Riding a bike without your feet clipped to the pedals can be compared to skiing without poles. Both sports work either way, but like ski poles, clipped-in bike shoes provide a higher level of performance and efficiency.
Paradoxically called a “clipless” setup, cleated bike shoes and the accompanying pedals snap together solidly and release only when the rider deliberately twists a foot sideways. In addition to providing bike-control benefits, the setup dramatically increases a rider’s efficiency by letting the foot push down and pull up while pedaling.
I recently tested Shimano’s M120 bike shoes with the company’s M505 pedals. The shoes are designed for mountain biking and have uppers made of a combination of breathable mesh and polyurethane-coated leather. They have three Velcro straps instead of laces, letting you get in and out quickly during a triathlon or adventure race.
For stability and better power-transfer, the M120 shoe has a stiff sole reinforced with a fiberglass/nylon plate. Its outer sole is made of a durable and grippy rubber for good off-bike traction.
I found the shoes to be comfortable and well-fitting. The Velcro straps let you cinch the shoe tight, though not as precisely snug as with laces. Off the bike, the shoes are comfortable enough for easy hiking, and the knobby soles provide adequate traction for carrying your bike up slopes that are too steep to pedal.
Clipped in, I find the biggest benefits while biking uphill and jumping. Instead of simply pushing down and mashing the pedals going up a hill, a clipless setup lets you smoothly push down and pull up from behind with each pedal stroke. Also, logs, rocks, potholes and any other obstacle can be easily hopped with clipless pedals. When you jump and pull up on the handlebars, the bike will follow.
Contact: Shimano American Corporation, 1-949-951-5003, https://www.shimano.com.