Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
This week, I am soliciting your help for a longtime RoadBikeRider roadie from Lansing, Michigan named Rick Oberle. You’ve probably seen his great comments over the years. I’ve known Rick through emails we’ve traded going back many years when he first reached out about one of my favorite stories on my personal cycling website called Bikeman. If you’re into vintage road bikes, it’s a fun read: https://jimlangley.net/spin/bikeman.html.
Meet Rick Oberle
I asked Rick to introduce himself to you. He wrote, “I would have to say that my favorite bike is my Seven since I have had it for nearly 20 years and have over 100,000 miles on it. The last mile I rode on it is pretty much like the first mile. Generally, I like to ride where there are no cars but my favorite location to ride is Canada, then North Carolina near Boone, then SE Ohio. I also get a strange satisfaction in riding INSIDE the City of Detroit – no cars, smooth roads, few people. In Canada, you can ride forever and never encounter anything but polite and considerate people, even on the busiest of roads and I have ridden to Quebec City from Lansing.
I am an early-onset Senior Citizen – 65 years old. I have been riding since I scraped together $35 to purchase a department store three speed in 1967. I rode that bike thousands of miles including the 10th TOSRV. We rode in tennis shoes just like most people in those days. I eventually got a Peugeot PX-10 and then my Legnano. I purchased an RRB frame in 1974 and moved all the parts to it, replacing whatever wore out. When I finally bought an entire new bike in 1998, the only thing left of the original Legnano (on the RRB) was (ironically) the pedals.”
You can learn more about Rick on this website: https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/directory/?user=RickO7.
Rick’s tech question
If you read Rick’s bio, you’ll see he talks about pedals at the end. That’s what his question is about.
What follows is his query and my reply in which I run down a list of ideas and thoughts for him to consider. If you’re an experienced clipless pedal rider, please read the Q and A. Then Rick and I would be grateful if you’d weigh in by leaving a comment sharing any tips, ideas and solutions from your experience with clipless pedals.
Rick’s pedal problem
“Hi again, Jim! This might be something readers could help me with. I have a heck of a time with pedals! They seem to wear out faster than tires (not literally but almost!). I gave up on Look pedals a few years ago and went to Shimano 105s (I didn’t want to spend a lot on something that wasn’t going to last anyhow), figuring that anything Japanese has to be well-designed and well-built. They have failed after a couple years too.
I get tired of the clicking on every revolution as the cleat doesn’t fit snugly in the pedal itself. It is only the pedal that gets clicked in and out of with every stop that has worn out. At this point, the pedal will not hold the (new) cleat in hardly at all and going over a bump can knock my foot out of the pedal. This happened to the Looks too which is why I ditched them (these were not my first). Why can’t pedals last forever like they used to???
Any suggestions for making pedals not wear out so quickly? Or since I probably have to get another pair, which clipless pedals are the most durable? One more thought I had. I broke the ankle on the foot I click in first about a year ago so maybe that ankle didn’t get screwed back in place straight and that’s causing a pedaling motion that’s prematurely wearing out pedals? Anyone else experience this?”
My thoughts and observations on Rick’s questions
Thanks for reaching out Rick. I’ve been clipless since 1982 and you are the first person to describe problems like these so something unusual is going on in my opinion. I’m going to throw out a list of things for you to think about and check that I hope will help you resolve the issue.
- I asked readers to weigh in if they have had pedal issues related to suffering a broken ankle (I haven’t)
- in general, cleats wear out pretty regularly – depending on how much you ride and the conditions and the cleat material – I’d say about a year for plastic, a couple – even more for metal
- pedals don’t wear out nearly as fast as cleats – I’m riding on 10+ year-old pedals Look Keos
- pedal screws that hold jaws and reinforcements can loosen and cause problems on pedals that have screws
- cleats can loosen and move around on the shoe(s) and this can cause entry/exit issues along with pedal, cleat and shoe wear
- plastic pedals have jaws front and rear that you’d think would wear but they don’t usually wear very much
- metal pedals and cleats like MTB SPD pedals last a long, long time under even the most demanding conditions – the cleats need replacing way before the pedals – but they are not road shoe friendly – still some roadies use them for the walking convenience and for additional durability
- in general, lubrication on plastic cleats/pedals is only needed once in a blue moon and sparingly
- too frequent or too much lube attracts dirt and dirt/grit accelerates cleat wear – though you could certainly wipe off the surfaces before the grit becomes a problem or try to – it tends to get down inside
- walking in road shoes with plastic cleats on the bottom causes many (most?) issues with cleats wearing out too soon. If I make a special effort to take my shoes off when I need to walk, I can keep the cleats like new for as long as I keep doing that. But it’s a pain to ruin your fancy cycling socks, too, so I usually just minimize walking
- how you enter/exit clipless pedals likely factors in when it comes to how long the pedals last. Smooth unforced engagement and release should wear the pedals and cleats less
- I have seen pedals beat-up not by riding but by letting them knock into things like curbs and steps when walking the bike. Even the toughest pedal can get damaged if it’s struck hard against something a lot tougher than it is
Overall, I wonder if you’re simply not replacing your cleats soon enough. Because you mentioned play between the pedals and cleats. When the cleats are good you won’t have play. For reference, I use Keo pedals and the cleats with the rubber on the edges – this model https://amzn.to/3iJQ89W.
This is a solid combination that just keeps on ticking. I weigh about 155 pounds and ride about 8,000 miles a year. I do NOT ride in the rain if I can help it and no snow or slush, either. Also, very little gravel riding on my road bike. I do ride my MTB but not much.
Also, I bet you wouldn’t wear out Shimano SPD pedals and cleats. While this means buying and wearing typically heavier walkable shoes, it might be worth it to you to escape the pedal issues. Many roadies love their SPD pedals and shoes. I use Shimano’s M520 pedals on my commuting bikes. They’re super affordable, too: https://amzn.to/3iUsF65.
Maybe something here will help you hunt down the issue, Rick. In short, I don’t think you should be having so many issues. Clipless pedals for most people just work. So, you have to figure out what’s different for you.
Thanks for reading Rick’s question and my feedback. If you have some clipless pedal suggestions for solving his problems or want to recommend a certain make and model, please comment below. Thanks for the assist!
Ride total: 9,793
Rick Schultz says
I think Rick should look into SPD. Options: PD-M8120 or PD-M8100. Both are XT level pedals and should last awhile. I’ve had many roadies who admitted to being embarrassed coming onto a bike fitting session with SPD’s on a $7,000 road bike. My philosophy is if you like the pedals and they work for you, then that’s the perfect solution. Rick, SPD’s or Shimano Pedaling Dynamic pedals should do the trick! But, as with all cleats, make sure to set them up right, sadly, something I never see from those coming in for a bike fit.
Rick Edgar says
Same as above. I’ve ridden SPD’s on my road, gravel and MTB for decades. XT/XTR models. Don’t mind the MTB shoes at all. Well worth the convenience. Good luck.
I don’t think the broken ankle is the problem because the timelines of pedal wear and break don’t match. Occam’s razor would point the bold sentence in background information. The pedals are simply wearing out from use, i.e. clipping out and in at every stop. How many times does one start and stop on every ride that is not a race? 10, 25, 50 times? Who counts? (Somebody probably does, but that’s beside the point.). Rick is correct change to a more bullet proof pedal. Pedal wear will continue but perhaps at a more acceptable rate. Short of alternating which foot clips in/out on stops it’s probably the best solution other than non-clipless pedals.
Mike Krause says
I agree with Rick, SPD pedals are the way to go. I have used them all my riding life and only switched to Look Keos because my Annioma power meter came with them. I still have my SPD pedals and wear SIDI Drake shoes on a second bike and I believe I have only changed out the cleats three times in all my years of riding. If something should ever happen to my Annioma, I will return to using SPD pedals. Not only do the last far longer, but they are also easier to walk in and clip into, as pedal position is not an issue.
Dave Minden says
Agree with comments on Shimano SPD – pedals last me years. Regarding MTB, this is all I’ve ever worn. Newest shoes are Bont MTB, they are quite rigid and light, probably compare to a lot of road shoes.
Jim Skinner says
Been using MTB SPD’s with MTB shoes for years, . Since I’m a senior and not into racing I see no need for the ‘aero’, light road shoes. The ability to get off the bike and walk around without putting on pads, walking on the side of my foot or heeling is great. And yes, it is important to be sure the clip in part is set accurately and the pedal part is adjusted for your preference for how hard you wish to have to twist to get the shoe unclipped. If your pedaling stroke is a bit wobbly, you may need to have a bit tighter adjustment. That’s just my opinion….hope you find something that works for you!
Gary Turney says
Just taking a wild guess, is it possible the tension screw is loosening with use? Maybe to the point where it is at it’s lowest setting? I also have 105’s, have about 10,000 miles on them, and they are still fine for what that’s worth. Did have to replace the cleats recently.
As an aside, I will second the suggestion to go to SPD pedals. I have the M530’s (with the platform on one side) on my good road bike and love them, along with being able to walk around without worrying about clobbering the cleats. So much so that I put the 105’s on my beater bike. I did find clipping into the SPD cleats took a bit of getting used to after the larger SPD-SL cleats.
Peter Foster says
Hi, I have exactly the opposite problem with cleats. I have a pair of look Keo pedals and after clipping in and out several times they tend to not let me unclip and I have had 2 soft offs, (when I know I’m not going to be able to unclip and find some grass or something softer than tarmac to fall on). I have tried turning the screws fully tight and then back to fully slack before I ride and this seems to work but I can feel them getting tighter again as the ride progresses. I have usied these pedals for a few years now and did have a major off this year at about 20MPH so that might have affected them. They do not inspire me with confidence when I go out now, but I persevere. I ride about 20-30 miles on a ride. Any suggestions, apart from getting a new pair of pedals!, would be appreciated.
Jim Langley says
Something that can make Look type clipless pedals work poorly/binding being a strong possibility is if the cleats are flexed and essentially bent into curves when they are installed. This is a known issue going back to when we had to drill holes in shoes in order to mount the then-new 3-bolt Look cleats (circa 1985). At that time there were no shoes with the holes for Looks cleats yet.
The thing that curves the cleats and can cause binding is if the shoe soles are curved. This can happen on small shoe sizes where there isn’t as much room to accommodate the cleats.. Or on shoes that have significantly curved soles. When installing Look type cleats it’s good to always watch for this. The cleats should sit flat and touch fully BEFORE tightening the bolts.
To check for this, you could loosen the bolts and see if the cleat springs upward and straightens/flattens. That would be an indication that the cleat is being curved when tightened. If that’s the case, you can shim the cleats to keep them flat (plastic works). Or you can switch to flatter soled shoes if possible.
Hope this helps you solve the problem,
Chris VandenBossche says
Like Jim I’ve worn Look Keos for years. In the past fifteen years I’ve replaced them once, but mainly to put the older pair on a backup bike. When the cleats wear out, they will pull out of the pedal and before that they will feel loose, but even they last fairly long, at least a year as Jim says.
tony m says
Is it possible that the problem is his shoes and not his pedals? As most have noted, most pedals/cleats last way longer than Rick is experiencing. I just replaced a pair of Ultegra SPD’s that were 10+ years old. They still worked ok, I just wanted something new. Maybe his shoes interfere with the cleat engaging with the pedal. The brand/model shoes he’s wearing wasn’t mentioned. Is he wearing a shoe that has some kind of lug that’s interfering? The fact that he’s having problems with both Looks and SPDs sounds like the pedal/cleat isn’t the culprit.
Will Haltiwanger says
SPD. After almost 30 years of slipping and sliding with Look cleats I switched to SPD. Wish I had done it years sooner. No cleat covers, no broken cleats, no slips.
Bill Bagnell says
I’ve used Speedplay Zero pedals and cleats for years. Started with Speedplay X; the only problems with them were: 1) I couldn’t adjust the float; 2) if I walked on them in dirt, they could get jammed and hard to clip in. With Zero I can adjust the float, which became important after I broke an ankle (not the one I clip in and out with) and the angle of my foot changed slightly. The Zeros come with a plastic walking pad that stays on all the time, and with an additional cover that I can snap on if walking in dirt. I do replace the cleats every so often, maybe 8 to 10 thousand miles. The pedals never seem to wear out, although they need to have a shot of grease of they spin too easily. They are two-sided, clip in easily, and never com loose. Give them a try.
I also use Speedplay. I have been riding them for 8 years. I am 71 years old and have put many road miles
on them without a problem. I use SPD’s on my mountain bike and have never had an issue.
Greg B says
I’ll agree with you Luke Speedplays are the way to go. There adustability to cater for most if not all challenges of fitting helps no end. They can be adjusted to cater for any float that assists in comfort when pedaling. There is the challenge of then filling with muck is you happen to be on muddy ground when off the bike. I’m a 77 yo who has been riding with them for about 9 years and love them.
Douglas Wobbema says
I had pedal clicking on every revolution and couldn’t figure it out. I switched shoes, etc. I finally re-greased/added grease. That took care of it. It’s really easy to do with Shimano pedals. Plenty of videos on how to do it.
David Duncan says
I agree with speedplay recommendation. I have speedplay frogs (mountain version) on both road and tour bikes. The cleats wear down and need to be replaced every three years or so. That’s the only time I feel the loose engagement described. My pedals are going on 15 years old with grease injections every year or so. There are no moving parts in the engagement system except an elastomer in the cleat.
I suspect his delta cleats are wearing out, if you look at the front part of the cleat you may find that one or both sides has thinned out quite a bit. If you let them get too thin up there they start to chip as well. Easy enough to see if the cleats are the problem, just put new cleats on the shoes (carefully aligned of course) and see if that solves (or at least lessens) the problem. I go through a pair of cleats a year, currently on Powertap P1 pedals.
I did want to mention one thing here, which I don’t think is Rick’s problem (though it could be if the spindle is binding a bit), but people tend to see Look delta pedals and all their progeny as maintenance free. They aren’t. They may last a long time without requiring maintenance, but the interval will be shorter if you ride in a lot of rain/grit etc. There are bearings inside those pedals and they may need service and the inside of the pedal body itself may need grease. You may need some pedal specific tools for some models. One can find instructions online for doing this yourself, or your trusted local mechanic can do it as well.
Rick Oberle says
I thought I had a cleat problem also so I replaced it AGAIN after only a couple thousand miles. It was better but the cleat has maybe a thousand miles on it now. What ultimately failed was the front of the pedal. It wore completely away and there is absolutely nothing to hold the cleat. In. I took them to the bike shop and they scratched their heads as hard as anybody and said they had never seen anything like it before. Shimano is going to warranty them and I will be anxious to hear what They have to say. I borrowed a pair of ultegra pedals until the new ones come and they feel really great. Snug fit. I just wonder if they would meet the same fate over time….
Richard Handler says
Counterfeit Shim pedals from deep within China? Like counterfeit Specialized frames, carbon seat posts which snap, imitation Sandisk camera cards, etc.?
Arwin Roe says
I don’t have a solution for Rick, but I do have a question about my pedals/cleats. I use Speedplay Ultra Light Action pedals. I have used the X series Speedplays before. For some reason I break springs in the cleats too frequently (anywhere from 1-6 months of use per new cleats.) I have at least 6 friends who use Speedplay pedals of one sort or another. None of my friends break springs. I follow all the lubrication and assembly directions from Speedplay. I have been trying to get an appointment with a bike fitter, but due to the pandemic no one is doing fittings.
I really prefer Speedplay pedals for the dual entry without being mountain bike pedals. Can anyone help?
Jim Langley says
By any chance have you overtightened the cleat fastening bolts? Speedplay is pretty specific about not tightening them too much. It’s been awhile since I installed some Speedplay cleats, but I remember they warn against not going too tight because it can stress and break the springs. It might just be that you have them slightly too tight and loosening them a little might solve the problem.
So, maybe check for that and hopefully you will be able to stop them breaking.
Arwin L Roe says
Thanks Jim. I don’t have the special torque screwdriver from Speed play, but only tighten the screws until they hit the first “click” as specified. The last time I had one of my friends who uses speedplay with no spring problems check my installation. He gave it the OK. I still broke a spring. It is always the right side and the spring breaks in the same spot. One of the ends where the spring necks down. I forget if it is the front or back.
John Higgins says
As a bike fitter I’ve never had a busier year! A lot of shops have stopped fitting, but the independent fitters have been hard at it, local restricti0ns permitting. It is likely the pressure on the right pedal is uneven i.e you are not flat footed across the pedal. You may be a candidate for wedge under the cleat to spread the load and force out, but that is just one idea out of many issues.
I have been in speed play for over 10 years. No problems
I have used SPD, SPD-SL, Speedplay Frogs, and Speedplay Zero pedals. My least favorite are SPD-SLs because they are not two-sided entry. Where I cycle, there are numerous stops and I dislike having to look down to orient the shoe and pedal to clip in. I prefer the Frogs to SPDs for mountain biking. I used Frogs for thousands of miles on my first road bike but switched to Zeros out of fear that I might exceed the 15 degree of float in a sprint and accidentally unclip. The results could have been disastrous. The 15 degree float, ease of entry, and simplest mechanical structure is something to consider, even though they are designated as mountain bike pedals. They are absolutely the easiest and fastest to clip into. I have about 20,000 miles on my stainless steel Zero pedals and they are holding up well. I converted to Zero walkable cleats on two pairs of shoes and the cleats are holding up well. Only the walkable cover seems to wear. The pedals should be greased periodically to keep the bearings from wearing out, but parts are available to rebuild them if necessary. I haven’t needed to rebuild mine. I weigh about 185 pounds, so clipping in is usually easier for me than for lighter riders. If you don’t start and stop frequently, then single-side entry pedals like the SPD-SLs should be fine. If you like the comfort of using mountain bike shoes to walk in when you are off your bike, SPDs or Frogs are a good choice. I do like Zero walkable cleats better than SPD-SLs for walking. And the walkable covers are less expensive than new SPD-SL cleats. Finally, if you ever decide to get a pedal-based power meter(s), you will be limited to single-sided entry pedals.
Doug (Madison, WI) Kirk says
I have exactly the same problem with pedals (only the one that gets unclipped the most) that Rick does only mine are SPD. New cleats don’t make a difference and I change them before they start to manifest wear. I like them otherwise but even my mates hear the clicking.
LARRY KLOSE says
I have ridden Look Delta and Keo’s in succession since the mid 80’s with little problem. I’m currently on Blades
with the rubber bottom cleats and although the blades are a little stiff to exit, they work fine. My right cleat always wears out first, mostly on the front flange because that’s the foot I usually put down when I stop. Worn cleats will make more clicking noise and I feel the loose fit when they are worn. I don’t have occasion to walk much.
The only exit problems I have had have been when I step into loose dirt when I get off, which has happened when repairing a flat on the road. the dirt creates a lot of additional friction which tends to resist exit. Now I always clean the cleat off after walking in the dirt, before I get back on the bike. I have used Sidi Genius shoes exclusively for many years because they are the only ones available and comfortable for my size 13’s. I weigh 165# and am 6’4” if that makes any difference.
Winnifred Homer-Smith says
SPD works for me. I also prefer the shoes I can walk in. Like you, Rick, I ride longer distances & am much more of a touring cyclist than anything else. I ride 5-6,000 miles in a typical year. Maybe 2 different bikes do the great majority of the miles. The extra bit of weight doesn’t matter at all to me. I am also small – 5’1″, 110 lbs, so I don’t wear things out very fast. But I have only bought new cleats and/or pedals when I have a new bike to attach them to, which happens every 6-8 years. The ones on the older bikes just keep working well. Perhaps also because I am small, I keep the pedals set pretty loose & the cleats don’t come out on bumps (well, maybe once or twice on a very unusual bump). Basically, they just seem to last forever.
Ed Cisler says
Are you using cleat covers when you’re off the bike? Everyone knows how funny (and loud we are with out cleat covers) walking and sliding on tiles floors in convince stores in road shoes.
Joe Mitchell says
Lots of good comments above. Having used SPD, then Look and then Speedplay over several decades, I am now back to SPD.
One thing not suggested is a Failure Analysis of Rick’s pedals, if he still has some. Where are the wear points on pedal and cleat? Is there significant material worn or broken away in one pedal or cleat compared to the other? Do the axels & bearings show abnormal wear?
Am not suggesting spending lots of money. Lots of questions could be answered using 5x or 10x hand-held glass and calipers from hardware store, then comparing old pedals to new and old cleats to new.
Steve McDermott says
I use Shimano SPD cleats exclusively for decades with no problems. He might take a look at the positioning of the cleat on the bottom of his shoe. If it is not properly aligned, positioned, on the bottom of his shoe, it may be working against his pedal. In other words, the cleat may be moving against the orbit of the pedal and causing the clicking sound.
Stephen Turk says
I agree with your assessment that “something unusual is going on.” I have used Shimano’s SPD-SL pedals since the first generation (R600). I did replace the plastic body covers on the R600s (later pedals have stainless steel covers) and eventually wore out the bearings after many years and well over 20,000 miles. I currently have several sets of SPD-SL pedals, from 105 to Dura-Ace, all very reliable and requiring minimal maintenance other than occasional new cleats. I have not experienced any significant wear in the cleat retention system on any of these pedals.
Rick says that “the pedal will not hold the (new) cleat in hardly at all.” That suggests either (i) significant wear of the binding, so it’s no longer engaging correctly with the rear of the cleat, or (ii) a weak or incorrectly adjusted spring. I assume he has tried tightening the spring tension…
Rick’s query suggests that he has had the same problem with Look and Shimano, suggesting that there is a user-specific issue here. Is he commuting, requiring frequent stops? Is he riding in rain or dirty conditions? Is he running max spring tension, requiring max force to clip in and out and accelerating wear?
I doubt the ankle is the issue – the plastic of the cleat is softer than the binding, so any unusual pedaling motion would be expected to show up as cleat wear, not pedal wear.
Alan Douglas says
My suggestion: if you can’t sort out a problem, switch systems.
Anywhere I ride from home (even carrying the bike to a faraway start point) I have used Speedplay Zeros for nearly as long as they have been available. Threw away all pedals with one-sided entry. If I tour, I toss the bike with SPD pedals into the box, pop the Shimano shoes on, and start walking to the departure gate. Each mode is sufficiently distinct, so each pedal is appropriate. I love the Speedplays more than the SPDs and marvel how each use is precise, and dependable leading to ridiculously long-lasting performance. Walkable cleats solve all problems I would want to solve (no more cleat comdoms).
Lee Friedersdorf says
I’ve been riding Look, most recently KEO with a metal wear plate under the ball of the foot on the pedal, for 30 years. Yes the cleats wear. Usually I’ll start to hear a squeak on the side that I clip in and out the most, or I’ll start having trouble clipping in and out. Often, I’ll just change the worn cleat and leave the other one alone! If I were going to try something different I would put Crank Bros. pedals on there, which is what I have had on my MTB bikes for at least 20 years. Those cleats also wear, but not as fast because they are metal. And you can decide whether to opt for a MTB shoe or a road shoe. I swear by the easy in-n-out of the Crank Bros. design.
John Higgins says
You said the cleat is new. If the tension screw is backed right out there will not be enough tension to keep the cleat retained in the pedal. Try winding in the tension screw a few clicks.
It is uncommon for modern pedals to “wear out” from the point of view of cleat retention, as by design the cleats will wear at a much faster rate.
si little says
Close to 30 yrs on looks. No issue. Once i am in, no release until stopped at end generally. I replace the cleats as the 3 “catches” wear thin. Of course ridi g in cow hampshire has a lot to do just riding and no stops…
Ray Bourne says
I have used Shimano PD-A520 single sided pedals for YEARS (easily 25,000 miles) and NEVER had problems with a worn out cleat. They are SPD and will need a “Mountain” shoe, but they are light, elegant, and bullet-proof.
Rick O says
There are many comments here suggesting MTB (SPD) pedals. I likewise use mountain bike pedals on my road bikes. I’m willing to suffer the slight weight penalty for the walkability benefit. I started with Speedplay Frogs, but switched several years ago to the newer Speedplay Syzr MTB pedals. They are two sided, offer a much better, more road pedal-like platform with firm contact, adjustable float and what feels to be better, more positive power transfer than other MTB pedals that depend upon the shoe’s rubber cleats for stabilization. (Frogs included).
Jerry M. says
I’ve been using Time ATAC Alium mountain bike pedals on three road bikes for many years. They aren’t the lightest, but seem nearly indestructible, have what is for me the right amount of float, and are easy to engage and release. The brass cleats last for years. The Alium aluminum body model hasn’t been made for a long time. I have no experience with the current Time pedal models. Time pedals seem to be much harder to find than in the past, as Shimano as come to dominate the mountain bike pedal market. My shoe choice is the Sidi Dominator.
Jim Langley says
Thanks everyone for the all the great tips, suggestions, pedal recommendations and advice for Rick. This is a wonderful resource for anyone having clipless pedal issues or even shopping for new pedals.
Richard Paul Handler says
Have been giving this thought since reading the post when it arrived 2 days ago.
1. Has the tension been tightened? This is so simple. Takes a 2.5mm Allen wrench.
2.. Are the cleats new or at least in good shape? I replace cleats 2-3 times per year. And are they the yellow ones with float, not the blue ones without float?
3. Is the cleat attached to the shoe properly to compensate for any tibial torsion? Few of us are lucky enough to have the mortice of our ankles aligned with the plane in which our knees flex. This is why many walk with their toes pointed outwards, and a few walk pointed inwards. Fifty years ago we nailed cleats to the leather soles of our shoes. Before nailing we’d go for a ride to get the sole marked by the pedal in the position of our best comfort. Modern road pedas with the 3 bolt pattern can be rotated and can be slid medially/laterally. If the cleat is not correctly positioned to keep the center of it arc of float centered on the pedal when the knee is pointing straight forward, the cleat will be nearly releasing from the pedal during each crank rotation.
4. SPD mountain pedals are bullet proof, but the 2 bolt pattern of mt cleats does not allow option of cleat rotation. For this reason I do not recommend road riding with mt pedals unless one is certain not to have tibial torsion. Stand with both knees pointing straight forward. Are your feet parallel? Now point your feet straight ahead, parallel, and flex the knees. Do the knees move forward or does one or both point inwards? Example: I have 30 deg torsion in my right tibia. My Shimano road cleats are mounted to rotate my foot in compensation. This brings my heel too close to the crank and to the chainstay. Thus I use pedals with 4mm longer axles (available in Ultegra and Dura Ace lines) – https://bike.shimano.com/en-EU/technologies/component/details/pedal-4mm.html – and I add 3-4 pedal washers. Don’t worry about Q angle. Rotating the heel inwards reduces Q angle but the longer axle + extra washers bring the heel back in line with the hips.
Jim Klein says
Looks have served me well for the 20+ years that I’ve been back on the bike. I wrecked the right pedal (nice expensive float adjustable pre-KEO) when I got right hooked by a car. Since then, I’ve used older Looks with fixed float and red old style cleats. When the shoe starts to creak when climbing a mountain or hill, it’s time to put a dab 0f grease on the retaining tab on the front of the cleat to get you home. Creaking indicates the cleat is worn and needs to be replaced. Creaking drives me NUTS! I’m tough on my cleats because I walk on them in my road shoes and I wear down the tabs from the friction on the road. I replace my cleats every 6 – 12 months, depending on wear. Additionally, when I clean or service my bike, I look at the pedals to ensure that they are clean and rotating freely. Shoe sole curve can be a problem when mounting cleats. Best to review the fit of a new cleat with a new shoe, especially if they are carbon fiber soles. CF doesn’t like to bend the the way the plastic unreinforced soles do.
Pedals should last a long time. The wear item is the cleat. We had to replace cleats with the old rattrap pedals too. That was a bummer hammering the nails in the leather soles of the Detto Pietro shoes of the day.
Regardless of the clipless system you use, it is a system and as riders we all are well advised to become “one with our bikes” and to notice little changes in how our bikes behave, especially as we ply on miles. Major problems usually have symptoms early on and we need to train ourselves to notice them early so that we tackle a small problem rather than a big one later. When I wash and service my bike, I do a general review of all the wear items and contact points of the bike. Depending on miles ridden that can be once or twice a week.
Paul Ahart says
I’ll join the chorus and recommend SPD pedals. There are a number of road shoes with a thicker sole and recess for SPD cleats. Also recommend getting a spray can of Finishline or similar dry lube and give a shot to your pedals and cleats regularly. I’m an old toeclip and strap guy, but once used to SPD pedals (a Shimano plug) I’d never go back. PS: also helps to set the release fairly light.
Todd Winkler says
There’s been only a couple posts that I’ve read above that rather than offer new systems but asked basic questions about wear patterns? I completely agree with all comments that other systems may be better than 105’s, but Rick doesn’t want to spend a ton. I love my Look Keo as well, SPD’s are awesome, Speedplay touted as amazing, but all these are price points greater than 105s. So back to Rick’s cleats, how and where have they “worn out”, or is it truly something simple like a screw loose or poor matched cleats? Is Rick pairing the correct manufacturer cleats, or trying to combine Look with Shimano? I guess without knowing the wearing pattern it’s hard to offer advice.
Greg B says
Todd Has a very valid point there. What are the causative factors for this situation. Could well be an exercise for someone with time on their hands to compile a list of these factors mentioned and their remedy without comment so as it would be plain for all to see.. OK who is going to take it up for all to see.????????
Gary Turney says
Todd is exactly right – let’s focus on why the pedal is failing. On further thought, my original reply about the adjustment screw loosening doesn’t make sense. Let me try another theory. Cleat wears, severely to the point where one or more of the screws is contacting the pedal. This could cause the clicking, but it could also damage the pedal. Now a new cleat won’t work as well. The problem with this idea is that Rick would have to be seriously dragging his foot when stopping to wear a cleat out that quickly (remember, it’s only the “stopping” cleat/pedal that’s the problem). And he would have to almost negligently ignore cleat wear. I admit I’m grasping at straws here, but it’s hard to find a scenario that fits the information Rick provides. I only think this one is possible because it is easy to ignore cleat wear unless we specifically look for it. Happened to me – I noticed the float on my 105’s seemed a lot more on one shoe than the other. Turned out a mounting screw had completely fallen out!. As Todd points out, pedal and cleat wear patterns would be interesting to see.
Steve Palincsar says
Apropos of your comment that SPD pedals aren’t friendly to road shoes, let me suggest you look at Sidi Dominators. In every respect but the soles, Dominators are the same as Sidi’s road shoes – except that they have a walkable lugged sole.
I’ve ridden Mt Bikes and Road Bikes with clipless pedals for over 20 years. I’ve placed a lot of miles on all of the pedals I’ve owned and outside of cosmetic scraps have never had a pedal fail. I used to ride Look KEO pedals on my Road Bike and replaced the plastic cleats every year or so. Several years ago I picked up some lighter Mt Bike shoes (Scott) at a bike swap meet and also purchased a used pair of iSSi SPD road pedals to try on my Road Bike. After a little tweaking with the tension screws the SPD pedals worked great. I’ve never gone back to the Look KEOs. I suppose the overall weight advantage may be with the Look/Road shoe combo but the Scott shoes and SPD pedal combo is more comfortable and its a lot easier to walk around.
Hi, I haven’t read all the comments but spotted a mention of the front of the pedal wearing, it could be that the float allowed by the pedals is letting you grind away the pedal material and that carefully fitting no float cleats would help.
Fred R says
The longest-lasting pedals I’ve ever had were the old school toe-clip style, I still use a set that has over 150,000 miles on them and never had to do anything to them, even the shoe cleats, yes the shoes back then had a shoe cleat, a slot that slid into the edge of the pedal, and those plastic cleats are still good. But alas we’re in the modern age of everything breaking early and fast. Yellow Jersey still carries those plastic cleats that can mount to SPD shoes.
I have a set of Speedplay Frogs that came with a bike I bought in 2013, other than 2 grease injections and one shoe cleat replacement, I’ve had no issues with those pedals, but as I got older the Speedplays don’t have enough platform and my feet begin to ache on long rides, some of that could be due to the fact that I wear MTB shoes and they tend to flex more than road shoes.
My other pedal I use on my touring bike is a Shimano which the model I have is no longer made, but they have a new series of touring/gravel pedals out, well the one I’m going to mention has been around for about 8 years called the Shimano A600. I think, note I said I think, that this pedal may be the best choice for you because they use a 3 bolt road style pedal with a larger contact surface which helps distribute the load on hard efforts which keeps your foot from rocking out of the plane as much as smaller road style pedals. I think it’s that rocking that is causing your pedals to fail early, along with not replacing your cleats soon enough. The problem with this pedal is that your shoes need to be made for cross-country MTB use. This pedal is a low price pedal so the paint they put on the pedal will wear off fast due to the shoes, but since they were built for tough riding conditions they are very durable. For $110 that they cost they might be worth experimenting with and see if they last for you…assuming you can live with a different type of shoe.
The only other pedal that could be worth considering if the above pedal and changing shoes don’t appeal to you is going with the Crank Brothers Mallet E LS. While the cleats wear out faster than other cleats but the idea behind that is that the fast wearing cleats save the pedals. This pedal has a 5-year warranty, so if your breaking your pedals faster than that then you can send these back. Crank Brothers make their own shoes specifically for those pedals for best interfacing.