There are many types, but not all of them are suitable for a fixed gear. Some provide good power transfer, others win in terms of comfort. Others give us the best of both worlds.
All bicycle pedals, if properly selected, can give us a great riding experience.
#1 Flat pedals on a fixed gear - does it make sense?
Theoretically, nothing stands in its way, after all, it's just a bike like every other. However, fixed gear bike due to the specifics of its drivetrain, can be extremely dangerous without extra foot retention.
At high speed, e.g., going downhill, the cranks can turn very fast, making it impossible to get your foot back on the pedal again if it slipped off a moment earlier.
Moreover, the lack of an extra connection between our feet and the pedals reduces our chances of braking, almost to a minimum. You can read more about cadence and skidding in our article about gearing (soon in English).
For these reasons, it's safer to use one of the pedal retention systems that will keep your foot held securely on the pedals all the time. Moreover, it can improve the comfort of the ride and influence how fast we can go.
#2 Straps - can they replace SPD pedals?
They’re widely associated with fixed gear riding, and the most universal system which consists of mounting stiff straps to the bike pedals that you can slip your foot into.
Thanks to this, your foot stays firmly in place, limiting the chances of it slipping off the pedals.
Straps allow us to skid when riding on a fixed gear. On any bike, they'll allow us to pull upward on the pedals, e.g., during sprints or climbs.
- Easy to attach - suitable for most wide flat pedals.
- You can ride in any shoe - unlike SPD pedals, we don't need any special shoes for them. Ordinary tennis shoes are enough.
- The ability to skid.
- No impact on footwear - straps don't damage this part of the wardrobe as much as metal toe clips.
- Price - this is undoubtedly the advantage of this solution. The cost ranges from 20-40€.
- Much worse power transfer than clipless pedals - straps don't provide as secure foot retention as SPD shoes and pedals.
- Possibility of getting your foot trapped in the case of an accident - unlike SPD pedals, straps won't automatically release during a fall, meaning your foot can get stuck, which can lead to serious injuries.
- Problems with getting your foot into them - straps are only fitted on one side of the pedals, so when you start riding, they fall under the pedal and you have to flip them over to get your feet into them. At high speed, even for advanced riders, this can be a real problem.
#3 Toe clips
This system is a combination of narrow straps, and a metal or a plastic cage fixed to the front of the pedals, which provides a secure hold for your foot.
Toe clips were used in road competitions until clipless pedals took over the market.
They have most of the pros and cons of straps. However, they provide a slightly better power transfer (they also hold the shoe at the front.) Unfortunately, often at the expense of destroying your shoes.
#4 SPD pedals
The most advanced and effective type of pedal that requires special shoes. In fact, the abbreviation comes from a particular Shimano solution, but in many countries, all clip-in systems are called that.
The whole system consists of pedals, usually with a very small platform, which has a spring mechanism. The footwear designed for SPD systems is very rigid, replaces the platform, and provides excellent power transfer (our energy won't be dispersed when the shoe flexes). Special cleats are screwed to the sole of these shoes, which clip into the SPD pedals thanks to the springs and thus form a very secure connection. To unclip, you have to twist your ankle away from the bike.
- The most efficient of all systems.
- Your foot is always on the pedal in the same, most optimal place.
- A sense of "synergy" and connection with the bike.
- A safe release in the case of an accident.
- Comfort on long distances (depending on the shoes and personal preferences).
- Foot stability.
- Good ventilation - summer SPD boots usually have a well-optimized ventilation system.
- Compatible only with suitable shoes.
- Price - SPD pedals are usually more expensive than other types, moreover, the cleats are a consumable component and need to be replaced from time to time.
- Potential falls - if you haven't yet developed the reflex of twisting your ankle outwards to unclip, it's easy to fall over, for example, when you stop at traffic lights. Twisting your foot sideways will very quickly become intuitive, but at the beginning of this venture, it's worth practicing in an empty car park or a flat place.
- Greater failure rate - SPD boots often have fancy fasteners that are quicker and more convenient to adjust, but they break more easily and are not as widely available as regular laces.
- In some cases, it's possible to unintentionally unclip your foot during skids or by firmly pulling on the pedals.
You can find out more about SPD pedals and their variations here.
The most popular clipless pedal systems
The most distinctive and obvious division of clip-in pedals is the division of road and MTB pedals.
The road models have a different system of attachment, completely different cleats, and shoes. They are, of course, designed for a completely different style of riding.
- Stiffer shoes and a larger contact area with the pedals and a more secure hold on the cleats provides better power transfer.
- The lack of tread results in a lower weight, but makes it difficult to say anything about walking comfortably when accompanied with cleats that really stick out of the shoe.
- The tread allows you to walk fairly normally, many models have a good grip on mountain trails, making them much better suited for city riding than road shoes.
- Typically the shoes are more flexible, but the top models are not inferior to the stiffness of road shoes.
- The cleats are firmly 'hidden' in the sole so that they do not wear out so quickly when walking.
- MTB shoes are often more durable than their road counterparts
You can take a closer look at the differences between the types of SPD pedals in this video.
Among the SPD mountain bike pedals, other companies also have their supporters
Bike pedals with a very open design that reduces clogging with mud. They provide considerable float, which makes them more forgiving for a cyclist's knees. Unfortunately, a delicate spring likes to crack on impact, and the cleats are brass, which makes them wear out much faster (in exchange, less wear on the pedals).
The design of these SPD pedals is very similar to that of Crankbrothers. Minimalistic springs eliminate the destructive impact of mud, brass cleats and greater float. They’re considered to be a cult classic in courier and fixed gear environments. Mainly due to their indestructibility (older models) and firm foot retention when skidding (Shimano can sometimes unclip).
Miejskie buty SPD
Most bicycle shoes look strictly sporty, which puts a lot of people off from choosing such a solution. However, there are a few companies producing models with MTB systems, which at first glance are difficult to distinguish from normal sneakers. Additionally, they're usually much more flexible, which provides quite good walking comfort.
Pedals and shoes on a fixed gear bike - a difficult choice
fAs you can see, there are plenty of pedal retention systems such as straps and SPD pedal systems. It would probably take another fifty pages to describe them all.
For newcomers and people who value ordinary shoes, the ideal solution will be straps or toe clips - they are the most universal, easy to use, and don’t require any additional tools and clothing.
City SPD shoes, in combination with mountain bike pedals, will be ideal for people who cycle a lot in the city, don't like straps, want better performance, or simply feel that clip-in pedals are for them.
On single speed bikes, ordinary platform pedals will work well. They provide complete versatility and excellent foot support without being locked in any way.
You can read about the differences between single speed and fixed gear drivetrains in another text on our blog.
Normal, high-performance SPD footwear is best suited for people who train, don't get off the bike much and need a stiff sole to transfer all the power into the drivetrain.
Are you interested in the idea of owning a fixed gear, or are you looking for a fast, versatile bike for the city? Please take a look at our latest range here.