A question about Cleat Ecosystems

Hi this is a newbie question so be gentle…. Im using a SBAR format so I don’t ramble…

Situation: I am looking for advice as I transition from flat pedals to cleats

Background: I am a very experienced (>10K miles) all weather urban commuter in San Francisco where I have two e-bikes and on these I use flat pedals. I’ve been training with TR on a KICKR and I have Shimano SPD clips which work well. I bought my first touring bike in years and have committed to a Gran Fondo (Sea Otter) next month! This is my FIRST bicycling event… I would like to ride this event and figure events with cleats… I am older heavier and slower than most so weight and aerodynamics on the pedals will not have a big impact on performance…

Assessment: It seems logical to me to start practicing with cleats on most if not all of my rides outside including commuting after a practice period on a softer surface :slight_smile: I’m thinking about converting my commuter bikes to single sided cleats, and committing to as much daily exposure as I can. (I see cyclists who make this look easy even with the starts and stops in the city) My intention is to start this when it stops raining…

Recommendations requested:

  1. Should I stay with Shimano SPDs? I will have to make a bit of a financial outlay one way or the other… Or is there a better ecosystem that I should consider? I would prefer to have the same system across all of my bikes and the trainer. I can get different shoes for commutes… (I currently don’t see a need for power meters…)
  2. Are there options for shoes that can clip in that will be good for walking a bit on my commute. I currently wear a harder soled shoe or boot and change when I get to work…

I appreciate anyone who takes the time to read through this and any suggestions. I learn a lot on this forum (and its entertaining)…


Shimano SPD is a very popular system with components available at all different levels and for all different bikes, so if you like the ones you have you’ll be fine with it.

  1. Yes, SPDs are great option. 1-sided pedals work well in this ecosystem and there are many on the market.
  2. Lots of options. With SPDs you can walk around with the recessed cleat. Given your description of the use (commuting mostly), there are also a lot of “casual” yet very functional SPD shoes out there, as opposed to a more racing oriented shoe for MTB, CX, or Gravel.

I’m been using SPDs (the offroad type) on all my bikes. They are durable, not that expensive, easy to use, and you can walk in the shoes (not as good as normal shoes, but much better than road shoes). For your use case, I don’t think there is a reason to use road cleats/shoes.

When I first started using clipless pedals, I tried the single-sided/flat sided pedals, but I didn’t get on with them. They somehow always were the wrong side up. If you don’t have to do lots of walking, just get double sided ones. Honestly it is very easy to clip in and out, and you’ll get the hang of it very quickly.

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I’ll add my vote for SPDs. There’s a wide range of styles so you can choose the single- or dual-sided version that works for the bike and use you need. And there are a lot of shoe choices as well. From super light and stiff XC race shoes to way casual and walkable that almost doesn’t look like a bike shoe.

I would recommend against riding clipless on your commute until you’re comfortable with them. Getting stuck in a pedal and falling over, or forgetting you’re clipped in, and falling over, have much higher stakes when there’s traffic. Especially at intersections where you’re most likely to have trouble, and drivers are least likely to be accommodating.


I’d actually advise to use them on your commute! You’ll get much more practise, because you have to stop a lot for lights etc. If you only use them in long rides, you might only have to clip in and out once or twice. If you do it every few minutes on a commute, you’ll learn much quicker.

I’ve honestly never forgot to unclip, and I only started using them in my 30s. Obviously you’d want a few goes first on a quiet road or in the park etc.

missed a chance to call this cleatcosystems

gasp You haven’t forgotten to unclip? That’s a rite of passage!

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SPD pedals are a great choice. It is not even clear whether other pedals are actually any more efficient if you are using stiff shoes. If you use one set of pedals for all of your bikes, you don’t need as many shoes, too. With practice, clipping in and out becomes second nature, it just requires a bit of practice until you have committed all movements to muscle memory.

The other advantage of SPD/mountain bike shoes is that they came in various stiffnesses. You don’t necessarily want super stiff shoes. I have had a pair Velokicks Lactics before, and they were super comfortable to walk around in. I replaced them with Bont MTB Riot+, which are super stiff. They feel great on the bike, but much more awkward off the bike.

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I usually have my commuting spd pedals set up so my left pedal/cleat is looser (-ve) (my non dominant unclipping side) and my right (dominant side) set to neutral and tightened if I find Im unclipping by mistake. I also tend to leave the right foot clipped in and push off on it. I also like pedals with a cage so I am not bothering about clipping in the left until I am comfortable to do so. Just recently the only cleats I could get were SH56 (Silver) and they un clip in multi directions and would be fine for a beginner if you dont get on with the default sh51 (black) cleats which are only one dimensional unclipping (side to side).

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SPDs are great.

And even if they’re weren’t so great, I would never switch things up so close to my first big event anyway.

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Oh that’s good! I still struggle with calling them “clipless” when they seem to clip in!

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