Question: I like to use my mountain bike pedals and shoes for road biking, but I get funny looks on group rides. How much performance am I giving up if I use mountain bike shoes and pedals? What shoes do you use? — Dave W.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: I wore Shimano carbon-sole road shoes for years. A while ago, I switched to the new Specialized Body Geometry road shoes designed by Andy Pruitt, a leading bike-fit/injury expert.
But on solo training rides, I frequently wear Specialized mountain bike shoes. I like the convenient walkability of the recessed cleat. Sole stiffness may be a bit less, but it’s sufficient. They’re a bit heavier, but for training what difference does it make?
The soles of off-road shoes are a bit more flexible to aid walking, but any power you lose for that reason will be negligible. Also, they’ll probably weigh a bit more (and it’s rotating weight, which counts the most) but for touring this isn’t a big issue.
In fact, off-road shoes are a good choice for most recreation riding. The recessed cleats mean you can walk without damaging them or slipping on a store’s hard floor and pitching headlong into the Twinkie display. These benefits outweigh the small performance penalty.
One more advantage: Mountain bike pedals let you clip in from either side. This may be marginally easier than flipping over a single-side road pedal.
Of course, as you’ve found out, you may be an outcast in true roadie circles if you wear mountain bike shoes. So when I train or race with a group, I wear my road shoes.
And in competition, small differences add up, so you want to use light, stiff road shoes.
Read More About Pedals and Shoes
Beginner’s Guide to Clipless Pedals
Complete List of Clipless Pedal Brands and Models
Rick Edgar says
I’ve been wearing MTB shoes for all my riding for years. SPD pedals on all my bikes. Could never see the need for different shoes and pedal systems. SIDI shoes. Thanks for the article and your newsletter.
John Yoder says
I think the walking convenience outweighs any performance gain for us non-competitive riders.
I rode with road shoes for many years and finally went to mountain bikes shoes for the convenience and safety. Now I ride mountain bike style sandals. Cooler and very comfortable. I don’t care what my roadie friends think. I must not because I went electric a few months ago and went from the back of the ride to the front.
I ride with sandals as well. Who cares what others think as I sail by them?
Me too! Flip flops. Less sweating.
Kerry Irons says
Rotating weight is pretty much meaningless for pedals/shoes. Due to the smaller circle you’re pedaling and the lower speed, a gram at the rim/tire is 22X more significant than a gram at the pedal/shoe. And rotating weight is only meaningful when speed changes – once you are up to speed (road speed or cadence) then the rotating weight is different from any other weight only when your road speed or cadence changes. Heavier pedals/shoes take more energy to bring up to speed, but no more energy to move down the road. Same goes for heavier rims/tires.
Use double sided mountain bike pedals and mountain bike shoes if you don’t race. Getting off the bike to walk into a coffee shop or clipping in fast to get across an intersection or when stopped on a steep grade are the advantages.
When I made the switch from straps to SPD I decided to go with MTB shoes for road riding as well because now I like to go someplace and be able to walk around looking at whatever, plus some years ago I too stopped riding competitively so after some time of doing it like I use to I decided those days were behind me, so I went with Speedplay Frogs for pedals on my road bike, but went with Shimano PDM 530 on my touring bike so I could wear any shoe cycling related or not because the pedal is two sided, SPD on one side and a flat pedal on the other. I had a pair of Mavic MTB shoes but didn’t like them so now I use Bontrager SSR Multisport shoe (which is made for wide feet) and I really like those for touring and commuting, but on the road bike with the Frogs I use SIDI Mega walkable road shoe.
My road racing team doesn’t look down at my winter training bike. Heavy bike, fenders, and MTB pedals all make riding year round possible and comfortable.
I do all my riding in street shoes and flat pedals as my knees hate any clip-ins I have tried.
I also love the convenience of hopping on and off the bike and can walk easily in regular shoes.
Any club that looks down on members for the gear they choose to use is a club not worth joining. Life is too short.
I think that any meaningful benefits derived from riding shoe systems of any type are only realized by ultra light and fit pro riders at world class levels.
I agree with you, Let’s not make this leisurely pleasurable sport any more expensive than it is.
Don Macrae says
I could never understand the theoretical basis of the ‘improved power transfer’ claims for road pedals – since with equally stiff shoes what’s the difference? – but I nevertheless conducted a test: I went for a ride with one foot in an spd shoe and the other in a road shoe. Zero result – neither felt superior to the other.
Then, a few years ago I got some Garmin Vectors, which forced me onto Look pedals. The result: slower to clip in and clumsy walking.
I used SPD mtb pedals for 10 years for all of my riding and triathlon racing; I only switched to road shoes when I wanted to use PowerTap pedals. I like my power info, but I miss the easy walking/running.
I use road shoes for warm weather but mountain shoes for winter riding on winter bikes. I live in the northeast and while roads are pretty well plowed of snow on most occasions, sidewalks and parking lots are hit and miss. The improved ability to walk afforded by mountain shoes is well multiplied when walking on snow and ice. Further, I’m usually riding an old fixie with 32mm wide cyclocross tires in the cold so neither style points nor average speed enters the equation.
Russ Marx says
Road shoes have a tighter fit. bad for a long ride on a hot day. Mtn shoes & pedals are quick to clip into at stop signs & traffic lights on a fast group ride, I can stand on the candy pedals and clip in later. Save the road shoes for time trials & crits..
If we do or don’t do it, someone will laugh