In this article I’m going to dive into the budget road bike clipless pedals. I’ve taken a look at the biggest brands in the business and looked at how they stack up against each other.
When you compare all the different features of budget versus premium pedals it’s remarkable how little they differ from each other. Besides the ease of use of the cleat system, the bearings are probably the most important aspect of a pedal, since they directly equate to its durability and how fast you’ll need to service or replace them. And all these budget models have the exact same bearings as their more expensive counterparts.
The cleat systems are also the same, with the same float, release mechanism and cleat options. So there isn’t much that distinguishes the cheaper pedals from the more expensive ones here as well.
Where you do see changes in the pedal body and spindle, with the lightest options available for more money. But we’re talking about maybe a 100 grams weight difference and you’ll find a very lightweight option in this article as well.
All in all what you’ll find is that in terms of functionality these pedals are almost as good as pedals which cost 2 or 3 times as much, if not more. So with that out of the way, let’s take a look at the list of the best budget road bike clipless pedals.
The Shimano PD-RS500 is the Japanese brand’s entry level clipless road bike pedal.
For over 2 decades Shimano has offered road bike pedals with the SPD-SL system, a much larger cleat than the standard SPD technology. The SPD-SL is a much larger cleat offering far more stability and specifically meant for road racing. It’s a much copied design providing the rider with an excellent power transfer.
There are 3 variations of the cleat, offering float between 0° to 6°, with the standard yellow cleats offering the most float. A single 2.5mm allen key suffices to adjust the release tension
It’s a good example of an entry level product where you get basically all the functionality you’ll ever need in a much more affordable product. The chromoly spindle and bearings are the same across the entire lineup except for the most expensive Dura-ace version.
It means these pedals with a composite body are very durable and long-lasting. Something Shimano is known for.
Furthermore the pedals offer a 16.5 mm stack height in combination with a standard 53 mm stance.
The slightly more expensive Tiagra R550 version has a stainless steel plate for added longevity. Otherwise it’s exactly the same pedal as this one.
The only downside might be that at 320 grams per pair they are the heaviest road bike pedals I’ve researched, but the difference in weight is 100 grams or less with comparable options.
You simply cannot fault these pedals, and the fact they’re entry-level says nothing about their superb quality and high value.
108 | Paul Norman – 45180
The Shimano RS500 pedals provide an inexpensive clipless pedal option if you want to try Shimano’s SPD-SL system and are a novice to clipless pedals. They’re also potentially useful for urban riders who need to make frequent stops and starts, but don’t want to use the double-sided SPD pedal system.
There’s a significant weight increase over Shimano 105 pedals though and, given that you can set the release tension so that it’s almost as light for 105 as for the RS500 pedals, it’s not clear why you’d choose the RS500 pedals over 105 if you can stump up the cash for the latter.
Time XPresso 2
The Time XPresso 2 is the entry level road bike pedal in the gran fondo category.
As with the Shimano PD-RS500 the difference with the XPresso 4 is the lack of stainless steel plate for added durability.
This doesn’t detract from the overall value of the pedal, which uses the proprietary ICLIC cleat system used throughout the entire lineup. The large body of the pedal is just a bit more difficult to get in the right position for cleat engagement. But once you’ve rotated it correctly the open system is extremely easy to get into and fastens with noticeable less force.
The elongated body of the pedal offers an excellent platform to transfer the rider’s power. And dual cleats are available. Besides the standard cleat offering 10° of float, there’s also the fixed 0° option. The large amount of float is less stressful on the knees and offers a lot of freedom, which doesn’t detract from the overall stability on the platform.
At 230 grams they are the lightest budget road bike pedal and a very lightweight pedal in general. And the 13.5 mm stack height is also incredibly low.
The single cartridge bearing and bushing won’t last as long as your average Shimano bearing, which is probably the biggest downside of these otherwise solid pedals.
14 | David Arthur – 44324
Once clipped in, the large surface area results in impressive power transfer and the 15-degree release angle avoids the potential for accidental disengagement. There’s not a hint of roll or unwanted movement when pedalling hard out of the saddle whether climbing or sprinting, which is very reassuring in a wide range of situations. When intended, clipping out is a very positive experience.
Look Keo Classic 3
The Look Keo Classic 3 sits in the “road comfort” category, which is probably because of its budget-friendly price and rather large stack height of 17.8 mm. It means they’re counting on you not going to fast into corners to prevent pedal strikes.
They are not nearly as long as the Time pedals, but look rather similar to the Shimano PD-RS500, with a very similar cleat system. The Shimano pedals offer 3 different types of cleats, Look also offers 3: the standard 9° degree float or a max grip of 0°, with a 4.5° version in the middle. It could be one of the reasons you’d choose this pedal over the Shimano version.
The single bearing and needle bearing doesn’t mean they have better bearings though, and at 280 grams they have an average weight they are 50 grams lighter, which is probably negligable.
So apart from the wider range of options in float, I’d argue that the Shimano pedals win.
118 | George Hill – 42741
This wider contact area creates a good platform for power transfer. I found I could put the power down easily, even when using a set of 9-degree cleats that were moving around fairly freely. There is a slight improvement on the previous pedals, with a claimed ‘400mm2 surface area which is almost 40% more than the competition’.
I cannot verify the numbers, but one of the key reasons for doing this is comfort: spreading power transfer over a larger area is meant to decrease hot spots on longer rides. This isn’t something I tend to suffer from, but I certainly didn’t notice it while using these, so it might work…
Specifications budget road bike clipless pedals
Bearings and bushings
2 cup and cone bearings, 1 bushing
0° – 6°
Time XPresso 2
fiberglass / composite
1 cartridge bearing, 1 bushing
0° – 10°
Look Keo Classic 3
1 cartridge bearing, 1 needle bearing
0° – 9°
Johan van Seijen is the founder of restoration.bike. His cycling career has seen him at the starting line of classics such as the Amstel Gold Race and Liege Bastogne Liege. Realizing his racing capacity would fall short of what was needed he obtained a MS from the University of Amsterdam in engineering. His love for cycling changed into riding in an amateur capacity with his local cycling club TFC Weesp as a roadie and supporting MTB Noordwest as a mountain biker. He repairs, restores, and builds bicycles and shares his knowledge on YouTube, Facebook and this website.
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