Get attached: An introduction to clipless pedals
Special to the Tribune
For anyone new to mountain biking, “clipless” pedals can be a daunting proposition.
Forget the oxymoronic nature of their name — it’s not worth explaining. The style involves being attached to — or “clicking in” to — the pedals by means of a specialty shoe with a cleat.
The benefit? Your foot is less likely to slide off your pedal and get painfully tattooed when it whips back around. They’re also more efficient because you can get a mechanical advantage in both the up and down pedaling motions.
“The efficiency gain of being clipped into the pedal is incredibly valuable,” said Danielle Tarloff, bike expert and fitting pro for Wilderness Sports in Dillon, Colo.
The pedals also make it easier to hop your bike over or off of features when riding downhill.
The one drawback? The idea of taking a fall and still being attached to your bike is a scary one, but it doesn’t have to be.
“It’s pretty easy to get unattached from your bike if you fall,” Tarloff added. “You can adjust the tension.”
Meaning, the clips can be adjusted to a point where they pop open with minimal effort. She proceeded to add that in the event of a fall, you’re really not all that likely to stay attached. Many trail riders opt to use them, and most live to bike another day, even after nasty falls. With a little practice on flat ground, a rider can get used to them pretty quickly.
The pedals typically run between $40 and $100. Shoes with the appropriate cleats are in a similar price range and come in a variety of styles. They can look like a regular tennis shoe, or they can be more rigid, similar to a soccer cleat.
Here, we’re checking out two pedal styles from Shimano. Both are worthy introductions to newcomers entering the clipless world.
For my money, Shimano’s M424-SPD pedal is the best option in the clipless pedal realm. It’s both less expensive than other pedals (including the popular but expert-level Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3) and more practical because of its hybrid design — which, admittedly, doesn’t appeal to everyone.
This pedal is a great option for a biker who wants to use clipless pedals when charging hard on the trail. But with the cage or “trail body” surrounding the clipless mechanism, it’s also a great option for riding your mountain bike as a commuter bike with regular shoes. The platform design also comes in handy on the trail when you want to pedal while not clicked in with clipless shoes.
It’s worth noting, however, that if you’re riding with thin-soled street shoes, you will feel the cleat-attachment device poking through slightly. In other words, you won’t want to do any aggressive riding with these pedals without the appropriate cleated shoe.
For those committing to clipless pedals 100 percent, Shimano’s PD-M520L pedal might be the better way to go. It uses the same system but comes without the trail body built around the click-in mechanism.
If you’re the sort who’s preoccupied with shedding bike weight (maybe for the next ultra-endurance race), this is the slightly lighter option.
Some riders might also find that the trail body on the hybrid-style pedal is more cumbersome than a pedal without it. The hybrid is good for mountain bikers who spend as much time riding to work as riding along the trail, while the pedal without the trail body might be easier to use when dealing with rocks and roots. You could pedal this model with street shoes, but you’ll find it much less practical without the surrounding bracket. This pedal (and all non-SPD models) should really only be used with proper shoes.