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Gravel bike pedals are rather different from smaller road bike pedals. Can you use road pedals on a gravel bike?
Using pedals on the wrong type of bike often causes problems. There may be some advantages sometimes, but it's usually a bad idea.
Road bike pedals and gravel bike pedals are both for shoes with cleats, which are metal parts that attach to the pedals. Road bike shoes are hard to walk in because the metal parts touch the ground. If you use road bike pedals, you will need road bike shoes, which are hard to walk in.
When gravel biking or mountain biking, you often have to get off your bike and walk with it. This is fine because your shoes have grooves that prevent the metal part from being the first thing to touch the ground. When road biking, you don't have to walk, so the shoes don't need to be comfortable to walk in.
I have used road bike pedals/shoes when gravel biking before, and trust me, you shouldn't try this. You have to walk on your heels, and it's worse than it sounds. Only use gravel bike pedals on a gravel bike.
What is Gravel Biking?
Gravel biking is not the same sport as mountain biking. The races are very long and emphasize endurance over speed.
Gravel bikers can race for five or even ten hours, with most of the race being uphill. These races are endurance marathons, with races sometimes being 200 miles. Gravel biking is a relatively new sport that has exploded in popularity in the last few years.
What Are Gravel Bikes?
Gravel bikes are similar to but not the same as mountain bikes. Gravel bikes are somewhere between mountain bikes and road bikes in how fast they are.
They are also somewhere in between in terms of what terrain they can handle. A road bike has narrow tires and often lacks suspension, so it can't handle the very bumpy terrain a mountain bike can. However, it can still handle harsher terrain than a road bike.
What Are Road Bikes?
Road bikes are for paved surfaces. Roads, country roads, and cycling paths are all good for road bikes. They don't perform well if you take them off-road. The handlebars, gears, tires, and wheels are all different.
Road bikes are built for speed rather than for handling rough terrain. You can go significantly faster on a lighter road bike than a heavier mountain bike as long as you are on pavement. Road bikes usually lack the suspension that makes them rideable off-road.
Cycling Shoes Use Cleats
A lot of the time, cyclists wear special shoes that attach to the pedals. If you wear cleats that attach to the pedals, you can generate more power.
Without cleats, you only generate power when you push the pedal down, not when you move the pedal up again. With cleats, the upward motion also generates power. Both of your feet are generating power all the time if you use cleats.
You Won't Go As Fast Without Cleats
Without cleats, you will only be able to produce power when pushing the pedals down. This can make it harder to keep your bike going fast while on gravel or other rough terrain.
Cleats Are Important for Gravel Biking
Shoes with cleats are better for gravel biking than regular shoes are. You can control your bike somewhat better with cleats and have much more power. Everything is more difficult if you use regular shoes on a gravel bike.
Shoes Without Cleats Perform Poorly When Climbing Hills
In particular, shoes with cleats perform better when climbing a steep hill. This is even more true if you climb a steep hill on rough terrain.
Without cleats, you might not have the power to make it to the top of the hill.
Both Road Bikes and Grave Bikes Use Cleats
Many road bikes and many gravel bikes use pedals that attach to shoes with cleats. Many other road bikes and gravel bikes use flat pedals for regular shoes. If you have never tried riding a bike with cleats before, you will quickly agree that it is much easier with them.
Road Bike Shoes vs. Mountain Bike Shoes
Not all pedals for shoes with cleats are the same. A gravel/mountain bike's pedals attach to gravel/mountain bike shoes, and a road bike's pedals to road bike shoes. The two kinds of shoes are not the same and have advantages and disadvantages.
Gravel Bike Pedals Are Better On Gravel Bikes
Road bike shoes are not easy to walk in at all.
Sometimes, you have to get off your bike and walk, especially if on a rough trail. If there is a lot of stuff in the way, you can't ride over it. You will have to get off your bike and walk your bike over the obstacles.
If you walk in road bike shoes, you can't even easily keep your balance. Normally, you use the front part of your shoe for stability, but this isn't possible with road bike shoes. You can fall over if you don't walk carefully.
You Don't Have to Walk When Road Biking
With road bike pedals, you can't easily get your foot out of the pedal. When you spend all of your time on pavement instead of on a trail, you don't have to walk. It won't frustrate you to spend time getting your foot off the pedal, because this won't happen often.
However, if you use road bike shoes on a trail, you will get frustrated. You will have to frequently stop, spend time getting your feet free, and walk your bike past some obstacles. You might have to do this many times each trip, which will slow you down.
Gravel/Mountain Bike Shoes vs. Road Bike Shoes
When you walk in road bike shoes, the metal clip touches the ground first. This makes walking awkward and uncomfortable in the short run and possibly harmful in the long run. You can trip and fall in road bike shoes because the metal is very slippery.
With gravel bike shoes, there are grooves around the metal clip. These grooves prevent the metal clip from being the first thing that touches the ground when you walk. Road bike shoes may also get clogged with dust and debris if you use them off-road.
Can You Walk in Road Bike Shoes Anyway?
Walking in road bike shoes is worse than you might assume it is. The least uncomfortable and safest way to walk in road bike shoes is to walk on your heels.
Obviously, you could not repeatedly walk significant distances on your heels without becoming uncomfortable. This is in addition to the hassle of removing your road bike shoes from the pedals each time you have to stop.
Don't make the mistake of thinking you can walk "only" a few hundred feet in road bike shoes. Any more than about twenty feet is uncomfortable. If your legs are already tired from riding, you won't want to have to walk on your heels.
You Can Use Regular Shoes With Gravel Bike Pedals
Road bike pedals are much smaller than gravel bike pedals, so you cannot use them with normal shoes. With gravel bike pedals, you have the option of using regular shoes even though shoes with cleats are better.
This is convenient for short trips. If you want to take your bike a few blocks to the store instead of off on an adventure, normal shoes are more convenient. You will have to take road bike shoes off to walk comfortably wherever you go.
Can You Get Hurt Walking in Road Bike Shoes?
Yes, you could get a sprained ankle if you don't walk carefully. Your shoes can slide out from under you, even if you try to walk on your heels. You should get replacement gravel bike pedals and not try using road bike pedals on a gravel bike.
Do Road Bike Pedals Have Any Advantages On Gravel Bikes?
Yes, but they are outweighed by the disadvantages. Some of the small advantages are:
- Road bike pedals are lighter than gravel bike pedals, which may boost your speed a tiny amount.
- Road bike pedals are a bit more efficient. You can deliver a bit more power to your bike than with gravel bike pedals.
While I disadvise using road bike pedals/shoes off-road, they might work on pavement. If you are riding a gravel bike on pavement, road bike shoes may let you go a little faster.