Pedal Play
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Pedal Play

There are two main types of pedals in cycling: platform and clipless. Platform pedals are the “old school” pedals you likely had as a kid or still have on your commuter bike. They may or may not have a toe strap allowing the rider to pull up as well as push down on the pedal. Generally, riders wear non-slip shoes such as running shoes with this type of pedal. Platform pedals also often have little metal teeth on them for traction. Platform pedals are primarily used by new cyclists until they feel comfortable enough to progress to the (not-so-intuitively-named) clipless pedals.


Clipless, or clip-in, pedals require a cleat that is attached to the sole of the cycling shoe.  The rider “clips in” by pushing their foot in the cycling shoe forward and down until it attaches the cleat to the pedal.  To unclip the rider rotates the foot sideways to release the cleat from the pedal.  The ease at which riders can clip in and out is adjustable by changing the release tension on the pedal. Because riders are able to stay in full contact with the pedal platform on clipless pedals, they can transfer energy or power more efficiently.



Clipless pedals vary in the platform and cleat size and the ability to clip in on one or both sides of the pedal. The four main pedals include SPD, SPD-SL, LOOK and SPEEDPLAY.


SPD (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) are usually used for gravel, cyclocross and mountain biking. These pedals can be clipped in on both sides and have a smaller platform and cleat size.


SPD-SL, Look and Speedplay pedals are usually used for road riding.  SPD-SL and Look pedals have a larger platform and can only be clipped in on one side.  Speedplay pedals have a smaller platform and can be clipped in on both sides.


All the pedals (except the SPD pedals) come with different cleat options that offer more or less float.  Float refers to the amount of movement the shoe can move right to left, when clipped in.  The benefit of float is that it allows a rider to pedal in a “natural” position, depending on their natural body alignment. Lack of float, however, can cause more tension so if the rigid position is not perfect, this can lead to biomechanical issues and subsequent knee or other pain.  The benefit of less float, however, is that more force can be transferred with a fixed position.


One advantage of the larger platform pedals is that the larger surface area of the pedal can prevent hot spot that can occur with a smaller contact point. On the other hand, an advantage of the Speedplay pedal is that they are more adjustable for cleat position.



Basically, the cleat should be positioned so that the ball of your foot is over the pedal spindle.  The ball of your foot or the level of the metatarsals can be found by feeling for the boney bump that sticks out on the sides of your feet. Cleats can be moved slightly left or right and forward and back (fore-aft) depending on rider comfort.



Generally, if a rider experiences knee pain on the inside of the knee, the cleat may need to be moved a little bit to the outside of the shoe or rotated to direct the toes inward a little bit. If the pain is on the outside of the knee, the cleat may need to be moved a little bit inward or rotated to direct toes slightly outward.

ALWAYS MAKE GRADUAL and small adjustments because even minute adjustments affect big changes.


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