Shoes and pedals team up to provide you with a more efficient, comfortable, and enjoyable ride. The pedals you buy will depend on the style of shoes you have, and your shoes will depend on the kind of riding you do. There are three main types of pedals, and with some exceptions, specific shoes that are worn with each.
Platform pedals are used primarily for city and mountain bike riding. When riding with mountain bike platforms you wear flat-soled mountain-biking specific shoes with special rubber and grip patterns that help keep your shoes on the pedals while flying down trails. Platform pedals are often the best choice for beginner riders because it’s easier to put a foot down if you start to tip over.
• Can be used with any type of shoe
• No learning curve—you can hop on and go
• Great for learning to mountain bike, especially when used with MTB-specific shoes
• Feet can slip off on bumps and rough trails and roads
• Can’t maintain a super smooth pedaling rhythm, known as cadence
Pedals with toe clips
Platform pedals with toe clips and straps are used for city riding, casual riding, and road riding. You’ll also see them on fixed gear bikes. They’re convenient because they work with whatever shoes you have on at the moment, including sneakers. Toe clips used to be the go-to style for road riding and racing, but nowadays clipless shoes and pedals are preferred. However, you can still find shoes that are built specifically for use with toe clips and straps.
• Better control than platforms
• Your feet stay in place better than using just platforms alone
• The straps or cages can sometimes drag on the ground and can be annoying to flip over
• They still don’t keep your feet properly aligned and in place.
Clip-in pedals are also known as clipless pedals. They’re called clipless because they don’t use toe clips. They function by clipping the cleat on the bottom of your shoe into a compatible pedal. They’re used for all types of riding, including road, mountain, gravel, touring, commuting, cyclocross, and racing.
• More efficient pedal strokes since you gain the ability to pull up on the pedals
• Your feet remain in proper position once clipped in—no realignment or adjustment needed
• No popping off the pedals while riding rougher terrain
• It takes time and practice to get used to clipping in and out safely (but it’s really not a difficult skill to pick up)
• You can’t just pull your foot directly up off the pedal