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Pedals: platform pedals, clipless pedals and combination pedals for bicycles in the test

In love and in cycling there is a saying that describes the connection between pedals and rider quite appropriately: "So check whoever binds himself forever, whether there is something better!"

Why does the saying fit like a fist in the eye? Because new bikes usually have very inexpensive platform pedals with, let's say, passable functionality built into them. We dare to doubt that these always suit the driver and the intended use.

And that's precisely why everyone should think about their pedals, as they are the link between people and machines and transmit all of the propulsive power. In detail, the pedals differ in the storage and the type of pedal body, which is how the respective pedal system gets its name.

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Which pedals do i need? Which area of ​​application is preferred in everyday life and on tour?

The three major user groups are cyclists who use their bikes for short distances in everyday life and for work, touring and touring cyclists as well as sporty cyclists. The demands on a pedal vary greatly depending on the user group.

Platform pedals, clipless pedals, combination pedals: an overview of the pedal types for bicycles

Platform pedals: features, advantages and disadvantages

The advantage of platform pedals is the loosely detachable connection that can be released at any time and in all directions. This means that you can get your foot off the pedal and on the ground immediately in any driving situation. This increases the subjective safety of many cyclists, which is an advantage especially in everyday life and also for beginners.

In addition, this type of pedal is fully compatible with everyday, sports and night shoes. Reflectors ensure the StVZO conformity. The main negative aspect is the poorer pedaling efficiency compared to clipless pedals. In principle, it is possible to not allow any foot rotation through an extremely grippy surface and thus to provoke knee problems.

However, this usually occurs in connection with MTB pedals and their multitude of screws that interlock with the rubber sole of the shoe. This is where traction counts, which increases the risk of injury, especially on the shin, when slipping.

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Click pedals: click system and shoes required

As the name suggests, with this pedal system you click the shoe into the pedal. This requires shoes that place special demands on the structure of the sole. These are above all a rigid design and a special mounting plate for the click system. The most common click systems come from Shimano and Crank Brothers.

The great strengths of clipless pedals are the extremely good power transmission including pedaling efficiency, because here you can not only press the pedal, but also pull it via the fixed connection on the opposite side. In addition, there is a mostly subtle look with excellent ergonomics and correct foot position on the pedal at all times.

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Combi pedals: connection of platform pedal and clipless pedal

This species combines a platform pedal on one side and a clipless pedal on the other. So you don't have to commit yourself to a pedal system and you are equipped for the largest possible area of ​​use. In everyday life and for short journeys you can comfortably use the platform side, while on long tours or sporty use the click pedal side is used.

However, this variability also has a disadvantage: In use it can happen that the foot is on the wrong side and the other side of the pedal is sought when looking down. Not exactly what you want in terms of safety in everyday traffic or in a technically demanding situation. Overall, however, it combines the best of two worlds in the trekking and travel sector.

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We tested these different types of pedals

Flat pedals


Clipless pedals


Combination pedals


© Gideon Heede, Ralf Glaser, Sebastian Böhm

There are a few details to look out for when it comes to bicycle pedals. You can find the explanations below.

Pedals in the test: important details at a glance

1Change of page: Crank Brothers indicates the page affiliation via a milling groove next to the thread.

2 storage service: At Shimano, the cone bearings can be cleaned and maintained easily and effectively.

3Q factor: SQ-Lab offers four axis lengths for perfect ergonomics in the musculoskeletal system.

4Reflectors: The yellow reflectors are actually intended in the StVZO. It's nice when they are discreetly integrated and protected against impacts.

5Cage 1: An aluminum sheet with slightly raised teeth is often used and is usually sufficient in everyday life.

6Cage 2: The finely structured surface suffers from the extremely hard texture of the material.

7Cage 3: Thanks to the rubber surface, all shoe models have a good grip. Goes easy on expensive leather soles!

8Cage 4: The first choice for everyday life is grip tape. It meshes well with all types of soles.

9Cage 5: Pins from the MTB area provide extreme grip, but are aggressive to shoe soles.

10Click'R: Thanks to the folding mechanism, getting started with the Shimano Klick’R pedal is intuitive and easy.

11Adjustable release hardness: Anyone who is sporty will be happy about the adjustable release hardness.

12Finely adjustable contact area: Plastic spacers are used for the Crank Brothers so that all soles fit perfectly with the pedal.

Pedals in the test: the test criteria

In the Stand space With a flat pedal, the pedal should primarily match the size of the shoe. Everyday shoes have a soft sole, nestle well against the pedal, but are difficult to transfer power. A large shoe tends to exacerbate the problem. This is why pedals such as Shimano PD-GR500 and PD-T421, Acros, RFR or Padfoot have the highest rating.

Regarding the Traction the stand areas are tested with four different shoes. A casual night-out shoe with a leather sole, a comfortable sneaker, an outdoor shoe and a clipless shoe ask for support. Moto, Shimano, RFR and Padfoot work best.

It should be said that the sharp-edged pins of some models are quite coarse with the leather sole. Griptape (Contec, Moto) or rubber surfaces (SQ-Lab, Shimano PD-T421) are much better here. We generally advise you to test-drive the pedal with the respective shoes - if possible - before buying.

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Bicycle pedals: what to look out for with clipless pedals

Regarding clipless pedals, the first thing to do is Click system to be viewed as. The Shimano SPD system is the forefather of all clipless pedals. The system is copied by many manufacturers, making the steel pedal plates compatible with many pedals. With SPD systems, the Spring preload can always be set, which means that getting in and out is rather soft or hard, depending on your preference.

Also is that Heel clearance mostly small with SPD systems, so the shoe releases with a slight twist. Crank Brothers and Time go their own way - both are not compatible with the Shimano system and rely on brass alloys for the pedal cleat.

With Time, the release hardness can be adjusted within a small range, with Crank Brothers not at all (which didn't bother anyone in the test). The release angle is also quite generous, which improves ergonomics.

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Don't be afraid of falling with clipless pedals and installation height

Many cyclists have great respect for the clipless pedal because they believe that they will not get off the pedal in the event of a fall. But this fear is unfounded, because in the event of a fall you never sit statically on the bike. As soon as the foot twists, it clicks out and is free. From our experience, dry exercises on the garden fence help to overcome respect and to learn how to get in and out.

The Construction height is also an important point in ergonomics and stands for the distance between the center of the pedal and the shoe contact surface (flat pedal) or the upper end of the clicked pedal cleat (clipless pedal). The smaller the distance, the closer the shoe is to the pedal and the more direct and efficient the power transmission. Contec, Crank Brothers, RFR and Tatze earned top marks here.

Storage and sealing of bicycle pedals

In the storage the manufacturers usually rely on a warehouse mix. Plain bearings based on plastic or metal, industrial groove, cone or needle bearings are actually used. They all differ in terms of load capacity, wear resistance, smooth running, low maintenance and weight. Depending on the requirements, the manufacturers design the bearings with a tendency towards lightweight construction or durability.

There should be a good seal between the pedal body and the axle, which protects the bearings from water and dirt and thus can significantly increase the durability. Manufacturers such as Acros, BBB, Contec, Crank Brothers, ISSI, Shimano, Time and Tatze have been tried and tested for years. M-Wave runs rough even when new, which is due to the price level. With Moto, the axle is located directly in the pedal cage, which also takes over the storage here. We will check whether this will last in the long term in an endurance test.

Click pedal vs. platform pedal: the ergonomic component

For many, it is hard to believe that the clipless pedal is the ergonomically much better pedal in practice. The reason lies in the firm, but inherently flexible position on the pedal. The heel can move to the side without much force, which supports the natural sequence of movements.

When clicked, the foot is always perfectly above the pedal. A platform pedal cannot always guarantee that. If there are problems with the foot or knee on the bike, a specialist or orthopedic surgeon should urgently be consulted and the cause should be investigated.

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Pedals for the bike in the test: conclusion

First, good finding of our test: Judging by the current prices, there are no bad pedals on the market. It is more a matter of finding what is right for you. Above all, they are convincing in the city Flat pedals from Contec and SQ-Lab with a very good price-performance ratio. Acros is the test winner with the best overall performance.

Both sporty clipless pedals Look offers great functionality at a low price: price-performance tip. The Crank Brothers Candy 3 deserves the test victory thanks to its outstanding overall performance.

With view on Combination pedals What particularly stands out are the expensive paws and the tried and tested Shimano PD-T8000, which are recommended by a great performance. When it comes to price, there is no way around the Crank Brothers. The inexpensive Shimano PD-T421 took the test victory thanks to its perfect performance.

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This article is from the 7-8 / 2018 issue of Aktiv Cycling magazine. You can reorder this issue together with all the detailed test letters from this article in our shop.

First published: December 1, 2018