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Pedal Selection

Noel's picture

By Noel - Posted on 16 April 2008

I've been riding MTB now for over a year and currently use very sharp flats with FiveTen's on all trails. I like to hop and bounce of little lips etc while riding along, I like 'air'. I ride a fair bit of technical single track. My current foot->crank interface involves:



= I look like a DH'er on XC trail, but if I don't wear the shin guards sometimes I get kind of carved up in the legs when things go wrong (and it hurts like hell). Like this:

I'm planning to get cleats and then sticking to Terry Hills / Lane Cove kind of Fire Trails till I get used to cleats. A few questions please:

1. Can I just screw the little cleats into the sole of my Five Tens so I don't look like I'm wearing latte shoes? I prefer the DH look to the XC style.

2. When your going toooo fast in cleats on curves on Terry Hills and the bike slides out from under you, is it as scary in cleats as it is when I have flats? I imagine it is scarier?

3. With cleats will I be able to hop higher?

4. These cleat pedals with the cage running around the outside. Are those cages all BS? What are the advantages of the little cage? I have read that when not clipped they are very slippery anyway so the cage negates the intention. This makes me think I should go full-hog and get no cage. What do you think? Remember, I have never been clipped in.

5. Is SPD the way? Those egg beaters, they look so light (expensive tho, nice bling), are they non-adjustable? Are the egg beaters hard for a newbie to use?

6. What do you think for a newbie? SPD with Cage, SPD with no cage, Crank Bros with Cage, Egg Beaters?

I'd be really happy to hear from anybody recent experience in changing over. Thanks heaps. I figured best to stick it in this old thread so it's all together. My new bike is super light (same as Ben's) so I'm fairly weight conscious now, maybe my FiveTens are too heavy.

Thanks Again, I'll be coming to more rides soon, just a bit busy at the moment.

Rob's picture

1. No way. I used to ride with more 'trainer' looking Specialized shoes (there are many more about, look on Jenson for example) but think the Shimano with velcro + ratchet + more rigid sole are much better now. You don't look so much like a latte drinker when they are beaten up and covered in mud so don't worry Eye-wink

2. Yes, it's scarier

3. Yes. Well, I can, maybe you have more skillz?

4. Plenty riders use them so maybe not... although personally never tried and don't see the point.

5. Happy with SPDs (540s). Loads better than old Codas.

6. ??? The above is all I have experience with. SPDs (can) come out quick when you fall off, can be left real loose to begin. Someone who has tried many more styles would provide a more useful answer Eye-wink

GAZZA's picture

hate to say it again but ive been riding mtb for nearly twenty years noel and although i'll never have the last say and would never expect to have it but i say go the clippless pedals. i saw your scars and i have similar ones from my old platforms on a freeride bike. for general trails round the northern beaches(even red hill) i use clippless( unless your doing downhill/freeride stuff)
get rid of the old five tens and get yourself some nice quality xc shoes and a pair of spd's, after a few weeks you wont ever go back( thats after the 5 or 10 initiation falls).
and by saying spd's im not being biast or narrow minded as ive got high end ti eggbeater and candy on my posh bikes and although i prefer them for the weight and bling factor i havn't got properley got used to them and would prefer the 'ease of entry' of the spd's at this stage.
as for hopping higher? for general xc riding, clippless pedals do help in a straight hop up when done correctly over a water bar etc but for the old school 'bunny hop' where you lift the front wheel first then the back( as seen in all trials vids) id probably go the flat pedal. those kind of forces on an spd usally disengages the pedal which results in catastrophic failure and a lot of pain! ;(

ar_junkie's picture

Then without a doubt, go clipless.

Here are some links to help out:

Paul's picture

Go clipless you will never look back. To get the most out of them you will have to adapt your pedalling style because now you can use the up stroke as well as the down stroke.

A guarantee - you will fall.
A prediction - it will be when you have virtually stopped. (Everyone goes turtle so remember momentum is you friend).

If you do a lot of technical trails (Red Hill, Bantry Bay, etc) where you would normally dab, then get cages around them this allows you to unclip at the technical parts and just stand on the pedals as normal. As you get more confident you can stay clipped in. On XC trails (Terrey Hills, Manly Dam, etc) cages aren't necessary.

I have SPD's on my SS and Eggbeaters on my Yeti and I find the SPD's are easier to engage (I'm forever having problems engaging my left foot with the Eggbeaters). Having said this the eggbeaters are lighter and work better in mud - horses for courses.

Stuart M's picture

I will second the eggbeaters.

Like Paul I have both, spd's with the plastic cage around them, good on more techy stuff 'cause I tend to hit alot of rocks. Eggbeaters on the xc bike and they are by far the best feeling pedals I have used, out of a limited field admittedly. For some reason I also have a little trouble engaging the left foot but once in it is the best feeling.

Paul's picture

Stuart, I tried the spacer and I'm still having problems. I altered the position of the cleat from my normal SPD position (putting it more forward and directly under the ball) so that may be it. A lack of riding lately also hasn't helped.

Andy Bloot's picture

Hey Noel, we're at about the same stage of riding. After a bad initiation to clips when I first started riding as a complete noob with no bike experience, I bought flats and left the clips in the shed.
But with the Dirtworks coming up, and a year of riding under my belt, I wanted to re-acqauint myself with them for more efficient pedalling.

I've got some 545's (SPD) that have a bit of a platform. The benefits of the platform aren't really so you can ride in normal shoes (because they are death in normal shoes on a trail) I think it's so you have something to stand an push on (to get the bike moving) if you don't successfully clip in first time. I also think unclipping on techy sections to use the platform is asking for trouble- there's not enough grip. I have also found it more likely to fall on techy ups than downs. Clipped in pointing down actually allows you to ride lighter.

My advice would be SPD (shimano) pedals as they have a tension adjustor that you can back right off for easier unclipping. Once your cleats have a little wear, they are easier to unclip as well. Personally, I would not go to eggbeaters until I was very used to being clipped in. I imagine that once you get used to being clipped in, the problem then becomes clipping out too easily, and it's time to re-think (increase tension) or maybe update your pedal choice. For me, it's technique first, weight savings later.

OK. To the scary bits. Yes, if your front tyre washes out on a corner it can lead to unhappiness. I sometimes unclip if I'm coming into a slippery fast corner in case I have to dab. As I mentioned, techy ups especially when tired and the rear tyre bonks something with no warning. Riding in a group on a techy part and the person in front stops with no warning.
But these are all part of learning, just like when you first got on your mountain bike. It took time to get a bit of confidence - now that you have that, you can afford to lose a bit of confidence by giving clipless a go. Over time, being put in those split second situations leads to split second unclipping. And your confidence will be more than it is now.

When you're out on your own, pick a few techy ups to force yourself into split second unclip situations. Ride up stairs and rock platforms where you may need to unclip with no warning. Better to fall when practicing than fall in the first half hour of an all day ride.

Also, get yourself a pedal spanner- it takes 2 minutes to change your pedals over. If I'm going on terrain I think will be a big challenge in itself, I put the platforms on as it will take all my confidence to deal with the terrain. But this is only until I become totally confident being clipped in.

Most of all, stick with it. There's no time frame, but over the long term it will improve your riding, I believe. Good luck with it.

Bernd's picture

I like these one's, got them on a "combo deal" and I'm very happy with them,
I use to have platform and since changing I can ride the Stairs at Manly Dam...
It does make a big difference

kurt's picture

I bought clipless and tried them on the trails like Parra Lake
found them to be ordinary and no matter what i did couldnt gain confidence in them on the trails
i have them on my hard tail that i use as a path and track bike like prospect or lansdowne
and i love them

im the same as you ride more down hill style on my xc rather then xc
id recomend you borrow a pair and see if they work for you before you make the purchase
i think your 5 10s have cleat attatchments so jsut borrow some cleats and pedals
more then happy to lend you my spare shimanos and cleats for a run at the lake
if youd like


Matt's picture

My 2c on your questions, as somebody who uses both (clips for all but trials):

1 - Nope, unless your shoes are specifically designed for it, and it doesn't look like it. Remember the DH look also includes skinsuits...

2 - It's scarier until unclipping becomes unconscious, which doesn't take too long, then maybe less scary because you have more control. The one thing that always gets me still is going too far on a wheelie or manual and falling backwards, every now and again I'll fail to unclip because I'm panicking and thinking about it too much, that hurts like snowboarding on ice Eye-wink

3 - Yes, you can use your legs to bring the bike up, though a purist would frown.

4 - The cage versions aren't good for using without clips, very slippery as the mechanism interferes with the bottom of your shoe. But they are very good for protecting the pedals workings and for techy/trials type stuff you can use the cage to whack off rocks or balance on.

5/6 - Go Crank Bro's or Time ATAC's. Very easy to use and very reliable. If I were buying a pair of pedals now I'd go for the brand new versions of the Crank Bro's Mallet ( hoping that they've upgraded the internals enought to justify their 2 year warranty.

lozza6's picture

The Exustar's work great. Cheap from T7 and not too heavy either.

SPD compatible so can jump on any Shimano bike...

They also have the tension adjust which is perfect because i only just started too and like the idea of being clipped in loosely... I'm starting to unclip unwillingly up steep hills so may add a touch more tension.

Good luck with your choice mate,


Stuart M's picture

You'll find heaps "cheaper" here

lozza6's picture

But I got a shoe and pedal combo for like $140

I dont think thats too bad a deal?


Bernd's picture

... my combo was $129!!!
sit back and wait for the next combo deal from T7!!!

lozza6's picture

Sticking out tongue

kurt's picture

as i have found twice now
ask T7 to put what you want on special
and the next week you may be surprised


lozza6's picture

Thats awesome!! hahaha

Those weekly sales do hurt the bank after a while Smiling

kurt's picture

ive done it twice and found it to be in my benefit twice
i have recomended that people do it before too

Pjordan's picture

Ok, well I've tried a few so here's what I reckon:

SPDs are fine on the road, and have more durable cleats, seem to be made of something slightly harder than diamond, but they clog with mud offroad and so you may find yourself flying down a hill not clipped it, can be a pain! I'd avoid them for offroad riding as they're so overcomplicated

Crank bros - mallets seem like a good idea, but with the cleat sticking out of the flat bit, and the rest of it been smooth and slippy, the cage is pretty stupid. Also with the cage being there, your foot moves around more and the cleats have a much shorter lifespan.
Eggbeaters are the way, they have 2 settings, cleats one way round is easy to get in and out, other way round once you build confidence with them. Get the shoe protectors to go with them as the retention things push into your shoe after a while and make them feel sloppy. CRC ( sells the egg beater mxrs for 42 bucks, and you can probably grab some shoes around the 70 mark, try and find some people to club together for an order and you get free psoage over 545 dollars...

Muffin Man's picture

1) Yep, screw them in and confuse everyone. I'm sure you can do it.
2) Scary doesn't come close to describing the feeling. You'll be fine, but WATCH THE NOSE WHEELIES.......
3) You can cheat and look better than you are and ride with poor form, but who cares if it's still fun?
4) Cage is bloody good let me tell you. Contrary to popular (?) belief, most dher's don't like heavy bikes and components.
5) Not in a position to say. SPD's are pretty bloody grouse though.
6) Cage unless xc or bmx (racing).

Clipped in = can cheat and do not have to relax legs enough, can cheat and not use your whole body to move bike around (up and down etc). Can disguise poor technique and lack of skill.
Clipped in = awesome pedal power... faster, longer, etc. And can feel nice being clipped in to bike. I like it anyway. But flats also feel nice. God, I'm torn.

Noel's picture

I have lots of reading/study to do!

Justin's picture

I started out with SPDs, then went with eggbeaters (which I snapped after a couple of years, right at the crank), some mallets, now I am back to the shimano. I'm running some 959s I think at the moment, got them on special. No particular reason. I did find eggbeaters a bit harder on my feet, but shoes make all the difference here.

There are two main advantages to using clipless:
- You can spin. This means forgetting the pedal is there and concentrate on working your legs in a circular motion, it takes a few weeks to build the fitnes for this, but it is very efficient
- the pedal effectively becomes your whole foot. This is why good shoes are important. A soft sole will bend as you spin, and collapse completely when you stand up on the pedals and putt some watts down, which means pressure on the ball of your foot. A stiff sole transfers the pressure across your whole foot, leading again to more efficient less painful pedalling. This is why the clipless platforms are so small - you need to use good, stiff soled shoes with them to provide the 'platform'. Soz, might not be street style.

- If you are coming to a tricky section, unclip, sand, unclip, unless you feel you can get through it
- techy uphills are tough. If you are going to make it, you will make it clipped in. But if you don't, you will have one of those slo-mo falls and the rest of the crew in stitches.

Which is why I wore elbow pads for quite a while whilst learning the clipless pedals.

Now I am one with the bike, and fly down the trickiest bits of GNR at 40km/h. Oops hang on that was a couple of years ago, maybe not at the moment Eye-wink

don't go the platform one side / clip the other - sometimes, you have to clip in immediately and those things don't let you do that without taking your eyes off the trail.

Morgan's picture

1. If you're getting clipless pedals to increase power, you need shoes with a stiff sole to most efficiently transfer your leg power to the pedal, so I'd get something designed for x country riding.

2. You just need to twist your foot sideways to unclip - most of the time I do this naturally if I'm about to come off because I'm gunna stick my leg out to the side, not behind me. Never had a stick yet.

3. Probably.

4. Not experienced enough to comment, but I guess the bigger the contact area for your foot, the more control you'll have if you're not clipped in?

5. No. I use TIME ATAC's since my first foray into clipless, which were SPD's. They have simple springs a la eggbeaters, but they also have tension adjusters & a bit of extra surface area. I say go for a simple design that doesn't clog up in mud and have a bit more freeplay than SPD's do. Remember what pedal system you do have if you have to buy new cleats in the future as some brands don't fit others (ie shimano cleats don't fit TIME (nor I guess Eggbeater) pedals.

6. Try to test some out in a friendly bike shop to get a feel for which ones you're comfortable with. Pedals & shoes are expensive so any good bike shop should be giving you heaps of help..

kiwiboy's picture

invest in the best kit. I have had a wide range of SPDs and clones over the years - last year bit the bullet and bought these

absolutely the best ever - no mud retention, easiest entry and exit, combined with a good pair of stiff soled shoes will enhance your performance no end. You just feel so safe...

The Deore XT option is pretty much as good - just a bit heavier.

if at first you don't succeed, try not to look astonished.

Noel's picture

Thanks Kiwidude,

Looks like the go is:
-Save up some money (or ask wife for early b'day present)
-Buy and install XTR's
-Buy and wear some stiff soled (thanks Morgan) cleat shoes
-Carry a spare cleat and screws (from other thread)
-Get some elbow pads (good tip thanks Justin)
-Practice starting and stopping on soft grassy field (read that somewhere here too)
-Keep flats, pedal spanner, and the ole' FiveTens in the boot of the car
-Hit TH and pray I don't slide off the track into the bush hahaa

Rob's picture

Actually Noel... although XTRs are probably great, you could defiantly start small. I mean, get a cheaper combo and make sure you feel safe on them before spending what is probably 3-4x for the bling gear.

You could even try your luck borrowing something. Lots of us have spare pedals on our spare bikes (540s here) and if you are game I even have some (very smelly) spare shoes! Barf!

Noel's picture

Yeah, will start smaller, thanks Rob.

Have looked at lots of pedals now. Prices from Cell Bikes (without delivery - just a rough guide). From Lightest to heaviest.

Smarty polymer cage $100 282g ********** A
EggbeeterC no cage $120 290g
Candy fiber-composite cage $120 308g
XTR 970 no cage $160 325g
XT 770 no cage $109 350g ********** B
520 no cage $58 380g
Plastic Cage 424 $65 472g
Resin Cage 647 $132 552g ********** C
Metal Cage 545 $120 567g

Thinking A, B, or C.

leopafe's picture

Noel, do not get the Smarty, it is really crap!

The LBS where I got my bike installed a set of Smarty’s by mistake (asked for Candies) and they are crappy and can’t be rebuilt in case of bearing failure, or even be lubed as they are sealed. If you feel like Crank Brothers, go with Candy or Egg Beater C (not the MXR).



Noel's picture

Yeah i just read lots of bad reviews for the Smarties. Shame, they are so light.

647's or Candies. Then, once mastered, go to XTR or egg beaters.

DX 647's get great reviews (552g):

So do the Candies (308g):

The Sl (294g) matches the bike better for colour, is lighter, and has s/s instead of plated spring.

I'm definite now about starting with a surrounding cage, and then go to top model later.

hmm the Sl look nice Smiling and are very light.

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