Speedplay's £115 entry-level Zero Chrome-Moly pedals are the most affordable step into the company's unique world of clipless pedals. On the scales they're only a few grams heavier than the stainless version that cost over twice as much. Those few grams aside then, these offer identical functionality and performance at a fraction of the cost.
I made the switch to Speedplay pedals a couple of years ago. It was knee problems during the Cent Cols Challenge, a 10-day ride with 20,000 metres of climbing, that was the turning point for me. I've not experienced any further knee problems since I started using Speedplay's Zero pedals with their famous vast amount of float. That's good enough for me to consider changing back. You could say I'm now a Speedplay convert, and you'd be right.
The core attraction of Speedplay's lollipop-shaped pedals is they're dual-sided, so they're easy to clip in to. They're also far lighter, essentially because they've transferred most of the retention gubbins to the shoe. But it's the 15 degrees of float they provide that is their biggest attraction. Crucially the float is free, the cleat doesn't attempt to align itself, unlike other pedals with sprung float - where the cleat is pushed back into the neutral default position.
That doesn't happen with Speedplay, which means your feet are free to find the ideal and most comfortable angle for pedalling. And it's this, in combination with the 15 degree range, that makes them so good for anyone with dodgy knees. But they're not just for the knacked of knee, whatever state your knees are in they give you a lot more control over your pedal setup and are very adjustable.
They do require that you have a good degree of control over your limbs when cycling. The first few miles can on the pedals can feel very strange, with your feet floating about unrestrained. Soon enough it all becomes very natural and you find yourself pedalling quite happily. If you're worried that the float will cause your your feet to move around excessively when out of the saddle, whether it's climbing or sprinting, don't, that just isn't the case. Feet stay firmly planted in the right orientation. You only need look at the number of professional riders, like Fabian Cancellara, who happily pummel their Speedplays without any problems.
The range of float is adjustable, via two small Phillips head grub screws on the cleat. They're clearly labelled 'heel in' and 'heel out' so you can individually adjust them to suit your particular pedalling style. You could, if you wanted, zero out the float completely. I adjust my cleats to limit the heel out float, this is a level of adjustment that no other pedals offer.
Clipping in and out is easy once you've spent time adapting to it, once mastered it becomes very easy indeed. The cleats don't like it if any mud or grit gets in them, so if you've been trampling through the undergrowth on a mid-ride toilet stop, it's worth giving the cleats a couple of sharp hard knocks on the pedals to clear out any dirt that could prevent them from successfully clipping in.
Walking in the cleats, which have a metal external faceplate, can make for interesting slidey moments. You really really need to take great care not to end up on your bum walking on any tiled floor or polished floors. There are aftermarket cleat covers, but they're still a bit of a faff and of course an extra expense. I don't see why Speedplay couldn't add small plastic bump stops to the cleats to make walking, even if you don't plan on doing much walking, that little bit safer.
Aside from walking in them my only bugbear with the pedals is the level of maintenance required. Some pedals you can run into the ground with zero maintenance, but the Speedplay's need looking after. Inside are a row of needle bearings and a small sealed cartridge bearing, and they're not replaceable. What you need is a grease gun, some suitable grease and a Philips head screw driver. Removing the end cap allows you to fix the grease gun into the axle and the idea is to force all the old grease out the axle side of the pedal. Keep forcing it through until only clean grease is squirting out. As long as you remember to do this regularly, you'll have no problems with your Speedplays.
Setting up the cleats is a straightforward job. They're a four bolt design and an a adaptor to use on three bolt soles is included in the box. Place this adapter on the sole, line up the cleat and bolt it down into place. You have a range of fore and aft adjustment, but unlike other cleat systems you don't need to worry about the angle. That's taken care of with the 15 degrees of free float. Replacement cleats are expensive which is a downside.
You can choose from four axle lengths (50 to 65mm) for even further customisation.
The free float and adjustability, and ease of setup makes the Speedplay's an attractive package. Their price, cost of replacement cleats and high maintenance means they're not for everyone, but I'm prepared to overlook those downsides for their clear performance edge.
Bags of float, lightweight and ease of setup makes the Speedplay's a top pedal system, particularly if you have dodgy knees
road.cc test report
Make and model: Speedplay Zero Chrome-moly Pedal system
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The performance features of the Speedplay Zero Pedal System read like a pro racer's wish list.
No other pedal comes close to offering the superior adjustability or cutting-edge specifications of the Zero. Compare the key features of Zeros to any other brandand you'll find that other pedal systems are no match. By thinking 'outside the box'we created and patented the most technically advanced clipless pedal system available. Only Zeros offer fore-aftside-to-sideand rotational foot positions that can be adjusted independently. Unlike the inexact set-up of traditionalone-piece cleatseach of the three adjustments of Zero cleats can be set or changed without affecting the position of the other adjustments. This feature also eliminates guesswork and misalignment when replacing cleatsa concern of all cyclists from consumers to top professionals.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Zero to 15 degrees of micro-adjustable float
Easy cleat set up and adjustment
No complicated spring tension adjustments
No fumbling - dual sided entry
Half the weight of most clipless systems
Excellent cornering clearance
Weight (each): 108g
Spindle length: Chrome-Moly 53mm
Remember to regularly grease the bearings, and they'll be fine
They're light because they've shifted the retention mechanism to the shoes
Even if you've never had any problems with your knees, the range of float, which is fully adjustable, makes them very comfortable
There is not getting away from the fact these are premium priced pedals. The replacement cleats are pricey too
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The range of float and how adjustable it is. Nice free float and easy setup
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The high maintenance and cost of replacement cleats
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
About the tester
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.