Before we start, what is “clipless”?
Clipless refers to the toe clip (cage) replaced by a locking mechanism. Simple!
There are a number of locking mechanisms, and each one requires the corresponding cleat securely fastened to the shoe.
Basic plastic/resin platform pedal
The basic pedal often found on smaller children’s bikes and on cheaper adult bikes. No frills – just put your feet on and push!
Alloy platform ‘cage’ pedal
So named because the pedal body resembles a cage. A popular choice of BMX riders, trials riders and the preferred choice of many downhill mountain bike riders. These pedals often have adjustable ‘spikes’ which grip a soft soled shoe (the Vans waffle sole in particular) and prevent the foot from slipping off. Shin protection is sometimes worn to prevent painful accidents.
Single sided platform clipless pedal
Flat on one side, and an SPD clipless lock on the other. Ideal for a leisure bike where various types of shoes will be worn.
Dual sided off-road clipless pedal
Often referred to as an SPD or ‘spud’ pedal, which stands for Shimano Pedaling Dynamics, the original type of dual-sided pedal preferred by mountain bikers and cyclo-cross riders the world over. Metal cleats which fit to the sole of the shoe then clip into either side of the pedal and lock the foot to the pedal. This has the advantage of preventing the foot from slipping off the pedal whilst also allowing the rider to pull up on the pedal as well as push down. These pedals are also good at dealing with muddy conditions. They are also prized by touring or commuter cyclists as they do not require the rider to ‘flip’ the pedal, as well as being paired with shoes which allow easier walking than traditional road shoes. The ultimate all-rounder.
Multiple entry off-road clipless pedal
Another popular choice by mountain bikers and cyclo cross riders. Known as an ‘egg beater’ because of their looks, they allow even more options to clip-in than a dual sided pedal and have excellent mud-shedding capability.
Clipless road and track pedal
The most popular type of pedal used by experienced road and track cyclists. Single sided which allow only one entry point, the other side often being shaped and polished for aerodynamics and aesthetics. The pedal is usually weighted so that it hangs to allow ease of entry. Not suited to off road use. Common makes include Shimano, Look, and Time
Cage pedal with toe-clips & /straps
The only choice for serious cyclists up until the late 1980’s and the introduction of clipless pedals. Still favoured by many traditionalists but most often seen these days on the velodrome, used by track sprinters where the forces can be so high that a clipless pedal could release with potentially catastrophic consequences. Also used at the Velodrome by beginners, so thet they can ride with training shoes without the need for special shoes.