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  1. #1
    Senior Member Crazy88s's Avatar
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    Pedal Talk: SPD vs SPD-SL

    Right now both my wife and I have SPD pedals. We have these because we take spin classes in addition to riding our road bikes.

    She'll be in the need for a new pair of shoes soon so I thought this might be a good opportunity to get the low down on SPD-SL pedals. I'm looking at the 6700 Ultegra pedals from Shimano.

    What are the benefits of going to the SL style? Does the wider base increase power/speed? Are they easier to get in/out of?

    I have to admit that the SPD pedals are a PITA sometimes.

    Your advice/thoughts would be appreciated.

    Thanks!

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    Senior Member cyclist2000's Avatar
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    SPD-SL are similar to look pedals and have a large triangular shaped cleat. These cleats tend to be more difficult to walk around on. I have heard that the larger pedal and cleat produce less hot spots on the sole of the foot while riding.

    If all you are doing is putting on the shoes, leave the house, go for a ride, return home then take off shoes, the SPD-SL will be fine.

    But if you are touring and getting off and walking around, then I like the SPD more.

    I use both SPDs and Dura Ace Look style pedals (older pedals), I find that the SPD are easier to get into. I also like the SPDs that I use since they are double sided (SPD on both sides), which makes them eaiser to get into. I just step on top of the SPDs and they click in, while on the SPD-SL style I need to find the front tip of the cleat to the proper spot on the pedal then step down.

    Why do you say that the SPD are a PITA?
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    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclist2000 View Post
    Why do you say that the SPD are a PITA?
    Yeah, that's interesting.

  4. #4
    Starting over CraigB's Avatar
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    I know the question wasn't directed at me, but I find SPDs to be a mild PITA, mainly because I've always found it easier to get into standard delta-style pedals like the original Looks. Even though the pedals are one-sided, I don't fumble nearly as much getting the cleat into those as I do stepping down into the SPDs.

    But that's just my opinion, and is no doubt influenced by 20+ years of Look usage, while SPDs are still fairly new to me (5 years, give or take). Other folks who might have more experience with SPDs over deltas would probably think just the opposite.
    Last edited by CraigB; 02-10-11 at 02:50 PM.
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    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crazy88s View Post
    What are the benefits of going to the SL style? Does the wider base increase power/speed? Are they easier to get in/out of?
    Most people will say the SL ones are harder to get in and out of. And a lot of people will describe that as a benefit.

    The wider base shouldn't have anything to do with power, I think, but it can help with "hot spots" if you're getting foot pain at or just around the cleat. Stiffer shoes can do the same thing; I get some foot pain in my Pearl Izumi shoes but not my Shimano carbon soled shoes ( $45 on CL! ) with the same SPD petals.

    But SPD-SL will be less fun to walk in.
    Don't believe everything you think.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Crazy88s's Avatar
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    I don't have the two-sided SPD pedal. For some reason, I still fumble a bit trying to clip in. I don't know if it's the quality of the pedal itself or just me. I have heard the wider cleat is easier to clip in.

    Unless there is a huge difference, I'll probably just stay with SPD pedals. I just wanted to get a feel of what people used and their opinions.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Seve's Avatar
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    I have a pair of SPD and a set of Look (SPD-SL style)

    If you like walking around in your bike shoes during your bike outings then most folks would choose the SPD, as previously mentioned, they are much easier / safer to walk around in and less $ to service as the cleat seems to last much longer than the (SPD-SL style).

    I don't see a lot of difference in the degree of difficulty in clipping in or out. I would give the edge to my (SPD-SL style) cleats, however, to be fair, it may be that it comes down to which one you get more used to?

    There are also more casual style spd based shoes to choose from if that matters to you.
    The ones from Keen come to mind.

  8. #8
    Senior Member CACycling's Avatar
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    For pedals, I've got a bike with double-sided SPDs (M520s), a bike with single-sided SPDs (A520s) and a bike with SPD-SL (105 level). For shoes, I've got recessed SPD cleats, road shoes with SPDs and road shoes with SPD-SL.

    I find the double-sided SPDs the easiest to enter and exit; SPD-SL in the middle on ease of entry and most difficult to exit; and single-sided SPD most difficult to enter but in the middle for ease of exit. I don't find a huge difference between easiest and hardest.

    I find recessed SPDs easiest to walk in (basically, the same as walking in normal shoes); SPD-SL a little harder; and non-recessed SPDs to be the most difficult.

    For power transfer, I find the SPD-SL to feel the most solid and stable; non recessed SPDs a bit less stable (with stiff road shoes, they aren't bad but get a little side-to-side movement); and recessed SPDs being least well connected (my shoes are fairly flexible so they can get hot spots easier than my road shoes).

    OTOH, my wife likes double-sided SPDs (M520s) on everything. She wears road shoes with non-recessed cleats for distance and MTB shoes with recessed for walkability. She will not allow me to mount any other clipless pedals on her bikes but will allow caged pedals with clips and straps for specific purposes.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Crazydad's Avatar
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    All depends on what you are doing. I have SPD (2 sided) and love them for mountain biking and riding around the neighborhood, running errands, etc. For extended road rides (25+ miles), I find they start hurting my feet (hot spots) and/or causing numbness. In all fairness it could be my shoes, but when I finally get a road bike, I am definitely putting SL/Look pedals on it.
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  10. #10
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    I own an expensive set of Look pedals (very similar to SPD-SL). They're in a box somewhere gathering dust...

    All of my bikes other than my cruiser have two-sided Shimano SPD pedals installed. Even my high-end road bike uses SPD pedals (albeit XTR M970's). I love the fact that I can walk around, or even hike, in my SPD shoes. I feel that SPD pedals are easier to clip-in than SPD-SL. If you don't manage to clip-in on the first try, it's also much easier to pedal if you're SPD pedals and shoes. SPDs are also nice for clipless beginners since they're cheap (around $35 for M520s), the release tension is adjustable, and you can switch to SH-56 "multi release" cleats if necessary.

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    I was using SPD's for 10 years before I purchased a pair of Look Keo (SPD-SL type) pedals. If I could walk with the Keo cleats as easy as the SPD's, I'd throw all my SPD pedals on my non-road bikes in the trash.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    Most people will say the SL ones are harder to get in and out of. And a lot of people will describe that as a benefit.

    The wider base shouldn't have anything to do with power, I think, but it can help with "hot spots" if you're getting foot pain at or just around the cleat. Stiffer shoes can do the same thing; I get some foot pain in my Pearl Izumi shoes but not my Shimano carbon soled shoes ( $45 on CL! ) with the same SPD petals.
    I've always used Shimano BMX shoes where there's only a piece of tape for water resistance and thin insole over the cleat nut plate so you can feel it, and would assume that some people get hot spots from that shoe configuration; not necessarily because it's a small cleat or flexible sole.

    For my current set of pedals I switched to Bebops which provide a more solid interface, don't pull out like SPDs at lower tensions, have more float, and are half-walkable but cleat life commuting is bad (I got a used pair of pedals with cleats that looked new and were alleged to have less than 500 miles on them - wore out the first left in 1800 miles and swapped the right one over to the left side and wore that one out 1200 miles later) and where SPDs get wobbly before they start pulling out the Bebops just start pulling out with wear.
    Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 02-09-11 at 09:17 PM.

  13. #13
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    I enjoy the nice big stable platform pedals on my road bike, but the road shoes and big cleats make my road bike inconvenient for anything but sporty, fast rides on smooth roads because walking is uncomfortable, bordering on dangerous.. And as far as I know, the advantage is all in my head. I doubt if a finely tuned athlete did a 40 Km time trial on a bike with high-performance road shoes and pedals, then with the same bike with MTB pedals and shoes that there would be a measurable difference in performance.'

    IF you ever get off your bike to walk more than 'from your car to your bike' then mtb style shoes and small-cleat/spd style* shoes and pedals are the best choice. I suppose the best road style shoes and pedals might be a tiny bit lighter than the mtb style equivalent, but not so that you would ever notice.

    Another advantage of road style pedals is usually increased cornering clearance because they have a much lower profile due to not having a mechanism or platform on the back side. This is only an advantage if you are a high-performance rider or are competing in criteriums or races where it is advantageous to pedal deep into corners.

    *SPD pedals are by far the most common shoe/pedal interface, but not the only one that uses a walkable shoe and cleat. Crank Bros., Time, Speedplay, Look all make competing designs that have advantages and disadvantages compared to Shimano' SPD.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Crazy88s's Avatar
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    I should have explained my riding style.

    I'm actually turning into a performance racer. I have my first time trial on the 19th. It's a 10 mile time trial (5 out and back). I've ridden the course for training and I'm averaging close to 20mph.

    I can see myself turning into a very competitive racer. I'm already looking to become a Cat 5 racer and have my sights set on a few crit races around my area.

    I also enjoy long road rides as well. Metric centuries are no problem and I'm shooting for my first century this year.

    If Look/SL pedals would help me then I'm all for getting them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crazy88s View Post
    If Look/SL pedals would help me then I'm all for getting them.
    I doubt that Look/SPD-SL pedals will provide any repeatable, measurable difference in your racing performance. If you want to TT faster, concentrate on aerodynamics (fit/position, wheels, helmet, skinsuit, etc) not pedals. If you're not already training and racing with a power meter, make that your first equipment purchase...

  16. #16
    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crazy88s View Post
    I should have explained my riding style.
    One of the fastest most highly decorated local racers uses spd's. Doesn't shave his legs either.

    I've used Look and spd's, never thought the spd's held me back (I hated the Look pedals). Also did a practice TT, 10 miles flat from a deadstop. No aero bars and riding my 98 Cannondale and what many consider heavy slow Deep V rims outfitted with cheap tires () 22.6 average.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Crazy88s's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
    One of the fastest most highly decorated local racers uses spd's. Doesn't shave his legs either.

    I've used Look and spd's, never thought the spd's held me back (I hated the Look pedals). Also did a practice TT, 10 miles flat from a deadstop. No aero bars and riding my 98 Cannondale and what many consider heavy slow Deep V rims outfitted with cheap tires () 22.6 average.
    Awesome!!!

    That's a really great average. Here are the stats from mine. http://connect.garmin.com/activity/65712851

    I don't have aero bars but everyone recommends them.

    I think we'll just keep our spd's. Didn't really want to spend $110 for new pedals anyways.

    Thanks guys!

  18. #18
    Council of the Elders billydonn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crazy88s View Post
    Awesome!!!

    That's a really great average. Here are the stats from mine. http://connect.garmin.com/activity/65712851

    I don't have aero bars but everyone recommends them.

    I think we'll just keep our spd's. Didn't really want to spend $110 for new pedals anyways.

    Thanks guys!
    Not to hijack your thread, but is that the Paulding Chamber Trailhead? I was out that way last summer... nice trail.

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  19. #19
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crazy88s View Post
    I should have explained my riding style.

    I'm actually turning into a performance racer. I have my first time trial on the 19th. It's a 10 mile time trial (5 out and back). I've ridden the course for training and I'm averaging close to 20mph.

    I can see myself turning into a very competitive racer. I'm already looking to become a Cat 5 racer and have my sights set on a few crit races around my area.

    I also enjoy long road rides as well. Metric centuries are no problem and I'm shooting for my first century this year.

    If Look/SL pedals would help me then I'm all for getting them.
    I think the difference comes mainly down to comfort, honestly. As long as your shoes are firmly attached to the pedals, you aren't going to gain 20 watts from one system vs the other.

    But, if you're flush with money, you may want to hold off a while and think about some of the upcoming pedal-based power meters. That might help you somewhat in training ... but I think it's mostly eye candy style data.
    Don't believe everything you think.

  20. #20
    Senior Member WestCoastDan's Avatar
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    I just replaced my borrowed SPD double-sided MTB-style pedals with a fresh new pair of Wellgo SPDs (yes, also double-sided) for only $39.
    I couldn't justify the higher costs for such a modest weight reduction. (I can more easily justify NOT having another beer or dessert to reduce the overall weight of bike & rider).
    As far as use goes, if adjusted properly (for you, your style of riding, etc.) then SPDs are little different than SPD-SLs for release pressure, amount of float, etc.

    I chose the Wellgos because they were 1- cheap, 2- used the same shoe cleats as before, 3- were almost all black, & 4- did I memtion that they were cheap? (they even came with a new set of shoe cleats that typically cost $12-$15.
    +++

  21. #21
    Senior Member CACycling's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WestCoastDan View Post
    I chose the Wellgos because they were 1- cheap, 2- used the same shoe cleats as before, 3- were almost all black, & 4- did I memtion that they were cheap? (they even came with a new set of shoe cleats that typically cost $12-$15.
    +++
    I've tried many knock-offs including, Wellgo, of both SPD and Look ARC. They are all in a box in the garage because I gave up on them. I would rather spend $2.50 more and get M520s. They just work better in my experience.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by CACycling View Post
    They just work better in my experience.
    Agree: I usually wait for a sale and buy my M520s online for $35-39 + shipping. At that price, they're a bargain for the quality you get...

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    Agree: I usually wait for a sale and buy my M520s online for $35-39 + shipping. At that price, they're a bargain for the quality you get...
    Get M520s from Ribble for $25 or less, as long as you get enough other stuff to get over the total order price where the big discount kicks in - usually around $50 or $60.

    And if you do go SPD-SL, get the 105 pedals from Ribble, too. They can usually be had for under $50. The 105 is pretty much the same pedal as the Ultegra - it's a slightly lighter silver and IIRC maybe a gram or two heavier. But the bearings and contact surfaces are exactly the same.

  24. #24
    Senior Member CACycling's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by achoo View Post
    Get M520s from Ribble for $25 or less, as long as you get enough other stuff to get over the total order price where the big discount kicks in - usually around $50 or $60.

    And if you do go SPD-SL, get the 105 pedals from Ribble, too. They can usually be had for under $50. The 105 is pretty much the same pedal as the Ultegra - it's a slightly lighter silver and IIRC maybe a gram or two heavier. But the bearings and contact surfaces are exactly the same.
    M520s are typically around $40 at ProBikeKit with free S+H (they were $41.40 when I checked earlier). The 105 SPD-SLs are $71.01 (under $50 for these is something I've not seen anywhere) and the R540s are $47.32 there right now.

  25. #25
    Randonneur in Training B.Alive's Avatar
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    I'll throw in a third option-- Speedplay.

    I bought the Light Action for my Coda and love them! Double sided, easy in easy out, nice big platform to keep hot spots down. BUT, they are not fun to walk in.
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