I was reading this article http://www.bikeradar.com/us/road/gear/article/best-road-bike-pedals-33045/

and it talks about maintenance/care with a couple of the pedal options, even mentioning that "Shimano" pedals can have mud and dirt in the cleats, and still connect to the pedals fine.

I am curious if there are pedals/cleats that we should avoid as beginners due to them needing to be taken care of frequently, as well as any that we should avoid getting dirt or anything that could "clog" the pedals?

From what I've been reading there are a lot of interesting pedal systems out there, but in most articles it seems that the name "Shimano" keeps coming up as more of a beginner friendly option, even though there are some that sound nicer.

  • All I know is I've had a couple of years commuting on SPDs (mountain style shimano) without having looked after them, despite dirt, rain, snow etc. They're doing fine. I await the answers with interest.
    – Chris H
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 19:18
  • I use road pedals on a MTB and they're fairly bad. Why? Cos its what I happen to own.
    – Criggie
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 11:07

5 Answers 5


Shimano pedals are usually brought up as a good beginner pedal because they are readily available just about everywhere, have several low-cost options, have standards that much of the industry follow for cleats and cross compatibility, and require little maintenance. As you said, they don't get clogged up easily, but it can happen. It just takes a LOT of mud.

  • Thanks for the answer. They seem to be a good choice for beginners, but not sure if it's what I'm personally looking for, but at the same time something that I don't have to maintain every x distance is good too.
    – XaolingBao
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 19:53
  • I've had Shimanos and they have worked well, but as I replaced them on my bikes I've been slowly going to Crank Brothers' Egg Beaters, and I find I like them more(for mountain biking at least), they have more positions you can cleat in from, and they are almost completely immune to mud. Plus, they look cool. Commented May 18, 2017 at 20:03
  • Oh, and I've never had to do any maintenance on them, but to be honest, I never did on my Shimanos either, I just used them until they didn't work anymore. Then decided to upgrade. Commented May 18, 2017 at 20:10

I think it's important to mention that pedals aren't simply "road" or "mountain" pedals, but that there are pedals designed for many different purposes. Most people will classify "road race" pedals such as Look Keo, Shimano SPD-SL, and Speedplay as "road pedals" and most other pedals including Shimano SPD and CrankBrothers will fall into the "mountain pedals".

Road race pedals in my opinion are pretty much what they sound like. They are built for road racing and very little else. They are difficult to walk in, and many people have difficulty clipping into them. This isn't a problem if you are road racing because most likely you will be clipping in and then won't be clipping out until hours later. The shoes designed to work with them are usually very stiff soled and are designed only to be used for pedaling.

Mountain pedals on the other hand have a huge variety of pedal styles and shoes available. Some pedals have almost no platform at all are little more than an axle with a clip attached to grip the cleat. Others have quite big platforms and can be used with regular shoes as well as cycling shoes. There are also pedals with a platform on one side and a clip on the other. Despite the fact that many people use "mountain" to describe these pedals, many people use them on the road, and many of the designs are much better suited to the average road cyclist than a road race pedal would be.

Shoes comes in all forms as well from very flexible shoes or sandals that you could walk in all day to stiffer racing shoes that, while still walkable, definitely wouldn't be good for extended walking.

Shimano also makes pedals called "Click'r" which are specifically aimed at more casual and recreation cyclists. The are designed to be very easy to clip in and out of, while still providing many of the benefits of using a clipless pedal system.


Most of the beginner, inexpensive models you will likely be looking will require little maintenance (other than normal cleaning and checking your cleat bolts) and will likely last for years before they die. As mentioned elsewhere shimano SPD style is a good choice for this because they are market saturated, parts (like replacement cleats when one falls off) are readily available and they are common.

If you start looking into a more expensive set of pedals, this may change. I run eggbeaters on all my bikes (road and MTB!) and have at least one pedal set that although I initially paid several hundred dollars for, has been rebuilt twice (with inexpensive kits from the company) and still works just as well over a decade later. Some companies consider even their most expensive pedals disposable, while others will sell rebuild kits and parts for theirs rather than just suggesting a new set.


Those are road pedals. If you want best mud performance look for mountain bike pedals. They are all designed to handle mud. Some better than others. You can still use them on a road bike.

Dirt alone is not likely to foul a pedal unless you never clean them.

Clean the mud off after each ride so you always start clean. I hit mine with a little WD40 last to slow down rust.

  • Thanks for the info, but I'm looking to be more on the road, if on the road all of the time. Would a road pedal not do well in light mountain terrain if I do happen to go off road?
    – XaolingBao
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 20:39
  • You are going to ride a road bike in light mountain terrain?
    – paparazzo
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 20:47
  • Well, currently I have a mountain bike, but since you mention it, what if you were to use a road bike off road, such as on hiking trails or something... Not saying I'm going to do this myself, just curious about the options available. This is getting a bit off-topic though.
    – XaolingBao
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 20:49
  • 3
    If you need to walk, road pedals and road shoes are definitely not a good idea because they are not designed for that purpose. Better fit mountain bike pedals and use mtb shoes with recessed clips as well.
    – Carel
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 8:53
  • 1
    @Paparazzi it's always possible that they're thinking about the intersection of road, touring and CX. I've pretty much decided on a tourer with room for CX tyres because I rule out racing but not dirt tracks(just as an example)
    – Chris H
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 10:33

I have used Speedplay pedals for 19 years now, and I love them. I would also recommend that most beginners avoid them.

This Cyclingtips article appears to back me up. Speedplays have small bearings, and they need to be serviced with a grease gun annually. This can be a little messy, as the old dirty grease will get pushed out on the inside of the pedal. Separately, the cleats need to be lubricated periodically, perhaps monthly.

Furthermore, the cleats need to mount flat to your shoes, and I have had some issues getting the base plate completely flat on some shoes despite using the manufacturer-specified shims. (NB: this varies by shoe, and most users shouldn't encounter this issue, but I doubt any SPD or Look user encounters this issue at all.) Speedplay cleats may also be more vulnerable to fouling by dirt, which can affect you if you step in mud, sand, etc.

I bother with Speedplay because you can adjust the Q-factor using the cleat mounting screws, and if that’s not sufficient, multiple axle lengths are available for further adjustment. Also, some reviewers like Josh Poertner of Silca have suggested that being smaller, they are slightly more aerodynamic than other pedal systems. Neither advantage is essential for all users. The aerodynamic difference is measurable but slight; consider that professional road cyclists would probably switch en masse if it were a large difference. At the time of writing, Speedplay sponsored two World Tour-level (i.e. top tier) road cycling teams and several second-tier teams, plus a few individual road cyclists (including former professionals). However, Dan Empfield of Slowtwitch.com documents that Speedplays are very popular among top-level triathletes. He also explains the benefits of the pedal in some detail here.

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