Pedal/Cleat size - do small pedals really feel small?
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  1. #1
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    Pedal/Cleat size - do small pedals really feel small?

    The thread about shoe fit for long distance riding raised an interesting question for me. The conventional wisdom is that larger platform pedals reduce foot discomfort by distributing the pedal pressure over a larger area. That certainly seems reasonable, but I wonder of it's actually as true as it seems.

    I ride Speedplay Frog pedals. The surface area of the top of the pedal is definitely small. On the other hand, the small top of the pedal engages a larger cleat that is quite thick and stiff. I would think that at an initial consideration the relevant area of comparison is the cleat surface, not the pedal surface area. As thick as a Frog cleat is I would think that any pressure imparted to a rider's foot from the pedal is distributed over the surface area of the cleat. If the cleat were thin enough to flex, the the pressure could be concentrated on the area of the pedal top. If the cleat doesn't flex, and I seriously doubt that a Frog cleat flexes, then the pressure area ought to be the whole of the cleat surface. Right? If that's so, the point of comparison ought to be cleat size rather than pedal size...

    A second order of consideration is the stiffness of cycling shoes. The same flex/nonflex distribution of pressure ought to apply. If that's so, a cycling shoe that is stiff enough to not flex around a cleat ought to distribute the pressure from the pedal on a fairly broad area of the sole. Right?

    If there is localized pressure from smaller-area surfaces, how is that localized pressure being transmitted through rigid surfaces if those surfaces aren't flexing?

  2. #2
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    You are getting at one of the basis's for my reply in that thread. I clicked over to the BeBop site and saw that the cleat is only slightly wider than than the two hole mounting screws for that particuliar pedal/cleat. I thought one possibilty of the problem that poster was experiencing was that the total platform (pedal and cleat) was not large enough and was triggering hot spots on Rando lenght rides. Which made me suggest that he put cleats with wider platforms into the mix.

    I also agree that if you are wearing a shoe with a very stiff sole that cleat size problably has very little impact. But a shoe that is walkable and has super stiff sole is a little like looking for a car that can pull your boat and get high MPG, hard to get both.

    Since the poster wants a shoe that is walkable but perhaps needs a bigger platform to avoid hot spots, my thinking was that a more flexiable shoe with a larger cleat platform might fit the bill.

    Scot
    Scot Gore, Minneapolis

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    I agree that cleat size ought to be the first-level consideration. I do wonder though about shoe stiffness. My Sidi mtb shoes aren't carbon-stiff, I bet, but I'd think that they are stiff enough to distribute the pressure of a reasonable-size cleat pretty well. I think the walkability of a MTB shoe/cleat combo comes more from having a flat heel-to-toe angle (in comparison to a full road-style shoe/cleat) than from flexing of the sole.

  4. #4
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    I use CB Candy pedals on my commuter. CB cleats are almost identical to SPD cleats in size. I use Specialized MTB shoes (regular in the summer, high top insulated in the winter) for my commute. The winter shoes have a stiffer sole. When I was in Hawaii, I commuted daily in Lake SPD sandals and found them very comfortable. In 2005, I escorted for the Honolulu Marathon wheelchair racers and ended up with around 60 miles and five hours on the bike. I was wearing my MTB shoes and my feet hurt after hour 4. I did a six hour century in my SPD sandals later that month with no problems at all. I recently ordered a pair of Northwave Lizzard MTB shoes that have a carbon plate. I will report back after a field test. I need MTB shoes for the walking and bike carrying when I arrive at work. IMHO, sole stiffness makes a big difference when using small cleats. SPD sandals are stiff because they are thick (and heavy).

    My road bike has CB Quattro pedals and I use the CB three bolt cleat with my NW road shoes.
    Retired sailor

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    Quote Originally Posted by bigbill
    In 2005, I escorted for the Honolulu Marathon wheelchair racers and ended up with around 60 miles and five hours on the bike. I was wearing my MTB shoes and my feet hurt after hour 4. I did a six hour century in my SPD sandals later that month with no problems at all.
    Both rides were with the same cleats/pedals?

    I would think that the marathon escort ride was alot of soft pedaling so that there wasn't alot of pedal pressure coming through the shoe versus how hard I'd imagine you rode the century. In that case I would think that the cause of the foot pain was caused by something other than pedal pressure through the cleat/sole was not (unless the Specialized MTB shoes are as soft as Converse Chuck Taylors). Any thoughts on that?

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    I ride Frogs with stiff Carnac mtb shoes. Feels super solid to me and I've ridden just about every major clipless pedal design since the first Looks came out. But yeah I think the shoes are a big part of the equation. I think shoes are probably the most important cycling equipment purchase/choice. I never skimp on shoes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Henry Chinaski
    I think shoes are probably the most important cycling equipment purchase/choice. I never skimp on shoes.
    I'd add that I never buy shoes online .... I am absolutely snooty, picky choosy about shoe fit.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by PdxMark
    I'd add that I never buy shoes online either.... I am absolutely snooty, picky choosy about shoe fit.
    I bought my last pair of Carnacs from Excel Sports. I ordered two sizes of the same shoe at the same time and sent back the ones that didn't fit. That was kind of nice cause I could take a long time to ponder the fit.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by PdxMark
    Both rides were with the same cleats/pedals?

    I would think that the marathon escort ride was alot of soft pedaling so that there wasn't alot of pedal pressure coming through the shoe versus how hard I'd imagine you rode the century. In that case I would think that the cause of the foot pain was caused by something other than pedal pressure through the cleat/sole was not (unless the Specialized MTB shoes are as soft as Converse Chuck Taylors). Any thoughts on that?
    The marathon escort was with the wheelchair racers and we averaged around 18 mph with lots of sprints to make sure the corners were clear, etc. I rode from my house to downtown and then home afterwards. I wore my Specialized MTB shoes and I felt the pressure from the pedal after a while. Basically the arches of my feet were doing too much. The century was wearing my Lake SPD sandals. The famous Woody Graham would ride 60 or more organized centuries a year wearing SPD sandals. I would wear my SPD sandals on my commute now if they were allowed in the shipyard.
    Retired sailor

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