clipless pedals: Spd vs SPD-SL

by | Jun 9, 2022 | Blog, Cycling | 0 comments

spd vs spd-SL

A term used to refer to the clips and pedals that have replaced the earlier system of toe clips and straps. In a clipless pedal system, the pedal has a mechanism that locks it to a cleat screwed into the underside of the shoe.

All road riders, wanting to ride in an organized group ride, must be comfortable riding with clipless pedals.

For this reason, our first lesson in the Intro to Riding group is learning this skill.

Click here to watch a video on which pedals would best compliment your riding style.

There are two main types of pedal and cleat combinations: Shimano SPD & Shimano SPD-SL. 

Casual riders, commuters, and mountain bike riders should chose Shimano SPD as the shoes are more comfortable and easier to walk in and the cleat works well in muddy conditions.

Road cyclists and long distance riders should chose Shimano SPD-SL as you will be able to generate more energy through the pedal.

If you have the money and plan on riding a lot, it is well worth it to upgrade to carbon soles. You may have your shoes for at least 10 years and the carbon soles will make your ride more comfortable.

The following is list of pros and cons for each type.

Shimano SPD

  • great for commuting, gravel riding, mountain biking, recreational riders
  • can clip into both sides
  • easier (to learn how) to clip in and out, especially since you can choose a pedal with a wider base
  • easy to walk in the cleat is either recessed or the shoes have 
  • less contact with the shoe which reduces performance as less power is transferred to the pedal
  • may be less comfortable for longer distances (3+hours)
  • both negatives are also highly dependant on your shoe choice as well
  • + 2 bolt cleats made of metal (heavy but durable and works well in muddy conditions)

Shimano SPD-SL

  • most common road bike cleat
  • has the most contact with the shoe which transfers more power to the pedal
  • SL stands for super light
  • difficult to walk in as the cleat is larger and makes first contact with the ground
  • single sided so it takes some people a bit longer to learn how to clip in
  • + 3 bolt cleats made of plastic (light but less durable and does not work well in mud)

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