Cycling shoes are a must if you own a spin bike, and they’re extremely common on road bikes, too. The shoes are stiff enough to properly transmit force to the pedals, and the cleats lock you securely into the pedals so that you don’t slide around. With the right shoes, you can efficiently turn the pedals in circles rather than just pushing down on one foot and then the other. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that when your bike is outfitted with the special pedals that work with cycling shoes, they become nearly impossible to ride without the shoes. That’s no problem if you’re just one person with one bike. But if you’d like your partner or roommates to be able to borrow the bike, things get harder. I live in a household of five, and I wouldn’t mind letting my husband and older kids ride my Peloton—but do I really want to buy multiple extra pairs of specialty shoes just in case somebody else wants to hop on?
Pedal adapters bridge the gap
The most accessible style of pedal is the kind that’s flat, with a toe cage or clip that you can slip your sneakers into. If you’ve ever hopped onto a bike in the cardio section of a gym, you’ve probably used these.
Pedal adapters let you have that same experience on a spin bike. Take Peloton bikes as an example. They use Delta LOOK cleats, which aren’t very common outside the Peloton ecosystem. The pedal has a horseshoe-shaped section that the shoe’s cleat attaches to, but it can’t take a toe cage or otherwise accommodate a sneaker.
That’s where pedal adapters come in. They snap into the specialized pedal, and provide a flat surface. There are types that just give that surface, but the more useful kind also has an attached toe cage. Here’s a video showing how they work.
Pedal adapters also exist for other styles of cleat, like the more common SPD cleats. There’s even a universal platform that can take any type of cleat, but you have to attach it yourself. To begin comparison shopping, search for the name of your cleat style plus “toe cage converter” or “adapter platform.”
Reversible pedals are an option for SPD cleats
Another option is to replace the pedals entirely. Most spin bikes can use any standard bicycle pedal, so you can choose any style you like from a bike store or online. (Installation is easy, but remember that the left side pedal uses a backward screw thread.)
When I had spin shoes that used SPD cleats (the more common type that is not Peloton-specific), I used reversible pedals like these that had an SPD attachment on one side, and were flat enough to be used with shoes on the other. I’d use my spiffy red cycling shoes when I rode, and my husband and son would simply flip the pedals to the other side to use the bike with their sneakers.
If you’re traveling, it may help to know that the Peloton bikes you’ll find in hotels generally have this type of pedal (and not the Delta cleats). But if you’re housesitting for a friend or otherwise want to try a bike that only has clipless pedals, get yourself an adapter specific to that style of cleat.