While I’m waiting for my ‘road bike piggy bank’ to fill up, I’ve been making adjustments to my hybrid bike to make it more race friendly.

I’ve already changed the tires from knobby to smooth. Now it’s time to embrace clipless bike pedals & biking shoes.

road pedal

Why? It increases the power & efficiency of each pedal stroke– you can not only push down, you can pull up on the pedals.

3 main perks about bike shoes:

1. Hard sole: you don’t lose power from a flexing shoe

2. Snug fit: so foot doesn’t slip-slide around

3. Attachment to pedals: let’s you use your hamstrings & pull up on pedals

To use bike shoes, you’ll need special pedals that let you clip in, called clipless bike pedals.

Let’s clear up this misnomer: yes, you clip in to clipless pedals. Don’t ask, I didn’t make the rules. (It means as opposed to toe cages you can slide your sneakers in to.)

kinds of pedals

Changing the pedals is easy:

1. Choose your bike pedal.

There are 2 styles of clipless bike pedals: “SPD” & “Look (brands, but that’s how you’ll probably seem them.)

The kind of pedal you need depends on the bike shoe you have (or want). It’s easy to tell which shoes need which pedals —> turn the shoe over:

– If there are 3 holes in a triangle, you need Look pedals

– If there are 2 oblong holes, you need SPD pedals

– If there are both, you’re in luck- you can use either kind of clipless pedal

tri fly iii

If you don’t already have biking shoes, pedal choice comes down to personal preference. Mountain bikers tend to use SPD pedals, because they get off the bike a lot and the SPD cleats can be recessed. (More on cleats later.) Road bikers tend to use Look pedals, but more & more are using SPD. So it’s up to you.

When I got my pedals (on sale a looong time ago), I chose SPD because they tend to be double-sided–meaning you can clip into either side, making it a bit easier to learn.

However. In July, I ordered tri specific bike shoes that never came. (Tri-bike shoes the same, but tend to have one big Velcro strap & a loop at the heel to aid in quick transitions. Plus you can wear them without socks.) Note: the ones I ordered used both SPD & Look cleats.

When the shoes weren’t on my doorstep when I got home from Chicago, I panicked. With a tri (still in denial) & a 24 hr bike ride coming up, I needed my shoes! Long story short- after many major fails, I found myself in the hands of a customer service god who managed to get an awesome pair of shoes on my mom’s doorstep free of charge. From now & forever, I will love Pearl Izumi.

I immediately tore into the box only to find the shoes were Look style only. No worries. One pedal exchange later and I was good to go.

Now back to how to change pedals:

2. Remove old pedals.

Use a wrench to loosen the bolts. Throw righty-tighty, lefty-loosey out the window- the left pedal is reverse threaded, so righty-loosey it is.

remove pedal

3. Put the new pedals on.

It’s like a screw. Tighten. Yes, it’s that easy.

crank arm look pedal

4. Put cleats on shoes.

pedal & cleat

The final piece to the shoe-pedal puzzle: cleats– the actual piece that attaches to your shoe so there’s something for the pedal to clip on to. Cleats will come with your pedal, so you should have the right ones. (Look for Look, SPD for SPD- capiche?)

pedal with cleat

Follow the directions for your pedals, but basically just screw the cleats on to the shoe- you can fine-tune adjustments later. Note: attach tightly, or you’ll unscrew them when you try to unclip from the pedal. Don’t ask how I know.

pedal cleats

5. Learn how to clip in & out.

More on that final (& key) step later, if when I master it. For now, you’ll find me practicing in the doorway so I don’t fall on my face- goodness knows I’m injured enough.

learning to clip in

Whew. That was long. I promise it will take you far less time to change your pedals than it did to read this post.

Any experience with clipless pedals/bike shoes?