Buying road bike pedals can be a challenging issue. Everyone will have their own preferred brand and want to convince you that they are correct. So we’ve created a guide to the best road bike pedals available in 2021.
Whether you are new to road bikes, upgrading your pedals or contemplating running flat platform pedals on your bike, we have the definitive guide for you.
The 3 best road bike pedals for beginners
Like shaving your legs going clipless is seemingly the mark of a serious cyclist, I know that is a little sexist, but it is a general point I’m trying to get over. Going clipless is the mark that you’re taking cycling seriously. You’re ready to step up and take your performance up a gear.
We want to make it easy for you and offer a few pedals that are easy for beginners to get to grips with.
The Shimano PD-M324 is not a road pedal per se. It uses mountain bike cleats rather than road cleats. You will though find that many entry-level road shoes can take both mountain bike and road cleats. There are 2 simple reasons why we’ve picked this as a great clipless pedal for beginners.
It is easy to get in and out of, even in the event of a crash. Look at the platform. If you don’t get clipped in or land on the wrong side of the pedal, you can still ride away.
The ability to do this will give you a lot of confidence. You won’t be worried about getting clipped in if you’ve taken your foot out at traffic lights. You’ll be able to pedal safely away.
The ability to do this is why many commuters and tourers also pick this pedal. It is reliable, works, and you can always be sure of safely pedaling away.
You can even ride your bike in trainers if you fancy nipping out to the shops to buy some bread or milk. The PD-M34 is an excellent choice for anyone setting out on their clipless adventures.
Time Xpresso 2
If you want to start with one-sided road bike pedals, then it’s hard to beat the Time Xpresso 2 set of pedals. The Xpresso 2 comes with a nice wide platform, and this makes the pedal feel very stable.
Putting this together makes the pedal a good choice for coming over from mountain bike style pedals. You really do want to start on a pedal like the PD-M324.
The weight balance of the Time Xpresso 2 makes clipping in more natural. On many road pedals, you have to turn the pedal over with your toe and then clip in all in one smooth movement.
The weight balance of the Xpresso 2 means the pedal always seems to be in the right place for your cleat so you can clip in straight away, helping to build your confidence.
They come with a simple tension adjuster so you can get just the right amount of hold on your cleats. They also come with 2.5mm of sideways travel before you disconnect from the pedal.
The ability to this is excellent on long rides where you might just want to move your foot and leg a bit for some relief.
iSSi Flip II
The iSSi Flip II pedals are similar to the PD-M324 pedals in that they use a mountain bike connection. They differ in that from a distance they look like a road pedal.
Like the PD-M324 they have a pedal cage but the iSSi pedal cage is smaller but on the back contains some screw pins that will hold your shoe in place should you miss clipping into them.
As they are also designed to go on adventures bikes, the iSSi pedals contain triple sealed bearings. Something that if you live in a wet climate, you’ll appreciate rather than servicing your pedals every month.
They make a great choice if you think the PD-M324 pedals are too bulky for your sleek road bike.
The 5 best clipless pedals for a road bike
The pedals in this section are the ones that are designed around performance. You can use them as a beginner, but you’ll find them all trickier to use than the pedals above. These are your second set of clipless pedals.
Look Kéo 2 Max
The Look Kéo 2 Max comes in 2 varieties. You get the standard Look Keo 2 Max pedal, and you can get a model featuring carbon fiber construction. The carbon model is more expensive, and you can expect to save around 10g for a pair.
For ourselves, we would stick with the standard and model and if you want to get weight weenie and more serious about racing we’d look at the Kéo Blade.
When the Kéo 2 was recently redesigned it not only lost some weight, but it also gained some surface area, which does sound a bit counter-intuitive. It now comes with a 60mm wide platform that according to look gives you 25% more cleat contact. The extra contact helps to make the Kéo 2 feel like a very stable pedal.
Look cleats are a little thinner than the Shimano road cleats, and this makes them feel a bit less dangerous when walking around.
The biggest issue though is that you will wear through the thinner Look cleats faster than you will through Shimano cleats. You could though buy some cleat cover for coffee shop stops and fit them in your saddle bag.
Speedplay Zero with Walkable Cleats
Speedplay thought about the above problem and created the first walkable cleats to go with their Zero pedals. Speedplay Zeros are the pros choice, well the pros that get to pick and you’ll definitely see Phil Gaimon run them on his Worst Retirement Ever.
The reason Speedplay created the walkable cleats was the fact that their cleats used to wear out fast. The suffered from the “if you looked at them wrong” and they would wear out factor.
With Speedplay, this was more of a problem than for Look. New Look cleats can be had for $10, but new Speedplay cleats were 4 times that amount.
The reason for Speedplay cleats being so expensive was that they’re one of the most adjustable cleats available. You can dial in the exact amount of float and feeling you want with them. It is also quite a fiddly process to set a pair of cleats up, and you didn’t want to be doing it often.
The walking cleat replaces the old aluminum outer ring with a steel one, and then on top of that, you get a dimpled plastic cover. The use of the walking cleat brings Speedplay back into the playing as one of the best clipless pedals available.
Shimano Ultegra R8000
The newest Shimano Ultegra R8000 pedals are so good looking they should be hanging in an art gallery. They feature a carbon composite body and a chromoly steel axle.
A pair of them weigh in at 240g, and that makes them just a smidge heavier than Dura Ace pedals but with much less damage done to your bank account.
The Ultegra pedals have a wide pedal platform and reassuringly powerful engagement. When you’ve clipped into the Ultegra pedals, you know it. The sound and the feel will create confidence for you. It feels particularly good when you’re pulling away at traffic lights.
If you have fitted Speedplay cleats, you’ll find fitting the Shimano style cleats to your shoes to be a breeze. You might even get worried that you haven’t done it correctly as they are so easy to set up. You do though not get the float adjustment that you can with Speedplay.
Shimano, like Look, will require you to buy new cleats to get varying amounts of float. You’ll also notice that both Shimano and Look only come with lateral float, compared to your foot feeling like it is on a set of flats when you ride Speedplays.
Garmin Vector 3
If you’re serious about training and racing, then you’ll need to know your power. The Garmin Vector 3 pedals not only attach you to your bike but they’ll give you reliable power data to make all of your training sessions that little bit more productive.
One of the best things about the new Vector 3 pedals is that they have gotten rid of the pods and become even easier to fit and setup. Thankfully you’ll not need to dig the torque wrench out for fitting them anymore.
The new setup makes them very simple to change between multiple bikes so that you can have them on your winter bike, race bike, and then your time trial bike.
They feel pretty much like Look pedals when you clip into them, and you’ll be facing a weight penalty of around 100g for pair. Which when you think about it is not much for getting some of your most important cycling metrics.
The Vector 3 pedals are now both Ant+ and Bluetooth enabled so you shouldn’t have any problems transferring the data to your computer or GPS unit. Garmin state that the pedals are +/- 1.0% accurate so you should be getting a great idea of where you are fitness and strength wise.
Time Xpro 10
The Time Xpro 10 is the entry-level pedal in the Xpro family. There though is nothing entry-level in its performance. The Xpro 10 takes the features from the top of the line Xpro 15 and brings you them via more wallet-friendly materials.
The carbon fiber construction is changed to a lower grade of carbon, and the titanium axle is changed to a hollow steel axle, this means that rather than being the 87g per pedal of the 15, the 10 are 94g. Which still makes them some of the lightest pedals on the test.
Time says that the new design for the Xpro makes them slightly more aerodynamic. They didn’t have any numbers available, and we’d guess that the watt saving might be marginal, but it can be an excellent topic of conversation when out on a chain gang.
The interesting things with the Xpro 10 is that you don’t get the same click as you get with the Ultegra pedals when you clip in but your less likely to look down to see if you’ve clipped in. The pedals seem to draw the cleats in and make getting clipped in easy.
The 2 best flat pedals for road bikes
If you buy a road bike everyone will tell you that you need clipless pedals to get a performance advantage, but what happens if you don’t ride as you don’t like being clipped into your pedal. You’ll have no performance advantage then.
If you don’t want to use clipless pedals many people will recommend toe straps. We don’t. They are more of hassle to get out of than clipless pedals. A good set of grippy flat pedals should be more than enough.
Crankbrothers Stamp 1
The Crankbrothers Stamp 1 is a big platform pedal. Your feet will never have any issues finding them. One of the factors that make them great for road biking is that they have removable pins.
You can take out pins to fine-tune the level of grip you have, much like the tension adjustment you get in some clipless pedals.
You’ll also find quality bearings and construction on the Stamp 1, which is backed up by Crankbrothers 5 year guarantee. They are also not a lot heavier than some of the clipless pedals and come in at 329g per pair.
The iSSi Thump pedals are made from a durable nylon composite, plastic to you and me, and a chromoly pedal spindle. The Thump takes its shape from the more expensive Stomp pedal so you can expect a large concave platform that will hold your foot in place.
Being made from nylon composite they are pretty light, coming in at 330g despite being 18.5mm thick. They also come in a variety of colors that mean you won’t have any issues matching the pedals to your bike or kit.
Best overall pedal for road bikes
As you can see, there are a few ways to look at road pedals which make sit hard to single out any one pedal as the best overall pedal for road cycling. So, rather than try we’ll give the best pedal for different groups of road cyclists.
- Beginner. The Shimano PD-M324 is the pedal to go for. It is a great mix between a flat pedal and a clipless pedal and breed confidence.
- Racing. The Garmin Vector 3 is the pedal to go for. It might be the most expensive pedal in the feature but it provides you with all the data you need for training properly and sensibly.
- Sportive/Gran Fondo. The Look Keo 2 Max is a great choice and the choice of a great majority of cyclists. Look pretty much rule the road clipless pedal market.
- Flat. Crankbrothers Stamp 1 is a pedal that just works and lasts. With tuneable grip, you can get the exact level of grip you need regardless of what type of trainers you’re wearing.
I’ve spent way more time in the bike trade than anyone should reasonably want to. In that time I’ve wanted to make cycling jargon and marketing easier to cut through to help people get the bike of their dreams.
When I’m not writing about bikes, I can be seen out bikepacking on single speed bikes or teaching kids how to ride.