Already a tri convert or thinking about foraying into clipped-in comfort? Either way, we’ve clipped on the cleats and tested nine sets…
Clipless (or, more accurately, clip-in) pedals attach to your cycling shoe, keeping your feet firmly on the pedal and therefore allowing you to use energy more efficiently.
Weight differences between pedals tend to be small and many manufacturers use a very similar mechanism on all their pedals, with the only change being the materials used.
That’s with the exception of power meter pedals, which include power reading capabilities within the pedal itself. Some of the pedals tested below have extra power-reading abilities and some don’t, you’ll see this reflected in a higher weight and heftier price-tag.
Best clipless pedals
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with cycling in your running shoes if you feel safer and more confident using flat pedals.
But if you want to clip in for the expected power transfer gains it brings – not to mention the enhanced post-swim drainage and ventilation that bike shoes offer – Shimano and Look will likely be your first pedal ports of call.
(From humbling experience, just remember to practise clipping out at speed on the turbo trainer or grass!) The single-sided R550 sit towards the bottom of Shimano’s exhaustive pedal range, but there’s a broader appeal here than just the wallet-friendly price.
Like the Look, initial se-up with the three-bolt cleat system is straightforward, with a clear guide showing how much release tension you’ve created.
Clipping in comes with an assured snap and instantly feels secure (but not excessively so – clipping out is easy), with the wide 70mm platform and stainless-steel body plate offering impressive foot-to-pedal transfer.
The composite body is heavier than carbon and less durable, and the 156g per pedal weight is unlikely to appeal to weight weenies, but these are reliable picks for a range of triathletes, beginners especially.
Verdict: A little weighty, but dependable and well priced pedals
Look Keo Classic 3 Plus
Look was the first brand to create ‘clipless’ pedals back in the 1980s and they’re still, alongside Shimano, one of the major players in bike pedals (Speedplay, worn by Ali Brownlee, are another option).
The body of the Classic 3 is constructed using composite material, which again keeps the retail price down compared to Look’s top-end models.
The Plus here relates to small stainless-steel plates to aid durability, and you can also adjust the tension for an easier/harder release even if the tension guide isn’t as clear as the Shimano’s (clipping out is refreshingly swift).
The pedal body provides a wide 60mm surface area and weight is 140g per pedal, lighter than the wider Shimanos but the R550’s do have a cover over the pedal’s spring to prevent grit and water degrading it.
We felt the Keo just edged the R500 in hanging at the same angle on the crank and are a tenner cheaper, but both are hard to fault for clipless beginners.
Worth noting is that you get a supplied pair of cleats with both sets here (cleats can cost £20 so look after them!), but take your time setting them up with the pedals or use a bike fitter as poorly aligned cleats can lead to knee troubles.
Verdict: A recommended option for newcomers
Shimano 105 SPD-SL Carbon
Shimano’s 105 SPD-SL Carbon pedals are the biggest and heaviest here at 274g. Their broad bodies have been built from carbon but they still end up over 20g heavier than the Look Keo 2 Max Carbon pedals.
The steel spring mechanisms mean most of their weight is at the back so they hang at a convenient angle to make entry easy. It takes less pressure to get your feet into these than into the Look pedals.
Foot retention is rock solid, however, and although the yellow-tipped cleats supplied allow 6° float, it feels like less than that.
You really notice the retention when it comes to unclipping – you’re not in danger of slipping out of any of the pedals here but getting out of the 105s takes noticeably more effort. Which is something to bear in mind when you’re approaching T2.
Verdict: Bigger and heavier pedals that are easy to get into but harder to get out of
Look Keo 2 Max Carbon
Look’s Keo 2 pedals have had a facelift. The steel faceplates on these carbon-bodied pedals have been stretched outwards and upwards, giving them their broad appearance.
The new shape is to provide a bigger platform to push against and results in a faceplate 60mm wide, an increase of about 3mm over the previous model.
Any difference it makes is imperceptible through your feet, however, and in a practical sense it’s intangible.
The new Keo 2 Max are a smart pair of pedals, nevertheless – they make an unmistakable snappy click upon entry, use steel springs for simple tension adjustment and weigh 253g.
The worst you can say about them is the carbon body only saves a few grams over the cheaper plastic-bodied pedals and the facelift has deprived them of their distinctive looks.
Verdict: Positive entry and exit but the new look offers little improvement
Time Xpro 12 Pedals
From French clipless pedal innovator Time, the Xpro 12s weigh just 94g per pedal thanks to their largely carbon-built body. Our feet felt comfy over long distances and we’ve seen no wear after some heavy use in testing.
Verdict: costly but easy engagement and a solid pedalling platform
- How to pedal efficiently
- Is there a ‘right’ way for triathletes to pedal?
- A triathlete’s guide to bike cadence
Best power meter pedals
Wahoo Speedplay Aero Pedals
Wahoo have teamed up with Speedplay to bring you these new aero pedals. Improvements over the previous model include triple-sealed bearings, a steel outer and adjustable float.
Set-up takes some work but once on, the ride experience is superb, with the low stack feeling natural and allowing great power transfer.
Though it takes a bit more effort to clip into the pedals compared to Look and Shimano, the rubber surface makes walking about in them less comical.
Verdict: Pricey, but worth it for those who value a more customised fit
Garmin Rally RS200 Power Pedals
A step up from the Vector 3, in upgrades as well as price, the Rally has the capacity to be used for both road and MTB pedalling.
The Rallys feel solid underfoot and are comparable in weight to normal pedals, despite their power-measuring credentials.
Verdict: Prohibitively priced, but otherwise highly accurate and reliable.
Garmin Vector 3 Power Pedals
Once they’d sorted some initial battery teething problems, Garmin’s Vector 3’s a solid option for fuss-free power pedals that look great. They also offer reliable data, with the numbers being within 5% of our other measurements.
Verdict: Fuss-free power pedals that look great and offer reliable data
Powertap P2 Power Pedals
Arguably the first faff-free power pedals to launch back in 2015, the Powertap is now onto its second iteration and boasts watertight battery cover with up to 80hr battery life. To set-up, simply affix to your cranks, pair with the Powertap app to set up and then link to your GPS of choice.
Verdict: Still chunkier than the competition, but we can’t fault their accuracy