A lot friends have asked me what kind of pedals I use for my road bike and I think it surprises many of them that I use Shimano PD-520 MTB Pedals with SPD Cleats.
Why do I use mountain bike pedals?
I think that everyone has their own comfort level of what pedals they would rather use and previously I used Shimano PD-R540-LA Light Action SPD-SL Road Pedal with a set of SM-SH11 Cleats. And truth be told, I was getting hurt a lot as my reaction time for some reason, my releases were off. Yes, you can alter the tension but it was frustrating because I was able to get on and ride but when it came to getting my foot off the pedal, my success rate was like 2 out of 10.
And sure, practice makes perfect and I went through a lot of practice, gone through a lot of major scrapes and bruises but the more I started and think I would get used to them, I realize that in areas with traffic, I needed to have a better reaction time. But also having associates who were professional bikers who passed away tragically in rides, I didn’t want to chance it and I started to do my research on various bike forums.
I read many people saying that they went from road bike pedals to mountain bike pedals and started to talk to friends who also have done the same thing. While my friends who are hardcore will never think of using mountain bike pedals for their century or double century rides, I’m also not a person who has full confidence with riding long distances, riding in steep hills and often thinking too much about staying safe.
And so I decided to purchase the the Shimano PD-M520 Black MTB Mountain Bike Pedals with SPD Cleats, the Shimano PD-A520 SPD Clipless Pedals and the Shimano PD-A530 MTB Pedals with SPD Cleats.
The following two photos above are the Shimano PD-520 Black MTB Mountain Bike Pedal and SPD Cleats. As you can see, the pedal is the same on both sides. So, chances of getting your foot into the pedal with your cleat is very good!
The Shimano PD-A520 Sport SPD Pedal is a single-entry pedal with SPD and recessed SPD shoes. This is for those who want the best of both worlds of using their MTB shoes and those who want a road pedal. With that being said, they are one-sided only. So, you will need to rotate the pedal with your foot, to make sure you want to lock in.
The cleats shown above are the PDA-530 MTB Pedals with cleats. The PDA-530 is what they call a touring pedal. You can use your cleats to lock on to the clipped side or if you want to use the other side as a standard bike pedal you can. So, you can wear MTB shoes or regular shoes with these pedals.
While I found each of them to be easy to use, in the end, I found that my favorite of the four pedals I own were the Shimano PDM-520 MTB Pedals with SPD Cleats.
I’m able to get my foot in, get my foot out and there are moments where I could have gotten badly hurt but my reaction of removing my foot off the pedal was quick enough to avert disaster. Doesn’t matter if the pedals are flipped, you can place your foot in the pedals on either side, so you’re locked in no matter which side of the pedal you are clipped on.
The tension was easy to adjust and the pedals on my mountain bike shoes fit perfectly (I also like the fact that I could walk in my mountain bike shoes as opposed to my road shoes).
While I may receive some flack from some bikers for not using my Shimano PD-R540-LA Light Action SPD-SL Road Petal with a set of SM-SH11 Cleats and road shoes, I’m actually quite fine with that.
I ride for fitness and fun and not competition and safety is always on my mind before I go out riding.
But does it mean that I will never wear my road shoes or never use my road bike pedals? Of course, not. But I found what works for me and if furthers my enjoyment of riding bikes again and how it not only is a great workout but really recapturing that love of biking that I had when I was a teenager.
If you are a beginner and want easy pedals to start off with, definitely try out any of the Shimano PDM-520 MTB Pedals with SPD Cleats (or even the lighter and slightly more expensive Shimano PD-M540 SPD pedals) and when you are ready to move up to the PD-R540’s, then definitely go for it!
Otherwise, if you are comfortable with the PDM-520’s, like I am, then stick with them.