Through the years, bike pedals have come a long way. Nowadays, there are many styles, varying designs for different disciplines, and there is also a variety in terms of prices. Some are interchangeable, others are not. You might also need shoes that are specific to the pedal. Make sure design, style and function are coordinated before buying any kind of pedal.
The oldest, most basic type of pedal is the basic platform. This is the pedal that most people learn to ride with. It typically has a metal, rubber or nylon framework around a pedal axle and your feet can be placed on either side. This pedal is still being used on many bikes because of its versatility and affordability. Unlike modern pedals that require the use of a special shoe, platform pedals are designed to ride using almost any type of footwear. They are used on all types of bikes (typically on cruisers), but some downhill and mountain bikers prefer them for their simplicity and freedom. If you are still learning to ride a bike, this pedal is for you.
Some contemporary cyclists use a shoe-pedal combination that locks the rider to the pedal. These pedals are minimalistic. They are usually equipped with a small wire claw in the center of the pedal. A special shoe that comes with cleat clips locks your foot in place when you press it onto the pedal. This provides more security and it also ensures that your feet are aligned correctly at all times. It lets you pull up on the pedal with your shoe for more power. When you are ready to get off the bike or to step down, you just need to twist your foot sideways and your shoes will pop free of the pedal. This type of pedal is commonly known as clipless pedals used with bicycling shoes and it is widely used on all kinds of bikes today.
This type of pedal gives you best of both world. It comes with a mechanism in the center to hold your cleats, but it is surrounded by a platform. You can choose ordinary shoes and treat the pedal like a platform or you can also use cleat-compatible bicycling shoes and clip them into the pedal. This pedal is more versatile, enabling the bicycle to be used with or without cycling shoes.
Road bikers use road-specific pedals. These pedals come in different designs, but they are large and light and they mate with special road shoes. The shoes have a rigid, plastic or carbon sole that transfers power more efficiently than other bicycling shoes. Road pedals are super supportive, and the bottom of the road shoes have large cleats that fit into the pedals. They are efficient when you are on the bike, but should be removed before walking.
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