There are over 2 million patents that exist just on bike pedals giving you the magnitude of variation and styles in existence. Generally there are three categories of bike pedals you can choose from: platform or flat, toe cage or straps, and clipless. Platform pedals are the style we most likely all began riding and most common. From an ease of use and safety this is as simple as you can get.
Toe cages and strap fundamentally serve a similar purpose. This pedals style secures your shoe a bit more firmly onto the pedal providing certain ability to push and pull through a pedal cycle. The benefits of this type pedal include the ability to wear virtually any shoe eliminating need for special bike shoes, easy entry and exit from the cage or strap so the learning curve is minimal. These style pedals have very little additional maintenance if any.
Clipless pedals are a great indication you have evolved into a serious rider. Most cited reasons for using this style pedal are aligned with improved performance like speed or distance. If you are debating the pros and cons of using this style pedal then be mindful of the learning curve you’ll go need to go through to correctly use a clipless pedal system.
Observing many cyclists over the past year, I found a majority of the cyclists experienced a small spill at the beginning of their clipless pedal phase. My first incident occurred as I was approaching a red light while rolling less than five-mile per hour. As I approached the light and un-clipping my right shoe which is my typical foot I put down first at a stop. What I failed to notice was the slope in the road leaning my center of gravity to the left. Not realizing this until too late, I panicked and tried to pull my shoe out vertically which doesn’t work. Down I went meeting Mr. Asphalt. No sustained injuries occurred other than shredded pride as I looked like a total goof. For those cars near by inexperienced in clipless pedals wondering why would a rider keep his foot on the pedal?! Thankfully the cars were a safe distance from me. I had a heck of a time getting vertical again as my shoe was still engaged in the pedal and I was tangled with the bike.
This is a typical scenario you should be prepared for when starting out with a clipless pedal. The need to disengage immediately should be practiced in a driveway or a safe area. Become comfortable with removing both feet out of your pedals quickly and minimize the chance of an accident. Don’t be surprised when a riding situation requires a quick response and a panic sets in trying to pull your foot up instead of the required heel pivot.
Once you have gained some riding experience you’ll love the benefits of a clipless pedal system. You’ll find going up hills slightly easier with the improved ability to generate more power by using added muscles of pulling up on your pedals. Even though you may have been riding for years, remember to take the time to acclimate to clipless pedals and avoid the many small spills riding.