Best Clipless Pedals (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
Attach your feet firmly on these clipless pedals and ride smoother.
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BY Norah Tarichia / LAST UPDATED ON March 25, 2021
Contrary to what the name suggests, clipless pedals (also known as clip-in pedals) do have clips on them, making them the modern-day alternative to flat pedals. The term "clipless" is derived from the absence of a toe-clip. In the toe-clip’s place is the use of a cleat that’s bolted to a rider’s shoes so his or her feet can stay engaged on the pedal and only come off when required. Several alternatives of clipless pedals have been developed to cater to the needs of a growing population of cyclists. For the amateur and seasoned cyclist alike, the choice of clipless pedal ultimately boils down to personal preference, which in turn is influenced by various variables. A detailed rundown of these options can help you make an informed buying decision.
This pedal combines the best of both worlds, with its aluminum and stainless steel construction availing both clipped-in and flat-pedal riding experience for the versatile rider.
- Sturdy design and strong build
- Adjustable to suit desired riding style
- Provides multiple color options
- Comes with a five-year warranty
- Rather narrow for mountain biking
- Costly cleat replacement parts
- Clip-in side has a break-in period
These pedals are compatible with all Shimano SPD mountain bike pedal systems. The design consists of a cleat cage, made of high-quality stainless steel.
- High-end design for an affordable price
- Excellent build quality
- Allows easy clip in and release
- Backed with a two-year warranty
- Bulkier than most alternatives
- Tension screws are free-turning, hence tend to come undone
- Clicking sounds during riding
These pedals provide pro-level performance through a combination of clip-in hardware and several adjustable parts in a sturdy stainless steel frame.
- Lightweight enough for smooth riding
- Wide surface provides even load distribution
- Adjustable release tension
- Low profile design provides sufficient ground clearance for leaning
- Cleat bolts are on the shorter side
- Slight pedal wobble even when tightly applied
- Difficult to clip into and out of compared to other models
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Benefits of Clipless Pedals
- Secure foothold. Clipless pedals help to securely attach the rider's shoes to the pedals on the bike. They prevent accidental foot slip, particularly on rough terrain or during periods of fast cycling when slips are likely to occur.
- Faster speeds. Clipless pedals allow the rider to pedal faster since the rider doesn't have to worry about adjusting their foot to the right position on the pedal. The seamless cycling motion enables riders to cover more ground in less time compared to alternative pedal varieties.
- Improved cycling efficiency. Clipless pedals avail the option to pull upwards on the pedal during a cycling motion’s upstroke. This provision reduces the energy required on the pedal’s downstroke.
- Improved control. Cycling clipped-in rather than flat helps the rider feel the nature of the terrain through the vibrations that come up through the pedals. This connection to the bike helps the rider make adjustments in body weight and position in response to wheel movements, helping to better control and steer the bike.
- Comfort. Once the rider gets the hang of clipping in and out, clipless pedals provide a comfortable ride over long durations. No considerations are required on foot placement as is seen in flat pedals.
Types of Pedals
Flat pedals are the oldest bicycle pedal variation, and arguably the most simplistic. Usually wider than the other types, flat pedals require no mechanical attachment between the sole of the rider’s foot and the pedal, other than the grip between the treads on the shoes and the notches on the pedal frame. Flat pedals allow the rider to step onto and off the pedal with ease, but have the least amount of grip between the pedal and foot.
Toe-clip pedals comprise the second generation of pedals and have a fastening mechanism at the front-end of the pedal. To engage, one would simply slip the shoe’s toe-end into the toe-clip, then secure the foot, and ride off. These pedals offer a more reliable grip than flat pedals but come with higher injury risk due to more difficulty in dismounting.
Clipless pedals are an improvement on the toe-clip pedals by replacing the front-end grip with a cleat mechanism that attaches the sole of the rider’s shoe to the pedal. The rider must learn to clip in prior to riding (by sliding the foot over the clip) and disengage by twisting the ankle, both of which pose less risk of injury in comparison to toe-clip pedals.
As the name suggests, these pedals combine more than one pedal design. A common type of hybrid pedal may be used in flat or clip-in mode, allowing the rider to switch between these two modes depending on preference or activity. This type is the most recent generation, offering the best of both worlds to the rider.
Founded in 1997 at Laguna Beach, Calif., Crankbrothers is best known for its wide variety of biking equipment. It manufactures pedals, biking footwear, multi-tools, pumps, wheels, and other accessories. Its products are tested in the most demanding conditions to guarantee their quality.
Established in February 1921, Shimano is among the global industry leaders in the manufacture, processing, and distribution of a variety of bicycle components, rowing, fishing equipment. The company's headquarters are in Sakai City in Osaka, Japan. Some of its best-rated biking clipless pedals are the Shimano Ultegra Pedals.
The company’s founder Jean Beyl, who was an ardent skier, established Look in 1951 in Nevers, France. Since then, the company diversified from developing skiing equipment to producing various components for professional racing bikes, such as frames and pedals.
Clipless Pedal Pricing
- Under $50: Pedals within this range tend to be comparatively smaller, narrower, and of lower build quality than more costly models. A majority are single-utility pedals with fewer replaceable parts and may lack release tension adjustability.
- $50-$100: Pedals within this range vary in size to cater to different cycling preferences. Build quality is moderately good, often combining materials such as stainless steel, aluminum, and carbon composite to balance weight and durability.
- $100 and up: Pedals within this range are generally large and sturdy, with a high degree of adjustability in their components to suit specific professional preferences. The high-end hybrid (clipless and flat) pedals tend to fall within this range, as do pedals with other niche features like double-side clips.
Float refers to the amount of mobility allowed by the clip’s attachment to the sole of the rider’s foot. Measured in degrees, the range of float determines how much the rider’s foot can be rotated before disengaging from the pedal. Various types of pedals have varying degrees of float, and certain cyclists may prefer less float for a firmer pedal grip, while others may prefer greater float for the opposite reason.
Clipless pedals come with different cleat configurations, which provide the mechanical attachment to the sole of the cyclist’s shoe. Many pedals have a three-bolt fastening mechanism, while a few have a four-bolt mechanism. The main difference is the ease of attachment and detachment where fewer bolts are easier to use in this regard.
Every beginner’s nightmare entails the learning curve in clipping in and out of the pedal. As a general rule, beginners should opt for pedals that offer lower release tension that allows easier clipping into and out of the pedals for engagement and dismounting at will. As experience and confidence grow, riders may go for pedals with greater release tension.
- Terrain. Depending on the cyclist’s requirements, options exist for different riding terrain. Mountain-bike clipless pedals are intended for use with mountain bikes for more rugged terrain, whereas road clipless pedals are best suited for road racing/ riding purposes.
- Functionality. The number of utilities a clipless pedal provides varies from one pedal type to another. Some offer singular utility (such as the dedicated clipless pedals) while some avail more than one (such as the hybrid pedal). The choice between such options comes down to preference — the single utility pedal tends to be better at its designated function while the hybrid pedal makes both functions possible albeit to a lesser efficacy than the former.
- Stack Height. This refers to the measure of the perpendicular distance between the center of the pedal’s axle and the sole of the rider’s shoe. The shorter the stack height, the better the cycling efficiency since the pedal’s axle and foot are in close proximity, enabling better control and manipulation of the pedal.
Best Clipless Pedals Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Practice clipping into and out of clipless pedals on a soft surface before going out onto the road or mountainside to ensure you’ve got the hang of it and reduce the likelihood of injurious falls.
- Avoid walking in sandy or muddy places in cycling shoes as much as possible, to prevent the mud, sand, or other debris from jamming or causing wear on the pedal jaws.
- Regularly check the pedal bearings and add grease overtime to keep the pedal functioning smoothly, particularly if you are fond of riding in all weather conditions.
- Check on screws holding the jaws in place regularly, making sure they’re tightly secured to prevent gradual loosening and falling out.
Q: Why are they called clipless pedals?
The term ‘clipless’ is derived from the absence of a toe-clip on the pedal, a feature that was present on an older generation of bike pedals. Instead of toe-clips, clipless pedals have cleats that attach to the sole of the cyclist’s shoe, providing a clip-in mechanism for attachment.
Q: Are clipless pedals dangerous?
Clipless pedals are quite safe once you learn how to clip into and out of the pedal seamlessly. Furthermore, they offer increased grip, which keeps the cyclist safe from accidental slips from the pedals.
Q: What is the difference between clipless and SPD pedals?
Clipless pedals span a variety of pedals with a cleat that facilitates a clip-in mechanism such as the SPD (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) pedals, which are a type of clipless pedals manufactured by Shimano. SPD pedals generally allow spring adjustment for desirable grip.
Q: Are clipless pedals worth it?
Definitely. For a secure foot-hold, better control and manipulation of the bike, as well as speed over both short and long distances, cyclists should look no further.
We rated the Crankbrothers Doubleshot Hybrid Bike Pedalas the best overall for its hybrid design that offers the versatility of either being ridden as a flat pedal or in the clipped-in style. The clip-in side maintains a solid engagement with your shoes for adequate pedal support when cycling. For a more affordable alternative, we recommend the Venzo MTB Clipless Pedals.