Peddling pedals

Recently, I got into a discussion with a friend about pedals. Now, pedals are not a big deal with me. Since I started riding clipless, I’ve stuck with the Look-style pedal, although I currently ride on Shimano SPD-SLs, which have a slightly wider platform than the Looks. But our discussion got me to wondering? What pedal preferences are there? Is there a clear-cut leader?

I suppose we could get into the debate between clipless, toe clip, and platform pedals. But I’m going to skip that. I assume that most readers come here because they’re road bike riders like me and therefore, have adopted clipless pedals (which you really clip into, but that’s another post).

A Speedplay pedal.
A Speedplay pedal.

I noticed when talking about cleat position a while ago, several readers chimed in with the praises of Speedplay pedals. These are the small round pedals that attach to a cleat that resembles no other. Speedplays come in several different models, with varying amounts of float. That makes them attractive to me, because the six degrees of float on my pedals seems restrictive. Speedplays are pricier than most other pedals, however, which is why I chose to pass on them.

A Look Keo pedal.
A Look Keo pedal.

Look pedals are the daddy of the clipless. You need shoes that will fit a three-bolt cleat. The Looks, and those like them, clip solidly into the pedal, to make you feel as one with the bike. Pedals shaped like Looks and Shimano SPD-SLs are weighted at the back, so they point up when the rider is not using them. I always chuckle when pulling away from a stoplight during a group ride, as everyone tries to find the clip-in position. Some do it faster than others. Click, click, click.

Other riders prefer Shimano SPDs.

The Shimano SPD.
The Shimano SPD.

These pedals take smaller two-bolt cleats, that recess into the shoe’s sole. Mountain bikers make use of these, but many road bikers like them because the recessed cleat lets the rider walk normally — a nice option during a stop at a coffee shop during the ride. I’ve never used these, and I wonder if they give the rider as solid a connection to the bike as the Looks.

The mountain-bike style SPD pedals look uncomfortable to the layperson. How about it, SPD users? Do SPDs provide a good platform for the foot? Or do they cause some discomfort during a ride?

I you were starting road biking from scratch — knowing now what you didn’t know then — which pedal system would you recommend, and why?


  1. Grendel says

    I’ve been using the same set of Shimano PD-540 SPD MTB pedals for nearly 30,000 miles (I’ve replaced cleats about every 8,000) in all types of weather with Road shoes, Mountain shoes, Winter Mountain boots, and Keen Commuter sandals. I’ve never had a bit of trouble (except clip-out when the cleats get old) with the pedals or their feel. Unfortunately I can’t compare to any other clipless system, before the SPDs I was using toeclips.

  2. mildstallion says

    I have also only been using one kind of pedal – the Speedplay Light Action. I will sing it’s praises of being knee-friendly. I don’t think they were too expensive – I paid $115 for them at my LBS. I’ve been using them for 3 years now, and still work like new.

  3. says

    I’ve used SPD and the Speedplay Frog pedals both, had ridden SPD for years because I find being able to walk around easily is important to me, but was having issues with “hot spots/numb toes”. I switched to the frogs because of the larger contact area of the cleat on the shoem, but still wanted to have a recessed cleat. Having not ridden a tradition road pedal, I can’t speak to any difference in connection to the pedal, I’ve definitely felt well/securely connected in either the SPD or Frog pedals.

    I’ve had fewer complaints as a result of the Frogs with knee stresses/IT-Band irritation even with the amount of float I had in the SPD pedal. I’ve found the speedplay pedals to be more comfortable and easier to get out of quickly, regardless of the situation and how tired I am.

  4. says

    I have used toe clips, spds, and speedplays. For hard riding I love my speedplays, I feel secure in them. They were also very easy to set-up the first time. For rides when I want to walk around in my shoes, i.e. my commuter which has a spd / platform combo. On my track bike, for now, and my beater I use toe clips because they are the easiest around town.

  5. says

    I have done my first 1000 miles or so on MTB SPD pedals with the respective recessed cleat. As long as you have a stiff shoe, there should be no worries about hot-spots, etc… and walking around was cool.

    That said, I did receive new ultegra pedals (SPD-SL), with some new road-shoes to fit the SPD-SL cleat. I haven’t ridden with them yet (I recently switched them out) and I’m hoping that, while I didn’t have problems with the SPDs, these will be even more comfortable and hopefully translate to better power efficiency. We shall see.

  6. says

    I just switched out my SPD pedals on my road bike. I was getting hotspots/numb toes, especially on the 2nd consecutive day of decent miles.

    I bought a set of Look-style pedals that I am going to try out. I haven’t ridden them yet but I am hoping the broader platform helps my big feet feel better.

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