Many people are afraid to switch from standard platform pedals over to clipless pedals, for fear that they’ll get stuck in the pedal. In fact, today’s clipless pedal technology is similar to ski bindings. They hold you in when you need to be held in and provider much better climbing power and overall bike handling abilities, but will let you out when the bike suddenly moves in a different direction than your body. Of course, everyone that tries them for the first time forgets to clip out at slow speeds. But that’s something your body will learn to do without thinking after a few rides.
It’s sort of a misnomer that today’s clipless technology are even called that. You hear people saying things like, “Clip out if you don’t feel comfortable locked in on that sketchy section.” But if they’re clipless pedals, are we really ever clipping in? I blame this on the marketing people. You see, in the old days, there used to be actual clips you would attach to the pedal which your shoe fit into for better support. And some even came with a strap to really lock you into the pedal. Today, I call those pedals “death traps” because if you have them strapped down tightly, there’s no way to get out of the pedals without reaching down to loosen the strap. Don’t buy them!
Old School Clips and Straps aka “Death Traps”
Hybrid Clipless Pedals aka Dual Platform
Some people considering clipless pedals purchase the dual-platform type. Those have a platform on one side and a clip on the other side. I don’t recommend them because, well frankly they get you into the bad habit of clipping out when it’s not necessary. Also, they’re harder to get into because you have to do two motions: one to flip the pedal over to the clip side with your toe (which damages your shoes by the way), and the other to clip in. Don’t buy them!
SPD vs. Eggbeaters
Now this debate comes down to personal experience. In other words, don’t take advice from somebody who hasn’t tried the technology they are advocating. Some say eggbeater pedals are easier get into. (I’ve never tried eggbeater pedals so I can’t tell you much about them except what I hear.) Eggbeater advocates also say that they shed mud more easily. Personally, I prefer the SPD design because they have tension adjustment screws. The ability to loosen up the clip is especially important when you first switch to clipless pedals. Most spin classes in gyms these days use the SPD type of pedals. I also use SPD clipless pedals on my road bike because well, the shoes I use are suitable for either MTB or casual road cycling. On that note, there are several types of road-specific shoes and pedals. The hardcore roadies will give you all sorts of reasons why you should buy road-specific shoes and pedals. In my experience, I’ve noticed no difference between the one pair of road specific SPD shoes I own except that they’re dangerous to walk in. (I have slipped and fallen a few times in those road-specific shoes!)
Platform Cleat Pedals
If you find yourself doing a lot of all mountain type of riding where you’re clipping out a lot, you may want to consider the platform style of pedals. They still have the clipless technology on both sides and are just as easy to get in and out of, but they provider a larger platform to stand on while you’re not clipped in. In fact, these are the best type of “starter” clipless pedals, in my opinion. Later on you’ll probably upgrade to the non-platform type to save weight. Both SPD and egg beater versions of pedals have various sizes of platform cleat pedals. Pick the one that you think will provide your with the best support while not clipped in.
My Final Recommendation
Get yourself a pair of used shoes and pedals of the various types and try them out. You can always donate what you don’t like to somebody else going through the same decisions as you right now. Most people that have been riding a few years will have several pairs of shoes, and possibly of the various types. Get over the “yuck factor” of wearing somebody else’s stinking shoes and you’ll save a lot of money! I mean really, it’s just foot fungus after all right? 🙂