Clipless Road Pedal and Cleat Systems
MTB pedal systems and road bike clipless road pedal systems share similar characteristics. However, road and
mtb systems are not cross compatible, so you need to be sure that what you end up purchasing will work
for your intended use. The main thing to remember is that road cleats stick out from the bottom of the
shoe, so they may not be as suitable for commuting or touring as a shoe in the mtb/all-purpose category.
You are a candidate for a road style shoe if the following applies to you.
- You have a road bike and enjoy rides of several hours or more.
- You don't get off the bike and walk around too much.
- You want a large stable pedaling platform that distributes the weight over the bottom of the shoe for
What follows is a brief look at the main pedal systems and their parent company offerings. Other
manufacturers offer pedals and cleats compatible with one or more of these main systems. Some are
better than others, but most often the quality of knock-offs are not on par with genuine Shimano, Look, Time,
Shimano SPD-SL Road Pedal System
Shimano is a Japanese company that opened offices in New York
in 1965 and have grown into the largest bicycle component manufacturer in the world. They sponsor numerous pro
teams, have a large R&D department and are responsible for much innovation in the bike world backed up by
hundreds of patents. Quality is high and consistent. You can't go wrong purchasing pedals in the 105, Ultegra
or Dura Ace product ranges.
The Shimano SPD-SL system is the Shimano road variant of clipless pedal systems. They have a wide, stable
platform for optimal power transfer and employ a standard three hole mounting system. Cleats offer 6
degrees of float which enables a good range of lateral movement if required.
Any shoe that has a three hole mounting pattern can accept Shimano cleats which is the vast majority of
production road cycling shoes on the market today. The cleat has hard plastic bumpers attached to the walking
surface that offer decent abrasion resistance.
These cleats won't break the bank either at roughly $20 a pair give or take a few bucks. Check out the
Shimano clipless road pedal cleats from Amazon.
Look Road Pedal System
Look is a very recognizable brand in the cycling world and no stranger to innovation. In
1984 they released the first commercially successful road bike clipless pedal which was followed by a Tour de
France win by Bernard Hinault riding Look pedals in 1985. The original idea behind their clipless pedal design
was ported over from their downhill ski binding design. If you are a skier you will undoubtedly remember their
ski bindings with distinctive logo. They followed their pedal first closely with the first full carbon bike
frame in 1986 which was ridden to victory by Greg LeMond in the 1986 Tour de France. Look is solely a bike
company now after having sold their ski business to Rossignol.
Look employs their original and now standard three hole mounting system for their road line of pedals and
cleats. They have discontinued their line of Delta pedals and replaced it with their Kéo line however Exustar still
manufactures a Delta compatible pedal. Many riders have indicated they thought the Delta's were easier to clip into
than the Kéos, but that the Kéos hold the foot more firmly than the Deltas. Perhaps this is due in part to the fact many were
riding Deltas for years and the pedals and cleats wore and developed play over that time. The new line has a
full range of pedals from entry level Kéo Classic to the Kéo Blade which has a carbon blade replacing the
traditional retention spring. They also have the first to market power measurement pedal with all power and
cadence measurement functions contained in the pedal instead of the hub or crankset.
Float in the Kéo range varies by cleat color. Red cleats have 9 degrees, grey cleats 4.5 degrees and the black
cleats are fixed with no float. Unless you know you have a perfect pedal stroke with no lateral movement, go with
the red or grey cleats. Look has a system called Kéo Fit which employs a computerized measurement system at the
pedal to determine variations in your pedal stroke and set you up with the proper amount of float. If your local
bike store (LBS) has this system, I would recommend using it to get your optimal fit. Not only will you be set up
properly but you will learn the pedaling characteristics of your left and right legs. For example my right leg has
a fairly large lateral movement as I pedal and because my feet are so huge (euro 47) my right inside heel often
brushes my chainstay when I am out of the saddle climbing or sprinting.
Time Road Pedal System
French bicycle manufacturer TIME Sport International was founded in 1987 and manufactures high end bike frames and components. TIME is integrally
involved in pro cycling and is a regular sponsor of European professional cycling teams. The exposure a company
receives from a top rider using their products is invaluable from a marketing standpoint. However feedback from
professional level racers is also an integral part of the R&D cycle for these high end component companies
and TIME is no exception with numerous Grand Tour and championships wins. Originally a road pedal manufacturer
Time offers an excellent line of mtb pedals as well as their
current road pedals.
The current offering of TIME road pedals
includes the I-CLIC2 and RXS lines. The cleat pattern for both lines is standard three hole and the
release angle and float for both lines is 15 degrees and five degrees respectively. Lateral float comes in at 2.5
mm. The float is controllable with what TIME terms
SENSOR which allows you to adjust the feel of the float between a free float feeling and a constrained float within
the five degree limit.
Brand new for TIME in 2012 their I-CLIC2 line does not fail
to impress. The entire line of I-CLIC2 pedals now have a carbon blade that replaces the traditional
spring tension. This lowers the weight substantially and also acts to hold the engagement mechanism open while
the cleat is not in the pedal. This patented system called I-CLIC means that clipping in is effortless and
instantaneous. The body is either carbon or composite and the spindle is steel or titanium in the top of the
line I-CLIC2 Titan Carbon model. The Time 'café' cleat has three rubber bumpers for walking
but cleat covers are recommended for those mid ride breaks at the coffee shop, as these cleats are not
designed for walking and will wear quickly.
The pedals are very light at 225g/pair claimed
for the carbon model and only 260g/pair for the entry level pedals. If you want a pure race day pedal the top
end Titan Carbon's weigh in at a svelte 175g/pair.
The RXS line of pedals have a different design and are sprung
with metal springs. They have excellent adjustability, good cornering clearance and large pedal platform.
Simple to install and set up, the RXS uses a three bumper café cleat, however it is not compatible with
Time pedals rate very highly among riders
as being consistent, very well performing pedals throughout the product ranges.
Speedplay Road Pedal System
well known for its distinctive round pedals and can be found in abundance at the highest levels of the
sport. Speedplay palmarès include Grand Tour wins, Classics wins, World Championship wins, Ironman and many
more. The road lineup of pedals is a favored solution for those with knee issues who
need a high degree of float.
These pedals employ a customizable fixed position or free float up to 15
degrees, allowing your feet to rotate unhindered by spring tension to their preferred position. The
tension mechanism is located in the cleat and they are micro adjustable fore-aft, side-to-side, and
rotationally. This means you can pretty much set these cleats up to your exact specifications. The standard hole
pattern is four hole which allows for an 8.5mm stack height or a three hole compatible with a stack height of
11.5mm, keeping your foot very close to the pedal spindle for optimal power transfer.
One of the unique aspects of the Speedplay road pedal is the double sided design
and step down entry. The entry into this pedal is similar to SPD with no flipping or fumbling to clip in— just
a simple step down onto the pedal to engage it. Speedplay also has an inverted cleat design where the pedal
sinks into the cleat rather than the usual standard of cleat sinking into the pedal.
Speedplay has three road lines with the Zero, Light Action, and
X Series. Extremely light, the Titanium Zeros weigh in at a feathery
82g claimed weight and the Zero chro-moly pedals in at 108g. The round pedal design and the way it meshes
with the cleat means a large, stable platform for optimal power transfer. All three models uses the
same cleat principle but a slightly different cleat design that is not cross compatible with the other
models. So if you decide to purchase Speedplay pedals do your homework when deciding between the Zero,
Light Action, or X Series as your set of shoes will be limited to one type of Speedplay pedal.
Cleat setup is complex with numerous bolts, shims and
plates, and takes time to configure properly for best performance. They do take some time
to wear in, but once they are set and maintained with a little lube now and then they are a high performing
pedal. The café cleat covers are a necessity to protect the cleat from wear, grit and dirt. Because the
springs and tensioning components are in the clip performance will degrade if they get clogged with
Riders seem to either love 'em or hate 'em with little middle ground.