QUESTION: I started cycling six years ago on a mountain bike but now love road riding. However, I’ve kept my off-road shoes/pedals. Would switching to a road system improve my speed and comfort? — Merwin H.
RBR REPLIES: Walkability is the big advantage of mountain bike shoes. They have a recessed cleat that doesn’t touch the ground and cause embarrassing clip-clop noises or slips. They’re a benefit on rides or tours that have you off the bike for rest stops, store stops or sightseeing.
Many mountain bike shoes are nearly as light and stylish as road shoes. But their lugged soles typically aren’t as stiff so that walking is more natural. This slight flexibility can cause your feet to feel uncomfortable pedal pressure, particularly on rides that last several hours.
Should you switch to a road-specific system? For racing, fast group rides, training or recreational rides where you don’t expect to walk much, a road system will give you the maximum performance and comfort. But for commuting, touring or rides like centuries where you’re ambling about before, during and after, a mountain bike system is the practical choice — if your feet are comfortable on the bike.