Tag Archives: LOOK

A clipless pedal is a quick and easy upgrade to make your next ride better

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

There is a simple equation that always holds true with clipless pedals: control = comfort. By securing your feet in place with a clipless pedal you can use muscles more efficiently, relieve excessive strain on your feet and be connected to your bicycle more directly. Read on to see how easy it is to learn to ride “clipless”.

Before the clipless pedal, riders would install baskets and straps (toe clips) on their pedals.

Before the clipless pedal, bicycle riders would install baskets and straps (toe clips) on their pedals.

Why would you call a pedal that you clip into “clipless”? Before the clipless pedal, riders would install baskets and straps (toe clips) on their pedals. Then, in the 1970s, a company called Look used ski binding technology to create a pedal that would retain a rider’s foot and allowing them to free themselves easily. This invention was called the “clip-less” pedal because it did away with the need for toe clips. Today, there are many clipless pedal designs. Each one is suited for a different riding style, but function similarly.


While your leg cycles through a pedal stroke it is common for your foot to rotate slightly. That foot rotation is because most people’s joints aren’t perfectly aligned. Therefore, to compensate for a foot’s normal rotation, clipless pedals allow your foot to rotate within the pedal without releasing the pedal. That designed rotation is called float, and measured in degrees

Spring Tension

Clipless pedals use a retention mechanism to hold the cleat in place. This retention mechanism needs to have enough spring tension to hold the cleat under effort, while still allowing the rider to easily disengage. Some pedals have adjustable spring tension while others are fixed.

Cleat Material

The cleats is the item attached to your shoe that clips into your pedal. So, the cleat material has a large influence on how easily they clip in, float, and clip out. The most common cleat materials are brass, steel, and plastic. Brass is a great wearing material, that corrodes at a very slow rate and clips in and out incredibly smoothly. Steel on the other hand, has an even greater wear life, but corrodes more quickly. Finally, Plastic cleats wear very quickly, but can be designed to clip in and out smoother than any other material.

Offroad pedals

The requirements of an offroad pedal are that they need to work in all conditions, use a small cleat, and be durable enough for the occasional rock strike. Because of these requirements most offroad pedals and cleats are made of metal to be very durable. They also have bodies that are designed to clear mud and debris easily. Of all the clipless pedals on the market the most popular pedal is the SPD. SPD pedals have an engagement mechanism on both sides, with adjustable tension and use a steel cleat. Another very popular brand is the Crank Brothers Egg Beater series. These pedals engage on 4 sides, use a brass cleat, but have no adjustment for tension.

Another great option for offroad riders is a platform pedal with a clipless mechanism built in (see image). That platform gives the rider foot stability and the ability to pedal while they work to clip in. Many riders who are new to clipless pedals love this option because of the stability it offers if you are clipped in or not.


The benefits of clipless are something all riders can enjoy. Therefore, even if you are riding bike paths or rail trails, clipless could be good for you. With that in mind, the most popular type of clipless for recreational riders is the ½ and ½ pedal. The ½ and ½ have a clipless mechanism on one side, and a flat pedal on the other. This makes them versatile enough to clip in on longer rides, or just pedal around in sneakers for short spins. Like Offroad riders, some recreational riders like a clipless platform pedals for their versatility and stability.

Competitive road

For competitive road cyclists, the requirements of pedals are very specific. They need their pedals to direct all their effort into the bike without compromise. Therefore, road pedals have a larger platform and cleat than other pedals. Because of the very large cleat, road shoes have almost no tread on them. Additionally, most road cleats are made of plastic so they can hold tight under effort, but release easily. For road pedals the most popular brands are Shimano and Look which operate similarly. They both use plastic cleats, and have adjustable tension. The unique Speedplay pedal is another very popular pedal for road bikes. Speedplay is unique because they incorporate the retention mechanism into the cleat rather than the pedal and offer the largest amount of float of any brand.


While on the subject of pedals, we should also talk about cycling shoes. Cycling shoes have a stiff sole to disperse pedaling pressures along the entire length of your foot. For competitive riders, the key to a good shoe is the stiffness of that sole. For more recreational riders, it is important to consider comfort over efficiency. Determining comfort on cycling shoes is different than that of normal shoes. First off, in cycling shoes, your feet are trying to pull out of the shoe throughout the pedal stroke. This means that you want the shoes to fit as snug as possible. It is OK for your toe to feather the front of the shoe if you try. Second, most cycling shoes are made of synthetic materials, which stretch over time. This means that they will only get bigger as you use them.

Notice, the cyclist in blue has clipless pedal making each pedal stroke easier.

Notice, the cyclist in blue has clipless pedal making each pedal stroke easier.

Good pedals and shoes can make a big difference in how comfortable your ride is. Be sure to find the right product for you, and practice how to use them.

Cycling shoes can help you ride longer, faster and in greater comfort.

Cycling Shoes: What Are The Differences and How To Make Sure They Fit

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Cycling shoes can help you ride longer, faster and in greater comfort but only if you get ones that fit well. Read on to see what makes cycling shoes unique and how to find the right ones for you.

Benefits of Cycling Shoes, Clipless or Not

Cycling shoes have a very stiff sole to disperse pedaling pressures along the entire length of your foot. In contrast, normal sneakers have flexible soles that centralize most of your pedaling efforts onto the sesamoid bones, causing a lot of discomfort. Therefore, a cycling shoe is also a great option for riders who don’t plan to use a clipless pedal. Once you add the benefits of a clipless pedal, cycling shoes will make riding easier and more comfortable.

Types of Soles for Cycling Shoes

What makes a cycling shoe stiff is the materials used in the sole. The most common materials are nylon and carbon fiber. Nylon is a great choice for cycling shoes because it is strong, relatively light, very durable and highly resistant to cracking. Additionally, nylon is inexpensive, so it can be used to make low cost cycling shoes. The downside of nylon is in its stiffness over time. In my experience, Nylon will generate a flex point over time, making the shoes more flexible through the years. Carbon is very similar to Nylon in that it is strong, and light. Where carbon differs is that it is far stiffer than nylon, never generates flex, and is very expensive to produce. Carbon soles are only found on high cost shoes, but offer a much longer lifespan.

Types of Cycling Shoes

Cycling shoes can help you ride longer, faster and in greater comfort and there is a large selection to choose from.

Cycling shoes can help you ride longer, faster and in greater comfort and there is a large selection to choose from.

Cycling shoes can most easily be categorized into three categories – Road, Mountain, Recreation.

Road Cycling Shoes

Road shoes are easy to spot because the sole is almost entirely smooth with only a small bit of tread on the heel. They are the only shoes capable of accepting a large road cleat, and are typically highly ventilated.  Thanks to the lack of tread, it is easy to see what the sole material is.

Mountain Cycling Shoes

A Mountain shoe will look like a road shoe above the sole. Often time the closures, ventilation and appearance are the same as it’s road sibling. Where these shoes differ is the sole design. Mountain shoes have deep treads built into the sole to offer traction in loose and steep conditions. Because the sole is covered in rubber treads it is more difficult to conclude if it is made of carbon or nylon.

Recreation Cycling Shoes

Not everyone needs a road specific shoe or the aggressive treads that come with a mountain shoe. For that reason, most companies make a recreational cycling shoe. These shoes use a soft rubber for the tread that offers tons of grip when used on a flat pedal, they also use a nylon sole for stiffness and clipless compatibility. Mostly, these shoes look like a casual sneaker even though they hide cycling specific benefits inside. Some even use a hinged sole that can flex upward when you walk, but will not flex under pedaling forces.

Insoles in Cycling Shoes

Your foot is designed to work like a leaf spring when walking or running. Your arch collapses to absorb impact and rebounds to help you propel forward. Although, when cycling, having your arches collapse can cause alignment issues in your knees, ankles, and hips. To combat arch collapse, most cycling shoes use insoles designed to support your arch. If your shoes don’t offer insoles with enough support, there are plenty of options available for custom insoles.

Trying them on

Now that you understand what you’re looking at, let’s talk about how to try the shoes on. First thing to remember about cycling shoes is that they are nothing like sneakers. Cycling shoes are often sized in European sizing and while most brands offer a conversion chart, only use it as a starting point.

When you try a Cycling shoe on for the first time, it should fit tighter than a sneaker. You want a tight fit because your foot is attempting to pull out of the shoe during a pedal stroke. In contrast, while running your foot is being slammed into the shoe so sneakers need to be more roomy. Additionally, most cycling shoes are made of synthetic materials that stretch and conform to your foot over time. Therefore, a shoe will be far more snug when you try it on than a year later. If the shoe is snug all the way around, that is good fit even if you can feather your toe off the front of the shoe. If you feel any specific point of contact, that usually is an indicator that the shoe is the wrong fit.

Installing Cleats in Cycling Shoes

If you go to your local bike shop to get your shoes, they will typically install the cleat for you. If you are doing it on your own, try to position the cleat just behind the ball of your foot and straight on the shoe. I find it helpful to grease the threads of the cleat bolts before installation.

Hopefully, you feel comfortable going to try cycling shoes on after reading this. If you do have any more questions, either leave them in the comments, or visit your local bike shop.