Binding Shoes and Pedals Guide for Road Bike Beginners

Modified at: Jun 13, 2022

Posted at: Nov 18, 2020

A summary of the types of road bike binding shoes and pedals. Advantages and disadvantages of binding your road bike, and how to choose a binding type.

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Road Bike Binding and its Merits and Demerits

The term “binding” used in the road bike community is the same as the English word “binding,” and it is not a technical word for road bikes. Bindings are used not only for bicycles, but also for skis and snowboards.

The principle is the same for ski bindings as for road bike bindings

Bindings are used on bicycles (mainly road bikes and MTBs) to “secure the pedals to the shoes and to propel the pedals without leaking force.

Advantages of Binding

There are two advantages to using road bike bindings.

  1. The force of pedaling is transmitted to the pedals without leakage.
  2. Transmits the force of lifting the foot to the pedals
Road Bike Bindings and Power Transmission

When pedaling hard or increasing the cadence (RPM) on a road bike, there is inevitably a loss of power with flat pedals, such as a shift in foot position. By using bindings, the pedals and shoes are always in the proper position to transmit power.

In addition, when a road bike is fitted with bindings, the rider can use not only the force to pedal, but also the force to lift the pedals (the so-called “pulling leg”) to rotate the bike. This is a great improvement in efficiency because the power of “lifting (pulling) the foot” can be transmitted to the road bike, which has been a complete loss in the past.

Disadvantages of Binding Conversion

On the other hand, the biggest disadvantages of binding conversion are as follows

  1. Cost of replacement
  2. Difficulty in walking
  3. increased risk of standing on the ground

In terms of cost, binding pedals cost about $50 and binding shoes about $100, so it is not a cheap purchase. In addition, shoes, especially the cleats at the connection point, are consumable items and need to be replaced.

Another disadvantage of binding shoes is that they are hard to walk in because of the metal fittings called cleats on the soles. In particular, “SPD-SL” type binding shoes have exposed cleat fittings, so there is a risk of damaging the floor in stores. This point is eliminated with the “SPD type.

Because the binding strongly attaches your foot to the pedals, there is also an increased risk of standing on the ground due to failure to release the connection to the pedals. If you forget to release them when you stop unexpectedly, you will not be able to put your feet on the ground and will fall.

What you need to convert your road bike to bindings

To convert your road bike to binding, you will need the following three items

  1. binding pedals
  2. binding shoes
  3. binding cleats

If any of these items are missing, you will not be able to convert your bike to bindings, and the shoes, pedals, and cleats must be the same standard.

Binding Pedals

If you purchased a road bike as a complete bike, it either comes with flat pedals at the time of purchase or it does not come with pedals in the first place. Therefore, you must first replace the pedals on your road bike with binding-compatible pedals.

Binding-compatible pedals vary in price depending on the manufacturer and grade, but the most expensive ones sell for $100 or more, while the cheapest ones sell for about $40.

Among bicycle parts, pedals are the parts that directly receive the power of pedaling, so it is recommended to choose binding pedals made by a reliable manufacturer such as Shimano.

Binding Shoes

Once you have prepared binding pedals for your road bike, you will need binding-specific shoes.

Binding shoes are sold by Shimano, bicycle manufacturer Specialized, and parts manufacturer Fizik. Prices range from about $1,000 for entry-level models to more than $3,000 for higher-end models.

The price of binding shoes is mainly determined by the following three factors

  1. function (e.g., tightness)
  2. sole material (plastic, carbon)
  3. lightness (usually around 250-300g, lighter ones around 150g)

Shoes also vary depending on the corresponding cleats. For example, even with the same Shimano binding, SPD and SPD-SL have different shapes of metal fittings, so they require special shoes for each.

Binding Cleats

Cleats are the metal fittings that connect the pedals to the shoes. The binding standard is determined by the shape of the cleat.

The main binding standard for road bikes is the Shimano standard called “SPD (SHIMANO PEDALING DYNAMICS).” There are two types of SPD, “SPD” and “SPD-SL,” and the shape of the cleat is completely different for each.

SPD (left) and SPD-SL (right) with different cleat shapes

Some shoes are compatible with both SPD and SPD-SL, but pedals are not interchangeable.

In the case of Shimano, binding pedals come with cleats, so you can either use those or purchase separately those sold separately.

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What is the difference between SPD and SPD-SL?

Materials SPD-SL SPD
create shape triangular widthwise
create size large small
Power transferability
Ease of walking
Ideal for road racing, long rides cycling, everyday use

SPD-SL for speed-oriented

Shimano’s SPD-SL is used on road bikes that emphasize speed. This is also the type used by professional riders.

SPD-SL | Shimano

SPD-SL is marked by its triangular cleats (connecting parts), which are fastened at three points to hold them firmly in place and reduce power loss. On the other hand, there is a disadvantage that the cleats protrude from the sole, making it difficult to walk.

SPDs emphasize ease of mounting and dismounting

Shimano’s SPD is mainly used for mountain biking (MTB), etc. Since MTB races involve walking or carrying the rider depending on the course, the SPD emphasizes ease of attachment and removal and resistance to mud and other debris.

SPDs have smaller cleats and are less secure to the pedals than SPD-SLs, resulting in a slight loss of power, but since many types of cleats fit inside the sole of the shoe, the advantage is that they can be used for everyday shoes and for cycling.

SPD | Shimano

Some SPD pedals are “flat on one side and binding on the other,” making them ideal for everyday bicycling and binding beginners.

Other than SPD series

The SPD series is Shimano’s binding standard, but in addition to Shimano, the following manufacturers also sell them.

  • TIME
  • LOOK

Each requires special shoes, pedals, and cleats.

Bindings are not scary if you overcome the risk of standing up and falling off

Beginning road bike riders are often concerned about what will happen if they can’t take them on and off when the time comes.

It is true that it is scary at first, but if you do the following, you can avoid standing up on the bike with a high probability. 1.

  1. adjust the sticking force (loosen the pedal’s sticking adjustment screw)
  2. early release (from about 100m before stopping)
  3. practice detaching the pedals (practice by fixing them to the stand)

In addition, you may not be sure that you can connect the pedals properly at first, but basically, you can pedal without connecting the binding pedals. If they do not connect properly, you can pedal as you would with flat pedals without worrying about it.

How to choose binding shoes and pedals for beginners

“Shoes that fit my feet” FIRST

The most important thing for beginners who have no experience with bindings is to find shoes that fit their feet.

Shoes are available from various manufacturers in a variety of designs and colors, so it is best to choose the ones you like according to your budget. However, binding shoes are made very tightly, so shoes that do not fit well will cause your feet to hurt very quickly.

  • Tight => they hurt.
  • Too big => force is not transmitted properly

This is the image.

So, make sure to have a good fitting at the store and choose binding shoes that fit your feet as well as the color and design. During the shoe fitting, while consulting with the store staff, check the following

  1. are your toes comfortable?
  2. is the width of your foot correct?
  3. whether the instep fits well when tightened

If the shoes are too tight, they may be too tight depending on the thickness of your socks, etc. For beginners, we recommend “a little roomier than a perfect fit”.

Decide which pedals to choose for your purpose.

The key to deciding whether to use Shimano SPD or SPD-SL, or binding pedals from another manufacturer, is to decide based on “the length of time you spend with your feet on the ground.

For example, if you enjoy eating and sightseeing while cycling, SPDs are more comfortable because you will spend more time both on the road bike and sightseeing. Similarly, if you use your road bike for commuting to work or school, which involves a lot of stop-and-go traffic, you will be “stopped at traffic lights = feet on the ground,” so SPDs, which are easy to detach, are safer.

On the other hand, if you enjoy road biking for daily training or bicycle diet, we recommend SPD-SL for its power efficiency. If there is less power loss, you can exercise that much more efficiently, which can make your training and dieting more efficient.

In addition, since the feeling of putting on and taking off binding pedals differs depending on the make and model, if you can try them on, you should also try TIME binding pedals, which are very light to put on and take off, or LOOK binding pedals, which offer a good balance between light weight and ease of putting on and taking off.

There is no such thing as “you have to have this binding for this application,” so it is important to choose a binding that suits your own preferences.

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