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Road Pedals On A Gravel Bike? Pros & Cons

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There is a range of different pedals that can be used on gravel bikes. In general, each type of pedal is designed for a specific purpose. In this article, I will explain the pros and cons of using road pedals on a gravel bike.

As a general rule, gravel pedals are far better than road pedals on a gravel bike. Gravel riding often requires you to get on and off your bike a lot, walk, and put your foot down for stability. Gravel pedal shoes are easier to clip in and out and are much easier to walk on.

Overall it’s definitely an upgrade you should make if you currently have road pedals on your gravel bike. For most people, keeping their gravel pedals would make sense, or changing to them if you have something different (like road pedals)

However, it has to be said that there are some pros to using road pedals.

In this post, I’ll cover all the negatives about having road pedals on a gravel bike, all the positives (and there are some), and a few other key facts about pedals and gravel bikes.

road pedals on a gravel bike

Road Pedals On Gravel Bikes – The Cons

1. Road pedals can only clip in on one side

Most road pedals can only clip in on one side of the pedal, whereas gravel bike pedals have clips on both sides of the pedal. Therefore, road pedals are a bit more finicky to clip in and out of.

You also need to be more careful when clipping and unclipping your shoes. And you need to ensure that the pedals are the right way up before clipping your shoes in.

As a general rule, gravel riding requires you to clip and unclip your shoes from the pedals much more often. This is because you will need to get off your bike to carry your bike across impassable terrain. 

The terrain is also much more uneven and you will need to go slow through some sections. As a result, you’ll need to put one foot down to stabilize yourself more often.

Each of these factors makes pedals that are easy to clip your foot in and out of far more desirable. Therefore, this is a major downside of road pedals on a gravel bike.

With that said it is possible to find double-sided road pedals. If you do decide to use road pedals on a gravel bike, then use double-sided ones.

2. Road pedals need shoes that are hard to walk on

The shoes that you need to wear for road bike pedals aren’t good for walking on the ground. The point of contact for the ball of your foot is the clip. The clip is very slippery. 

On the other hand, road pedals have tread around the clip so that instead of walking on the clip you walk on the tread of your shoe. This makes the bottom of a gravel bike shoe virtually flat.

And MUCH easier to walk on.

It’s common to look quite funny when trying to walk with road bike pedal shoes. Because you need to only walk on the heels of your shoes, or risk slipping around all over the place. 

Road bike pedals are designed to be very secure. They are made for you to leave your shoes in the pedals for a very long time. They are designed primarily for that rather than walking around.

With gravel bike riding you commonly need to walk around a lot more.

There can be parts of the trail that you can’t cycle. So, you need to get off your bike and walk far more often. This is a big disadvantage of road bike pedals for gravel riding

3. You can wear normal shoes on gravel bike pedals

There are a few different types of gravel pedals. Many have a wide rim around the clip connector. This makes it possible to wear normal shoes rather than cycling shoes on gravel bike pedals.

On the other side of the equation, road bike pedals are extremely small, so you have to wear road bike shoes to use them. Together with the previous point about road bike shoes being difficult to walk on, this means road bike pedals and shoes aren’t very well suited for doing short stints. 

If you wanted to ride a short distance to a shop, for example, you would need to take your shoes off when you arrive to walk comfortably.

On the other hand, with gravel bike pedals you can wear normal shoes, which is far more convenient for short trips.

Gravel bike with gravel pedals
One of the beauties of gravel bike pedals is the different kinds of shoes you can wear with them

Road Bike Pedals On A Gravel Bike – The Pros

1. Gravel bike pedals are quite a bit heavier than road pedals

One of the disadvantages of gravel bike pedals is that they are considerably heavier than road bike pedals.

Gravel bike riding is generally all about speed and riding as efficiently as possible. 

Unfortunately, gravel bike pedals are not really optimized for speed as well as they could be.

But, all things considered, this is a minor drawback of gravel bike pedals. And in my opinion, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

2. Gravel bike pedals have a slight loss of pedaling power

Gravel bike pedals have a larger connection where the shoes meet the pedal. They are designed this way to make it easier to get the shoes in and out.

Getting your shoes out of the pedals repeatedly is a key requirement of gravel bike riding. Because the connection is bigger the force you can generate is slightly less (source). 

The reason is the force is spread out over a larger area. Road bike pedals have a smaller connection which concentrates the force. Once you’ve developed a bit of skill you can generate more force than gravel bike pedals. 

However, on balance, the difference is very small. Therefore, this is only a minor advantage to road bike pedals on a gravel bike.

3. Gravel bike pedals have more space to allow debris through 

Gravel bike riding almost always involves riding on terrain that has a lot of small stones, twigs, leaves, dirt, and mud.

Gravel bike pedals have larger spaces in the pedal. This allows debris to pass through more easily, without getting stuck.

As a result, you will need to clean gravel bike pedals less often than road bike pedals.

FactorGravel PedalRoad PedalBetter ChoiceImportance
SpeedSlowerFasterRoad PedalLow
WeightHeavierLighterRoad PedalLow
Pedal ClipsAble To clip both sidesOften just one sideGravel PedalHigh
ShoesAny shoe is fineRequire road shoesGravel PedalHigh
Pedal holes for debrisLargerSmallerRoad PedalLow

Can You Use Road Shoes on a Gravel Bike?

Cycling shoes mostly have the same design. But, there are a few different types.

Road shoes and gravel shoes both clip into the pedals, however, can road shoes be used on a gravel bike?

As a general rule, it’s not possible to use road shoes on a gravel bike. The clip that road shoes have is a completely different shape to gravel bike pedals. But, it’s possible to install road pedals on a gravel bike. Doing so would require road shoes to be worn.

Road shoes only fit into road pedals. And gravel pedals only fit into gravel pedals.

Road pedals and gravel pedals have different clip mechanisms. So, if you have road pedals you need to wear road shoes.

And if you have gravel pedals you would need to wear gravel shoes. 

Can You Use Road Pedals on Gravel?

Road pedals are ideally suited to a road bike. But, they aren’t overly different from other types of pedals.

So, here’s a summary of whether road pedals can be used when cycling on gravel.

In general, you can use road pedals on a gravel bike. But, gravel pedals are better on a gravel bike. Riding on gravel requires a rider to frequently put a foot down for stability, or dismount from their bike due to unpassable terrain. Gravel pedals are far easier to get your foot in and out of.

Road pedals require you to wear road shoes. Road shoes have a clip in the middle of the ball of your foot. As you may know, the ball of your foot is that area behind your toes. When you walk this area needs to have a firm grip on the ground. The clip that sticks out makes it extremely difficult to walk wearing road pedal shoes. 

This isn’t an issue when riding a road bike because your feet will be clipped in the vast majority of the time. However, for gravel riding, it’s typically an issue, and having gravel shoes is WAY better.

What Pedals Are Used on Gravel Bikes?

Certain bikes don’t need special shoes to ride them. But, gravel bikes/mountain bikes, and road bikes virtually all have clips that require special shoes to use. Here’s the long and short of what kind of pedals are used on gravel bikes.

Overall, gravel pedals are the best to use for gravel bikes. Road pedals can be used on a gravel bike. But, on a gravel bike, it’s more common to need to take your foot in and out of the clip and to walk on foot. Road shoes, which are required for road pedals are almost impossible to walk in.

For these reasons, road pedals aren’t the best option for gravel bikes. But, if you currently have road pedals on gravel bikes you don’t need to rush out and get gravel pedals and shoes. Road pedals work perfectly fine. Gravel pedals are just a better option and are much more comfortable and convenient for gravel riding.

Do Gravel Bikes Use Clips?

Gravel bikes have distinctly different pedals and shoes compared to road bikes. It’s possible to ride gravel bike pedals with regular shoes like trainers. But, do gravel bikes use clips?

Generally, gravel bikes use clips. Commonly, gravel cyclists wear gravel bike shoes that fit into gravel bike pedals. These have a unique design that is far superior for gravel riding compared to road cycling shoes. Gravel bike pedals and shoes are the best for gravel bikes.

It’s much easier to pedal using gravel bike shoes than regular shoes. You can relax your feet more which frees up more mental focus for pedaling. Therefore, it’s best to use gravel bike shoes on a gravel bike. Unless you’re only going a short distance.

What Is the Difference Between Mountain Bike Shoes and Road Bike Shoes?

There are two main types of shoes worn on bikes – mountain bike shoes (also called gravel bike shoes) and road bike shoes. Here are the differences between them.

In general, mountain bike shoes are easier to get in and out of the pedals than road bike shoes. Mountain bike shoes are also OK to walk in. However, road bike shoes are extremely difficult to walk in. Road bike shoes are designed to be clipped in the vast majority of the time.

Mountain bike/gravel bike shoes have grooves that stick out around the clip. So, when you walk, your weight is on the grooves rather than on the clip. This is what makes them easy to walk on.

Road bike shoes don’t have these grooves, so when you lay the ball of your foot down the point of contact is the clip. The clip is made of metal and is very slippery.

When you go to push off the ball of your foot to step forward with your other foot, it will slide out. It’s also particularly difficult when your legs are already quite fatigued from riding.

The easiest way is to walk on the heels of the feet. But, this is only comfortable for 10 to 20 feet or so.

Can You Walk With Cycling Shoes?

Getting off your bike and walking around is often required, especially for riding off-road, and on gravel.

For road cycling, it’s not required nearly as much but if you make a stop, it’s convenient to be able to walk around without changing shoes. So, this is whether it’s possible to walk in cycling shoes.

Overall, you can walk in cycling shoes. However, it’s not recommended to walk when wearing road cycling shoes. The design makes it extremely difficult to walk with. However, gravel bike shoes and mountain bike shoes are very easy to walk on.

Road cycling shoes have a clip that sticks out in the middle of the toe of the shoes. When you walk the grip of the front of your foot is very important for stability.

Walking while wearing road cycling shoes has the potential to cause a sprained ankle. You also have to pain a lot of attention to how you’re walking.