Last weekend at Road 1, as we were sitting around on a break between practicing maneuvers, I glanced around at the pedals mounted on the various bikes in the group. Some were Look-style road pedals, like mine, but several riders had mountain bike pedals on their road bikes.
A “road” style pedal is usually patterned after the style developed by Look, the French bike & equipment company. It’s shaped something like a cradle. The cleat has flanges at front and rear that fit inside the lips of the pedal. Once the cleat is engaged in the pedal, it’s a solid, stable connection between the foot and the bike.
The original Look pedal.
But there’s a major disadvantage to the Look-style pedal. They attach to the bottom of the shoe’s sole, which means you’re walking with heels down, toes in the air, balancing on top of a large cleat under the ball of the foot. Very ungainly, and no fun to walk in for any distance.
Mountain pedals, typified by the Shimano SPD, are somewhat smaller than the Looks. They feature two metal grippers that the cleat clicks into. SPD pedals aren’t as good looking as the Looks, but they’re only bicycle pedals, so who cares about looks(!) anyway.
Shimano SPD pedal.
The SPDs certainly have one important advantage — the cleats are recessed into the sole of the shoe. This means the wearer can walk around normally in them. A biking acquaintance of mine, who looks for functionality first in all of his biking equipment, will wear only SPDs for this reason. He can hop off his bike and walk around normally inside a store or restaurant. He can’t figure out why anyone would want to wear “road” cleats.
Repeated scuffing of road cleats when walking also contributes to wear. They get torn up quickly, and it’s actually more difficult to disengage the cleat from the pedal than when they’re new.
I never really thought much about cleats and pedals before. I have a road bike, so I have the Look-style pedals and clunky cleats. That’s what you do, right? But after watching some other bikers over the weekend, I wonder. What’s your preference?