Deciding which road pedals to buy can be a headache because there’s so much choice, but our buyer’s guide will tell you everything you need to know and offers options for all budgets.
Of the three points of contact between you and your bike (the saddle, bar and pedals) your pedals have the most work to do. As well as keeping your feet in place as they spin at up to, and sometimes, over 100rpm, they also have to provide a solid platform to push against, so you can propel yourself and your machine forwards.
This is a long-winded way of saying that choosing the best road bike pedal for your riding is crucial.
Clipless (i.e clip-in) pedals evolved out of the old pedal and toe-clip setup that pretty much every road bike had until the late ’80s/early ’90s. Although you do ‘clip in’ to clipless pedals, they get their name from the absence of that traditional toe-clip.
While toe-clips rely on a clip and strap to hold the foot on the pedal, clipless pedals use a cleat that’s fastened to the sole of the shoe and engages with the pedal mechanically, similar to a ski binding.
To clip into pedals, you step on the pedal’s face and push your foot forwards or downwards to engage the cleat. To release your foot, simply rotate it outwards.
Although most clipless pedals use similar technology, there are plenty of variations in design, construction and price. Below you’ll find our pick of the top road pedals currently available, as well as a brief guide outlining what to look for when choosing clipless.
This is a selection of our favourite road pedals from those we’ve reviewed, but there are many more available — read about them in our pedal reviews section.
If you already have a pair of mountain bike shoes, like the idea of double-sided entry (ideal for riding in traffic), see yourself riding in particularly unpleasant conditions and prefer the walkability of regular SPD pedals, these are a great choice.
The pedals can be left alone for years at a time with nary a complaint and will perform far better than any ‘road-specific’ pedal, should the going get grimy.
They’re fully serviceable but many treat them as disposable because they’re incredibly long-lived, even if you never bother with a service, and cheap to replace when you finally kill them.
If the slightly higher weight offends you, you can always plump for the lighter and prettier M540, XT or XTR pedals. For most riders, the extra 40g over Shimano’s cheapest road pedals will probably never be noticed.
As ever, 105 offers a sweet-spot in spec vs price, with design cues borrowed from Shimano’s more expensive Ultegra and Dura-Ace level pedals.
They aren’t the lightest but they’re easy to get on with, well built and user-serviceable. Like many Shimano components, they’re routinely available at heavy discounts.
The PD-5800s we reviewed have now been replaced by the PD-R7000 and we have no doubt the new pedal will perform every bit as well as the previous generation.
Central to the Xpro design is its carbon flexion blade, which, unlike pedals that use a steel spring, keeps the clip mechanism open until cleat entry snaps it shut.
Without significantly more weight at the rear, the XPros don’t always hang tail-down, but are still easy to pick up, and the new cleats engage with more certainty.
If you are literally made of money, you could always go for the significantly lighter and significantly more expensive XPresso 15. This has been replaced by the XPro 15, but the guts of the pedal remain largely the same between the two.
These are Look’s mid-range version of the Keos, and, with this new generation, they’ve continued to improve.
The lightweight composite body shape is more in tune with the Keo’s more expensive siblings, and has a serrated centre to help with shoe traction for ease of entry.
The pedals spin without issue on oversize chromoly axles on a combination of loose balls and needle cartridge bearings. Spring tension is adjustable and they come with Look’s 4.5-degree float cleats.
Speedplay’s pedals reverse the normal arrangement, so the clip mechanism is bolted to your shoes and the pedals act as the cleat.
Bike fitters love Speedplays because they have far more adjustment than any other pedal, allowing anything between 10 to 15 degrees of float, as well as plenty of fore/aft and lateral adjustment.
If you have aero concerns, these Speedplay pedals are reputedly the most slippery through the air, especially if you pair the Zero Aero model and its golf-ball-like dimples with the company’s Walkable Cleat covers.
The pedals run on needle bearings, which might need some maintenance in the long run. When used on three-hole shoes, the pedals have a stack height of 11.5mm.
Road cleats vary in design depending on the pedal, but the majority fasten to the soles of your shoes with three bolts.
Look first came up with this three-point fastening and it’s become pretty much the standard for road pedals, with Shimano, Time, Mavic and others all using the same arrangement.
Speedplay is the notable exception, with its four-bolt pattern (but then the US company effectively reverses the entire system by mounting the clip mechanism onto your shoes, leaving the pedals to act as the cleats).
To use these, you’ll need four-bolt shoes or the adapter, which is included with every set of Speedplay pedals.
Float is measured in degrees and refers to the amount your foot can move before it’s released from the pedal.
It’s there to allow your feet to fall into the most natural, comfortable position while pedalling and to reduce the stress on your knees if your cleats aren’t perfectly positioned.
Some cleats are ‘zero-float’, or fixed, which means they release your foot with only the slightest of movements. They need to be very carefully set up for the sake of your knees. Most cleats, however, offer something in the range of 3 to 9 degrees of float.
The thing to bear in mind is the more float you have, the further you have to twist your foot in order to release it.
If you’re unsure about how much float you need, don’t worry. Your pedal choice won’t lock you into one particular setting and you can experiment by running different cleats and adjusting the settings on your pedals.
Most pedals allow you to adjust the pedals’ release tension — the amount of force required to disengage your foot from the mechanism. If you’re a beginner, start off with a low tension for easier release.
This will also make it easier to clip into the pedal. As you become more confident riding with clipless pedals you can increase the tension for a more secure connection between you and your bike.
This is measured from the middle of the pedal axle to the sole of the shoe. The lower the stack height the better because it places your foot closer to the axle for the best possible efficiency. You may need to adjust your saddle height if you change pedals because every model has a slightly different stack height.
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Now officially part of the furniture, Oli enjoys bicycles of all sorts and has a keen eye for technical detail. An unhealthy interest in older motor vehicles keeps him poor but happy
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