The pedal is an important link between you and your road bike. Of the three contact points – saddle, bar and pedals – the latter is by far the most dynamic. After all, the power that you’re working so hard to generate is all going through the pedals to the crank and ultimately propelling the bike. So getting the right pedal is crucial.
Modern clipless pedal systems feature a cleat – fastened to the sole of your shoe – which allows you to clip into and out of your pedals easily, safely and virtually instantly. Although most clipless systems use similar technology, there are still lots of variations and huge price differences. Here's our pick of the top three road pedals we've tested this year.
Best road pedals
1 Time I-Clic² Racer Red
As a do-anything-and-get-on-with-it all-rounder the Time I-Clic² Racer Red can’t be beaten. The original i-Clic pedal was a favourite of ours, but the pontoon sections of the cleat – which help when you’re walking – were rather fragile and tended to break off easily. We’re pleased to see that the new design significantly beefs up this area.
Entry is simple and reliable, thanks to the hinge engaging only when you place your foot down onto the pedal. You don’t have to push the hinge out of the way to clip in, you simply stand on the pedal and the hinge closes onto the cleat. The release is predictable and reliable, and the whole pedal very well made.
There’s enough tension adjustment to keep racers happy, and you can reduce the tension enough so that less experienced riders won’t feel bolted in. The quality is high and the redesigned cleats are durable too. Knowing that this is the best all-round pedal system on the market at the moment makes their pricetag bearable. www.time-sport.com / www.chickencycles.co.uk
Weight: 248g /pair
- Cleat: 3 bolt, £19.99 (10°)
2 Speedplay Zero Stainless
Best for racing
Even people who claimed not to like the idea of them loved the Speedplay Zeros once they’d set them up how they wanted. The only drawback is that the cleat can be a little tough to walk in, but as a racer’s pedal that’s not such a major issue – just take your shoes off. The entry is positive and locating the pedal into the cleat comes naturally and easily right from the start.
We’ve run these pedals for a long time now, and both the pedals and cleats last for ages – which is just as well as they're expensive to replace – so long as you keep the cleat serviced every dozen rides or so. The fitting is what takes time, but do it properly by following the clear instructions and you’ll be rewarded with one of the best pedal systems out there. www.speedplay.com / www.i-ride.co.uk
- Weight: 211g
- Cleat: 3 bolt with adaptor, £39.99-£119.99
3 Shimano R540
Best budget pedals
Shimano have come up trumps again. The R540 is based on the older SPD-R platform shape but with current cleat compatibility. They’re wonderful all-round high-quality pedals, and with the spring tension backed off they turn into one of the very best novice-friendly systems thanks to a super-easy entry and a reliable release action. bike.shimano.com / www.madison.co.uk
- Weight: 336g
- Cleat: 3 bolt, £19.99 (0, 6°)
Best of the rest
Although not aimed at the rider new to clipless pedals, these behave so well in the lowest release tension that if it wasn’t for the pricetag they'd be our choice for the best beginner’s pedal. And there’s enough spring tension adjustment available to let even hardcore clipless pedal riders lock their feet down tight. They also have some of the best bearings, and Mavic’s all-round construction is of an excellent quality too. But although Mavic have changed the cleat material, the cleats are still not quite as long lasting as those from Shimano and Time. www.mavic.com
- Weight: 264g
- Cleat: 3 bolt, £13.50 (0, 7°)
Here’s an odd one... These are the same pedals as the Wellgo R096B below. They’re both made by Wellgo, and yet these worked just fine on both entry and exit regardless of which shoes we wore. The cleats appear to be made from a slightly different material, as does the hinge, but these are such small differences that it could be down to which moulding tool the parts came out of. Either way, these were consistent and smooth, with good bearings, easy serviceability, weighed a couple of grams less than the Wellgos and they come with stainless steel cleat bolts. www.raleigh.co.uk
- Weight: 332g
- Cleat: 3 bolt, £11.99 (6°)
Shimano Ultegra 6700
These have a carbon fibre reinforced body with the added wear resistance of a replaceable stainless steel cleat support plate across the whole width of the pedal. Typical of Shimano, they have top quality, easily serviceable bearings, long-lasting cleats and a wide range of spring tension adjustment – all of which make these new lighter Ultegra pedals a top contender. And only the Time RXS First and Speedplay pedals are easier to clip into. The price might be a little steep, though compared with the £70 dearer Shimano Dura-Ace 7900s they’re a steal. bike.shimano.com / www.madison.co.uk
- Weight: 256g
- Cleat: 3 bolt, £19.99 (0, 6°)
These simple looking Keo-compatible pedals surprised us, for a couple of reasons. We didn’t think they’d cost more than about £45 or so, but they came in at a tenner more, and they’re actually a very decent set. The entry and exit action is smooth and consistent with a wide range of adjustment, and they have good quality bearings which run very smoothly – though servicing them does need a special tool. The cleats wore faster than we'd have liked, and although good pedals, they’re up against strong opposition at this price. bbbcycling.com / www.windwave.co.uk
- Weight: 252g
- Cleat: 3 bolt, £9.95 (4.5°) / £11.95 (6°)
Genetic have created a good, solid Look Keo-compatible pedal here, with quality bearings, excellent sealing and a decent range of spring tension adjustment. Our only gripe is that to get the same feel for the cleat release in each pedal, we had one spring adjuster screwed a quarter of the way further in than the other, which led us to believe that their springs lack consistency. On the plus side, they work well and are excellent value. Genetic also offer a lighter version of these with titanium axles, tipping the scales at just 245g for a competitive £119.99. www.geneticbikes.com / www.ison-distribution.com
- Weight: 292g
- Cleat: 3 bolt, uses any Look Keo-compatible cleat, supplied with 9°
Look Keo Easy
Designed to be easy to clip into and exit, we found these were sometimes a little too easy to unclip. Once the cleats start to wear in – or wear out – it can be very easy for the pedals to let go of the cleat. If you’re new to clipless pedals and still hauling around on the cranks when standing up then look to the Shimano R540s instead, as the adjustable tension feature makes all the difference. These hang a little far back too, making hooking the nose of the cleat into the pedal a little tricky at first. Not a bad pedal, but for similar money there are better beginner-friendly systems. www.lookcycle.com/ www.fisheroutdoor.co.uk
- Weight: 254g
- Cleat: 3 bolt, £15.99 (fixed) / £19.99 (4.5, 9°)
Ritchey WCS Echelon
Our Ritchey pedals took a while to get used to, as their bearings take a little time to loosen enough to let the pedals hang freely. This meant that for our first few rides they’d present themselves at all sorts of odd angles. On the plus side they feel reassuringly solid in use, with an easy and positive cleat entry and pleasingly tight interface between cleat and pedal body – without ever feeling sticky or notchy. Cleat release was easy, if anything a bit too easy when we ratcheted up the spring tension. They’re expensive, too, for what is a rather basic pedal. www.ritcheylogic.com / www.paligap.cc
- Weight: 248g
- Cleat: 3 bolt, £15 (7°)
Speedplay Light Action Chrome-Moly
The action of these isn’t quite as light as the name implies. The force required to clip in is similar to that of the Speedplay Zero, though these have a slightly lighter release action. Float is 15 degrees, but unlike the Zero’s cleats this isn’t adjustable for heel in or heel out positioning. That float is also non-centring, leaving your foot to move around freely within the full range. They’re smooth and positive in entry and exit, it’s easy to find the pedal when clipping in, and as an entry into the world of Speedplay pedals they’re good, though they’re not really a beginner’s pedal. www.speedplay.com / www.i-ride.co.uk
- Weight: 217g (lighter stainless steel and titanium versions are available)
- Cleat: 3 bolt & adaptor, £39.99-£119.99 (15°)
Time RXS First
These are designed to be a beginner’s pedal, which makes us wonder why Time have decided to do away with the spring release tension adjustment. They do deliver a lot of float, most coming from the front of the cleat moving in the pedal body, but as the cleat wears, the float becomes a little vague, the release requiring more foot rotation. You can alter the distance between the crank and the cleat by 2.5mm, depending on your shoes, and they’re easy to get into, too, thanks to the hanging angle. Good pedals overall, then, but not really suited to the clipless novice. www.time-sport.com / www.chickencycles.co.uk
- Weight: 272g
- Cleat: 3 bolt, £19.99 (10°)
This budget offering is a basic but well made pair of pedals featuring needle bearings and sealed cartridge bearings. They’re easily serviced too, but ours felt a little on the stiff side depending on which shoes we mounted the cleats to. Shoes with a slightly flatter sole gave a better feel, but shoes with a more rounded or less stiff sole tended to feel inconsistent and rough on exit. For the money they’re okay, but there are better pedals available for around this price. A great plus for the Wellgos, though, is the extremely cheap cost of replacement cleats. www.wellgo.com.tw / www.i-ride.co.uk
- Weight: 334g
- Cleat: 3 bolt, £6.99 (0, 6, 9°)
What to look for when buying pedals
The axle has to be strong and stiff to ensure safety and efficiency. At 9/16in with 20 threads per inch to fit into a standard crank, it also supports the bearings that carry the pedal body.
Bearings don’t last long if water and road grime get into them. Extra seals are placed on the inside of the axle to try to prevent the ingress of contaminants into the system and increase bearing life.
3 Locking interface
This is the main assembly for securing the cleat to the pedal. Usually within the pedal, it can also be built into the cleat, as seen on Speedplay pedals. Most pedals allow you to adjust the force required to enter and exit the mechanism.
4 Cleat support surface
The cleat doesn't just sit on the locking interface and the front of the pedal. It should be supported in the middle of the pedal to provide a solid base to support the shoe and increase foot stability.
This feature is based on an article that was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine.