Are Road Bike Pedals Universal? (4 Types Explained!)

You might be having an old pair of pedals and want to install them on another road bike of yours. Or you might be planning to get a new pair for your existing bike. It is natural to think if you can opt for any pedals. Read on to find out more!

Are Road Bike Pedals Universal

Are Road Bike Pedals Universal?

Road bike pedals are not universal.

Firstly, there are 2 types of pedals, namely clipless and flat. You need special cycling shoes that clip onto the pedal for clipless pedals. Flat pedals are the standard bike pedals that can be used with any shoes.

Secondly, there are different sizes of pedal threads. There is 9/16” x 20 TPI, and ½” x 20 TPI. The 9/16 is the most common one used. The ½ is used for children’s bikes and BMX bikes.

Types of Road Bike Pedals

What kind of pedals you choose to have depends on your bike and your riding style. Here, we will look at road bikes in particular.

As mentioned above, there are 2 main types – flat pedals and clipless pedals.

Flat Pedals

Also called platforms, these are the ones you used when you first learned to ride a bike. They provide a wider base and can be used with any type of shoe. With a flat pedal, it is much easier to get on and off a bike. A big advantage is that if you’re about to fall, you can remove your foot off the pedal and save yourself.

If you are commuting and have many stops for junctions, traffic lights, and traffic, flat pedals are the best. You do not have to change shoes after your commute either. Flat pedals are also cheaper, and widely available. These types of pedals are also easier on the knee as you can make minor foot adjustments on the pedal.

However, with flat pedals, the foot can slip off the pedal, especially in wet weather. Also, you can only push down on the pedal, not pull it up. Being able to pull up is helpful on hilly surfaces.

Mountain bikers prefer flat pedals as it’s easier to stop and avoid falling or crashing. Commuters and recreational cyclists prefer flat pedals.

Clipless Pedals

Although they are called clipless, you actually have to ‘clip in’ to the bike pedal. The shoes have cleats that snap into place with the clips on the pedal.

For cyclists who ride for longer and without many stops, these are ideal to have. Clipless pedals provide a more stable connection to the bike, especially when riding fast. They are better to use when you need to jump over obstacles.

There are types of clipless pedals:

2-hole pedal where the cleats are smaller and held onto the shoe with 2 bolts. These are easier to walk in as well as the cleats are recessed into the shoe.

3-hole pedals are larger and have 3 bolts secured to the shoe. These are more difficult to walk in as the cleats protrude.

You can either buy the pedals first or the shoe first, but they must be compatible with each other.
Road cyclists prefer the 3-hole pedal, while mountain bikers who use clipless pedals prefer the 2-hole system.

SPD (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) are meant for off-road riding, while SPD-SL (Superlight) are meant for road cycling. SPD can be double-sided as well.

This means there are clips on both sides so you can clip into the pedal faster. Some pedals are single sided which means you have to flip over to the side that has the clip to actually clip in.

It is harder for new cyclists to use clipless pedals. Once you get used to cycling and learn to use clipless pedals, you will get the hang of unclipping them with ease.

Hybrid Pedals

A third type is a hybrid pedal. This has a flat style on one side of the pedal, and a clipless style on the other. This is useful for cyclists who want the option of being able to use both types of pedals.

Toe Clip Pedals

These pedals have a small cage on the flat pedal and the toe clips secure the foot onto the pedal. It prevents the foot from slipping off the pedal. These do not require special cycling shoes. The pedaling efficiency is also improved.

It is entirely a rider’s personal choice as to what type of pedal they prefer cycling with.

Bike Pedal Size Chart

Type of BikeChildren/BMXTouring or HybridGravel/Mountain/CyclocrossRoad
Type of PedalFlatHybrid PedalsOff-Road CliplessClipless
Pedal Thread Size½ 20 TPI9/16 20 TPI9/16 20 TPI9/16 20 TPI
Pedal Type2-hole clipless3-hole clipless

Road bikes usually come with the 9/16 20 TPI pedal thread size. The 2-hole pedal or 3-hole clipless pedal depends on the type of bike you have.

How To Tell If Bicycle Pedals Are 1/2 or 9/16?

If you want to know what size pedal threads you have, inspect your bike. 9/16 is the diameter of the pedal’s spindles in inches and 20 is the number of threads on its shaft.

Most adult bikes have the 9/16 20 TPI thread size. To confirm this, check the cranks on your bike. If there are 2 separate crank arms with the spindle going through the frame, it is a 9/16 thread size.

But if it is all one part in the bike, it is a ½ thread size. This is common in children’s bikes and cheap adult bikes.

You can also confirm the size with your local bike store.

It is important to know that pedal threads are different for the left and right sides. The left side pedal has a left-handed pedal thread and is installed counterclockwise. The right-side pedal has a right-handed thread and is installed clockwise.

Final Thoughts!

The type of pedals you should choose depends on your needs. If it is just casual, recreational cycling, then go for the flat pedal. If it is commuting with fewer stops, go for the clipless option. If you are starting out, opt for the flat pedal and get used to cycling, before switching to a clipless pedal. You can also choose a hybrid pedal or a toe-clip pedal.

The majority of modern adult bike pedals have the 9/16 20 TPI thread size. The ½ 20 TPI thread size pedal is common in cheap bikes and children’s bikes.

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