Searching for the easiest one that clicks
By Mon Garcia | Lead photo by Asya Vee
One of the biggest landmarks of cycling is switching to clipless pedals. It’s daunting for some, but even the best of us have made mistakes using them. Still, the best and most experienced cyclists swear by them. But the question is, which one to choose? There are quite a few brands with different systems out there, but here’s a quick rundown to help you.
Look (Shimano/ Campagnolo/ Exustar)
Considered the pioneer of clipless pedal systems, the manufacturer Look is iconic and has become the standard for cyclists. Reinforcing this is the fact that two of the biggest component manufacturers, Shimano and Campagnolo, have licensed and adopted their system. So has pedal and shoe manufacturer Exustar.
It’s a one-sided system, so it’s a bit harder to find the right side of the pedal when clicking in but that’s common for most of the systems on this list. Being so common also means you can probably switch bikes/shoes/pedals with a buddy very easily. The downside is that other cyclists wearing shoes with the same cleats can run away with your bike just as easily.
- A pair of vintage Look PP56 pedals, circa 1988. The general shape, profile, and usage should be familiar to most, if not all cyclists. Photo courtesy of progettopistavintage.blogspot.com
The lesser known pioneer has been around for more than 30 years. Made in New Zealand, these are viable alternatives that even I am interested in trying. They boast adjustable radial movement, which means they will be easy on your knees,and a low stack height for more efficient power transfer. These can also take on different lengths of axles for a totally different level of customizing fit.
As a bike fitter, I love this last feature, as it allows you to adjust Q-factor (the width of your pedal stance or the lateral distance of your feet while on the bike) without changing your cranks. A unique cleat means very few people can click into them, giving you a bit of a theft deterrent.
- The mythical, mystial Keywin Pedal Fit Kit. I want one. Photo courtesy of bluebirdsport.com.au
A very popular choice for triathletes due to their double-sided entry, which affords faster transitions or easier pedal entry at traffic light intersections. They also feature free-floating rotation, which is supposed to be good on the knees but can feel a little funny for those used to being locked in. The retention mechanism is not on the pedal but on the cleat. This makes the actual pedal smaller and lighter. Their cleats utilize four bolts instead of the usual three so you have to use an adapter or buy shoes with drillings for four bolts.
Usability bonus: if you use their new aero cleats, it makes walking in your stiff cycling shoes easier and minimizes the damage walking does to the cleat—aside from looking very cool and giving you a possible slight aerodynamic advantage.
- Speedplay Zero System with Aero Cleats. Very svelte, very sexy. And makes walking around in cycling shoes more bearable. Photo courtesy of roadbikereview.com
I’ve been on this system for around a decade now, and have found no big reason to switch (except maybe if I get my hands on a Keywin Pdeal Fit Kit). Claim to fame is being used by Greg Lemond on his way to winning the 1989 Tour de France, and being focused on “bioperformance.” Like the Keywin, it has good float and a low stack height, better than the common Look system.
- Current generation Time Xpresso pedals. Photo courtesy of sportgaudi.at
It also has a unique cleat, which, although using the popular Look three-bolt configuration, won’t click into Look pedals. This is the same for Keywin. The current iteration for Time, called the Café cleat, is meant to be easy to walk in (especially when lining up at your local café, hence the name) and shields the retaining tab, so walking doesn’t damage or wear down the functionality of the cleat, much like the Speedplay Aero cleats.
Which one of these to choose? Consider your priorities. Need to be able to switch equipment with teammates or borrow stuff easily? Use Look. Want to be able to click in easily without looking and enjoy a free-floating sensation? Speedplay. Want pedaling efficiency and a system that’s less common? Time, or, if you can get your hands on them, Keywin. Off-the-bike walkability? Time.
Regardless of your choice, what’s important is getting used to them. So when you get them, practice mounting and dismounting. For your safety and less embarrassment. And no matter what happens, keep at it.