LAST UPDATED: March 25, 2021
Best Clipless Pedals (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
Attach your feet firmly on these clipless pedals and ride smoother.
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PUBLISHED 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
The Doubleshot Hybrid Platform pedal is the newest generation of bike pedals to date, offering the best of both worlds by allowing the cyclist to ride clipped in or flat, depending on preference. This pedal measures 7 x 5 x 3 inches and weighs 1.3 pounds. The spindle is made of forged chromoly steel while the pedal’s body is made of aluminum. Stainless steel constitutes the wing material, while the spring is made of 300-series stainless steel. The float lies between 15 and 20 degrees, and the pedal sheds mud easily due to the wide platform. There are multiple colors to choose from including blue, black, and orange, and it comes backed with a five-year warranty.
On the flip-side, the clipless side may feel a bit tight when clipped in with your shoes for the first few weeks before you break them in. Also, the pedal is rather narrow for mountain biking, and the replacement for the cleat that comes with the pedal is quite pricey.
Venzo’s MTB Clipless Pedal offers great bang for your buck and comes with a two-year warranty (that covers the pedal but not the cleat). This pedal measures 4.72 x 3.15 x 2.76 inches and weighs 14.82 ounces. The full compatibility of these pedals with Shimano SPD pedal systems means the cyclist can use the cleats that come with these pedals on Shimano mountain bike pedals or use the cleats that come with Shimano mountain bike pedals on these pedals. The sealed bearings with dual-sided bindings offer a smooth ride, while the adjustable tension spring enables the rider to achieve a solid grip on the pedal.
However, its weight may be an inconvenience to some riders. Plus, the tendency of the tension screws to come undone due to their free turning nature (and absence of click stops) necessitates the use of thread lock glue to hold them in place.
The Shimano Ultegra Pedals hail from a long line of reputable pedals trusted over the years for reliable performance. This installment measures 8 x 5 x 2 inches and weighs about one pound. The frame consists of stainless steel and carbon composite material, which makes the wide frame considerably light for its size. The width offers adequate space for uniform load distribution, which takes the weight off the foot’s vulnerable pressure points, and also offers a large target for clip-in maneuvers. Additionally, the short stack height of 0.03 inches provides impeccable control and manipulation of the bike.
Admittedly, the cleat bolts are quite short, and longer ones may have to be purchased from the manufacturer at a considerable cost. Also, the pedals may wobble slightly even when the axle is tightly applied to the bike.
The build quality of various components of the Crankbrothers Mallet Enduro Pedals renders them collectively sturdy for racing on some of the most technical courses. The pedal is considerably wide, measuring 8 x 5 x 3 inches while weighing 1.5 pounds. They are corrosion-resistant, durable, and stiff due to their stainless steel composition, coupled with a stiff but lightweight aluminum body. The four-sided entry Egg Beater engagement system makes for easy mud removal, and the cartridge bearings maintain comfort and control in the smooth cycling movement. The bearings are also easy to service.
The large platform does present some challenges to get clipped into and out of the pedals, with dismounting made slightly harder by the screws around the frame. The release tension is also not adjustable for these pedals.
The Venzo Multi-Use Clipless Pedals offer the cyclist the option to use clipless shoes for the clip-in side or casual shoes for the flat side of the pedal. This pedal measures 7.09 x 5.12 x 2.36 inches, and weighs only 1.28 pounds, making it a wide-body and yet lightweight option. The wide aluminum alloy frame is excellent for riding stability on both the clipless and flat sides, with the additional grip being provided by the high-quality replaceable pins along the frame’s periphery. The release tension is adjustable as well as the cleat tension through alterations on the screw on the pedal frame’s side. Its compatibility with Shimano SPD bike pedal systems is a bonus.
However, these pedals do not ship with their own set of cleats. Also, since the front latching end of the SPD mechanism is a little thicker than that found on Shimano pedals, some riders may find difficulty using them with some popular types of cycling shoes such as most Tommaso shoes.
Despite being one of the smallest pedals in this collection, the Look Keo Classic 3 Pedal defies its small frame to provide a hassle-free ride. The pedal measures 2 x 3 x 5 inches and weighs 1.41 ounces. The ease of use of this pedal largely comes from its adjustability, with the capacity to alter both the cleat entry mechanism as well as the release tension on the pedal to suit the rider’s preference. The contact surface occupies a considerable part of the pedal’s surface to offer easy clip-in and dismount, in addition to commendable pedaling stability.
However, the narrow frame does pose challenges regarding grip and load distribution, especially when cycling on smooth surfaces. Also, the composite build of the pedal is less durable than the stainless steel or aluminum alloys used on most clipless pedals.
The Shimano PD-M8020 Pedal is a rough terrain targeted offering from its manufacturer that delivers a sturdy off-road riding experience. This pedal is reasonably large, measuring 7.87 x 3.15 x 1.57 inches and weighing 3.53 ounces. It is an improvement from its predecessors, following a widening of the platform by 0.1 inches, which increases the area of contact between the shoe and the pedal by nearly 12 percent to provide better load distribution. These changes result in increased stability and pedaling efficiency from the sturdy chromoly steel pedal.
The only drawbacks these pedals seem to possess are the considerable heft and the high price tag in comparison to most options in this category. The weight does take some getting used to, and the price is justified by the great performance these pedals provide.
With six colors to choose from, the Funn Mamba Clipless Pedals possess attributes that distinguish them from many competitors. Chief among these is a patented GRS (Grease Renew System), which allows easy servicing by applying grease using a grease gun without needing to take the pedal apart. This double-sided pedal measures 5.2 x 5.47 x 3.03 inches and the pair weighs 1.1 pounds. These pedals are great for enduro and downhill riding, and can provide a semi-flat ride on casual shoes in addition to the traditional clipless ride they are designed for.
The build of aluminum alloy feels somewhat fragile in comparison to the stainless steel offerings of this pedal’s competitors. Also, the price is quite high for the considerably weaker foot stability.
- 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.