Pedal Pusher: Finding The Right Pedals For You

Make the right decision about your most important contact point.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Make the right decision about your most important contact point. 

Few gear choices come with higher levels of partisanship for experienced cyclists and triathletes than pedals. Perhaps the most important contact point you have with your bike, pedals have the critical role of transferring power from your legs to your drivetrain. Which system is most efficient is a hotly debated topic, but figuring out the best option for your needs should come down to a few key features: float, ease of entry and exit, weight and price. Here’s an overview of the three most popular pedal brands among triathletes: Shimano, Speedplay and Look.


Benefits: Secure standby, trickle-down performance

Shimano is the market leader in pedals and cleats. Their pedals are known for their extra-wide platforms and they also have trickled down carbon pedal bodies from Dura-Ace to Ultegra and 105 models. Different cleat options offer varying amounts of float, which is how much your foot can rotate around the center of the pedal before unclipping. You can purchase cleats that allow zero, two or six degrees of float. The amount of tension required to clip in and out of the pedal is also adjustable.

Pictured: Shimano PD-5800 SPD-SL 105 Pedals


Key feature: Value-driven performance

With a carbon composite body, Shimano’s 105 pedals offer the same key design features as the Ultegra and Dura-Ace models with only a slight weight penalty.

Tension: Adjustable
Cleat float: Zero, two or six degrees
Weight: 275 grams

RELATED – TriWorkbench: Removing Bike Pedals


Benefits: Easiest entry and max adjustability

Arguably the easiest pedal to use, Speedplay offers dual-sided entry, meaning you can clip in on either side of the pedal. They also offer infinitely adjustable float from zero to 15 degrees. The extra wiggle room has made cycling possible for athletes with knee issues, but many cyclists simply don’t need the extra float, especially if their bike fit is dialed. Speedplay pedals are criticized for being a bit more difficult to walk in and requiring more maintenance compared to Shimano and Look pedals, but both of these issues can be addressed with the use of Speedplay’s walkable cleat covers, which are sold separately.

Pictured: Speedplay Zero Pedal Stainless Steel


Key Feature: Dual-sided entry, zero to 15 degrees of float

No other pedal on the market compares when it comes to the level of adjustability. Low weight and high cornering clearance add to the appeal.

Tension: Not adjustable
Cleat float: Zero to 15 degrees
Weight: 206 grams

RELATED: 2016 Triathlon Gear We’re Excited About


Benefits: Lighter with float and engagement options

Look offers a wide pedal body like Shimano, but their popular Blade models engage with a leaf spring, which saves weight and offers a secure, reliable clip-in. Look’s cleats range from zero to nine degrees, offering more float options than Shimano but not as many as Speedplay. Multiple engagement options are also available on different models, so you can have the just-right ease of entry/exit. Look also claims an aerodynamic advantage on all Blade models.

Pictured: Look Keo 2 Max Blade


Key feature: Secure engagement, small aero advantage

The Keo 2 Max Blade combines the best features from the Keo 2 Max and the Keo Blade and feels light.

Tension: Two versions available:8nm and 12nm
Cleat float: Zero, 4.5 or nine degrees

Weight: 250 grams

RELATED – 2016 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide: Components

Trending on Triathlete

Jan Frodeno Reflects on His Final Ironman World Championship

Immediately after finishing 24th place at his final Ironman World Championships, the Olympic medalist (and three-time IMWC winner) explains what his race in Nice meant to him.