Best Road Bike Pedals for Beginners

Best Road Bike Pedals for Beginners

by Joseph Wells - Last Updated: November 16, 2018

Just like a cars engine, the pedal stroke has multiple parts.  Being able to push down and pull up improves the riders efficiency.  Some road pedals are challenging to master, but a good dual sided clipless pedal makes it easy for beginners to see the benefits of good cycling shoes and pedals.  The Shimano PD-M530 pedal is the best choice for beginner riders.

The key to road biking is efficiency – how far can I go when I pedal this much. One of the main ways that power is put into the bike is through pedals. It stands to reason that improving that connection for the rider will increase efficiency.  That is why choosing the best road bike pedals for beginners is so important, to keep new riders safe, but helping them to ride better.

Top Pick

If you are picking up a new bike, make sure that you include pedals.  Better road bikes do not include pedals usually, since there are many choices, and preferences. Our top pick of the Shimano PD-M530 pedal as the best road bike pedals for beginners is based on how easy it is to use in so many conditions.

As a seasoned rider you will find equipment that compliments your skills. However, until that happens, finding parts and accessories that make cycling easier should be at the top of the list. While a $400 carbon pedal would sound like it would improve anyones abilities, it can actually complicate things.

The Shimano PD-M530 model is a great all around pedal with a wide platform.  On a road bike, one of the goals with a shoe and pedal combination is contact area. As you pedal, the more contact your shoe has, the more force that can be applied in theory. Since most beginners begin riding with a fairly flexible shoe, the M530 is a great choice as the outer platform area will support the pedaling motion.

Being dual sided, these pedals are super easy to use, with or without cycling shoes.  On race bikes, pedaling around without special shoes is difficult. Beginners need not be worried about feet slipping, and this pedal certainly helps.

Best High End Pedal

If you are looking to take your cycling to a reasonable level, and can afford specialized analytic tools, then look to a pedal like the PowerTap P1 Power Meter Pedals. While these pedals can be pricey, there is more to the story.  These pedals do far more than hold your feet in the right spot!

If you said to someone that you are pedaling wrong, most everyone would look at you funny.  The reality is that most people do pedal wrong, perhaps pushing down only, or articulating the ankle wrong.  With the use of a pedal like the PowerTap, you can look at pedaling dynamics as well as power output from your efforts.

By having this analytical ability available to you, a beginning cyclist can interpret and correct to better motion. It may seem over complicated, but we only have so much energy on a given day. Why not make the most of it and train your body to be efficient?

Both PowerTap and Garmin make pedals like this that are dependable and available on the market currently.  With the use of a Garmin Edge or similar cycling computer, the rider can get up to the second feedback.

In the example pictured, the computer tells the rider power for both the left and right hand pedal. Beyond that number it shows how and where the power is applied when pedaling. Additional data is available to show efficiency, balance, and offset. Explanations of these data points are worthy of another article.

Affordable Choices

There are quite a few affordable choices for road bike pedals. Several well known brands have great entry level pedals like Shimano, Speedplay, Wellgo, and many others.  At just under $50 the SHIMANO PD-R540 SPD-SL Road Bike Pedal is a great value choice.

The R540 pedals include cleats that are compatible with all Shimano SPD SL pedals.  So if you end up with multiple bikes, and use similar pedals, you wont have to change cleats or shoes.  The pedals are fairly lightweight for the price point as well. Add to this adjustability of the retention, and this pedal is a great choice for those new to clipless pedals.

Wellgo makes some excellent budget minded pedals that work well for beginners. Check out the Wellgo MG-8 Pedal.

What the Wellgo pedal offers for new riders is a compact pedal that features smaller metal based cleats which can be easier to master.  Normally, using a metal cleat like these means the use of a leisure or mountain bike type shoe. These type of shoes recess the cleat into the sole, making it easier to walk, and to find the clip in point while riding.

Best Alternative

Traditionalists may scoff, but flat platform pedals are an excellent alternative, and perhaps could make you a stronger rider. Not to mention, there are tons of cool platform pedals available.

Take a look at the Rock Bros Platform Pedal. While many pedals like this are pretty basic, this model is anodized and has multiple lugs to help engage athletic shoes.

Here is how these basic pedals could make you a better rider.  As stated before, many people do not pedal correctly.  First of all, the pedals rotate in a circle, but many people just push down only.

Using a platform pedal changes things a little bit.  Since you can only push down, and your foot is not in a clipless pedal making it easier to also pull up, you have to compensate. You compensate by lifting your leg to help the pedal continue in its circular movement.

If cyclists could improve that leg lift, it would make their downstroke all that more effective.  Remember, most people pedal poorly, so that one leg is dead weight during part of the motion.  If you change that dead weight into upward motion, you are actually adding power to the pedals, and from alternate muscles, a complete bonus!

Key Features and Adjustments

One of the first aspects that is important is adjustability of the clipless type pedal.  There is cleat adjustment as well as spring tension of the pedal itself.

Some people have long toes. Having the ability to adjust the cleats fore and aft is important to compensate for your feet. But we also must aim the shoes so that your legs, knees and hips are in reasonable alignment.  Failure to do so will cause some soreness and potential damage.

We also need to adjust the retention of the pedal itself.  Most every pedal type has spring tension that is set-able usually with an allen wrench.  Most are set fairly weak, but as a beginner we want that ease of clipping out until you gain confidence.  Most expert riders will increase the tension significantly.

One other key factor on pedals is called stack height.  Generally, we want to get the foot itself as close to the pedal axle as possible.  The further away it is lessens the force that can be applied as some of your energy goes into stabilizing the foot and ankle in the movement.

Conclusion

Overall our top pick revolves around one of the easiest pedals to use – the Shimano PD-M530.  The dual sided clipless design with an additional platform surrounding the retention area is perfect for new riders.

If you intend to become a serious rider, and want to get the most out of your efforts, consider a power meter type pedal like the PowerTap P1 Power Meter Pedals.  We are just beginning to scratch the surface in regards to capturing data that can help to improve us as cyclists. These pedals go a long way in giving us key insight to how we are harnessing our pedaling forces.

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