Clipless pedals are an essential component of modern road bikes. They enable more efficient pedalling by allowing you to pull up as well as pushing down on the pedals. To use them, you also need to fit appropriate cleats to your shoes.
Clipless pedals usually come with the relevant cleats, but you need to ensure the shoes are compatible with the pedal system you are using. Shimano SPD SLs, which we're using to demonstrate the process, have three bolts, but other systems will differ.
Shimano makes three types of cleat, and helpfully they’re colour-coded to show the amount of 'float' each has. Float is the movement the cleat will allow while remaining clipped to the pedal.
Red pedals have zero float, so don't allow any movement. Blue will allow two degrees of movement and yellow, six degrees. Most new pedals come with yellow cleats, which are perfect for beginners.
Other manufactures have similar systems so check before you buy.
Also read: How to fit cleats to mountain bike shoes
What you need
- Hex keys
- Grease or thread lock
- Clipless compatible shoes
- Cleats (usually included with pedals)
- A pen and some tape
What to do
Video: How to fit road bike cleats
Fit your cleats
Before fitting the cleat to the shoe, put some grease or thread lock (preferably) onto the thread of the cleat bolt to stop it seizing in place.
Loosely fit the cleats to the shoes – position the cleat so it’s under the ball of your foot. The angle of the cleat should match the natural standing position of your foot – to get an idea of this, stand naturally and assume a riding position – if your feet point out you should set the cleat position to match. You don’t need to be too extreme with the angle so if you’re unsure, set them towards the middle of the shoe and you can tweak them later.
Tighten the bolts one by one – when the first starts to feel tight, stop turning it and tighten the next . You will need to tighten as a trio – so move between bolts until they are firm.
Put on the shoes and swing a leg over the bike and clip your foot into the pedal. While leaning against a wall or solid object, clip the other foot into the pedal. Give the cranks a few backwards turns to check the cleat position is still comfortable and that your shoes aren’t rubbing the frame or cranks – if they are, you’ll need to repeat the previous step and readjust accordingly.
Before you take the bike for a ride, practise clipping in and out of the pedals. Twisting your heel out is the best way to release them.
If you need to fit the pedals too, have a look at our workshop.