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Tandem Cycling A bicycle built for two. Want to find out more about this wonderful world of tandems? Check out this forum to talk with other tandem enthusiasts. Captains and stokers welcome!

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Old 06-02-10, 07:53 PM   #1
Indykid
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Shoes and Pedals

My stoker and I purchased some nos mountain shoes and smarty pedals cheep just to try clipless pedals. We like the concept and are thinking about upgrading to something better. I am leaning toward staying with a mountain shoe for the extra traction when stopped (stoker stays clipped in while stopped). Is there any advantage to go to a road shoe? And what pedals work best?
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Old 06-02-10, 08:08 PM   #2
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I am leaning toward staying with a mountain shoe for the extra traction when stopped (stoker stays clipped in while stopped). Is there any advantage to go to a road shoe? And what pedals work best?
The advantages in road shoes are lighter weight, and possibly more aero. For most of us these do not outweigh the advantages of the extra traction while stopped, and the ability to walk around in the shoes.

As for brands of shoe/pedal, Shimano SPD are probably the most common, presumably because they were first and held patent coverage blocking the others for a while. I have SPD, and would find it hard to change, since between me and my stoker, and our two kids (which means three more single bikes and another tandem), there are a lot of pedals to change should you start changing things. Both captains and both stokers have been known to ride the Bilenky, and my son has stoked with me on the Bilenky. So I think that means changing all or none.

A feature I like (esp. in captain's pedals) is double-sidedness. Adds a bit of weight, but handy for starting up.

If I weren't already locked in to SPD with 8 or 9 sets of pedals, and 5 pair of footwear, I would also consider Speedplay Frogs. I've read good reviews, and I like the idea of having more mechanism in the shoe, making double-sided easier, and adding less weight.
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Old 06-02-10, 08:21 PM   #3
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We use double-sided SPD pedals and PI cyclocross shoes - these are as stiff as a road shoe, heavier and can be walked in for short distances. Wouldn't want to hike a mile in them.
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Old 06-02-10, 08:39 PM   #4
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Smarty pedals are nice, as they are double-sided, and are easy to clip in and out of.

If you want to make the transition to a road set-up, you can make the first step getting a road shoe, while retaining the Smarty. You'll just need a Crank Brothers 3-Hole Cleat. It will still be easier to walk in than a typical road cleat.



The advantages of a road shoe are that it is lighter, will have a stiff carbon sole, and have better ventilation. PBK has good deals on shoes, you'll want to know your size in that brand, because returning to the UK isn't that easy. You can also get good deals at Sierra Trading Post, sign up for the discount (20-30% off) emails. Getting a starter shoe in a brand like Sidi is useful, because if you figure out your correct size in Sidi, in the future if you want a higher end shoe you can look for discounts in Sidi from internet suppliers (such as PBK) that you know will be the right size.
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Old 06-03-10, 06:45 AM   #5
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When I finally get around to putting clipless on the tandem, I will definitely be going with Speed Play Frogs. I have the SP X's on one bike and Frogs on another and really like the latter a bit better. Easy on, easy out and tons of float. I like the mountain shoe better for the tandem as well—for the reasons mentioned by other posters. That and the intent is to eventually tour with the bike.
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Old 06-03-10, 07:06 AM   #6
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Is there any advantage to go to a road shoe? And what pedals work best?
I think the basics have been covered: road-racing shoes are optimized for performance on the bike, not off the bike. They're lighter and more sleek than MTB shoes (no added mass for the lugged sole), they tend to have a somewhat stiffer sole (although the higher-end MTB performance shoes often times use similar materials and are just as stiff, e.g., Sidi Dragon SRS, etc...), and they are designed to work with road-racing pedal systems that distribute pedal loads over a larger contact surface than MTB / touring pedal systems that use more compact, recessed cleats.

So, for folks who want to ride hard and long, who tend to ride only performance/sport-oriented road bikes or who compete on their road tandems, road shoes make a lot of sense. Moreover, if they also tend to ride only road bikes, it can be a bit more cost effective and less hassle to have the same shoe and pedal systems on their single and road bikes.

For folks who ride both road and off-road, it's a bit of a toss-up since most have typically invested in both road and off-road shoe and pedal systems. I have both, but don't ride my single road bike nearly as much as the road tandem and have made MTB shoe and pedal systems our default for the tandem. The only down side has been that I have on occassion grabbed the wrong shoes (I have several pair of Sidi road and off-road shoes that look nearly the same if you don't turn them over... similar to cats) and only discovered my error when I pulled them out of my gear bag at the ride start; Doh!

Again, the basics regarding the pros of MTB shoes and pedal systems for tandems have been covered: they provide the captain with sure-footing on just about any type of wet or dry road surface. Moreover, they allow you to walk around in a relatively normal manner, which comes in handy if you get into the more social aspects of tandem riding where meal stops, day trips and rallies will put you on-foot on all kinds of different terrain and flooring. At least for us, having an honest-to-goodness walkable shoe sole is a far better and more practical choice than a slick-soled road shoe with cleat covers, undersized SPD cleats with pontoons or carrying around a pair of walking shoes / slip-ons in a trunk bag.

As for pedal systems, it's a very personal choice. We started out using SPDs on our first tandem -- a Santana Arriva that came with Shimano 747 SPDs -- and they seemed fine until I started to have knee pain that was unique to the tandem, as I never had any similar issues riding solo road or MTB bikes with fairly rigid shoe/pedal systems. We switched over to Speedplay Frogs in 1998 and while I was initially freaked-out by the massive amount of float they provided, I quickly realized the source of my knee pain and also found that the initial 'walking on ice' feeling of the Frogs went away after just a few miles into our first ride. Coupled with a better-quality MTB shoe like the ones from Sidi, Diadora, etc.. that have a very rigid sole, I've never experienced any 'hot spots' or foot numbness that can come from riding on a semi-rigid sole in cleated pedal systems. I also don't believe there's that big of a performance hit (at least one that should matter for all but competitive events) from the somewhat higher weight that comes with an MTB shoe's lugged sole, noting that the higher-end MTB shoes are as light or lighter than the road shoes most folks were using just 10 years ago. I think we now have 8 or 9 pair of Frogs on our road and off-road tandems, off-road single bikes and some of our road bikes. In fact, now that I think about it, I think the only bike that has road pedals is the one personal road bike that I actually ride on the road noting my wind trainer / mud bike and fixed gear both use Frogs for more practical reasons. About the only downside to using MTB shoes for the tandem is that you can wear down the lugged sole given all of the walking around you can do in them. I've built back up the lugs on my Sidi Dominators with Shoe Goo a couple times (uppers are nearly indestructable) but have now resigned myself to getting some new Sidi's, but ones that have the replaceable cleats and will likely have a carbon sole as well.

Lots of choices out there... just do your best to figure out what works best for you and satisfies your biases and sense of cycling fashion.

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Old 06-03-10, 08:38 AM   #7
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After having used a variety of road and mountain bike pedal/shoe combinations over the years...I am firmly committed to a mountain set-up for our Tandem riding. It only takes one serious slip stopping or launching with road shoes on wet or damp pavement to make you a believer. Buy whatever brand or lightweight package you want or can afford, but make it mountain with good grip soles.

Bill J.

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Old 06-03-10, 10:40 AM   #8
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I use a Sidi mountain shoe. Light and stiff. You don't give up much vs a road shoe, but much easier to walk in. We also use Crank Bro. Candy pedals. Durable, and easy to rebuild. Again, not much weight penalty over pure road designs, but you gain two-sided, easy no-need-to-look-down clip in. Also, the new Candy design with the aluminum body looks great!
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Old 06-03-10, 12:12 PM   #9
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Most folks around here use Sidi Dominators with SPDs. You can go single sided road pedals for stoker, but double sided MTBs are best for captain.
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Old 06-03-10, 07:10 PM   #10
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Everything has been said about road pedals/shoes except this:

A road setup has a two parts interface -- cleat + pedal (the sole never touches the pedal) -- while a mountain setup has a three parts interface -- cleat + pedal + shoe sole where the sole pushes on the pedal while the cleat takes care of traction.

The result of this is that a road combination has a much more clean and free interface (no rattles, no slack, free float or you simply need to replace your cleats) while a mountain combo alway has loose between where the cleat pulls and where the sole pushes. The foot eventually rocks from left to right if the sole is worn or manufactured too thin (like my Sidi's).

I see two main reasons to use a mountain (or SPD) combo. The first is if you have to walk on it. And it's a huge. During the last few years, manufacturers developed road cleats that are not damaged by walking on it but they are still as much of an inconvenient whe you need to walk. The second reason is price: a mountain pedal can be much less expensive than a road pedal.

Another reason to choose a mountain pedal is its double sided. Some may prefer.

If you are looking for the best of both worlds, Speedplay's Frogs are the best : the cleat/pedal interface is clean, smooth and quite stable. From I stand, it's the best thing when you want both the best feeling and walk-on shoes. It's has expensive has any road combo and you have to learn a different way to step into the pedals (actually, slide the pedal into the cleat).

A technical fit is not an issue : any fully technical shoe (mountain or road) will have the same kind of fit : nice and tight. A looser fit will usually be found in a city/touring shoe with an SPD compatible sole. You do not want to climb a steep hill on a rainy day in the latest : your feet will slip all over the shoes.

Note that if you look hard enough, you can find SPD compatible shoes with carbon soles.

That being said, I use SPDs for mountain biking (necessity) and road touring (convenience) and road pedals for road riding on both half and full bikes (couldn't stand SPDs).


Sorry that had to be sooooooooooo long ;-)
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Old 06-03-10, 07:19 PM   #11
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A note about SP Frogs:

A major drawback is that these pedals are not designed to release towards the inside.
A strong enough impact may cause the shoes to pivot inward hence releasing from the pedal if your knees are strong enough!
Once -- only once -- in my mtb racing days did I fall with one foot gently sliding out of the pedal while the other just stayed put. Luckily, I did not injure my knee, no thanks to my Frogs. Still, I love them, especially for touring.
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Old 06-03-10, 07:43 PM   #12
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I vote for mountain bike shoes and pedals. It is nice to walk and less likely to slip when putting your foot down at a stop.
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Old 06-04-10, 08:41 AM   #13
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While we do not do lots of walking while riding when parked, we use cleat covers, and the walking is sure footed. When we come to a stop, were both clipped out. Road shoes and pedals are out favorites.
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Old 06-04-10, 11:47 AM   #14
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As many others here, we use SPD's and mountain shoes all around on our tandem and the singles so we can go back and forth without needing different shoes. We used Shimano 747's (top-end double sided mountain bike designs, current model is the M970) for a long time, but in a concession to road bikes, as the 747's have worn out, we've been replacing them with PD-A520's, a road pedal accepting the SPD style cleat. These are intermediate in weight and durability, but we like 'em. I like Sidi Dominator 5 shoes, stoker uses some model of Diadora that I don't recall (but which are bright shiny orange color!).
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Old 06-04-10, 12:15 PM   #15
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As many others here, we use SPD's and mountain shoes all around on our tandem and the singles so we can go back and forth without needing different shoes. We used Shimano 747's (top-end double sided mountain bike designs, current model is the M970) for a long time, but in a concession to road bikes, as the 747's have worn out, we've been replacing them with PD-A520's, a road pedal accepting the SPD style cleat. These are intermediate in weight and durability, but we like 'em. I like Sidi Dominator 5 shoes, stoker uses some model of Diadora that I don't recall (but which are bright shiny orange color!).
We've also migrated to the Shimano A520 pedals. We initially got them to see if they would help with the stoker's foot pain, and I found that they virtually eliminated hot spots for me with the Sidi Dominator 5 shoes. We eventually figured out that the pain she was experiencing was due to the lack of arch support in her Sidi Dominator 5's and solved that with a pair of Specialized Body Geometry MTB shoes for her.

Our absolute favorite shoes, however, are the Keen Cycling Sandals. While not stiff at all, they are cool, comfy, and absolutely walkable. Since performance and efficiency aren't priorities with us, we generally use them if it's warm enough and we're planning to travel less than 50 miles. Above that and we can tell we benefit from the stiffer soles in the MTB shoes.
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Old 06-04-10, 05:03 PM   #16
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For a VERY different opinion about shoes and pedals, see this link. It is NOT the position I hold, but nonetheless, I think it is worth reading and thinking about.

Link: The Shoes Ruse
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Old 06-04-10, 05:15 PM   #17
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Our absolute favorite shoes, however, are the Keen Cycling Sandals. While not stiff at all, they are cool, comfy, and absolutely walkable.
I bought a pair of those Keen sandals and tested them through the Michigan winter at the spinning studio. I like the feel and fit (almost all my shoes except for full dress are Keens). What I don't like is that they are HEAVY. My next try will be the even newer Keen Austin Cycle Shoe. I own the regular Austins, but the cycle version has a stiff sole and SPD slots, and I'm pretty sure they are lighter:
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Old 06-05-10, 01:12 AM   #18
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Anotehr vote for MTB shoes and pedals on a road tandem. Actually, we only use MTB pedals on all our road bikes, because there is always considerable time spent when off the bike. We have several pairs of the single-sided Shimano A520's shown above, including on the back of the tandem. Shimano just released a new version of the A520, the A600, which is very similar but is about 30 grams lighter; the disadvantages are that it has no wrench flats, you have to use an allen key from the back, and the darker finish wears off quite quickly in the usual wear areas. On the front of the tandem, we use a double-sided pedal, the current XT, which I believe is the M770. Shimano pedals are great, very reliable and easily serviceable.

We've now both got Shimano M225 shoes, which are carbon soled and have never experienced foot pain with them, although we had when using cheaper shoes with softer soles. Someone said above that road shoes tend to be better ventilated than MTB shoes - they have obviously never tried these shoes. When we're doing rides in the Alps, I have to bring a tiny pair of toe covers to put on over my M225's at the top of the big mountain passes so that my toes don't get cold on the descent (those descents can easily take more than 20 minutes). In my opinion, these shoes are TOO well ventilated, and that is the only complaint that I have about them. However, my wife is totally happy with hers, and never needs toe covers in this situation (even when doing these descents on her single bike).
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Old 06-06-10, 05:38 AM   #19
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Shimano pedals are great, very reliable and easily serviceable.
My LBS told me the A520s are not serviceable... But I've wondered about that. Got any advice, or a link on how to service them? I have a pair that is clicking.
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Old 06-06-10, 05:55 PM   #20
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We ride with SpeedPlay a great way to go especially the older we get. The 15 degrees of movement is great for the joints and they are double sided. I believe you would have to use them on road shoes as the attachment to the bottom of the shoe would probably be to big for a mountain biks shoe.
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Old 06-06-10, 06:10 PM   #21
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Thanks everybody. I picked up a pair of Shimano MD86s. They are a mountain shoe that looks like a road shoe with cleats and a pair of Speedplay Frog pedals . The MD86s feel much lighter and cooler than the old Nike mountain shoes I have been wearing. The frogs are much so easier both in and out than the Smarty pedals its unbelievable
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Old 06-07-10, 04:49 AM   #22
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My LBS told me the A520s are not serviceable... But I've wondered about that. Got any advice, or a link on how to service them? I have a pair that is clicking.
One of these should cost less than US$5 and will give you access to the bearings and everything inside the A520 pedals. Just do a Google search for "Shimano SPD tool." It sounds like you should try to do it yourself, because your LBS knows nothing. If you know how to overhaul and adjust bearings, then it should be pretty straightforward, except that the bearings are smaller and can be a little fiddly.

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Old 06-07-10, 05:32 AM   #23
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Just do a Google search for "Shimano SPD tool."
D'oh! Why do I have to learn this lesson over and over? When I did the (not so) obvious (to me, obviously), the obvious instructions at Park Tool came up high on the google list! Thanks for the help Chris! I needed it.

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Old 06-07-10, 11:31 AM   #24
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We ride with SpeedPlay a great way to go especially the older we get. The 15 degrees of movement is great for the joints and they are double sided. I believe you would have to use them on road shoes as the attachment to the bottom of the shoe would probably be to big for a mountain biks shoe.
We use SpeedpPlay Frogs with Sidi dominators with no problems.
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Old 06-07-10, 02:40 PM   #25
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+1 on the MTB Shoes for off the bike purposes. In a race setting - road shoes but we don't race and I like the idea of one pair of shoes for multiple bikes. I use SPDs because I have from the beginning and they are on all of my bikes. Double sided entry is a benifit for the captain. The Crank Brothers look interesting to me too but I have never tried them.
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