Choosing Pedals for Bicycle Touring

By Shular Scudamore

If you are old enough, you probably rode lots of miles before you bought toe clips. Today, you see far more people riding with "clipless" pedals. Why do we care? Which style of pedal is best for traveling cyclists? When I first wrote this article I was influenced by the popular trend for racing road bikes and mountain bikes. They use clipless pedal. There is a plastic or metal cleat attaching the shoe to the pedal. The claim has been that bicycling with clipless pedals made you more effcient.

Pedaling Efficiency

As a boy and into early adulthood I wore my tennis shoes and later running shoes to ride my bicycle. Proponents of clipless pedals say there are some problems with this approach. The soles of other sport shoes are not very stiff. Take a pair of running shoes and bend them - toe and heel down. You will quickly see how flexible these shoes are. The claim has been that this is not efficient for transferring power to the pedals. Take of your shoe. Look at your foot. You can arch your foot toe and heel down a very small amount. Does it matter that you can flex the shoe without your foot in it? Probably not.

Racing Cyclist will tell you that you will only be able to transmit force to the pedals on the downward stroke. The claim is that you can pull through the bottom of the stroke with clipless cycling pedals. Pulling through is like scraping mud off the bottom of your shoe they say. What really happens? I will write more on this soon. For now I will tell you that I am switching back to flat pedals for my next bicycle tour. I will only have to take one pair of shoes. Walking in grocery stores or trails will be easier. More later.

Toe Clip

pedal with toe clip Back in the day, toe clips were popular. The clip keeps your foot from sliding forward as you push through the circle. The strap keeps your foot securely in place. If you ride with your straps tight, you have to loosen one, before you come to a stop. I saw a fellow riding last fall using toe clips on his fixed gear bike.

Clipless Pedals

SPD Pedals

SPD style pedal The SPD style pedal, invented by Shimano, used on mountain bikes has the advantage of a small cleat on the bottom of the shoe that makes walking easy. When you take a break or walk into a store for some refreshment, this style shoe will be comfortable. shoe with SPD cleat Notice that the cleat is recessed so that it does not contact the floor. This pedal is one of many newer pedals that are referred to as "clipless" pedals.


eggbeater pedal This pedal has four sides for entry. The cleat is similar in size and shape to the SPD style. I have used this style and even had it on my road bike for a while. This is also classified as a clipless pedal.

Road Bike Pedals

road bicycle shoe Some of the popular road bike pedals are from Shimano, Look and Time. On a cross country trip the weight of the pedal should be reviewed. From my point of view, you will also want to look carefully at the cleat. My road bike shoes currently have Look style cleats. They are not as easy to walk on as the SPD style. You can see in the photo that the cleat raises the front of your foot. There is a small rubber insert near the rear of the cleat. It is almost flush after one season. Test the pedals before you take off on a long trip. Some designs distribute the load better than others.

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