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The top 14 best clipless pedals for gravel riding

In this article I’m going to give you my overview of the very best clipless pedals for gravel riding. To do so I’ve taken a number of things into consideration.

The first thing has to do with what type of pedals are most suitable for gravel riding. Obviously, any pedal will theoretically suffice, but I’ve seen reputable sites recommending clipless pedals meant for trail riding, and that’s just plain wrong advice in my book.

In general, gravel riding focuses on combining the speed of a road bike geometry with the off road capabilities of a mountain bike. This means you’d want a lightweight pedal with mud-shedding capabilities. This is because unlike traditional road racing, you might not always be riding on tarmac and muddy conditions can indeed be encountered.

On the other hand, the bigger platforms normally associated with trail, enduro, and downhill riding, which are mountain bike disciplines probably won’t be necessary. Unless you’re actually someone who wants to hit the trails with your gravel bike, and would like the added grip and support of a platform with pins.

On this list of the best clipless pedals for gravel riding I’m featuring really high-quality premium offerings alongside pedals I deem great value for money. The pedals are chosen from a range of brands that offer distinctive ride characteristics, mostly in the area of float or how much the pedal allows you to move around.

So whatever your budget, you’re bound to find the right pedal for you here.

Shimano XTR PD-M9100

Shimano XTR PD-M9100
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There is no best of list without Shimano XTR, and the Shimano XTR PD-M9100 is the best, most minimalistic clipless pedal in their lineup.

Where every other manufacturer offers versions with titanium axles to reduce weight, Shimano does not, which means these pedals are light enough at 310 grams, but not the lightest. Third-party titanium axles are available that enable you to get these pedals below 300 grams, but it’ll cost you multiple dollars per gram to do so.

At 15.1 mm the XTR pedals have one of the lowest stack height of all clipless pedals, which means a very low risk of pedal strikes.

The rear part of the mechanism is spring-loaded, which means you engage the pedals toe first. This takes a bit getting used to, especially when you’ve never used clipless pedals before. When attached they offer a snug feel with minimal float of 4 degrees, and reasonable release tension at 13 degrees. This is good for those people who want a super consistent pedal feeling and maximum energy transfer.

The pedal comes in two different axle lengths, 52 and 55 mm, and are the only pedals that offer a dual cup and cone bearing setup. Such a bearing setup enables the pedal to enable a higher load.

The SPD system is outstanding with definite clicks to let you know you’ve either engaged or disengaged the pedal. There are multi-release cleats available, of which I’m not a fan, that allow you to disengage both ways and upwards.

Mud shedding is excellent with a minimal round machined body where debris has little change to pack. The platform is rather small, which means that I’d opt for the larger M9120 or other more trail-oriented pedals when moving away from XC or gravel riding.

The XTR pedals have been the benchmark against which all other pedals are measured, and these pedals ensure they keep that status.

Expert Experience

102 | Sean Fishpool – 44712

Two very minor gripes came up in my testing. The shoe cleat quickly started to wear through the very end of the polished contact patch on the inboard side. And I noticed that the bearings on one of the pedals had a very slight roughness to them, which I’d probably have sent back to the shop for a perfectly smooth pair, had I bought them.

If your wallet allows it, the XTRs are a significant upgrade over the XTs. With a wider contact patch, better mud clearance, lower weight, and a lower stack height, it brings the race performance you’d expect from Shimano’s XTR pedals.

Pros and Cons

Shimano Deore XT PD-M8100

Shimano Deore XT PD-M8100
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XTR and Deore XT are always very closely related to each other in terms of functionality, but of all Shimano’s products I feel their pedals are the closest.

The Shimano Deore XT PD-M8100 differs only slightly from its XTR counterpart. And the difference is a few grams, 32 to be exact, and 6 mm of stack height. It does mean the XTR is better, but ever so slightly.

I don’t need to repeat everything I’ve already mentioned with the XTR PD-M9100 because in terms of ride quality these are exactly the same. And nobody’s going to convince me that they can possibly discern the weight and stack height difference while riding.

Expert Experience

102 | Sean Fishpool – 44712

The sealed internals are extremely unlikely to let you down. Even without maintenance they often keep spinning smoothly for years, and like most Shimano pedals, the PD-8100 is very maintenance-friendly.

Nobody ever regretted buying XT SPD pedals, and the PD-M8100 will give you years of clean, smooth pedaling. If a few grams of weight, slicker looks, and a little stack height aren’t important, the cheaper PD-M520 will do you almost as well, but we’ll leave your head to battle with your heart over that one.

Pros and Cons

Shimano PD M520

Shimano PD M520
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Besides the top-of-the-line XTR and XT versions, the Shimano PD M520 is the last-in-line of the XC and gravel-oriented clipless pedals.

That doesn’t mean these clipless pedals lack in quality. On the contrary, considering its quality, it’s really difficult to justify some of the prices associated with more premium offerings.

There’s a bit more weight to deal with, 380 grams to be exact, which is the least important sacrifice if you ask me.

The biggest thing with these pedals is that the cleat mechanism is similar to both XTR and XT for a fraction of the price. Obviously, there is a bit less polish to these pedals in the material department to keep the price low, but looking from afar, it’s very hard to distinguish these pedals from those costing three to four times as much.

Instead of the dual bearing setup of both XTR and XT, these pedals run a single sealed cartridge bearing, which is easily serviceable if you need to. You will need a fairly cheap proprietary Shimano tool to do so.

I’ve already said anything I want to say about the tried-and-true SPD mechanism.

Expert Experience

102 | Sean Fishpool – 44712

It’s hard to imagine ever regretting buying PD-M520s. If you lost a race by a tenth of a second you might wish you’d spent the extra £70 to save the 36g on Shimano’s XT pedals that might have got you over the line first, but otherwise, day to day, they’re just a reliable companion that keep spinning easily, and clipping in and out with a clear and definite action.

They stand up to years of all-weather abuse, rock strikes, and crashes, and though they’ll be at their best if you re-grease the bearings now and then, plenty of riders don’t. The cleats last well, too, and the fixed rear plate of the pedal is replaceable, though I imagine few riders ever do that.

Pros and Cons

Hope Union Clip Pedal - RC

Hope Union Clip Pedal - RC
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Hope Union Clip Pedal - RC
Hope Union Clip Pedal - RC
Hope Union Clip Pedal - RC
Hope Union Clip Pedal - RC

Hope’s approach to bicycle parts manufacturing is straightforward and refreshing. The UK brand designs what it feels is the best approach to a certain part, and brings it to life with stellar craftsmanship.

You can clearly see that approach reflected in the Hope Union Clip Pedal – RC pedal. It’s a very expensive pedal indeed, but if it’s the quality you want you absolutely get what you pay for.

For starters, it offers a standard titanium spindle with the best bearing setup of all mountain bike brands. Not only are there 3 cartridge bearings and a IGUS bushing enabling a tremendous amount of load, but the pedal is assembled in such a way that its tight rotation isn’t diminished after prolonged use and shows zero play.

The wonderfully machined aluminum body with stainless steel clips and cleats are built to last and are dual spring-loaded, ensuring easy entry from multiple angles, with a tad more float than the Shimano XTR pedals. And there are multiple anodized options to choose from.

2 sets of stainless steel cleats offer minimal configuration between 4 and 5 degrees of float, and a release angle of either 12 or 13 degrees. I wonder if you can actually feel the difference, which would mean you get a free set of cleats to be used as spares or for different shoes.

There are a number of lighter options available, yet at 323 grams this is still a light enough pedal. And taking into consideration it’s the heaviest clipless mountain bike pedal with titanium axles, it says something about the build quality as well.

I’m sure you could fault these pedals from a certain perspective, especially if you’re used to other brands offering significantly more float. But if you do, you move into the area of rider preference instead of trying to attain a certain amount of subjectivity necessary when reviewing products.

The Eggbeater 11 may steal the crown in the weight department, and the Shimano XTR pedals set the standard, but from a manufacturing perspective these are the best pedals you can find.

Expert Experience

96 | Lucas Winzenburg – 45183

My year of riding the Hope Union RC pedals on several bikes through varied conditions and across a broad range of terrain has me singing their praises. The Union RCs are exceptionally well-built, reliable, and almost transparent in their ease of use. They’ve endured a year of riding through rain and heavy mud and have shrugged off the elements, continuing to run smoothly without needing service.

From a design and feature perspective, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the Hopes over Shimano XTRs. That said, Hope’s decision to use a proprietary cleat makes them trickier to integrate across my SPD-heavy ecosystem. What’s more, the lack of readily available replacement cleats makes me unsure if I’d choose them for an extended bikepacking trip without a couple of spare sets of cleats, but that’s a relatively small price to pay for the class-leading performance they deliver on every ride.

Pros and Cons

Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3

Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3
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Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3
Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3
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The Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3 is one of the lightest mountain bike pedals on the market at a claimed weight of 280 grams.

The minimalistic design of these clipless mountain bike pedals is known for its mud-shedding ability, because there’s hardly anything to cling to, and the single glide bearing and cartridge bearing ensures smooth action, with the proper care. Its body and wing are both made from stainless steel, with a chromoly axle.

It’s recommended to use Crankbrothers cleats, which are a tad bit more expensive than the standard Shimano ones.

They offer an industry standard float of 6°, and a release between 15° or 20°. The 4-point engage system, versus the traditional 2 takes a bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, getting in or out of the pedals will feel natural and easy.

The pedal doesn’t have any platform at all, so it’s recommended you use them with carbon shoes.

Expert Experience

98 | Joshua Hutchens – 42909

The Eggbeater is bare minimum underfoot and delightfully simple. That same lack of complication results in a less than user-friendly pedal, it requires precise aim when engaging and there’s not much to adjust. Once accustomed to the size, clipping in becomes second nature and won’t likely make you regret buying these. Very stiff cross country shoes will help compensate for their size.

Pros and Cons

Crankbrothers Eggbeater 2

Crankbrothers Eggbeater 2
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Crankbrothers Eggbeater 2
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The Crankbrothers Eggbeater 2 is almost similar to the Eggbeater 3, with the same axle, and body. Except the wings are made from stamped steel instead of stainless. And it offers a standard enduro bearing instead of the MAX version of both the 3 and 11.

Naturally pedal manufacturers try to differentiate products in their lineup, and with the Eggbeater 2 they’ve done so in such a way that I would favor the more expensive 3 or cheaper 1 over this pedal. That’s because I deem the better Enduro Max bearing of the 3 worth paying the price for it. Yet opting for the fully stamped steel body of the 1 and just having a stamped steel body instead of a stainless steel one doesn’t really make much difference at all

Expert Experience

99 | McKenzie Long – 42223

This stylish pedal will be most attractive to those trying to keep their bikes as light as possible, and we give it our Top Pick Award for weight savings. The Eggbeater allows a rider to clip in and go without any extra bulk or weight whatsoever. The downside to this is that it requires precise aim when clipping in, but this is a technique that can easily be learned.

Pros and Cons

Crankbrothers Eggbeater 1

Crankbrothers Eggbeater 1
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Crankbrothers Eggbeater 1
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The Crankbrothers Eggbeater 1 lowers the cost even more by replacing the stainless steel body with a stamped steel version. They are the entry level version of these types of pedals.

Considering the fact that the ride quality is very similar to each other pedal in the Eggbeater lineup, they offer the best value-for-money by far, for a pedal still below 300 grams (at 290).

Expert Experience

100 | Alan Muldoon – 42206

As with the Crank Brothers Candy, by the end of the test, the bearings had begun to show a tiny amount of play in our sample pedal. It hasn’t got any worse, but it set off alarm bells as some of the Eggbeaters I’ve tested in the past also had issues with the bearings.

It could be the inherently light design and the fact that the lightweight axle flexes more, which puts more stress on the bearings. The stamped steel body was also showing signs of rust too — another indication that the Crank Brothers Eggbeater isn’t too happy in my damp climate.

Pros and Cons

Crankbrothers Candy 7

Crankbrothers Candy 7
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Crankbrothers Candy 7
Crankbrothers Candy 7
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The Crankbrothers Candy 7 is the non-titanium version of the Candy 11, swapping the wings and axle for respectively stainless steel and chromoly.

The jump from this pedal to its titanium version is too big if you ask me. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars for a 70 gram reduction in weight, because that’s the difference. And it doesn’t mean these are not very expensive pedals, for they are similar in price to the Shimano XTR PD-M9100.

When compared to the next in line, the Candy 3, the Candy 7 get’s a more machined body with chamfered edges, and a bash cover for the lock nut.

So if you want the ride characteristics from the Candy 11, yet still want to be able to put food on the table at the end of the month, consider buying these pedals instead.

Expert Experience

101 | Mike Levy – 43642

Crankbrothers has won me over with the Candy 7 pedal. It’s vital that they’re set-up correctly, of course, and the performed well once that was done. If you want a bit more support underfoot than a tiny cross-country pedal but don’t need a full-sized platform, the Candy is worth considering.

Pros and Cons

Crankbrothers Candy 3

Crankbrothers Candy 3
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Crankbrothers Candy 3
Crankbrothers Candy 3
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The Crankbrothers Candy 3 is probably the best value clipless pedal in the Candy lineup.

It offers the same bearing setup as the most expensive Candy 11, adds an extra 20 grams over the the Candy 7, but still sits at a respectable 340 grams.

It has the same stainless steel and aluminum body, this time without chamfered edges and bash guard. And it’s the cheapest pedal which offers the best ride characteristics that the Candy pedals are all about.

A quality clipless mountain bike pedal which can be used in diverse conditions from XC, gravel and trail riding.

Expert Experience

102 | Sean Fishpool – 44778

The Candy 3 isn’t cheap but it arguably gives you the best of multiple worlds: better mud clearance and more of a platform than SPD XC pedals, for the same light weight as a pair of XT PD-M8100s. If you were already looking for a smoother clip-out than SPDs, or more release-angle options, that would probably seal the deal; if not, they’re still well worth considering.

Pros and Cons

Crankbrothers Candy 1

Crankbrothers Candy 1
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Crankbrothers Candy 1
Crankbrothers Candy 1
Crankbrothers Candy 1
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The Crankbrothers Candy 1 is their most budget-friendly offering with a composite platform.

This actually makes it lighter at 294 grams than the 7, 3 and 2, and in general makes for a pretty lightweight pedal.

Feeling the target audience of these kinds of pedals are beginners, the accompanying cleats have a lower release angle; 10 degrees instead of 15 or 20. This makes these pedals easier to get out of. If you’re not looking for such an easy release, be aware of the fact you’ll need to buy another pair of cleats to increase the angle of release. An investment which might warrant a different purchase.

They look really nice, as does the entire Candy lineup. But unlike composite flat pedals, clipless pedals damage more easily due to the cleats, especially these small platformed composite ones.

Another small issue is that indeed they come in a number of bright and appealing colors, but these colors get dull pretty quickly as the pedal gets dirty.

Expert Experience

40 | Katherine Moore – 44774

While I admire the serviceability, reasonable price, mud-shedding capabilities and bright colours of the Crankbrothers Candy 1 pedals, I found the mechanism to be a significant change from Shimano, especially in terms of engagement technique, without sufficient benefits to make the change worthwhile.

Pros and Cons

Time XC 8

Time XC 8
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The Time XC 8 is the more budget-friendly version of the titanium XC 12, offering the same carbon body, but with a hollow chromoly axle instead.

With a price less than half that of the XC 12, it’s hard to not opt for these pedals, considering the fact the chromoly axle only adds 40 grams to the overall weight of 286 grams.

It offers exactly the same pedal characteristics and is still a very lightweight pedal for XC, gravel, and trail riding, with its floaty feel, and excellent mud-shedding ability.

Expert Experience

112 | Simon Kohler – 44852

TIME rely on a specially developed clipless mechanism, which is constructed almost like an inverted SPD system. As such, the rear end of the mechanism is rigid, and the front bit is spring-loaded. This makes clicking in easier, as you can push your feet down or forwards to do so. Using their own system gives them more freedom in developing their own solution, but it makes the procurement of spare parts more difficult. The spring preload tension is adjustable, but you only get three clicks of adjustment, which make little difference in practice. The pedals provide a lot of freedom of movement with 5° of float and they feel similar to the Hope pedals. However, the feeling of clicking in is a little less defined with the TIME models, and, as just mentioned, it’s hardly adjustable.

Pros and Cons

Time XC 2

Time XC 2
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The Time XC 2 is the cheapest way to obtain the benefits offered from this lineup.

A composite body is used with a single sealed cartridge bearing on a chromoly axle, with the same 5 degrees of float and release angle between 10 and 20 degrees.

At 302 grams they are still pretty light, and definitely not much heavier than the more premium versions.

The ATAC mechanism is known for its above-average mud-shedding capabilities, so if you like cheap pedals for muddy XC or gravel riding, these are one of your best options

Expert Experience

58 | Rachel Sokal – 44956

It seems counterintuitive to say but the XC 2s are both really easy to clip in and out of, yet feel really secure when you’re clipped in. What’s more, pretty much all of this happens without you thinking about it. For instance, in all the times I’ve crashed / nearly crashed my bike off road I can only remember a couple of occasions when my foot didn’t come out the pedal when it needed to and this is running the cleats at the ‘hardest’ 17o unclipping position. All the other times my foot would come straight out to save my blushes.

Pros and Cons

Look X-Track Race Carbon

Look X-Track Race Carbon
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The Look X-Track Race Carbon is the non-titanium version offering the same functionality as their more premium counterpart.

I’ve stated for the Look X-Track Race Carbon Ti that it’s the pedal that offers the most reasonable upgrade price for its axle. Yet it’s still very much debatable whether or not the 60 grams reduction in weight is worth the premium.

Expert Experience

119 | Graham Cottingham – 44783

Look’s X-Track offers an excellent gravel and cross-country alternative to the Shimano stalwart, the pedal connection is just as crisp as our benchmark XT’s with a positive click when engaging and disengaging so you know when you’re connected. I even rode miss-match pedals and in use still found them almost indistinguishable from the XT’s.

Look have potentially undercut the X-Track Race Carbon pedals themselves too, as the composite bodied X-Track Race pedals are only 15g heavier but cost $50 / £42 less, which is a considerable monetary saving for a little weight penalty.

Pros and Cons

Look X-Track

Look X-Track
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The Look X-Track is their entry-level model using an aluminum body instead of a carbon one.

At 400 grams per pair, these are some of the heaviest XC and gravel pedals out there, yet the functionality compared to the more expensive X-Track pedals comes at a fraction of the cost.

They are also some of the best-looking pedals for its price, indistinguishable from the more expensive versions.

The entire X-Track lineup uses 2 sealed cartridge bearings, with only the most expensive one having a titanium axle. This one has a chromoly one, which needs a proprietary tool to get to if you ever plan on servicing it.

The Look X-Track uses the SPD system with 6 degrees of float and two different sets of cleats to offer different ways of disengagement. The pedal design hasn’t changed for years, which is a solid indicator of its popularity and quality.

Expert Experience

114 | Jason Mitchell – 44383

One of the most beautiful things about the X-Track Pedals is the ease of entry and exit. You can adjust the release tension, if you wish, but I kept them in the factory setting (2 clicks in) throughout my testing. With that, I could step in and out with ease. I never experienced a premature release either. That float is really nice to have as well.

It’s great having a little extra surface area both for instances where you don’t step right in and for power transmission. I really like Crank Bros Eggbeater pedals and still have several pair, but it’s hard to overlook the tiny surface area where the shoes and pedals connect — it’s minuscule. With the LOOK X-Track, you get added touch points for added power and control.

Pros and Cons

Specifications clipless pedals for gravel riding

Name
Price
Weight
Length
Width
Height
Body
Spindle
Bearings and bushings
Pins
float
release
Shimano XTR PD-M9100
179 USD
310
15.1 mm
aluminium
Cr-Mo
2 cup and cone bearings, 1 bushing
none
13°
Shimano Deore XT PD-M8100
130 USD
342
43 mm
16.5 mm
aluminium
Cr-Mo
2 cup and cone bearings, 1 bushing
none
13°
Shimano PD M520
55 USD
380
17 mm
aluminium
Cr-Mo
1 sealed cartridge bearing, 1 bushing
none
13°
Hope Union Clip Pedal – RC
190 USD
323
aluminium
titanium
3 cartridge bearings, 1 IGUS bushing
none
4°or 5°
12° or 13°
Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3
149.99 USD
280
32 mm
75 mm
15.2 mm
stainless steel
Cr-Mo
Igus LL-glide bearing
Enduro MAX cartridge bearing
none
0°or 6°
10° / 15° / 20°
Crankbrothers Eggbeater 2
99.99 USD
285
32 mm
75 mm
15.2 mm
stainless steel / stamped steel
Cr-Mo
Igus LL-glide bearing
Enduro cartridge bearing
none
0°or 6°
10° / 15° / 20°
Crankbrothers Eggbeater 1
59.99 USD
290
32 mm
75 mm
15.2 mm
stamped steel
Cr-Mo
Igus LL-glide bearing
Enduro cartridge bearing
none
0°or 6°
10° / 15° / 20°
Crankbrothers Candy 7
179.99 USD
320
67 mm
74 mm
13.5 mm
aluminium / stainless steel
Cr-Mo
Igus LL-glide bearing
Enduro MAX cartridge bearing
none
0°or 6°
10° / 15° / 20°
Crankbrothers Candy 3
149.99 USD
340
67 mm
74 mm
13.5 mm
aluminium / stainless steel
Cr-Mo
Igus LL-glide bearing
Enduro MAX cartridge bearing
none
0°or 6°
10° / 15° / 20°
Crankbrothers Candy 1
59.99 USD
294
67 mm
74 mm
13.5 mm
composite
Cr-Mo
Igus LL-glide bearing
Enduro cartridge bearing
none
0°or 6°
10° / 15° / 20°
Time XC 8
137 USD
286
19 mm
carbon
Cr-Mo
2 cartridge bearings, 1 bushing
none
10° / 13° / 17°
Time XC 2
42 USD
302
19 mm
fiberglass / composite
Cr-Mo
2 cartridge bearings, 1 bushing
none
10° / 13° / 17°
Look X-Track Race Carbon
145 USD
350
60 mm
16.8 mm
carbon
Cr-Mo
2 sealed cartridge bearings
none
13°
Look X-Track
54 USD
400
57 mm
16.8 mm
aluminium
Cr-Mo
2 sealed cartridge bearings
none
13°
bio vanseijen

Johan van Seijen

Founder Restoration.bike

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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