Boost Efficiency and Feel Stronger on the Bike
When it comes to feeling stronger and more powerful on the bike, a great place to start is by increasing your pedaling efficiency and focusing on the point where your foot meets the pedal. This is the location where all your hard pedaling efforts are translated into the bike’s forward motion. It’s also a place where energy is often wasted due to excess foot movement, inexperienced pedaling technique, or flexible shoes.
One way to help increase your power transfer or efficiency on the bike is by using cycling-specific shoes with cleats attached to the bottom. These cleats connect with the bike’s pedals and hold your foot in place for a solid, stable connection through the entire pedal stroke. Rather than simply pushing down on the pedals – like you do with flat pedals and tennis shoes – when you use cycling shoes and “clip into” your pedals, you can push down and pull up during the full pedal rotation. For more information about what “clipping in” means, check out this article.
How does clipping in help?
Road bikes, mountain bikes, and indoor cycling bikes can have different cleat and pedal systems that offer different features and benefits for that style of riding. Whichever system you use, however, it can help you feel more stable on the bike, increase muscle engagement, and help create a smoother pedal stroke.
Additionally, cycling shoes typically feature a stiffer sole and more robust upper construction than tennis shoes, which can flex and bend on the pedals. The stiffness of cycling shoes allows for better power transfer by reducing foot movement and increasing the efficiency of your full pedal stroke.
For over a century, Shimano has introduced revolutionary new technology to the cycling world, helping riders increase performance and have fun on the bike. Clip-in style pedals have long been a hallmark of Shimano technology, and Shimano offers two styles of pedals – SPD and SPD-SL - that differ slightly in function and features.
SPD (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) pedals were first introduced in 1990 and originally designed for off-road riding. While the engineering behind these pedals has not changed much over the years, the function and usage of the pedals has grown into other styles of riding including indoor cycling.
The SPD pedal works seamlessly with an SPD cleat, which uses two bolts to attach to a cycling shoe. Most cycling shoes offer either two-bolt or three-bolt cleat attachment points, so be sure to check your shoes for the specific bolt pattern as you decide which pedals are right for you.
SPD cleats and pedals are for riders who want an efficient connection with the bike along with the ability to quickly clip in or clip out when needed. The SPD system also makes walking when off the bike more stable thanks to a smaller cleat profile and a recess in the shoe sole where the cleat attaches. This allows the rubber sole of the shoe to hit the ground before the cleat, which makes walking to the locker room or doing off-bike exercises more stable.
Shimano’s other cleat and pedal design is the SPD-SL (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics – Super Light) system that was introduced in 2003. Intended for on-road cycling, the lightweight and stiff design is another great choice for indoor cycling.
The SPD-SL (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics – Super Light) cleat and pedal system uses a three-bolt mounting system and offers higher pedaling efficiency than the two-bolt SPD. However, the SPD-SL cleat does not offer the same walkability as its counterpart, so extra care is necessary for off-the-bike activities.
Once you decide what pedals system is right for you and your indoor bike (or what pedals are used at your local indoor cycling studio), it’s time to clip in and feel the difference. Remember that anything new can feel a little funky at first, but once you feel the added efficiency and comfort of cycling shoes, cleats, and pedals, you’ll never go back!