best road bike pedals

Best Road Bike Pedals – [2017 / 2018]

Clipless pedals will make a huge difference in your road bike experience. Not just quality, but also fit and function determine which are the best road bike pedals for you. Your pedals will have a big influence on performance, comfort and fatigue.

With the above in mind, have a look at our recommendations of the best road bike pedals available. Remember that if you are new to clipless pedals versus good old clip pedals, you will also need to invest in a pair of compatible shoes. We look at the latest road biking shoes at Best Road Bike Shoes.

And see our other road bike accessories review articles: Road Bike Wheels, Tires, Handlebars, Cycling Shorts and Jerseys.  

Quick Answer: The Best Road Bike Pedals

  1. Shimano PD-M520
  2. Look Keo 2 Max Blade 12
  3. Shimano Ultegra SPD-SL R8000
  4. Time Xpresso 15
  5. Speedplay Zero

The Best Road Bike Pedals

 Shimano PD-M520Look Keo 2 Max Blade 12Shimano Ultegra SPD-SL R8000
editors choice


Construction



Aluminum body ; chrome-moly spindleComposite polyamide (graphite) body ; stainless steel wear plateInjection-molded carbon composite body
Weight380 grams (pair)260 grams (pair)248 grams (pair)
Special FeaturesAdjustable clip release tensionOversized axles w/ dual seals makes this pedal extra durableSegmented top plate and a -0.7mm lower stack height
Customer Ratings4.7 / 5.0 Stars4.5 / 5.0 Stars5.0 / 5.0 Stars

 The Best Road Bike Pedals Reviews

#1 Shimano PD-M520

Although technically listed by Shimano as a mountain biking pedal, these are a great choice for road biking too, especially if you are new to clipless pedals. Very simple, durable design – bulletproof.

Despite the low price, the PD-M520 Shimano road pedals are constructed well and are very durable. The body is made from alloy while the mechanism and axle are steel. When the bearings wear out, you can replace them easily with the help of a cheap locking tool. The tension can be adjusted to suit your preference.

best road bike pedals

They may not be the lightest pedals available but if you are not a racer or want to use the same pedals on other bikes (CX, gravel, mountain bike) then you can get several pairs of these for less than a single pair of high end pedals.

Having the same engagement system on all of your bikes is a big plus so you never end up flapping your foot around having forgotten which pedal you are trying to clip into.

The Shimano PD-M520 is a straightforward, super-durable design and for this reason we generally recommend it as the best clipless pedals for beginners.

#2 Look Keo 2 Max Blade 12

These Look Keo pedals are a mix of two previous Look pedal designs. Instead of a carbon spring blade used in other more expensive models, the Max Blade 12 has a glass-fiber composite blade. There is no way to adjust the tension once the blade is installed but you can choose between two blades with either 8Nm or 12Nm torque.

The included cleats have 4.5 degrees of float and you can purchase zero degree or 9 degree cleats if you want.

The wide platform surrounds a chromoly axle. A wider platform means power is transferred over a bigger area and the load spread over your foot. This is certainly the case with with Max Blade 12 and your foot feels incredibly secure when clipped in. You can sprint in confidence with these cycle pedals, but the release tension does feel quite tough.

The platform itself is covered with a stainless steel plate to maximise the life of the pedals. Once this has been worn away you will need to buy new pedals, but it will take you a long time and a huge number of rides for that to happen.

The bearings are not serviceable so it is feasible that the bearings will be worn out before you need to replace the plate anyway. Out of the box these pedals sit with the rear pointing down, which helps greatly when clipping in.

The Max Blade 12 pedals are a great entry into the world of clipless road pedals.

#3 Shimano Ultegra SPD-SL R8000

The SPD-SL Shimano road pedals are time tested and very reliable pedals. This model has always been favored as a pedal that needs little maintenance and the R8000 version makes some improvements over the old design.

The wide platform provides a solid connection with the three bolt cleats. As standard the pedals come with cleats that can be adjusted +/- 3 degrees. Other cleats are available that have zero float or 1 degree.

best road bike pedals

Shimano have kept the stack height as low as possible to keep you low on the bike and confident through corners. Overall the pedals are slim so you do not have to worry about clearance and the solid construction means they hold up to being smacked into the road on the occasions when you shouldn’t have been pedalling through a corner but did anyway.

Should you use these pedals a huge amount, the steel contact plate can be replaced but you will need to use them for many, many, many rides before this happens. The R8000 version has a carbon body and a stainless steel spindle and has a slightly longer axle to prevent heel rub. The stack height has also been reduced slightly in comparison to older models.

The one drawback is that there is a relatively long break in time. You will need to use them for a quite a few rides before the rear drops down by itself to allow easy entry.

For intermediate road riding and racing, the SPD-Sl R8000 pedals are perfect. If you want a pedal with the exact same feel but is lighter and a bit more expensive, have a look at the Dura-Ace pedals.

#4 Time Xpresso 15

If it is lightweight and fast pedals for racing you want, take a look at the Time Xpresso 15. They weigh just 140g (the pair) thanks to the carbon body and hollow titanium axle. They are even help you ride faster thanks to the ceramic bearings, although you are unlikely to actually notice this and the gain is definitely marginal.

The design of the mechanism allows you to clip in very easily as it remains partially open until the cleat arrives. Once you push the cleat into it, the mechanism closes and holds on solidly by means of a carbon strip (as opposed to a metal spring found in other pedals). The strength of the mechanism means that it is impossible to accidentally pull your foot out but when you do want to release, just a small twist to the side will open the mechanism.

The resistance of the strip can be adjusted using a screwdriver and the pedals have a fixed 5 degrees of float. A nice feature of the Xpresso 15 pedals is that you can customise the Q Factor (distance between your feet, or the distance between the crank and cleat) by swapping the cleats around. The cleats themselves do tend to wear out quite fast so try to avoid walking around too much in them.

best road bike pedals

TIME I-Clic Cleat

Ceramic bearings are apparently much more durable than others and the Xpresso 15 bearings are technically serviceable but if you attempt this yourself, you will void the two year warranty.

Lightweight, durable and easy to click into, the Xpresso 15 pedals are a pricy but good value pedal for serious riding or racing.

#5 Speedplay Zero

Speedplay turned the clipless idea literally upside down by integrating the mechanism into the part that screws into the shoe. As a result the pedal is dual-sided like SPD pedals.

You do have to be careful where you tread when off the bike though, as the mechanism can easily get clogged up with mud or dirt. If this happens, you will have to remove it before being able to clip in. For usual racing conditions it is unlikely that you will have a problem.

Speedplay have managed to keep the stack height lower than most other pedals. 3mm is added if you have a three bolt shoe and need to use the adapter (Speedplay Zero pedals use four bolts) but even with this adapter the stack height remains low.

The whole pedal has a low profile for maximum cornering clearance. The float is adjustable between zero and a huge 15 degrees. For this reason, the Zeros are popular among cyclists with knee problems, as the massive float available can relieve a lot of pressure.

While such a big amount of float might help your knees, it does feel a bit disconnected when sprinting as your foot can flop around a bit. Adjusting the float is achieved by tightening or loosening two screws found on the cleat.

Each screw controls the float on the “heel in” or “heel out” side. The crosshead screws are tiny and are not particularly easy to turn. On top of that they are prone to picking up lots of road grime and will seize up if you do not keep them clean and greased.

Engagement and release is on the stronger side compared to other pedals, especially during the first few rides as they break in. Once you are in, you are staying there until you deliberately want to unclip, which is great for racing.

In terms of maintenance, you will need to regrease the bearings occasionally as grease gets forced out of them during use. Speedplay Zero is a sophisticated, verstatile system, and as such may not be the best road bike pedals for beginners.

There are a few different models of the Zero pedal available, which come at different weight and price points due to the materials used.

The chromoly version is the cheapest and heaviest, followed by the stainless steel version.

If you like spending lots of money to get the lightest version of an already light pedal, then there is a titanium version for you.

How to Choose the Best Road Bike Pedals For You

It is important that you understand the technical characteristics of clipless road bike pedals types before making your purchase decision. Pedals and the connection between your road bike pedals and shoes play a crucial role in how much power gets transferred from your muscles through the drivetrain to the wheels.

A pair of flat pedals such as found on “normal” bicycles is not an efficient pedalling platform because your foot is not held in place. When cycling developed from a form of transport to a sport, it was soon realized that a pedal holding the shoe creates a more powerful pedal stroke.

guide best road bike pedals

Road bike pedals used to have “bike clips” for the toe end of shoes, and straps to hold everything where it is. Once strapped in, you were stuck in there until you released the straps. This meant no stopping or high-risk track stands.

Eventually, clipless pedals were invented. The toe clips and straps were abandoned in favor of a cleat attached to the sole of the shoe that locks into a mechanism on the pedal. Twisting the foot sideways releases the hold, allowing you to put your foot down.

best road bike pedals

The name clipless can be somewhat confusing as you do still clip in, just not with the same clips as before. The inventors of the new system wanted to distance themselves from the old system and hence the name.

Two or Three Bolts

There are three types of clipless pedals systems. The original is the three bolt design. A cleat bolts onto the flat sole of the shoe. The cleat sticks out from the bottom of the shoe, making it hard to walk (stiff-soled cycling shoes are also hard to walk in without the cleat) but the wide connection area to the shoe produces efficient pedaling.

Even with the best road bike pedals on the market, clipping in requires a great deal of precision and practice for the first time user.

After a while, the two bolt design was introduced, with a much smaller cleat that bolts into the a recess in the sole and the pedal can be entered from either side. As the cleat remains in the recess, these shoes are easier to walk around in and the system is easier to clip into.

The shoes for two bolt clipless pedals are heavier than three bolt because shoe material needs to surround the recess.  There is also a four bolt system used by Speedplay Inc.

best road bike pedals


Float

The first clipless pedals caused some riders a lot of knee pain because their feet were held rigidly in place. Designers worked their magic on subsequent models to allow the foot to move a little during the pedal stroke, which relieved knee pressure. This movement is called float and is found on modern clipless pedals.

Most models have adjustable float to get the pedals set up as comfortably as possible. The more float a pedal has, the more you have to twist your foot to release. Some pedals still have “zero-float” and will release your foot with the smallest of twists.

Release Tension

On top of the angle needed to release the cleat, you can usually adjust the tension that holds the cleat. Less tension means you need less force to release and it is easier to clip in. This is a great way to start for clipless beginners to avoid traffic light accidents. As you get more confident, you can increase the tension and enjoy a more secure connection with less chance of accidental release.

Stack Height

The closer your foot is to the pedal axle, the more efficient your pedal stroke will be. Obviously, adding a cleat to the bottom of your shoe will move your foot further away from the axle so look for as small a stack height as possible.

Thanks for reading. We sincerely hope that this review of the Best Road Bike Pedals was useful in helping you determine the right pedals for you.

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About El Tigre

Richard M. aka El Tigre is an avid adventure traveler with extensive trekking experience throughout Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. In 1998 he weathered category 5 Hurricane Mitch on the northern coast of Honduras. He has mountain-biked, hiked and 4x4 toured extensively in Central America, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Mexico. In the summer of 2004 he lived among the Kuna Indians of the San Blas islands in Panama. Today, he manages a real estate investments company based in San Jose, Costa Rica and organizes adventure travel excursions to Costa Rica. He is a motorcycle enthusiast and enjoys sport touring and dual-sport riding. Richard lives in Arizona.

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