For Your Consideration – Types of Bike Pedals

If you’re looking into taking up cycling, something to consider are the types of bike pedals available.  Most bicycles come with either caged, or platform pedals.  As a cyclist, you are not bound to the pedals that come with the bicycle (if you purchase a high-end performance bicycle, it may not come with pedals at all).  In this post I will provide an overview on the types of pedals that are available on the market.

Caged Pedals

If you purchase a new road bike, there is a good chance they will include caged pedals. They are flat pedals with an attached toe strap. For those beginning their cycling journeys, these are suitable to get started with.  Just slide your feet in and go!

Caged pedals do not need special shoes, like clipless pedal systems do.  The toe strap can be tightened or loosened as needed.

Benefits to a caged pedal include allowing your feet to be secure on the pedal, yet also allowing you to remove them in the event you need to quickly get them out. They are low maintenance, need little upkeep, and are inexpensive to purchase.

A downside to these types of pedals is that since your feet do move around in them slightly, there’s a loss in transfer of power when stroking the pedals. However, for a beginner, this should not be a deal breaker.

If you happen to remove the straps, you get…

Platform Pedals

Platform pedals are flat pedals with no attached toe straps.  Just place your feet on them and you are good to go. These can be found on various types of bikes including mountain, casual, and BMX bikes.

Much like the caged pedals, these are very low maintenance, you do not need special shoes for them, and are inexpensive.

Platform pedals are good for mountain biking if you’re new to the activity, and find you are dismounting the bike often to go over or around obstacles for example. They do provide some mental comfort knowing you can quickly get off your bike if you need to.

A couple drawbacks to these types of pedals is since your feet are not secure on the pedal, you may not be transferring as much power to your pedal stroke.  Also, it is possible for a foot to slide off a pedal (though rarely happens, at least in my experience).

Hybrid Pedals

Hybrid pedals are exactly as the name describes. They combine a platform and clipless pedal into one.  One side of the pedal is flat without a lock to attach cycling shoes to. The opposite side has a locking mechanism that when you attach the cleat of your cycling shoe to, locks it into place.

These pedals are good for someone who is transitioning from caged or platform pedals to a clipless system.  Hybrid pedals allow you to use the platform side if needed while becoming acclimated to clipless pedaling.

Some maintenance may be required with these pedals. It’s a good idea to keep the locking mechanism clean, and they may need to be oiled up on occasion.

You would need to purchase cycling shoes with the appropriate cleat that lock into the pedal, and for some more information on that, see the next section…

Clipless Pedals

The final type of pedal I’d like to mention is the clipless pedal. Clipless pedals have a locking mechanism that matches to cleats placed on the sole of corresponding cycling shoes. You slide your feet onto the pedal until they lock. You’ll know when the cleats successfully lock onto the pedal by hearing a clicking sound.

These pedals, when your feet are locked properly into them (see not too loose), allow for more efficient transfer of power from pedal strokes.  Your feet are also solidly connected to the pedals, allowing your feet to remain in place on the pedal with minimal movement or chance of sliding off.

If you go the clipless route, it will seem intimidating at first, but fear not.  It does take a little time to get used to locking your feet in quickly, but once you get it down, it will become second nature.

To remove your foot off a clipless pedal, all you need to do is twist it slightly to dislodge the shoe cleat from the pedal.

There are clipless pedal systems available for both mountain and road cycling. Road systems are usually 3-bolt, and mountain systems are 2-bolt. If you decide to go clipless, you’ll need to get corresponding bike shoes (two or three hole) that will allow them to lock into the pedals properly.

Like the hybrid pedals, some occasional maintenance may be required. If your feet are too loose on the pedal, or you find it difficult dislodging the cleat from the pedal; the shoe cleats may need adjusting, or replacement.

Over time the locking mechanism on the pedals may begin to wear out.  A sure sign of this is if you replace the shoe cleats, and they’re not locking into the pedal.  At that point, you would need to replace the pedals.

Price points vary on clipless pedals, and the good news is even inexpensive ones will last you.  Some companies that produce clipless pedals are Shimano, Look, Time and Crank Brothers. It’s a good idea to research the products these manufactures have on the market, and consider your riding style and budget.

One thing to keep in mind is you will need to purchase the appropriate cycling shoes for the pedals if you are new to riding clipless.  I would highly recommend going to your local bicycle store and asking an associate if you have any questions as to what shoes work with what clipless system.

There Are Always Options

When starting out, don’t hesitate to ride with the pedals that came with the bike. They will be sufficient for you as you start.  Over time, you may want to change your pedal type to accommodate the style of riding you’re looking to do.  Don’t hesitate to ask questions when visiting your local bike shop.  Peruse what is online to learn more details about specific pedal types, or to find information on a specific pedal brand.  There are surprisingly plenty of choices in the realm of clipless for example.

Pedals can have a surprising effect on your riding.  Hopefully you have found this overview of the different pedal types useful!

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