If you never used cycling shoes with cleats before, you are probably asking yourself what are the main differences (besides color and design) between mountain bike cycling shoes and road bike cycling shoes.
In order to answer your questions I summarized the differences between the two types of cycling shoes in a table, side by side, for a better understanding.
After you know what are the main differences, you can better decide what is the shoe that best fits your needs.
I guess every mountain bike cyclist riding on a regular basis, was at one time confronted with the question whether or not to use shoe cleats along with the fitting bike pedals.
How did I start using cleats?
Shimano SH-R086L men mountain bike cycling shoe with cleats
I was confronted with the question of whether to use cleats on my MTBs for a long time and finally fate decided for me: while riding in Park City, Utah, a friend got me a bicycle so I could ride with him but the thing was: that bike already had cleats on them. Sure, I might have asked for a pair with regular pedals but in the end I decided to make the “giant leap” and bought myself a pair of MTB cycling shoes with cleats: the Shimano SH-R086L and the matching Shimano PD-M770 Deore XT SPD Mountain Bike Pedals.
The truth is that I got the bike a moment before we started riding. I had only around 5 minutes in the parking lot to get used to the whole “cleat concept” before we headed north-east and started climbing the area of the Flying Dog trail. This is definitely not the optimal way of doing this – I believe that you should take some time on flat (and if possible soft) ground to practice attaching and detaching yourself from the pedals. Being able to quickly detach yourself from your bike in some situations, might save you from injury.
What are the concerns involved with cleated cycling?
The obvious concern has to do with the ability to detach the shoe from the pedal in case you suddenly have to support yourself with the your foot on the ground. Such cases arise for example when suddenly slowing down, sliding on loose gravel or getting stuck on a rock while riding.
What difference does using cleats for MTB riding make?
If when using regular bicycle pedals your legs push the pedals each in its turn, when using shoe cleats the cycling shoe is actually attached to the pedal. This allows you to push the pedal downwards with one leg while simultaneously pulling with the other.
What are the advantages of riding a MTB with cleats?
- Being able to pedal with both legs simultaneously will give you a smoother pedaling experience.
- Pedaling with both legs at the same time will give you more cycling power, as in addition to using your quadriceps (the four muscles on the front of the thigh) for pushing the pedals, you can now also use your Triceps surae (calf) muscle located in the lower hind part of the leg.
- Pedaling with both legs at the same time will let you take the load off your quadriceps, as more muscles work together when you ride with cleats.
In part two of this article I will give an introduction to how cycling shoes with cleats work and tell about my own experience of riding my mountain bike with cleats.