Looking to upgrade your road bike pedals from flat to clipless?
Unlike flat pedals, clipless pedals come in different shapes and variations.
So how are they different, and most importantly, which one is for you?
The top brands such as Shimano, Look, and Speedplay have many road bike pedals in their product line up.
A Quick Glance : Our Favorite Clipless Road Bike Pedals
Budget Pedals Picks
Just because they don’t carry the name of Shimano’s well-known groupsets such as the Dura-Ace and Ultegra, it doesn’t mean these pedals are not up to par.
They are quality pedals that will suit the needs of those just starting with clipless pedals. The R550’s are made of resin with a large shoe contact area for easy clipping in, making them a great option for beginners.
Installation is easy with a pedal spanner, and tension adjustment is a breeze with a 2.5mm allen key. As with other Shimano pedals, the pedal float is adjusted through the type of cleats you choose; yellow at 6 degrees, blue at 2 degrees, and red at 0 degrees.
These pedals come with a yellow set of cleats.
Value for Money Pedals
Shimano Ultegra R8000
Anyone who knows cycling is familiar with the wild popularity of Shimano’s Ultegra line of components. These pedals offer great value with a carbon-composite body and Chromoly steel spindles.
A large platform makes clipping easy while also offering excellent power transfer. Tension is easily adjustable through an easy-to-locate bolt on the front of each pedal.
Although not as light as Shimano’s top-of-the-line Dura-Ace pedals, the Ultegra R8000’s weigh in at just 248g, making these pedals an excellent value at their price point.
A 3 yellow 6-degree float cleats are included.
Pedals for Bad Knees
If you’re meticulous about the adjustments you can make to your bike components, then the Speedplay Zero might be for you.
With a screw on the pedal that allows you to adjust float from 0 to 15 degrees, the Zero easily has the most adjustable pedal float on the market.
The Zero’s are made of light-weight Chromoly, with each pedal weighing 138 grams. Its double-sided pedals make clipping a breeze. Remember that there is no tension adjustment on the Speedplay Zero, so this isn’t a good option for beginners.
The Zero also includes Speedplay’s new walkable cleats constructed with rubber covers for improved traction.
They come in 3 spindle materials; titanium, stainless steel, and Chromoly.
Time Xpro 12
With its carbon body and titanium spindle, Time offers one of the lightest pedals you can find on the market with the Xpro12.
Each pedal weighs just 94 grams, making this a favorite among weight weenies.
Time also has an eye on your position on the bike. Angular movement can be adjusted in three positions while the pedals’ release angle can be personalized through cleat selection.
This Xpro 12 also features a larger platform surface than the Xpressos. The Xpro’s also features Time’s bio position concept, which reduces the distance from the soles to the pedal axles for more direct power transfer.
When it comes to cycling gear, ultra-lightweight means more money and that’s no exception with Time’s Xpro 12, which are some of the most expensive pedals on the market.
Performance Oriented Pedals
Shimano Dura Ace R9100
Dura-Ace is Shimano’s top-of-the-line component group and these pedals offer top-of-the-line performance features.
At 228 grams for both pedals, these pedals are notably heavier than other pedals at this price point. But they make up for that with quality and durability.
The R9100’s feature an injection-molded carbon composite body protected by stainless steel plates with axles made of nickel Chromoly steel.
Needless to say, these pedals are built to last. The R9100 is also available with an axle that is 4mm longer if you need more clearance to optimize your Q factor.
Road Bike Pedals Buying Guide
1. Pedal Float Angle
Most pedals and cleats allow for some degree of float, which is your foot’s ability to pivot either left or right on the pedal while riding.
Float is measured in degrees and designates how far you can turn your foot before unlocking from the pedal.
Why is this important?
Float takes the pressure off the knee, helping to prevent injury. Some cleats offer a significant amount of float while others are fixed-position, locking you into the pedal.
Many pros opt for minimal float or fixed-position cleats with the idea that float detracts from a power-efficient pedal stroke. Pedal manufacturers offer cleats that have varying degrees of float built-in.
- Shimano offers similar color-coded cleats, including a fixed black cleat, a 4.5-degree grey cleat, and a 9-degree red cleat.
- Look offers a red cleat with 9 degrees of float, and a grey cleat, which offers 4.5 degrees of float.
- Speedplay allows you to make float adjustments via a screw adjuster from 0 to 15 degrees.
2. Platform Size
Platform size is no small thing when it comes to road bike pedals. Platform size determines the surface area of a pedal.
A larger surface area means the force of each pedal stroke is distributed more evenly over your foot than a smaller surface.
This equates to better power transfer and minimizes the chance of developing hotspots on your foot especially over the course of a long ride.
3. Release Tension
Release tension is quite simply the amount of force it takes for you to clip out of clipless pedals.
A beginner getting used to his first clipless pedal system needs tension below to avoid the pain and embarrassment of falling over at a stoplight as he frantically tries to get out of his pedals.
A serious cyclist or a racer, on the other hand, doesn’t want his foot to pull free from the pedals in the middle of a bunch sprint.
Adjusting the tension on most pedals is a simple task. Look for a small screw with a +/- sign on the pedals.
Shimano pedals have a screw located on the front that can be adjusted with an allen key. Since they don’t use springs to hold the pedal to the cleat, Speedplay pedals’ tension is not adjustable.
Top-end Look pedals, such as the KEO Blade, allow you to change tension by swapping out the pedals’ blades.
The Q factor is the distance between the pedal attachment points on the crank arms.
Why should you care?
Because Q-factor helps to determine where your feet engage the pedals, it can affect your stance on the bike.
A Q-factor that is too wide or too narrow can cause your knees to track either too far inward or outward resulting in joint pain.
A bad stance can be corrected through the length of the pedal’s spindles. For example, Shimano addresses this issue by offering pedals such as the Duraace R9100 that have spindles that are 4mm longer as an option.