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My 9 year old son has a Trek 220 mountain bike and really wants to get clipless pedals because he tried a mountain bike race and is doing a cyclocross clinic that he loves.

Problem is that he rides his bike to school and around the neighborhood so needs regular pedals too.

What is the best option for him?

  1. A clipless pedal that is a flat pedal on one side for normal shoes,

  2. Clip less pedals with adapters to make them into regular pedals like fly pedals or,

  3. Just change out his flat pedals to clip less when he wants to (although I'm worried we would be doing that a lot).

  • You basically have the three options, and nothing optimal. If you swap pedals back and forth sooner or later you'll miss-thread something and wreck the crank arm. The adapters add extra height/weight and upset the pedal stroke. The flip/flop pedals ride better than the adapters, but the flat side tends to drag the ground too readily. – Daniel R Hicks Aug 25 '16 at 12:07
  • Given that it is a mountain bike, the bottom bracket may be up a little higher so the flip/flops could work. Another option is a seperate bike for school (like an islabike). Something that can be done up in commuter dress. While the mountain bike might have some cool factor, kids like fast bikes as well ;) I went the 2 bike route for my 5 year old because he rode it to daycare, and wanted to do mountian biking. The school bike came first with commuter dress with racks and fenders (for rain and geese droppings), the mountain bike was a craigslist find to go out and beat up. – BPugh Aug 25 '16 at 12:49
  • The M424 SPDs I went for would be fine for this. Clipless for commuting, normal trainers for short family rides/toddler seat. More detail: bicycles.stackexchange.com/a/30960/7309 – Chris H Aug 25 '16 at 12:58
  • I'd consider a fairly trashy bike for taking school. Nice bikes in the bikestand are likely to be targets for theft. Keep the good bike safe at home. – Criggie Aug 25 '16 at 23:29
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    You forgot option 4 - tell him to man up and do with what he has. Setting a 9 y/o up with clipless seems impractical and expensive (he'll outgrow the shoes quickly). When I was his age I had toe-strap pedals, that's an option. – BSO rider Aug 25 '16 at 23:45
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As a parent who has been through this with two children and multiple bikes, I would definitely choose the dual sided pedal option (sometimes called "campus pedals"). This has the advantage of needing to only change the pedals once, and not having extraneous parts that can easily get lost.

I've personally tried the adapters and never found one I was particularly fond of. When dealing with a child's bike, I would want to avoid anything that could easily get lost.

The option to swap out the pedals would be my second choice. It's not hard to do. But it does have a couple drawbacks. You are again dealing with extra parts that can get lost. As well, it's easy to mix up the sides, or cross thread the pedals, and now you are dealing with replacing the crank arms. Finally, most 9 year olds lack the leverage to loosen a tight pedal, so you are going to have to be the one switching them whenever they want to change the ride.

I actually use campus pedals on my main commuting bike. That way if I ever decide that instead of riding the whole way home, I am going to take the train to the closest stop and just ride the last 2 miles, it's easy to do in street clothes with my normal shoes.

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  • Yep. Agree 100% I taught my daughter this way also. After a while she decided to switch to road shoes and Look Keos. The most important thing is not what pedals, it's never say that everyone falls and make sure he's got unclipping down to an unconscious skill. So he never even thinks about it. – andy256 Aug 26 '16 at 3:03
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There is no right answer - everyone is different with different preferences. Personally I really disliked the single sided clips. It feels they hardly ever in the correct orientation, so you have to look down and shag around with them no mater what shoes you wear. IMHO all they would do is teach you child the bad habit of looking down whenever they placed their foot on the pedal.

I would therefore suggest a couple of other options : A double sided clipless pedal with a cage. e.g. the Crank bros mallet or one of the Shimano double sided SPD's with a cage. With the right shoes (Some the tread stops the cleat fitting properly), the only disadvantage with SPD's is a bit of weight, and as flats, they usually have a little less grip and you may feel the SPD fitting though the sole of light shoes.

They therefore work really well for short trips in street shoes, and for longer/more serious rides, with proper shoes with cleats, only have a (small) weight penalty.

Another option worth considering is another bike. This will largely depend on the risk of bike theft and Rule #12. If you son is getting serious about biking and even getting into racing (remember Rule #12), he is going to want a good bike for this. For riding to and from school and hanging out, a good bike may be at risk of theft.

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I recommend pedals that have clips on one side and are flat on the other, like the PD-A530 pedals from Shimano. Not sure if they will be the right size for younger feet/shoes, but they are certainly versatile. Certainly to keep changing the pedals seems like a hassle!

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