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 What are cycling cleats?

The pedal and the cleat are the two primary components of clip-in pedals. The pedal is the first. This is the flat pedal-like device that you attach to your bike. The cycling cleat is the second. This is the clip that is attached to the bottom of your bike shoes and allows you to clip your feet into and out of the pedals.

Are cycling cleats safe?

some cyclists, especially beginners, think that cycling cleats are not safe

Cycling with cleats

When we initially learn to ride a bike, we use flat pedals, which are normally plastic platforms attached to the end of each crank arm and which we push on to ride. Flat pedals are ideal for novices because they do not require much thought. On top of the platform, you can put your foot in almost any position.

Cleats and clipless pedals are the next step for serious bikers. Instead of the floating sensation you get from riding on flat pedals, these pedals employ a cleat and pedal body that effortlessly attaches to one another.

Clip-in and clipless pedals are the same thing. Cleats are the portion of a clipless pedal that attaches to the bottom of your cycling shoe and clips into the clipless pedal.  When "clipless" pedals were initially introduced, they were referring to the pedals' lack of toe clips, which had been used for decades.

How Cycling Cleats Work

They work by interacting with a spring mechanism on the inside. The mechanism clamps down on the cleat and holds it in place as soon as you set it on the pedal and push it down. It's simple to use. You can push down on the pedals, pull up on the upstroke, and even cycle backward while hooked in. To disengage the cleat from the pedal, turn your heel away from the bike's frame (outward). Twist the heel of your left foot to the left to remove the clip, and twist the heel of your right foot to the right to remove the clip from your right foot. Cleats serve a general purpose in this regard.

  • Cleats engage with a spring mechanism integrated into the pedal to function. When you push the cleat onto the pedal with the cleat affixed to the bottom of your shoe, the mechanism clamps onto the cleat and holds it - and thus your shoe - in place.

  • You can use the pedal to push down, pull up, or even pedal backward.

  • Simply push your heel to the side, away from the bike's frame, to unclip — to release the cleat from the pedal. So you'd twist your left heel to the left to unclip your left foot and your right heel to the right to unclip your right foot. This is how almost all clipless pedals function, so you won't have to relearn every time you switch cleats.

  • In order for everything to operate, you'll need a compatible cleat, shoe, and pedal set-up. A Shimano Pedaling Dynamic (SPD) cleat, for example, will fit on an SPD-compatible pedal and a two-bolt compatible shoe, but not on a Speedplay pedal or a three-bolt compatible shoe.

Cycling Cleats Have a Lot of Benefits

  • You will be able to feel your bike more if you are clipped into your pedals. When you pedal your bike or shift your weight around, bicycle cleats will keep your feet from slipping off the pedals.

  • The benefit of cycling cleats is that they allow you to pedal more fluidly. Why? Because your body is linked to your pedals and cranks. If you use cycling cleats on a long ride, you will be less weary when you reach home because the pedal stroke is smoother.

  • When you wear cycling cleats and utilize clip-in pedals, climbing uphill becomes much easier since you can pull up on the pedals to keep even power transmission throughout your pedal stroke and maintain your momentum and traction.

  • When you spring or accelerate quickly, you also strongly pull up on the pedal. When your feet aren't clipped into your pedals, it's difficult to do.

  • On a mountain bike, cycling cleats will also assist you in performing specific stunts. Cycling cleats will assist you to cheat a little bit in getting your wheels off the ground if you aren't yet competent at completing a bunny hop.

  • Cleats let you use both the upstroke and downstroke of your legs to generate power.

disadvantages of cycling with cleats

  • Cycling cleats are extremely risky for inexperienced cyclists. If they don't know how to unclip their cycling cleats from their bike pedals, they can fall off their bike. Cars might hit them if they use it on the road and tumble! That is why it is preferable to practice using cleats in your town before attempting to use them on a busy route.
  • Cleats might be cumbersome and it takes some skill to be able to dismount the bike properly every time.
  • Cycling cleats are risky for one main reason only. The reason for this is that you may fall from your bike, resulting in minor or fatal injuries. When using bicycle cleats, you must exercise extreme caution to avoid mishaps.

Types of cycling cleats

SPD (Shimano Pedalling Dynamics)

SPD (Shimano Pedalling Dynamics)

  • Mountain bikers and all-terrain riders will appreciate these two-bolt cleats. SPD cleats have a smaller contact point than comparable choices, which means you'll sacrifice some efficiency and power transfer. So, what's the point of using these pedals? They're more convenient to clip into than typical road pedals, and they're also more robust. They won't worry if a scrape on the ground occurs, or if a clump of mud becomes lodged in the pedal body.
  • Because there are fewer alternatives for movement on the sole of your shoe, the two-bolt pattern makes SPD easy to use and adjust. Additionally, SPD-compatible shoes and cleats are more comfortable to walk in than SPD-SL, Look, or Speedplay cleats. This is due to the fact that they are recessed cleats, which are cleats that are inserted deep into the shoe rather than those that protrude from the bottom of the sole. If you ride your bike to the coffee shop, the park, or even the grocery store, you should really consider SPD or recessed cleats.


SPD-SL cleats

  • The three-bolt cleat and pedal combo from Shimano is designed for cyclists who want a larger platform and better pedal security. They resemble Look cleats in appearance. These cleats are the finest for effective power transfer and a comfortable feel, thanks to their wide foundation and safe power transfer. SPD-SL cleats, like Look cleats, have an adjustable degree of float, with an option of 0-, 2-, or 6-degrees of float. They're not as comfortable to walk in as Look cleats, and they're significantly stiffer than two-bolt SPD cleats.

Look Keo

Look Keo cycling cleats

  • A high-end road cycling shoe designed to transfer maximum power. Look pedals are a popular choice among track cyclists, who often exert over 1500w of force on their pedals. Look KEO cleats are robust and sturdy; you won't lose much power transfer, but clipping out won't be easy.

  • Look Keo cleats provide a wide contact platform and are compatible with practically any road shoe on the market, thanks to their classic three-bolt connector. When fully clipped in, Look Keo cleats allow for some "float," or side-to-side movement. The amount of float is determined by the cleat color you choose, which can be 0-, 4.5-, or 9-degrees. This isn't always a bad thing; in fact, many riders prefer to Look cleats since they are stable and secure while still allowing for a modest amount of pleasant foot movement.

  • On the downside, look cleats are slick and difficult to walk in, so don't intend on clomping around the café in these. They're also stiff, and unclipping them can be tough (although this can be adjusted). If you're a commuter searching for your first pair of cleats, there are probably better-fitting options out there.


  • Due to its propensity to shed mud, the 'Eggbeater' style cleat is ideal for mountain biking and cyclo-cross. These cleats are noted for being extremely easy to clip in and out of, which is ideal for novices but terrible for those who prefer a secure grasp, and their unusual shape results in very little pedal tension. The 'Eggbeater' style pedals aren't the most secure or efficient, but they're undoubtedly the finest for all-weather riding.

Wahoo Speedplay

Wahoo Speedplay cycling cleats

  • Speedplay's, which used to be one of the most popular cleat styles, have been gradually going out of favor, but with Wahoo's recent acquisition and relaunch, they're back in the game.
  • The pedals are particularly useful because they can be clipped in on either side (other cleats can only be clipped in on one side of the pedal) and are very adjustable. Due to their circular design, Speedplays are unique in that they are four-bolt, but they are still compatible with most road shoes that take three-bolt cleats.
  • Speedplays are designed for road riding and come in a variety of versions, including the Aero version, which has a dimpled aero design that resembles a golf ball on the underside. When compared to other cleat models, Speedplays have the most float, and instead of changing the cleat totally, the amount of float may be adjusted between 0 and 15 degrees.

Is It True That Cycling Cleats Make You Ride Faster?

Yes! Cycling with cycling cleats is faster than cycling with pedals. Cleats allow you to apply more power by allowing you to not only press down but also up, forward, and back on your pedals. You will be faster if you apply greater force.

Is Using Cycling Cleats Harmful to Your Knees?

No, the simple answer is no. Cycling cleats are not harmful to your knees unless you fall off your bike or if your cleats are too close to the insides of your cycling shoes, causing the distance between your feet to expand. When your feet are apart, the inside collateral ligaments are stressed, causing pain on the inner sides of your knees. It may also harm your knees if your seats are excessively high.

How to choose cycling cleats ?

When shopping for new cleats, consider where you'll be riding and what you're seeking for in terms of power transmission, pedalling efficiency, and float. Road riders should choose for three-bolt cleats like Look or SPD-SL, which are stronger and more secure, but mountain bikers and off-road riders will prefer two-bolt SPD cleats.


The degree of rotational movement allowed by the cleat while staying fully clipped in is known as float. Consider how far you can wiggle your heel. Most people, especially those with knee difficulties, find zero degrees of float uncomfortable since their foot is trapped in an exact position. Four to five degrees of the float is considerably more frequent, as this small amount of side-to-side movement allows for a more pleasant and sustainable pedal stroke while reducing knee strain.

Cleat tension

Another crucial component is cleat tension, which is defined as the amount of force required to clip into and unclip from the pedal. Adjustable tension is available on Shimano and Crankbrothers pedals. Look pedals do as well, however,, the 'Blade' pedals are significantly more difficult to adjust than the others. Although the pedals on Speedplay aren't adjustable, you may replace your cleat with an 'easy release' version.

How to set up cycling cleats?

  • Attach them to the bottom of your shoe, but there are a few details to ensure they're in the right place, and with two-bolt cleats, make sure they're the right way around. Fortunately, cleat installation does not have to be difficult, and all manufacturers contain a basic fitting guide.
  • Many people, like myself, believe that mounting your cleats in the middle (both vertically and horizontally) of the ball of your foot is the optimum practice, and that you should modify from there. The axle of the pedal should lie squarely beneath the ball of your foot, as described in our bike fit guide. So, here are a few methods you may evaluate and change your cleat location to enhance comfort and power transmission at the same time.
  • Fore and aft (closer to toe or heel), side-to-side, rotationally, float, and pedal tension are the five main ways to modify your cleats.
  • Before you make any changes, keep in mind that just because you're modifying one cleat doesn't imply you have to adjust the others as well. Minor anomalies, such as a leg length difference or twisted hips, affect many of us. A unilateral adjustment may be all that is required to get you back into harmony. A shim is a common cleat adjustment that requires inserting a thin piece of material between the sole of the shoe and the cleat itself on one of your cleats. This can assist balance out any disparities by adding 0.1cm or 0.5cm of height to one side.
  • Personal taste and physical requirements drive fore-and-aft and side-to-side modifications. A bike fit is one of the most effective techniques to guarantee that you have the proper cleat position while maintaining proper knee and hip angles.
  • As previously said, a small amount of float is beneficial to most riders because it helps your knee to bend and flex in a more natural and fluid manner than it would if you rode straight up and down. Many cleat manufacturers will include restrictions on the amount of float allowed in their products, so study the fine print before committing to a purchase. Color-coded cleats are available from Look and Shimano to indicate float.
  • Keep in mind that the position and height of your cleats will affect your riding position, particularly your saddle height. If you don't alter your saddle height, new cleats can add 1-2cm of height to the bottom of your foot, changing your riding position. So, if and when you change your cleats, remember to alter your riding stance as a whole.