Like Speedplay's other lollipop-shaped pedals, these Zero Stainless Steel Pedals have a few important differences from most clipless road pedals: they're dual sided; the retention mechanism is in the cleat instead of the pedal; and the cleats attach with four bolts instead of the usual three-bolt road pattern.
The last of these isn't a problem. While there are Speedplay compatible shoes out there, they're not required. Speedplay supply a couple of different adapters, graded to fit the curve of most road shoe soles. You bolt the adapter to your three-bolt-pattern shoe and the bolt the cleat to the adapter.
Adding an adapter adds 3mm to the stack height – the distance between the sole and the pedal spindle. Even then, the stack height is lower than that of most road pedals. The cleat is no thicker than other systems and it encloses the pedal rather than perching on top of it. A lower stack height is good, feeling more 'natural' when you're pedalling.
I don't know that it actually improves power transfer as such but it can't hurt, and it might let you apply your power more evenly through the pedal stroke since there's marginally less effort required to orient your foot over the pedal spindle.
The low-profile nature of the pedals affects both sides: there's less pedal underneath as well. This will be much more aerodynamic. The supposed cornering clearance benefits are irrelevant unless you can pedal through corners like a top-flight criterium racer. I pedal through corners a lot – whenever I'm riding fixed - and the last pedal I hit on a bend was a rattrap with toe clip fitted, more than 20 years ago. It just doesn't happen with clipless pedals.
The big benefit of Speedplay pedals, which you will definitely notice, is the amount of float: 15 degrees, and the cleat doesn't try to centre itself either. You can align your foot however if feels most comfortable. This could be a godsend to cyclists with gammy knees. It makes it hard to set the cleats up incorrectly too. As long as it's firmly fixed under the ball of your foot, you're pretty much good to go. I tried racing on these pedals with no prior riding experience at all and I had zero problems (heh!), once I'd managed to engage the pedals - on which, more later.
Free float is great when you're pedalling sitting down. It's not so great when you stand up to sprint or attack climbs. Unless you adopt a toes-down pedalling style, your feet can rotate unnervingly on the pedals. I didn't like this at all. Speedplay have the solution to this problem built into the pedal. They've even name-checked it. You don't have to have 15 degrees of float; you can have zero. At least, that's the theory.
There are two screws on the cleat, helpfully labelled 'heel in' and 'heel out'. Tightening these reduces the float, and you can adjust them, for example, so you've got a good range of float over the more heel out pedalling position that you prefer. I didn't want to do anything fancy. I just wanted less float so I wouldn't flub my pedal strokes when I got out of the saddle.
The difficulty is that the adjustment screws have tiny, tiny crossheads; the kind of size screwhead you get in the back of a cycle computer or a watch. I do have some matching tiny screwdrivers but you can't put a lot of torque through them as you're manipulating them with your fingertips. I couldn't screw the screws fully home, so I ended up not with Speedplay Zero but Speedplay-seven-degrees-or-so. The problem is partly the tiny size of the screwheads and partly the fact that they're underneath the sole of your shoe – which, of course, you stand on. So the screws get damp and dirty. Speedplay sensibly advise you to keep the cleat springs well treated with dry lube but the dirt issue won't go away, and it's not just an issue for cleat adjustment.
Cleat engagement with the pedal is difficult if you get dirt in the cleats. That happens with any system – less so Time and Crank Bros - but it happens more when the cleat contains the moving parts. Whenever I raced on the Speedplays, I found myself frantically scraping out the cleats or trying to stamp them home onto the pedals after I'd nipped behind a hedge for a pre-TT pee and collected some earth or undergrowth under my feet. You'd run into similar problems on any social ride that called you to walk to the café on anything but tarmac or concrete. If you are meticulous about where you step when you're off the bike you won't have this problem, so for many racers it won't be an issue.
Even with the cleats lubed and clean, I found that pedal engagement and release required considerable force. This slackened off in use but remained at the upper end of the clipless pedal engagement/release scale. On the other hand, you feel very securely attached once you're clipped in, not because release is stiff but because it will not release at all unless the angle is right. The float is in one plane only and you will not come unclipped by accident. For race use, it's a big plus.
Unlike some pedals, the Speedplays are not fit and forget. The grease tends to get forced out of the needle bearings over time, leaving them dry, so you'll need to pump grease in periodically to keep them turning as sweetly in future as they do when you got them.
Speedplay Zero pedals are offered at different price points. I'd suggest you get the chromoly ones instead of these stainless steel ones: they're about 5g per pedal heavier and £40 cheaper. These stainless ones might look nice for longer, if that matters to you. They weigh 208g per pair for the pedals, according to my scales, plus another 110g for the cleats (including adapters). That's a net saving of about 100g over my budget Shimano SPD-SL pedals and cleats. Available colours are red, black, silver, pro white, true blue, sky blue and team green, with team colours costing £10 extra. Replacement cleats cost £39.99 per pair, which is about twice as much as most systems.
In summary, these are very nice pedals that offer plenty of knee-friendly float, secure attachment, low weight, and a good pedalling feel. For racing, they're well worth your serious consideration. On the other hand, they're expensive and relatively high maintenance, and I didn't like the issues that inevitably arise from having moving parts underneath the sole of a shoe. I chose to go back to SPD-SL and SPD after using these pedals. Other cyclists, I guarantee, will love them – and you might one of them.
Premium race pedals with good float, weight and feel but some upkeep issues.
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Speedplay Zero Stainless Steel Pedals
Size tested: Silver
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?
Speedplay importers Jim Walker say: 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 brand, and 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-aft, side-to-side, and rotational foot positions that can be adjusted independently. Unlike the inexact set-up of traditional, one-piece cleats, each 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 cleats, a concern of all cyclists from consumers to top professionals.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* DUAL-SIDED ENTRY: The symmetrical double-sided pedal self-locates just by stepping down into the cleat whether the pedal is right side up, upside down or anywhere else in its rotation. No kicking, no fumbling, no looking; just step down and go.
* YOUR CHOICE OF MICRO-ADJUSTABLE FLOAT OR A FIXED POSITION: The Zero allows rotational float to be precisely micro-adjusted to the exact range needed or set in a fixed-position anywhere within the 15-degree adjustment range.
* ALL THREE FOOT-AXIS ADJUSTMENTS CAN BE SET INDEPENDENTLY OF ONE ANOTHER: No other pedal system offers the precise adjustment or convenience of independently adjustable fore-aft, side-to-side, and rotational foot positions. Unlike the inexact set-up of traditional cleats, each of the three critical foot-axis adjustments of Zero cleats can be set or changed without affecting the position of the other two adjustments. This feature also eliminates guesswork and misalignment when replacing cleats.
* THE LOWEST STACK HEIGHT: The Zero cleat positions your foot closer to the top of the spindle for improved power transfer.
* 11.5 mm stack height for 3-hole mounting
* 8.5 mm stack height for 4-hole mounting
* UNBEATABLE CORNERING CLEARANCE: The thin pedal profile of the Zero pedal lets you power through corners where your rivals coast.
Stainless - 37 degrees
Titanium - 39 degrees
* PHENOMENAL LIGHT WEIGHT:
Chrome-Moly pedal each - 108g
Stainless pedal each - 103g
Titanium pedal each - 82g
Zero cleats per pair - 70g/118g*
* LARGE, STABLE PEDALING PLATFORM: The Zero Pedal System provides the same solid connection as conventional single-sided pedals, but with Speedplay's unique, inverted design the cleat provides the platform once the cleat is engaged.
* QUALITY WITHOUT COMPROMISE: Zero pedals use precision cartridge and needle bearings - three of them instead of two found in most other pedals - which allows the Zero to be thinner for a lower stack height, better cornering clearance, and reduced aerodynamic drag. Like all Speedplay Pedal Systems, the locking edges of Zero pedals and cleats are metal-on-metal for durability and safety, unlike our competitors who use engagement edges made of plastic.
* FITS MORE SHOES: The Zero cleat fits any shoe with a 3-hole or 4-hole mount.
* EASY MAINTENANCE: A built-in grease port for easy bearing lubrication.
* TRUE LOCKING MECHANISM: The Zero's locking mechanism does not rely on spring tension for security, so entering and exiting Zero pedals is easy, but unintended release is virtually impossible.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
On the bike, very good. I had some issues with the cleats, though.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Secure attachment. Adjustability. Float. Weight.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Cleats clog easily, making engagement awkward in certain circumstances. Screw heads are too small on the adjuster screws.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? No.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if he/she was looking for what these pedals offer.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
They are nice pedals but I'm just as happy using other, cheaper systems.
About the tester
Age: 42 Height: 1.78m Weight: 65kg
I usually ride: Ridgeback Solo World fixed wheel My best bike is: Planet X Pro Carbon Track (with front brake)
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,