Guide To: Clipless Pedals

15th September 2015

Clipless pedals are a major upgrade for any cyclist, with improved security and pedalling efficiency being the key improvements over standard flat pedals or cages. Here’s how to upgrade to using clipless pedals.

Find the system you like

There are a few options here, so it’s about preference. The most popular tend to be the three bolt system used by Shimano and Look, although Speedplay have a 4 bolt system and mountain bike style SPD pedals have a two bolt system.

The MTB style two bolt system is double sided, which makes clipping in easier for beginners. The option for a recessed cleat shoe means that walking off the bike is easier as well. Most opt for the popular three bolt system, with most road bike shoes accommodating these. Some brands may vary the cleat design (the part that connects the shoe to the pedal) so this is worth checking; for example, Shimano cleats will not fit in a Look pedal, despite them using the same system.

Once you’ve decided on the system, then it’s time to choose the pedals based on your budget. The more expensive the pedal, the lighter the material used. Shimano Dura-ace 9000 pedals are around 248g, whereas the entry level Shimano PD-R540 SPD SL Sport pedals come in at 330g.

Get the right shoes and cleats

Although we would argue style is THE most important factor, what we actually mean is that the shoes need to have the right bolts in the right places to be compatible. It is worth checking before any purchase is made, and your local bike shop will be more than happy to assist with finding the right set up.

The type of cleat can also be chosen now, with Shimano having three tiers of float – 0, 2 and 6 degrees. As a beginner, the 6 degrees is generally the ideal one to use as it is less likely to cause injury and doesn’t feel as restrictive but it will depend on your personal needs. A professional bike fit, such as Powerfit, can help assess the type of cleats needed and advise on preventing common knee injuries around poor pedalling technique.

Practice, practice, practice!

Once the right system has been chosen, pedals are attached and your shoes are on, it’s time to do the hard part – clip in and out! Take the bike to a quiet area, such as a car park or private road and spend a good amount of time practicing the action. The more you do it, the better you will become and soon it’ll become second nature. Don’t worry if you fall the first time, just keep trying.

It may seem alien at first, but after a ride or two the action will become second nature and riding will feel more responsive, especially for harder pedalling efforts.