The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa

Sealed vs Unsealed Pedals

I am looking into some new pedals/shoes and see unsealed or sealed pedals. I am assuming that one uses ball bearings and the other doesn’t. Is any one better than the other?

29 Replies

Profile photo of Iceman
Iceman, March 11, 2013 at 1:54 pm

They all have bearings. Some are “sealed” (cartridge)bearings and some not. I would not worry about it. Just buy some decent pedals.

I’d worry more about the type of pedal (i.e., mountain bike versus road). I used to insist on nothing but the best and lightest road pedals but I switched to SPD pedals (i.e., SPD being a Shimano mountain bike pedal) since the cleat is recessed into the shoe and makes walking around on RAGBRAI much, much easier than with road pedals. Road pedals are great for riding fast but not so good for all the walking you’ll do on RAGBRAI. And those “covers” for use with road pedals (when walking) are a nuisance to keep up with and you still wind up looking like a duck when you walk in them.



Profile photo of JoeB
JoeB, March 11, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Just an observation and 1.9 cents worth.
Unless you are a serious roadie the Mt Bike style (SPD) are the way to go the shoes are more varied and you can get pedals like Shimano 324’s that are cleat on one side and platform on the other. When the serious miles are done for the day you can still easily ride to the store or around the local area in your street shoes, flip flops ..etc…



Profile photo of petra
petra, March 11, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I will agree in part with both of the earlier posts. I ride both road and mountain shoes depending on the type of ride. For road rides with minimal walking (i.e. some rest stops) I use light weight road shoes and pedals, but for tours where there is a good deal of walking I use mountain shoes and pedals. The problem is that you are moving the advantages and disadvantages around. While road shoes are difficult to walk distances in they are typically cooler and provide a much better transfer of power to the pedal while riding. Mountain shoes are nicer to walk around in but do not offer the comfort for extended pedaling. The first year I tried using mountain shoes and pedals for RAGBRAI. I loved them in the towns but regretted them on the longer road stretches. Ultimately, though, I decided that they were the best choice for this type of event. The pain of significant walking in my road shoes (not to mention the wear on them) far outweighed the much less significant loss in pedaling.

I met a number of riders that wore road shoes but carried light sandals to change into when they dismounted. Too much work for me but a workable option.

Regardless of your choice be sure the shoes fit well. I also do not recommend very soft commuter shoes. These are essentially sneakers with pedal clips. While they are great to walk in, they can put extreme pressure on the ball of your foot when you ride.



Profile photo of Terry
quicksilver, March 11, 2013 at 2:46 pm

I rode for the first time last year on road shoes. I pretty much destroyed a pair of cleats at a cost of $12 to $15. They did get me through the entire ride without replacement. I agree with all of the above posts but it you are considering buying mb shoes just for the ride it would be cost prohibitive for me.

I would recommend shoes that are comfortable and fit well. I had a foot that was partially numb for 6 months after the ride. Get shoes with a stiff sole and a padded insole.



Profile photo of Evan S
Evan S, March 11, 2013 at 3:02 pm

So with a pedal like the SPD 324, do they make road and MTB shoes that would both fit that pedal??? I like the idea of flipping over the pedal and being able to ride without shoes.



Profile photo of lawrence
knees36, March 11, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Just to add another alternative…you might want to consider sandals with the SPD arrangement(s) mentioned above. Sandals are a bit cooler on a hot day, easy to walk in and can be worn in the evening with a minimum of difficulty and, overall, are the cat’s meow on a ride such as RAGBRAI.



Profile photo of Iceman
Iceman, March 11, 2013 at 5:26 pm

I don’t like the SPD pedal that has clip on one side and flat non-cleat surface on other side. I don’t ride much – even on RAGBRAI – without my riding shoes and even if you do, you can always get some of those spd compatible shoes that look and feel exactly like running shoes.

I use Shimano, two sided (i.e., clips on both sides) pedals with really broad platform on both sides (probably looks like the clip side of the 324’s but on both sides). I also find it much easier to “clip in” if both sides have cleats.

And as to road pedals and road cleats, yes – I broke a set one time and that was a major pain in the butt to deal with for 20 miles. I have never felt that road pedals were any better that SPD compatiboe pedals, just lighter.

You might also try some of the Crank Brothers mountain pedals. I have several friends that have them and like them. They also “walk around town” much more comfortably than shoes with road cieats.



Profile photo of Tony
Tony, March 11, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Like the above posters. I have switched all my road bikes to MTB pedals. I have used Shimano SPD, Time ATAC, and Crank Brothers. All quality systems. They all use SPD cleat mounts. I use Crank Brothers Candy pedals on all my bikes. The cleat is recessed in the sole. So you walk normal in MTB shoes. This also allows me to use my MTB shoes on all my bikes. On RAGBRAI you will be off the bike walking allot. So MTB shoes offer allot more comfort. One other thing about MTB systems. They do not clog with grass and mud like road systems. It gets real muddy around water file stations some times. If it rains. It can get real muddy. Out of all the systems. I have found Time ATAC and Crank Brothers pretty much are self cleaning and clogging in not a factor. I will also add Bike sandals have recessed MTB (SPD) cleat mounts. Don’t want to leave out the sandal folks.



Profile photo of Michrider
Michrider !!!, March 11, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Once again Tony is right! I might add that cornfields can also be quite muddy at times!!!!



Profile photo of KEn
KC, March 11, 2013 at 6:59 pm

I much prefer my speedplays over anything else, but they are a pain when walking any signficant distance. I’ll definitley be wearing my speedplays for the first couple days because they really are more comfortable on the bike and allow me to climb hills easier. However, on the shorter days (Days 3 through 6 or 7), I’m considering switching to my Crank Brother pedals and wearing my SPDs. That will probably be a last minute decision.



Profile photo of heknits
heknits, March 11, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Another thumbs up for sandals with SPD pedals. I wore Nashbar Ragsters on my first RAGBRAI and had no regrets. They were comfortable at the pace I was riding, cool, I could squirt water on my feet and get an instant cooldown, walk through puddles, etc, etc. I have road shoes and love those for training rides, but for RAGBRAI I’ll be switching to my sandals again.



Profile photo of WILLIAM
Sandaltan, March 12, 2013 at 8:53 am

Sandals of course. I take one pair of shoes when I tour, Keens lately, Shimano two straps before that and am quite happy. In a twelve hour day, six to six, I will spend maybe four hours on the bike and the other eight on a kurb or walking around looking for a nice comfy kurb. The sandal and SPD combination do the job for me. The SPD cleats last for years and thousands of miles before they must be replaced. Keens, Shimano two strap, Lake sandals or Nashbar Ragsters are all good choices.




Profile photo of Evan S
Evan S, March 12, 2013 at 10:08 am

I am sold on the SPD system for sure after reading the responses. I like the M324 because of the ability to flip it over and ride without shoes, but is it that hard to ride on a pair like the M530 without shoes? I cant really see a benefit either way.



Profile photo of WILLIAM
Sandaltan, March 12, 2013 at 10:48 am

I have biked a few miles in slides/flip-flops to run a short errand with my Shimano M520 double sided pedals, no problem. Further, I don’t clip either foot in until I am rolling six or seven mph or am free of traffic. M520 pedals are $25 to $50 and the cleats are $17 to $23, I consider that reasonable.




Profile photo of jim
jwsknk, March 12, 2013 at 10:53 am

I ride with my spd’s and regular tennis shoes all the time, but never very far, 2-3 miles around town and not pushing any kind up speed either.
Do like the 2 sided but when I ran the Looks that were only one sided, they were weighted so it was never an issue getting to the right side to clip in. And I don’t miss walking around town in those road shoes, lost more cleat covers, or I should say half a pair of cleat covers than I can remember.
Snapped a plastic road cleat in half one timw out in the middle of knowhere Ohio or Pennslyvania, limped along on the hills for about 5 miles until finally gave in and hitched a ride into a town with a bike shop.



Viewing 15 replies - 1 through 15 (of 29 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.








Clubs, Teams & Charters

Lost and Found


Gatherings & Meetings




  • Profile picture of Betty
    active 1 minute ago
  • Profile picture of Steve
    active 4 minutes ago
  • Profile picture of Ken
    active 26 minutes ago
  • Profile picture of Linda
    active 30 minutes ago
  • Profile picture of Marie
    active 38 minutes ago