Bike Shoes and Pedals

Reviews, Tips, and Tricks to Selecting, Buying
 and Riding Clipless Shoes and Pedals



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 maximum comfort.

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, or Speedplay.

Shimano SPD-SL Road Pedal System

Shimano is aShimano Dura Ace SPD-SL 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.Shimano SPD_SL Clipless Road Pedal Cleat System

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 Keo 2 MaxLook 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 firmlLook-Keo-Red-Cleaty 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 ICLIC 2 Carbon PedalTime 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.

Time ICLIC CleatBrand 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.

Time RXS Carbon PedalThe 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 I-CLIC2.

Time pedals rate very highly among riders as being consistent, very well performing pedals throughout the product ranges. 


Speedplay Zero Road PedalSpeedplay Road Pedal System

Speedplay is 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 Zero CleatSpeedplay 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 debris.

Riders seem to either love 'em or hate 'em with little middle ground.


Bookmark this page
Facebook Twitter Digg Stumbleupon

 Bike Shoes and Pedals