Picking the right type of pedals for cycling.

When you first start riding your bike, you may not realize how vital your pedals are.  Depending on what type of riding you are doing will determine what kind of pedals you need. Will you be riding dirt trails, road riding, or commuting? You may need the power transfer and efficiency of a clipless pedal.  Or the ease of a platform petal that allows you to remove your feet quickly. 

I will explain some different options for you to make the right decision for yourself.


Platform Bike Pedals:

Platform pedals are the type of pedals your bike has when you buy it. They support your feet, and you can wear any kind of shoes with these pedals. These pedals are excellent for commuting and some gravel riding. They have a combination of grip and control for basic travel. They are also the easiest way for you to get on and off your bike.

When I first started cycling, I used the platform pedals that came with the bike. I quickly realized that I needed to be able to have more control in pedaling. It is crucial to push down and pull up on the pedals to get more movement.  

Pedal Toe Cages and Straps:


Toe clips or cages are frames that attach to your pedals. They surround your toe so you can pull up with your foot and push down. Most toe cages have an adjustable strap that gives you a basic retention system that is easy to use and less expensive for beginners. While using a toe cage, you may want to get sturdy shoes to avoid injury to the top of your foot during long rides. 

You may want to buy a pair of  Flat-pedal biking shoes or cycling cleats. Flat pedal biking shoes do not have a clip but the soles stick to the pedals and are flexible enough to walk in comfortably. If you choose the cycling cleats you can adhere the clips to the cycling cleat once you feel ready. When you wear cycling shoes you will benefit from getting used to the feel and comfort while protecting your feet.

If you decide to go the flat-pedal biking shoe route, I recommend the Five Ten Men's Freerider Promountain Bike Shoe and Five Ten Women's Freerider Pro Bike Shoes.

The Five Ten Freerider Are lightweight and weather-resistant. The upper part of the shoe is fast drying water-resistant material. They are good for a light shower but not a downpour. They have lace-up closure and a breathable mesh lining. They have an impact-resistant toe box, a thick padded tongue, collar and footbed for comfort. The padding on the top of the foot is great to protect your foot from the toe cage. The Full S1 dotty outsole gives the shoe an excellent grip on the pedals. The best feature is that they are stiff enough to protect your foot and help with peddling but comfortable enough to walk in. You can see the available sizes and colors through the link to the right.

When I switched to a toe cage that gave me more control and smoother riding. While using a toe cage or anything that restricts your foot, you need to be careful. Stopping and starting with your foot in the cage takes practice. The first time I used the toe cage, I fell flat on my face. Now I know why the bike helmet has a brim. 

I recommend looking at the NAMUCUO Bike Pedals with Toe Clip and Straps, for Exercise Bike, Spin Bike, and Outdoor Bicycles. They are made of high-quality resin for the cage and alloy for the body of the pedal.  The toe cages also come with an extra nylon strap to help keep your feet positioned on the pedal. 

Clipless Bike Pedals:

The term “Clipless” is confusing because these pedals clip into the petal and cleats similar to a ski and ski boots. The name refers to the “toe clips,” which were the only way a cyclist could improve pedaling efficiency. As cycling progressed, the toe clip changed, and now there is a direct attachment to the shoe and pedals. 

The clipless bike pedal system is a mount on the cleat on the sole of your shoe that snaps into the clip on your pedal. Clipless pedals have a higher level of pedaling control than the platform pedal or the toe clips. 

The control is better because your feet are attached to the pedals. 

It takes some time to get used to clipless pedals. It's a good idea to practice riding on a bike trainer or take slow rides on a flat surface. When my dad started using clipless pedals he could not release his foot and ended up injuring his shoulder. He was clipped-in too tightly and couldn’t get his foot out quick enough to break his fall. I have described how to avoid this under How To Set Up Your Cleats when I define float and tension.

I recommend the Venzo Bicycle Men's or Women's Road Cycling Spin Riding Shoes. They come in unisex sizing to fit both men and women. They are made for road riding, commuting, touring, and spin class. The cleat is compatible with the Look Delta and Peloton Bike. It is a combination set of shoes and  Delta cleat already attached, or you can buy just the shoes. They are quick-drying and breathable. They have a removable sock liner with low cut construction for a light, fast fit, and feel. The cleats have a 9-degree float and you can adjust the resistance. ( You will learn more about float and resistance later in this article.)

To avoid injury, here are some steps to take to use cycling cleats and clipless pedals properly.

First, you need to find the correct angle of the cleat on the sole of your shoe. If the angle is not accurate, you can have knee pain. Keep in mind that both feet may not be the same. The position of the cleat is in the center of the pedal axle. It will align with the ball of your foot. This positioning is optimal for efficiency and pedal power transfer.

How to set up your cleats?

Put on your cycling cleats and socks you will be wearing to ride. Tighten your shoes to feel comfortable. Locate the ball of your foot by pressing your thumb or finger along the inside edge of your shoe. It’s the bony knuckle protruding from the bottom of your big toe.

Mark the center point of the ball of your foot on the side of your shoe. Repeat this with your other shoe.

Take your shoes off and place them on a flat surface. Use a straight edge to mark a straight line from the ball of your foot mark to your sole. Make sure your marks are visable.

Fit the clip loosely on your shoe to align centered with the mark you made for the ball of your foot. Most cleats have a marker on the side to indicate where the center of the pedal axle will be to line up your mark with the mark on the shoe.

More the cleats side to side on the pedal clip to adjust the placement to your comfort. Float and tension are very important to take note of when you first clip-in.

Tension is how easy or hard it is to clip and un-clip from your pedals. There is a screw that you can adjust the tension. When starting out, make sure you use the loosest setting. Once you get used to it you can tighten the tension.

Float is a small degree of sideways rotational movement which allows the foot to center itself during the pedal stroke. More cyclists are using a floating cleat as opposed to a fixed position cleat. This is because the base of the shoe can be less accurately placed than a fixed position cleat and it is easier to set on your own.

Different manufactures have cleats with varying degrees of float. (They are color coded: red 9°, grey 4.5°, yellow 6°) This means that it is the amount of degrees it takes to rotate your heal and un-clip your foot from the pedal. A small amount of float can be beneficial in preventing injury and outweighs a slight loss of power transfer efficiency.

Clipless/Platform Bike Pedals

The clipless/platform pedal is a hybrid that is a combination of a platform pedal and a clipless system. On one side, there is a standard clip. On the other side, there is a platform that you can wear any shoe with. You have to choose between one or the other. Therefore, this pedal is best for a commuter who switches back and forth from work and cycling shoes. This pedal is also a great way to slowly move up to clipless if you don’t feel comfortable yet.

I recommend the versatile SHIMANO PD-EH500; SPD Bike Pedals; Cleat Set Included; Dual Sided Platform.

It is a dual-sided bike pedal with a platform on one side and SPD step-in or clip-in on the other. You need to use SPD cycling shoes when going clipless or regular shoes on the platform. The pedal and the Shimano SM-SH56 clips are included and they are compatible with SM-SH51 cleat.

These pedals are convenient for road and mountain biking, commuting and urban riding. The platform side has removable traction pins that have grip and control even in wet conditions. They are light and durable with an aluminum pedal body and chrome-moly steel axle.


Pedal choice is based on comfortability and experience. With any of these options, it is essential to educate yourself so you can avoid injury. Whether it be knee or leg pain or safely getting on and off your bike, make sure you practice until you get comfortable. Start slow and make the right decision for yourself as you get more experienced. 

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