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Here's how to decide when it's time for a new pair

Cleats gradually wear out over time and stop working as they should, so you need to swap them periodically, but exactly when are they due a change?

The amount of time that cleats last depends on a host of factors including the brand you use, your mileage, your riding style, conditions, how far you walk in your cycling shoes, and so on. All of those factors mean that it’s not possible to give an exact timespan for changing your cleats but here’s the information you need to decide when it’s time for a new pair.

As cleats wear out you’ll often find that their connection with the pedal becomes sloppier. You can sometimes find that it's hard to release your foot from the pedal or, conversely, that you pull your foot off the pedal accidentally. You really don’t want to do that, especially not in traffic, so err on the side of caution when it comes to deciding when to fit new cleats. 

Shimano SPD-SL on shoes (1).jpg

Shimano SPD-SL on shoes (1).jpg

Many cleats come with wear indicators to help you decide when it’s time to bin ’em (see below), but don’t rely on these totally. If the wear indicators are still intact but the cleats don’t feel right – if entry/exit is too easy, too difficult, or isn’t smooth, or if the connection to the pedal isn’t snug – change them anyway.

When buying replacement cleats, remember that most systems offer options with different amounts of float (the amount your foot can move before you unclip).

 

Shimano 

Shimano told us, “Shoe cleats wear in different ways depending on how the rider uses their shoes. 

“The cleats should either be replaced when it becomes difficult for the rider to release themselves from the pedal, or when the cleat starts to release with much less effort than when it was new. 

Shimano SPD-SL cleat (1).jpg

Shimano SPD-SL cleat (1).jpg

“Before replacing a cleat you can adjust the binding mechanism [on the pedal] with an Allen key, which alters the grip the pedal has on the cleat. If that fails to address the releasing issue then you can make a visual check on SPD-SL cleats too. 

“If you can see the cleat body underneath the coloured pads on the front and back of the SPD-SL cleats this suggests it's time to change your cleats.”

Shimano cleat manual.jpg

Shimano cleat manual.jpg

In other words, if any section of the cleat’s coloured tips has worn through to the point that you can see the cleat body below, that's an indication that it needs replacing, according to Shimano (above is a pic from Shimano's dealer manual to illustrate the point). 

Shimano Spd-SL cleat cover (1).jpg

Shimano Spd-SL cleat cover (1).jpg

New Shimano SPD-SL cleats have a list price of £19.99. Shimano offers SPD-SL pedal cleat covers for £14.99 to add grip and protect your cleats when you walk.

http://shimano.com/

Read our Buyer's guide: performance pedals here.

 

Look

Look Kéo cleats come with wear indicators that tell you when they need replacing. 

Look Keo Grip cleats.jpg

Look Keo Grip cleats.jpg

Look Kéo Grip cleats have polyurethane anti-slip pads at the front and rear to stop you sliding around like a sheep on lino when you walk. These have two wear indicators at the front and two more at the rear that appear with use.

“It is dangerous to use the cleats if one or more of the wear indicators are visible,” says Look. 

A new set of Look Kéo Grip cleats has a retail price of £19.99 but you can find them for about half that if you shop around.

Look Keo Cleats.jpg

Look Keo Cleats.jpg

Other Kéo cleats come without the polyurethane pads. It's time to change these when white material shows through the cleat’s main red, grey or black material. 

Look Delta cleats.jpg

Look Delta cleats.jpg

It’s the same story if you use Look’s Delta cleats (£15.99).

Look Keo cover (1).jpg

Look Keo cover (1).jpg

If you’re walking more than a few metres to and from your bike in your cycling shoes, Look advises you to use Kéo Covers (£7.99). These protect your cleats and make walking a bit more manageable.

www.lookcycle.com

Check out our guide to getting started with clipless pedals here.

 

Time

Time currently offers four different sorts of cleats – iClic, RXS, ATAC and ATAC Easy. Obviously, you need to buy the right sort for the pedals you use. iClic and RXS are designed for road use, ATAC and ATAC Easy for mountain biking.

Time iClic Cleats (1).jpg

Time iClic Cleats (1).jpg

Sets of Time iClic (above) and RXS cleats each have an RRP of £15.99.

It must be said that Time’s road pedal cleats have a bit of a reputation for wearing out quickly if you walk any more than an absolute minimum in them.

"It is difficult to identify a hard and fast rule to determine how often cleats should be replaced," said Time. "There are many factors involved such as the number of miles ridden each year, type of terrain ridden on and how often the shoes are used to walk in.

"Depending on how heavily they are used could mean that the same set could need to be replaced every six months with one rider and every year with another.

"The best way to know when your cleats should be replaced is when you start to have play between the sole of your shoe and the pedal."

 

Cleatskins Time iClic.jpg

Cleatskins Time iClic.jpg

Time doesn’t produce its own cleat covers but third party models are available from Cleatskins, although we don’t know of any UK stockists.

www.timesport.fr

 

Speedplay

Speedplay says, “Replace cleats at least every 3,000-5,000 miles or sooner if the cleat parts show advanced wear.”

This applies to cleats for Zero, Light Action and X pedals. We’re not going to rebut that official advice, but we’d say that you need to keep an eye on the springs and replace them if they show signs of wear.

Speedplay V2 Cleat 2 (1).jpg

Speedplay V2 Cleat 2 (1).jpg

“Lubricating the cleat springs with a dry-type (PTFE) lubricant and keeping the cleats free of dirt and debris by cleaning them regularly or using Light Action Coffee Shop Caps (cleat covers) when walking will greatly extend the life of your cleats,” says Speedplay.

Speedplay Zero cleats are expensive – the RRP for a pair of Speedplay’s V.2 cleats is £42.50, although you can find them cheaper online – but they tend to last much longer than plastic cleats. The outermost section of the cleat is metal and can be slippery to walk on, particularly on damp surfaces, but it’s durable.

Speedplay Coffee Shop Caps (1).jpg

Speedplay Coffee Shop Caps (1).jpg

Speedplay’s Coffee Shop Caps are covers you snap on to your cleats to protect them and to make walking easier. The RRP on these is £10 a pair.

Speedplay Zero Walkable Cleats (1).jpg

Speedplay Zero Walkable Cleats (1).jpg

You can also get Speedplay’s Walkable Cleats (£59.99) that feature rubberised covers that stay on the cleats while you’re riding. Again, the idea is that they provide extra traction and protect the cleats from wear when you walk. 

These come with Cleat Buddies which are plugs that you fit in the centre to prevent mud and gunk getting into the central hole in the cleat if you walk over dirty surfaces.

“Never ride on parts that are damaged or show excessive wear,” says Speedplay. “Never install cleats using any combination of new cleat parts and old cleat parts.”

www.speedplay.com

 

Positioning new cleats

You can draw around your old cleats with a crayon or some chalk before removing them in order to fit your new ones in exactly the same place.

Some people prefer to mark the position with tape while Look Kéo cleats have their own positioning system, although it only works with certain shoes.

We'd advise you to use a torque wrench to tighten the bolts to the manufacturer's guidelines.

 

Do you have any tips or information  to add? We're always keen to hear them.

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.

25 comments

Avatar
Simmo72 [651 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes

Re Shimano "“If you can see the cleat body underneath the coloured pads on the front and back of the SPD-SL cleats this suggests it's time to change your cleats.” 

That would mean replacing them virtually every day as my coloured pads break off almost immediately, though to be fair the cleats last ages, much better than time.

Avatar
Nixster [365 posts] 1 year ago
7 likes

Speedplay cleats: replace before you wear the cross heads from the bolts and have to drill them out instead yes

Avatar
Gatwick [2 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Cleatskins has finally introduced its European site and started shipping DE, UK either.

http://www.cleatskins.de/versand/

I have iClic cleats and really hate how fast they wear out so the skin was awaited.

Avatar
Mat Brett [652 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Gatwick wrote:

Cleatskins has finally introduced its European site and started shipping DE, UK either.

http://www.cleatskins.de/versand/

I have iClic cleats and really hate how fast they wear out so the skin was awaited.

 

Are they any good?

 

Avatar
themartincox [553 posts] 1 year ago
9 likes

Is it time yet?

 

 

Avatar
Leviathan [2667 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
themartincox wrote:

Is it time yet?

 

 

No, only when the front edge on one of them has snapped off.

Avatar
Dr. Ko [205 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Leviathan wrote:
themartincox wrote:

Is it time yet?

No, only when the front edge on one of them has snapped off.

Yes and no, it ain't funny if You're having trouble to get the bolts out. 

In respect to Look Keo cleats I had good results with alternative brand cleats.

Avatar
Mat Brett [652 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

themartincox wrote:

Is it time yet?

 

Well, we can say for sure that you're not going to have trouble removing at least one of the bolts.

Avatar
part_robot [246 posts] 1 year ago
6 likes

You can't mention Speedplay cleat wear without mentioning Keepon Kovers. To hell with those coffeeshop and aero things; Keepon Kovers are absolutely fantastic and very durable. Game-changer for me as not only do the metal plates wear when walking but they are dangerously slippery. If it weren't for Keepons, I'd not have stuck with Speedplay.

Avatar
Mr Turning [124 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
part_robot wrote:

You can't mention Speedplay cleat wear without mentioning Keepon Kovers. To hell with those coffeeshop and aero things; Keepon Kovers are absolutely fantastic and very durable. Game-changer for me as not only do the metal plates wear when walking but they are dangerously slippery. If it weren't for Keepons, I'd not have stuck with Speedplay.

 

Whaaaa! They didn't mention the ones I bought. Boo hoo!

Avatar
Disfunctional_T... [196 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I don't know if Speedplays ever wear out if taken care of. I have 8 years on my Speedplay X-5's on my only road bike. I use the coffee covers when I walk on cement. I lubricated the engagement area of lollipops in the beginning because they needed a lot of pressure to clip into, but I haven't been lubricating them for years.
I had the shop lubricate the bearings once.

Avatar
part_robot [246 posts] 1 year ago
8 likes
Mr Turning wrote:

Whaaaa! They didn't mention the ones I bought. Boo hoo!

What on earth prompted you to write that? Are you unwell? I left my comment because once upon a time someone told *me* about Keepin Kovers and they've made such a difference I wanted to spread the love. But hey... If I must deal with a troll in order to help some people so be it.

Avatar
bikeandy61 [538 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Whatever brand you use, get some covers unless you only ever dismount when you get home.

Avatar
DaveE128 [885 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes
bikeandy61 wrote:

Whatever brand you use, get some covers unless you only ever dismount when you get home.

This. Or buy Shimano MTB/touring pedals. The cleats last years and years, you can walk in them far more easily, they don't care if you put down feet in sand/mud etc, and have been much more reliable for me than SPD-SLs, which I gave up on in after about 3 months' use. After a couple of dirty road stops at junctions in the New Forest, I couldn't clip in any more and cleaning everything didn't fix the issue. Rubbish. Never had any issues with "hot spots" or "smaller platform" as some claim with  the MTB pedals so I'm sticking with them.

The trouble with cleat covers is that when you need to stop to wait for someone, it isn't practical to get a cleat cover onto the sole of your foot prior to putting a foot down! Also, it's an extra thing to carry.  2

Avatar
matthewn5 [1036 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

+1 for Keep On Kovers. Hard to find, but worth it.

Avatar
fukawitribe [1926 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
matthewn5 wrote:

+1 for Keep On Kovers. Hard to find, but worth it.

Love 'em too - Bike Science seem to always have decent stock and they're normally around on eBay if nowhere else.

Avatar
benn jones [15 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

+1 for cleat skins they are excellent I used for my long walk from bike sheds to office at work. Wiggle used to sell them at one point.

have had a bad experience with fast wearing time xpresso pedals & cleats. Shame as I love the pedals when new but are made from cheese as well as the cleats.

I have some how managed to wear grooves in three identical places on all 4 sets of pedals.

strange.

 

Avatar
Bristol Bullet [41 posts] 1 year ago
6 likes

+1 for mtb pedals / cleats. Like DaveE128, I've never had any hot-spot issues, they last forever, plus you get double-sided pedals to clip into and they make a much sweeter click noise when you clip in rather than the agricultural clunk you get with road cleats.

Avatar
macrophotofly [260 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

+1 for Keep On Kovers for Speedplay. In Japan we are lucky to have them easy to find in many bicycle shops and Amazon. To be extra safe I initially glue on (hot glue gun - dap a bit on the metal plate) - once they have been worn a couple of times they then seem to mold perfectly and don't ever drop off (unlike the Speedplay yellow walkon cleats!)

 

Avatar
jasecd [449 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

You can get Shimano cleats for £11.50 from any of the large online retailers. Wiggle's own brand Lifeline cleat covers cost £4 and do the job splendidly.

Avatar
kev-s [261 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Another +1 for mtb pedals / cleats

Been running shimano spd shoes with crank bros eggbeater pedals (4 sided entry) for 5 years now

Never had any hotspot issues, still on the same pair of cleats which came with the pedals and have done around 15'000 miles so far

You also have the added bonus that you dont look a tool trying to walk in them unlike spd-sl's

 

Avatar
andyeb [31 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Yet another +1 for mtb pedals & cleats, especially for long distance commuting; I'm usually clearing the junction before my fellow roadies in SPD+SL shoes/cleats have finally clipped in.

And no, they don't all look like Matt off GCN. 

Avatar
andyeb [31 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
DaveE128 wrote:
bikeandy61 wrote:

Whatever brand you use, get some covers unless you only ever dismount when you get home.

This. Or buy Shimano MTB/touring pedals. The cleats last years and years, you can walk in them far more easily, they don't care if you put down feet in sand/mud etc, and have been much more reliable for me than SPD-SLs, which I gave up on in after about 3 months' use. After a couple of dirty road stops at junctions in the New Forest, I couldn't clip in any more and cleaning everything didn't fix the issue. Rubbish. Never had any issues with "hot spots" or "smaller platform" as some claim with  the MTB pedals so I'm sticking with them.

The trouble with cleat covers is that when you need to stop to wait for someone, it isn't practical to get a cleat cover onto the sole of your foot prior to putting a foot down! Also, it's an extra thing to carry.  2

This sounds exactly like someone I know.

Avatar
fenix [667 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

+whatever we are up to for the keep on kovers for speedplay.

Protects cleats.
Stops you falling on your arse.
Stops any loose screws from falling out.

Oh and time atac cleats. The brassy ones. Mine are about 20 years old and I've never replaced them.

Avatar
Grizzerly [364 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

I've just replaced my Look Deltas.   The 'nose' of one of them had broken off, so I thought : "Hang the expense"...