Clipless Pedal Guide
What Clipless Pedals and Shoes Do I Need?
Clipless pedals are a great way to gain some extra rear wheel control, and better efficiency while pedalling. But what are they, and which ones should you get to suit the type of riding you do?
This is our guide for which pedals suit which type of riding the best.
For some silly reason, the pedals that you clip into are called clipless. This comes from the days of toe-clips being popular in road racing, those silly ones where you slip your toes into a cage and strap your foot in. At the time, the only alternative was a slippery and very flat pedal, so most people chose to strap in and hope for the best.
Then Shimano came along with the SPD about 26 years ago, which allowed you to gain more efficiency when pedalling, but without the hinderance of a toe-clip, hence the term ‘clipless’.
Regardless of what you call them, clipless, clip-ins, cleats etc. they are pedals designed with an interface between a cleat screwed to your shoes, and a clasp on the pedal body.
They come in a bunch of different shapes and sizes designed for different uses. Different brands also offer different styles of cleats with different feels to them. Shimano, for example, have a very firm, crisp feel but without much ‘float’, or side to side movement within the pedal. Crank Brothers don’t have the same positive feel when clipping in or out, but they have that extra angular and side to side movement. So branding is entirely personal preference, and we suggest reading up on reviews or asking our awesome support staff when it comes to which brand will suit you best. For now, let’s crack into which style of pedal offers what features.
For XC riding and racing, a smaller body pedal is typically the most effective option. They can be incredibly light, and offer high stiffness for huge power output. They typically also sit with a lower q-factor, again providing higher power output.
A stiff sole shoe is ideal, for maximum power output. A soft sole would just wrap around the small body of the pedal and be very uncomfortable, if not painful! The slight protruding rails on the base of these shoe style designed to give a bit of extra purchase with the smaller bodied pedals, but also to be able to walk around without damaging the cleat.
The next step up is a trail/all mountain style pedal. This style of pedal is typically the most common, and work best for the majority of riders. These are heavier and tougher than your XC race pedal, and provide more traction and support around the body. These have a small-mid sized cage around the cleat interface.
The extra cage around the cleat interface gives your foot more room to find purchase on. They’re ideal for rougher trails when support and comfort are favoured over low weight.
Compatible shoes for these kinds of pedals can vary. XC type shoes work well, as their rails sit nicely on the pedal cage. Chunkier, all mountain type shoes will work the best with these pedals. Even bigger DH shoes will work fine too.
The heaviest, strongest, and most supportive clipless pedals are the downhill variety. These often appear quite similar to flat pedals with a cleat interface in the middle.
While designed for downhill use, they are quite often also seen on harder charging enduro and trail bikes. It’s entirely up to the rider whether they wish to sacrifice weight to gain some strength and platform support.
The best shoes to use with pedals of this size and style, is one with an inset cleat block, and large, grippy soles. This will allow you to get the full traction from the pins, support from the cage, but also the crisp cleat feel.
All that’s left to do from here is grab the matching shoes and pedals to the style of riding you prefer, then get out and shred!