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Home Cycling Shoes Clipless Pedal Systems
Clipless Pedal Systems

Exposed Cleat Systems

Exposed Cleat Systems refer to cleats that are attached to the outside sole of the bike shoe. Almost all shoes designed for road biking have an exposed cleat system. This is so the entire sole of the shoe can be made from a very stiff material, such as carbon. The stiffer the sole of your shoe, the more stable the platform to transmit power. The downside of having a very stiff sole, and exposed cleat is that it is very difficult to walk in these type of cycling shoes. Some companies are now adding a rubber heal tip to the shoe, and offering rubber cleat covers that can be put over your cleats for those times that you need to get off your bike and walk. See Kool Kovers

Exposed Cleat - Clipless Pedal

Recessed Cleat Systems

Recessed Cleat Systems refer to cleats that are set into the sole of the shoe. They designed to let the cyclist walk comfortably in cycling shoes. Most shoes designed for "off-road" riding use a "recessed cleat system" because many off-road cyclists need to be able to walk their bikes for some distance over rugged terrain.

Recessed Cleat Clipless Pedal

The most basic consideration when buying a cycling shoe and pedal system is the type of riding you expect to be doing. "Road" vs "Off-road". Secondly, do you need to be able to walk comfortably in your cycling shoes?

Contact Area

The contact area of a pedal refers to the actual part of the pedal that is in contact with the shoe and cleat. A larger contact area increases foot stability, and reduces fatigue. The actual contact area is not always the same as the pedals platform dimensions. In order to make pedals lighter in weight, companies cut holes in the pedal platform. This makes pedals lighter, but it also reduces the area of contact between the pedal and a cyclists foot.

Mountain bike pedals generally have a wider platform than road biking pedals so that the pedal can be used in technical situations without having to clip in.

Engagement

Clipless pedals can have "single", "dual-sided" or even a "four-sided" engagement. If a pedal offers single sided engagement, then the cyclist will need to find the top of the pedal in order to clip in. A dual-sided engament allows the cyclist to clip into the top or bottom of the pedal. An "eggbeater" style of pedal allows you to clip in on four sides of the pedal. The type of engament will determine how quickly and easily a cyclist can clip-in to their pedals.

Engagement mechanisms for mountain bike pedals have the added consideration of how to displace mud and debris that can get caught in the pedals or cleats. If you are buying pedal systems for off-road riding, find out how the pedal system deals with this issue, or you will have to continually be cleaning your pedals and cleats in order to clip in to your pedal system.

Weight

The lighter the pedal and shoe, the less weight you carry up hills. The sole material and amount of tread used in a shoe can dramatically affect its weight. Road bike shoes are designed to be very light and aerodynamic, and in general weigh much less than the heavier rubber soled shoes designed for off-road riding.

Locking Mechanism and Tension adjustment

The locking mechanism on the shoe is what holds the shoe onto the pedal. You don't want your foot releasing inadvertently. The tension adjustment on the locking mechanism lets you control how hard or easy it is to get in and out of the pedal.

Rotational Freedom - "Float"

During the pedal rotation, most cyclist knees track towards the outside or inside at the top of the pedal stroke ­ they do not stay in-line. This motion is often caused by a lack of alignment of the lower leg and foot. Aligning the foot and making it a stable structure on the pedal is the foundation for preventing knee injuries while cycling.

"Float" is defined as the degree of movement offered by the cleat within the pedal before release begins. A fixed-position cleat does not allow your foot to swivel, and can cause injury to your knees by forcing you into a pedal rotation that is not natural for your specific knee alignment. To prevent knee injury, Most clipless pedal systems have "float". Float allows your foot to swivel a few degrees laterally to ensure that you don't injure your knees. The amount of float can vary from 0 to 15 degrees. The greater the float, the more you will need to twist your foot to release your shoe from the pedal.

There are three variations of float found in pedals:

Free Float

Free float allows your body to decide what position is best.

Spring Re-Centered Float

Spring-recentered float features a spring that pushes your foot back to the manufacturer's set "neutral position". However, when your natural "neutral position" is different from the manufacturers "neutral position", knee problems may result.

Float With Friction

Float with friction prevents rotational motion between the pedal and cleat. The cyclist is able to reposition the foot by moving it within the rotational range, but the foot does not move freely on its own.

Stack Height

Stack height is the vertical distance from the bottom of the foot to the center line of the pedal spindle. The closer your foot is to the pedal spindle, the more efficient your pedal stroke. The farther your foor is from the pedal spindle, the less stable your foot making the pedal want to flip over.

Cornor Clearance

A pedal's corner clearance is a function of the lean angle of a bike. The lean angle determines how far a bike can be leaned into a turn before the inside pedal strikes the road at the bottom of the pedal stroke. The higher the lean angle, the farther a rider can lean over and continue pedaling safely. The farther a rider can lean in a corner, the less he has to slow down. A variety of factors establish lean angle: bottom-bracket height, crank width, crank length, tire size and pedal profile. The pedal you select can make a difference in the lean angle, and greatly increases cornering speed and safety. Pedals with short spindles and very thin body profiles provide optimum corner clearance.

Lean Angle

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