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I've been riding road bikes for a couple of years, but with mountain bike pedals, I've been thinking about switching over to a road bike pedal, but what's the reason? Is the performance improved or is it more about conform?

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When I went clipless, I actually bought these mountain bike pedals because I could ride clipped in or have nice bumps to stop my foot from slipping off the pedal if I was wearing my regular shoes. –  Jared Harley Aug 25 '10 at 20:39
    
You may want to clarify the type of pedal you're looking for. Clipless vs. Platform. Most of the answers so far are for clipless, and may not be of use to you. –  Jack M. Aug 25 '10 at 20:44
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This question would probably need to be broken down to subsets, like road racing vs MTB racing etc. As far as commuting and regular riding there is very little research to support cliples pedals, there is surprisingly substantial increase in minor injuries, or even more major hip injuries from falling over with clipped in pedals in city traffic. Look at city riders in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, how many clipless pedals, 0. For a reason, road racing with speedy sprints is a different story of-course, but for everyday riding clipless pedals do not increase speed in a noticeable way. –  Ville M Oct 11 '10 at 21:21
    
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@Ville One point to note: 95% bikers in Amsterdam don't ride more than a few kilometers, and clipless pedals cost more than about 40% of the bikes being ridden… –  Paul Wagland Feb 1 '11 at 2:31

9 Answers 9

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Hmm, we're kind of hitting most of the answer but not all of it (in my opinion that is!).

Its probably better to ask this the other way round - why not use a road pedal on a mountain bike...

On a road bike you're generally going to keep your foot in the pedal, you're only going to take it out to stop so therefore you want it to be as simple and as light as possible.

On a MTB you're liable to have your foot on and off more often, you're also likely to want to be able to stomp your foot onto a MTB pedal and have it stay there so it needs to have a larger platform area. You could also make an argument about MTB shoes being softer but the designs tend to be driven by competition and so that's probably more coincidence than anything else. If we're talking about using toeclips then clearly you'll need bigger pedals and clips for MTB boots than road shoes.

And weight does matter - it may only be a few 10s of grams but a few here and a few there will add up and all other things being equal less weight will make a difference.

I use clipless pedals - which I recommend - and I have one pair of shoes that I use on all my bikes, some of the pedals are fairly minimal for road, some clearly MTB, some hybrid but more MTB than not and all work with the same SPD cleat. Paradoxically my current setup has double sided pedals on the "road" bike and single sided on the MTB type pedals on my shopping bike...

So why road pedals? Assuming clipless and further assuming that you will only wear cycling shoes then you don't need the "complexity" (no difference in my pedals) or the weight of a full platform - so why have it? But the real difference will be in the shoes you chose to use.

(As I final thought I actually have two pairs of shoes - one waterproof - and a pair of sandals and they all have the same cleat so that I can use whichever is appropriate to the weather on whichever bike I happen to be out on.)

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MTB pedal may be better for road usage in town when you need to stop often at lights etc. –  Ian Oct 6 '10 at 21:25
    
@Ian - or at least a pedal with a decent platform. Bigger issue would likely be shoes, I'm not sure I'd want to be using road shoes and an exposed cleat if putting my foot down regularly (though I'm aware that there are people who manage that trick perfectly well). –  Murph Oct 7 '10 at 7:12

The main difference between road and mountain shoes are the stiffness.

On road bikes, the shoes are much stiffer allowing for a more efficient transfer of energy from you -> crank -> tire -> road. When you are in a race and every tenth of a second counts, the more efficient you are the better.

On a mountain bike, you give up some efficiency, so you don't sprain your ankle every time you plant your foot. Flexibility is better than stiffness.

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Not to be picky, but he asked about pedals! Granted, one of the greatest benefits to using MTB pedals are the shoes you can walk in. –  Russ Warren Aug 25 '10 at 20:32
    
Not that what you're saying is wrong, per se, but the question was about pedals and your answer is about shoes. Also, Russ totally beat me to this. –  Scottie Aug 25 '10 at 20:33
    
well, the only answer as to why you would want a road pedal is so you can use a road shoe :) I guess I tried to reverse-engineer the answer, and explain the real reason as to why you want a road pedal :). –  M. Converse Aug 25 '10 at 20:40
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erm, no - I could use a road shoe on the MTB pedals on my bikes and similarly I could use off-road shoes on the road variations of the same (SPD) pedals. –  Murph Aug 25 '10 at 20:43
    
And I'm using MTB shoes on my road pedals (also SPD). –  Scottie Aug 25 '10 at 20:49

You'll find many differences between MTB pedals and road pedals, just like every other component on the bike. Here are some of the key differences:

  • Weight. Most road pedals are made of lightweight alloys, carbon, or plastic. Road cyclists are more inclined to reduce weight of components than MTB cyclists.
  • Durability. Needless to say, there's going to be much more abuse to a MTB pedal than a road pedal.
  • 2-sidedness. Most road pedals can only be clipped-in on one side, whereas most MTB pedals have interfaces on either side of the pedal.

As far as I'm concerned, you should ride with whatever makes you most comfortable. Most people will use MTB pedals because they are easier to clip into (due to the interface on either side). I don't think the weight savings is terribly important unless you are doing some serious climbing or racing.

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My Shimano 520 road pedals have clip-ins on both sides. Best feature ever. –  Scottie Aug 25 '10 at 20:50
    
That's why I used the phrase "most road pedals." Some Shimano and all Speedplay pedals offer 2 interface sides. –  Russ Warren Aug 25 '10 at 21:11
    
Also, road pedals typically have a larger contact surface, which will arguably allow for more efficient power transfer. –  peppajiggapuff Aug 26 '10 at 7:00

For most road-bikers, the difference is weight. Modern road pedals are often much lighter weight than the typical mountain bike pedal.

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The only real difference between road bike clipless pedals and mountain bike clipless pedals is weight and aerodynamics. When you consider the fact that a bicycle and rider are going to weigh over 100 pounds (unless you're a midget on some insane carbon-fiber time trials bike) a few dozen grams doesn't make a bit of difference.

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There's also the amount of flexibility as well, a cross-country kind of mountain biking sometimes requires you to twist your feet so you can jump over obstacles etc. That's not needed for road biking –  Johan Dahlin Aug 25 '10 at 20:37
    
What about rolling resistance? Sure a few grams doesn't matter BUT a few grams that you are going to always be lifting up and down will matter more. –  sixtyfootersdude Aug 30 '10 at 3:55

Meh, I would say if it's comfortable for you and you don't need to conform to specific rules for competition or anything, keep doing what you're doing. I've been riding road bikes with mountain-biking shoes for years and don't feel like I'm Doing It Wrong.

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I am a big guy, so I ride with Look pedals on my road bike, because they have the largest cleat size, and the largest area to distribute my weight to the pedal.

Shoes vs Pedal style are two different issues.

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I always maintained the major feature difference b/w road and MTB pedals as being single vs multi release shoe cleat.

Road pedals typically only release when you turn the heel of your foot out - hence single release cleat. MTB pedals are multi-release (i.e. will release if you turn your foot in or out past ~45 degrees).

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With SPDs its the cleat that's significant (although there are now road specific pedal/cleat setups which are different to my originalish spuds) –  Murph Aug 25 '10 at 20:51

Dirt and mud are much more common on a MTB, but not a real concern in most road riding.

The tolerances for MTB pedals are much higher than are needed for road riding, where the pedals won't be as dirty. Also, I find myself engaging my pedals with a MTB in much more "odd" positions compared to my road bike, which is virtually always on the flat, with one foot on the ground. On a MTB, I might be stopped on a trail pointing any which way.

All of those things are perfectly fine on a road bike, but unnecessary.

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