Can You Put Clipless Pedals on Vintage Bikes?

Can You Put Clipless Pedals on Vintage Bikes?

Now with the year after year slog of new similar models stacking up and weight-saving opportunities that used to be measured in pounds down to grams, many modern bicycle riders are asking themselves if it’s all worth it.

They’re left wondering, in a carbon world, if character matters anymore. If feel matters. If a bit of cushion for the pushin was ever all that bad.

They’re left wondering what happened to the simple days and the old steel frame?

So, they get out the vintage steel and find that pedaling the old gravel bike up the hill of a logging road before sucking the heavy frame in and crushing down the other side is pure magic, just like they remembered.

They also find, though, that pure vintage magic does have its drawbacks. Like those pure vintage flat pedals.

And then they’re left wondering; can you put modern clipless pedals on vintage bikes?

Can You Put Clipless Pedals on Vintage Bikes?

The simple answer here is yes; you can put clipless pedals on a vintage bike.

Pedals are split into two sizes and universal for all bikes. If you have a one-piece crankset, you’ll want to purchase ½ inch clipless pedals. If you have a two or three-piece crankset (the most common form), you’ll need 9/16 inch diameter clipless pedals.

Vintage Pedals on Vintage Bikes?

If you’re pulling that vintage bike out of the garage for its first spin in a while you might be considering running the vintage pedals already on board. Or maybe you’re thinking of restoring a vintage bike and considering vintage pedals for authenticity.

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Well if you’re wondering how a vintage flat pedal rides, I’m here to tell you, unfortunately, you shouldn’t expect to be blown away. Vintage pedals will look the part and will certainly move the bicycle, but they can’t compare in usability to clipless pedal technology.

If you’re looking for the vintage look with a more modern feel check out these toe strap pedals. Toe strap pedals will give your bike that classic look but will also allow you to feel secure on the bike and achieve momentum on the upstroke.

VIEWALL Bike Pedals with Straps
  • 【Heavy Duty Road Bike Pedals】The pedal surface is *3.2"*3.8"*1", with cage...
  • 【Multi-Purpose Pedals】The bicycle replacement pedals are designed for all...
  • 【Adjustable Bike Pedal Straps】Bicycle pedal with toe clips and straps...
  • 【Excellent Replacement Pedals for Bike】Aluminum alloy body with...
  • 【Package Include】1 pair of bike pedals with toe cage and straps. If you have...

Benefits of Modern Pedals

With a ton of options out there including clipless, toe strap, and even vintage pedals, you may be wondering what the benefits are of modern pedals.

Modern pedals benefit from modern technology. Modern pedals are lighter, stronger, offer more efficiency, and are more purpose-built than vintage pedals. Modern pedals paired with modern shoes offer the cyclist the advantages gained after decades of riding experience.

How Clipless Pedals Work

The irony of the name “clipless” pedals is that they actually work by clipping the rider in. The title refers to old quill-type pedals that relied on toe “clips” or straps to secure the rider. Modern clipless pedals work in conjunction with clipless shoes, called cleats. Instead of sliding an athletic shoe into a cage, the rider uses the cleated shoes to secure themselves to holes in the pedal’s surface.

How to Clip In

To clip themselves in, a rider simply slides the front of the cleat into the front of the pedal and presses down firmly with the heel. When the cleat engages with the pedal, the rider will feel and hear an audible click.

How to Clip out

Removing the cleat from the pedal requires twisting the heel away from the bike until the cleat feels isolated. This motion should already feel reasonably natural to most clipless riders, and once they become more and more comfortable with the pedals, releasing the clips should begin to feel almost automatic.

How to Install Clipless Pedals on Your Bike

Tools needed:

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  • Bike Pedal Wrench
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How To Remove and Replace Pedals

Step 1- Gather Tools

The first step will be determining how you will remove your old pedals.

Bicycle pedals are universal, and their threads come in two basic sizes, 9/16 and 1/2 inch. 

  • To determine the size of your bike pedal inserts, and to change pedals, you’re going to need one of two tools or a combination of both. The first tool or set of tools is a standard open ended wrench set. Alternatively you can use another version of the same tool, the precision designed bike pedal wrench.
  • The second tool option is a hex key set. A hex key will fit inside the back of the bike pedal. It can be used by itself or in combination with a wrench to remove the pedals.
  • Once you determine the size of your pedal, you can remove and replace your old pedals with either the wrench option or the hex key and just a few easy steps.

Just remember

All bike pedals on the left side of the crank (facing forward over the bike) are reverse threaded (to avoid falling off with the pedaling motion) and require a clockwise motion to remove.

All bike pedals on the right side crank are standard threaded and require a counterclockwise turn to remove.

Step 2- Remove old Pedals

Once you determine the tools you’ll be using, the next step is to actually remove them.

  • First you’ll want to secure the bike and rotate the pedals to an easy working position. Remember, you’ll need leverage when removing the pedals.
  • Once you have the bike secured and the pedals positioned, you’ll want to place either your pedal wrench or open ended wrench on the spindle flat (visible section of pedal sticking out from Crank) or the appropriately sized hex key into the back of the crank arm.
  • With the bike secured and tool in position, you’ll want to apply steady downward pressure to remove the pedal. Remember Clockwise for the left-side pedal, counter-clockwise for the right.
  • Once both pedals are loose, you simply continue to spin the pedal until they come off. (At this point I’ll usually take an old rag and clean the pedals before storing. It’s always a good idea to clean and store old parts for future projects or emergencies.

Step 3- Installing new Pedals

  • To install new pedals on your bike you’ll first want to examine your new pedals for a small “L” or “R”. This determines the side of the bike your pedal will thread onto.
  • Once you find these marks you simply thread the pedal onto the bike hand tight on the appropriate side.

Note: At this point you’ll want to watch for cross threading. To ensure you don’t cross thread your pedals slowly hand thread the new pedals. If it feels a bit tough, reverse the pedals and start again.

  • Now is a great time to grease your new pedals. Once hand tight, reverse the pedals just a bit (don’t remove completely) and add a dab of grease to the thread (a dab’ll do ya). As you rethread, notice that the pedal rotation pushes the grease through the threads.
  • The next step in adding new pedals is to tighten them down. If you have a torque wrench, tighten them to the manufacturer specified setting. If you don’t, don’t sweat it too much, just get them tight (and make sure you check them before any serious riding).
  • Finally, you’ll want to take your rag and clean up any spare grease pushed out of the threads. Grease is great for certain bike parts but if it gets on your brakes they’ll pretty quickly become loud and also ineffective.

Pro Tip: If you purchase the wrong size pedals for your bike, don’t worry. You can either return them for the correct size pedal or buy a pedal adapter like this.

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Clipless Pedal Designs

There are two clipless pedals designs; three-hole and two-hole.

Three Hole

Three-hole clipless pedals, also known as SPD-SLs, are designed almost exclusively for road biking. They are the easier model to learn to use, and the shoes are lighter, but because of their robust three clip lower, they are often harder to walk in.


Two-hole pedals or SPDs are usually reserved for mountain biking, off-road bing, and touring. Two-hole clipless pedals use smaller cleats and often come with flat pedal options. This style offers shoes with better walkability but are generally heavier, bulkier, and stiffer.

Other Pedal Designs for Vintage Bicycles

If you’re unsure if clipless pedals are suitable for your bike or style of riding, you can also choose toe strap pedals or platform pedals.

Toe Strap

Toe strap pedals wrap the rider’s foot in a snuggly fitting cage. These pedals can be combined with other forms, like spds’ but toe strap pedals are usually platform pedals with straps attached to keep the rider’s foot secure.

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VIEWALL Bike Pedals with Straps
  • 【Heavy Duty Road Bike Pedals】The pedal surface is *3.2"*3.8"*1", with cage...
  • 【Multi-Purpose Pedals】The bicycle replacement pedals are designed for all...
  • 【Adjustable Bike Pedal Straps】Bicycle pedal with toe clips and straps...
  • 【Excellent Replacement Pedals for Bike】Aluminum alloy body with...
  • 【Package Include】1 pair of bike pedals with toe cage and straps. If you have...

Toe strap pedals offer the advantages of clipless pedals without requiring the need for special shoes and a perfected application technique. In addition, with toe strap pedals, a rider can gain power on the upstroke and remove their foot quickly in case of an emergency. This makes toe strap pedals an excellent choice for entry-level riders looking for a little more power and handling but not ready to commit to the clips.

Platform Pedals for Vintage Bikes

Platform pedals are, as the name implies, platforms.

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They are flat pedals a rider’s foot sits directly on with no attachments. Platform pedals come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and materials and are great for recreational riders, commuters, gravity-oriented riders, or riders performing tricks.

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Pedals for Vintage Bikes

Here are a few extra pedal recommendations, clipless and otherwise.

MZYRH Mountain Bike Pedals Aluminum Flat Platform with SPD


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These things are robust, lightweight and designed to do it all! Featuring a lightweight aluminium flat pedal with a built in flat tread designed SPD Locking plate, these pedals give you stability and feel.

You’ll get the sturdy, wide, grippy surface provided by the flat pedal with the ability to lock yourself in for secure feeling and power on the upstroke.

SHIMANO Ultegra Pedals


SHIMANO Ultegra Pedals
  • Material: [body] carbon composite, [spindle] chromoly steel
  • Float: 6-degree
  • Cleats: Shimano SPD-SL
  • Entry / Release: adjustable cleat retention
  • Spindle Diameter: 9/16-inch

The Shimano Ultegra are professional level SPD SL pedals for all levels of road rider looking to kick it into the next gear.

Featuring a carbon composite body, a stainless steel body plate, and a wide bearing placement for superior power transfer, these pedals have all the bells and whistles of Shimano’s Dura-Ace Pedals, for half the price.

Crankbrothers Stamp Flat Pedal

(Flat Pedals)

Crankbrothers Stamp Flat Pedal
  • BODY MATERIAL Forged 6061-T6 Aluminum FOOTPRINT 114mm x 111mm ADJUSTABLE PINS 10...

The Stamp Flats are your optimal surface area, minimal profile design flat pedal winners.

These flat pedals are great for riders who want their cycles to look good, thanks to multiple color options, and also feel good, thanks to adjustable length pins.

And because of their composite material, they’ll also be lighter than many other flat pedal options.

If you pick these up, keep in mind that they come in two different size options. Stamp larges are recommended for riders with US mens shoe sizes between 10 and 15. Stamp smalls are recommended for riders with US mens sizes between 5 and 10.

oopsmark Leather Pedal Belt Toe Straps

(Toe Strap)

oopsmark Leather Pedal Belt Toe Straps
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The Oopsmark Leather toe straps are stylish toe straps for urban riders looking for style and comfort on their rides.

The weather resistant leather strap on these not only looks stylish, it also molds to your foot. So, besides compliments on your commute, you can expect premium power transfer.

Keep in mind that this product only comes with the aftermarket strap (in black, tan or brown) so you’ll need to purchase pedals separately or add these to your old flat pedals.


Whether your vintage steel is the real deal or a new deal when you’re out there cruising the byways and highways, you want your ride to feel perfect.

If perfect for you means clipless pedals, you’re in luck.

Can you put clipless pedals on a vintage bike? Yes!

And when you’re ready to do it, it’s actually a simple and easy process. With the right tools and the right know-how, you’ll have them on and be cruising the streets in style in no time.

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