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Carbon is one of the popular materials used in making various cycling gear items, and while you can use just about any shoes or pedals to ride your bike, both of them are offered in carbon fiber options. That begs the question “do carbon pedals and shoes make a difference?
Carbon pedals and shoes are remarkably lightweight while offering more stiffness than other alternatives. This allows you to transfer more force to your bike, and therefore, ride faster, which gives you a major competitive edge if you’re a serious racer.
Yet, they’re also pricey and relatively uncomfortable, so you might want to consider alternative materials if you’re a casual road cyclist or on a strict budget.
If you want to find out more about the properties of carbon in pedals and cycling shoes, keep reading this brief guide!
What Are the Different Materials Used in Bike Pedals?
Bike pedals can be made from a wide range of materials. Each one of these materials has its own set of pros and cons.
One of the most popular materials used in making platform pedals is polycarbonate plastic. This one is not as stiff as other plastics but is one of the cheapest, making it ideal for casual riders on a relatively low budget.
Nylon plastic pedals are relatively stiffer and pricier, but it’s still more flexible than other options on the list.
Aluminum alloy is fairly common as a pedal material because it’s relatively stiff and durable while being lightweight and quite affordable. This makes it one of the most cost-efficient options on the market.
Magnesium is not as popular as other materials but it’s even stiffer than aluminum. The reason why it’s not commonly used is that it’s less durable than aluminum and cracks easily.
There are also Chromoly steel alloys, which are extremely stiff, but also very heavy in comparison, which can cause some leg fatigue in the long run.
Carbon fibers are known for their remarkable level of stiffness all the while being extremely lightweight.
The only drawback of carbon pedals is that they’re noticeably expensive, making them a pricey alternative to steel alloy pedals.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Carbon Pedals?
As previously mentioned, the major benefit of using carbon pedals for cycling is being remarkably lightweight.
While carbon offers a level of stiffness and responsiveness similar to metal alloys it’s much lighter in weight. For example, the density of carbon fibers is around 1.75 to 1.93 g/cm3 while the density of steel alloys is around 7 times that.
While this may not cause a huge difference in short-distance runs, being lightweight means that you’ll be able to push harder without worrying as much about leg fatigue.
In long-distance races, this difference can help you maintain your maximal cadence speed for longer, giving you a competitive edge.
On the other hand, while carbon is fairly durable, it’s not as durable as metal alloys. Additionally, it generally costs a lot more to buy carbon pedals than any other material.
Who Should Go for Carbon Pedals?
As established above, carbon pedals offer one true advantage over high-end metal alloy pedals, which is reduced weight.
For that reason, any road cyclist who participates in highly competitive tournaments and races where every second matters should consider a carbon pedal.
Also, if you suffer from leg fatigue early on and you don’t mind spending more money on an option that will help you ride uninterrupted for longer, you might want to consider carbon pedals.
What Are the Materials Used in Cycling Shoe Soles?
Cycling shoes are specific shoes that are designed to improve your ability to pedal and keep your soles comfortable all the time. There are two popular materials used in making the soles. Let’s check them out:
Plastic soles are often made of various polymers, but the most popular one is nylon. Nylon is quite durable and decently lightweight, which makes it a good choice for shoe soles.
The main drawback of nylon is that it’s not as stiff as carbon and tends to flex while pedaling. However, there are some carbon-reinforced nylon soles that improve that aspect without being too costly.
Like pedals, carbon is used in cycling shoe soles because it’s lightweight. Additionally, the stiffness of carbon is much higher than plastic. This would make carbon the ultimate solution for competitive cycling shoe soles, if only it wasn’t as costly in comparison.
What Difference Do Carbon Sole Shoes Offer?
When it comes to soles, the main priority in cycling shoes is to be relatively stiff. This design helps in transferring the maximum amount of force from your feet to the bike, and therefore, improves your overall cadence and speed.
That being said, you should keep in mind that carbon soles’ stiffness can be quite uncomfortable to wear for a long time, unlike other materials like plastic.
Should You Go for a Carbon Sole Shoe?
The answer to this question depends on various aspects. As you know, stiffness is the major advantage of carbon soles, since plastic is also lightweight.
Yet, a recent study debates that established fact, it argues that carbon soles don’t offer a real advantage on sprint performance.
With that said, unless you’re a super competitive cyclist who is pretty serious about racing, spending extra for a less comfortable option is not the wisest decision.
Wrap Up: Do Carbon Pedals and Shoes Make a Difference?
There you have it! A brief guide that walks you through all the advantages of using carbon pedals and shoes in cycling, and whether you should consider them as viable upgrades to your current cycling gear.
As you can see, in both cases, carbon mainly offers more rigidity and stiffness all the while being remarkably lightweight.
These properties can give you a serious competitive edge if you’re all about performance and shaving off every possible second on your sprints, races, and steep hill climbs.
However, it’s much more expensive than other alternatives and not a particularly cost-efficient solution. For that reason, unless you’re a super competitive cyclist who doesn’t mind splurging for better equipment, you’re better off with other more affordable and cost-effective options.