Are "road" pedals more efficient?

Discuss light weight issues concerning road bikes & parts.
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by Lawfarm

I'm currently running Crank Brothers Candy 3s on my Ridley Noah.

because, frankly, it’s convenient to have crank brothers cleats on all of my bike shoes (road, mountain and winter), so I can jump from bike to bike. In the immediate aftermath of that post, however, I’ve had a couple forum jockies post comments, and I’ve received a few blog comments and emails (some rather strongly worded, so I haven’t permitted them to post through) criticizing this practice. The gist of the comments is that I should convert to a larger road platform pedal, for greater pedaling efficiency.

Is there really a performance or efficiency advantage going from a mountain pedal (basically, an eggbeater with a small platform around it) to a road pedal? My road shoes are carbon fiber sole (Bontragers…either RL or RXL–can’t recall off the top of my head)…so there’s not really a ton of flex there. And I see that some pros run speed plays, which are just as small, if not smaller, of a platform as my Candys. And the Candy’s are reasonably light–so there’s not going to be a ton of weight difference (if any).

Any subjective reports of "I switched and felt a difference"? Or even better--any objective testing on this issue?


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by SolidSnake03

I wouldn't say the Speedplay's are small, the pedal and cleat combine when you are engaged to make essentially one large platform. Due to this, the Speedplay platform is roughly the size of the other road pedal brands *Shimano and Look* This will be significantly larger than what most mountain bike pedals offer in regards to overall platform.

Aside from that, if you are comfortable in your mountain bike pedals and don't just have cash to burn or want to try new things I would just stick with what you have. If you have a pedal system that works for you and your body *no issue with lack of float/adjustability etc..* then no real reason to change.
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by quattrings

I run SPD on all my bikes and race on it too. Doesn't matter all that much.
I've found the clipping in and out on spd sl to be harder. Personally feel safer on spd, as when you take a corner at speed with your leg out, it's intuitive to clip out when a wheel starts to break traction.

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by artray

I used to use frogs, for about 3 years. I found no gain switching to road pedals . Now riding look keo. I seemed to go through the cleats of speedplays quite quick although I really liked them.

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by djm

Feel free to run whatever you want - even normal platform pedals may feel just fine.

I had to start riding SPD last year as I was tired of having my Speedplay Zeros clogged with snow on longer rides in the forest during winter, and I can't find one positive thing about SPD, except for mud/snow/younameit clearance being better. I find it a worse pedal system in every possible aspect. I've used Candy C-pedals. I find the platform much smaller, clipping in much vaguer, I prefer a concise response from the pedal, and it is very easy to pull out of the pedals. A full-out sprint is impossible for me with an SPD system like that. Add to that all the float and extremely limited adjustability hampers the overall feel..

It seems your choice of pedals is based on a compromise, and there will usually be compromises. I would however choose to compromise on something else than convenience when moving between road and mtb bikes because I value the benefits of a good road pedal over the eventual conveniences of an SPD pedal; the same reason I made a move from Zeros to SPD for winter riding.

Your assumption of Speedplay Zero platform size is wrong. The pedal body does not constitute the platform, however the cleat/pedal body combination constitutes the platform.

As regards performance? No idea. It would probably depend on your ability and skill.

I've seen MTB riders adapt road shoes for their MTBs, but I have never seen it the other way around.

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by yourdaguy

I run spd on everything. If road pedals were more efficient then MTB racers would use them for dry races. In the Summer, I even used to ride away from my buddies wearing Shimano sandles.
For certain parts stiffer is more important than lighter.

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by yourdaguy

Before anybody starts-I realize the sandals are probably not as efficient as a good MTB shoe.
For certain parts stiffer is more important than lighter.

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by thisisatest

from a pure efficiency standpoint, there's not much to gain between pedals. typical road shoes are often stiffer than typical mtn shoes, but there are plenty of truly stiff mtn shoes so id consider that a non-issue.
here are the benefits of road pedals:
wider platform. it is NOT for energy transmission. it is for foot stability. road riding is much more repetitive of a motion than mountain biking, so the body is more sensitive to careful positioning. being able to control your foot's canting is a positive. having that positioning control be consistent regardless of cleat wear is huge. little mtn cleats are relatively sloppy, you can rock your foot a few degrees, more as the cleat or the shoe tread wears. the larger the foot, and the wider the preferred stance, the more important this may be for you.
smooth float. ideal cleat float should be smooth, but with some friction. this allows your foot to position itself naturally, but keeps it from "skating". plastic is a very forgiving material for this.
as for speedplays, the large cleat does NOT make the pedal behave like a larger pedal. anyone with a worn out speedplay pedal body can confirm this pretty easily. again, it's about foot stability an not about efficiency. speedplay pedal bodies wear, and as they wear, they will allow more and more foot "rocking". replacing cleats does not fix the root of this problem.
so the more miles you put in on the road, at higher efforts, the more you may want to bite the bullet and go with road pedals. even then, there are plenty of folks that do just fine with their SPDs.

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by seandonovan

thisisatest nails it. Platform size has usually been nonsensical in my mind. Why does it matter how large the platform is so long as you are fixed to it? When you push down, the pedal spindle goes down, when you pull up, the spindle goes up: size matters not. The advantage that thisisatest mentions (foot stability) is reasonable. A wider pedal prevents side to side rocking, which is advantageous for the reasons that was mentioned. Fore-aft rocking is, well, normal. Extra length doesn't do much stability wise (I'll come back to this in a second). Look at Aerolite pedals for a good example of a wide, but short, pedal.

Now, about the length: much of this is simply due to making the pedal functional. Look-style pedals (including SPD-SL) need that length to actually fit all the pieces together with low stack height: the 'toe' needs to slip in up front, the pedal spindle needs room, and the rear binding mechanism behind.

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by tommasini

thisisatest gave some good points about instability that likely shows up more on the road....and that remains today.

Also, going back about 5 - 7 years, stiff carbon soled road shoes were not as common - so the issue of "hot spots" due to more localized sole pressure was more common prior to that.....a common blame was small contact patch pedals.....thus for instance one reason why spd-sl quickly fell out of favor.

So with stiffer soles that issue nowdays should be much less - still however need to consider stability......and one last thing too - corning clearance - which might come into play with candy's - can't say for certain myself as I've never looked into their cornering angle - but they sure look wide and fat at the outside end.

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by ticou

I find the Shimano A600 spd pedal to be a good compromise, as it has a wide platform and zero wear after a year.

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by Chris_W

I also use SPD pedals for everything. My top-end Shimano MTB shoes are as stiff as I'll ever need, and I never get hot spots like I used to when using some cheaper, more flexy shoes. Because of the recessed cleats, I can run up and down the stairs at the train station while carrying the bike to get to just catch the train home at the end of my ride.

The Shimano A600 and A520 single-sided SPD pedals give the same clearance as a road pedal, and are certainly competitive with road pedals in terms of weight. I haven't measured stack height because I can't see why it is important. Differences in stability were mentioned above, but I'm having a hard time understanding why this is important.

I haven't yet found any disadvantages to using MTB shoes and pedals on my road bike, and the problems with walking in road shoes is enough of a disadvantage to make me not even try them.

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by rustychain

your bests off looking at the shoe and peddle together when comparing. weight of mountain bike shoes with pedals is usually greater. Many but not all mountain bike shoes flex so you can run in them. I love eggbeaters on my mountain bike but hated them when I tried them on my road bike. I could see Frogs as a good "everything" pedal with the exception of mud. I have never felt however the wonderful conection that a top end pait of road shoes and top end pedel combo gives with any mountain bike shoe or pedal. Bont's (if they fit) and Ti Blades for my money are the best at getting my meager power to the pedals
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by yourdaguy

The Sidi Diablo Mega's I run are almost exactly the same as the Sidi Road shoes except for the traction lugs and the attachment hole pattern. If you add up the weight of Sidi Road Mega shoes, Shimano SPD-SL pedals and cleats and the equivalent MTB/SPD parts the difference is negligible. Stack height is marketing since you are turning the same circle just at a higher altitude and there is not much difference in stack height anyway. The ability to easily walk or to put your foot down on a slippery surface without fear of slipping is "priceless".

All the conjecture about surface area, stability, etc. is just conjecture and certain pedal manufacturers marketing dribble. IF you have a carbon sole plate with a steel cleat on a steel pedal there is no flex or energy loss. Stability is a function of how tight the release of the pedals is and how much float they allow. While there is easy float and hard float (float with friction) that is a function of brand of pedals and adjustment and there is no proof that float causes any issues with rode cycling anyway. IF there was such proof then nobodies road pedals would have float because the other guys could say "We have no float and tests prove it is better". That is why some brands advertise adjustable float, etc. I went from Look with adjustable float (0, 3, 9 degrees) to SPD with absolutely no performance loss in timed trials and anecdotally when riding with my buddies. Riding with Shimano Sandals probably costs me around 1-2% though since they are not as stiff as my Sidi Diablo's. But doing training rides with sandals is really nice!

There is only marketing dribble from various pedal makers that float, stack height, stability, etc. has measurable results. And different pedal makers say different things matter. The pedal maker with the lowest stack height claims it is the most important, etc. If road pedals were actually more efficient, MTB racers would use them for dry races. I think is is hilarious that people see me riding MTB pedals and wonder how I can be so fast. I just say "yea, I guess if I would ride road road pedals, I would be good enough to turn pro!"
For certain parts stiffer is more important than lighter.

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by xrs2

It's not the size of the platform, it's the shoe that makes the difference. I have Sidi Dragon 3's for my Crank Brothers pedals and Sidi Ergo 3's for my road bike with Look Keos. The mountain bike shoes are considerably less stiff (as they should be) compared to the road shoes.

If you look at a Crank Brothers Candy pedal with a shoe engaged, you'll see that the sole of the shoe does not contact the pedal body. Now stick your foot in the shoe and press down. You'll see that the shoe deforms around the cleat/pedal interface. That's happening on every pedal stroke, and that's a considerable amount of energy lost considering the amount of force it takes to deform the shoe.

I love Crank Brothers for their practicality--I wouldn't use any other pedal on a commuter or on a randonneur. They're fine on a road bike too, just not ideal.

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