Footloose

If you want some free entertainment, walk up to a group of cyclists and say one type of clip-in pedals are better than the others, then sit back and watch the debate get surprisingly heated.
People often ask which clip-in system is the best, and the only correct answer is this: it depends.

I freely admit to being biased here – I ride with SPD pedals, and SPD shoes, not because I think SPDs are the best, but because I think it’s the best compromise for me. Your needs, your priorities, and therefore your compromise may be different. Not better, not worse – just different.

And yes, any chaise of cycling footwear (and therefore pedals) is a compromise. Platform pedals are great, as you can wear practically any footwear when cycling, but the trade-off is that you cannot transfer quite as much power as when riding clipped in. That may be a perfectly acceptable trade-off to you – you alone can make that decision for yourself.

Equally, road-specific pedals, such as SPD-SL, Look, Keo or others might be your preference. Road shoes typically have extremely stiff soles, leading to slightly better power transfer, though you’ll probably end up waddling like a penguin when off the bike. That might be an acceptable trade-off to you, or it might not. Again, you alone can decide that for yourself.

As I said, I ride with SPDs, as (to me) it offers the best of both worlds. I get the increased power

My very worn SPD cleat

 transfer (either going faster for the same amount of energy, or going further, for the same amount of energy used) and I retain the ability of walking (almost) normally in SPD shoes. This is because the cleats are recessed in the sole. 

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If you’re going cycle touring, my advice would be to use SPD pedals, but if not, then to use platform pedals. Cycle touring inevitably involves time off the bike, walking around. After all, touring means being a tourist, visiting places and looking around, as opposed to racing, where you’d spend most of your time on the bike.

While I know from experience that many SPD shoes are very comfortable to wear, it is really nice to be able to change your footwear at least some of the time. At the same time, space is limited when cycle touring, so taking multiple pairs of shoes along can be a challenge.

Some people take flip-flops – again, it’s a personal choice. They weigh nothing and take up limited space. I’m not a big fan of flip-flops, though, and besides, I’ve been known to enjoy a wild swim, when the chance arises. As a result, I usually have a pair of neoprene shoes, meant to be worn with a wetsuit. They weigh nothing, take up very little space and can be squished into small spaces, and of course they give my feet protection when walking into water.

Feet are often overlooked, but they’re extremely important parts of our bodies. Try walking, or cycling, if your feet are in agony and you’ll soon see why I say this. While cycling, especially if you’re not used to the distances you may be cycling, you might find your feet start feeling like they’re burning. Usually this is caused by shoes that are too tight (feet often swell a bit on longer journeys) so consider loosening your shoes along the way.

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Look after your feet while on tour, and if you can, do take at least some other footwear with when cycle touring. Your feet will thank you!

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