If you've ever wondered what type of pedals are hidden under the feet of professional cyclists, the answer might be simpler than you'd imagine. Pro cyclists are required to use whatever pedals their sponsors give them. You might find this surprising, since professionals are acutely sensitive to any changes in bike fit and adjustment. However, cycling is just like any other professional sport when it comes to sponsorship. From the makers of their bikes to the brands of their water bottles, sponsors determine the type of equipment that their sponsored athletes use. Of the different types of road pedals available, the three most commonly found on the bikes of professionals are Look, Shimano Dura-Ace and Speedplay.
In 2011, Look pedals were the most popular professional team pedal, used by teams Katusha, Lampre, Movistar, Omega Pharma-Lotto, Astana, Quickstep, Radioshack and Vacansoleil-DCM. Look pedals are a favorite because their large pedal surface provides ample stability throughout the entire pedal stroke. They also have a wide adjustment range so riders can fine-tune the entry/exit tension to their liking. Look pedals can be used with a variety of compatible Look cleats, which offer floats ranging from 0 to 9 degrees.
Speedplay pedals are a common pro choice that were donned by teams BMC, Liquigas-Cannondale, Leopard-Trek and Saxo Bank in 2011. Speedplay pedals are unique because a rider can clip into either side, saving clip-in time. These pedals are also extremely lightweight and have low pedal stack height, which can maximize mechanical efficiency. With some pedal systems, riders will find the cleats come out of the pedals too easily due to a connection that isn't snug enough -- but with Speedplay pedals, this rarely happens. A cleat will only release from one of these pedals if the foot is intentionally twisted outward far enough to disengage.
Shimano Dura-Ace pedals were used by the following 2011 professional teams: HTC-Highroad, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Rabobank, Sky and Garmin-Cervelo. Shimano Dura-Ace pedals are made of lightweight composite carbon and offer easy, smooth cleat engagement. A large pedal platform makes it easy to clip into Shimano Dura-Ace pedals without looking. The corresponding cleats offer 6 degrees of float, which protects riders' knees. Adjustments on the Shimano pedals allow riders to precisely dial in their cleat tension.
On occasion, a rider will find a way to get a team sponsor to allow individual use of a different pedal. Usually, this is a luxury only for the elite, and a few exceptions have been made to the team pedal rule over the years. For example, Lance Armstrong used his Shimano pedals even when riding with Astana and Radioshack. Thor Hushovd used Speedplay pedals for a while before switching to the Shimano pedals of his team, Garmin-Cervelo.
Jessica Bell has been working in the health and fitness industry since 2002. She has served as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Bell holds an M.A. in communications and a B.A. in English.