As a beginning cyclist, you may wonder why you would need a special pedal for a road bike.
There are three basic pedal types you can use. And there are advantages to each.
Flat pedal: We are familiar with this basic pedal type. The upside with these pedals is that you can use any shoe type and easily move your foot off the pedal when stopping. This pedal is cheap, simple and ideal for those who will be riding their bike in regular workout shoes. Many commuters also prefer this type of pedal.
Flat Pedal With Toe Cage: This takes a flat pedal and adds a toe cage to it. The toe cage helps keep the foot in proper positioning for the best power output and also allows the foot to lift on the upstroke, creating better power on longer rides. For the athlete who wants a better workout, these toe cages are a cheap way to do that.
Clipless Pedals: This last pedal type was invented after the toe-cage design and uses small cleats on the underside of a specially designed shoe to clip the shoe and the pedal together. Typically, these shoes have a stiffer sole to create better power transfer, and you can pull up on the upstroke to provide power throughout the entire cycle.
The clipless pedal is what all serious “roadies” and professional athletes use.
The first two categories are very simple to purchase. Any local bike shop or sports store will have them.
The clipless pedals, however, have a wide range of options. You can buy super cheap ones for about $30-$50, or you can spend $350 on a single set of pedals. (Not to mention shoes that can run over $400.)
The best option is to buy a shoe/pedal combo. The SPD set by Wellgo is extremely affordable, and you can often find shoe-pedal combos for under $100.
The SPD is a good pedal. It was technically designed for mountain use, but it works well for road riders and is less intimidating to use than a road-dedicated pedal.
It’s brother; the SPD-SL pedal is based loosely on the “Look” design. So you often hear people call them “look-styled pedals.” This refers to the “Look” brand who initially created a larger pedal that was than copied and imitated by many different brands.
The SPD-SL now has its own set of copycats, and most of them are reliable.
You do get what you pay for. If you can afford to spend $100 on a pedal than you will get one that is designed to last for years of use. Cheaper options might need to be replaced every couple of years.
But for the novice rider, you can’t go wrong shopping for a combo deal, riding it until it breaks, and then upgrading a couple of years down the road.