However, if you are unsure which pedals to take on a cycle tour, we outline some of the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of pedals, with regards to cycling holidays.
Road Clipless Pedals (e.g. Look Keo)It is generally not a good idea to use clipless pedals designed for road bikes while cycle touring. The pedals (and as importantly the shoes to go with the pedals) are engineered to transmit as much power as possible into the pedal stroke. This is achieved by the shoe having a very solid sole, with no flexibility. Therefore, even if the cleats are recessed, it is not comfortable or easy to walk more than a few metres off the bike.
While this is fine while on a club ride, it is bad for cycle touring. On a cycling holiday you will want to get off the bike much more frequently to have a look around an interesting town or building, or simply perhaps to go into a pub for lunch. The hassle of having to change shoes every hour or so makes these pedals unsuitable.
The big advantages of these pedals are the greater efficiency (and resultant speed) that comes from their use; they also offer a greater degree of float, which can provide comfort and prevent injury on long rides when a lot of force is going through the pedals. Neither of these, however, are especially important factors when cycle touring.
Mountain Bike Clipless Pedals (SPD)The two main difference between SPD pedals and most clipless pedals designed for road bikes are that the cleats are recessed, and the soles of the shoes have more flexibility. For these reasons, SPD pedals are much more suitable for cycle touring. However, the shoes are still not especially comfortable to walk around in, and walking too much off the bike will wear out the cleats a lot more quickly.
SPD pedals are ideal for cyclists that like the control and some of the efficiency offered by clipless pedals, but wishing to retain the ability to walk around a bit off the bike. They are a good choice for a cycle tourist who likes to go long distances, cycling for many hours each day, but also likes to investigate interesting towns, or to do some short walking to a restaurant or hotel.
Toe ClipsToe clips are very popular amongst cycle tourists, many of whom do not feel the need to invest in clipless pedals, or who do not feel comfortable using them. They are a good choice for cyclists who tour up to 60km per day - and also for cyclists that are travelling loaded but looking to be as light as possible.
While they do not offer the same level of efficiency as clipless pedals; the ability to put some force into the upstroke makes toe clips more efficient than standard platform pedals; this enables long distances to be covered slightly more easily.
The big advantage of clipless pedals is that you do not have to wear a specific shoe with toe clips. Some trainers may be too wide to fit in the clips, but, otherwise, you can wear what you are most comfortable in. This means you can choose shoes that you are happy to walk for many kilometres in when off the bike. It also means, for weight conscious travellers, that you do not need to carry an extra pair of shoes with you just for cycling.
Platform PedalsThere is a small amount of snobbery directed by many cyclists towards other cyclists that use platform pedals. However, for many cycle tourists, platform pedals are the favoured option - and with good reason. They allow you to wear whichever shoes you want, they are fitted as standard with most bikes, and they are easy to use - with no risk of toppling over at traffic lights.
The main disadvantage is the lack of control they offer compared with clipless pedals in particular; there is a great risk (particularly in wet conditions) of the foot slipping off the pedals. They are also less efficient than clipless pedals, meaning more effort to cover the same distance - this is particularly noticeable on hills.
However, for the cycle tourist covering up to 40-50km per day, there is no particular need to go quickly or efficiently. Such cyclists will often be going at quite low speeds, so a foot falling off a pedal is usually not an especially dangerous situation. Indeed, for many cyclists, the ease and comfort of using platform pedals, outweighs any of the disadvantages.
On our cycling holidays we offer a variety of pedals fully fitted on the bikes we hire. Please contact us if you have any queries about pedals, or would like any further information.