“Shimano is a manufacturing company not a marketing company”, I was told, “we are not inclined to make up claims, we only quote data”. I got this response from Shimano Australia’s National Sales Manager when I asked about their new Click’R pedals. Specifically, I was asking about their claim that the Click’R pedals have a 60% lighter clip in/clip out. I had been riding with the pedals for two months and knew how easy they were to use, but marketing hype is rife in the industry. Shimano, it seems, doesn’t indulge in it.
Let me start this story from the beginning rather than the (almost) end. I have been bike commuting for many years now and I have always used flat touring pedals with toe clips. Flat pedals by themselves just didn’t allow me to ride confidently enough and I understood the value of keeping my feet on the pedals, so toe clips seemed an obvious solution.
So why didn’t I just use clipless pedals? That’s easy: clip stacks. I heard about them on discussion forums, I heard about them from injured colleagues, and I saw them happen at traffic lights. No thank you, not for me. I could get in and out of my toe clips easily (I didn’t tighten the straps) and, even better, I didn’t have to wear “tap shoes” like my friends did.
“But you don’t have to wear tap shoes, there are ones like sneakers that you can wear all day”, they said. “There are double sided pedals to make it easier to clip in”, they said. “There are pedals with platforms around them for more control when not clipped in”, they said. All true, but not for me, thank you very much. My loose strap toe clips work well enough.
And then I started racing and I raced in clipless pedals, SPD-SLs to be exact. Oh yes, they’re so much better; so very, very much better. I tried commuting in my new clipless pedals and I hated it. Actually, the riding part was great, but the constant in and out was horrible. More than that, it’s dangerous when you have to start up a hill at a set of lights with traffic behind you and you struggle to clip in, or when you have to do an emergency stop and all of your attention is in not hitting something and not what your feet are doing. Yeah, clipless are great, but…clipstacks.
The Click’R Pedals
Shimano’s clipless pedals have been evolving for as long as they’ve been making them and you can see the result of this in the Click’R pedals: they are double sided, they have a wide platform, and they have a pop-up cage. All of these features, and combinations of them, can be seen in other pedals in the SPD range. What is not seen in other SPD pedals is what’s felt, or not felt, in the Click’R pedals, and that’s the 60% less torque required to clip in and out.
Shimano have redesigned the pedal’s retention plate and have used a lighter spring. The new retention plate has a release angle of only 8 degrees, compared to the ~13 degrees of SPDs, which means you’re out of the pedals much quicker when you want to be. This is not to say that these pedals don’t hold your feet on properly, they perform that job perfectly, rather they release when you want them to and also when you need them. I’ll talk about the performance of the pedals a little later because I have to introduce the other part of the system, and that’s the shoes. I will end this section, however, by saying that the Click’R pedals are not an incremental improvement with a new name. With the Click’R pedals, Shimano may have finally made the ideal commuting pedal.
The Click’R Shoes
Like the pedals, the range of shoes that complement the Click’R pedals have features that have been seen before, but not all in one place. This range of shoes is designed to take full advantage of the Click’R pedal design and while you can use your normal SPD shoes with the Click’R pedals, there are many reasons why an upgrade would be worthwhile.
The shoes will take standard SPD cleats as well as SPD multi-directional release cleats and they’ll work with normal SPD pedals. They feature a long and deep cleat well which serves to protect the cleat and guide it into the pedal retention mechanism – more on this later. The shoes are sized well in accordance with the Shimano sizing guide (which makes it easier get the right fit) and they have a generous amount of room in the toe. The shoes are designed for walking in as much as riding in and while they have enough stiffness to transfer power to the pedal, they also have enough give to move around in them all day without changing your gait.
Regardless of any technical features the shoes may have, the best thing about them is the style. These shoes really look good. I’m not one to buy things just for the look of them, provided they’re functional, but it’s nice to have both. All of the shoes in the range look great, but the ones I had (SH-CT40) are perfect sports/casual shoes, suitable for the less formal workplace. I have had many compliments from other cyclists who have seen me riding in them and, when I commute between work campuses, I don’t need to change shoes at the other end.
How They Perform
This is the important part of the review, the stuff you don’t get in sales information or technical data. It doesn’t matter what numbers are quoted about the shoes, if they don’t work they’re useless. The Click’R pedals and shoes work.
The first thing you’ll notice about the shoes (aside from looking good) is that they’re really comfortable to wear and walk in. The first time I used them was to ride out to a road race where I was working as a traffic controller. A twenty kilometer ride there followed by 6 hours of standing in the sun, then 20kms back home, and my feet didn’t hate me. It was just like wearing very broken-in sneakers – I don’t think I’ve ever had shoes that felt that good on the first wearing. They haven’t gotten worse since then either, and I’ve been wearing them on every commute since I got them.
Clipping into the pedals with the Click’R shoes is disturbingly easy, perhaps even a little too easy. The way I clip in to the SPD-SL pedals on my racing bikes is to line the cleat up with the mechanism and push down with the ball of my foot. As expected, this works with the Click’R pedals as well, but it’s not the only way to clip in. It’s a little hard to describe, but basically you can wriggle the cleat into the mechanism from a variety of directions. You put your feet on the pedals, wriggle, hear a scrape of metal on metal and you’re clipped in. I often have to lift my foot up a little just to make sure I’m attached. The best analogy I can think of for this is magnets. Obviously, there are no magnets used here, but that’s what it’s like to clip in with this system. The pedal mechanism attracts the cleat like a magnet attracting a nail – bring the two parts close together and “zap”, they’re attached.
I think this has to do with a combination of the redesigned retention plate, the pop-up cage and the cleat well on the shoes. With these shoes and pedals you don’t need to be clipped in to use the pedals confidently. The pop-up mechanism in the pedals is smaller than the cleat well in the shoes and putting your foot on the pedal, without clipping in, will put the mechanism inside that well. This stops your shoes from sliding around all over the pedal, and puts the cleat so close to the mechanism that clipping in is near automatic.
While clipping in (and out) is very easy, your shoes are still held very firmly to the pedals. I used the multi-directional release cleats and these, coupled with the 8 degree release angle, meant that any foot motion in the plane of the pedal rotation was held, but any motion outside of that resulted in a release. This means that pushing down, pulling up, shoe scrapers, knee thrusters, moon walks or any of the other well known pedaling techniques are confidently held, even when you’re applying serious force. I’m a big guy and I can generate a fair bit of pedaling force, but I have never un-clipped when putting the power on.
Clipping out can be achieved with a traditional heel kick-out or, with the multi-directional release cleats, a number of other angled foot movements. It was a bit of a revelation for me to find out how much I roll my left foot when I’m pedaling. I never unintentionally un-clipped on the right, but I did on the left, until I turned up the tension a little. When I did unintentionally un-clip, my foot didn’t go flying off of the pedal. I would feel my foot un-clip and, without missing a beat, I could wriggle it back into clipped position. That cleat well works a treat, and the wide platform doesn’t hurt either.
At the beginning of this review I talked about clip stacks. I firmly believe that Click’R is the solution. As mentioned, any movement outside of the plane of the pedal (plus 8 degrees) means a release, especially with the multi-directional release cleats. I don’t see how anyone can stay attached to these pedals when they don’t want to be. The natural and unconscious motion of the feet and legs in an emergency situation will release you. They even work in those situations where you have to pull out both feet at the same time because you don’t know which way your bike is going to lean. In those situations you aren’t thinking of how to move your feet, you just move them; with Click’R pedals you will be un-clipped.
I’m completely taken with these pedals and I don’t want to commute in anything else. I even put them on my racing bike when I was trying to get some more training miles on it to and from work, and they felt every bit as good as my racing pedals . You get all of the benefit of clipless pedals without any of the risk, without any of the downsides. Well, almost no downsides.
The Down Side
The shoes aren’t waterproof. That’s it. I can’t find anything else wrong with these pedals or shoes except that. In the hot weather, such as Sydney’s summer, the shoes have enough ventilation on top of the toes to keep your feet relatively cool. On rainy days this ventilation lets the water in. The solution is to either wear booties on wet days, much like every other shoe out there, or learn to enjoy wet feet. That’s all I’ve got. Over a thousand kilometers, hours of standing and walking, extremes of temperatures, multiple bikes and all I can come up with on the down side is the shoes get wet when it rains.
The Click’R pedal and shoe system look set to become the standard for urban cycling and commuting. They are the ideal commuting setup. Use your SPD-SLs for racing, your SPDs for mountain biking and your Click’Rs for commuting (and the sooner they get widely used, the sooner we can start calling them “clickers” the same way that SPDs are called “spuds”) .
Click’R pedals (the PD-T400’s were reviewed) are available in black or white from Shimano stockists worldwide and they retail for around $50. Click’R shoes (the SH-CT40’s were reviewed) are available in a range of smart styles from wherever you buy the pedals. They retail for around $100. Online info about the Click’R is a bit scarce though you can find your nearest dealer on www.shimano.com.au