Clipless pedals are a groundbreaking innovation that has taken the cycling world by storm. Ever since the French company Look made the first mass-produced version in 1984, cyclists all around the world have been using sleek and efficient clipless pedals over the bulky platform alternatives in ever greater numbers.
It’s not hard to see why many cyclists prefer clipless pedals. They have a number of key advantages over regular platform pedals:
- The clip in locking mechanism keeps your foot in place, making it easier to pedal at a consistent pace.
- The enhanced foot-to-pedal connection increases pedaling efficiency, allowing you to go faster with less effort.
- Clipless pedals make cycling safer by letting you instantly release your foot from the pedal in the event of a sudden stop or fall.
- You feel like a cycling pro every time you use them.
While professional-level clipless pedals can easily cost several hundred dollars, you don’t need to shell out that kind of cash to get a decent pair.
Just looking for some quick suggestions? Here’s a few we like;
- Shimano Unisex M530 Clipless Mountain Pedals (available on Amazon)
- Crankbrothers Candy 1 Clip-In MTB Bike Pedals (available on Amazon)
- Shimano Unisex PD-R540 SPD-SL Clipless Pedals (available on Amazon)
There are plenty of great clipless pedals for beginners in the $40-$60 range ‒ and we’re going to review the best options for beginners in this affordable price range.
Shimano Unisex M530 Clipless Mountain Pedals
While Shimano has many clipless bike pedal models available, the best overall choice from their line for beginners is the Shimano Unisex M530 (available on Amazon). While these pedals are designed with mountain biking in mind, they can easily be used on the road as well.
Ease of use
One of the main benefits of the M530 is that it uses the Shimano Pedaling Dynamics (SPD) clip system. Originally developed in the 1990s for mountain biking, the SPD clip style has since grown popular with commuters and recreational riders. Many riders find SPD pedals to be the easiest to clip in to, as they have a recessed cleat that guides the clip into the binding mechanism of the pedal.
The SPD design on the M530 also incorporates a helpful double-sided clip-in option, which makes it easy to clip in without fussing around to get the pedal facing in the right direction. This feature is especially useful for road biking, as you’ll be frequently clipping in and out as you stop for traffic, pedestrians, and stop signs.
M530s are compatible with SP-51 and SP-56 cleats ‒ both of which are pretty standard sizes. And this pair of pedals includes a pair of SPD compatible cleats, so you won’t have to pay extra to buy cleats separately.
Most clipless pedals are one-size-fits-all, and this applies to the M530s too. Men, women, and children with all different foot sizes can use these pedals efficiently. You’ll just need to make sure you get compatible cycling shoes in your size.
These pedals are made out of a durable steel alloy, ensuring they will last for at least 5 years of regular cycling. You’ll need to take some basic preventative measures to prevent rust ‒ but that’s true of your entire bike, not just the pedals.
The open binding design also helps in the durability department. When you step into these with your cleated cycling shoes, any mud or debris sitting in the binding slot is automatically flushed out. This not only makes for a cleaner and safer ride, but also decreases the amount of wear and rust the bindings are subjected to.
The main issue with these pedals is the weight. They’re surprisingly heavy for their small size, which can throw you off if you’re used to lighter pedals. You grow accustomed to the additional heaviness pretty quickly though ‒ it probably won’t be noticeable at all after a few weeks of use.
Depending on the type of bike you have, you might also experience an annoying clicking or squeaking sound when you’re riding. If a repetitive noise like that is going to bother you when you’re riding, you might want to keep looking for a pair of pedals that don’t have a noise problem.
Finally, you might also have a bit of trouble clipping your shoe in and out. While most users had zero problems with the clipping mechanism, a few did report that their feet felt loose when riding with these pedals.
On top of the basic information provided above, users of the Shimano M530s have provided some other helpful info that you might find useful.
- The offer on Amazon comes with both pedals. You don’t need to purchase a quantity of 2 to get both pedals.
- These pedals come with an SH-51 cleat set, so you won’t need to purchase that separately.
- You can place these on an indoor cycling bike as long as it accepts 9/16″ pedals.
- You can use these on a road bike, although you’ll need to use a mountain bike shoe and clip.
- The M530s are compatible with all SPD-style cycling shoes.
- You can technically use these with regular non-cycling shoes, but you’ll have a harder time keeping your feet on the pedals. It can also be dangerous to ride clipless pedals with normal shoes, as the chance of slipping off on bumpy downhills or in rain is much higher.
- THe M530 cleats come with 4 degrees of float, which will help you avoid knee damage from incorrect foot placement.
- The 2-bolt cleats can be mounted to a 3-bolt shoe if you use an adapter.
Crankbrothers Candy 1 Clip-In MTB Bike Pedals
The Crankbrothers Candy 1 Clip-In Pedals (available on Amazon) are a versatile pair of clipless pedals made for use on a wide array of terrain. Designed for cyclocross, cross-country, gravel, and trail terrain, the Candy 1 is an excellent option for cyclists who ride on a variety of surfaces.
Ease of use
One of the most important factors to consider when buying clipless pedals is how easy it is to clip in and out ‒ and the Candy 1 pedals are superb in this regard. As long as you’ve properly installed your cleats, attaching to and detaching from the Candy 1 pedals is extremely easy.
Just as importantly, you’ll have no issues staying clipped in once you’ve attached your cleats to your bike. Unless you perform the outward heel twist that decouples your cleat from the pedal, your shoes will stay locked in for as long as you want.
The Candy 1 pedals are another one-size-fits-all pedal. As long as you wear properly-sized cycling shoes and install your cleat set properly, you should have zero issue using the Candy 1 pedals no matter how big your feet are.
This model has a slightly larger platform than the other options in the Candy line of pedals. Beginners will find this useful, as it will be easier to jump on the bike, clip in, and start pedaling.
Another nice thing about the Candy 1 pedals is how lightweight they are compared to other pedals in this affordable price range. Most of this is due to Crank Brothers’ use of a plastic composite instead of straight steel.
The Candy 1 is made out of a combination of steel and plastic. While the use of plastic in this pedal makes it sound less durable than some of the full-steel alternatives, there actually isn’t much difference in overall longevity. Because the plastic components are immune to rust, the Candy 1 can actually provide a durability advantage over the competition.
These pedals also handle dirt and mud even better than the Shimano M530s ‒ which is really saying something, as the M530s are pretty good at that. This is enabled by a wide-open binding design that lets dirt and mud fall right through.
The biggest durability issue with the Candy 1 comes in the form of the brass cleat set that ships with it. Brass isn’t a long-lasting metal ‒ it’s overly malleable, and enough falls and dings can eventually bend the cleats out of shape. You can easily solve this problem by purchasing a higher quality cleat set, but that will increase the overall cost of your pedal purchase.
One major advantage the Candy 1 has over its competitors is an industry leading 3-year warranty. If any manufacturing issues cause your Candy pedals to malfunction or break, you can send them in for repair or replacement. You just need to make sure to take care of them properly ‒ the warranty covers manufacturing issues, but they won’t give you a new set of pedals if you break them in a series of hard falls.
The beginner-level pedals in the $40-$60 price range are affordable for a reason, and the Candy 1 pedals are near the low end of that price range.
One of the issues some Candy 1 pedal users run into is a clicking sound that develops after a few months of consistent use. However, it’s not very loud, and it typically blends in with the other noises your bike makes. Just know that this sound doesn’t mean the pedal is malfunctioning or needs to be replaced ‒ unwanted noises are unfortunately par for the course with $40 pedals.
You also won’t be able to finetune the tension on these clipless pedals. The simplicity and lack of customizability is part of what makes them a beginner pair, but cyclists who like to get their tension levels just right will be disappointed with these. If you need a set of clipless pedals with tunable tension, I recommend checking out the next pair in this article.
- Although prices change, these are typically the least expensive pair of decent clipless pedals on the market.
- The float on the cleats has a 5 degree range of customizability: from 15 degrees to 20 degrees.
- Crank Brothers don’t manufacture cleats for 3-hole shoes. You’ll have to use 2-hole shoes with this pair of pedals (unless you use an adapter).
- You don’t need a pedal wrench to install these ‒ just an allen key from the back side of the crank.
- The Candy 1 has 11 different design choices to choose from. So if you’re big on styling your bike, this model gives you plenty of options.
Shimano Unisex PD-R540 SPD-SL Clipless Pedals
Although we’ve already mentioned a pair of Shimano clipless pedals, those were made for mountain biking. The Shimano PD-R540 clipless pedals (available on Amazon) were made specifically for road biking. While you can certainly use the M530s to ride roads, there are some benefits to using a pair made specifically for a city environment.
Ease of use
If you’re a city or road rider, having the ability to get out of your clip lock is even more important than in mountain biking scenarios. Pedestrians, cars, animals, and other obstacles can seemingly appear out of thin air, and you need to be able to react in a split second to avoid a dangerous collision.
However, it’s just as important that your clip remains locked in when you’re riding along. An unexpected clip slip can surprise you and cause you to lose control of your bike ‒ which is incredibly dangerous when you’re sharing the road with multi-ton cars traveling at high speeds.
The ideal clipless road pedal needs to incorporate easy declipping and firm locking ‒ and the PD-R540 more than delivers. The tension range on these pedals is nothing short of perfect. You can pedal as fast and aggressively as you want without a single slip, yet a simple and deliberate outward heel movement will decouple you from the bike at a moment’s notice.
The cleats that come with these pedals also provide an ample range of float adjustment. You can also finetune the tension on these pedals, making them a more attractive option for experienced riders than other pedals in the $40-$60 price range.
Like most road pedals, the PD-R540s are pretty lightweight. There are some clipless road pedals that weigh less, but the degree of difference between this pair and the slightly lighter options is not worth the substantial difference in price ‒ especially for beginners.
The main sizing issue cyclists have with clipless road pedals is the smaller width of the platform. If you’re used to traditional flat platform pedals or even clipless pedals designed for mountain biking, you could have a hard time adjusting to the decreased size.
That being said, the PD-R540s are pretty wide as far as road pedals go. Even beginners who are completely new to clipless pedals shouldn’t have any trouble finding their footing on the PD-R540 platforms.
Like all Shimano products, these pedals are extremely durable. They don’t quite hold up to the Shimano pedals made for mountain biking ‒ but that’s to be expected, as riding trails is much tougher on your bike than riding road is. Nevertheless, if you take the proper maintenance and rust prevention steps, it’s totally possible these will still work perfectly a decade from now.
Also, the PD-R540s do come with a 2-year warranty. It’s not the best warranty length out there, but it sure beats having nothing (which is what some other pedal manufacturers offer). Again, this won’t cover damage from blatant misuse, so don’t pull anything too crazy if you want to take advantage of the warranty.
The main downside of the PD-R540s is that you can only clip in on one side of the pedal. This can make for a lot of annoying fiddling when you’re starting from a stopped position ‒ something that is especially annoying when there are cars or other cyclists waiting expectantly for you to begin moving again.
- You need a 15mm pedal wrench to install these on your bike.
- To adjust the pedal tension, you’ll need a 2.5mm Allen wrench
- If you plan on walking in the included cleats, you should consider buying cleat covers to protect them from wear.
- You can install these on an indoor spin bike.
- You’ll need a 3-bolt pattern on your cycling shoes to use them with the included cleats. If you have a 2-bolt or 4-bolt pattern, you’ll need to get some different shoes.
- The offer on Amazon is for a pair of pedals and cleats. You don’t need to buy 2 quantities to get 2 pedals.
- The cleat set comes with replacement bolts. So if you lose one of your cleat bolts while riding, you shouldn’t have too much trouble replacing it.
Clipless pedals are an excellent investment for the beginner cyclist. The clip-in mechanism drastically increases your safety and pedaling efficiency ‒ and getting a quality pair is surprisingly cheap.