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Bicycle Pedals - Clipless pedals versus other types

What kind of bicycle pedals do you want to use? Is there a difference between one or another pedal? Why would you choose for a click system while a normal pedal or toe clip would work too? Questions we are going to answer for you. We will focus on the comfort for touring bicycles, this means racers may not agree with the statements I will make.

Traditionally, platform pedals were pedals with a relatively large flat area for the foot to rest on and push to make the bicycle go. With the development of race and mountain bikes this is all changed.

When I was a child, I saw Eddy Merckx cycling with toe clips. My first Peugeot bicycle had toe clips. It was convenient but soon all kinds of different systems came on the market for amateur and touring cyclists.

Ordinary pedals and toe clipstoe clips pedal

Does an ordinary pedal not do the job for a adventure traveler on bicycle? The answer is simple: yes. However, it will depend a little on where you are going to cycle. Climbing is certainly less easy with ordinary pedals.

Some prefer the pedal right on the photo. This kind of pedals was in use in the early 1980's and you needed special shoes for it. You couldn't really walk on those shoes as it had a slotted shoe plate attached to its sole. Some people would use trainers and were happy enough with it.

This kind of pedals are hardly in use anymore but you will still find people who prefer them over the click pedals. They certainly make going uphill a lot easier.

Clipless pedals

Clipless pedals (also clip-in or step-in) require a special cycling shoe with a cleat fitted to the sole. The cleat locks into a mechanism in the pedal, holding the shoe firmly to the pedal. Most of today's clipless pedals lock to the cleats when stepped together firmly, and unlock with when the foot is twisted outward. Clipless refers to the lack of an external toe clip (cage), but not to be confused with platform pedals without toe clips.


Hanson in 1895. It allowed the rider to twist the shoe to lock and unlock, and had rotational float (the freedom to rotate the shoe slightly to prevent foot strain).

It was Bernard Hinault's victory in Tour de France in 1985 that helped secure the acceptance of quick-release clipless pedal systems by cyclists. Those pedals remain in widespread use today.

  my own pedal  my own pedal
Previous pedals I have used.

The next major development in clipless pedals was Shimano's SPD (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) pedal system. The clipless pedal is much older then most people know.

Whereas cleats are large and stick out from the sole of the shoe making walking difficult. That is the benefit of SPD cleats which are small and could be fitted in a recess in the sole which makes walking easy.

The sandals I am using are perfect for this reason (see my bicycle shoes page).

The clipless pedals are very comfortable once you are used to it. The first time I used it I almost fell of the bike, but once you're used to it, you don't want to go back.

The advantages of clipless pedals are plenty. You have much more stability on your bike, you can use your power far more effective, which especially in the mountains is a serious advantage and no more slipping of the pedals too.

The only moments you do not want to use clipless is when you do a lot of off road cycling. In that case you will want an ordinary pedal.

Fortunately you can have a pedal with both clipless connection and on the other side a flat surface. This way you can use your bicycle shoes on both sides of the pedal.


Again, do not worry too much about weight (or fashion). I have been using several different kinds of pedals.

If you use SPD cleats, it really doesn't matter if you have clip/clipless pedals as you probably ALWAYS use the cleats. But to be on the safe side, I would recommend clip/clipless pedals (which is what I have been having for years now). Comfort is everything.

EBay Pedals auction

Pedals can be quite expensive. You can save your money by using our Today's EBay auction.

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