pressure on the ball of your foot. I just thought I would bring up this subject. Some folks have feet that are sensitive to pedal pressure over long periods of riding. I, for one. While some of the pedals, like the "egg beaters" are easy to engage or disengage, its important to pay attention to foot comfort for long rides. Shimano and Look road peddles are designed with this in mind. While many are insensitive to this, if, like me, you have sensitive feet, its important to consider the width and length of the peddle, ( more peddle area, less pressure.
    Just a thought.
    Don

    ReplyDelete
  26. I tried them. Really made an effort to like them. Never warmed up to them. I do, however, like my rigid-bottom cycling shoes as they have helped tremendously with bouts of plantar fasciitis. But, after spraining the right knee twice in 3 months (not bike related), I have gone back to platform pedals. Can't risk injuring this knee a third time.

    Best of luck in your endeavor,
    Anne from Geneva, IL

    ReplyDelete
  27. I'm a convert to Time ATAC pedal & MTB shoe from Look road. A Time ATAC pedal under a MTB shoe is an exception to the reduced pedal contact area generalization. MTB shoe sole cleats share support for the rider's efforts on an ATAC pedal. The ATAC also features a double sided cleat retention mechanism you don't have to chase to find footing on. In the rare case I flub a clip-in, I can continue to pedal till locked. The downside for the ATAC pedal is limited float, which is less important to me after becoming accustomed to explicit pedaling dynamics.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If the eggbeaters are a disappointment I have a set of ATACs and cleats you can have. They are hideous 90s neon yellow and black so they wouldn't work on any of your bikes except as a test. Current Time ATAC Alium pedals are modestly priced and neutral grey.

      Drop an email where you got the wheels if you want to try them. When done give away to next person.

      You can't fail to clip in with ATAC. I've done it when my shoes were buried beneath 2 inches of heavy clay and sycamore leaves.

      Delete
  28. I'm also a fan of Power Grips but the problem I found is that when you make them snug for one pair of shoes, they're too tight or too lose for your other shoes. That pretty much defeats the primary advantage of platform pedals. I also switched to Crank Bros. Candies when I realized my shoes weren't Look compatible. Crank Bros. are my favorite pedals of all. I'm sure you'll love 'em

    ReplyDelete
  29. Of course most of you have probably read the Shoes Ruse, but if you haven't....
    http://www.rivbike.com/kb_results.asp?ID=45

    ReplyDelete
  30. I think one of the overlooked questions here is: What is the size of your foot? a smaller foot will require more torque to overcome the spring mechanism. Also it should be noted that any upwards movement accompanied with releasing the cleat greatly increases the required leverage input by the rider.

    I have only had one issue with clipless pedals over the years. This was due to a tension screw un-threading from the set position virtually locking the mechanism shut. Purely a mechanical oversight not a design flaw. I have used the old cleat and toe strap design which virtually locks you in as well as SPD and look pedals. I have to admit it usually comes down to user error/confidence rather than pedal design.

    If I may make a suggestion, SPD pedals are some of the easiest to release from in regards to gaining confidence and trust with continued use of the mechanism.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. " What is the size of your foot? a smaller foot will require more torque to overcome the spring mechanism."

      Interesting possibility. My foot is size 37-38 depending on the cycling shoe. Small, but not the smallest. There are women out there with size 5 feet (mine is size 7 using the same system) and surely some of them use SPDs?..

      Delete
  31. I use crank bros. pedals on most of my bikes: Candies on the mountain bike, Eggbeaters on the tourer, and Quattro on the road racer. I'm a big fan of them and find them quite durable and easy to use. Biggest pros are the two sided entry--never have to flip them over, and the fact that I can use either mountain bike shoes with cleats recessed or stiffer road bike shoes on any of the pedals. When I'm using the road bike on a century with rest stops I wear the mountain bike shoes for easier traipsing around. The main con is the small size cleat--during hot, long rides I sometimes get the dreaded hot foot. This has tempted me to try a road pedal with a larger cleat.

    David in Maine

    ReplyDelete
  32. The thing is - you've already mastered clipless pedals. You understand how to get in and out. There's really not much more to master. You just have to get on your bike and go.

    I was afraid at first too, and because of it, I was super-conscious every time I approached a light/stop sign - I would unclip probably a half a block early and be ready to stop. And I ride in busy LA traffic, so there are a LOT of lights/stop signs, and a lot of cars. That bit was never a problem for me, and I'm sure it wouldn't be for you , for similar reasons. If you're nervous about a car running you over when you fall in front of it, just take the lane and slow down early (though I think this accident is highly unlikely, as cars will most likely already be stopped when you approach).

    The only times I "forget" are on backroads where I wasn't really thinking about stopping. Even then, it's rare, and even when it does happen, I find the panicked yank of the foot to be more than enough to disengage the pedal. Not super graceful, but it gets the job done. You almost can't help but unclip on time.

    You can do this!

    ReplyDelete
  33. I suspect you'll find clipless more powerful and comfortable than the power grips once you get used to them, especially for hill climbing. Out of the saddle too it's nice to really have confidence your feet aren't going anywhere.

    I think the power grips were probably a good prep as the heel out movement will feel very familiar to you. One difference is that I find on PGs you let your heel float out and almost point your toe a little to release. On clipless however, I find the release is really only clean when you drive your heel DOWN and out like you are trying to kick something to the outside with the ball of your heel. However, I've only really spent time on Shimano SPDs, so maybe that's just my adjustment to difficult release.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Listen to yourselves people! A bunch of whining...

    Why, When I was a boy we bound our feet to IRON RODS and jammed them into the holes in the cranks! There were no such things as pedals and the hard core dispensed with the IRON RODS altogether and rode(like THE WIND!!)with nothing more than a TOE(usually one of the 2 largest)inserted into the toe hole(why do you think the holes in your cranks are called that to this very day?) The threads were merely a device developed to perpetually pull the toe firmly into the hole. The REAL HEROES of that golden age would wear the hole out till it was polished like WET ICE and the callouses were as RHINO HIDE!!! Pedals were a sop to the halt and infirm and were only used AFTER DARK TO PREVENT THE DISCOVERY OF THE CRAVEN BY THE HALE AND HEARTY!!!

    One of the worst things about this pathetic generation is the expectation of comfort and efficiency that is DESTROYING the sport. When was the last time you saw a good old fashioned BIRCH "splinter" saddle? Or a properly sharpened pair of hand traps? Time was that as things would fail and break off a machine, stout hearted folk took it as a CHALLENGE to ride in SPITE of whatever trifle was dragging from their cycle.
    The best loved and most skillfully ridden examples were as likely to be seen speeding past with half the handlebar tucked jauntily in the riders belt as persevering without the LUXURY of TIRES(!!!) due to the simple expedient of winding rope or vines inside the groove of the rim and fixing it in place with rusty wire whipped around the rim between the spokes(of which there were PRECIOUS few). Why the very IDEA of cycling SHOES is an offense to the great HAIRY NAKED cycling GODS of yore.

    Why even the supposedly NEW contraptions you fawn over are weak imitations of the rugged gear with which we CONQUERED the CONTINENT on our iron and rawhide STEEDS OF DESTINY!!! Crank Bro's INDEED! Their Mighty ancestors invented the "eggbeater" pedal(Known far and wide in my day as "The Quadrilateral Scythes of Mercury") to enable FOUR MEN to pedal one Bicycle SIMULTANEOUSLY! A feat that while commonplace in MY day is INCOMPREHENSIBLE to the pale riders of today!!!

    I for one find the current rage for straps, clips and cleats to be a SURE SIGN OF WEAKNESS and reserve my respect for those hale few who WILL NAIL THEIR CLEATS DIRECTLY INTO THE TENDER FLESH OF THEIR VERY FEET AND CLINCH THE NAILS WITH FARRIERS TONGS!!!!!

    Look back! For BY GOD there WERE ONCE MEN IN THIS LAND!!!!

    Spindizzy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would personally like to nominate this comment for BEST COMMENT EVER.

      Thank you.

      Delete
    2. I could hear the music of 'Conan the Barbarian' thundering in my ears as I read this.

      Delete
    3. From 1m 08s (for those not familiar with Basil Poledouris's soundtrack)...to accompany Spindizzy's speech above.

      http://youtu.be/5ZY2mRG5mzg?t=1m8s

      Delete
    4. Spindizzy, you need to write a blog.

      Delete
    5. "Why, When I was a boy we bound our feet to IRON RODS and jammed them into the holes in the cranks! "

      Luxury! You had iron rods. And cranks.

      Ours were made from bits of flint lashed together.

      (Sniff.)

      Delete
  35. I have equipped with Look pedals and the red cleats (never the evil black ones) for a long time and don't plan changing, unless they become obsolete and I hope they don't.

    Had some Power Grips on a beater bike and the bike is gone but I still have them and the peadals. Good for practicing wheelies and track stands, urban assault, goofing around, etc. etc. Don't recall ever getting a foot stuck. If you like them keep using them, I say.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I use Crank Brothers Quattro SL pedals, which were their road-specific model (they've been discontinued). They look fairly similar to the Candys, so I imagine they'll work similarly -- I like the ease of operation, the double-sided entry, the two options for release angle, and that the cleats are recessed in the shoes.

    ReplyDelete
  37. OMG so many comments. I haven't switched over from cages to clipless... and I find this posting both helpful and overwhelming. <3

    ReplyDelete
  38. The problem with opinions is that they are just that and to let opinions stop you from trying Speedplay road pedals which allow you to clip in on either side is a chance not to see how they really are efficient. I rode the old strap clip pedals for years before I finally went modern when I bought my Seven steel road bike. I read and researched for a year and a half before I had my bike built. I chose speedplays and surprisingly when I moved to Southern Oregon a great number of my new riding buddies (women & men ages 40 & up) were riding Speedplays. You can get "Coffee Caps" for the cleats so that you can walk in them safely and with out ruining your cleats.

    Most of all you have to be comfortable & confident with your choice - whatever style or brand. Knowing how to fall helps too while you practice, perhaps on a grassy field, after you've done the confident building clip in clip out drill on the trainer. All the best in what ever choice you make.

    ReplyDelete
  39. My experience -- toe clips, toe clips + slotted cleats, SPD (many years), tried Power Grips, Eggbeaters, MKS, and plain-old-pedals.

    Liked the eggbeaters best. Easy on, easy off, no surprise releases.

    SPDs, a couple of times they let go all by themselves on a hard pull, kicked myself in the ass pretty hard.

    Did Not like Powergrips. I have wide feet and high arches, maybe that has something to do with it.

    Only problem with eggbeaters, was I think they're a bit less durable than SPDs. Back before I had a higher BB, I tended to pedal strike pretty often, and that was bad for them, more so than SPDs.

    The MKS cleats, I switched to because I'm using MKS EZY pedals so I can swap out cleats for platforms easily. But as it happens, I rarely use clipless nowadays, since I seem to be just as fast without them as with them.

    Also, don't think I ever had problems disengaging, and at least once when I turned a tandem up a slope that was way too steep, I was disengaged and both feet on the ground in a flash. But I do not lack for brute strength.

    ReplyDelete
  40. I've finally been able to do it and the key was to lower the tension in the pedal so it becomes effortless to clip in and out. I'm still afraid and I've fall down twice but I'm not giving up. I do like how it feels to be clipped in when climbing.

    ReplyDelete
  41. So here was the clipless "magic bullet" for me:

    If you're pulling back with your foot while trying to disengage, it's not lettin' go. But try clicking out almost like you're pushing your heel forward and outward at the same time, and...you're out.

    Almost more of a mindset change, but it really seems to help.

    ReplyDelete
  42. When it's really really difficult to do something as simple as A B C the problem is usually that what you are really doing is A prime B prime and C prime. You think you're doing ABC and casual and many expert observers will see and believe that you're doing ABC but you're not. What you're attempting may in fact be a very difficult trick that few could accomplish.

    Pedal systems are all simple. Use them enough, even while doing it all wrong, and the mechanical logic of the system will become ingrained.

    Some of the pedal systems mentioned are, IMO, screwy. They are not as intuitive or foolproof as they ought to be. They certainly are not all equally beginner friendly.

    The big constraint on designers of these pedals is they cannot afford to have a racer come out of the pedals in a sprint. That's pure marketing death. Happened to the excellent Campy ErgoFit pedals, no redesign could bring the product back. And pro sprints can be weird. Stuff happens. And the pedal and shoe must stay together. Getting it to work in the most adverse and oddest pro situations and making it work first time for consumers is a good trick. It can be done but products that shoulda died in beta or be labelled pro-only are on the shelf.

    If it doesn't work for you it may as well not work at all. With sufficient time and determination you could make any of the pedals mentioned work. But the mfr should have done most of that work for you.

    ReplyDelete
  43. I use either toeclips/straps or pg's - I like 'em both. Shoes are smooth soled Diadora's. They have a patch on the sole that can be removed for SPD cleats, but I leave it in. Great shoes for walking in, too.

    I have small wide feet, & get hot spots & have chronic plantar fasciitis. So I use large toeclips, keep them a little loose and can slide fore & aft, as I need to relieve the pressure. If my feet are really kicking me, I switch to my Carnac mtn shoes. Wider toe box.

    Only thing more personal than your saddle are your feet.

    Works for me.

    ReplyDelete
  44. +1 for Speedplay Frogs. Once you practice your release technique a few times, the force required is no more than lifting your foot from the pedal. The design is simply elegant. I have found the best release motion is outward foot rotation near the bottom of the forward pedal stroke. Good luck with your choice.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Augh, surfing the comments has only made me less likely to try clipless.

    I have trouble pushing my heels out, which seems to be the motion everyone uses to describe unclipping. Like when I tried to learn to ski that one time and failed: I physically cannot snowplow, because I can't point my toes in/heels out.

    I've been using plastic toe cages (sans straps) for about a year, and recently I decided I wanted to try Power Grips. I just put them on a couple days ago and they're super loose. I figured I'd tighten them a tiny bit every time I got on the bike until they felt right. I like the fact that when I'm in them, I can point my toes OUT, which is what feels comfy and natural. (If my toes were out any more, my heels would bump the cranks!) But I do worry about not being able to get in and out. Even with them set loosely, I feel like I'm wrenching my whole leg over to get into them, but I'm thinking it might be just because I'm not used to them yet. We'll see.

    I did learn something, though: I thought the shoes came with the cleats in them. I haven't bought bike-specific shoes 'cause I thought they would look dumb with the cleats in them if I wasn't using clipless! I could have been using the shoes (with my toe cages) this whole time! Grrrr.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm I don't want to assume you're "doing it wrong," but your toes are not supposed to point out in the Power Grips. In fact I can't think how they could. Let me look at mine.

      Twisting your foot out a bit when unclipping is nothing like the snowplow in skiing (which I also such at), trust me it is a much gentler, more subtle motion. In fact it is the same motion as getting your foot out of the Power Grips!

      Delete
    2. I think it's because I have them so loose that I can point my toes out. And right now, all it takes to get out of them is to slide my feet backwards, just like I did with the cages.

      I admit I bought the Power Grips partially to see if I was capable of moving my heel out, so that I would know if I was able to use clipless without having to go through all the trouble of getting them.

      Delete
  46. My husband has ridden clipless for years but has found that it was hard on his knees and also having trouble with feet. No flexibility whatsoever. On and off he's switched back and forth. He might go back to clipless soon enough if he finds he does not have enough power. Now he is riding with the half moon clips that I think of as hooks. I have never tried clipless, powergrips or clips for fear of having an accident. I also have small problem feet and would never be able to find bike shoes that fit properly, or are warm enough. My husband was also finding the shoes to be too rigid which leads to weak feet. I have gotten a lovely set of tiny half moon clips to try sometime when I am able to ride again!

    ReplyDelete
  47. With spd and similarly with other systems it is important how the cleats are placed, especially their orientation. I have had problems with the knees after really long rides sometimes but could usually correct for it by changing the cleat orientation somewhat. It's a bit of trial and error though.
    I agree with those people preferring SH56. I know some MTB prefer SH56 but for road riding and commuting the looser SH56 are superior IMO. I haven't noticed them wearing down quicker. I wear my biking shoes at work and walk in them quite a bit as well and they hold up fine. Even if they do wear more quickly they are such a cheap part.

    ReplyDelete
  48. I had been using clipless pedals for 20 years until the day I could not get unclipped and feel over breaking my right arm. No right arm no work for three months while I waited for my arm to heal. Oh it was a clean break and did not require surgery. I was put it a cast and it healed correctly and speedily however I have changed my pedals to quill pedals and no road shoes. Oh well it could have been worse. I could have fallen over and than run over by a car.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Thanks for this post Velouria, makes me feel lot better about my useless attempt.

    I have Shimano SPD pedals that came with my mountain bike, but never used them as I prefer wide flats and sticky 5.10 shoes. I bought some cycling shoes, fixed the SPDs to my commuter/road bike and tried them on that to help with uphills. As practiceI was in my workshop leaning on a bench to keep stable. Left foot - fine. Right foot - no way. Big feet and plenty of weight so that's not the issue. Both pedals on the easiest setting. As Velouria put it "jerking the bike sideways" to the right ended up with me lying in a folded portable workbench with large cuts across the back of my fingers (that'll teach me to clear a landing pad!). Off with the pedals and back in the box. 5.10s on the commuter bike now but may try some Powergrips.

    I know I gave up quickly but I really didn't like the feeling of being connected to my bike that much.

    Cheers

    ReplyDelete
  50. I am perpetually in violation of Rule #34.
    http://www.velominati.com/the-rules/

    ReplyDelete
  51. I love my Shimano A520 SPD pedals. The clip side gives a great connection to the bike and the platform side is grippy enough to allow for pedalling with one foot free if I think I may need it (through some towns round my way).
    I also have the resistance backed off almost all the way and find them easy enough to get in and out of without losing that connection. I am thinking of tightening them up a little though.

    ReplyDelete
  52. I guess I'm in the minority to say I've never had trouble with SPD clipless (the only kind I've used). I set the tension to the lowest, tried a couple times in the living room, and headed out the door into traffic. I was scared, but didn't fall. I'm a very cautious rider to begin with, and always watch for potential stops way on advance (a habit from also riding a fixed gear, with a brake of course). So it wasn't hard for me to predict when to unclip.

    The one thing I discovered though, in situations of emergency stops like when a bus just pulls out in front of you, the instinct of self preservation reeeeeeally kicks in. You naturally pull out hard as hell and your foot will disengage from the clip! I've never fallen in a situation like that, even though I always think I will.

    ReplyDelete
  53. FWIW, I started with one flat pedal and one clipless, just pedalling around the garden clipping and unclipping. Once I thought I'd got the hang of it, I put two pedals on.

    I started with SPDs, but the method might still work.

    Again, my experience only, but my SPD-SL grip the cleat harder, and I find them slightly more difficult to clip into (hook the front, stamp down).

    ReplyDelete
  54. Good for you for trying all these systems. I'll throw in for SPD with the single release cleats SM-SH51(black). Most people like the multiple release cleats (silver) SM-SH56. 51 ONLY release heel out and at a fairly shallow angle, no heel lifting. 56 are multiple release angles even with heel up.
    I chose the 51s because that is the only way I can ride fixed gear. Cages are a non-starter, hated them...
    Anyway, good luck and I love reading your blog.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Sorry you heard negative reports about Speedplay. I'll offer a positive one: I use Speedplay "Light Action" road pedals, and have never had any problem clipping, unclipping, or coming loose. They have lots of float. You do need to take care of the cleats, since that's where the mechanism is. In particular, the mounting screws should be snug but not tight. It's a good idea to buy some threadlocker and a few spare screws, in case some fall out. Works well for me. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  56. My primary road bike is set up with power grips and I love them. But I recently got the Grip King pedals for my around town bike, and followed Riv's suggestion to drill out some of the nibs and insert these tiny 3 mm screw and BOY do those things grip now: I actually have to lift my feet slightly to shift them at all. While my feet - in New Balance sneakers - are on the pedals, they don't move at all, and I can actually feel the pulling back on the downstroke. I really like them, and may put them on my mountain bike.

    ReplyDelete
  57. The Candies are a good choice. I use the eggs on two bikes and the mallet on one - they all work fine since many miles :)

    ReplyDelete
  58. I love my Speedplays. The only clipless pedal I can use, having a knee problem, due to the high amount of float. It feels most natural to a normal pedal, and the double-sided action makes a much easier time clicking in, not having to worry about flipping the pedal. On a steep hill or a green light in the left turn lane, this is very important. You should really try them out. Most complaints I get regarding them are from people who tend to beat down their cleats, and thats something that cant be done with Speedplay, since half the pedal is the cleat. But as long as one understands that, there's no problem. In the future if you find your knees hurting, give them a try. You should give them a try anyways.

    ReplyDelete
  59. It's ironic that I should come across this post. Until February, I'd never ridden a bike with any sort of foot retention; platform pedals only, a cruiser and an old three-speed being my immediate past bikes. They were destroyed when a truck jumped the curb and mowed them down, and the rack they were on - fortunately, no one was injured.

    I replaced these with a Windsor TimeLine from BikesDirect. It's a wonderful all-around bike, but it came with clips and straps. I enjoyed having the "push-pull" of foot retention. It gave me a smoother stroke and made hills easier. But getting both feet into the pedals? I'd get one quickly, but not the other, and I'd wind up using the bottom of the pedal. Otherwise, I'd keep fiddling with it until I got in - on occasion, looking down at my foot.

    I was in the middle of a ride on Sunday and found myself glancing down to line up my foot into the left pedal. Knowing that sooner or later I would do that at a very bad moment, I rode directly to my LBS, where the owner replaced the clips with very grippy platforms.

    I understand the benefits of foot retention. I've felt them. But whether clips and straps or clipless, the distraction of worrying about your feet cleanly in and out of retention just isn't safe. I'm sure I'll try it again, after lots of practice in a large parking lot.

    ReplyDelete