I have literally (and not how the Utes use that word) never rode with bike shoes or clipless bike pedals. Have always had the Breaking Away style 1970s toe baskets and my sneakers. I may stick with those...but wanted to at least try out the modern approach.

  1. Newbie-friendly advice in answer?

  2. Is it possible to try before you buy?

  3. Any good videos or blog articles on the whole concept? I tried searching but they were all about how to move from the less advanced to the more advanced shoes/pedals...and I've never even done the less advanced!

3 Answers 3


It is a big commitment - you need shoes and pedals, two of each.

If you buy new pedals, there will be some cleats that come with them. If you buy used pedals, there's no guarantee cleats will be included.

There are two main styles - the 3 bolt road design with a plastic cleat shaped like a triangle. These poke down below the shoe and make walking a bit clacky.
Everything else tends to be metal cleats and much smaller, with two bolt designs and often recessed into a sole. These are termed "MTB cleats"
And there are also less common designs like Eggbeaters etc.

You need shoes that fit closely around the foot, but provide room in the toebox for your shape of foot.

Also consider some shoes are warmer than others, with some designed for summer ventilation and others for water shedding warmth.

As for technique - you need to ride and establish a muscle memory for unclipping.

Some pedals let you set a low release tension, which makes getting out easier.

Riding quiet roads can help you work on the new skill - I found that riding in traffic required more focus, and I could slip back into old habits at first.

If you will only ride the bike and not walk, then road cleats might work best. Look KEO or shimano SPD-SL would be ideal and readily-available. If you are likely to walk around a lot off the bike, then recessed MTB cleats will save you shoe changes or the risk of sliding/falling over at the cost of some small efficiency loss.

The one-and-only time I have fallen off due to cleats was when doing a very low-speed turn with a tight radius, AND I overbalanced AND the inside foot didn't unclip quick enough. That was only embarassing, my horizontal speed was basically nothing.

I was lucky enough to start with used shoes, despite being too small they proved useful. Trying to go back to flat pedals after a few months felt quite "disconnected" from the road bike. I even put road pedals on my MTB, so not to need another pair of shoes.

Cleats are expensive for what they are. Plastic 3 bolt road ones last around 6 months for me. Original LOOK ones are $35-$50 NZ retail locally, so I've been buying plastic ones from aliexpress for $8-12 a pair and they work well enough.

Very few if any places will offer a trial - your best bet is to see if anyone you know has spare shoes to test with.

  • Wow...very thorough answer. (But it makes me want to stay with what I know!)
    – 637Sailor
    Sep 15, 2023 at 1:09
  • 2
    @637Sailor and there's absolutely nothing wrong with staying that way. However you don't know what you don't know, so asking and testing is part of growing and learning. I definitely prefer being clipped in when on the road bike, but when I tried on a recumbent I immediately didn't like it, opting for longer platforms instead.
    – Criggie
    Sep 15, 2023 at 4:08
  • Despite the labelling, plenty of people who (mainly) ride on roads use 2-bolt setups, which anyway are also badged for touring (@637Sailor)
    – Chris H
    Sep 15, 2023 at 11:43
  • And cheap SPD-compatible cleats seem fine to me
    – Chris H
    Sep 15, 2023 at 11:43
  • Criggie, yeah I will try to borrow a buddy's bike/shoes. So at least I say I tried.
    – 637Sailor
    Sep 15, 2023 at 12:47

More of an anecdotal answer, but I've tried quite a few throughout my lifetime:

  • platform pedals with toe baskets/toe clips and straps
  • platform pedals with wide straps, but no basket
  • plain platform pedals
  • clipless, MTB-Style (Shimano SPD)
  • clipless, road-style (forgot the brand)

Ultimately, I settled on either plain platform or MTB-Style.

I always found the basket and/or strap versions to be the most finicky to get in and out of, they always seem to be on the wrong side, and depending on the shoes I wear I would often get stuck. If I couldn't get in in time and had to go around a curve they'd often scrape on the ground. So in situations where I want to go in regular shoes or sandals, plain platform pedals do just fine for me.

When I want a stronger connection to the pedal, SPD style pedals/cleats do just fine for me, and it's easy to find a wide range of compatible shoes and sandals, some that just look like regular sneakers. Getting in and out is really easy with little practice, and I always remember how to do it even after years of not using them. There's also hybrid pedals with wider platforms that can be used with regular shoes.

At least where I live, you can get basic SPD pedals (including cleats) plus a basic pair of shoes for about 60 euros, or even less if look for special offers.

  • Hi, welcome to bicycles. Since OP already has baskets, you don't really need to discuss them; you should concentrate on the point of the question, which was about cleats. You mention you've tried road cleats, but you don't even discuss them in your answer.
    – DavidW
    Sep 15, 2023 at 12:06
  • Thanks much and I liked the answer and getting another perspective . Think it is useful hearing all in context/comparison. All that said, I'm obviously pretty used to kicking the pedal and fiddling to get my foot in after a traffic light. Like even if it sucks, I'm totally used to it and thus comfortable with it.
    – 637Sailor
    Sep 15, 2023 at 12:46
  • Can you clarify what you mean by "they always seem to be on the wrong side"?
    – shoover
    Sep 16, 2023 at 2:14

I'm a big fan of the concept pioneered by Shimano. First, pedals with one flat side, one latched side. I hate the aesthetic of a bike with pedals that require you to use special shoes. (Also, they offer integrated reflectors so you can be street legal in the dark.) Secondly, they make shoes to fit with recessed cleats. They are quite walkable (for short distances). Because of the first concern, I stayed with cleats and straps for a long time. It was second nature to bend down and release the strap as I came to a stop. When I first switched to step-in's, I dumped my chain down shifting for a hill, and tried to spin it back on the chainring, failed, and stumbled down. Only then realized I could have just popped out. So, practice a bit;-) You will be fine.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.