Pedals That Improve Safety and Give Greater Efficiency
Why Do I Need Pedals That Are Safer And More Efficient?
Clipless pedals work in conjunction with special cycling shoes designed with mountain biking in mind. The combination of the pedal, and the shoe with cleats bolted on to their soles, allows you to "click" in and out without straps that you need to reach down and undo. Clipless pedals are safer because they lock your foot to the pedal with a spring retention system that you can disengage from by twisting your heel outward (and sometimes inward also). By locking your foot to the pedals, you have less chance of a foot slipping off of a pedal and onto the trail while you are riding. Being able to release your foot without reaching down to undo a strap, you increase your chances of putting a foot down quickly (before you fall over in front of all your friends). You also increase your chances of getting free and clear of you bike in an emergency situation (before going over that cliff, ala Wiley Coyote).
Clipless mountain pedals can add up to 20% more pedal efficiency by rounding out the pedal stroke. You are able to lift your leg at he bottom of the pedal stroke and increase the power to the pedals. Also, the lack of a tight strap across the ball of your foot (associated with clips and straps that cuts off blood circulation) adds to your riding comfort and thus adds to your efficiency.
Mountain Clipless Pedals
Mountain clipless pedals are designed for the fast paced engaging and disengaging that occurs on off road terrain. The pedals have cleat entry on both sides of the pedal, making it easier to find the cleat entry while in the mud and dirt. Flipping your pedal to get into the correct side does not become an issue due to this design.
Clipless mountain platform pedals are a hybrid of two styles of pedals, the clipless mountain pedal and the platform pedal. These pedals have the interior of a mountain clipless pedal and the exterior of a platform pedal. They have cleat entry on both sides of the pedal as you would expect. The platform shaped exterior gives more of an area for foot stability when you take your feet on and off frequently for the planting of a foot in a turn. These pedals are popular with riders from a BMX, downhill, and slalom background ( the fun hog crowd).
Descriptions of common mountain pedals
Shimano SPD mountain
Introduced in the early 1990's these are by far the most popular off road pedal on the market. Shimano was one of the first companies to introduce the off road clipless pedal to the marketplace. Their design is copied by many other companies and the bolt pattern of their cleats are the standard for just about every mountain bike shoe for sale (the tight side by side bolt pattern).
Shimano makes several models of pedals using the Shimano Patented Design (SPD or "Spud" for the hip cat). These pedals are popular because they work in all conditions. The small metal cleats hold up very well to the rigors of mud and rocks and the pedals have room to push out the excess trail slop that sticks to the bottom of your shoe. Your ability to clip in and out is rarely compromised. The small metal cleat also allows for a shoe design that lets this cleat sit in a recess in the tread of your shoe. You loose very little walking traction (running traction for the racers) due to the cleat. Cleat release tension is adjustable via allen key bolts on the pedals and Shimano off road cleat have a heel float between 4 degrees and 6 degrees to reduce knee and ankle stress.
Shimano cleats are compatible with several other manufacturers pedals. If you are not sure if your pedals will accept replacement Shimano cleats, ask the staff at Cycle Path and we will be glad to help you out.
The Time Auto Tension Adjustment Concept (ATAC) pedals have a wide pedal platform for stability, and allow 10 degrees of heel float as well as 6 millimeters of lateral float. These pedals have a 15 to 20 degree release angle that allows for a low spring retention tension. No spring tension adjustment is available / necessary with this design. The design allows for a wide entry window that engages easily and clears mud extremely well. These pedals have the characteristics of an off road equivalent of the Time road pedals. Cleats are held to the shoes via the SPD cleat bolt pattern and the pedals will work with any SPD style shoe.
These pedals are recommended for anyone with sensitive knees or ankles because of the freedom of foot movement and the ease of engagement and disengagement. The simple design that works excellently in the mud is a bonus.
These pedals perform very much the same way that Speedplays road pedals do. The pedals have a very unencumbered heel float associated with them that keeps knees and ankles healthy from pedaling stress. The cleat is much smaller than the road version allowing for use with SPD type shoes. The cleat is a little larger than the ATAC or SPD cleat and it may be necessary to cut away a small portions of your shoe to make the system work. Speedplay is a smaller manufacturer producing a high quality product. Replacement cleats are not as readily available (you may need to special order them) as the other two versions described here.
When you install the cleats on your mountain bike shoes, put a little grease on the threads of the bolts. This will help to prevent the cleat bolts from corroding and seizing your cleats to your shoes (from all the moisture involved with off road riding).
If your cleats become seized to you shoes, it will be necessary to dremel or drill out your bolts for removal. The staff at Cycle Path has a lot of experience with this and knows a few shortcuts. Feel free to contact us for advice.