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My girlfriend is a keen road cyclist, but does not want to use clipless pedals. She currently uses something similar to these shoes: Scott MTB (with bog standard flat plastic pedals)

We've tried some Shimano XC5W but they didn't fit well. Also not sure how well they would work without cleats?

Any ideas for some shoes/pedals that are appropriate for road cycling without cleats. Ideally something that is lightweight, moderately stiff and looks sleek. (would need to come in size EU38)

What pedals would work well? Most MTB pedals are way too chunky and heavy.

  • You said that MTB pedals are way too chunky. Does that imply that she is open to MTB clipless pedals? Honestly, if you are a serious road cyclist interested in performance, you should not use flat pedals at all. The extra weight of MTB clipless pedals matters little in performance terms. We can debate aesthetics, but if one is concerned that MTB pedals look chunky, then one should equally be concerned that platform pedals look out of place. – Weiwen Ng Jun 12 at 17:35
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    Does she plan to use toe clips on the platform pedals or not? – Andrew Jun 12 at 18:48
  • No toe clips Andrew – William Oakley Jun 12 at 18:49
  • As an example of the smaller MTB clipless pedals that @WeiwenNg talks about, I run Shimano M520s on my road bike (it's a tourer,but it's still my fastest). There are smaller designs from other makes, but I already had SPDs – Chris H Jun 12 at 19:13
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    Another idea for trying cleated/clipless shoes is to try a stationary bike. Some places offer spinning classes where you're on a fancy trainer bike in a gym or similar. – Criggie Jun 12 at 23:37
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The shoes and pedals that are appropriate for road cycling are the ones you feel comfortable using.

Almost all MTB shoes come with a "plug" over the screw-hole recess that you could just leave in place. Make sure that's the case with any pair she has her eye on, if she decides to go that route. These probably won't be ideal, as they're still designed to work with cleats, so there won't be a natural interface surface. Many MTB shoes are identical to road shoes except for the cleat attachments and the greebling on the sole.

If she wants to stick with flat pedals and no toeclips, look at downhiller pedals, which typically have a big open platform with studs for grip. If she is open to toeclips, there are platform pedals meant to be used with toeclips (mostly targeting commuters), so you get good support for flat shoes.

There are shoes meant to be used with DH pedals, that pretty much look like standard sneakers with flat soles. This will fail the "sleek" test.

AFAIK, there aren't a lot of straight-up road shoes not designed to be worn with cleats. They'll have hard, slick soles that will be a downright hazard on flat pedals. You might have some luck searching for bike touring shoes. That's a category of shoe we don't see much of anymore, but when they were popular, they had road-shoe styling with flat soles. There are still some throwbacks to that style if you look for them.

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I'm not going to discuss whether she should be using full clipless instead here – that's another topic. I guess you've already tried to convince her for it?

Seeing that she doesn't: why exactly did you choose clipless shoes at all? Those don't make sense if not using clipless pedals too. For flat pedals, you want normal rubber-sole shoes, or special flat-pedal shoes. Which are basically skateboard shoes with particularly solid sole, so skate shoes might be something to try.
I personally find normal, solid but non-boot, hiking shoes to make most sense for flat pedals. Running shoes tend to be more breathable but the way they flex is unhelpful.

Regardless of the shoe, “bog standard plastic pedals” are not going to give good results because of a lack of traction. MTB flat-pedals with their protruding screws allow pedalling almost as if clipped in. Not all of them are very heavy. “Clunky” – that's arguable, but it shouldn't be a reason to not at least try them.
One thing that's definitely to try are some of those cheap toothed sheet-metal pedals. They're not as stable or grippy as cast-metal MTB pedals, but I find they actually work reasonably well. Maybe your girlfriend likes those better, “less clunky”. Don't expect the bearings to last very long, but it's not like it rips a big hole in the pocket.

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    +1 for skate shoes would be my advice - I ride BMX, Cruiser and MTB with flat pedals and decent skate shoes are way more comfortable than running trainers – fcbsd Jun 12 at 20:39
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This is exactly what I have done with my girlfriend.

Large flat pedals

enter image description here

Toe cage (without side straps), I picked this particar one because it's made from a pretty strong plastic/nylon so it doesn't flex much. Zefal MT 45 These imrpove pedalling efficiency from just flats and don't get in the way when the rider wants to unmount.

enter image description here

If she wants to consider getting into clipped in pedals, I personally started with these, before actually moving onto clips, many years ago.

enter image description here

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  • Would you care to explain why you recommend toe cages? I've never used those, but they seem to combine the disadvantages of flat and clipless (no backwards-traction on the pedals, yet potential to retain the feet when suddenly need to step on the ground). Ok, maybe the toe cage will put her clipless shoes to cleat-less use in a way that wouldn't work with flat pedals alone, but in that case I would strongly suggest going for proper clipless right away – the sooner you get used to the twist-unclip motion, the better. – leftaroundabout Jun 12 at 22:04
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    From OP, flats are a must, so even mentionning clipless is pointless. The toe bit improves cycling efficiency by adding to the amount of power you can use from flats, and in no way get in the way when the rider wants to take foot off. I only mentioned full cage as it's less scary to beginner than full clips. – abdnChap Jun 12 at 22:54
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    The downside of the pictured half-clips is that the one-time the rider gets them upside down, is the time they will grab on something immovable like grass knots or roots or branches, or even rocks. Then the bike will stop suddenly throwing the user forward. Been there done that. – Criggie Jun 12 at 23:35
  • Thanks for that, which pedals are those in the picture? – William Oakley Jun 17 at 9:13
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    The first picture, with the toe cage is Genetic Drift Flat Pedal. The second pedal, with the cage and straps are VP pedals. – abdnChap Jun 17 at 9:24
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A bit of an unorthodox solution here, since you want something that "looks sleek". Some cross-country running race shoes have spikes in the forefoot like a track racing shoe, while the rest of the sole is lugged rubber. In order to attach the spikes securely, there is a "spike plate" which can substantially increase the stiffness of the forefoot of the shoe. Although you don't get the full-length stiffness of a cycling shoe, the plate generally covers most of the area of the shoe that would be in contact with a bicycle pedal. Because these shoes are intended for racing, they are lightweight and often "look sleek". The Brooks Mach 19 is an example of such a shoe.

You could try wearing them without the spikes and see if the lugged rubber sole would provide good traction on a pedal. I expect they would grip a simple MKS Sylvan-type touring pedal quite well, and the stiff plate would distribute the force so that you wouldn't get discomfort from the pressure of the toothed edge of the pedal, which can sometimes happen with those pedals. There are lots of variations on that style of pedal, so you could shop around to see what looks best to you.

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Echoing Adam Rice,

The shoes and pedals that are appropriate for road cycling are the ones you feel comfortable using.

Speaking for myself and some of my roadie friends, MTB shoes are more convenient off the bike and no less effective on it.

I have a CX frame with a set of Crank Brothers Double Shot pedals, wherein one side is a very sizable platform and the other side is half of their characteristic "eggbeater" clip in. They use the two-screw cleats like your girlfriend's shoes, but one can also use them without a cleat on the platform side. Then she can change her mind at any time during a ride to switch between clipping in or staying out.

Crank Brothers Double Shot 2

I used to have Candies on the bike, but I changed out so that people without cycling shoes could borrow it. It was a bit of a shock going from the clips working on both sides of the pedal to just one.

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