Clipless Pedals. Hopefully you already use them in some form on your road bike. They make everything better. I’m not going to teach you how to use them here, but I will compare and contrast some arguements for the three main options that were brought up in the Facebook post about pedals, which was started by Carlos Iglesias.
The bottom line is, you want a pedal that’s easy for you to clip in and out of, that won’t break halfway through a race, and won’t fill up with mud, dirt, and grass. We don’t have snow and ice to worry about here, but if we did that might be a consideration as well. Because of the frequency of clipping out and in, you should be familiar enough with your pedals that you don’t really have to think about the process as it happens, so if you’re not, start practicing now.
If you are brand spanking new to CX, and you don’t use clipless pedals, you certainly can use flat pedals, although it would scare me to death to do so personally. Toe Clips and Straps will work as well, but really, honestly, clipless pedals are so much easier and connect your to the bike so much better and you can get into and out of them so much easier that, really, just get the shoes and pedals and figure out how to work them and move on with your life.
All three brands have cheap, heavy models, and expensive, light models. Personally, I’ve used Shimano SPD’s and Time ATACs and I prefer the Time. I like the “float” and the mud shedding characteristics. You might like less float, or no float. If that’s the case, Shimano is probably a better choice for you.
Directly from the thread:
Timothy Reese From my mtn biking experience with Eggbeaters, they are extremely easy to bail out of. It depends if you like that or not I suppose.
Jason Guillen SPD’s despite [the fact that] they will get more mud in the cleat, I tried eggbeaters and I couldn’t hit my pedals at all. I don’t like the float on eggbeaters and I pull up on my pedals a lot apparently because I kept ripping my feet out of them the few times I’ve ridden on them. SPD’s I can tighten down to the point my feet have zero float which is my preference on road and offroad.
Kurt Leverett Whatever you can clip into fast and every time. Lots of on and off the bike so you don’t want waste time “trying to get clipped in. My fav[e] was Time – they had a platform and did not clog up with mud.
Ryan Fisher I’ve been on eggbeaters for ever and they’re mostly fine. Performance-wise it’s prob[ably] a wash. I think crank bros had some QC issues for a while and people had pedals pulling of spindles and such. I never really had that problem but heard of it from several others.
Some yahoo named Tim Hayes THE ONLY PEDAL FOR CYCLOCROSS IS TIME ATAC.
SPD tend to lose tension rather quickly and eggbeaters break a lot more than anyone else. In all seriousness, take a look at Time pedals.
Rich Dybdahl I had an Eggbeater break on me at Swamp Cross 2011. Finished the race one legged. I love my Time pedals but they are heavy so I still race [Eggbeater] Candy pedals. Might try SPD this year if Jason says they are good.
From this point the facebook thread starts repeating opinions already expressed and then devolves into the usual hijinks, but this should give you some ideas as far as the three major brands. But what about cheap Wellgo or Nashbar or Performance branded SPD clone pedals, you might be asking. As with any other component on your bike, you generally get what you pay for. Yes, there are other pedals out there, and they may be cheaper, and they might work perfectly well. Then again, they might not.
Shoes are another important factor to consider, as they connect to the pedals. All of the pedals you should be considering use the standard two bolt mounting system on the sole of the shoe. Less expensive shoes are going to be heavier and more flexible than more expensive ones. You want a little bit of flex in the shoe, for the little bit of running we do, and it’s not a bad idea to have the ability to screw soccer style cleats into the toe of the shoe, either. Toe cleats provide additional traction when you’re running in loose dirt and mud. I used them in Clermont, and didn’t slip once on the run up. Popular brands include Specialized, Mavic, Shimano, and Sidi, but there’s plenty of decent CX shoes that I haven’t mentioned. Go visit your local shop and check out what they offer and recommend.