The Mountain Bike Life

Good day riders and enthusiasts! How is your summer in the Northern hemisphere? I hope you’re enjoying the Tour as it is certainly one of the more entertaining ones of the last several years. It’s been dryer than Steven Wright here in central Virginia and that is making for some pretty good trail riding albeit with a mouthful of dirt. Thank dog for my Ryders glasses or else my eyes would be breaded by now!

This morning I want to talk about clipless bike pedals. I’ve been using part of the summer to train a couple of newbie friends in the ways of the MTB and one of the most daunting things for new riders is always clipless pedals. Since I’ve spent several years riding the big three I figure it’d be a good idea to discuss the benefits and pitfalls of each type, complete with pictures of my own personal beat-to-hell pedals.

Shimano Pedal

Shimano

Here is your basic entry level SPD pedal, sans platform. I’ll get this out of the way now, I’m not a fan of platforms on any of these pedals. I’ve tried Shimano’s “All Mountain” offering and Crank Bros. “Candy” and found them to be difficult to find the engagement point accurately. Alternatively, if you’re wearing any kind of stiff shoe, the sole is usually hard enough to not want to grip any part of the platform.

The Shimano SPD I found to be a good, durable and affordable all around pedal. I rode trails with these for a good while and used them to commute. They do both well enough. Even these cheapie 520’s are still fully functional if I needed to throw them on another bike but after a few years of water, mud and miles they are on their last leg. I did find the disengagement to be inconsistent, sometimes letting me unclip with ease, other times locking me in unwillingly. However, the engagement click is usually assuring and the pedals are strong enough to bash on a rock without breaking and cheap enough to replace every year. The cheaper SPDs are quite heavy but something only an experienced rider will notice. Mud is a problem with these and I found myself kicking the pedal to shed it of mud before clipping in while riding on sloppy days. Overall, a good starter pedal that a newbie can’t go wrong with.

Crank Brothers

Crank Brothers

These are the Crank Bros. Eggbeaters. Actually the first pedal I started on. One of my favorite things about the eggbeater is the ease of engagement. The pedal engages on four sides so there is almost no searching for the clip. If you can feel the pedal near your cleat, you are close to locking in. Mud is almost never a problem with these and disengagement is consistent. The only problem I had with these (and keep in mind all of these pedals I’m talking about today are close to the bottom of the line, cheapest offering in the product line) was durability. The cage is easily smashed on a rock and they’ll need to be replaced. I’ve had nothing but good experiences with Crank Bros. warranty department. Even the cheaper eggbeaters are lightweight which is something riders of any level can appreciate. Most new riders aren’t as comfortable with the size of the pedal and tend to go for the “Candy” platforms which I find to be a nuisance as the engagement points are just harder to find with that big, slippery hard plastic platform surrounding them. Great pedal not without it’s flaws.

Time

Time

Here is an old beat up set of Time Atac Aliums which still work extremely well. I find the Time Atac pedal to have the most reassuring “pop” when you engage. To new riders this must seem as a weird way to describe a pedal but to be absolutely sure you are locked in is a great feeling. They’re strong, light (even the cheap Aliums) and have just enough pedal around them to protect the springs and clips from getting bashed up on rocks. I’ve ridden the hell out of these and they are still completely functional. The bearings roll smooth and quiet and I don’t see myself getting rid of them anytime soon. In fact, I’d like a spare set for my cross bike. The Atac cleats are of a lower profile than the SPDs which I appreciate when walking on pavement. I’d recommend these to any level of rider and since they are so durable you can often find a used set that still has miles to go.

I hope this will help clipless newbs just a little bit but as always, the most important thing is to try a set of pedals out. Grab a friend’s bike and throw on his or her shoes. Clip in, get comfortable and go ride. It is the most beneficial upgrade to a stock trail bike and after a couple of hours I guarantee you will never want to go back to platforms (unless you make the jump to downhill!).

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