Getting to grips with clip-in pedals

Clip-in Pedals

Some are strictly opposed, others are indifferent and many are simply uncertain. Opinions concerning clip-in pedals and the various platforms and clip-in mechanisms are understandably varied.
In order to shed some light on the subject of clip-in pedals, here are some practical tips for choosing the right model.

What are clip-ins and what do I need?

Clip-in pedals or clipless pedals are pedals made of plastic parts with metal composites (steel, aluminium, carbon, titanium), that make it possible to attach the foot to the pedal using a clicking mechanism. This not only makes it possible to push the pedals downward with your feet whilst pedalling, but also to pull them back up so to further increase the control of the bike.
The system consists of a matching insert on the shoes (shoe plate or cleat) and the attachment for these on the pedals. There are a variety of pedal plates which vary depending on the manufacturer and cycling event. Pedal plates for MTB shoes have two screws and are smaller than the large triangular cleats for road bike shoes with three bolt threads. Adapters for different manufacturers available. The SPD system by Shimano is widespread for touring bikes and MTBs.

How do clip-in pedals work?

Pedals with connection mechanics require special cycling shoes and make sense for anyone who regularly cycles. While road bikes generally require stiffer, more direct and powerful pedalling, mountain bikes with clip-in pedals are much easier to control. Due to the pull on the pedals and the direct connection, clip-ins allow you to travel much faster, as the power transmission is more efficient.
Depending on the model, the pedal tension can be adjusted using an Allen key or screwdriver and should be set quite loosely to begin with and tightened over time. Generally speaking, road cleats (Look) stay firmer on the pedals than SPD versions.
In addition to that there are pedal inserts with one-sided clicking mechanisms and a classic platform pedal on the other side as well as pedals with four-way clicking (Crankbrothers).
Road shoes with firm fitted pedal plates and lightweight pedals are the best combination for triathlon and road bikes. They ensure strong pedalling when out of the saddle and generally on hills. Touring cyclists and mountain bikers doing cross country and marathons use lightweight MTB pedals with an SPD system. The same goes for Cyclocross and Gravel. Downhill and freeriders as well as BMXers and trail bikers do not use click pedals at all, but rather combine shoes with good grip with profiled platform pedals, as they need to be able to quickly manoeuvre and step off the bike during their ride.

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