When you purchase a new bicycle, there are various types of bike pedals that you can purchase. Some new bikes are sold without pedals, in particular higher-end bikes. Other new bicycles are sold with caged pedals (pedals with toe straps). If you’re new to cycling, starting with the caged pedals is fine. However, as you progress with your cycling, you may want to update to a clipless pedal. In this article, I will go over some types of pedals you may want to consider.
If you purchase a new road bike, there is a chance they will include caged pedals. What are caged pedals? These are flat pedals with a toe strap attached. For entry level riding, these are certainly suitable.
For these pedals, you simply slide your foot into it. They do not need special shoes, like clipless pedal systems do. The strap can be adjusted in case you need to tighten it if your foot moves around too much on the pedal, or loosen if it is too tight.
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 also low maintenance, and need little upkeep.
A downside to these types of pedals is that since your feet do move around in them a little, 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 are simply flat pedals with no straps that you rest your feet on. 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, and you do not need special shoes for them.
Platform pedals are good for mountain biking if you’re new to the activity and find you are dismounting the bike to navigate obstacles, or are on the middle of a hill and need to climb the rest. They do provide some mental comfort knowing you can quickly get off your bike if you need to.
Like caged pedals, platform pedals require little maintenance.
The major drawback 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.
If you’re looking for a pedal that provides the best of both worlds, a platform and a clipless system, hybrid pedals would be a good choice.
Hybrid pedals are exactly as the name describes. 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 your cycling shoe to, locks your feet into place.
These pedals are good for someone who is transitioning from caged or platform pedals to a clipless system. It may take a while to get comfortable locking your feet into clipless pedals. With hybrids, you can use the platform side if needed while becoming acclimated to clipless.
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…
The final type of pedal I’d like to mention is the clipless pedal. How a clipless pedal system works is the pedals has a locking mechanism that matches to the cleats that are placed on the sole of corresponding cycling shoes. You slide your feet onto the pedal until they lock. You’ll know when it is successful by hearing a locking noise.
These pedals, when your feet are locked properly into them (see not too loose), allow for more efficient transfer of power from the pedal strokes.
If you go the clipless route, it may 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 feet, all you need to do is twist your foot to dislodge the shoe cleat from the pedal.
There are clipless pedal systems available for both mountain and road cycling. Road systems are usually three bolt, and mountain are two bolt. The photo on the left is an example of a two bolt pedal. 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 difficult dislodging the cleat from the pedal, the cleats on the shoes may need some adjustment, or replacement.
With clipless pedals, you want to make sure your feet are solidly locked into place, but you also want to be able to quickly dislodge your feet if the need arises.
There Are Always Options
If you are just starting out cycling, and purchased an entry level bicycle, chances are the bike will come with either caged or platform pedals. Just starting out, those options are certain sufficient and will get the job done.
As you progress as a cyclist, and want to explore clipless pedal options, there are plenty to choose from. I’ve ridden my road bike with a mountain bike clipless pedal system, but that’s mainly because I prefer to wear mountain bike shoes over road ones.
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. Pedals and corresponding shoes vary in price, but you can find good quality in the lower pricing range.
Hopefully this article provides you with some insight into some major bike pedal types available.