Guide to Choosing Binding Pedals for Road Bikes

Posted at: May 16, 2022

Binding pedals allow you to ride faster and more efficiently on your road bike. In this article, we will thoroughly explain what to look for when choosing binding pedals.

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Weight of pedals + cleats

Since riding a road bike is all about efficiency, the lighter the bike, the less effort is required. In this sense, pedal weight is also an important factor in pedal selection.

When considering the weight of binding pedals, it is necessary to compare not only the weight of the pedals themselves but also the weight of the cleats.


Pedals, the point of contact with the rider, are a part that changes power transmission and pedaling feel depending on the material.

The following materials are the main materials used for binding pedals.

  1. aluminum
  2. steel
  3. chromoly
  4. carbon
  5. composite
  6. titanium

Each material is used for the pedal body and shaft.

Pedal Body Material

Inexpensive binding pedals will use aluminum or steel for the pedal body, but they are heavy. Pedals with metal pedal bodies are mainly models that weigh over 300g or nearly 400g.

On the other hand, lightweight binding pedals, which weigh in the low 200g range, use composite or carbon for the pedal body. Carbon pedals are lighter and have a stiffer tread for better power transmission.

The latest trend in higher grade binding pedals is to use carbon as the base material for the pedal body and to attach a stainless steel plate to the tread surface.

Pedal Shaft Material

In terms of material, the shaft material is also important in terms of weight.

The shaft of a pedal is where the power input of the rider’s pedaling is received all at once, so steel shafts are often used because they need to be strong.

Therefore, expensive binding pedals use titanium for the shaft to reduce weight. Titanium is hard yet lightweight, but its disadvantage is that it is an expensive metal, so the pedals themselves are also expensive.


Pedals are parts that constantly rotate at high speeds, so the less resistance they create, the lighter pedaling becomes and the more efficiently power is converted into propulsive force.

Bearings are the rotating parts that reduce resistance. There are many types of bearings, from ball bearings to sealed bearings, and the quality of the bearing will completely change the rotation of the pedals.

The more expensive binding pedals tend to use high-quality sealed bearings.

Stack Height

On a road bike, it is the cranks that convert the power of the feet into propulsive force, and the pedals are the point of contact with the cranks.

Between the pedals (the pedal shaft, the point of contact with the cranks) and the rider’s feet are the following multiple layers, the thicker they are, the more power transfer loss is said to occur.

  1. socks
  2. shoes
  3. pedal body

This is where the stack height of the pedals becomes important. Stack height is the distance from the center of the pedal shaft to the bottom of the shoe.

SPEEDPLAY is synonymous with “stack height” binding pedals, which integrate the pedals and shoes at an almost zero distance.

Range of play

Binding pedals are fixed to the pedals and shoes, but this does not mean that they cannot move at all. This is called “play width.

The “play width” of a binding pedal directly affects the load on your legs, mainly your knees, when pedaling. If you can pedal accurately like a pro, there is no problem even with zero play width (completely fixed), but if your pedaling technique is not as good as a pro, you usually have a habit of shaking your knees from side to side.

However, if your pedaling technique is not very good, you will usually have a habit of shaking your knees from side to side, and if you have no play width, you will be pedaling in a way that is unreasonable for your body, which can easily damage your knees.

TIME’s binding pedals are light on the knees and have a wide range of play. They are designed with the philosophy of “the pedal adapts to the rider, not the rider to the pedal,” so they are gentle on the feet.

Cleats (ease of walking)

Apart from indoor roller-bed practice, etc., when riding outside on a road bike, you may walk with the binding pedals removed at some point. At that time, you may notice that it is difficult to walk in binding shoes.

However, the difficulty of walking in binding shoes is actually the difficulty of walking on the cleats that are exposed on the bottom of the shoes. In addition, some types of cleats wear out as you walk, and worn cleats naturally need to be replaced.

Given this, the running cost of cleats is also a surprisingly important point.

Fixation Methods

The following two types of mechanisms are commonly used to secure cleats attached to shoes on binding pedals.

  1. spring type
  2. plate type

The two most common types are as follows.

The advantage of the spring type is that it is easy to adjust the fixing strength and there is almost no risk of failure, but it is structurally heavier. The plate type solves this problem. The plate type is lighter because it is a plate, but it is also more prone to problems such as plate breakage. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Shimano’s binding pedals are basically spring-loaded, while LOOK’s higher-end models are plate-loaded and TIME’s are all plate-loaded.

Ease of removal/attachment (step in/step out)

Unless you are a road athlete who runs for several hours at a time, you will be surprised at the opportunities to step in and out of pedals while riding. If you ride in urban areas, you will have to take them on and off at every traffic light, and there will be times when you will want to put your feet up, such as when hill climbing.

In such situations, you will realize the importance of ease of putting on and taking off the pedals. While ease of removal (step-out) is important to prevent standing on the ground, ease of putting on (step-in) is even more important.

If you choose binding pedals with a light step-in, you can step in just by placing your foot on the pedal after starting off, so the stress of using binding pedals is reduced to almost zero.

Binding pedals with light step-in are TIME and LOOK pedals. These are said to be the “safe binding pedals for beginners” because of their ease of step-in.

Pedaling Comfort

As you get used to using binding pedals, you may become concerned about pedaling comfort. If the pedals are comfortable, you will feel that power is being transmitted to the pedals, and if the pedals are uncomfortable, you will feel some discomfort in pedaling.

Pedal comfort is determined by several factors, including the material and structure of the pedal body, the stack height, and the material of the shoe sole (carbon, plastic, etc.), so it cannot be said to be a pedal-only issue. However, the material of the pedal body and the stack height have a significant impact on pedal comfort.

Once you have become accustomed to using binding pedals to a certain extent, you will be able to achieve a more comfortable ride if you also pursue the comfort of the pedals.

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