Walkable shoes and pedals for biking in light rain
March 22, 2011 4:23 PM   Subscribe

I'd like some clipless pedals and corresponding shoes that are moderately walkable, have some float, and are dual-sided. What pedal system and shoe do I want? The more specific, the better.

On my road bike, I'm currently using Speedplay Light Action pedals on some Specialized shoes with a crabon shank and giant clicky-clack cleats. The float is a little too wide for my tastes (it takes a lot of ankle motion to unclip) and the cleats make walking around nearly impossible. That's fine for road biking, but I'm looking for something a bit more versatile for my commuting bike. I'm not interested in straps or external toe-clip systems - tried it, didn't like it.

The general requirements are:
  • Dual-sided pedals - I don't want to have to look down to clip in
  • Shoes which can be walked around in with at least some comfort and lack of click-clack
  • Shoes that are waterproof enough to withstand the constant Seattle light rain
  • Some float (3-7 degrees probably)
  • Moderately stiff sole - I don't want to bike in running shoes, but a full crabon sole is no good either
I'm asking because I've been having a really hard time finding a good chart comparing various shoes, pedals, cleats, and what kind of compatibility (e.g. 0.75" of adapter cleat sticking out the bottom of my shoe?) exists. A good reference for that would be very helpful.
posted by 0xFCAF to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You want Shimano SPD pedals. The M540 pedals are excellent or for a step up, the M770s which I use. you can get the ones with resin platforms (M647) which you can ride in regular shoes, sort of, and can reduce pressure points in more flexible soles. I used these on my downhill bike and they were good..

The key for comfort with the SPD system is to slacken the tension all the way off and then tighten it until you are comfortable with the release.

For shoes the Lake MX156 shoes are excellent and pretty weatherproof. They also don't look dorky.
posted by unSane at 4:34 PM on March 22, 2011

(the SPD cleats hardly protrude at all)
posted by unSane at 4:34 PM on March 22, 2011

This may not be what you want to hear but the best way that I found to address this issue was a combination of eggbeater or SPD cleats (as noted above) and off-road/mountain-style shoes, many of which have enough tread to "swallow" the cleats. That way I'm not walking exclusively on cleats plus a little patch of heel rubber.

That said I now commute with cheap & cheerful plastic BMX pedals with no clips or straps whatsoever and I love it. The best part is that they cost roughly the same amount as a new pair of cleats!
posted by pullayup at 4:38 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: That looks like a great start. How does entry/exit compare on the M540/M770 vs the M647?
posted by 0xFCAF at 4:39 PM on March 22, 2011

Best answer: Yeah, SPD. There are lots of commuter shoes out there that have recessed cleats so you don't duck-walk. I have M545 pedals on my mountain/commuter bike and the single-sided A530s on my road bike. Many people seem to have the low-profile M980s on all types of bikes which are also double-sided.

Shoes you can get at a lot of places.
posted by GuyZero at 4:45 PM on March 22, 2011

Seconding the switch to MTB shoes - On the rare occasion I've found myself without shoes to change into, I've spent the day in my Vittoria's without too much discomfort - I too ride Shimano M540s - you may want to check out Crank Brothers Egg Beaters which are essentially four sided.
posted by jalexei at 4:45 PM on March 22, 2011

IMO the entry on all the SPD pedals is about the same. It's generally a question of size, weight and cost. The actual mechanics of the various pedals are identical as far as I can tell. There's no difference in float between my M545s and the A530s.
posted by GuyZero at 4:46 PM on March 22, 2011

I second the "all SPD pedals feel the same" sentiment. I really couldn't tell the difference. I found that, in general, SPDs didn't offer enough float, which tended to make my knees hurt.
posted by pullayup at 4:54 PM on March 22, 2011

For shoes, you could do much worse than the Sidi Diablo. Roomy cut for thicker socks, full Gore-Tex upper, and mountain tread.
posted by The Michael The at 5:05 PM on March 22, 2011

I just got the DZR GMT-8 shoes and they are pretty good, but they are definitely designed to be walkable first and clipless second. They're a little clunky but really good shoes.
posted by DeltaZ113 at 6:14 PM on March 22, 2011

I would suggest the Crank Brothers Candy SL and a pair of mid range Shimano or Specialized mountain shoes. The Crank Bros. brass cleat is quite small and fits within the center cavity for tread on decent mountain shoes. It's very easy to walk with.
posted by thewalrus at 6:19 PM on March 22, 2011

I use Look Keos w/ some Sidi Carbon Zephyrs for my road bike, but if I expect to be walking around (e.g. more casual rides with friends), I'll swap a pair of Crank Bros Candys and used a pair of Pearl Izumi MTB shoes. The MTB shoes have enough tread that the Crank Bros cleats don't touch when walking on pavement, and the Candy is two sided and has a small platform compared to the Eggbeaters.
posted by kovacs at 6:21 PM on March 22, 2011

Yeah I should add that a proper set of flat BMX pedals with spikes and some shoes with soft soles will offer almost as much engagement as a set of cleats -- but you may find that they don't offer *enough* float compared to clears -- you have to literally lift your foot off the pedal to adjust, they're that sticky.
posted by unSane at 7:24 PM on March 22, 2011

I find the M647s marginally harder to get into because of the platform. There is no difference in exit. The biggest difference with SPDs comes from

1. Getting the tension right (hex adjustment)
2. Lubrication (if you lubricate the cleat-holder, they're much smoother)
3. The cleat itself. As it wears down the release gets smoother. You can also get the 'gold' cleats which don't require an ankle twist but I hate them.

The chief disadvantage of SPDs is that they can get clogged with mud or snow but on a commute that shouldn't be an issue. I've stuck with them despite the occasional clog because in every other respect they are bulletproof and extraordinarily consistent from pedal to pedal. Also, round here at least, they are the de facto standard MTB pedal so if you are swapping bikes at all they make life a heck of a lot easier.
posted by unSane at 7:29 PM on March 22, 2011

nthing the SPDs, I have them on all my bikes.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:48 PM on March 22, 2011

I also use Speedplays (X-pedals for nearly 15 years; recently switched to Zeros) on the road.

I'd really, really, really suggest a pair of Lake or similar midrange MTB/commuter shoes and the midrange Crank Brothers Eggbeaters. They're light, hassle free, walkable, they are user serviceable (bearings can be easily lubed, etc...), and they have manageable float. It's not the loose, sloppy float of the Speedplays, it's more of, your foot goes where it needs to and stays there.

I have used various SPD, Ritchey, OnZa (let's see if anyone even remembers those) and Time offroad pedals for cyclocross, MTB racing, commuting and assorted other guerrilla biking shenanigans for decades. The SPD cleats have a tendency to weirdly disengage; either prematurely, or worse, not at all, as they become really worn out. I broke an ankle in '02 from becoming entrapped by my badly worn SPD cleats; another friend did years ago as well. Time ATAC pedals have a rather stiff engage/disengage action that takes getting used to; also they don't have the same level of float as the Eggbeaters. I raced MTB and 'cross with Time ATACs for years, but since I've gotten Eggs I find I much prefer them; they're easier to get in and out of for starters and they're easier to maintain and cheaper overall.

SPDs are the go-to commuter pedal I will admit, and they can be had extremely cheaply because they're kind of the default standard, but I personally just do. not. like. them. Between the cleat wear issue, the tiny fiddly engagement notch, and their generally ghastly performance in mud (this may not be a consideration for you, for me it is a major concern), I'm just not impressed with them at all.

Last but not least, if you go with Crank Brothers, stick with Eggbeaters and avoid the Candys. I know of a lot of folks who've had issues with the tread on commuter shoes (which tends to be thicker and squishier than the higher end MTB racing shoes) interfering with the platform on the Candys to the point where the pedals wouldn't engage.
posted by lonefrontranger at 9:22 PM on March 22, 2011

I've enjoyed commuting with a pair of Crank Bros Mallet 1 pedals (removed the grip studs which interfered with shoe tread) and wearing a pair of Keen Austin Pedal shoes. The recessed clip doesn't click or rub at all, and the shoes are comfortable enough to wear at work all day.
posted by bug138 at 9:33 PM on March 22, 2011

Definitely go with MTB shoes. I happen to like the Specialized "Comp" level shoes and got them at Recycled Cycles near the U. Bridge. REI, Performance, and Gregg's are places with good selection for trying on shoes.

SPDs are fine and range widely in quality between SPD-knockoffs like Wellgo, cheap Shimano, and better Shimano models.

I would advise against Eggbeaters; some people find them hard to clip into. I really like their cousins, Crank Brothers Candy Cs, which tend to be affordable and add a bit of "platform"to the Eggbeater pedal. That makes them easier to clip into and gives your foot a bit of support. I use them for both road and trail rides.

The cleats for Crank Brothers pedals will fit on SPD-compatible shoes.

RE lonefrontrager's comment above to avoid Candys: the pedals come with a small tab that you can optionally put between the cleat and your shoe; I found I needed the 1mm riser to get the cleat to work right. With the riser they're great.
posted by mvd at 7:38 AM on March 23, 2011

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