While not necessary to cycle, cycling cleats are indispensable if you use clipless pedals. Cleats are the part of the clipless pedal that attaches to the bottom of your cycling shoes. If you recently moved to clipless pedals, you need specific cycling shoes and cycling cleats.
How do bicycle cleats work?
Cleats interact with the spring mechanism built into the pedals and, once engaged, hold your feet in place for better power transfer. Cleats are easy to use. Once clipped in, you can push down on the pedal and pull on the upstroke, meaning better efficiency at every stroke. You can even pedal backwards when clipped. Unclipping is easy too. All you need to do is push your heel to the side away from the bike's frame.
Are bike cleats universal?
The short answer is no. Different systems are available, and a Shimano SPD cleat will not work in a Look pedal and vice versa. If you are using Peloton spin bikes and wonder if the Shimano cleats are compatible with these bikes, unfortunately, they don't. The 2-bolt design of the Shimano cleats is not compatible with the Delta cleats and pedals equipped on the Peloton bikes. However, you can swap the pedals fitted on the Peloton bike for SPDs to make it work.
How to set up bike cleats?
To ensure optimum pedalling efficiency and power transfer, you need to consider the position of your cleat on your cycling shoes. It is commonly accepted that having them so that the centre of the pedal axle is in line with the ball of your foot is the best biomechanical position.
Fore and aft:
Moving the cleat side-to-side will influence how close your foot sits to the bike's centre line. If your knees are wide at the top of the pedal stroke, move your cleats inwards to move your feet outwards. If your knees are narrow at the top of the stroke, move your cleats outwards to move your feet inwards.
Float and tension:
The tension determines how easy it is to clip in and out of the pedals. Most bike cleats will have an adjuster screw to let you decide how tightly clipped-in you want to be. If you just started with cleats, we'd recommend you go for the lightest setting.
The cleat float depends on the cleat you purchased. Most cleat brands use a colour coded system to help you determine which float you are getting. Look offers three cleats in three different colours:
Shimano red cleats are fixed cleats, and the yellow one gives 6°.
When to replace cleats on cycling shoes?
As cleats are in direct contact with the ground when you are not riding, they wear out and need to be replaced regularly. An easy way to tell you need new cleats is when you feel excessive foot movement on the bike pedals. If your shoe begins to rattle around the pedal, it is time to replace your cleats. Another indication that your cleats need changing is advanced wear making them harder to clip in and out.