Are binding pedals necessary for road bikes? No flat pedals?

Posted at: Jan 19, 2022

Binding pedals are widely used among road bike users. This section summarizes the differences between binding pedals/shoes and flat pedals, and why binding pedals are chosen.

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The Difference Between Binding and Flat

Let’s start by looking at the difference between binding pedals and flat pedals.

Item Binding Flat
Dedicated shoes Required Not required
Dedicated Pedals Required Not Required
Dedicated cleats Required Not required
Ease of selection
Ease of walking
Oneness with shoes -
Use the pull foot -
Fatigue resistance

The advantage of flat pedals is “ease” of walking and selection. On the other hand, the advantage of binding pedals is the sense of unity and efficient pedaling achieved by the pedals and shoes sticking together, while losing the ease of use.

In other words, it is fair to say that binding pedals and flat pedals have completely different purposes.

Can’t I ride like a binding with flat pedals?

As you will see when you use binding pedals, pedaling is different from flat pedals. Not only can you use a pulling foot because the pedals and shoes are integrated, but you can also stabilize your torso at a high cadence by making a smaller stepping motion.

Trying to do the same thing with flat pedals requires high pedaling skills. If a beginner tries to do a high cadence with flat pedals, it can be dangerous because of the hips bouncing up and down on the saddle.

Can’t I walk with bindings?

Although binding shoes are considered not easy, it does not mean that you cannot walk at all. In particular, shoes for Shimano’s SPD cleats can be walked in the same way as regular shoes.

In the case of Shimano’s SPD-SL cleats for road use, it is harder to walk, but not impossible to walk at all. It is also possible to improve this situation by adding cleat covers.

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If I’m on the road, do I have to use bindings?

You don’t have to use binding shoes.

Although the image of “road bike shoes = binding shoes,” it is perfectly acceptable to use flat pedals on a road bike.

Binding shoes are used on road bikes because of the following advantages

  1. easy to maintain a high cadence of 90 RPM or more
  2. lower load on the legs because the pulling leg can be used
  3. the ability to use leg strength well.

If you don’t see any advantage in this, you don’t need to choose binding shoes.

Why so many people use binding shoes?

The reason why many road bike users use binding shoes is most likely that as they ride their road bikes, they start to think “I want to go faster” or “I want to go farther,” and as a result, they arrive at binding shoes that allow them to ride faster and more efficiently.

Therefore, there is no problem at all to upgrade when you start to think “more” like other senior users without thinking “I have to use binding shoes from the beginning because it is a road bike”.

You don’t have to think, “Flat pedals on the road are lame.”

People often think, “Isn’t it uncool to have flat pedals on a road bike?” but you don’t have to worry about it at all. Bindings are expensive, and you can do it when you really want to.

It is up to the rider to decide how they want to enjoy road biking, so don’t be influenced by the trends around you and just think “if I want to use bindings, I will”.

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