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Help with ďrealĒ cycling pedals/shoes please

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Help with ďrealĒ cycling pedals/shoes please

Old 03-16-20, 01:45 PM
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Tomm Willians
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Help with ďrealĒ cycling pedals/shoes please

Hello everyone

Iím new to ďseriousĒ biking and have been slowly working my level of gear, fitness and knowledge forward. I am currently splitting my riding time between a Cannondale Synapse 6 road bike with Mavic Carbone wheels and Gatorskins or my Specialized Transition TT bike with Zipp 404 and Vittoria Corsa tubulars.
I believe Iíve reached the point that I would benefit from clipless pedals as both of the bikes are fitted with flat style Race Face units.
My Specialized came with a set of Look Keo 2 Max pedals which I understand are good units?
so my question is, do I need to select a cycling shoe specific to those pedals or do all cycling shoe/pedal combos operate the same or ???

Thanks in advance for the help.
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Old 03-16-20, 02:22 PM
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There's basically road shoes, with 3 bolt holes that fit your pedals,

and mountain type shoes, with 2 bolt holes for a smaller cleat that is recessed in treads for walking.

Cleats generally come with the pedals, so you would need to buy those for your existing pedals.

The main types of road cleats are Shimano type (SPD-SL), and Look type, which are similar but not interchangeable, and also Speedplay and a few others.

Mtn bike pedals are dominated by Shimano (SPD) and compatibles, also Eggbeater and others.

Lots of folks prefer mtn style shoes for road riding for walking convenience.


To summarize, you need 3 hole road shoes to fit your pedals, which are fine.
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Old 03-16-20, 03:46 PM
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Everyone has their own reasons for preferring one over the other. I ride Look and like them. I use the Keo Grip cleat, which is a bit grippier when walking and therefore, a bit safer when walking--at least for awhile (until the grippy part wears away and I then buy a new pair; I probably buy maybe 5 pairs per year, but they are cheap). It's fine for me.

There's tons of good shoes. I like Sidi. Some people like Fizik or Lake or Giro or Specialized or whatever. They can get as spendy as your heart desires--not at all uncommon to see $4-500 shoes. Tomasso and amazon offer much cheaper alternatives--no idea about qualiy.

You are going to need to practice clipping/unclipping about 8000 trillion times before you are really outstanding at it, if you are like me. I used to prop my bike up against a wall or put it on the trainer and watch TV and just clip in and out of the foot that was going to be doing the majority of the clipping/unclipping until I finally got pretty automatic at it. You don't want to be at a busy light or on a steep hill and still be having huge trouble with it, as that is an uncomfortable position to be in.

People way smarter than me will tell you not to expect big speed gains with this change. Everyone is different, though. Oh--and you will fall. More than once. Everybody does.

Have fun!!!!
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Old 03-16-20, 04:22 PM
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Huh. I thought by the time you bought a bike like that you'd be asking what's the lightest carbon fiber water cage bolts. Haven't got a clue on best pedal setup but I don't think I'd show up with Mountain Bike pedals on there.
May you break the sound barrier!
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Old 03-16-20, 11:08 PM
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Originally Posted by hillyman View Post
Huh. I thought by the time you bought a bike like that you'd be asking what's the lightest carbon fiber water cage bolts. Haven't got a clue on best pedal setup but I don't think I'd show up with Mountain Bike pedals on there.
May you break the sound barrier!
My thoughts exactly. I was riding clipless on my $300 fixie ahaha

First post pretty much summarized it. You want 3 bolt shoes for those pedals.

When it comes to picking shoes, itís a total crapshoot. Whatís fantastic for one person is horrible for another. Iíve had quite a few pairs so let me share my experience:

a) donít let anyone tell you heel retention doesnít matter. If you like smashing HARD out of the saddle, or even just being efficient, you want the best heel retention you can get without hurting your heel. You donít want to rely on tightening the boas or laces to keep the shoe secure. This will quickly lead to numbness. The Sworks 6 and to a lesser extent, the SWorks 7 are known to have good (possibly painful, depending on your heel shape) heel retention.

b) forefoot retention. Make sure that the shoe you get can actually put some pressure on your forefoot. Fizikís top end boa lacing system is fantastic for this. You donít want your forefoot flopping around the front of your shoe, especially if you want to spin fast or pull up a bit on the shoe. My specialized shoes donít even touch my forefoot when I tighten the strap.

c) width. There are 4 components to width: toe box, forefoot, midfoot and heel. You want the toe box to basically be as wide as possible, or is fashionable. No performance gain to a narrow toe box. You want your forefoot width to be somewhere between just wide enough and slightly too wide. Basically, err towards too wide at the forefoot. Itís fine. But at the midfoot and heel, you want it snug without being painful. One measure is too see how much of your midfoot is ďspilling overĒ the carbon sole on the medial and lateral side of the shoe. Too much, and itís gonna hurt. Too little, and you might get some movement. Heel retention is harder to gauge. Every shoe will slip if you walk - the alternative is the sole breaking or your ripping your heel skin. But it should take a substantial amount of force to get the heel cup to slip with just a bit of lace tension. I personally have never experienced painful heel retention but look out for that too if you have a bony heel.

d) cleat wedging. If you canít seem to get your cleat position just right, look up Bikefit 1 degree cleat wedges. One symptom of needing wedges is your knee brushing the top tube, or the outside/lateral part of your foot getting ďhotspotsĒ when your knees track straight.

Take my advice with a grain of salt. Iím not an expert. Just someone who has struggled a lot and spent a lot of money trying to get shoes right.
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Old 03-17-20, 08:07 AM
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Ehhhhhhhh -- who needs cycling shoes . Or even a real bike. That sort of stuff is for rich people

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Old 03-17-20, 11:26 AM
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Another +1 on getting 3-bolt compatible shoes to use with your Look pedals. If your pedals did not come with cleats, you will also want to purchase Look cleats, which are specifically designed to work with your pedals.

3-bolt shoes will often be marketed as 'road' shoes. Triathlon shoes are often 3-bolt compatible as well (the difference seems to be that tri shoes are designed to be comfortable without socks.)

The pedals you have are a fine place to start. Long-term, you might want to decide whether you ultimately prefer road-style cleats or mountain-style cleats. Road cleats can be difficult to walk in, so some folks prefer mountain-style cleats and shoes for activities like commuting, touring, or longer rides where one anticipates a bit more time off the saddle and walking around.
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Old 03-17-20, 11:37 AM
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For your shoes, I would probably go with a tri-specific road shoe for 3-bolt assuming that's what your Specialized Transition is for. They're faster to get on/off than a true road shoe, and you can't train enough to gain back the seconds lost in transition with an inferior shoe situation.

Next, 3-bolt, sure. But, if doing triathlon stuff or TT with that one bike..........Speedplay Zero with the aero cleat cover is the way to go.

In that case, for you, I'd buy one pair of shoes meeting the following guidelines:
-tri specific shoe closure (faster transitions)
-4-bolt Speedplay specific shoe, to get lower stack height and aero benefit of the Speedplay aero setup

If this is purely recreational on both bikes........get a really nice pair of 3-bolt road shoes. No need to fuss with the tri/TT style cleats and shoes.

Now, some folks have had success with maximum triathlon aero with Speedplays by going with laceup shoes. This is slower in transition, but, you swap in your elastic "lock laces" like you'd run in your running shoes. You're not sprinting in a triathlon or TT, so no need for the vertical up plane of motion to be as fixed.

Probably the fastest shoe you can run in a tri is a Giro SLX that you've swapped lock laces into and run Speedplay Zero Aero setup with. People haven't tested the newest rear-boa from Bontrager yet that I know of. That'd be a good option too since the boa is out back instead of on the sides.
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Old 03-17-20, 02:24 PM
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Thanks for all the replies, itís been very helpful. Although Iím leaning towards the 3 bolt style as many have recommended, I can envision situations where I would rather be wearing a more walkable two bolt. If you HAD to wear a two bolt set up for a predominately flat- paved 35-40 mile scenario. What would you choose ?
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Old 03-17-20, 03:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Tomm Willians View Post
Thanks for all the replies, it’s been very helpful. Although I’m leaning towards the 3 bolt style as many have recommended, I can envision situations where I would rather be wearing a more walkable two bolt. If you HAD to wear a two bolt set up for a predominately flat- paved 35-40 mile scenario. What would you choose ?
Leaning? As others have noted, it isn't like you have much of a choice. Your bike already came with a set of 'road' pedals. If you want to go to SPD, that's fine, lots do. But the systems are not interchangeable. I don't have tons of money, so I always look (heh) to the budget end of things. Shimano M520's (SPD) and Giro Rumble shoes (after my Shimano MT41's got retired) are my daily setup. Shimano M540 pedals are identical to 520's but lighter. I may get some after Tax Return. I have some used Crank Bros. Eggbeaters pedals, they use SPD shoe compatible (two bolt) cleats, but the pedal interface is unique to Crank Bros. It's all kind of confusing sort of but most of us have made it our business to grok the fine details. I would advise you to do the same or someone may call you on it louder than has been the case already.
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Old 03-17-20, 04:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Leisesturm View Post
Leaning? As others have noted, it isn't like you have much of a choice. Your bike already came with a set of 'road' pedals. If you want to go to SPD, that's fine, lots do. But the systems are not interchangeable. I don't have tons of money, so I always look (heh) to the budget end of things. Shimano M520's (SPD) and Giro Rumble shoes (after my Shimano MT41's got retired) are my daily setup. Shimano M540 pedals are identical to 520's but lighter. I may get some after Tax Return. I have some used Crank Bros. Eggbeaters pedals, they use SPD shoe compatible (two bolt) cleats, but the pedal interface is unique to Crank Bros. It's all kind of confusing sort of but most of us have made it our business to grok the fine details. I would advise you to do the same or someone may call you on it louder than has been the case already.
Aside from the sarcastic and condescending tone that was a very helpful post. Thanks !
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Old 03-17-20, 04:27 PM
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Buy shoes that you can actually try on. Fit, even in the same size, will vary from brand to brand and even models within a brand. I buy 99 % of my stuff online, but not shoes (unless I'm replacing a pair with the same brand and size).
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Old 03-17-20, 04:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
Buy shoes that you can actually try on. Fit, even in the same size, will vary from brand to brand and even models within a brand. I buy 99 % of my stuff online, but not shoes (unless I'm replacing a pair with the same brand and size).
Good advice !
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Old 03-17-20, 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Tomm Willians View Post
Thanks for all the replies, it’s been very helpful. Although I’m leaning towards the 3 bolt style as many have recommended, I can envision situations where I would rather be wearing a more walkable two bolt. If you HAD to wear a two bolt set up for a predominately flat- paved 35-40 mile scenario. What would you choose ?
Either 2 bolt or 3 bolt systems will be a HUGE improvement over not being clipped in. 2 bolt systems have the advantage of being more walkable. If you are doing lots of miles on the bike and not walking then 3 bolt systems do feel more secure and comfortable while cycling. If your not racing at the moment or intending to race then 2 bolt all the way. 3 bolt systems if you think your going to get into racing will be preferable.
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Old 03-17-20, 05:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Tomm Willians View Post
Thanks for all the replies, itís been very helpful. Although Iím leaning towards the 3 bolt style as many have recommended, I can envision situations where I would rather be wearing a more walkable two bolt. If you HAD to wear a two bolt set up for a predominately flat- paved 35-40 mile scenario. What would you choose ?

I use road shoes for the road bike, when little walking is done,

and eggbeater pedals with various shoes for the mtn bike, CX bike, and Single speed CX bike (short trips).

The shoes include mtn bike shoes for off-road, and tennis-shoe-like and casual shoe-like ones for around town and utility use.

This leads to bringing another pair of shoes when riding to the indoor cycling class, where the bikes have SPD pedals, and also occasionally putting on other pedals for guest riders.

I like Giro shoes- well designed & made w/ consistent fit IME.

Any shoes will work, but cheap ones may be less satisfying. No need to spend $$$, and trying on in a store would be nice, but selection and sizes

likely to be very limited so ordering online is likely anyway.

Some folks order 2 or 3 sizes & return the ones that don't fit.
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Old 03-17-20, 05:45 PM
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Originally Posted by AnthonyG View Post
Either 2 bolt or 3 bolt systems will be a HUGE improvement over not being clipped in. 2 bolt systems have the advantage of being more walkable. If you are doing lots of miles on the bike and not walking then 3 bolt systems do feel more secure and comfortable while cycling. If your not racing at the moment or intending to race then 2 bolt all the way. 3 bolt systems if you think your going to get into racing will be preferable.
He already has Look Keo pedals which require a 3 bolt cleat.... Unless he wants to buy new pedals as well as new shoes.
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Old 03-17-20, 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
He already has Look Keo pedals which require a 3 bolt cleat.... Unless he wants to buy new pedals as well as new shoes.
And I am open to doing exactly that, I can understand the benefits of the 3 bolt- rigid sole design but having the misfortune of the occasional one or two long walks home Iím not so sure thatís the best set up for me. Just not sure which way to go with this.....
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Old 03-17-20, 05:58 PM
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If concerned about walking, then go for 2-bolt pedals/shoes. Really like my Giro Rumble shoes, currently used with different generic spd pedals from Nashbar on 3 different bikes. Made by wellgo or victor, most likely.
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Old 03-17-20, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Tomm Willians View Post
And I am open to doing exactly that, I can understand the benefits of the 3 bolt- rigid sole design but having the misfortune of the occasional one or two long walks home I’m not so sure that’s the best set up for me. Just not sure which way to go with this.....
In my opinion, two bolt (MTB or touring) shoes are fine for anyone but the most demanding rider and the walkability is a good thing. A good quality MTB shoe has a very rigid sole, comparable to a good quality road shoe. The main differences being the tread which makes the shoe a little heavier (everything else being equal), and the platform of the pedal.

Three bolt "Road" pedals s have larger contact platforms which some people feel is better for road bike use. Myself? I use and have used both real "three bolt" road shoes and pedals and "two bolt" pedals and MTB shoes on my road bikes for many years and have been very satisfied with my MTB shoes and pedals on my road bikes. To me there's no functional difference while riding, only while walking.

I have both big name brand "two bolt" pedals (Shimano) and cheaper pedals (Wellgo) which use compatible cleats. Both work fine and have lasted a long time. I actually have "two bolt", two sided pedals as well as one sided pedals that accept the same cleat in both Shimano and Wellgo. Everything works just fine and has been very durable for me.

If you want a two bolt/MTB type shoe with a larger road-type pedal, check out the Shimano SPD road pedals (not SPD-SL). They use the two bolt cleat "SPD" cleat as their two sided pedals and have a larger platform. There's several options to look at.

If you decide to go that way, and change your setup to two bolt pedals, cleats and shoes, you can easily sell your current Look pedals. You don't have much invested in the current 3 bolt system anyway - you'd have to buy cleats and shoes. You'll get cleats with the new two bolt pedals so that will largely mitigate the cost, if you follow me. You buy shoes either way.

Last edited by Camilo; 03-17-20 at 06:18 PM.
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Old 03-17-20, 06:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
In my opinion, two bolt (MTB or touring) shoes are fine for anyone but the most demanding rider and the walkability is a good thing. A good quality MTB shoe has a very rigid sole, comparable to a good quality road shoe. The main differences being the tread which makes the shoe a little heavier (everything else being equal), and the platform of the pedal.

Three bolt "Road" pedals s have larger contact platforms which some people feel is better for road bike use. Myself? I use and have used both real "three bolt" road shoes and pedals and "two bolt" pedals and MTB shoes on my road bikes for many years and have been very satisfied with my MTB shoes and pedals on my road bikes. To me there's no functional difference while riding, only while walking.

I have both big name brand "two bolt" pedals (Shimano) and cheaper pedals (Wellgo) which use compatible cleats. Both work fine and have lasted a long time. I actually have "two bolt", two sided pedals as well as one sided pedals that accept the same cleat in both Shimano and Wellgo. Everything works just fine and has been very durable for me.

If you want a two bolt/MTB type shoe with a larger road-type pedal, check out the Shimano SPD road pedals (not SPD-SL). They use the two bolt cleat "SPD" cleat as their two sided pedals and have a larger platform. There's several options to look at.

If you decide to go that way, and change your setup to two bolt pedals, cleats and shoes, you can easily sell your current Look pedals. You don't have much invested in the current 3 bolt system anyway - you'd have to buy cleats and shoes. You'll get cleats with the new two bolt pedals so that will largely mitigate the cost, if you follow me. You buy shoes either way.
Very helpful! Thank you !
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Old 03-17-20, 07:54 PM
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Not much that I can add that hasn't already been said. I have a Hybred/Mountain bike and a couple of road bikes, All of them are 2 bolt SPD. When I first started getting more serious about road bikes but was not in very good physical condition, I appreciated the "walkability" of SPD cleats. I live in the hills and walking a quarter mile up a hill along the road in 3 bolt road shoes is not fun. So my early road experience confirmed my decision to stay with SPDs was a good idea.

Now I'm in much better shape and will not be walking uphills so much. I have thought about switching over to a 3 bolt systems. I mean I have thought about this a lot. So my contribution to this discussion is that which ever way you decide to go you will probably spend a considerable amount of time second guessing your decision. But as far as function is concerned they are similar. I think outside of the difficulties walking with 3 bolt, the biggest thing is which style of cleat and to a certain degree which shoe do you prefer? Mainly in my opinion it is a fashion decision. A lot of roadies use SPDs I will say.
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Old 03-21-20, 01:51 PM
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Update on this thread is all good news ! I invested in a set of Shimano SPD MTB pedals with Specialized shoes and became comfortable quickly with the simple unlock motion. My plan is to continue working with this set up and then move it over to my road bike from my TT bike and then re-install the Look Keo’s that came with it. I use the road bike in a more relaxed manner so I think this should work well.

Thanks to all for the good info !
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