I am sure many of you can remember those first pedal strokes you took when learning to ride a bike. All of a sudden the person holding you up is gone and you are free. Whilst learning to ride the pedal of choice was the bog standard flat pedal, your foot resting on it so that when you wanted to bail out, as your balance was lost, you could do. Now we all search for the same sense of freedom whilst riding, part of us becoming that young child every time we ride a bike, but older and more adept at riding a bike we look towards performance. The amount of force and energy that we all have to ride with is finite, so we try to minimise the losses. The flat pedal is good, but how about the ability to clip in, become one with the bike, transmitting all the force into going forward?
With the investment in your pride and joy, your bike, it would be short sighted not to invest in the best form of pedals. Since the mid-80’s companies have worked on clipless pedals -a system where a cleat on your shoe clips into the pedal, like a ski binding, which is now used by all serious riders. For those who may not consider themselves a serious rider but are still attracted to improving their confidence on a bike clipless pedals are the biggest single upgrade you can make, giving greater feedback, better control and power transfer on the bike and they help to make you faster! For leisure cyclists, commuters or aspiring racers being clipped in is the best way to get more out of your ride.
But there are as many different types of pedals out there as there are bikes to connect them to. So what should you look at when investing in a set of clipless pedals and marking your status as a serious rider?
Firstly have a look at how your body works biomechanically. Do your knees move from side to side when you ride? How are your feet positioned on the pedals? Have you a history of knee problems? When you fix your feet to your pedals the first area where you feel discomfort, due to choosing the wrong pedals, will be your knees. Different pedals have a different amount of float. Float is the free movement, side to side, which your foot has when clipped in before hitting the resistance of the spring tension, the tension which connects your foot to the pedal. If your body does not move in a straight up and down motion, think trained pro with legs moving like pistons, then you may want to consider a pedal with a lot of float.
Secondly you will want to think about weight. Pedals contain many moving parts and can add a lot of weight to your bike. Ok, for some of us this is not a concern, but the more you ride the more you will realise that adding weight to your bike will consume more of your limited energy resources to push it forward. Many people will obsessively look at the weight of the pedal, but this does not tell the whole story. Some of the smaller and lighter pedals on the market actually have the heaviest cleats, meaning that a wise weight weenie will look at the weight of the whole package.
Finally you should consider stack height and also the contact area with the pedal. Stack height is the distance that your foot is above the axle of your pedal. The smaller this distance the more power is transmitted to going forward. Pedals with big stack heights have more material in them to flex, wasting your power. The contact area between the pedal and the cleat is also very important. If you can increase the area of your foot which you are pushing with not only can you transmit more power, but you also lessen the load, reducing those painful hotspots which you can get from smaller pedals.
The float option: Time I Clic Two pedals: Time is renowned for having a pedal which comes with a lot float. Time’s metal cleat makes sure that your foot is not 100% loose when in the float zone but has a certain amount of friction. Coming with 15 degrees of float these pedals are perfect for those with less than perfect knees and a non-linear pedal stroke.
The price point option: Shimano Ultegra PD6700 pedals: Shimano make quality products. They spend a lot of time whilst their products are in their research and development stages to making sure they get it right. These pedals come in at a great price point, they are light weight, easily serviced, and come with two different cleats, fixed or float to cover the float base.
The all-round option: Shimano PD7900 Carbon Dura Ace pedals: Sure, some may give a slight inhale at the price of these but with Dura Ace you get what you pay for. These are Shimano’s flag ship pedal, lightweight (as a package), stiff because they are carbon, look great, have top quality bearings and come with two different cleat options, fixed of floating to cover the float issue. They are the ultimate for performance; have one of the largest contact areas out of any of the pedals on the market and also a very low stack height. Putting these on makes your bike go from a Cart horse to a Racing Stallion with the extra power they transmit.
Pedals really are an important bit of kit, so by spending a little time to make sure you get what is best for you, you can clip in with confidence and let loose the child inside whilst riding free!
Written by: Phil Gale