Monday, November 26, 2012

SPD Pedals and Platform Support

When it comes to SPD-style clipless pedals, there is some discussion about the benefits of models with integrated platforms versus without. For example, here is an email I received from a reader last week:
...I see in your photos that you use both the Crank Brothers Eggbeaters and Candy pedals. Which do you recommend for a beginner? My boyfriend likes Shimano A-520 pedals because of the extra platform support. His thought is that the Candys provide the same level of support, but not the Eggbeaters. Do you agree?
To answer this question, let me backtrack a bit. The Eggbeater and Candy pedals from Crank Brothers are identical, except that the Candys (right) have a flat platform built around the bindings and the Eggbeaters (left) do not. When choosing pedals, I heard several arguments in favour of the Candys, including that the platform offers extra foot support, that as a beginner I would have an easier time clipping into a larger pedal, and that the platforms would allow me to ride in regular shoes.

I have now ridden with Candys on my own roadbike for the past 9 months. Over that time I have also borrowed friends' bikes with Eggbeaters (including a 100K ride). In the very beginning, the Candys were indeed easier for me to clip into. However, this advantage was short-lived and just weeks later I already had no problem using Eggbeaters and could not distinguish between them. I can also confirm that the Candys are much easier to ride in street shoes, on the rare occasions I find myself doing this on a roadbike. But as far as foot support, I feel absolutely no difference between the two models. I thought that I would, but I don't.

The Eggbeaters have their own advantages. The lack of platforms makes them considerably lighter. They offer more points of entry. And they are easier to clean. Overall, I think that I prefer them, although really I am fine with either.

While not the same as the Crankbrothers system, you could draw parallels to this comparison with Shimano SPDs. There are pedals that consist of bindings alone, and those that incorporate a platform. Some claim the platform provides additional foot support and allows for more power to be transferred, making it similar to a road pedal. Others argue that this is not the case, as the platform sits too far below the binding to provide significant support. I have no comment on the mechanics of this at large, but can only say that with my style of riding, and my specific pedal and shoe combination, I cannot feel the difference. As a beginner, I would suggest trying lots of pedals and figuring out what feels better to you.

42 comments:

  1. I don't think all shops are the same. Some do not have pedals for trial use so one must ask questions and guess. I know I was initially frightened going clipless for fear of being unable to unlock but after a day that was no longer a concern. We're quite adaptable, we humans. I use the Shimano m324 platforms because much of my daily riding is done in street shoes or sandals (in the summer) -- flat on one side and clips on the other. They're heavy but extremely comfortable and versatile.

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  2. I've tried both and after usage can tell no actual difference in support. It may be psychological, since the Candy's LOOK like they should have more platform support. In practice, though, the Eggbeaters snug up firmly against the tread on the bottom of my stiff shoe, and my feet become as one with my crank. It could be different for something like downhill mountain biking where you could inadvertently unclip and may not always be able to stomp directly back into the pedal, and yet need some kind of support or control. In that situation, a really significant platform like the Crank Bros. Mallet might do the trick.

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  3. While not the same as being able to try pedals for free, crankbrothers has a 1/2 price upgrade offer going on currently. You can send in any pair of pedals and purchase new crankbrothers pedals at 1/2 price.

    http://www.crankbrothers.com/rt_ticket_add.php

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  4. I have size 13 feet (and so should be as subject as anyone to the dreaded hotspot problem), yet in 14 years of riding, I have never experienced it with basic, no-platform SPD pedals. I *do* know what it feels like--I rode my first century in sneakers on GR9s, and that *H*U*R*T*.

    I think that any advantage to platforms is purely psychological--which is, of course, not to say that it's not an advantage.

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  5. The amount of support you feel, I think, is related more to the rigidity of the shoe's sole than the type of pedal you're using. There is no one pedal system that is right for everybody in every situation.

    The most versatile solution for bikes where one occasionally wants to ride with regular shoes is to simply have a wrench handy to swap pedals between clipless and platform as needed. They don't need to be torqued much as the threading on pedals tightens by itself during normal pedaling. It really only takes a minute to swap.

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    1. You've got to torque pedals down moderately well, else they can unscrew. I have seen it happen, not to me, but to someone oncoming on the MM trail, whose pedal fell off just as I was approaching. And WHEN that happens, it makes a mess of the crank arm threads just when the pedal lets go (thread it in from the opposite side to clean them up, then do it carefully from the useful side).

      And the easiest, though not most versatile, solution, is to use MKS removable pedals. They're intended for folders, but they seem to be pretty durable on a regular bike. The downside of this choice is that if you want clipless, you get MKS clipless, not SPD, or Crank, or Time, etc.
      http://dr2chase.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/img_3346.jpg

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  6. "I don't think all shops are the same. Some do not have pedals for trial use so one must ask questions and guess."

    Reality check: I know of zero shops that have a demo program; they all work to some extent. You have to learn how to use them, just like anything.

    The platform is not the platform. The sole and cleat are sometime the platform. The platform is the platform.

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  7. Issues of support aside, I think there are considerable differences in ease of entry between brands/models of pedals. Pedals with a large "support area" around the mechanism can be very frustrating for the casual cyclist, but this generally is not a problem for someone who rides nearly every day.
    I own a bicycle shop and have tried many makes and models. I have no problem with any of them. My wife however, who is more gardener than cyclist, found Shimano SPDs nearly impossible to snap into. When I installed some TIME ATAC pedals with a prominent protruding mechanism, she had no problem at all. Also loved the "float" they offered.
    My biggest issue with most pedals is lack of servicability. Those with sealed bearings aren't bad, but many get excessive play (in the bearings) very quickly, and have to be tossed, as they are unadjustable and pretty much unservicable.

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    1. Since writing about my own clipless experience, I've heard from a couple dozen women with similar stories. They were initially advised to use Shimano SPDs because those were "the easiest," and they accepted this as fact. So when they couldn't do it, they figured clipless was just not for them. Later it turned out they could use road pedals or Crank Brothers just fine. Shimano SPDs are super easy for those who find them super easy. But obviously there is some degree of subjectivity here.

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    2. I have to say this is a familiarity/practice thing once again. 24 is a large sample size. I wonder what conclusions can be wrought from this data.

      The barrier of entry (sic) gets lower over time.

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    3. I don't own a bike shop so I wouldn't argue that most peddles are not serviceable. On the other hand my experience with the crank brothers peddles is that they are serviceable, and service kits are available for most if not all of their current peddles.

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  8. Re Anon 11:33, Pixie & Jim: Yes, this is a tough one. We are lucky here in greater Boston to have several shops where you can try pedal systems. A potential alternative is to try them on friends' bikes, assuming you have friends who wear a similar shoe size.

    My point is that, just because someone else prefers a particular pedal, even raves about it, does not mean that you will like it. You can read all about foot support online and decide a platform is a must, only to discover that you prefer a pedal without, or vice versa.

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    1. Yes, this is, of course, true of everything;)

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  9. The M324 referenced above is what I use and I'm happy with it--a fuller platform on one side than the example V. shows above, and then clipless on the other. To my taste the Candy isn't much of a platform at all. It can be a bother, howevever, with the M324, to flip over to the correct side for clipless. (the site linked to above is just the first one that came up with a photo--never shopped there myself)

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  10. The lack of foot support on "standard" Shimano spd pedals manifests itself on truly long randonneur rides. There are quite a few riders who had numb toes for months after PBP. (Not good!) On shorter rides of 5-10 hours, this rarely seems to be a problem, though.

    On my PD-A520 pedals (which have a platform to support the shoe), you can see where the soles of my shoes have polished the aluminum. This shows that the shoe does get support there. This may depend on your shoes, and how thick their sole/how far recessed their cleat is.

    Whether this also applies to the Crank Brothers pedals is a different matter, but you should be able to tell whether the sole touches the pedal body or not.

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    1. On the one hand, there are so many factors that play a role in all this, that both the question and my answer are too simplistic. On the other hand, the indiscriminate "you need a platform for foot support" chatter that's out there is even more simplistic, in my opinion. Everything needs to be taken in context. As you point out, the experience of ultra-distance cyclists, sprinters and the like is hardly relevant for a beginner who wonders what pedals to get for club rides.

      That said, here is a quick and dirty (literally - please excuse) shot of my shoe/pedal connexion. You can see that the outer corners of the platforms dig into the non-recessed sides of the shoes. And yet I cannot feel this, in the context of how I ride a bike. One opinion out there, is that even if the sole of the shoe touches the platform, it does not really provide support, including on super long rides and including on sprints. Again, I cannot possibly have an opinion on this at large since my riding style is limited, but it's a multisided debate with lots of opinions as usual.

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    2. I've used both Mallet and Eggbeater pedals, and (on much shorter rides, usually in the one-hour or less range) never had a problem with either. My shoe (Lake) definitely contacts a lot of the support surfaces on the Mallet:

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/dr2chase/8221777874/in/set-72157632108637482/

      Of the clipless pedals I've used, I like the eggbeaters best, but since they aren't compatible with MKS removable pedals, I don't use them anymore. Summers, I do a lot of biking (about a thousand miles) in flip-flops on platform pedals, which is crap support from the shoe, but good support from the pedal.

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    3. I haven't (as yet) done any randonneur rides, but no problems on 500 mile/5-day rides with standard Shimano MTB/SPD pedals. Knee problems, yes, low blood sugar, yes. My feet have been fine!

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    4. Velouria, you don't notice the support, but like so many things on a bike, you notice the lack of support after a while. Just like you never notice the rubbing on your seat until you get a saddle sore... or the pressure points on your hands until your hands go numb.

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  11. Can you talk about pedals w/o also talking about shoes?

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    1. No.

      Soft soles =/= no lollipop pedals.
      Stiff soles = more platform/non-platform options.

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    2. Right. The thing is, for a beginner these concepts sometimes just add more confusion. For example, what does "stiff" mean to someone who has not ridden clipless before and how do they know a shoe is sufficiently stiff? I have never seen a clipless shoe described as "kind of soft" in the product copy after all, yet some are softer than others. And then, what about the rider? My shoes feel plenty stiff to me, but maybe that's partly because I don't spend much time stomping on the pedals out of the saddle. Someone who does might not find them stiff enough. The weight of the rider could also make a difference.

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    3. Well that's a good guide then: if you're powerful, athletic, crave the speed gene and mash, consider a carbon sole.

      If you think exercise is walking to the mail box maybe just ride around a bit on flat pedals before deciding.

      The SPD example: best mated with a stiffer sole. How to determine? Go to store, pick a bunch up. Try to bend them. Voila, an entire universe of stiffness.



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  12. Fun, fun, fun, all this confusion :) The three contact points of feet, hands, and butt bring up all sorts of issues when it comes to comfort and finding the right equipment. Oh, then there's that thing where we try something and our initial impressions are positive only to discover that riding style, miles, mechanics of the body, insecurities/vanity, etc. also tick in and we end up changing our minds...I like the idea of those egg beaters, though.

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  13. For me, the platform does not matter as I use a very very stiff mtn competition shoe on all my bikes with clippless pedals. I cannot recommend the high end Giro shoes (mtn bikes ones anyways) enough. The sole is made from an Easton Carbon Composite which is very light, and has no give at all. There is enough tread for walking if you need to. They have been fantastic. They are not, however, cheap (boo, but they are worth it).

    I use them with Time Atac pedals and love the combination. The Specialized mtn bike shoe (whatever their top one is/was) is also very good, but I managed to crack the sole of one of them after about five years of use. They did not owe me anything though - I used them a lot. They also flex more, and the smaller of my two pairs of Time Atac pedals (I have some really old ones with a small surface area, and some larger ones with platforms) was not as comfortable with those shoes while I cannot feel a difference with the Giros.

    Seems to me that the stiffer the shoe, the smaller the pedal can be made without sacrificing support. The thing is, the support has to be somewhere, and if it is not going to be in the pedal, it has to be in the shoe.

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  14. My preference is for fixed cleat, which, as far as I know, is not an option with recessed-cleat pedals. I can actually deal with having some float. The main issue for me is the rocking/rolling of the shoe on the pedal. Am about to try the Shimano A600 after using Time atac for a couple of years.
    I may also try speedplay frog as I heard that they do not rely on the tread of the sole for support. It makes sense to have the place where I want rigidity- the sole/cleat interface-to be designed as an integrated unit.



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    1. I love the Frogs, but they may not be for you. Great entry and release, two-sided entry, but they do allow for a free floating heal. I love it, you may hate it. Vel's best advice is to experiment.

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  15. It seems many agree that a clipless pedal with a platform does not mean addition support -- it depends on too many factors. If you've got many bikes and some are meant for performance and/or many hours in the saddle, then investing in a good pair of shoes with the appropriate cleat/pedal set-up is the way to go. If you've got only one bike, it's different. Finding a pedal that works for both platform and cleat use requires some experimentation.

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  16. It really isn't an either-or proposition. My main commute bike has both and it has worked very well. Mostly, I ride on the SPD side with no platform, but the platform side works well on those unusually cold or wet days when my cleated shoes are simply no good. http://dfwptp.blogspot.com/2011/02/buddy-gets-urbanized.html

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  17. I've never needed platform support in addition, but then I'm light (130 lbs). Also a good stiff sole is going to give you more support than a plate on the pedal that fits against the sole. It's just how integrated mechanical assembly works. It might make 10 seconds per day difference! Important for racing and especially TT, but not so much for regular riding, or randonneuring, where hours and comfort are the units of measure.

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  18. I am new to clipless pedals and this whole discussion (the comments, not the post) is way over my head so bear with me! Here is my question. You say that "In the very beginning, the Candys were indeed easier for me to clip into" but you also say that Eggbeaters "offer more points of entry". Shouldn't having more points of entry make them easier, not harder to clip into?
    Thanks,
    Diane

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    1. The thing about Eggbeaters is that they are very small, so riders unaccustomed to riding clipless might have difficulty finding the pedal with their foot in the beginning. Some cyclists also like to rest their toe on the edge of the pedal without clipping in during tentative moments (though personally I think this is a bad habit that can lead to accidental re-clipping and falling over), and this is harder to do with the Eggbeaters since they lack a platform

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    2. I find that the platform on Candys makes it easier if you have to clip in in a hurry, such as when trying to cross a busy intersection at a red light. Basically, even if you miss the clip, you can still get enough purchase on the pedal to get going and clip in on the next revolution. You might not be able to do that with regular Eggbeaters.

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  19. Shimano has and has had a number of different pedal systems and they all get tagged SPD. Some have been truly wretched and difficult even for those accustomed to the clipless life. Certain enthusiasts of anything with a brand on it tell the multitudes that all thing S- are tested, proven, dependable. They are not. They are various. They are uneven. Newcomers steered to S- who get one of the bad pedals are baffled.

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  20. Saddles, shoes, pedals are all personal preferences. Experiment as cheaply as you can with all before choosing what works best for you. If you have the same physique as Vel, perhaps you can get some hand me downs.

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  21. SPD is not a generic. It stands for Shimano Pedalling Dynamics.

    When they get your thought processes working in ad copy and trademarks they got you hooked.

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  22. I have two pairs of Shimano M324s, on my mountain bike and commuter.

    I don't think the sole of my SPD shoes even touches the platform while clipped in. Getting (and staying) clipped in would be almost impossible otherwise.

    In theory, the M324s are weighted, and if left to their own devices they will orientate themselves such that the flat side faces forward. Once you get used to them, choosing the correct side becomes almost second nature.

    The M324s have the added advantage that they can accept standard amber pedal reflectors, which are a legal requirement on UK roads when riding in the dark. Not many clipless pedals can do this.

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  23. I've found SPDs of any sort pretty comfortable with stiffish shoes, but my favorites for that "flat, secure feeling" are Looks. I didn't feel any difference between M520s, M324s, and the others (XTR -- forget number -- M530s, M324s, M520s, 20+ year old M540s (currently on Fargo), and very nice looking Dura Ace SPDs. My experience does say that Shimano SPDs are better than most clones -- Onzas, Wellgo, Ritchey, weird and horrible but very light WTB resin-ad-sheet-metal in terms of tension and release feel consistency. Found Frogs susceptible to sand and also finickey to adjust for tension. Used X-2s for years but found Looks more comfortable (carbon fiber sole on the X-2s, for what that is worth). Also, SPDs and Looks, plus the shoes I've used (old Sidis for the Looks, Euxstars, cheap Lakes, old high end Shimanos for the SPDs) more comfortable than Dettos, Rivats, Vittorias with quill or track pedals -- tho' oddly, I found it considerably easier to enter (not exit) my RX-1s with slotted cleats on Rivats than I do with Look Keos, this on a fixed gear. Go figure.

    For just running around, good boat shoes with or without socks and MKS GR-9s + loose straps can't be beat for comfort and convenience, but I always pull my shoe out of the pedal, or foot out of the shoe, if I am torquing up a hill.

    The most comfortable slotted cleat pedals I've used are MKS Touring pedals but they do augment Q quite a bit. (I find that my left knee is very sensitive to cleat placement when Q gets high.)

    BTW: is this you?

    http://janheine.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/isis_brazing.jpg?w=960&h=908

    Red hair, woman, and earnest.

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  24. I run both the Candys and the Eggbeaters. The Candys are on my road bike with my stiff road shoes, where the platform does help when I occasionally miss clipping in (which happened to me much, much more often with SPDs), so I like that I don't have to miss a stroke at a stoplight. I have the Eggbeaters on my commuter bike, where they fit with my Pearl Izumi mountain/commuting shoes perfectly; that combination hardly ever misses.

    I know lots of beginners are afraid of being clipped. After you fall over at a couple of stoplights, you remember to clip out. Now I have a problem anytime I ride a bike with regular pedals . . . can't get used to the feeling of not being attached to the bike.

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  25. This is a slippery subject because there are lots of difficult to control variables involved - type of pedal and shape of pedal platform, size of platform, type and stiffness of shoe and its sole, type and size of cleat (if any), position of cleat, float adjustment, Q-dimension of crankset, etc., etc. - before we even begin to think about physiological differences between individuals.

    With all that in mind, may I offer one small suggestion to folks that may not be as comfortable as they would like? Before you spend money on new equipment, try moving your foot forward a little on the pedal.

    The standard advice is to set the cleat or clip such that the ball of the foot is directly over the pedal's axle. In practice, I think this isn't ideal. In my and some other rando-buddys' experience, the most comfortable position is with the foot further forward than this. An adjustment of just a few mm can make a big difference and eliminate "hot foot" and or numbness on long rides. This is all anecdotal, but my experience is that those who move their foot forward a little (and a little can sometimes mean all the difference) are far less likely to suffer discomfort with clipless pedal systems.

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  26. Dear All,
    Be advised that the Candy pedals do sometimes break. I had one break while climbing out of the saddle-- I crashed and nearly got runover by a car. The cromoly spindle snapped in half. I used the pedals exclusively on a road bike... They were only two years old and had no more than 2,000 miles on them. I am a former cat 2 racer, but I never rode agressively with these pedals. I am 6'6" tall and 193 lbs... Most of my riding is sportive, not hellbent on speed. A few years ago, while racing the Colorado Trail Race, I witnessed a brand spanking new Eggbeater pedal fail on the first day of the race... The clip in mechanism busted. serious cyclists might want to be wary of these pedals. to be fair, I have had good results with the stainless steel iterations of the Candy Pedals.
    Cheers,
    Karl

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  27. The question I ask myself is: Does it feel like enough?

    Almost everyone starts on flat pedals and street shoes. Then the quest for a better cycling experience start to pull at you. So I moved to Forte Campus two way pedals, and stiff Shimino shoes, which I at first rode flat side up.

    After a while the desire for a better connection to the bike kinda comes on, so I started clipping in (and failing to clip out a few times) on long straight road sections. Set the clip tension as light as possable. After a while I wanted better connection to the bike, so I was cliped in all the time. It now felt too loosely attached to the bike when I rode with shoes on the flat side.

    Eventually the Forte pedals failed (and Performance exchanged them gratis!), I got Shimino 520's small dual sided SPD pedals. They seem to clip in a little more securely than with the other brand. Probably the cleat is a better match and the stiff soled shoes provide good support. Now it feels like just enough pedal. No issues with mud clogging the pedals, no cold weater/rain problems, no hot spots, so I'm happy.

    I've seen a DIY platform for SPD's. It's simply a shoe sized plywood platform, twith a cleat on the bottom and rubber on the top. Might be useful for quick trips, though I have a Urban bike for that.

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