Question: I’m in the market for new pedals and am confused by models with several adjustments for pedal float. Can’t I just adjust my cleats, clipin and hit the road like in the old days? Are these adjustments necessary? My head is spinning along with the pedals. – Richard G.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: When it comes to clipless pedal systems, the simpler the better for most riders. Assuming you’re not dealing with some biomechanical problem, all you need is a few degrees of float (5-6 degrees is typical) before cleat release. Adjustable float is probably overkill – mainly a way to spend more for something you’ll never use.
Float is a key advantage of a clipless system. It allows enough movement to take stress off your knees. It also makes absolutely precise cleat positioning unnecessary. Float gives you a fudge factor.
Position the cleats so they put your feet approximately in the center of the float range. If the system has 6 degrees of float, each foot should be able to swivel about 3 degrees to either side of its neutral pedaling position. Some riders may prefer a slight imbalance, perhaps 4 degrees to the heel-out side. This could stop your ankle from brushing the crankarm, if that’s a problem.
Clipless pedals may have a tension adjustment. This has no bearing on float. Instead, it controls how much force it takes to clip in and clip out. You want it to be easy enough for convenience, but not so easy that it allows accidental disengagement when you’re aggressively putting power to the pedals, such as when sprinting or jamming a hill out of the saddle.