Ever since the biking craze began in the 1970’s, Shimano has been there. You know that right? And in 1990, Shimano took the lead with their revolutionary cleats and pedals. So incredible was their design and engineering that the same ideas are used in all cleats and pedals today.
As of today, this technology and the engineering prowess of Shimano has made them holders of 50% of the world biking market. As you may know, part of the reason they hold so much of the market is the quality of their products.
Each pedal that is made has to go through a VIA - Vehicle Inspection Authority. Each pedal that passes out of the facility is stamped with the VIA logo – a testament to their commitment to quality. Their adherence to high quality, innovative thinking and engineering finesse has led them to be the go-to in cleats and pedals today.
So when it comes to getting a new set of pedals, which are the most suitable for you?
First, let’s look at the different pedal systems.
SPD - Shimano Pedaling Dynamic
The SPD or Shimano Pedaling Dynamic is the basis for all things cleat and pedal related. The breakthrough design of a small cleat which fits into the shoe is designed for the SPD. Before the SPD, there were straps and toe clips that were not very reliable or safe. Falling was never as painful as when you couldn’t remove your foot to catch yourself.
Instead, these allow for rapid shoe release with no clips. Because the cleat is recessed, the rider is able to walk on the cleats properly without damage being done to the cleats. But the most important aspect of the SPD is the transfer of controlled power from the body to the pedal.
Shimano SPD gives a stable, sure-footed system to maximize your performance. The SPD shoes are made with a two bolt system that allows the shoe entry from either side which allows for quick release. The SPD pedal system is used mainly on mountain bikes and occasionally road when touring. The SPD shoes are a more comfortable shoe to walk in.
The SPD has 15 different models for its Mountain pedal division. All of these pedals integrate with the shoes made for SPD. Each is made with the engineering and footwear expertise that has become one with the name Shimano.
Whatever your mountain bike need, Shimano has a pedal and shoe to fit. The pedals range from the solid entry level PD-M324 to the mud and debris shedding PD-M520. Each is made to work with the SPD shoes and because there is such a wide selection, it is a personal preference as to which pedal may be right for you. If you aren’t into the mountain and trail riding, the SPD line continues with their Road pedals. The road pedals boast a wider platform and minimal distance between shoe and pedal – keeping them working as one unit. They come in three SPD styles- the PDA-600, PD-A520 and the A530 SPD Sport/Multipurpose.
The SPD cleats come in two different models, the SH51 and SH56. The SH51 is a single release. This means you can only unlock by twisting the heel outward. The SH56 is a multi-release. You can unlock by twisting inward or outward. The multi-release is recommended for first time users as it may be a bit easier to unlock.
SPD-SL - Shimano Pedaling Dynamic - Standard Lock
The SPD-SL is the Shimano Pedaling Dynamic – Standard Lock. The standard lock is a clipless pedal system with a one sided platform that has a 3 bolt system. The pattern is triangular in shape. These are made exclusively 100% for road bikes.
The system uses a pedal as a top and bottom with entry only available from the top. Because of this, it takes a little more effort to get your foot in. The pedal is almost always flipped and it requires you to flip it over before you can clip in. Takes a bit more time. The shoe tends to be a bit more difficult to walk in, because of the design, but you can still walk in them.
The SPD-SL cleats also come in two different designs. The red SH10 has zero float. This means there is no movement of the cleat to pedal – a stiffer fit which is better for beginners. The Yellow SH11 has six degrees of float either way. It depends completely on what your preference is.
As previously mentioned, Shimano has a wide range of road pedals. As they go up in price, there are a few discrete differences between the models.
The R540 pedals are Shimano’s entry level road pedals. They weigh 330g for a pair and have a solid aluminium construction. These pedals are perfect for a beginner who wants to try clipless pedals, or even the budget conscious commuter cyclist. Check them out here.
The R550 pedals are the next level up in Shimano’s range. They weigh slightly less at 310g per pair and their composite body gives them a nicer finish. At these pedals are slightly more expensive, and given their nicer finish, would suit a more serious road rider than the entry level set. You can view them here.
The Shimano 105 PD-5800 are the first pedals in carbon in the Shimano range. Their low profile design, stainless steel pedal body plate and slick look make them a popular item amongst more serious road riders. They weigh only 285g and you can view them here.
The Shimano Ultegra PD-6800 pedals are a high performance carbon composite pedal that feature an extra wide platform for efficient power transfer. They weigh 260g and are a popular pedal amongst high end cyclists and road racers. They are highly rated by the cycling fraternity, and can be viewed here.
The Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 Pedals are Shimano’s top of the line cycling pedal. They are very similar to the Ultegra Pedals, however weigh slightly less at 248g for the weight conscious rider. This is achieved by the ultra slim 8.8mm body on the pedal. There is absolutely no compromise on performance when it comes to this pedal, and you can inspect them here.
In answering the question of which one’s do you need, well, it really depends on what sort of cyclist you are. Are you a high end racer? The answer is simple. Just getting in to the sport? It just depends on how much you want to spend!
The SPD-SL Pedal has seven basic models. All built on the principle of the shoe and pedal working as one unit to transfer all the energy from the body to the pedal. For the pro rider, this pedal can give you the most bang per spin. You can ride faster, longer and with more comfort.
These are by far not the only types of pedal available from Shimano but these are the core group of their pedals. The reviews of these products alone have had nothing but praise and appreciation for their excellent engineering, design and quality.
They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Shimano has a lot to be flattered about. There are many other types of pedals and cleats out there and most have taken a page from Shimano’s book. There are American made Crankbrothers whose designs mimic Shimano, the Dutch BBB, the British Genetic and Time from France. Most of these and many other designs are all made to be compatible to the Shimano cleat system.
Shimano continues to excel in the world of biking. Their designs are continuously updated and improved upon. The engineering and footwear experts continue to strive to make the best possible, shoe, cleat and pedal system. They are endlessly searching for the best available materials, ideas and safest ways to improve cycling.
With this drive to continually update their present products and create newer and better products, Shimano continues to set the standard of excellence that no other company has been able to surpass. From products made for expert and professional riders to products for the beginner, Shimano has thought of every possible scenario for safety and value.
Shimano’s products are not over the top in pricing and don’t need to be. Those that buy Shimano tend to stick with them forever. Shimano is the superior system for all cyclists and will continue to prove themselves as they have been for over 45 years.
So that’s about it for now. Let me know what pedals you use and the experience you have had, I would love to hear more.