They’re small. They’re located below the eye level. And pedals tend to get short shrift when it comes to bike features by those obsessed with gears, tires, and frames, like frames.
But according to the Contender Bicycle crew, if you don’t respect the dynamic of the shoe and pedal interface, your comfort and performance could be compromised.
At the juncture of cleat meets pedal, this little area absorbs a vast amount of load on the road, track, or trail, so a bit of recognition, please!
“When you are pushing 90 RPM for several hours on a small imperfection in your alignment, this is quickly magnified, leading to inefficiencies and possibly to injury,” experts warn cyclists.
Given your newfound understanding, it’s time to shop for the pedals guaranteed to make your ride awesome.
Related: Best Commuter Bikes
Shimano PD-R550 SPD-SL
These durable, wide, lightweight resin platforms offer cyclists plentiful contact areas (even for those with big feet). In return, expect maximum power transfer and severe support.
Given the contour and platform design of this pedal, you enjoy a larger entry target for active cleat engagement, and the wide spring tension adjustment range allows you to customize these pedals to accommodate your feet.
Made of stainless steel, the durable body plates reduce flex and cut back on pedal body wear. Because wide bearing placement makes your entire ride a more stable experience, you can expect uniform load distribution.
Weighing in at one pound and measuring 6.5- x 6- x 2-inches, you get cleats and hardware with these pedals, and as long as you own a standard pedal tool, installation is a breeze.
Now that you are convinced that these pedals are your best bet, we deliver the bad news: These pedals sell out fast and are often out of stock, so keep checking online and retailer inventory, and you’ll luck out eventually.
LOOK Keo Classic 3
Also highly rated, the retail price of these pedals is comparable to the Shimanos above, and reviews are equally enthusiastic. The body of these pedals is made of composite material for strength and durability; axles are crafted of Chromoly and threading measures 9/16 X 20 mm.
Weighing in at 14.4 ounces and measuring 2- x 3- x 5-inches, these pedals feature one ball bearing and one needle bearing cartridge. Easy to install with an 8mm Allen wrench (no pedal wrench required), these pedals are light and spin freely, and you can wear any shoe with a three-hole cleat attachment in a triangular shape to work these pedals.
While there’s been the occasional complaint about inconsistency with the clip out the release, reviewers heap praise on these pedals for longevity and performance, likely because LOOK’s unique way of fitting spindle into the pedal body is so efficient.
Testing? Oh, yes. “LOOK spindles are only approved after rotational tests of 2 million cycles at 100tr/min with a load of 90kg on the center of the pedal” are conducted.
Retrospec Bicycles Classic Road Bike Pedal
Your budget says, “I can’t afford pedals right now.” Inform your budget that Retrospec makes a classic road pedal that costs only as much as two fast-food lunches.
This high-end 9/16-inch axle road bike pedal gives you the option of riding with or without cleats thanks to integrated, unbreakable nylon toe clip and strap features. Weighing 10.6 ounces, these pedals offer cyclists a 7mm High-Grade Boron Steel Axle plus 140x91mm and 302-gram cage and straps.
Need more control? You can count on it thanks to the toe clip and strap that allow you to lock your feet to build momentum and expend energy more efficiently.
Small touches, like non-slip platform ridges, constrain feet during arduous rides, and since these pedals are crafted of polypropylene plastic, durability and long life are a given. If you insist on cleats, find compatibility with VP-ARC5 & VP-ARC6 products. Installation? It takes just minutes, even if you’re not handy.
Imrider Lightweight Polyamide Bike Pedals
For a few bucks more than those Retrospec classic pedals, you can acquire Imriders. The modest price increase comes with perks. Highly rated by cyclists for myriad reasons, these pedals are compatible with almost everything on two wheels: BMX bikes, cruisers, road bikes, mountain, junior, commuter bikes, and more.
The reason this pedal is marketed as one of the safest you can buy has to do with the fact that this product’s hard spindles ensure strong grips. The pedal surface features small pins that keep your feet from sliding off, a feature you’ll appreciate if you’ve got a history of skidding feet.
Because these pedals are crafted of high-quality polyamide, anticipate excellent abrasion resistance, and you need never worry about corrosion. Grippy and affordable, these pedals even come in colors, so if you want to dress up your ride, the blue, orange, or red options can help you stand out from the crowd.
Shimano Unisex PD-A530 pedals
Plan to open your wallet wide for these pedals. You’ll spend between 3- and 11-times as much on them as you would if you chose any of the four products described thus far. Of course, in return for your investment, you get the Mercedes-Benz of pedals.
By eliminating toe-clips and integrating the pedal and outsole into a single unit, unified power transfer is exceptional and unprecedented. You also enjoy stability and comfort.
Be conservative or take rides on the wild side; you control all aspects of your trip, and cleats are included with both the black and silver styles. Shed mud as you speed along with courtesy of a superior open binding design that systematically flushes out debris and soil with each pedal stroke.
Thanks to Shimano dynamics and engineering, you’ll agree with thousands of customers who don’t care about the price because they know that high quality and longevity are worth the expense.
SHIMANO PD-R540 SPD pedals
For half the cost of the Shimano mentioned above Unisex pedals, these wide platform pedals (7.5- x 6.3- x 2.4-inches) deliver efficient transfer of power, stability, and uniform load distribution.
Enjoy the same low-maintenance sealed cartridge feature that rebuffs soil and mud described in the pricier Shimano above, and this pedal lets you adjust entry and release tension settings.
These pedals are weighted, easy to install, and crafted of sturdy Chrome-moly spindle material paired with aluminum. While it takes some practice to learn to detach from the pedals if you’re a beginner, once you master the release, you’ll be glad you invested in this efficient product.
Weighing 9.6 ounces, these more-affordable Shimano’s consistently earned high ratings, and while you don’t get cleats, pedals do come with lock plates. Even if you’re new to the world of clipless pedals, you won’t have trouble making the transition, say enthusiasts who insist they’ll “never go back.”
How to choose the best commuter bike pedals
Clipless or platform pedals: your call
We turn to REI.com for one of the most comprehensive guides to choosing bike pedals, so if you’re on the fence, read it in its entirety. If you’d instead be peddling than reading, we offer you Cliff’s Notes on the subject.
The term clipless was coined decades ago to describe an attachment system similar to the one that links skis to snowshoes. Clipless pedals are constructed by mounting a section of plastic or metal cleat to a shoe sole; then, wearers slip their feet into spring-loaded clips atop the pedal.
These come in 2- or 3-hole configurations and are the preferred pedal for speed freaks and cycle acrobats. Since your commute probably doesn’t include outrageous behaviors, you might wish to stick with flat pedals.
If your primary goals are efficiency and control, experts recommend clipless pedals over flat ones because when your footwear connects to pedals, power transfer occurs when you pull up and push down. Alternately, if you commute in traffic, flat pedals allow you to take your feet off the pedals entirely whenever you like.
Short on time and always in a rush? Flat pedals are more comfortable because you’re wearing shoes that have no cleats, so you don’t have to worry about stowing an extra pair of shoes in your desk drawer.
That stated, if you mount and dismount frequently ( coffee, donut, dry cleaner stops ), flat pedals are likely to be your best bet, and you won’t piss off retailers by wearing cleats on their floors.
What types of shoes are best for your commute?
According to writer Barbara Schneider-Levy, bicycle-friendly shoes aren’t hard to find, and if you intend to get through your business day wearing the same pair, you can refine your search by using these criteria:
1. Safety first, especially if your commute takes you through busy streets, which is why open-toed shoes are verboten when commuting to work. Seem obvious? Not for harried business types preoccupied with more pressing matters.
Exposed feet make high targets for anything along your route, including cement, refuse, and stuff that motorists discard as they drive. Sandals and flip-flops can get stuck on pedals and lead to injuries. ‘Nuff said?
2. Almost any type of flat shoe works for a bike commute, especially if you choose a pair with a sole designed to take abuse when you walk to and from your bike and make frequent stops along your route. Wearing shoes with heels is never advised.
This style can minimize contact between shoe and pedal, causing foot slippage.
3. Nothing beats a flat shoe with a sole designed for traction. While leather soles can easily slide off pedals, the texturized ridges on soles can prevent that from happening, and your feet won’t slide off pedals when you can least afford them to do so. Vulcanized rubber soles are the ultimate grippers if you prioritize safety.
4. Adjustment features provide an extra measure of security. Shoes with laces are less likely to slip off your feet, but make sure those laces aren’t so long they get caught in gears or chains. Finally, shoes that are too lightweight could make your commute a nightmare in lousy weather.
Are flat pedals more efficient than clipless ones?
If this topic fascinates you, watch this entire video.
Wilson has concluded that while plenty of industry pros advocate on behalf of clipless pedals, what analysts undertaking studies measure are stroke styles. Wilson is convinced that flat pedals force one to be more efficient about the way one pedals and therefore, he’s confident of their superiority.
“Clipless pedals let you get away with a less efficient pedal stroke because you can pull up on the backstroke,” he says. Further, clipless pedals force riders to consume more oxygen and work less efficiently because these pedals override the body’s natural way of moving. “The only way to ensure an optimal pedal stroke is by spending time on flats each year.”
At the very least, Wilson urges cyclists to switch between flat and clipless pedals to “train their pedal stroke and skills so they’ll be better clipless riders.”
His conclusion? “Saying that one pedal system is better is like saying that you should “always” use one and “never” use the other, which ultimately shows a lack of critical thinking skills. There is a time and place for both systems, and once we stop arguing over, which is better, the sooner we can learn how to make better use of them both.”
Which bicycle pedals are the safest?
We dropped in on a Stack Exchange chat room where the moderator posed two questions: “Is it safer being clipped in to minimize the risk of your foot slipping and causing a fall? Or is it safer to be unclipped so that if you do fall, you detach from your bike easily?.
The most straight-forward opinion came from a cyclist whose personal commuting experiences are extensive. “Since biking in the city involves dealing with a lot of unexpected obstacles/dangers/stops/etc., you should be able to quickly and confidently dismount your bike and re-mount with little hassle.”
In sum, a split second can mean the difference between a clean unclipping and falling.
Another participant adds, “If I were optimizing a bike for inner-city commuting, I’d probably go for carefully chosen platforms and pick shoes to go nicely with them.” We don’t expect this question to be resolved any time soon. Where do you weigh in?
How much money do you want to spend on your pedals?
Pedals in this review are priced between $22 and $219, but this does not cover the complete price range, says Mahfuz for BikerKits.com. His search led him to conclude that flat pedals fit into the $22 to $150 range while clipless pedals run between $50 and $200.
Based on construction costs, manufacturers must factor in raw materials, pins, bearings, and extras that are proprietary to each pedal product. You’ll pay more, says Mahfuz, for extra comfort, non-standard sizes, pricier raw materials, and unique elements, but these extras are often the reason some pedals perform better and last longer.
Of course, you already know that, but it never hurts to share a reminder!
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