Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
This week’s technical question is from “Herbert” who is having difficulty with his Shimano road clipless pedals. Read his ask and my answer and add any tips you’d like to offer. There are many issues you can run into with clipless pedals so your advice will help Herb and others with problems.
“I am in my late seventies and I’m having problems clicking into my Shimano road pedals. My buddies suggest that I should switch my pedals to Shimano mountain SPD pedals with dual-sided entry. Do you think that the switch will solve my problem? Do you have any other ideas? Thanks for your help.”
Since you wrote that you’re having trouble getting into your road pedals – pedals plural, I’m going to assume that you’re having problems getting both feet into them. If that’s the case then I suspect it has nothing to do with something being wrong with the pedals and cleats. Because that usually affects one pedal/cleat first.
And if that’s the case and it’s getting difficult to get into both road pedals, then yes I agree with your buddies and concur that the dual-sided entry of Shimano’s SPD pedals makes them usually easier for people to get in to.
SIDENOTE: In case you’re dealing with it, a couple of issues that would affect one side only include a worn out cleat (the foot you put down most often usually wears more quickly), a loose cleat or something simpler like dirt stuck in the cleat or pedal.
Road Versus “Mountain”
As you can see in the photos (and you know from experience), Shimano road pedals have one side that grips the shoe only. The other side of the pedal is smooth. This means that you have to feel the pedal with your foot or look down to see it to make sure you’re stepping down on the correct side of the pedal to click your foot in.
If you try to click into the wrong side of the pedal it’s possible for your foot to slip right off the pedal, which is dangerous, especially if you’re trying to get on your bike or starting out from a stoplight, etc.
Shimano dual-sided “mountain bike” pedals don’t have the limitations and risks of their single-sided ones (I put the quotes around mountain bike because since they first came out lots of roadies have switched to and love dual-sided pedals).
The reason the dual-sided design is so popular is because it’s much easier to find and click into the pedals having both sides to step on. With a little practice most riders find they don’t need to look down to do it. And it’s unlikely you’ll slip off the pedals.
You didn’t mention this as a problem Herbert, but the other advantage of Shimano dual-sided pedals is that they use a cleat that’s recessed in the shoes. So there’s no cleat protruding from the shoes making it difficult to walk as there is with road shoes. Being able to enter more easily and having the same walkability as street shoes makes dual-sided pedals the best choice for most cyclists.
Note that you do have to purchase a dedicated pair of cycling shoes that accept the recessed cleats. The cleats are included with the pedals not with the shoes.
Try It Out
To find out before spending the money on new pedals and new shoes, my advice is to ask one of your buddies to let you try their pedals and shoes. The shoes don’t have to be a perfect fit.
BUT DO NOT RIDE THEIR BIKE. Just stand over it with the bike on a nice soft grass lawn. Straddle the bike and hold onto the bars.
In that position, test one pedal. If you’re right-handed, start with your right foot. If you think you’re going to fall over or lose your balance, which does happen – have someone hold the front of the bike so you can’t fall over.
In that position you should try clicking into the pedal and getting out of the pedal. Try looking down at the pedal at first. Then try clicking in and out while not looking at it. Try both sides of the pedal. Testing it like this will give you a feel for if it’s easier than what you have now.
Check the Release Tension
If you get the pedals and shoes, you should know that Shimano SPD dual-sided pedals have adjustment screws on them to set the effort it takes to get out of the pedals. I recommend setting these at the loosest setting for starting out. There’s a little minus sign on the adjustment screw. Turn the screw counterclockwise all the way.
It’s easier to show this than to explain it. If you have time you could watch my video about clipless pedals and how they work and how to ensure they’re easy to get into and out of. That video is here:
I hope this helps and you find dual-sided SPD pedals make it easy again to get into your pedals.
Share Your Tips for Herbert
Opinions vary a lot on clipless pedal brands, models and use. I focused solely on Herbert’s choice between Shimano dual- and single-sided entry pedals. If you have other easier-entry clipless pedal recommendations and tips please share them in a comment. Thanks.
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. A pro mechanic & cycling writer for more than 40 years, he’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Tune in to Jim’s popular YouTube channel for wheel building & bike repair how-to’s. Jim’s also known for his cycling streak that ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.