Why ride clipless Mountain pedals?
Clipless pedals I believe are one of the greatest additions to Mountain Biking. Many experts claim about a 5% increase in power transmitted to the bike. I would agree with that. The main advantage for me is I feel way more in control of the bike. I am connected to the bicycle at the hands and the feet until I decide to separate. Unexpected bumps, intentional jumps, washboard trails, and many other situations, my feet do not come off the pedals until I make the decision to Bail. Then my feet are instantly disconnected. Starting up a steep hill it is much easier to get into one pedal and then the other while you are pedaling than it is to get into the second toe clip if you are riding with toe clips.
Most pedals you use a slightly toe down forward push on the pedal and then you put your weight on that foot and you will get a Click. You are in. Most people start by putting the same foot either right or left in the pedal first all the time. Then they start riding and slip the second one in.
To release from clipless pedals you pivot your heels away from the bike. To learn this motion you can lean against a wall and click in, click out, click in, click out ,click in, click out. This can take a little bit of time to get used to. I recommend if you have a bike trainer to use trainer and work out with them for a while. Then before you go out in traffic practice in a park or somewhere with a soft landing place so if you fall you do not end up with road rash. If you do not have a trainer you can just put your bike in the living room and practice clicking in and out while watching TV. Most people get it down in a couple of days. Warning: If you have ridden toe clips for a long time and get used to clipless but try to go back to toe clips you will have to learn how to get out of toe clips all over again. And then relearn clipless.
When you stop your bike You will fall. This can be very dangerous on steep trails and city streets.
I have been with several riders when they were learning to ride clipless. Most people learn quickly. I do not recommend going on an epic ride right after installing your new pedals. I have seen some painfully slow falls from riders not knowing how to get out.
My recommendation is to put your bike in front of the TV and practice getting in and out, over and over for an evening. If you have a trainer put your bike on it and get a workout while you are learning. Then stick to the easy trail---NO STEEP SIDE HILLS OR DOWN HILLS. The worst thing you can do is ride a trail with a really steep sidehill dropoff when you are first learning to ride clipless pedals.
Many pedals are adjustable as to the spring tension holding the cleat in the pedal. I believe for learning you should loosen the spring to the easiest setting. Only when you start to come out of the pedal accidentally should you tighten the springs. All of my pedals are set on the softest setting and I have been riding clipless since about 1991.
There are Several manufacturers of Clipless Mountain pedals. Shimano was the first to build and promote them heavily. Many of the Mountain bike cleats are Shimano pedal compatible. The cleats will work in Shimano pedals. I always try to uses the cleats that came with the pedal I am using. Crank Brothers is another major manufacturer of pedals. The Crank Brothers cleats will only work on Crank Brothers Pedals.
Usually if you have spent a bit of time getting used to Clipless you will react naturally and click out in a crash without even thinking about it.
Mountain/touring shoes allow you to walk in the shoe without walking on the cleat. In the next pictures you can see how the Mountain Clipless Soles come down and sheild the cleat.
Shimano Mountain Clipless Shoes with Cleats bottom and side view.
Clipless Road cleats are much larger than Mountain bike Cleats. Road Cleats normall mount with 3 screws into the sole of the shoe while Mountain bike cleats use just two. The Road Cleat is so large when you walk in the shoe you are walking on the cleat. These pictures show a couple of views of road shoes with cleats.
There are basically 3 types of clipless Mountain pedals.
Double sided pedals which will grip the cleat on either side.
Half and Half pedals with clipless on one side and what looks like a regular pedal on the other side.
Platform clipless pedals which grip the cleat in the middle of a large pedal.
I believe if you are going to ride clipless you need to at least learn to ride with double sided pedals. The half and half are ok for around town but if you do not get used to getting out of your clipless under stress you are headed for more falls.
No Road pedals are normally one sided, the other side is minimized to increase the lean angle of the bike. This allows you to pedal as far as possible into the corner before your pedal hit’s the road.
Most Road cleats have a different screw mounting system. They do not mount to the same screws as the mountain cleats.
Mountain Bike Shoes have the cleat recessed into the sole so you can walk without walking on the cleat. Road shoes are much less comfortable to walk in and you walk on the cleat.
Unless you are a very serious Road Racer, Mountain bike shoes and pedals will work better than Road bike pedals and shoes. Many riders use one pair of shoes and get matching pedals for their road bike and mountain bike.
There are two general types of mountain bike Clipless shoes. I classify them as Comfort shoes and Race Shoes.
Comfort shoes are usually designed to look like lightweight hiking shoes or cross training shoes and will have laces to hold your feet.
Race shoes will usually use 2, 3, or4 Velcro closures to hold your feet. All Clipless shoes will have stiff soles which make it uncomfortable to walk or stand all day but are good at converting your leg energy into pedal revolutions.
The Comfort shoes usually have a little bit more flexible sole than the race shoes. Many people want to use their shoes as both biking and hiking shoes. This does not work well. If the shoe performs even reasonably well on the bike, the sole will be way too stiff to work well hiking.
I normally recommend that Most Cyclists should buy Mountain Bike Race shoes. The recreational walking type of bike shoes still aren't good for walking in. The race shoes tend to be more durable and they give you more support while riding.
Many companies make the same shoe for both Mountain and Road but they use a built up sole on their Mountain shoe. Unless you are racing I would go with the Mountain bike shoes and pedals because they are much easier to walk in.
Most Mountain shoes have 4 holes in the plate on the bottom of the shoe but most cleats only have 2 screws. This allows you to mount your cleats further forward or further back on the shoe. The plate will usually slide front to back and pivot to allow you to adjust your heel so it feels natural during the pedal stroke. Look at the position of your feet as you pedal on your old pedals and try to replicate that.
The Cleats come with the pedals and are pedal specific. Many cleats will work with the Shimano SPD pedals but I like to use the cleats that match the pedals that came with the pedals from the same manufacturer.