What’s the buzz about energy transfer?
Certain types of footwear and pedals allow for increased efficiency in pedaling by transferring your power to the bike pedal during the full revolution and not just on the downstroke. But, as the saying goes “different strokes for different folks”, so read on to decide the best choice in footwear and pedals for you.
A pre-requisite to choosing your cycling footwear is identifying your preference in bike pedal type.
Flat Pedals (available on ExperiencePlus! tours):
These pedals are shaped as a flat platform. No straps or cages are attached, but the pedal will likely have small stud-like protrusions to provide traction with the shoe to help keep the foot stable against the pedal. The bike you learned to ride on very likely came with flat pedals, as do most cruiser and casual commuter bicycles.
- Flat Pedal Advantages – they don’t require cycling-specific footwear and everyone knows how to use them.
- Flat Pedal Disadvantages – they offer the least efficient transfer of your energy to the pedal during your pedal stroke (only on the downstroke), and provide little stability between your shoe and the pedal.
Pedals with Half Cages (available on ExperiencePlus! tours):
Pedals with Half Cages are flat pedals with a half cage attached to the front of the pedal. Half Cage pedals allow for an easy slipping of the foot backwards out of the cage and off the pedal. Often the cage is referred to as a clip, but this does not mean your shoe is clipped to the pedal.
- Advantages of cage pedals – they require no cycling-specific footwear, they offer improved power transfer to the pedal over a platform pedal, and a decrease in the chance of your foot slipping off the pedal.
- Disadvantages of cage pedals – though not really a disadvantage there is a small learning curve to remove your foot from the pedal by sliding your foot backwards then off the pedal.
A small variety of the many types of clipless pedals available. Those on the left use a road cleat that protrudes on the shoe, while those on the right use a recessed cleat which makes walking easy.
A clipless pedal has no cage or clip attached to it. Instead there is a mechanism requiring a cycling-specific shoe with a cleat on the bottom that “clips in” and attaches the shoe to the pedal. A clipless pedal is generally flat but smaller in size than a platform pedal. The shape of the pedal and the locking mechanism varies by manufacturer. The cycling shoe cleat and the pedal mechanism need to be compatible and are referred to as the clipless system (SPD, Look, Time, and Crank Brothers are common systems).
- Advantages of clipless pedals – they are lightweight and provide the most efficient transfer of power to the pedal. The shoe is clipped to the pedal allowing the power to be maintained during the upward stroke of the pedal, making it possible for you to pull up on the upward stroke. The stability offered with clipping-in also prevents the shoe from slipping off the pedal.
- Disadvantages of clipless pedals – you have to remove them from your bike at home and pack them for your travels. The shoes with cleats that allow you to use the system are generally heavier and may not be as comfortable as your casual shoes. There is also a learning curve in becoming comfortable with the system.
Clipless pedals are also popular on ExperiencePlus! bicycle tours.
Making that final decision:
As you think about stepping into your footwear for your cycling vacation, choose what works for your travels and cycling itinerary. If riding in anything other than clipless pedals feels awkward or inefficient then you have your answer. You may wish to consider the numerous styles of casual/touring cycling shoes that are available with optional cleats; they offer both efficient cycling and ease of walking. If you are new to cycling, there is no need to purchase a cycling-specific shoe or learn to clip-in; an athletic or fitness shoe can be worn.
While there is often a progression from platform to cage to clipless type pedals as one spends more time in the saddle, the style of shoe and pedal that makes cycling enjoyable for you is the correct choice.