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Best of both Worlds ?? - which pedal

dougf's picture

By dougf - Posted on 14 November 2007

Hi All,

Have been looking at replacing my current platform (came with the bike) pedals with something that takes cleats,but as I have never ridden with them before, thought I might get the best of both worlds by getting a set of pedals with both cage and cleats. Both Shimano and Crank Brothers have a number of models - M424, M545 and M647 (Shimano) and Smarty, Candy C and Mallet C (Crank).

Has anyone had experience with these pedals and the pros and cons of each. Of interest is the ease of use of Crank vs Shimano cleat systems and also whether there are problesm in riding without cleats eg the bindings are up to high.

Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Chhers Doug

hawkeye's picture

I'd get a double-sided set rather than one with a platform on one side, and I'd keep the flats as spares rather than trading them.

My reasoning is this: single-sided pedals invariably flip the wrong side up half or more of the time, providing an unnecessary and sometimes dangerous distraction while you look down to see whether you've gotta flip it or not. So I prefer to have clip-ins on both sides, or none at all.

I like the SPD M520 style of pedal as you can adjust the tension. I have mine only about 1/4 turn off full loose. It has never come undone unintentionally, is unaffected by mud, and on the stutter bumps my feet don't rattle off the pedal. They make a nice smooth pedal stroke on technical climbs a lot easier, and they are real easy to get out of when you need to bail instantly.

The downside is that you have to be really focussed and have your anticipation circuit turned up full in unfamiliar territory. I'd practice emergency unclipping on grassed soft ground until it becomes second nature.

You will take a tumble at some stage through forgetting to unclip. Everyone does. The trick is not to put your arm straight out and take the landing on the heel of your hand. This puts you at risk of a busted collarbone or scaphoid bone (in the hand). Better to take it on the side of the hand with your arm flexed and let yourself roll. Do it this way and the worst you'll get is a bruised hip ... and ego.

For riding new unfamiliar technical trails and practicing new skills I prefer flats and will be buying a set shortly.

petulance's picture

I started off using Shimano SPD 505s which are below the 520/540 in the SPD range. I didn't like them as I always had trouble clipping back in. Having said that, the 505s were chunkier and heavier than the 520s. And I did have some trouble clipping back in if my cleats are muddy.

I have since switched to Crank Bros Candys which are great. No need to adjust the tension and the tension levels feel "just right". Much better. Easier to clip in as well.

However, it seems that the Candy cleats tend to wear out faster than the SPD cleats.

You might also want to consider the Time ATAC range which is similar to the Crank Bros pedals.

dougf's picture

is my main concern.

Both Shimano and Crank models are double sided entry. Given my low level of confidence and experience with off road and with cleats I am rather uncomfortable doing some of the technical stuff while clipped in..even with a loose setting for release.

I thought I could be clipped in on the easier sections of a trail but use the platforms only when doing the more challenging stuff. On other occassions when a trail is pretty mixed I would like the option to ride with flat soles just using the pedals as platforms. Therefore the size of platform is important when not using cleats and also making sure the bindings are not going to interfere with flat soles.

ad's picture

Hey Doug,

If your thinking of getting some new pedals, stay clear of the cheaper models (spd or cranbros or any other brand) as they tend to use Chrome instead of stainless steal or other rust resistant metals.
The problem with the Chrome pedals is once you scratch them on a rock (and you will), they rust up quite quickly making entry and exit a bit problem.

As for pros and cons of SPD verses Crack brothers. I've ridden on both and I love my EggBeaters so much that I will never go back to SPD again. Once you get over the scary look of the pedal, you'll love how easy they are clip in and out of.

Also, practice on something boring like a bike path for 20km or more before you decide to hit manly dam, your knees and elbows will thank you for it.


Matt's picture

I've ridden with flats, egg-beaters and mallets for ages now (multiple bikes) and I would caution against relying on unclipped mallets as a substitute for a flat pedal.

Don't get me wrong, they're a great pedal and I'd highly recommend them over most others, except maybe the ATACs, but the point of the cage on a mallet for me isn't the unclipped riding.

A Mallet unclipped when its dry is almost OK, you won't slip off too much, when it's wet don't even think about it. There's no comparison between the grip on an unclipped mallet and a proper flat, unclipping should be for emergencies only or sketchy corners.

The point of the cage on the mallet for me is that for aggressive technical stuff you can bash the pedal hard off rocks and use your pedal to climb up rocks and over logs etc if you get the stroke right and plant the pedal. Also it means you can use a soft shoe and get a bit more pedal "feel" while retaining clip security.

IMHO it's better to ride everything clipped in anyway, even the most techy stuff, you get used to the emergency unclip, especially on Mallets which are pretty foolproof, and it helps a lot with bike control and ability to put power through both pedals when needed. I've read top DH'ers say the same. But horses for courses and if you want the freedom of a flat I'd just stick to a flat or carry a spare set of flatties in the toolbox for when you want to go dirt jumping ;-}.

The only thing I don't like about Crank Bros pedals is that the innards can wear pretty quickly and I'm not sure you can get a service kit for them in Oz.

Flynny's picture

No clipless pedal feels like a platform when you are unclipped. The cage does offer some support but being unclipped on a clipless pedal while wearing clipless shoes offers little grip and control.

That said there is a pedal from Atomlab (I think, having a brain freeze here) on which the spring tucks down into the pedal body when you put weight on it so it's out of the road so the cage can get a better grip on the shoe

steveb's picture

I agree with hawkeye. I bought a pair of half spd and half platform pedals thinking they would be good when things got technical, but what happens is you are never sure which way is up when you are not clipped in and spend time looking at your feet when you should be picking your line. I'll be taking mine off and putting my double sided spd's back on. You get used to uclipping and even the loosest setting holds your feet in when pedaling hard.

Alex's picture

personally i used spuds for years, and have now gone the platform way myself, but for most people i find apart from the occasional embarrasing stationary falling experience at the beggining when your feet forget their clipped in, there alot more stable for most xc'ing and you usually feel more secure rather than less over rocky stuff! however, downhilling on spd's can get real scary when your getting a bit of air and needing to bail, or carving corners and need an instant leg out, etc..or just all-round general emergency bail time! having said that alot of downhillers love being clipped in... i think most people love em for xc stuff though...

petulance's picture

sorry, I know nothing about riding without cleats.

The Candys are fine for riding with normal shoes from the Hydraulics Lab car park at Manly Dam to the picnic area, but that's all I have done in normal shoes.

I was using SPDs as soon as I bought my bike. Dove straight into the whole clipless pedal process. Never looked back.

petulance's picture

can lead to this ...

but that is just my ineptness.

jimnobob's picture

I was in exactly the same situation a few months ago when deciding to finally go for some clipless pedals. I ended up buying the M545s thinking that the cage would allow me to unclip and continue pedalling over the tricky stuff.

The reality though was quite different. Whilst getting used to them I did attempt to unclip a few times but it generally resulted in me no longer being in full control of the bike. The problem is that you end up thinking far too much about your feet and not enough about riding where you actually want to go. It didn't take long before I got over my nervousness of using clipless pedals and realised that it's not that difficult to unclip should you start to lose control.

Yesterday, my front wheel hit a groove and I thought I was in for a nasty fall. However, without even thinking I found I had both feet free to steady myself with. This was very reassuring.

So knowing what I now know, I would not bother with the cage. I would just buy a lighter pair of clipless pedals and spend some time practicing in them until you feel confident hitting the trails.

Caro's picture

You will get used to it in no time and won't think about clipping in and out anymore, it just becomes second nature, also on the technical stuff.

Just wear arm and leg guards at the beginning if you are worried, then it doesn't matter if you fall over. Especially if you use them for the first time at Red Hill -like I did, must have had a blond moment Laughing out loud -

I use SPD pedals which I really like but have never tried any others, so can't compare..

Have fun!

goatman's picture

Hey Doug

Go the clips (even for DH) you'll never regret it if you give it a chance.

Of all the Shimano SPDs I have used (which is 3 diff models) go the DX. They are a bit more expensive but well worth it. They have a much better mechanism and are easy to clip in and out of even if you take your foot out for a corner. I use the DX shoes as well and they are great!!

kiwiboy's picture

tried a few and settled on these.

really well worth the spend. Absolutely positive action in all conditions, and do not get clogged. I have tried 4 different SPD types and these are by far the best. The 545's get clogged very easily and trust me you will not need the cage - just more to clean.

If you want a cheaper option there are several of the same configuration without going to XTR quality.

Brian's picture

I currently have similar pedals to the Shimano M545's. I find riding with the M545 with normal shoes, the clips get in the way even though they do push down. You also don't get near enough grip as platforms while wearing normal shoes. I just now ride clipped in all the time. The only exception is when I am practicing wheelies (which I am still hopeless) and other tricks I change the pedals back to the platforms as practicing wheelies while clipped in is suicidal.

dougf's picture to get a decent pair of platforms for the immediate future (which I will use from time to time even when I get cleats) and put together some cash to get a good pair of cleated pedals and shoes. Given that Shimano offer the multirelease cleats and adjustable release they seem to be the go, and from what people are saying, the cage doesnt offer much benefit and adds weight, so I would probably go for ones without a cage.

Does anyone have any advice on suitable shoes/cleat combos ?

Thanks to all of those who have offered advice, it was much appreciated.

Cheers Doug

goatman's picture

I should clarify my earlier post wher I mentioned the Shimano DX. This is also referred to as the 647 and as I mentioned has a far superior mechanism (and cage) to the 424s and 545s.

I have all three and personally wouldn't recommend the 545s at all. I'd even go the 424s over the 545 as they are lighter (and cheaper).

Here's a link with a review of both the 647 (DX) and the mathching shoe.

nh's picture

I have a pair of 545 pedals and really like them. When you have bike shoes on they provide a good platform even when you are not clipped in. So it is easy to get going straight into a tricky section without worry about weather or not you are clipped. They have adjustable release tension so you can find the setting that suits you.

I have given mine a lot of punishment and they are still fine. I have heard the ones with a resin cage oftern break.

When riding with flat soled shoes the clip in part sticks up a little too high but still feels better the M520 pedals which don't have the cage.

Another downside is there is nowhere for the mud to get out when clippping in.

jedijunglesnow's picture

I've been watching this thread closely, waiting, waiting, waiting, and then finally!

Goatman I knew you couldn't resist!

Pjordan's picture

My opinionm, seems to differ from a lot here is shimano isn't an off road mechanism. I have a set of 520s which I use on road all day as a courier, sheerly because the cleats are more durable than other brands. Soon as they get a bit of sand in, they become sticky, hard to get in an out of and make me look like an idiot. I'd go for egg beaters, they can't be adjusted because they don't need to be, maintaining the same tension on all 4 of the simano pedal adjustments is just such a hassle and seems like sucxh a waste of time and overcomplicated system...

Flynny's picture

Is that with the newer mech?

The older SPDs did indeed suck the big one when it came to mud or sand which is why people fled to anything on offer like TIME or Crank Bro. But I understand the newer system is much better in clearing mud?

ad's picture

But just look at a set of eggbeaters, they are mostly air, mud doesn't stand a chance thanks to the wonders of gravity!

Flynny's picture

Yeah I'm a fan of crank Bro... If only the cleats weren't made of soft cheese and lasted a bit longer

ad's picture

But cleats made of cheese are way better than scabs on your knees and elbows because you couldn't unclip

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