What are clipless pedals?
A clipless road-bike pedal is basically one that lacks toe-clips and instead features a cleat that fits into the underside of the cycling shoe. They’re one of the best road bike pedals as they give the rider more leg power, especially when dealing with mountain climbs.
Clipless road bike pedals come in two types; a 2-hole one that’s walkable and a 3-hole one with a significant protrusion that fits into the shoe. Another reason why professional bikers prefer clipless mechanism pedals is that they fit so easily into the shoe without the need for any adjustment. Once you slide your shoe into them, you are good to go.
Here’s a review of the best clipless road bike pedals on the market right now.
- At A Glance: Our Top Picks for Best Clipless Bike Pedals
- Top 10 Best Clipless Bike Pedals – Our Reviews:
- The Bottom Line
At A Glance: Our Top Picks for Best Clipless Bike Pedals
If you’re in a hurry, you can jump straight into our top picks (these are the clipless bike pedals that most people buy).
- Crank Brothers Mallet-E Pedals Top Pick
- Shimano Saint M820 Runner-up
- Speedplay Zero Chrome-Moly Runner-up
Top 10 Best Clipless Bike Pedals – Our Reviews:
1. Crank Brothers Mallet-E Pedals
The Crank Brothers is a big brand that’s involved in the manufacture of various bike parts, with pedals being their well-known bike parts. The Crank Brothers Mallet-E pedal is one of a kind.
This Crank Brothers pedal has six adjustable pins for each side and uses Traction Pad Technology to ensure the pedal keeps track of the leg movements as you power up with all your might. Another standout feature of the flat pedals is their aluminum body, which gives them a very sturdy frame that can withstand hits and scratches without undermining the integrity of the flat pedal.
Weighing about 425g, the Crank Brothers road bike pedals are light weight enough to not interfere with the pedaling, but at the same time, they’re heavy enough to allow a quick pick-up of momentum as you deal with a tricky climb.
Inside the aluminum casing, there’s a double lip sealing that keeps water, dust, and other contaminants from getting inside and interfering with the bearings.
- Light weight
- Great pedaling form
- Easy to clip on to
- Grippy platform
- Has sufficient floats
- Good mud clearance
- Still costs higher than other similar models
- The release tension is too rigid
- Heavy compared to other better types
- The pins can make clipping out hard
2. Shimano Saint M820
When it’s about pedals, Shimano is a name I just have to mention. The brand has bike parts of all sizes and shapes, and pedals are on their catalog too.
The Shimano Saint M820 is gravity-based clipless SPD pedals that offer an excellent foothold that gives the rider the perfect grip to power their bike as much as possible without worrying about their foot slipping off.
This Shimano pedal has a Chromoly spindle and a hardbody aluminum casing that gives it the rugged body needed to deal with all kinds of mountain terrain and weather. The body can accommodate up to four traction pins on each side and has an SPD clip-in mechanism for a better foothold.
The bearing system in use is the cup and cone that’s common among many Shimano based bike parts. The bearings can be greased and adjusted easily if there’s a need for it.
At 545 g, the Shimano Saint M820 is a bit heavy but still manages to do what it was designed for without any hitch.
- Solid build
- A good Q-Factor adjustment
- Good grip
- Excellent pedal platform
- Comfortable SPD feel
- Good stack height
- Very heavy
- Doesn’t perform so well in muddy conditions
3. Speedplay Zero Chrome-Moly
The Speedplay Zero Chrome-Molly is a brilliantly designed double-sided pedal that uses a spring in the cleat as opposed to the customary pedal pins. This gives it a 15-degree float, making it the perfect pedal for riders whose foot moves laterally with every pedal stroke.
The Speedplay Zero Chrome-Molly is a walkable pedal that uses intelligent engineering to give the rider the most control and handling.
On top of being cheap and lightweight, the Speedplay road bike pedals have a dual-sided entry that self-locates once you engage your foot onto it; this cuts down the time you’d have wasted adjusting your feet to get the right grip.
The level of adjustments allowed by the Speedplay pedal is one of the most advanced as it comes with about three bolt-axis adjustments that are totally independent of each other. You can change each of them without affecting the set-up of the other two.
- Advanced three-bolt adjustments
- No complicated spring tension
- Dual-sided entry
- Light weight
- Comes with cleats included
- Impressive degrees of float
- The Speedplay´s bearing system isn’t refined
- Too much lateral movement
- Replacing the cleat is costly
- Requires regular lubrication
4. Shimano SPD-SL Pedals
The Shimano SPD-SL clipless pedals were the company’s answer to an onslaught of fairly priced clipless pedals that had started to flood the market from competing brands. They unleashed the good quality pedal at prices that very few bikers would resist.
The SPD-SL are dual-side entry pedals that work best for the most unpleasant weather conditions a mountain biker would ever encounter. They’re perfectly walkable, which means you could dismount from your bike and walk the rest of the way if the trail becomes impassable without having to unclip anything completely.
The SPD pedals also have a very long lifespan; in fact, many people have ended up disposing of them while they’re still in usable conditions.
One of the biggest drawbacks to the pedal though is the constant need for maintenance, especially the bearing area that requires lubrication at all times. This can take a toll on the rider.
- Can handle murky conditions
- Highly durable
- Great for long distances
- Not the best quality of road bike pedals
- Require too much attention
5. Time Xpro 10 Carbon Pedals
Time has an impressive lineup of clipless pedals, and the Time Xpro is one of the best road bike pedals they have. However, don’t let their affordability lead you to think that they pack less quality; they’re as capable as any high-end clipless pedal out there.
The pedal’s system allows a considerable degree of lateral movement. This saves the rider from the dangers of injuring their ankles while powering their bike on any brought terrain like a steep climb.
It also comes with replaceable plates to make sure that the float is smooth all through the ride.
Instead of a steel spring, the pedal employs a carbon spar, which holds the weight down, ensuring that the release tension is within manageable levels.
At 115 g, these are one of the lightest and best road bike pedals in the market; they barely register when you ride with them under the foot, which is an advantage for mountain biking enthusiasts who will take anything that helps cut down the overall weight of the bike.
- Carbon infused body
- Light weight
- Great price point
- Excellent bio-position float
- Wide platform for maximum power transfer
- The bearings aren’t serviceable
- The tension screw has no settings markings
- The cleat doesn’t last long
6. Shimano M520 SPD Clipless Pedals
Another Shimano entry that uses the Dura-Ace technology, the M520 clipless mountain bike pedal weighs 310 g and uses the mini platform to save on weight.
The ease of clipping this SPD mountain bike pedal is much higher than those from other brands, like the Crank Brothers pedals.
Another area where this pedal has the edge over most other clipless pedals is the mud-shedding ability that puts a good number of higher-end models to shame. They’re great pedals for cross-country trekking or that ride up the mountain in your locality.
Some standout features that make the Shimano M520 SPD pedal worth your attention is the fluorine-coated claws that make entry and release much easier and seamless. The pedal systems are also dual-sided, and they self-locate when you slide your foot in.
- Dual-sided entry
- Strong build
- Decent stack height
- Dura-ace tech
- Wide pedal platform
- Still heavy
- Could do with better quality parts
7. Look Keo Blade 2 Carbon Ceramic
It isn’t every day you come across a bike part made out of ceramic, but this is the unique route that the Look Keo Blade 2 decided to take in its design and construction.
Weighing at an impressive 110g, this French brand looks cool and refined and offers the cyclist the aerodynamics they need to power through a race or a tricky mountain climb.
They come with a pair of carbon blades that give you the freedom of choice regarding retention levels: the 12Nm and 16Nm.
As expected, the bearings are made out of ceramics, reducing friction by over 18% while increasing the power transfer. What this means is that you’ll be exerting less effort, but you’ll be getting more out of each stroke.
The Keo blade clipless pedal uses a carbon leaf spring underneath the body to close the cleat as opposed to the traditional coil spring common in many other clipless pedals, especially the Shimano brand.
To further cut down the overall weight, the pedal uses the Blade Carbon Ti as well as a titanium spindle.
- Light weight
- Streamlined body
- Minimized bearing friction
- Positive engagement
- Wide pedal surface area
- Has only 2 fixed release tension choices
- Creaks when wet or dirty
8. Shimano Ultegra R8000 Road Bike Pedals
The Shimano Ultegra R8000 is an upgrade to a previous version from 2018 and comes with a host of improved features. It’s one of the most in-demand Shimano pedal systems on the market, and there’s a good reason for it.
They have an extensive pedal platform that gives the rider the confidence boost they need to take on any challenge they face.
First, it comes with a cleat in three flavors; it’s a feet-friendly cleat that offers a smooth ride thanks to a fixed float. The release angle tension on this pedal is adjustable using an Allen key, something that the rider can easily handle on their own to increase the grip.
The entry is easy because the R8000 sits upright to allow for quick engagement. They’re one of the best clipless pedals that clip in exactly when you need them to and disengage when you lift pull out your foot from the platform without any resistance.
- Easy adjustments
- Decent float
- Fair pricing, features considered
- Wide pedal platform size
- Good knee protection
- Low stack height
- Replacement cleats are costly
- Very high retention
- Could do with more float
9. NukeProof Horizon Pedals
In a sea of fierce competition from established brands, the NukeProof Horizon pedal system has somewhat found a footing and is holding out on its own against the big boys comfortably.
Cased inside a 6061 aluminum cover, this is one of the best road bike pedals around. It has a concave shape that keeps the road riding shoes stable while being tough enough to come out unscathed when it meets asphalt or any tough surface.
It has a superb grip, thanks to a series of about 1o steel pins on each side that screw into the shoe’s foot.
The pedal systems have cartridge bearings that are sealed inside a rubber covering that keeps moisture and dirt out, so you don’t have to stress too much as you plow through mud or dirty water.
Although they don’t have a lot going on for them in terms of looks, these road pedals have the ruggedness needed by mountain biking enthusiasts that are never afraid to take on any kind of terrain in any kind of weather. It’s a good pedal for a beginner.
- Excellent grip
- Can handle mud
- Solid and durable bearings
- Decent degrees of float
- Fairly heavy
- Doesn’t look so good
- Costs too much, all features considered
10. Look Keo 2 Max Pedals
Another pedal made by Look has parts crafted out of carbon and is much lighter than its Keo Blade counterpart. There are many significant changes that the pedal brings to the table, features that give costlier pedals a run for their money.
The Look Keo 2 Max pedal has an angular front and comes with a reconfigured bearing system that the company claims have reduced friction significantly. The pedals use the standard cleats on the market, which makes them versatile enough to be used by any type of cleat that can fit, regardless of the model.
The spring tension adjustment means that the rider has the freedom of choosing how tight they want the grip of the cleats to be. This comes in handy when they’re about to deal with tricky terrains in the hills.
Weighing at about 250 g, the pedal is lighter than most similar and even higher-priced road pedals. It’s the type of light weight pedal you’d want on your mountain bike, especially for a long trek.
- Light weight
- Increased foot contact
- Reliable bearings
- Reduced bearing friction
- Allen key adjustable release tension
- Made with carbon parts
- Low stack height
- Cleats wear out too fast
- Still heavy compared to similar models from other brands
The Bottom Line
Investing in the best road bike pedals is crucial for every rider who understands what it takes to experience a comfortable ride. Just like any other bike parts, the road pedals have to be selected carefully to ensure they fit well with the bicycle you’re using, on top of addressing everything you need out of your bike.
There are many other impressive clipless mountain bike pedals on the market to choose from; going through the whole lot of them can consume a lot of your time. That’s where this review comes in.
Every single bike fitters pedal mentioned here has its own unique capabilities; take time to scrutinize each to identify the one that will make your road cycling journey much easier.