We all need them, we all have to have them. I started out on the flats, and still use them on my single speed bike. But my road bike needs a little something more. Initially, I went to the mountain bike style, loving the just stomp on pedal and clipped in. But, they started to give me some hotspot pain in the feet where the cleat was causing pressure.
I went full into speed play from SPD, I dabbled with SPD-L for a time, but never really got on with the one side clip in. I could never catch the pedal on the crank stroke, leading to some hairy moments with my foot slipping off. Speed plays solved that for me, with the design of just stepping on the pedal and rotating the crank and boom, clipped in. However, the extreme cost of the speed play, and extreme maintenance needs are a drawback for these pedals. Just shy of £50 for a set of cleats, but admittedly, they are long lasting cleats. Maintenance wise, the cleats need constant cleaning to work correctly, there is no mud exits, and dry lube needs applying on a regular basis both cleat and pedal body.
The pedals need a regular grease injection, which is both messy, fiddly and time consuming. You’d remove the tiny grease port screw, insert a grease gun, (a hideously overpriced gun is off course available from Speedplay) squeeze that in under pressure until fresh grease leaks out of the pedal spindle. My affair with speedplay came fully to an end when they discontinued the “standard” cleat, and only sold the “aero” walkable cleat. I hated that design, and never got on with it. Who needs a walkable cleat? The stupid rubber cover always used to come off, there must be a few of my cleat covers littering the edges of various roads.
So, onto my current pedal, the venerable SPD-SL. the design has been around for so long, pioneered by Look, (whose pedals I’ll never try again).
Mounted them up, and fitted the cleats to the soles of my shoes, and cue much experimenting with positions found a comfortable place on the sole for the cleat. Aligning them was easier than the speed plays, as speedplay is easily the most adjustable pedal for positioning. Basically to get the cleats in a comfortable position, when you don’t have a starting reference, put them in a neutral position, the cleat nose pointing directly forward. Move them around from there until you feel your feet are in a natural position when clipped in. Then ride and make small adjustments based on feel. Once you get that position for both feet right you’ve nailed it. Takes a little time but is easily mastered.
Initially, I again had issues clipping in, but practice makes perfect. I still occasionally have issues, especially on hill starts, but muscle memory is setting in and most times click right in with that satisfying clunk. And the just work, with a larger pedal area, there are no pressures on the feet. Just comfy. Any muck that gets onto the cleat is pushed out when clipping in and short of a quick clean when the bike is being cleaned no extra maintenance is required. Each to their own however, some people swear by speedplays for their massive amount of customisations, some like mountain pedals for ease of walking from the bike shed to work, others just use whatever. Whatever works for the individual I guess.