Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Munich Germany (formerly Portland OR, Texas)
Bikes: '02 Specialized FSR, '03 RM Slayer, '99 Raleigh R700, '97 Norco hartail, '89 Stumpjumper
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good responses, but i thought i add a little:
* basic or flat pedal (also some times called platforms, but see below)
* pedals with toe-clips or cages or straps - allow you to use any shoe and still benefit from the pulling on the upstroke
* pedals w/ power straps - similar to toes-slips but it's a single strap that runs diagonally across the shoe - supposed to be even easier and i've seen some trials guys use these although i think most trials guys don't use them
* platforms - sometimes normal pedals also called platforms, but i think of platforms as the extra-large pedals used in BMX or trials that give more surface for landing after a jump or whatever
* clipless pedals --- confusing name because you clip in to clipless pedals. i think the name comes from the fact that before clip-less pedals there were only toe-clips, so these pedals were new in that they didn't require toes-clips or 'clips' for short... anway, there are a bunch of types, but the most common are SPD which are almost all interchangeable from like Shimano or Ritchey, Time, Speedplay and others. clip-less pedals require a special shoe onto which a cleat is attached. then the shoe and cleat are clipped or snapped into the pedal and attached for better pedealling power and efficiency.
from using the power of the upstroke alone, clipless pedals increase power/efficiency by something like 10%. Then by choosing a stiff soled shoe over a normal flexy-sole like a running shoe you gain another 10% or so...
so if your goal is speed like in road cycling or mountain bike cross-country, then a clip-less pedal with stiff cycling shoe is the way to go. if you're into BMX, trials, or downhill you may make other choices. If you're commuting where you want to use regular shoes or just short on cash, you might choose traditional toe-clips
clip-less pedals do take a little practice, but after you learned they are very easy (it's like learning to ride a bike - before you learn it's hard, but later it's easy) i can clip in and out w/o thinking virtually anywhere on any trail and am a much better technical rider b/c of my pedal attachment to the bike
if you're looking at clipless pedals for MTB, i recommend either Frogs or Time although they cost more. both are better than Shimano/Ritchey SPDs when dirty or muddy and both have more float (the amount of freedom of ankle rotation which can be important to reduce knee pressure). the Frogs are not adjustable but you don't need to adjust them b/c they work so well.