Looking for an easy way to improve your biking performance in a triathlon? Investing in a set of clipless triathlon pedals could be the answer.
If you’ve been using regular flat pedals, you may be surprised at how much a clipless pedal can boost your pedaling efficiency.
We’ve reviewed the best clipless triathlon pedals. Keep in mind that you’ll need an appropriate pair of shoes and cleats to ride with these pedals!
Our top pick is the Shimano PD-R9100. It has a carbon-composite body with hollow cleat bolts, a comfortably wide platform, and adjustable settings so you can get it perfect for you.
Check out these 7 choices if you’re in the market!
Top 3 Best and Favorite
1. Shimano Dura Ace PD-R9100
Shimano is a huge name in cycling gear, so it’s only fitting that they’ve created what’s considered to be one of the best clipless pedals on the market.
The Shimano PD-R9100 has a comfortably wide platform to provide you the best stability on the bike, but also for the most effective power transfer when pedaling.
It also features a wide bearing placement specifically to help distribute your weight evenly. The close-to-axle design also improves your pedaling efficiency. You can purchase an option with a longer axle (+4mm) if you prefer.
The body of this pedal consists of injection-molded carbon-composite material. That makes it super tough and able to withstand pretty much anything you can throw at it. Three stainless steel plates protect the actual pedal from wear and tear from your feet.
But they’re also very lightweight, weighing just 228 grams (8 ounces) each. This is partly due to the design, but also thanks to the addition of hollow cleat bolts.
Adjust the tension on these pedals to suit your own preferences. If anything does happen to these pedals, you can take advantage of Shimano’s 3-year limited warranty if the conditions allow.
A pair of Shimano’s SM-SH12 cleats are included with this purchase. They come with about 2 degrees of float. If it’s not right for you, you can purchase a 6-degree or zero-degree set at a small extra cost.
- Extra-wide platform
- Customizable tension settings
- Carbon-composite body
- 3-year limited warranty
- The stainless steel pads aren’t replaceable if one falls out
2. LOOK KEO 2 MAX
The Keo 2 Max is a popular pedal choice, and it’s the natural choice after Shimano. Look was one of the first companies to create clipless pedals, so they know what they’re doing!
The Keo 2 offers one of the widest platforms you’ll find, 500mm² (0.7 in²) in total and 60mm wide. That’s significant for power transfer to the drivetrain and it also provides a great stable platform.
It also has a narrower bottom end than its previous version, which allows you to corner effectively without worrying about catching your pedals. If you do catch them accidentally, the carbon composite body is hardy and can withstand a lot of beating up.
A stainless steel wear plate in the middle of the body provides more strength and rigidity, as well as durability. The stack height is nice and low, at 17.3mm.
The Keo 2 Max is also extremely lightweight. Just 130 grams (4,5 ounces) each, they’re among the lightest on the market. This may not be significant for beginners or even intermediates, but it could be of notable interest to pros and advanced cyclists.
You can adjust your retention to your liking. You’ll get a float of 4,5 degrees with the included cleats. Look offers a 2-year warranty.
- 500mm² contact area
- Super lightweight at 4,5 oz
- Stainless steel wear plate
- Narrow bottom end
- Look cleats wear out quickly
3. Shimano PD-R550
The PD-R550 is slightly above Shimano’s entry-level PD-R450. The only thing that hasn’t changed in the upgrade is the axle and the internal workings. Upgrades include an ultra-wide platform and metal cleat plate that’s replaceable.
You’ll get a three-bolt cleat with a 3-degree float. It’s known as one of the easiest road pedals to use thanks to how simple it is to clip in and go. A large entry space makes it quick and easy to get in and out.
There are almost endless adjustments you can make in terms of tension, so it’s possible to get it down to a very fine degree. Exactly as you like! Beginners have a huge range available to play with as they gain in skill and confidence using clipless pedals.
The body of this pedal is made of resin, with stainless steel on the platform to ensure better durability. It’s worth noting that if you crash, this pedal could be damaged, unlike metal ones.
But in terms of everyday wear and tear, it holds up surprisingly well considering it’s a less hardy material. The biggest downside to these pedals is their weight, with one pedal coming in at half a pound.
But considering the price of this pedal in comparison to others, it’s an excellent budget-friendly choice that should last you a good long time if you ride safely.
- Adjustable spring tension
- Replaceable cleat plate
- Extra-wide body
- Larger entry target
- Lightweight resin material could be compromised in a crash
Top Dual-Sided Entry
4. Speedplay Zero Pedals
You know that Speedplay is going to be about quick entry and exit just by their name.
The Zero Pedal System is a dual-sided entry system, so you don’t need to waste valuable seconds trying to flip your pedals over to get them right side up.
Another feature we love is that the included cleats are the first real aero and walkable cleats available for road pedals.
Typically, road cleats are not able to be walked on, but these innovative cleats have a rubberized, grippy tread on them that allow for easy strolling with less wear and tear.
Riders can adjust the float to anywhere between zero and 15 degrees. For even more customization, you can separately adjust every one of the important foot-axis positions (fore-aft and lateral). The release angle is also micro-adjustable.
A low stack height (11.5mm for 3-hole mounting, 8.5mm for 4-hole) is created by using three needle bearings instead of two, making for a thinner pedal. This also allows for a tighter cornering clearance (37 degrees), making this a decent aero pedal.
The streamlined design is enhanced by the fact that there’s no platform on the pedal. Instead, the platform is created by the cleat once it’s clipped in, reducing the weight and drag of this system.
They’re also super lightweight. The stainless steel pedals weigh just 103 grams each, while the chrome-poly version weighs 108 grams. If you choose 4-hole cleats, they’ll weigh 138 grams per pair, and 3-holes weigh 100 grams.
- Double-sided entry
- Precision adjustment
- Walkable cleats
- Low stack height
- May take some getting used to the clip-in
Best For Beginners
5. Time Sport XPro 10
These unusual-looking pedals have a carbon body with steel bearings, making them durable and tough.
The carbon blade is easy to engage, thanks to the iClic retention system. It remains open when disengaged, making it much easier to clip back in with minimal effort.
That does result in a much quieter clip-in, which can be hard to hear sometimes. It may take a bit of getting used to before you come to feel when you’re properly clipped in.
The surface area is impressive, which helps for power transfer to the drivetrain, helping you go faster with less effort. A low stack height (13.5mm) is ideal to keep you close to the axle.
They utilize a 15-degree release angle with three levels of tension adjustment. There’s around 2.5mm of lateral float. It also uses a self-centering design, which means you need to work on keeping your feet in position against the retention spring, but it’s not tough and it works with the natural movement of your lower leg joints.
With a weight of 228 grams for the pedals and just 89 grams for the cleats, these are super light and easy to use. Their various characteristics make them an excellent choice for beginners, who won’t have anything complicated to work with.
The only thing that may take some getting used to is the fact that these pedals aren’t angled or weighted in such a way that they’re optimally angled for engagement. You’ll most likely need to flip them over every other time in order to engage your cleats.
- Large pedal surface
- iClic Technology
- 3 levels of tension adjustment
- Low stack height
- Aren’t consistently angled for quick clip-ins
Top For Training And Everyday Use
6. Time Sport Xpresso 4
The Xpresso is another system from Time Sports. It also features their super user-friendly iClic system, and is durable enough to be an excellent choice as an everyday training pedal.
The pedal platform is extremely generous, at 700mm². You’ll feel perfectly stable on your feet at all times.
The fact that the pedals have both angular and lateral float is also a big draw, keeping your feet and legs in the optimal position to prevent fatigue and injury.
You’ll get 3-bolt cleats and all the hardware you need to mount them with your purchase.
- 700mm² platform
- iClic system
- Angular float and lateral float
- 3-bolt cleats included
- The cleat is a little bulky
Best For Races
7. Shimano PD-R7000
When it comes to racing, you want Shimano in your corner. The PD-R7000 has been developed for performance and aerodynamics, providing you with more power and less drag as you’re racing.
The body is made of lightweight carbon fiber reinforced resin, which not only reduces the weight but is also extremely durable.
It also features a stainless steel body plate insert, which is heavy-duty and increases the durability without adding too much to the weight of the pedal (265 grams per pair).
An extra-wide platform allows for maximum power output with less effort, saving you energy during the ride. They also use an unusually wide bearing placement which helps to maintain rigidity and distribute your weight evenly.
The tension settings and release settings are both adjustable to your liking. The cleats that come with the pedal aren’t the most durable, but it’s a small downside as these pedals are worth every penny if you’re a serious racer.
- Lightweight carbon body
- Aerodynamic pedals
- Adjustable release tension
- Stainless steel body plate
- The included cleats aren’t very durable
Considering buying a set of the best clipless triathlon pedals? Here’s what you should be looking for to make sure you get the right ones for you.
What to Look for When Buying Clipless Triathlon Pedals
A pedal isn’t just a pedal when it comes to buying clipless Look at the following features when shopping:
The cleats are what fastens onto the bottom of your shoes so you can clip into the pedals. You’ll most likely be using road cleats for a triathlon, although you may use MTB cleats if you’re doing a trail triathlon.
Road cleats fasten onto the bottom of your shoes using three bolts. MTB cleats usually use two bolts. Also, road cleats usually protrude from beneath your shoe, so it’s hard to walk with them on your shoes. MTB cleats are usually recessed into the shoe to allow for walking.
You can’t use one cleat with another pedal. Whichever pedal you decide to use, you’ll need the correct corresponding cleats.
The float is how much your foot can move rotationally while still being clipped into the pedal. It’s measured in degrees. Every system allows for a certain amount of float, for safety and comfort purposes.
Not all cleats offer float. Some are fixed-position, and it really depends on the rider’s preference as to which they choose.
Different manufacturers offer different degrees of float. For example, Look has cleats with 4.5° and others with 9° of float. Shimano offers a cleat with 6° of rotational float. You can even get adjustable cleats from Speedplay which can be set at up to 15°.
You can adjust the tension on the pedal at which the cleat releases from the pedal. A tension that’s too low could cause the cleat to disengage accidentally, while you’re riding. On the other hand, a tension that’s too high can make it hard to release, effectively keeping your feet stuck to the pedals longer than you want.
Most pedals allow for a wide variety of adjustment so you can choose the tension setting that works best for you.
The stack height of a pedal refers to the distance between the sole of your shoe and the center of the pedal’s axle.
Typically, a lower stack height is preferred. Because your foot is closer to the axle, your pedaling efficiency is likely to be higher, improving your performance.
What’s the Difference Between SPD and SPD-SL?
These two terms refer to a system of clipless pedals and cleats designed by Shimano back in 1990. SPD stands for Shimano Pedaling Dynamics, and SL stands for SuperLight.
Although these terms come directly from Shimano’s products, they’re used fairly genetically these days. Mountain bike pedals are generally referred to as SPD pedals, while road pedals are usually known as SPD-SL, as they’re somewhat lower in weight.
Buying clipless pedals can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve never used them before! Don’t worry. Here are a few tips to help you buy the right one.
Expensive Isn’t Always Necessary
You don’t need to buy the most expensive clipless pedals from the most well-known brands if you’re just starting out. You can have a look for something middle-of-the-range without sacrificing quality much.
Do your research before simply settling on one, though. It’s worth finding out what other people are saying about the pedals you’re considering before investing.
Ask Your Buddies
If you really aren’t sure what to even look for, find out what your friends are using. If it works for them, chances are it will work for you too!
Decide What Result You Want
Know whether you’ll be using the system on the road or the trail. The more you know about what you want, the easier it will be for you to find your ideal pedal and cleat system.
This might not be necessary for beginners. But as you come to the time when you need to replace your first set, you should have a pretty solid idea of what you like and what you don’t about the system you’ve been using.
You should also know what purpose you want your pedals to serve. Do you simply want some more stability on the bike or do you want to use them to improve your time and performance?
All these questions will help you to find your ideal next set of pedals.
Buy a System If You’re Just Beginning
You can buy cleats and pedals separately. But if you’re just beginning, it might be difficult to understand how to choose the right cleats for specific pedals.
It’s easier to buy a full system, which includes cleats (or shoes with built-in cleats) and pedals that are specifically made for each other.
Buy Extras If You Ride Often
If you ride very often, it may be a good idea to consider buying an extra set of cleats and pedals.
They don’t break easily, but it’s worth having an extra set around just in case.