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BUYER'S GUIDE

Best clipless pedals 2024 – the perfect pedalling platform for every type of riding

After some new pedals? Check out our complete guide to the best clipless pedals you can buy and get the perfect choice for the riding you do

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Clipless pedals provide a firm, secure connection between bike and rider that's easier to release than the previous system of straps and slotted cleats, but which of the many systems is best for you?


Clipless pedals are more efficient than regular shoes and flat pedals because they hold your feet in the right place on the pedals and keep them there. They’re designed for use with stiff-soled shoes which improve efficiency further and add to your comfort as you ride.

All clipless pedal systems use cleats that bolt to the soles of cycle-specific shoes. When you start to ride, you position the cleat on top of the pedal and push down, causing them to snap together. When you want to free your foot, you twist your heel to the side. Simple enough!

Your first choice in clipless pedals is between single-sided and double-sided designs. Single-sided are generally lighter and simpler; double-sided are easier to get into and usually allow for shoes you can walk in.

You then need to decide on the clipless system that’s best for you. With single-sided pedals, the main systems are Look Keo, Shimano SPD-SL, Time, and Speedplay. The pedals and cleats of these systems aren’t interchangeable, although you can get pedals from other brands that are compatible with Look Keo cleats, for example.

Shimano SPD rules the double-sided market, but there are various other systems out there from the likes of Time and Crank Brothers.

To save weight, pedal makers use materials like carbon fibre and titanium, and they’ll include ceramic bearings on their high-end pedals; heavier riders are best steering clear and such pedals often have a rider weight limit.

Whatever type of riding you do, we have the best clipless pedals for you.

How we review clipless pedals

As with all other products, we allocate each set of clipless pedals to a reviewer who we believe to be a target customer. If they’re lightweight single-sided pedals, we’ll give them to a racer. If they’re mud-shedding double-sided pedals, we’ll give them to an off-roader. Similarly, if the pedals are designed for trekking or commuting, we’ll get a suitable person on board to make sure they’re tested in the correct conditions and according to the right criteria.

road.cc reviewers use a product for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. We ensure that pedals are used extensively to gauge their performance, durability and ease of use. We’d rather get it done right than get it done quickly.

We believe that this comprehensive assessment process provides valuable insights into what the pedals are like to use regularly in various conditions. 

Why you can trust us

When it comes to road.cc buyer's guides, we only ever recommend products that impressed us highly in reviews. All of the clipless pedals featured here scored 4 out of 5 stars or more overall from our reviewers, indicating very good or excellent quality according to our reviewers' opinions. 

Our reviewers are all experienced cyclists, and so are the road.cc team members who put these guides together. That means you can be sure the product selections are our genuine top picks, not just a round-up of things from which we can make a commission.

With all that said, it's time to get into our selections. Clipless pedals don’t evolve as fast as some other components. Brands tend to stick with their pedal/cleat systems for years, although they’ll sometimes play around with materials and platform size, and drop some weight here and there.

Most of our picks are from the past three or four years although some are from older reviews. They’re all still in their respective ranges. We’ve included clipless pedals of all types, whether you’re a road racer, gravel rider, tourer or urban cyclist. We have everything from super-light road designs to mud-shedding mountain bike pedals so you’re bound to find the best clipless pedals for you.

You'll find our overall top picks first, followed by plenty more recommendations, and finally our Q&A section - you can also check out our article on everything you need to know about pedals if you want a bit more info before deciding. Whatever type of clipless pedals you’re after, keep reading...

The best clipless pedals: our top picks

shimano105r7000groupset-pedals

Shimano PD-R7000 pedals

9
Best clipless pedals overall
Buy now for £74.99 from Tweeks Cycles
Low profile
Durable
Wide tension adjustment
Lots of stability
Not the lightest option

Shimano's PD-R7000 pedals, from its mid-level 105 groupset, hit the sweet spot between price and performance. What you get here is a large and stable pedal platform, a proven retention mechanism, well-sealed internals, and tons of durability, all for a decent amount of money.   

Shimano’s SPD-SL system is well-established, and this option, with a carbon-fibre reinforced resin pedal body, has been around for a few years now; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Weighing in at 265g, it’s not the lightest option out there, but it’s not heavy either. 

There’s a wide range of tension on offer, so you can choose whether to be securely attached to your bike or more loosely connected, and the pedals have a nice low profile, so you can lean over a long way when cornering – as long as your tyres (and nerves) can take it. Shimano says they can cope with a 31° lean, although we’re guessing you’ve never measured what’s reasonable.

Sealed axles and cartridge bearings make for long intervals between services. In use, these pedals are indistinguishable from next-level-up Ultegra pedals. It’s only really the slight weight penalty and the lower cost that sets the 105s apart.

The pedals come shipped with SM-SH-11 (yellow) cleats, which have 6° of float, but you can switch to blue, with 2° of float, or red, with no float at all, so all tastes – and knees – are catered for.

Look Keo 2 Max Carbon Pedals

Look Keo 2 Max Carbon pedals

9
Best value road pedals
Buy now for £79.99 from Decathlon
Easy cleat location and engagement
Low weight
Good performance
Good value
Carbon body brings only marginal gains

The Look Keo 2 Max Carbons are excellent all-rounders. These are hugely impressive performance-oriented pedals at a good price, and they’re resilient too.

Each Keo 2 Max Carbon pedal features a 500mm2 stainless steel plate, giving you one of the largest contact patches between cleat and pedal around, adding to the feeling of underfoot security. Meanwhile, the release tension adjusts from the factory setting of 12Nm down to 8Nm via a hex key adjuster on the top of the ratchet, so you can set them to your preference, and the carbon composite shell keeps the weight low.

It’s incredibly easy to engage Look's Keo interface. Positioning your foot correctly on the pedal is a cinch and a firm click tells you that the cleat has snapped into place.

Unclipping is straightforward too, even if you have the spring set at the highest tension. Pressing firmly downward and twisting your heel confidently releases the cleat cleanly.

The supplied Look 'Grip' cleats are easy enough to walk around in, the grippy inserts being a welcome addition. You get a set of the 4.5° float grey cleats in the box, but you can buy black (0°) or red (9°) versions too.

All in all, these provide a great performance at a reasonable price.

2021 Wahoo Speedplay Zero

Wahoo Speedplay Zero pedals

9
Best clipless pedals for masses of float
Buy now for £169.99 from Slane Cycles
Adjustability
Durability
Low stack height
Easy to walk in
Initial expense...

Although they’re more expensive than most, Wahoo Speedplay Zero pedals offer a really impressive level of adjustability, the stack height is low, and they don't weigh much at all.

Wahoo Speedplays are different from other systems in that most of the mechanics sit within the cleat rather than the pedal. This means the pedals are little more than notched discs. Setting up the cleats takes a little longer than normal but you’ll have things sorted in minutes.

One unusual feature is that you can adjust the float – the amount you can rotate your feet before unclipping – up to a whopping 15° with a hex key. If you ever suffer from knee issues, these could be the pedals for you.

In operation, these are similar to other pedals: you get the cleat in the right position and push down, and then rotate your heel to unclip. Some people find clipping in a little tricky to start with, but you’ll quickly get the hang of it. Once clipped in, everything feels perfectly secure.

One advantage over most road pedals is that the Zeros are double-sided, meaning they can’t be the wrong way up.

Shimano PD-M520

Shimano PD-M520 SPD pedals

9
Best clipless pedals for value
Buy now for £27.99 from Halfords
Excellent value
High build quality
Top performance

The Shimano PD-M520 pedals might not be anything special to look at but if you want a no-nonsense double-sided SPD option for any type of riding, this is a classic, and amazing value to boot. This design has been around in one form or another for years, and it’s still going strong. Both the build quality and the performance are excellent.

The M520 is alloy-bodied with steel mechanisms and axle. It runs on cup and cone bearings which are easily accessible and replaceable with a cheap lockring tool.

It is designed as a mountain bike pedal, of course, and copes admirably off-road, shedding mud and knocks with ease.

Loads of people use M520s on the road too, particularly for Audax and commuting, or anywhere else when using shoes with recessed cleats comes in handy. They're a solid and dependable option and can turn their hand to practically anything. The range of cleat tension adjustment is generous, and the entry and exit are both positive. Hitting the scales at 374g, they're also a decent weight for the money.

Time Xpro 10 pedals Best clipless pedals for lightweight performance

Time Xpro 10 pedals

8
Best clipless pedals for lightweight performance
Buy now for £115 from Fawkes Cycles

Time has recently revamped its pedals range into a simpler and sleeker line-up with a few technical updates, the XPro 10 remaining a central model.

Time's road pedals use its patented Iclic system which sits in an open position when there’s no cleat engaged. This makes clipping in effortless. There isn't such a firm ‘snap’ as you get when clipping into a Shimano pedal, for example, but it’s simple to find the right position without looking down.

The retention system uses a carbon blade rather than the steel spring you’ll find on most clipless pedals, and this has three tension settings. A fairing on the bottom of the pedal is designed to protect the carbon blade and, Time says, improve aerodynamics, although any watt savings are likely to be marginal.

The cleats have a standard three-bolt formation, and they’re not too awkward to walk in (for short distances) because the surface area is pretty large.

The XPro 10 uses a hollow stainless-steel axle and steel bearings, and the weight is low. The XPro 12 and Pro 12 SL are even lighter, but they’re also more expensive.

Time has now introduced three spindle lengths to the XPro range, allowing you to tweak the distance between your feet.

Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3

Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3 pedals

8
Best clipless pedals for mud-shedding
Buy now for £127.95 from Biketart
Lightweight
Excellent mud-shedding performance
Lack of platform makes shoe choice more important than usual

The Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3 pedals are lightweight, easy to use, and have the best mud-shedding performance of any clipless pedal available – which can be a big plus when you’re riding off-road. The lack of a platform does make shoe choice more important than usual, though.

The Eggbeater pedal – which has been around for many years – is a clever four-sided design. There’s no platform and no tension adjustment, but clipping in is simple, even in the wettest conditions because there’s hardly anything for mud to stick to, and unclipping is fluid.

The fact that there’s no platform means you can move your feet around very easily, even when clipped in, and whether you like that is a matter of taste. It’s certainly less noticeable if you use stiff-soled shoes. Traction Pads (sleeves designed to improve contact between your shoe and the pedal) are available for a more stable feel.

If the Eggbeater pedals suit you, they’re excellent, and a range of cleats allows you to get the amount of float you like. There’s a reason these have been almost unchanged for so long.

 

The best of the rest: more of our top clipless pedal recommendations

2020 Look X-Track Gravel Edition pedals

Look X-Track Gravel pedals

8
Buy now for £40.49 from Tredz
SPD compatibility
Positive cleat retention
A bit weighty

The X-Track Gravel Edition is Look’s entry-level off-road pedal, designed for cross-country riding, given a bronze paint job. It offers a wide platform and solid cleat retention, and the price is low too.

The X-Track is a good pedal, and totally suitable for a bit of adventure riding or cyclo-cross, and it even works well for road use too.

The main body is aluminium, paired with a chromoly spindle that spins on double sealed bearings. With a platform area of 350mm2, there is plenty of material for you to push against to get the power down, and you get adjustable tensioning for the cleat mechanism, which can go from 6Nm up to 14Nm – a good range. It's all controlled by a small hex bolt that’s easy to tweak.

Cleats come as part of the package, as you'd expect, and the pedals are also compatible with Shimano SPD when it’s time for a change. The standard cleats give you 6° of float to take the strain off your knees.

Coming in at 392g (447g including cleats) per pair, these aren’t exactly light, but they’re solid and durable, and they won't break the bank.

2021 Shimano Deore XT MTB SPD Trekking pedals

Shimano XT PD-T8000 trekking pedals

8
Buy now for £62.99 from Sigma Sports
Smooth bearings
Decent weight
Versatile and effective
Customisable flat side

The Shimano XT PD-T8000 trekking pedals are an ideal option if clipping in isn't always your preference because they have a cleat-retaining mechanism on one side and a flat platform on the other. Tourers, commuters, gravellers, bikepackers and newbies to clipless will all find much to like. They are well-made pedals with very little going against them.

A double-sided pedal offers the best of both worlds; the ability to clip in for long stints, without making the bike impossible to use in everyday shoes. Reviewer Emma Silversides said she would tour with nothing else.

These XT pedals are built around a two-sided, forged alloy body. You get interchangeable pins on the flat side and a standard SPD mechanism on the other, and reflectors front and rear. The axle is cromo, and regreasing and maintaining the bearings is very easy.

The SPD mechanism is everything you'd expect from Shimano, with a positive, secure clipping-in action. You can adjust the tension with a 2.5mm Allen key. The flat side is a generous size with a slightly concave profile.

There's very little to dislike about these pedals; they offer no-frills, consistent performance. Given the tried-and-tested mechanism and the simplicity of the flat side, there's very little to go wrong.

Look Keo Classic 3 Road Clipless Pedal

Look Keo Classic 3 pedals

8
Buy now for £36.7 from Halfords

The Look Keo Classic 3s are good mid-level pedals that offer a decent-sized platform, have an easy-to-use adjustable mechanism, and are well-made and robust.

A large contact area – 400mm2, if you’re interested – provides loads of stability while spreading the pressure as you pedal for increased comfort and less chance of hot spots.

The Kéo Classic 3 spindle is made up of an oversized steel axle with miniature ball bearings (12mm inside, 18mm outside) and a needle bearing cartridge that’s designed to improve wear resistance. After putting a lot of miles into these, we can say that durability is high.

A bolt at the rear of the pedal allows you to alter the tension between 8Nm and 12Nm, so you can decide how easy it is to release the cleat. Speaking of cleats, the ones that come with the pedals offer 4.5° of float, although you can buy 0° and 9° options aftermarket.

Engaging and disengaging from the pedals is simple and the mechanism has a sturdy hold and a reactive click to let you know you are clipped in properly.

All in all, these are reliable pedals that perform well. Solid!

2020 Shimano PD-ES600 SPD Pedals

Shimano PD-ES600 SPD pedals

8
Buy now for £54.95 from Biketart
Good looks
Light and small
Excellent bearings
SPD shoe walkability
Single-sided design could hamper swift engagement
Surface wear

The Shimano PD-ES600s are Ultegra-level, single-sided SPD road pedals, and they’re very good. They’re small, light, and offer enough foot support to be perfect for those who like to put in the miles but still walk around a bit.

Looking like the lovechild of a mountain bike SPD pedal and an Ultegra road pedal, the PD-ES600s are for road riders who want some of the foot support of a traditional three-bolt triangular cleat system but the walkability of a shoe with a recessed two-bolt cleat.

Being a single-sided design, the ES600s need a little more of a practised action to clip into the correct side than the stamp-and-hope of a double-sided SPD pedal, but you’ll soon get the hang of them.

Entry and release spring tension is dealt with in the usual Shimano SPD fashion with a 3mm hex key out the back of the pedal, and despite having the sturdy metal springs and bindings of an SPD pedal, they're not heavy, ours coming in at 282g. The bearings are excellent too, and durability won’t be an issue.

Bontrager Elite Road Pedal Set

Bontrager Elite Road Pedal Set

8
Buy now for £59.99 from Triton Cycles
Keo 2 Max-matching performance
Ease of use
More expensive than Look's own pedals

The Bontrager Elite Road pedals are compatible with Look’s Keo clipless system and provide a simple interface and easy engagement that’ll appeal to many.

With a composite construction (not carbon, but a resin-type material), and an adjustable retention mechanism, the Elite Roads weigh a reasonable 252g on the road.cc Scales of Truth.

It’s easy to get used to clipping into these pedals thanks to a slightly larger overall body length and wider front lip to slot the toe end of the cleat into than you find with Look’s Keo 2 Max. This plays right to the feet of someone who struggles to engage clipless pedals (or a relative beginner), as they can afford to be a little less precise with their foot placement. Unclipping is as straightforward.

Overall, these are high-quality, perfectly capable pedals. If you're already a happy Look user, there isn’t really a compelling reason to switch, but if you're new to the clipless game and want easier engagement, these are well worth considering.

Best clipless pedals: how to choose and what you need to know

faq-icon
What is the point of clipless pedals?

Clipless pedals connect you to the bike, holding your feet in the best position for efficient pedalling. Your feet can’t slip off the pedals because the cleats fixed to your shoes are firmly attached.

Although we transfer most of our power by pushing down on the pedals, many people like to push over the top of the pedal stroke and drag backwards at the bottom. Clipless systems allow you to do this without your feet coming off the pedals.

There are certain circumstances when it’s useful to pull upwards on the pedals too, particularly when riding off-road. Clipless pedals help you flick your bike up to get over obstacles on the trail and to bunnyhop potholes.

faq-icon
Why are they called ‘clipless’ pedals?

Pedals used to have metal cages, called toe clips, and leather straps to hold the shoe in place. Racing shoes had cleats that were slotted to fit the cage of the pedal. To get out, you had to loosen the strap. Falling over at traffic lights behind a busload of schoolkids was a distinct possibility.

Pedals with clips and straps (CC-BY 2.0 by ktk17028:Flickr)

Old school pedals with clips and straps (CC-BY 2.0 by ktk17028:Flickr)

Clipless pedals get their contradictory name, then, because they don't have the metal clips of yore. Some favour the term "clip-in pedals" which has the advantage of making more sense, but a couple of quick Google searches shows "clipless pedals" is over four times more common. It looks like we're stuck with it.

faq-icon
What are the disadvantages of clipless pedals?

One potential issue is not unclipping your shoe from the pedal in time to get your foot down on the ground when you stop.

Riders occasionally fall over in this way, particularly when just starting to use clipless pedals. We’ve all been there. But you’ll soon get into the habit of unclipping before you come to a halt and even while stationary.

You use clipless pedals with dedicated cycling shoes. The two are designed to work together as a system, whereas everyday shoes will likely slip on clipless pedals. This means that clipless pedals might not be the best option if you’re only nipping into town, say, and don’t want to wear cycle-specific shoes.

That said, some pedals, such as Shimano’s XT PD-T8000, have a clipless mechanism on one side and a grippy platform on the other. These allow you to ride in various types of footwear.

faq-icon
What is the stack height of a clipless pedal?

The distance between pedal axle and shoe sole is known as the stack height. A lower stack helps make your foot more stable on the pedal. It also lowers your position on the bike, making it slightly more stable in corners.

faq-icon
What is the ‘float’ of a clipless pedal system?

The earliest clipless pedals held your feet in a fixed position. This soon turned out to be a problem for some riders whose knees got sore, leading to serious problems in some cases.

The answer was to slightly modify the design so that the foot could move a little while staying attached to the pedal. This rotational movement is called 'float' and you'll find it to a greater or lesser degree in all of the options above. 

Look, for example, offers three different types of cleats for its Keo clipless pedal system. You can choose between 0°, 4.5° and 9° of float.

 

faq-icon
Should I choose clipless pedals with three-bolt or two-bolt cleats?

Clipless pedals fall into two categories. Pedals for road racing follow the original concept introduced by Look in 1984. The cleat stands proud of the sole and is attached by three bolts. This allows an uncomplicated, very rigid sole, but is awkward to walk in.

In 1990, Shimano introduced its SPD (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) design. A smaller metal cleat is mounted to the shoe with two bolts and fits in a recess in the sole. The recessed sole makes it easier to walk in SPD shoes. The recess also helps guide the cleat into the mechanism on the pedal, making it easier to clip in. Originally intended for mountain biking, the SPD system has become very popular with commuters and recreational riders too.

Many companies now make pedals whose cleats fit three-bolt and two-bolt shoes.

Three-bolt clipless pedals are nearly all single-sided. To get into them, you have to catch the front tip of the pedal with the cleat. This is a bit fiddly at first, but soon becomes second nature.

Two-bolt pedals are usually (not always) double-sided. This makes entry easy; after a very small amount of practice, you learn to just stomp on the pedal, and away you go.

That difference is a factor in deciding which system is best for you. If you're clipping and unclipping a lot — while commuting, for example — then the easier clip-in action of two-bolt systems means you won't find yourself fumbling with the pedals as you set off from the lights.

If sheer performance is more of a priority, then a three-bolt system is the way to go. The larger cleat spreads the pedalling load over more of the sole, which is more comfortable and efficient, and three-bolt shoes are lighter because there's no extra rubber around the cleat to make them walkable.

Speedplay’s clipless pedal system is unlike anyone else’s. Its pedals are double-sided, the retaining mechanism is part of the cleat, and that cleat has a four-bolt mounting. A three-bolt adapter is included with them, as few shoemakers have a suitable shoe in their line. 

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. 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 winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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3 comments

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galibiervelo | 6 days ago
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Shimano SpdSL, I have some 20 years and 'new' ultegra about 4 seasons. Flawless. 

Grab any pair of look Keo and the ALL have movement in the bearing after one season.

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Backladder replied to galibiervelo | 6 days ago
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I'd have to say that my old Shimano dura-ace compatible with Look delta cleats are the best, just retired them after about 35 years, not because they are worn out but because I have bought a pair of power meter pedals, however the spd-SL cleats don't feel as secure and wear out very quickly in comparison to the old deltas!

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DoomeFrog | 1 week ago
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The Best Overall are, by definition, also the best under £100?