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.

Pedals make the man

For a long time I’ve been an avid speed play user,but my love affair with then has slowly wained. There are a few reasons for this.


First off, maintenance. Speed play pedals are quite maintenance heavy in keeping the cleats clean and lubricated, to lubricate the pedal bodies with grease. This isn’t a major issue, but one that started to bug me as I started to lose interest. Interestingly, the maintenance issue showed the wear on the pedal bodies with grease leaking out from wear points.

I also found myself having to constantly clean out the cleats, as they would very easily clog up.

Now we move on to one of the biggest issues, cost. A pair of speed play cleats is just shy of £50, for the walk able cleats. That’s a lot of cash. While the cleats do last a long time, it’s still a outlay I have to cut back on. With the Yellow Shimano cleats costing around £12, less if you shop about its a cost winner.


So, out came the pedal wrench, and off come the speed plays. I had a pair of unused R550’s kicking around in the parts bin so put them on. I had previously tried a pair of look keo’s and absolutely hated them, they where, in part, my reason to move into speedplay so my thoughts on going back to SL pedals where grim.

However, the first ride with the R550’s where an absolute revelation. They where comfortable, I was clipping in reasonably easily. In fact, I’d say I was finding them more comfortable than the speedplay. Maybe due to the wider platform, which to me was immediately noticeable. I’d used an older pair of shoes with out any inserts or special foot-beds, and I’d not thought about my feet for a short 10 mile ride. Clipping in was easier, maybe as I had got used to the action of finding the pedal on the opposite down stroke, or the fact the pedal is larger than the Look Keo. Unclipping took more force than the speedplay, possibly due to newer mechanisms. I had put on the cleats, on a reasonably neutral position, and it was comfortable without any tweaks, I felt like I wanted to slightly rotate the cleat, but the position was fine as was. This was in stark contrast to the Look Keo cleats, which made my knees ache. Perhaps it was due to having more knowledge of cleat position than when I had the Keos, but that has always stuck in my mind and has forever ruled out the Keos again.

So, apart from hill starts which I still find quite difficult, I actually enjoyed using the new pedals, and in all honesty will strongly consider them to replace the speedplay.


I’m an avid user of speedplay. However, I’m now Considuring going back to SPD-SL because they have discontinued the origional zero cleat and only now supplying the walkable cleat. And I hate that cleat.

While the new walkable cleats do solve many of the issues reported with the origional cleats, they bring their own drawbacks. All of which I despise.

I’ll stick with speedplay for awhile longer, see how it goes but I might have to start practicing the old poke and clip.. 🙂