Clipless Pedals

Picking the Right Pedals

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Jans Expert Mountain Biking With Clipless Pedals

We at Jans would like to shed some light on the subject of bike pedals. We’ll go over types of pedal technology, and the compatibility, uses, and some pros and cons of each.

We’ll do our best to explain pedals and get curious riders pointed in the right direction – but especially for those with less experience, we encourage riders to seek the help of a professional tech for making any structural changes to a bike.


Clipless Pedals

Clipless pedals are the root of most pedal confusion. For starters, their name is misleading. After all clipless pedals are the ones you clip your feet into. They’re not clip-less; they have clips. These clips are spring-loaded clamp mechanisms built into each side of a pedal. The clips attach to cleats that are secured to the bottom of compatible cycling shoes.

The main attraction to clipless pedals is their efficiency. Clipless pedals offer excellent power transfer, meaning less energy is lost between the movement of your legs and the spinning of your wheels. Scientific testing shows that riders using clipless pedals consistently generate more peak power, more average power, and better distance compared to riders using platform pedals.

Clipless pedals come in both road and mountain bike specific models. In general, road models will be oriented towards lightweight efficiency, while mountain models will offer more durability.


Typically, clipless-compatible mountain bike shoes feature a two-hole cleat design. This cleat design is referred to as the SPD system after the early Shimano models that introduced it. SPD-compatible shoes often feature a recessed cleat cavity which makes it easier to walk, especially on rough terrain.

Most clipless pedals will also allow for a small amount of float. That means you’ll be able to shift your foot back and forth a bit without releasing from the pedal. This comes in handy when you’re repositioning yourself, or when you’re trying to catch your balance.

Popular Pedals that are two-hole compatible:

  • Shimano SPD
  • Crankbrothers Eggbeater, Mallet, and Candy
  • Time ATAC

Many clipless-compatible road shoes use a three-hole cleat design. This system is often referred to as the Look system or SPD-SL system. The larger surface area of the three-hole design provides a more secure connection between shoe and pedal, which contributes to better acceleration and a more consistent cadence. However, with the larger cleat design comes more difficulty walking while wearing these shoes. Along with the protruding cleats, road shoes also typically have very hard soles, which help make power transfer more efficient while cycling, and can add to the cumbersome feeling while walking.

Popular Pedals that are three-hole compatible

  • Shimano SPD-SL
  • Speedplay ZERO
  • Look Keo


More About Clipless Pedals

When purchasing a pair of pedals or shoes, make sure you confirm compatibility between the two with a two-bolt or three-bolt system.

The position of the cleat can be adjusted to your preference, and the tension of the spring on the pedal can also be adjusted. These can be tuned to your desired pedal position, and the amount of force you want to apply for your pedal to release the cleat. Be sure that you can comfortably mount and dismount from your pedals before you hit the road or trail.


Platform Pedals

Unlike their clipless contemporaries, platform pedals are relatively self-explanatory. They’re often constructed of an alloy or composite body, and feature integrated or replaceable pins that provide traction for the sole of your shoe.

Platform pedals are favored by people who like to be able to hit the eject button when things get sketchy. Many riders, especially ones with aggressive backgrounds, don’t like the idea of not being able to bail in technical sections.

Also, if the small amount of float that a pair of clipless pedals would afford you doesn’t give your feet enough freedom, you may prefer platform pedals. The increased ability to shift your feet across the surface of the pedal makes some people feel that much more comfortable on their bikes. And while platforms are slightly less efficient than clipless pedals, to some, it’s a worthwhile sacrifice.


Additional Notes

The plain and simple truth is that pedal choice is a preference. If you don’t feel comfortable clipping in, don’t do it. However, if you feel like you could handle clipping in, and you’re looking to get some more efficiency out of your pedal stroke, give clipless pedals a try.

If you plan on installing your pedals yourself, take note of the fact that the threads on the left side pedal are reverse threaded, and screw in counter clockwise, unlike drive-side pedals which feature traditional threads.

If you have questions about pedals or bikes in general, visit your local bike shop, or send us an email at


SPD cleat diagram
Two-bolt SPD cleat diagram.


SPD-SL Cleat Diagram
Three-bolt SPD-SL cleat diagram.