Before heading off on your next cycling adventure, you might be asking yourself about the different types of bicycle pedal that are available.
The two most common types of pedals are clipless, and flat pedals. Most of us are familiar with the flat pedals that many utility bicycles are sold with. These are the rectangular pedals that provide, as their name suggests, a flat surface on both sides of the pedal that you can place your foot on. You may, however, have also seen the clipless pedals that can be found in many bicycle stores. Clipless pedals require specialist cycling shoes that lock into the pedal using a specific twisting motion of the foot.
If the difference between the two were summarized in one sentence, it would be that flat pedals prioritize convenience while clipless pedals offer greater stability. Each type of pedal has its own advantages and disadvantages that are important to consider when making a decision.
The advantages of flat pedals
Flat pedals, which are also known as platform pedals, are the simpler of the two options to use and certainly the type of pedal that is more familiar to beginner cyclists. With flat pedals, all a cyclist has to do is wear a pair of comfortable shoes, place them on the pedals however they like, and start riding.
This simplicity makes flat pedals ideal for those who like to wear non-specialist sportswear as well as those who also want to use their bicycles for everyday utility cycling. With flat pedals, you can choose how your foot is placed and angled on the pedal, which side of the pedal you wish to use, and you have the option to quickly take your feet off the pedal.
This last point is particularly important for those who ride on roads as the ability to place your foot on the ground can be very important in certain situations, such as when you need to stop at intersections or traffic signals. It can also be important for mountain bikers who like to have the ability to quickly use their feet in technical maneuvers where necessary.
The disadvantages of flat pedals
The main disadvantage of flat pedals is that, depending on how much grip the pedals and your shoes offer, you may find that your feet slip in wet weather conditions.
This means that you will have to constantly focus on maintaining the pedal stroke and keeping your feet firmly fixed to the pedals. This point is particularly important while mountain biking. While riding along trails, you will likely encounter difficult terrain that throws the frame of the bike, and consequently yourself, off balance.
Because your feet are not locked into the pedals, you will have to quickly return them to the correct position while continuing to navigate the trail. A failure to return your feet in time may result in the total loss of balance and, potentially, a fall.
The advantages of clipless pedals
Clipless pedals, which are also known as clip-in pedals, help to ensure stability is at the center of your cycling. By constantly being able to focus on your cycling technique while not having to worry about your feet slipping, clipless pedals introduce predictability to your ride so that you can place your attention elsewhere.
Clipless pedals are also generally smaller than flat pedals and weigh less. This means that both you and the bicycle are slightly more aerodynamic, lightweight, and, as a result, potentially faster. Given that many cyclists are constantly looking for new ways to reduce weight on their bicycle, a cyclist who has been using flat pedals up until now may want to look at the type of pedals that they are using.
With your feet locked into the pedals, it is also very unlikely that the pedals will hit your shins as your feet cannot slip off. This is a fairly common, and rather painful, injury among those that use flat pedals.
Finally, just as some prefer the freedom of foot and leg movement that comes with flat pedals, others prefer the sense of stability that comes with being locked into the bicycle and feeling a sense of alignment with the bicycle’s mechanics.
The disadvantages of clipless pedals
The first disadvantage to be aware of is that clipless pedals require specialist footwear while flat pedals do not. Cycling shoes, fitted with connecting sockets known as “cleats,” are needed to lock your feet into the pedals.
These shoes are purely designed for cycling and it is therefore not recommended that you walk around with them too much as they will wear very quickly. Due to the specialist footwear and the locking mechanism involved, you will need to spend some time becoming accustomed to clipless pedals if you have never used them before. In particular, the most important aspect of using clipless pedals that you will need to learn is how to clip in and clip out of the pedals quickly and with confidence.
This is so that you can avoid falling over when you need to stop immediately. In road cycling, clipless pedals may also only have one side to them, which means they have to be spun into the correct position before clipping in. One final point to bear in mind is that cycling shoes, cleats, and clipless pedals are more expensive than a pair of ordinary sneakers and flat pedals.
While some may consider the investment to be worthwhile, those who are looking to save money may want to consider using flat pedals instead.
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Flat pedals or clipless pedals? The choice is up to you!
The best way to find out whether you would prefer flat or clipless pedals is to try both of them out. You may find that you prefer the overall convenience afforded by flat pedals, or you might enjoy the stability offered by clipless pedals more. Both types of pedal are widely popular in the cycling community and both have their supporters and their critics.
Whatever you decide, you can be sure that either pedal type would make a fantastic addition to your favorite bicycles whether you are a road cyclist or a mountain biker!