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I do understand that this question been asked million times, and million people have million different opinions and it's all down to personal preferences, yet I am struggling and need to find a solution that would work best for me.

So there's no question - clipless pedals are better. I knew that when I was buying my bike and now I have "Look" pedals, and of course I had to learn to unclip them safely without falling.

I can do that now, but clipping the cleat back into the pedal is my biggest pain. The pedal's back-side is heavier than its front, so it allways dangles upside-down and I have to keep kicking it with my toe, until it rotates back to its normal position. And even after that I usually struggle to get it clipped. And in the city it's a huge problem - sometimes, I have to roll without clipping it till a next red light. And very often that sucker ironically clips right before the light. Also the "Look" cleats are made of plastic and they definitely will deform over time, making it even harder to use.

Yesterday I even thought about installing a regular pedal for one foot, but then decided it's a bad, bad idea and I don't really want that.

Can you guys tell me if I should definitely try using SPD-SLs? Are they much better? Can someone who actually had experienced both systems (and maybe older SPD as well) can tell me that I would benefit from spending another hundred bucks and more? Or there's a way to train myself to clip without even having to look down and this is a newbie's problem and I will forget about it very soon, after maybe fifty thousand stops and after replacing forty pairs of cleats?

Also I noticed that I prefer to unclip my left foot and stand on it, so my left cleat is going to wear off faster. Are left and right cleats are the same? Can I just keep replacing one cleat (although I noticed they always sold in pairs)

And Look cleats are not compatible with SPD-SL, right? What about shoes? Would I need to buy another pair of shoes as well, if I decide to switch?

UPD: Switched to SPD. And I gotta tell you, it feels significantly better.

  • Yes, I don't care that these XT 785s are meant for mountain bikes,
  • I don't care that they almost twice heavier than my KEOs,
  • I don't care that KEOs were almost twice the price i.e. maybe of better quality.
  • I don't care that SPD is older technology than Look and SPD-SL

After all, like Genghis Khan's adviser said once to his son:

It is possible to conquer the world sitting in a saddle but impossible to rule the empire from it

That said - riding a road bike is not always about speed, it's also about comfort. Maybe advocates of asymmetrical pedals would disagree, but I love my new pedals, they are awesome. Also I think now I understand why my previous pedals company called "Look" - you damn can't clip them in without looking straight at your foot

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I've ridden both and have not really noticed any difference between Shimano and Look. Certainly not clipping and unclipping. Maybe a little difference in terms of float. Correct that they are incompatible. Another option is SPD (different to SPD-SL) but (subjectively!) I think they're a load more hassle than Look or SPD-SL. –  PeteH Jul 17 at 19:14
    
So, Pete do you admit that this problem exists? In a city with frequent stops? Or I eventually learn to clip it effortlessly and even won't think about it? –  Agzam Jul 17 at 19:17
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Is what a problem? General clipping and unclipping? It is certainly true that there is a learning curve - the more you do it the easier it becomes. Speaking personally again though, I used to ride a lot in London, and there I rode flat pedals because I never wanted unclipping issues to even be possible - not with traffic right behind me. (I rode clipless on all my other bikes - because of the benefits of clipless peadls I was willing to suffer the learning curve.) –  PeteH Jul 17 at 19:23
    
If you do decide to swap from Look to Shim (I repeat I don't think you will gain anything), your shoes will more than likely be compatible across both, but it isn't guaranteed. Very much depends on the shoe. –  PeteH Jul 17 at 19:44
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If you are frustrated with clipless then don't use them. Street or down hill pedals with street shoes work great in the city. I don't clip in the city - but I have a separate city bike. –  Blam Jul 17 at 20:05

4 Answers 4

up vote 8 down vote accepted

This is part comment, part answer, but too long to fit in a comment, so here we go.

Personally, I use SPD, and when I ride with a group, everyone else has SPD-SL or LOOK. I'm usually clipped in and across the intersection before they're clipped in. Either I'm just really good at clipping in, or SPD are designed to be easier to get clipped in to. Even the very experienced riders tend to have problems with clipping in from time to time.

Personally I don't know what advantage SPD-SL offers over SPD. People say that the larger platform allows for better power transfer, but I don't see how that makes difference. The foot pushes on the hard sole of the shoe, and sole of the shoe pushes on the pedal, which is made of rigid metal. Assuming there is no flex in the pedal or the sole of the shoe, it doesn't matter how large the attachment point is.

Personally, I would recommend you try out a pair of SPDs. Borrow some from a friend or see if the shop has a demo pair and see if that works better for you. Too many shops will push you towards road pedals (either SPD-SL or LOOK) because you're riding on the road, and you will break "Rule 34" if you use mountain pedals on a road bike. I think that SPD pedals are a much better solution unless you're an actual road racer and only plan to unclip at the end of the ride.

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Of course, most SPD pedals are double-sided, so you don't have to get the pedal flipped before you start trying to clip in. This easily cuts the overall effort in half. –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 17 at 20:11
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Other double sided options include Speed Play, Crank Brothers Egg Beaters and Time ATAC –  Kibbee Jul 17 at 20:23
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(I'm not sure I can detect the difference between those two rules, that is.) –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 17 at 20:46
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@Kibbee surely you're not suggesting that a bike company has created two competing product lines, where there is no practical difference between them. That is preposterous, whoever heard of such a thing? :-) Anyway I'm going to give the Op a +1 for stating that this subject has been done to death. –  PeteH Jul 17 at 20:49
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@PeteH: Did they read rule 34 and think "Here's a way to make more money".... Or did they think "Here's a way to make more money".... then write rule 34....? –  mattnz Jul 18 at 7:55

I think the key to your problem is the asymmetrical nature of SPD-SL pedals. So I don't think the Look pedals will help you.

Look at symmetrical pedals, such SpeedPlay, Crank Brothers Egg Beaters, SPDs and the Time Atac range. This style of pedal is much easier to clip into because you can just mash your foot at the pedal.

Have a look at this answer for more discussion on the pros and cons of many pedal styles.

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TL;DR : Having a quality pedal means that it will always be in the same position when you need to clip in and will make you life much easier when starting.

Part of the problem might be the "cheapness" of the pedals, let me explain :

I ride look and have been using Look Keo Carbon pedals, they are middle range (more expensive than the Easy and less than titanium ones). I have the same "backside is more heavy" problem, but I think it's a feature. You see my pedals are ALWAYS at 1 oclock top and 7 o'clock bottom, so all I have to do is get the tip of the cleat in the top "hook" and then clip right in, I'm usually clipped after 1 or 2 pedal rotation.

On the other hand, my friend has the cheapest look Easy pedals, in his case, the spindle if much less smooth and the pedals won't always be at the same position after unclipping. So each time he starts he has to replace the pedal in the right directions like you do.

Clipping in and out takes a lot of practice, and I mean a lot. I'm still struggling sometime even after 4 years of riding, there's always a moment where you start too quickly and can't get in.

As for cleats, yes they're plastic, but they are made to be replaced regularly, they use up instead of using up the pedal material. Don't cheap out when changing cleats, change both of them even if one is less used than the other.

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I use these spd's: http://road.cc/content/review/43776-shimano-pd-m520-spd-pedal

  • They are double sided, so you never get the wrong side to clip in
  • They are cheap
  • They are durable
  • The shoes you buy with them usually allow (easyish) walking when required
  • Can buy both road & mountain biking shoes - with a single pedal type

I know that's more of a "comment" answer, but hope it might help.

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