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A question about clipless pedals

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A question about clipless pedals

Old 12-01-23, 03:04 PM
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A question about clipless pedals

Iím a recreational rider (no races but an occasional century). A few years ago, I went from flat mountain bike pedals on my road bike to clipless Look X-Track MTB pedals and Shimano SPD SH51 cleats. The MTB shoes are easy to walk on, no problem clipping in, and Iíve never clipped out accidentally. Since Iíve never used proper road bike shoes and cleats, Iím wondering if there is some efficiency or advantage that Iím missing with my MTB set-up.
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Old 12-01-23, 03:13 PM
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For your needs, probably not. If being able to walk relatively comfortably in your bike shoes is important to you, stick with what you have. Road shoes are generally lighter, and may also have stiffer soles than MTB shoes, minimizing weight and maximizing power transfer. If squeezing maximum performance out of your body and machine isn't a concern, your current setup is fine.
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Old 12-01-23, 03:55 PM
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Yeah not really. Road shoes and pedals are just a bit lighter and can be stiffer.
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Old 12-01-23, 03:58 PM
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I can answer this!

I rode Shimano SPD 515 and Look X-Tracks for years on the road, mainly because I came from mountain biking in high school and college, and simply bought the same kind of pedals for my road bike when I got that. I eventually went from sneakers with two-bolt clipless compatibility to some Pearl Izumi, then Shimano, road shoes (with two bolt compatibility).

First, the pros of SPD: SPD pedals are insanely easy to clip in and out of. If you're on campus, or in an urban environment, or going slowly in a park, SPDs can't be beat if you're on clipless. No need to worry about the pedal being the wrong way up, or really even worry about alignment - it's very easy to tell when your foot's in the right place and when it's not. I still have SPD on my commuter (and back to clipless compatible sneakers), because it's just easier to get into town and walk around. The cleat is also indestructible - I kid you not, I'm pretty sure one of my pairs of shoes is still running cleats from high school 20 years ago.

Now, the downsides: You don't realize how heavy SPD pedals are until you get a pair of low profile road pedals. My Look Keos feel like they weigh barely half as much as my SPD pedals. Sure, I could've gone for more expensive SPDs, but dollar for dollar, road pedals are lighter. Even more importantly though, is that I started developing hot spots on my feet from SPDs. A combination of a medium-stiffness fiberglass sole and a tiny SPD cleat started causing excruciating pain after ~40mi and 3k ft of climbing - so much so that I had to unclip for minutes at a time (read: stop) for my feet to recover before being able to continue onwards. A stiffer sole may have helped, but most shoes with carbon soles simply aren't available with 2-bolt compatibility.

So, despite building up a collection of SPD compatible pedals and shoes, I converted two of my road bikes to Look Keo pedals.

First, the downsides: Don't use road pedals if you have to constantly unclip at lights, stop signs, etc. Getting out is fine. Getting back into a single sided pedal can be frustrating and even dangerous when your first two attempts don't work and now you're losing momentum halfway across an intersection... The rubber 'grippy' bit of the cleats come off a month to a year after you start using them - and the rest of the cleat is visibly fraying shortly afterwards. My shoe/cleat and pedal combination make it that there's a false 'notch' slightly ahead of where the cleat is, so I try clipping in when my foot isn't positioned quite right.

Upsides: Much bigger platform, very little hotspotting on my feet. Putting both feet flat on the ground every 20 mi or so for the duration of a traffic light is enough to mitigate any discomfort. I've gone 80 mi with less discomfort than I was getting with 40mi on SPDs (aside: I've done 2,600 miles this year, and after 19yrs of road biking, still haven't done an imperial century...). There's less float than SPD, even with Look's red cleats - but rather than hurting my knees, it makes me feel much more connected to the bike. Don't know if it adds to efficiency though. If you're using road shoes, it's actually easier to walk in Look cleats than SPD cleats - though, you have the option of non-road shoes for SPDs, obviously.

If you're happy with SPD's engagement and comfort, I don't think you'll get a huge amount of benefit from going to a road system. If, on the other hand, SPD gets uncomfortable after longer days in the saddle, the bigger cleat can definitely spread the pressure out a bit.

I'm happy with Look on my road bikes - once I'm out of the neighborhood, it's literally miles between most intersections, and the annoyances of a single sided pedal become moot. I'm also very happy with SPD on my commuter - I can get into the pedals very quickly, and I can pull up for a few strokes if I need a burst of acceleration (or to bunny hop a curb).
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Old 12-01-23, 05:53 PM
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Good answer. Wish there was more of that on this forum.
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Old 12-01-23, 06:08 PM
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Agree with answer above. Not a huge difference tbh.
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Old 12-01-23, 06:35 PM
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I think there is enough of a difference between my Shimano spd xt 8100 pedals and my spd ultegra pedals. I have done several 80-100 mile rides this year and I will say I much prefer the road pedals when doing long rides. The big downside is if you have to walk the road cleats suck. I find them equally easy to get in and out of tho. I think there might be a 100G difference in weight between the two so not huge difference.
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Old 12-01-23, 10:56 PM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox
I can answer this!

I rode Shimano SPD 515 and Look X-Tracks for years on the road, mainly because I came from mountain biking in high school and college, and simply bought the same kind of pedals for my road bike when I got that. I eventually went from sneakers with two-bolt clipless compatibility to some Pearl Izumi, then Shimano, road shoes (with two bolt compatibility).

First, the pros of SPD: SPD pedals are insanely easy to clip in and out of. If you're on campus, or in an urban environment, or going slowly in a park, SPDs can't be beat if you're on clipless. No need to worry about the pedal being the wrong way up, or really even worry about alignment - it's very easy to tell when your foot's in the right place and when it's not. I still have SPD on my commuter (and back to clipless compatible sneakers), because it's just easier to get into town and walk around. The cleat is also indestructible - I kid you not, I'm pretty sure one of my pairs of shoes is still running cleats from high school 20 years ago.

Now, the downsides: You don't realize how heavy SPD pedals are until you get a pair of low profile road pedals. My Look Keos feel like they weigh barely half as much as my SPD pedals. Sure, I could've gone for more expensive SPDs, but dollar for dollar, road pedals are lighter. Even more importantly though, is that I started developing hot spots on my feet from SPDs. A combination of a medium-stiffness fiberglass sole and a tiny SPD cleat started causing excruciating pain after ~40mi and 3k ft of climbing - so much so that I had to unclip for minutes at a time (read: stop) for my feet to recover before being able to continue onwards. A stiffer sole may have helped, but most shoes with carbon soles simply aren't available with 2-bolt compatibility.

So, despite building up a collection of SPD compatible pedals and shoes, I converted two of my road bikes to Look Keo pedals.

First, the downsides: Don't use road pedals if you have to constantly unclip at lights, stop signs, etc. Getting out is fine. Getting back into a single sided pedal can be frustrating and even dangerous when your first two attempts don't work and now you're losing momentum halfway across an intersection... The rubber 'grippy' bit of the cleats come off a month to a year after you start using them - and the rest of the cleat is visibly fraying shortly afterwards. My shoe/cleat and pedal combination make it that there's a false 'notch' slightly ahead of where the cleat is, so I try clipping in when my foot isn't positioned quite right.

Upsides: Much bigger platform, very little hotspotting on my feet. Putting both feet flat on the ground every 20 mi or so for the duration of a traffic light is enough to mitigate any discomfort. I've gone 80 mi with less discomfort than I was getting with 40mi on SPDs (aside: I've done 2,600 miles this year, and after 19yrs of road biking, still haven't done an imperial century...). There's less float than SPD, even with Look's red cleats - but rather than hurting my knees, it makes me feel much more connected to the bike. Don't know if it adds to efficiency though. If you're using road shoes, it's actually easier to walk in Look cleats than SPD cleats - though, you have the option of non-road shoes for SPDs, obviously.

If you're happy with SPD's engagement and comfort, I don't think you'll get a huge amount of benefit from going to a road system. If, on the other hand, SPD gets uncomfortable after longer days in the saddle, the bigger cleat can definitely spread the pressure out a bit.

I'm happy with Look on my road bikes - once I'm out of the neighborhood, it's literally miles between most intersections, and the annoyances of a single sided pedal become moot. I'm also very happy with SPD on my commuter - I can get into the pedals very quickly, and I can pull up for a few strokes if I need a burst of acceleration (or to bunny hop a curb).
To more easily clip into your Keos, place a small washer on the front-most bolt between the shoe sole and the cleat to act as a spacer. It will make a huge improvement and wonít compromise being clipped in.
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Old 12-01-23, 11:37 PM
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Several comments - for most road cleats you can get KoolKovers (sp); rubber covers you slip on the cleat when not riding. Protects the cleat and extends its life by a lot. More important, they are non-slip and make walking on CF or hard plastic shoes far more secure. KoolKover provides a clip to hang the covers from seat rails or seat bags but I use the more stylish key ring carabiners from REI.

SPD cleats have float. You can adjust the spring but that's it. LOOK, SPD-SL and several others have the ability to lock out float. (LOOK provides different cleats of different colors. Red is the standard float. Black is no-float.) For some of us, not being above to lock out float is a complete deal breaker. (One famous bike racer refused to ride the pedals provided by the team sponsor until that sponsor created a cleat that provided a float lockout.) Cleat systems that lock out float allow adjusting your foot's toe-in or out on the pedal very accurately. A blessing for me. Not needed at all by most people.
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Old 12-02-23, 12:52 AM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox
Even more importantly though, is that I started developing hot spots on my feet from SPDs. A combination of a medium-stiffness fiberglass sole and a tiny SPD cleat started causing excruciating pain after ~40mi and 3k ft of climbing - so much so that I had to unclip for minutes at a time (read: stop) for my feet to recover before being able to continue onwards. A stiffer sole may have helped, but most shoes with carbon soles simply aren't available with 2-bolt compatibility.
Which SPD shoes did you wear? Shimano has recently released SPD gravel shoes (RX600 and RX801) that are stiffer than its comparably priced MTB shoes (XC502 and XC702).

STIFFNESS INDEX | SHIMANO GEAR

Originally Posted by aliasfox
Getting back into a single sided pedal can be frustrating and even dangerous when your first two attempts don't work and now you're losing momentum halfway across an intersection...
That is true. However, assuming that you had shifted into an easier gear prior to stopping at the intersection, you can temporarily pedal one-legged with the clipped in foot.

At the beginning of this year, after 5.5 years of riding around on flat MTB pedals with pins, I finally went clipless (SPD-SL) on my road bike. After almost a year of riding SPD-SL, I do not recall ever needing more than two attempts to clip in.
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Old 12-02-23, 12:54 AM
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Completely agree woth @aliasfox. I use SPDs on my commuting and quick trip into town bike and Look Keos on everything else (gravel, road)

I much prefer the feel of the road pedals and with familiarity (I do >8000km a year) I can clip into them without looking just about every time but it weirdly varies by pedal, some are a bit easier to get a feel for than others. I use blade carbons and Favero power pedals and the latter I find easier.

The fraying of the rubberised antislip (which is important, I had a set of cleats without it and theyíre dangerous walking in the wet) can be minimised and the life of the cleats massively extended with a set of cleat covers to stick on when you get to a cafe or pub. I always have them in the jersey pockets.

Just donít get SPD-SL. imho. I see clubmates faffing with them at every push-off.
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Old 12-02-23, 07:23 AM
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I started on SPD's many years ago, and moved to road pedals for a while. Tried most of them along the way, some borrowed, some bought. I then put on some Time ATAC XC type pedals on my mountain bike and really liked them over the SPD's, they have a slightly larger platform. I eventually ended putting them on all my bikes, road and off road. Shoes make a huge difference as well, but ultimately it all comes down to what you prefer. Might take a bit to figure that out, but I have been riding ATAC's for at least 12 or 13 years now exclusively and have been quite happy.

Another option which I only looked into recently are magnetic pedals, like Magped. I put some of these on my Smart Bike inside as my wife was having issue clipping into the ATAC's I had put on the bike. ATAC's to me are super simple to get in and out of, but she was really having a hard time figuring it out. Once I put them on the bike, she attaches to the pedals and off she goes. Super simple, easy, and the magnets have a great hold. They have road and off road pedals.
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Old 12-02-23, 10:37 AM
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Some consideration should be given to physical issues a rider may have. In my case both knees have been arthroscopically repaired. A physician recommended Speedplay pedals as they have more give and flexibility.
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Old 12-02-23, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by choddo
Completely agree woth @aliasfox. I use SPDs on my commuting and quick trip into town bike and Look Keos on everything else (gravel, road)

I much prefer the feel of the road pedals and with familiarity (I do >8000km a year) I can clip into them without looking just about every time but it weirdly varies by pedal, some are a bit easier to get a feel for than others. I use blade carbons and Favero power pedals and the latter I find easier.

The fraying of the rubberised antislip (which is important, I had a set of cleats without it and theyíre dangerous walking in the wet) can be minimised and the life of the cleats massively extended with a set of cleat covers to stick on when you get to a cafe or pub. I always have them in the jersey pockets.

Just donít get SPD-SL. imho. I see clubmates faffing with them at every push-off.
I am old fat drunk and I have no issues. I think the problem some riders have with them is they don't realize they basically go to the correct position to clip in on their own so you just put your foot on the pedal and push down and you are clipped in. they think they have to flip them and start stabbing at them which of course makes them look like they are flundering.....
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Old 12-02-23, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by SoSmellyAir
Which SPD shoes did you wear? Shimano has recently released SPD gravel shoes (RX600 and RX801) that are stiffer than its comparably priced MTB shoes (XC502 and XC702).


STIFFNESS INDEX | SHIMANO GEAR

- The 2-bolt/3-bolt compatible shoes that I used to wear are Shimano RP200s, I believe. I picked them up maybe in 2017 or 2018?

- I started getting hotspot issues with those shoes and SPDs in 2022, and then switched to Keos (red cleat) and the Adidas Road shoe - the one with laces, not the boa. This combo was better than the old one, but the Adidas shoe is the first time I noticed sole flex on a cycling shoe, and still ended up with hotspots on heavier days. Great looking shoe though - still occasionally use it when I want to get around town, but I want to use my road bike (time crunch, or a bit further than I want to do on the commuter).

- Picked up a pair of Shimano RC702s (carbon sole) shortly after moving out here, and haven't had any issues averaging almost 120mi week. Did a metric with 3k ft of climbing last week, and my feet felt fine. Hopefully, these guys solve my problem for a while. I put the grey cleats on these (less float than red), and actually like how they feel better.


Originally Posted by SoSmellyAir

That is true. However, assuming that you had shifted into an easier gear prior to stopping at the intersection, you can temporarily pedal one-legged with the clipped in foot.


At the beginning of this year, after 5.5 years of riding around on flat MTB pedals with pins, I finally went clipless (SPD-SL) on my road bike. After almost a year of riding SPD-SL, I do not recall ever needing more than two attempts to clip in.

Yeah, I've definitely learned to do that over the past year - coming to a light, I try to downshift 2-3 gears before coming to a full stop just for that situation. The issue of clipping in comes up when a) I forget to do that, or the road on the other side is unexpectedly steep, and b) I try clipping in, but the cleat misses, and now the pedal is spinning wildly. I try putting my foot down on it to stop it from spinning, but then I have to actually look down to make sure that it's the right way up, and then my foot invariably gets stuck in the false notch, so I lift my foot up again and the pedal flops over...


It's hugely satisfying launching from an intersection and hearing that positive CLICK on the first pedal stroke. It's annoying and embarrassing to miss - especially when everybody else at the intersection clicks in behind you and start passing you as you're fumbling I'm probably making it out to be a bigger issue than it really is, but I just might try rsbob 's recommendation of a washer between the cleat and the shoe to see if that helps.

Edit: quote formatting error

Last edited by aliasfox; 12-02-23 at 11:22 AM.
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Old 12-02-23, 11:21 AM
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ďYeah, I've definitely learned to do that over the past year - coming to a light, I try to downshift 2-3 gears before coming to a full stop just for that situation. Ē

always. Want a big enough gear to give you a long enough push from half a rotation to get the other foot in and no bigger. And with a bit of finesse you can front brake, lift the rear wheel and do it once stationary if you need to.
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Old 12-02-23, 11:21 AM
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Originally Posted by choddo
Completely agree woth @aliasfox. I use SPDs on my commuting and quick trip into town bike and Look Keos on everything else (gravel, road)

I much prefer the feel of the road pedals and with familiarity (I do >8000km a year) I can clip into them without looking just about every time but it weirdly varies by pedal, some are a bit easier to get a feel for than others. I use blade carbons and Favero power pedals and the latter I find easier.

The fraying of the rubberised antislip (which is important, I had a set of cleats without it and theyíre dangerous walking in the wet) can be minimised and the life of the cleats massively extended with a set of cleat covers to stick on when you get to a cafe or pub. I always have them in the jersey pockets.

Just donít get SPD-SL. imho. I see clubmates faffing with them at every push-off.
I almost never walk in my cleats for more than ~10 ft, and the rubber piece falling off/fraying plastic has happened on both my Red and Grey cleats. I wear some moccasins out to the garage, prep the bike, and put the shoes on after the tires are pumped and helmet's on. The cleats touch the ground pretty much only until I clear the garage door. I'm practically en pointe at most intersections, so for most of my rides, I don't think the cleats really touch the ground again until I pull up outside my garage at the end of my ride. This goes for most ~30mi rides, I will generally slot in a rest break or two with longer rides where I have to walk to use the restroom, buy gatorade, etc.

I wonder if there's a technical reason why something like a hardened aluminum cleat hasn't been marketed for road pedals - I'm sure there are bikepackers or endurance riders who wouldn't mind the weight penalty and the up front cost if it meant not having to worry about cleats wearing out. Too slippery? No opportunity to sell cyclists new cleats every couple of years?
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Old 12-02-23, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by choddo
And with a bit of finesse you can front brake, lift the rear wheel and do it once stationary if you need to.
Oh yes, I've started doing that at stop lights, too. Alternatively, I slow down before the intersection, so I approach at walking speed if I think the light will change by the time I creep up to it. Strava PRs be darned if I can avoid having to clip in!
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Old 12-02-23, 03:03 PM
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ATM I have SPD on all the bikes and three compatible shoes to choose from--typical mountain shoes with rubber soles, full-carbon lightweight Sidis nearly indistinguishable from road racing models, sandals for summer. Really like mixing and matching shoes and bikes with no pondering compatibility--I formerly used Look or Ritchey road pedals on the road bikes.

SPD has been adopted by other manufacturers, allowing hopping among brands.

Pedals seem unique as to best tension setting that allows 100% reliable clipping out and still holds during bunny hopping and the like. Success in part is from keeping them clean and lubed, no matter how "mud shedding" the maker might claim. As to weights, my lightest are circa 300g/pair, which are also mnuscule. Heaviest? No idea.
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Old 12-02-23, 05:22 PM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox
Oh yes, I've started doing that at stop lights, too. Alternatively, I slow down before the intersection, so I approach at walking speed if I think the light will change by the time I creep up to it. Strava PRs be darned if I can avoid having to clip in!


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Old 12-02-23, 05:41 PM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox
I almost never walk in my cleats for more than ~10 ft, and the rubber piece falling off/fraying plastic has happened on both my Red and Grey cleats. I wear some moccasins out to the garage, prep the bike, and put the shoes on after the tires are pumped and helmet's on. The cleats touch the ground pretty much only until I clear the garage door.
Same here. Shoes are the last things on before a ride, and the first things off afterward.

Originally Posted by aliasfox
I'm practically en pointe at most intersections, so for most of my rides, I don't think the cleats really touch the ground again until I pull up outside my garage at the end of my ride. This goes for most ~30mi rides, I will generally slot in a rest break or two with longer rides where I have to walk to use the restroom, buy gatorade, etc.
Come on, are Look Keo cleats really that fragile? I just replaced my right SPD-SL cleat after 11 months as that is the foot I unclip at intersections; it would have lasted another month, but safety first, right? The left one looks fine and should last at least another 3 or 4 months.

Originally Posted by aliasfox
I wonder if there's a technical reason why something like a hardened aluminum cleat hasn't been marketed for road pedals - I'm sure there are bikepackers or endurance riders who wouldn't mind the weight penalty and the up front cost if it meant not having to worry about cleats wearing out. Too slippery? No opportunity to sell cyclists new cleats every couple of years?
An exposed metal cleat may crack our fancy CF soles if one dismounts clumsily?

Last edited by SoSmellyAir; 12-02-23 at 05:56 PM.
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Old 12-02-23, 05:56 PM
  #22  
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Even though I only went to SPD-SL at the beginning of this year, I had tried SPD-SL before (in mid-2017) and just had a miserable time, because:

1. Back then, there were no +4 mm spindle options, so it felt like the pedals were too inward and did not naturally come up to under my feet. The regular spindle length is designed for the pros who are much more svelte than you or me.
2. Partly due to #1 above, and partly due to my own ignorance, I did not install the cleats to account for the natural toe-out angle of my feet. So the whole pedaling motion was awkward.

Now I have Ultegra +4 mm pedals with the yellow SPD-SL cleats installed at a proper angle, and everything works just fine.
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Old 12-02-23, 07:33 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by SoSmellyAir
Come on, are Look Keo cleats really that fragile? I just replaced my right SPD-SL cleat after 11 months as that is the foot I unclip at intersections; it would have lasted another month, but safety first, right? The left one looks fine and should last at least another 3 or 4 months.
I mean, my grey cleats started having the rubber come off within a month of putting them on my fancy new RC702s. I have no idea how long they'll actually last, but it's something that I really never had to worry about with the SPD metal cleats. Probably 21-22 years old, and work just as well as when they were new.

Originally Posted by SoSmellyAir
An exposed metal cleat may crack our fancy CF soles if one dismounts clumsily?
One more thing that might damage our precious carbon!
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Old 12-02-23, 09:31 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by aliasfox
Picked up a pair of Shimano RC702s (carbon sole) shortly after moving out here, and haven't had any issues averaging almost 120mi week. Did a metric with 3k ft of climbing last week, and my feet felt fine. Hopefully, these guys solve my problem for a while. I put the grey cleats on these (less float than red), and actually like how they feel better.
If you like the RC702, the RX801 (SPD) are the same stiffness per Shimano. I have both shoes and plan to use them for road and gravel respectively in the future.
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Old 12-03-23, 01:52 AM
  #25  
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Thanks for the info and tips. After reading the relevant posts, I decided that for my style of recreational riding the cost of switching to road bike clipless pedals/cleats would be greater than the benefits. As I've gotten older, I've come to appreciate that leaving well enough alone is sometimes the best option.
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