Need Bike Gear Reccomendation
June 22, 2006 3:52 PM   Subscribe

Recommend a good cycling shoe-pedal combo I just started biking again and i'm really loving it. I have a mid-range hybrid bike, nothing fancy and I don't ride compeditively but more for fun and exercise, all on paved road. I'm looking to buy cycling shoes and pedals. What i'm looking for in a pedal is one that can serve both a bike shoe and a regular shoe. The guy at the bike shop showed me something that was a hybrid by shimano but i dont remember the model. As far as a shoe, I dont need anything fancy or expensive but not crappy and cheaply made either. Can anyone give me some recomendations? Also, is there a reliable bike gear review site that has user reviews? Thanks!
posted by postergeist to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (32 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I have Time ATAC mountain bike pedals and I love them. If you want to walk in your shoes get mountain bike style pedals. Which shoes and pedals are for you probably requires more info. Do you have wide feet, narrow feet, wide forefeet, etc. is the best source for this type of info. Read the archive and ask anew if you don't find good answers in the archive.

Some good retailers:
Colorado Cyclist

these two are big, but there are so many more of course
posted by caddis at 4:10 PM on June 22, 2006

Same boat here: midrange hybrid bike for recreation & short-distance commuting (5km each way)...

I am using Shimano shoes with a Shimano hybrid-type pedal - the one that you can use with normal shoes if you don't have your bike shoes on you for some reason. No complaints at all. The models I chose were mid-range & I have no complaints at all. No model names or numbers though, sorry.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:19 PM on June 22, 2006

DId you get that I have no complaints? I thought it was worth repeating.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:19 PM on June 22, 2006

caddis speaks true. I too have Time ATACs, and I always giggle at my fellow commuter cyclists as they skitter across the BART platforms on their gigantic, tractionless cleats. I love my ATACs. I run a fixed gear bike, so I'm always doing interesting, high-torque things on my bike, usually in traffic, and I've yet to pop out of them when I didn't intend to.

If you're going to be going easy on your bike, fancy pedals are not neccessary--buy something reasonably priced and upgrade if you feel you need it later. Choose pedals with an appropriate amount of float (the maximum angle at which your foot can twist before the pedal disengages); if you have creaky knees, get pedals with at least 10 degrees of float. It's hard to go wrong with pedals, especially when your demands are light; they require much more research if your favorite trails look like the swamp from Princess Bride. Half-and-half clipless/cage combos are good for people who often ride with street shoes (e.g., to work), but they get old quick if you always wear bike shoes. You can get clipless pedals which have large cages, but allow you to clip in on both sides. This may be a nice middle ground.

Shoes, though... shoes... that's a personal matter. I've got a couple thousand miles on a pair of high-end Shimano MTB shoes, and my pinky toe has worn through the mesh tops. I look like an R. Crumb character, and it's not terribly comfortable. Go to a bike store where you like the staff, and try on shoes for a really long time until you've found ones you honestly like. Me, my feet are wide as hell, so for my next pair I'm going to drop $250 on some Sidi Megas. I don't advise that you do this until you've come to the conclusion that Puny Human Bike Shoes are Not For You. Also, I may need to rob a bank first. Again, not advised.

Finally, you may want to have the folks at your local bike store help you set up the cleats. It's not a hard process, but having someone with experience do it for you means that you don't have to wait until your knees start to hurt before you realize you've got them on a bit off. It's best to avoid using one's ligaments and cartilage as wear indicators for $50 metal parts.

Happy rides!
posted by Coda at 4:30 PM on June 22, 2006 gets this question a lot, you may want to look there--particularly the recreation or commuting forums.

I have been looking at the eggbeater mallets with a cheap mountain bike shoe. The eggbeaters look simple and they are purported to be easy to get in and out of, a huge plus in city traffic. Performance Bike also sells a Forte Campus pedal that may fit the bill.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 4:31 PM on June 22, 2006

coda speaks super truth. I third the ATACS. I have 3 sets of the old-school square chunky yellow kind because I a) commute daily to work on a fixed gear and b) race cyclocross in fall.

I have a courier friend who has busted 3 (?!?) sets of Crank Brothers (L)Eggbeater pedals. 2 sets of busted springs and 1 busted spindle. he also rides a fixed gear in urban traffic only he doesn't run a brake, therefore the busted spindle cost him a trip to the ER for 27 stitches (ow fucking ow!).

I personally started using ATACS after I busted my ankle when my SPD's non-released in a mountain bike race. this after multitudinous non-engagement hassles with them in muddy situations.

nothing beats the ATACS. they're solid, stable, the bearings are so easy to maintain that even a lazy sack like me will take care of them. The cleats are small and easily walkable. If you miss your cleat, you have a viable platform to use until you can take another whack at getting in, but it's not like those 'commuter' clipless/cage combo pedals that have a big metal shin-eating cage either. They're low profile enough that cornering clearance is about as good as you'll get for an offroad pedal. You can easily ride them in street shoes or even flip-flops if you must.

I can also personally vouch for this: one will never become stupider, clumsier or less likely to gracefully engage a pedal than in the 37th minute of a 45 minute cyclocross race. I've had way fewer problems with ATACS than ANY other pedal, and I've ridden and tested them all. Speedplay Frogs were just hella scary. SPDs tend to get wacky non-engage / non-release issues in mud. Eggbeaters are great unless and until you miss your pedal, then see above, plus they just seem less substantial and easier to destroy.

Both Nike and Performance make a great line of commuter and midrange recessed-cleat style cycling shoes that don't look all Euro/metro/lycraqueer. SixSixOne even makes one that kinda looks like an awesome skate / casual shoe except it's got a cleat mount.

Absolutely go find a local bike shop. Oh and go check out the reviews on Roadbikereview and MTBR. That's where the real experts hang out.

good luck!
posted by lonefrontranger at 4:47 PM on June 22, 2006

Could I slipstream behind this to ask whether its worth upgrading to ATACs. I suffer from earlier adopter syndrome, but as my Look (red cleat) pedals and Duegi shoes wear out, I am considering upgrading.
posted by mojohand at 5:44 PM on June 22, 2006

ATACs are definitely the best, with Eggbeaters a close second (but they're essentially a rip off of ATACs). But both of these brands are expensive, even the entry-level models are at least $100. Go to the next level up and the pedals alone start costing as much as some hybrid bikes do.

If you're just riding reacreationally around town, any SPD-style pedal will do. e.g. these Nashbar pedals are on discount at $15, and offer a regular-shoe platform on one side and SPD clipless on the other. If I were starting out, that's what I'd buy.
posted by randomstriker at 5:55 PM on June 22, 2006

Hmmm, actually it looks like entry-level Eggbeaters are about $60 these days. Still not that cheap.
posted by randomstriker at 6:22 PM on June 22, 2006

A fifth recommendation for the ATACs, which I could not imagine cycling without. They're not hybrids - you need the cleat, they're a little too small to use with tennis shoes - but they're so good.

I like my Sidi Dominators; you should definitely try something from the Sidi line in a bike shoe if you're in the market for them.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:32 PM on June 22, 2006

they're a little too small to use with tennis shoes

I agree, but what I also like is if I am there in the garage with one of my kids who wants to ride, now, they work well enough with the tennis shoes for that. Don't try that with Crank Bros. I love the float, I love the support of the biggish platform, I love the reliable release (although you never push down when releasing from ATACS) despite mud, crud, ice or whatever. ATACs really work.
posted by caddis at 7:04 PM on June 22, 2006

Wow..lots of really well thought out responses. Thanks for spending the time. Looks like ATACs are a big hit huh? Though i'm worried about the non-hybrid factor of possibly not being useful with regular shoes on.

I should mention that I ride this bike right in the heart of New York City traffic most of the time. What inspired me to look into binder style pedals was that I rode the drive that circles Central Park and realized how liberating and fun it was to have an open road with no traffic. Thats where I really started pushing for speed and getting into performance and it was obvious then that having clip-in pedals would make a HUGE difference.

So if i'm being realistic i'm probably going to use regular shoes 60-70% of the time. Which leads me to think that if I do go with a binding style (what is the official terminology for this anyway?) then it would benefit me to pick one which will fit with shoes that are walkable in and dont look like I just walked out of a euopean nightclub. My work dress code is casual so it may be possible. That way I would more likely wear them more often than if I had to change shoes. Plus its great to be able to be spontaneous and not have to go home and change shoes if I suddenly decide to do some serious riding.
posted by postergeist at 7:11 PM on June 22, 2006

these Nashbar pedals are on discount at $15, and offer a regular-shoe platform on one side and SPD clipless on the other. If I were starting out, that's what I'd buy.

They might be worth a shot if you've only got one bike -- Nashbar has a pretty good return policy if you don't like them. My experience: they looked good to me so I bought 'em a couple of years ago for my around-town bike. Had problems clipping in with my supposedly-SPD-compatible cleats. It's probably no problem if you use the cleats they come with, but I wasn't going to buy a second pair of shoes just to use my $15 pedals on the one bike. If you buy these and get another bike you may have to commit to using Nashbar pedals on all of them, or plan on changing pedals out again.

To keep things simple I use one pair of commuter shoes and identical (2-sided MTB-style SPD compatible) pedals on all three bikes (MTB, road and town.) I look like a dork but I'm not racing so I don't care. 2-sided MTB pedals are good for me because I can always click in and they're easy to lube and keep clear of dirt. You can usually find a deal on them if you hunt around. For real mountain biking the eggbeater-style or others discussed above might be better.

My experience with Shimano-style commuter shoes (and this probably goes for MTB shoes too) is that they're terrific for getting around town off-bike. I only ever feel the cleats when I'm on concrete or asphalt, and I suspect that's got to do partly with the soles being pretty worn down after a few years and partly with me being a fatass. I recommend going for shoes that don't flex or flex minimally -- it may take a bit of getting used to but it'll really help get the power to the pedals.
posted by Opposite George at 7:39 PM on June 22, 2006

Adidas makes a SPD-compatible shoe called the Minrett that look just like regular tennis shoes. I've been considering getting a pair for commuting but haven't taken the plunge yet. My hardtail mountain bike has the hybrid pedals that randomstriker mentions..they are nice since you can ride without the special shoes if you absolutely have to.

SPD pedals might not be the newest or fanciest, but they are inexpensive, simple to use and nearly bulletproof. I use Looks on my road bike and love them--secure, comfortable, and easy to clip out of in a pinch. I wouldn't recommend them for around town use, though. The pedals are one-sided, so if you are in a lot of stop and go traffic they are a pain to get in and out of. They are also completely worthless to walk around on since the cleats are so big. But they are great for really hauling ass on open roads and climbing nasty hills.

Generally, for city use, I would stick to stuff made for mountain bikes, most of the shoes/pedals are designed to be worn off and on the bike. Really the only difference is the weight of the items in question--as long as you don't mind a couple extra ounces, the mountain bike pedals and cleats will work just as well.

Overall, I can't recommend clipless pedals and shoes enough; once you have them, you'll wonder how you ever rode without them.
posted by jtfowl0 at 7:48 PM on June 22, 2006

So if i'm being realistic i'm probably going to use regular shoes 60-70% of the time.

OK, this is different. MTB shoes have a recessed cleat. If you look at it from the bottom you will see it but it is recessed with respect to the tread. Thus you can walk fine in them. However, they are not "regular" shoes, they have a stiff sole and a recessed cleat, not to mention a different style.

If you want to use a "regular" shoe, use toe clips, but frankly they suck by comparison with clipless pedals (that is what cyclists call the pedals that have quick release mechanisms like ski bindings that take a cleat on the shoe).

Shimano makes a pedal which has a large platform on one side like a regular bicycle pedal and which also has a clipless mechanism on the other. If you really are going to use it mostly with street shoes rather than bike shoes this might be the way to go. For casual street shoe use the ATACs are fine, but they are perhaps a bit small for regular street shoe use.
posted by caddis at 7:53 PM on June 22, 2006

...(what is the official terminology for this anyway?...

terminology clarification:
many / most old-school bike racers tend to call cleat/'binding' style pedals "clipless" pedals, which is confusing as hell.

newer-school riders/racers and the offical line in the coaching manuals I've been using lately terms all the various 'binding' systems as "step-in" pedals, which (imo) is far less vague.

the ancient style cage-and-strap, non-binding type pedals are called "toeclips" or "clip-and-strap" pedals (tho I tend to prefer my courier buddy's apropos pejorative of "death cages", personally).

pedals with no retention / clip system, straps or bindings are called "platform" pedals, i.e. most kids and/or BMX riders use these.

even more confusion reigns in terminology because from roughly the 1920s thru the late 80's, racers also used a cleat with their clip-and-strap systems. this cleat was actually nailed to the sole of the shoe, to help bind them into the pedal. I can personally vouch for the utter sketchtasticness of these because back when I was a junior racer (and dinosaurs roamed the earth) this was what we used, and they were a surefire recipe for a five-star ACL/MCL blowout if you crashed in 'em 'just right'.

at any rate. if you're going to be using street shoes 60-70% of the time, then you'd probably best benefit from using a commuter style pedal which RESEMBLES a platform pedal, yet has an SPD style binding. Therefore its the best of both worlds: it is both a platform AND a step-in pedal.

The reasons I don't care for these types of pedals are copious, however, postergeist, I'm gonna say that for the applications you've outlined in your followup post, my reasons are pretty much irrelevant and those 'campus' pedals are prolly gonna be the dog's nuts for you.

oh and as an aside on the expense issue: used ATACS are common as rats in Hell's Kitchen, IF you know where and how to look. check out the better bike classifieds sites, eBay and your local swapmeets. I scored two pair of those yellow first-gen ATACS for $40 total at Veloswap 2 years ago. hell I think it cost me more to buy cleats. not to say everyone will score this well but used ATACS are very easy to find. plus they're so durable and easy to maintain that I don't consider them a high risk to buy secondhand.

as always, YMMV.
posted by lonefrontranger at 8:23 PM on June 22, 2006


^Word of the year. And yeah, old-skool cleats really sucked.
posted by Opposite George at 8:44 PM on June 22, 2006

Oh, and another odd suggestion: Power Grips. They're hard to explain, but essentially a stiff strap that fits diagonally across the pedal. Getting in and out is as simple as putting your foot in and twisting. They have some proponents, although they aren't nearly as popular as clipless.

They're an inexpensive alternative to clips that works with street shoes, releases easily, and is easy to "clip in". I use them, and about the only problem I've had is that heavily lugged shoes tend to catch on the pedal surface making it a bit "sticky" to get in and out. They work suprisingly well, though--if you're not concerned with looking cool (they are not generally "in style") they could be an alternative for you.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:03 PM on June 22, 2006

I agree, but what I also like is if I am there in the garage with one of my kids who wants to ride, now, they work well enough with the tennis shoes for that. Don't try that with Crank Bros.

Caddis, though I do not own any clipless pedals (so I certainly can't recommend any), I'll point out that eggbeaters are available in styles with no platform, a small platform, and a large platform.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:07 PM on June 22, 2006

i've had excellent luck with Specialized shoes. i also use shimano spd pedals, but i have to admit i've never tried the ATAC style. i second the recommendation of "commuter-style" pedals - they are very easy to use and inherently forgiving.
posted by the painkiller at 9:26 PM on June 22, 2006

A couple of guys at work rock shimano shoes and eggbeater cleats. They are fine for a walk around shoe. The eggbeaters are pretty nice pedals, I have them on my MTB.

On the other hand, I use Speedplay pedals on the road; those cleats are NO fun to walk around in. But I think they're the best road pedals hands-down!
posted by neilkod at 10:00 PM on June 22, 2006

I have the above-mentioned Minnrets on ATACs and they work great. There is a little bit of scraping on rough concrete, but I recently got new cleats and shaved a bit off teh bottom eliminating that problem.
posted by jmgorman at 10:01 PM on June 22, 2006

Wow this is more information than I ever thought I would get...this is great.

Ok so at this point I think caddis and lonefrontranger are right about the commuter style shimano pedal in terms of the fact that it suits my needs the best (the shimano is incidentally exactly what I saw in the store earlier today).

I looked at pictures of ATAC models and they definitely seem small to me if i'm going to pedal with regular shoes. I remembered after reading all these posts about how I went to my brother in law's house a few weeks ago and borrowed his mountain bike which only now I realize had what youre all reffering to as ATAC style pedals. I was definitely able to ride around but I distinctly remember thinking it was awkward.

Ok cool, so i've got the pedal down.. now I need the shoes. One thing I need help making sure I understand right is ..MTB and SPD ... are these some sort of standards or just model names? In other words.. if i'm looking for a shoe to fit this particular "clipless" pedal should I be looking for something with one of those two acronyms in it? (this reeks of newbie doesnt it?)

Mountain bike shoes wont have a cleat sticking out of them which will make them easier to walk in.. thats a plus. I realize though that a stiff shoe is probably pretty important \. Those adidas minretts are actually really cool and look comfortable to walk in.. does anyone own a pair?

I guess the bottom line here is that i'm a hobbyist cyclist who has never even used clipless pedals before so I know that pretty much anything I get at this point is going to give me a hard on when I try it for the first time and see the difference!

So..Shimano SPD clipless commuter pedals and a $60-100 shoe that fits it and is comfortable enough to walk in and i'm good to go :)

Thanks so much to all of you..really great info!!
posted by postergeist at 10:12 PM on June 22, 2006

(more terminology clarification)

MTB = 'MounTain Bike'; it's a common acronym / contraction for Bikes What Go On Dirt.

SPD = 'Shimano Pedaling Dynamics'. it's a corporate trademark that has transmogrified into the 'BandAid' of terminology for walkable cycling shoe/pedal combos.

As far as shoes are concerned I personally ride Sidis and nothing but. You, dear OP, have absolutely NO need nor desire (nor should you) whatsoever to purchase $300+ mountain bike shoes. Thus I recommend something simple, stylish and affordable... such as:

SixSixOne - my personal fave on the style front (and you should listen to me cos I'm lady who knows style!) check their other links if you don't like that one in particular; they've got tons, most of which are in your price range.

Shimano's newer offerings - a new-school urban commuter style that doesn't scream DORK to non-cyclists like most of our gear tends to.

there are a ton more out there but its getting late, my html-fu has abandoned me and my wireless just took the short bus home. So, since I honestly don't know what you like in the way of style, I'd strongly recommend you do a search on cycling shoe brands like Lake, Specialized, Adidas and Nike as well. All of these manufacturers do extremely nice midrange touring / offroad shoes that would easily fit your needs.

The thing about shoes is that YOU need to GO TRY THEM IN PERSON. Every manufacturer uses a different sizing control, so some run ultra narrow (Nike), some are crazy wide (Carnac, Northwave) and others have weird fit control devices like moldable inserts and varus wedges and so on and on... its frustrating as hell unless you just go try stuff.

Oh yea and here's another fun thing: most cycling shoe sizes are expressed in Euro terms. i.e. I'm a size 40 shoe (translates to roughly a women's 8). So you may need to determine what your EU size is before you frustrate yourself looking in bike shops.
posted by lonefrontranger at 11:14 PM on June 22, 2006

MTB is a generic abbreviation for mountain bike.

SPD is a particular type of step-in pedal system made by Shimano, with a particularly shaped cleat and a particular receptacle for that cleat on the pedal. I hate SPD - it has barely any float and I found it hard to get in and out of - but it is certainly an industry semi-standard.

Float is important; it is the amount of rotation the cleat permits your foot to do on the platform of the pedal. If it is very low or zero, you risk knee injury by repetitively torquing your knee in a direction it wasn't meant to torque.

ATACs, which are a particular type of mountain bike pedal system made by a company called Time, have a great deal of float, but not the most; Speedplay Frogs hold that title.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:26 PM on June 22, 2006

I guess the bottom line here is that i'm a hobbyist cyclist who has never even used clipless pedals before so I know that pretty much anything I get at this point is going to give me a hard on when I try it for the first time and see the difference!
It will totally change the way you think about riding. I am not making this up.
posted by Opposite George at 11:40 PM on June 22, 2006

One more thing -- though it's probably less likely if you stick to the same brand for pedals and shoes there's a small possibility that it might be hard to click into SOME commuter pedals with SOME commuter or Mountain Bike shoes. Make sure the store lets you return one or the other if that's a problem, or be prepared to do some surgery on the soles.
posted by Opposite George at 11:44 PM on June 22, 2006

I've used the flats-one-side/SPD-the-other Shimano 323/324 pedals caddis and the painkiller mention above. My experience with them was not good: the clips always hang down requiring you to flick the pedal over with your toe every time you want to clip in. It takes quite a bit of practice to get this right.

A much better solution is a pedal with clips on both sides. To be able to wear clips or flats, I use the cage-around-the-clip type like this. they're frequently called "Freeride pedals". A bit more expensive, but they work great. I've never regretted switching from the 323's.

But, you know, my favourite pedals are still the simple clip-only shimano 515's. They're light, cheap and work great.

With regards to float, that's very much a personal choice. I like SPDs precisely because they have not so much float, but then also I don't over- or under-pronate, nor do I have knee trouble. It's easy to switch between the SPD, ATAC and Crank brothers cleats, just stay away from the road-styles, the Looks, the Times and the SPD-Rs.

I love the Sidi shoes. Consider sandals too. Shimano make nice ones, but if you can find some Lakes (they often sell out early in the summer), they're so worth the extra price. Most sandal systems are made to work with SPDs for some reason.
posted by bonehead at 6:51 AM on June 23, 2006

Awwww shooot...bonehead you have a really good point about the pedal having to be flipped over every time..i didnt even think about that. Now my whole world is thrown into an abyss I was all ready to buy the platform style ones haha

I have some good info to go on here though. Now I pretty much understand all the various types and pros and cons which is useful since I didnt know shit about shit before yesterday (poetic huh?).

Time to go find a bike store with a big selection and see all this stuff in person...
posted by postergeist at 7:15 AM on June 23, 2006

I made my purchase today... I went with the Shimano SPD 324s and the Adidas Minrett's which I think was a solid newbie/hobbyist purchase.

I was really debating about the pedals considering the fact about having to flip the pedal over but after looking at the other shimano (535 i think?) which had a wide platform and a dual sided clip it was obvious that the clip part sticks out too much.

This is the first time Ive ever ridden with clipless pedals and the difference is awesome. I can tell right away that i'm generating much more power while riding. Cliping in takes some getting used to and doing that while riding in th emiddle of New York City traffic is problematic but I think i'll get used to it. Riding in the heart of the city is such a different animal than any other riding. I'm glad I went with something that allows me to fall back on a wide pedal since I dont think i'll be doing the majority of my locked-in riding in city street conditions.

Thanks again for all your suggestions!
posted by postergeist at 4:54 PM on June 23, 2006

Flipping the pedal over to clip in is no big deal. Almost all road pedals work this way. You click in on one side, push off, give the pedal a little flick to get the right side up and click in.

One thing to remember, everyone, I mean every single person, without exception, forgets that they are locked in at some point when they are new to these pedals, and then, usually in a most public and embarrassing spectacle, stop without clicking out in time, realize their mistake and frantically attempt to click out while falling over in full view of a large crowd of laughing spectators. OK, it's not always public, but it always happens. Those who deny it just lie to protect their reputation. When it happens to you - laugh at yourself; it helps. Have fun with your new toys tools.
posted by caddis at 6:11 PM on June 23, 2006

others just publicly abuse singular and plural to their own embarrassment
posted by caddis at 6:15 PM on June 23, 2006

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