Ok, I'm a complete Newbie... So please don't hate me to much for asking the question in the Title.
I've been doing a bit of paved bike trail riding in Southern California area over the last 2 years on my Specialized Sirrus (hybrid). Anywhere from 25 miles to 75 miles per ride. I like the distance so I can "Zen" out, not really a need for speed. I been just riding in my sweats and tennis / running shoes.
Yesterday, I finally picked up a 2010 Specialized Tarmac Comp Double Rival (road bike) at a pretty good deal of $1700 new. I'm pretty sure I'll need some riding shorts or undergarment because the saddle on the Tarmac is virtually not there compared to my old trusty Sirrus... But do I really need the fancy pedal and shoes? Or should I? And why? And I'm looking at keeping it under $190 for shoes and pedal.
Once they are correctly set up, good shoes/pedals will keep you in proper alignment, and allow more efficient riding and a smoother pedal stroke. Of course, if that's not important to you...
Pricepoint offers excellent combo deals, but I suggest you check with your LBS so you can get the correct size, and have them help you align your cleats. If budget is a big concern, I'd spend money for the most comfortable shoes I could afford, and get some basic pedals for now. A $50 shoe/pedal combo will be more efficient than your Nikes and flat pedals. Shoes get lighter and stiffer (and uglier) as price goes up. Pedals get lighter, have better bearings, and sit lower on their axle as price goes up.
Yes you will find the extra expense worth it in the long run. Why??? With the shoes and cleats ie pedals, you can pull up as well as push down making the whole ride more efficient and faster. Don't ride in heavy traffic though till you get used to get in and out of the pedals.
As far as geeky, that train left my station a long time ago and I have a line that I will steal from a podcast.
Corona, huh? I'm from Norco I'm curious where you ride there - I'm now in Colorado and can't imagine riding in the IE.
As to your question, once you get used to them, you'll find them much better than flat pedals. Like previously stated, you'll pedal more efficiently by using your entire stroke rather than just pushing down on the pedals. My husband was hesitant at first, too, so I started him out with "campus pedals" - flat on one side, SPD on the other. That way you'll have the flat pedal you're used to while learning how to use the cleats. I see this transition on a lot of noobs. I got his set at Performance for like $100 total - shoes and pedals. They came with what I call "commuter" shoes - they call them mountain bike shoes, but they look like normal shoes with recessed cleats - no tread or anything like "real" mountain bike shoes. They are easy to walk around in since they are flat, and you could wear them on your other bike, too. A good "fit" is a must, since cycling is a repetitive motion, and improper cleat placement can cause an injury.
I rode about 4000 miles so far this year all on flat pedals and boat shoes that have a allmost flat tread. When I fell last year I was glad I was not cliped iin I was able to rool over to the sholder and get out of the way caus thay an't going to stop. If I had cliples pedals I might have bin able to unclip. I don't know why thay call them clipless caus you sure seam to be cliped to them
well that is my .02