BEST ROAD BIKE PEDALS
While road bike pedals may not be very sexy or expensive compared to your bike frame, other components, and kit, they are just as important to your performance, comfort, and safety out on the road.
This Know Fast review gives you the essential knowledge you need to decide what road bike pedals to get and where to get them in a brief, enthusiast-focused, ad-free post. I’ve done the same comprehensive, comparative, and conflict-of-interest-free gear and store evaluations that normally go into longer In The Know Cycling reviews to come up with my recommendations and insights and write them up in a form that you can more quickly read and act on.
RECOMMENDED ROAD BIKE PEDALS
I recommend Shimano Ultegra pedals – the PD-R8000 – as one of the two best road bike pedals for most road cycling enthusiasts. They perform well, suit the fit needs of most cyclists, are very durable, and require no maintenance.
At a market price of US$200/£133/€129, you can buy Shimano Ultegra pedals at the best prices by following these links to Competitive Cyclist, Power Meter City 10% off w/code ITKPMC10, The Pro’s Closet, Planet Cyclery, Merlin, Tredz 10% off w/code ITKTDZ10, and Sigma Sports, stores that I recommend because they have very competitive prices, top customer satisfaction ratings from fellow cyclists as reported by independent services, and a great selection of gear for road cycling enthusiasts.
You could spend about 40% or US$80 more on Shimano’s Dura Ace PD-R9100 road bike pedals but I see no reason to do so unless you are a committed racer. Likewise, you could save 25% or US$50 less by going with their 105 PD-R7000 model but the better performance and wider Q-factor option with the Ultegra make it the best solution for enthusiast-level road cyclists.
If your biomechanics or bad knees require a fit solution somewhat outside the norm or you just prefer pedals you can clip in from either side with near near-frictionless float, I recommend the Wahoo Speedplay Zero road bike pedals. Wahoo Fitness now owns the Speedplay brand, has kept the basic design and compatibility of the Zero line but eliminated the need to regularly grease the pedals.
In my experience riding both the new and prior Speedplay models, I find they operate identically and the latest ones are more consistent in the effort it takes to clip into and out of them and on par with the Shimano Ultegra road bike pedals in that regard.
Having ridden the Wahoo Speedplay Zero road bike pedals for 1000 miles as of this update, I can’t judge their long-term durability but I’ve felt no performance decline in clipping in and out or the ease of their float. You still should dry lube the cleat springs every few hundred miles to keep them operating at peak performance, something that takes only a few bursts of spray per cleat.
At a market price of US$230/£200/€235, you can buy Wahoo Speedplay Zero pedals online at these links to Competitive Cyclist, Planet Cyclery, Tredz 10% off w/code ITKTDZ10, Sigma Sports, Wiggle, and Chain Reaction Cycles.
Speedplay pedals also come in less expensive and more expensive models. The major difference between them is the material used in the spindle rather than the pedal body itself.
The Wahoo Speedplay Comp model uses chrome alloy steel spindles that are coated in black. I’ve used these spindles in an uncoated version for years on a set of Speedplay pedals made prior to Wahoo taking over. While they don’t look as shiny as the stainless steel used in the current Zero model, they’ve held up well with no hints of corrosion. They weigh only 10 grams more per pedal and come with what Wahoo calls the Easy Tension cleats rather than the Standard Tension ones included with the Zeros.
Except for changing the color of the plastic covers used to make walking easier from yellow to black, the Standard Tension cleats are identical to and cross-compatible with the ones Speedplay used for years on earlier Zero models. In normal use on the road, I couldn’t tell any difference clipping into and out of the Easy Tension cleats (they have grey covers).
For essentially the same performance but with a little less shine, the Speedplay Comp sells for US$80/£65/€65 less. They are available at the same links provided above and I’d recommend them unless you prefer stainless spindles.
The higher-priced Wahoo Speedplay Aero road bike pedals are the same as the Speedplay Zero save for a dimpled cover that goes over one side of the pedal. The Wahoo Speedplay Nano pedals use a titanium spindle that saves 56 grams per pedal at an added cost of about $2 per gram.
Unless you are a pro, racing in a wind tunnel, or have money to burn, there is no aero or climbing benefit that mere enthusiast mortals can gain from these features.
I don’t recommend you buy current Look or Time road bike pedals, the other two major road bike pedal brands.
Look’s Keo pedals don’t have as stable an interface between the pedal and cleats as Shimano or Speedplay systems. This leads to less efficient power transfer and, in my experience and those of many others, an annoying creaking sound that comes and goes. While lower-priced, they aren’t as well built as Shimano or Speedplay pedals.
SRAM bought the Time pedal line (February 2021) and has made no commitment beyond continuing to sell them by mid-2021. The line was updated just recently by Time’s prior owners but had not been in the field long enough for performance and maintenance feedback to roll in.
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WHAT MATTERS MOST
There are 5 performance criteria that really matter in choosing the best road bike pedals and another 4 design aspects that matter much less or at all. Durability and maintenance are the key quality criteria for pedals. And cost always matters but changes more with design specs than pedal performance.
Clip-In – Each pedal system’s approach to clipping in is somewhat different but all of them take only a few rides to get used to. Once you do, they all become second nature and the only thing that differentiates them is a personal preference.
- You‘ll see some reviewers state that certain road bike pedals “perform” better than others because they clip-in “easier”. Hogwash. It’s a personal preference rather than a performance difference.
personal preferencehogwash? Historically, I’ve used Speedplay Zero pedals for their superior fit, float, and clip-in performance.
- I’ve used single-sided Shimano Ultegra pedals and Look Keo pedals extensively and I’m equally confident clipping into them as I am in my Speedplays.
- Some people judge clip-in performance after the first couple of rides. This is misleading. It takes a half dozen or so “break-in” rides for the spring mechanisms to work through the protective sealant applied at the factory and get to a steady tension.
Release – As with clipping in, each pedal system releases somewhat differently when you twist your heel out. But, all work effectively.
- Shimano Ultegra pedals and Look Keo pedals use adjustable springs.
- Look Keo Blade pedals gave you a choice of two or three carbon “blades” with pre-set tension levels instead of a spring.
- Speedplay uses a non-adjustable tension spring in its release mechanism (the float is adjustable – more below). Their Standard Tension cleats work fine for me at my 150lb/68kg weight. While I couldn’t tell any difference clipping in and out, they also make Easy Tension cleats that you might prefer if you weigh less or are new to riding clip-in pedals. The Easy Tension cleats come standard with the lowest-priced Comp model. You can buy either set of cleats separately for about US$50/£50/€60.
Stability – Once clipped in, you want as stable and quiet an interface as possible between your pedal and cleat. The more stable the interface, the more efficient your power delivery.
- If the interface isn’t stable either initially or as the cleat and pedal component facings wear down, you’ll feel play or rocking in your road bike pedals.
- If the interface isn’t quiet, it still may be stable. Creaking can be eliminated with regular cleaning and periodic dry lubing of the cleats (Speedplay) or replacement of the cleats with an aftermarket version (Exustar).
Float – Float is the term used to quantify how much your heel can swing side to side when your foot is clipped in.
The more float you have, the more likely you can find a comfortable alignment between your knees and feet. But, the more your feet float, the less efficient your power transfer will be and the further you have to twist your foot to unclip from the pedal.
On the other hand, the less float you have, the more accurately your cleats need to be set up to avoid messing up your knees.
- If you get your bike fit every few years, you can get your cleats set up for the right alignment and you can (and should) go with less float.
- Most pedal systems offer a choice of cleats, each with a different amount of float. Shimano Ultegra pedals come standard with 6-degree cleats but sell 0- and 2-degree options; Look Keo pedals come with 4.5-degree cleats; 0- and 9-degree options; Speedplay Zero pedals include one set of cleats that can be set between 0 and 15 degrees of float.
- Speedplay’s float is nearly frictionless and feels totally free; Shimano’s float has somewhat more friction and Look’s more still. This is more of a preference than a performance difference.
Axle Length – Pedal systems come standard with 53mm long axles between the crank and centerline of the pedal. This distance is called the “Q-Factor.” If you have wide hips, some hip or leg asymmetry, or limited flexibility, you may need longer axles or “spindles” to make pedaling more efficient and more comfortable.
- A good bike fit will determine if your performance and comfort can be improved by riding road bike pedals with longer axles.
- Shimano’s newest Ultegra and Dura-Ace road bike pedals are available with 4mm longer axles; Speedplay offers 3, 6, and 12mm longer axles on the Zero models later. Look does not have optional axle lengths for their pedals.
Durability – Bearing wear, water resistance, spring fatigue, pedal body integrity, interface material wear, and cleat wear are all considerations in considering durability.
- Shimano Ultegra pedals and earlier model Speedplay Zero pedals are clearly better made and more durable than those from Look Keo pedals. The pedal plates that interface with the cleats don’t wear as well on the Look pedals. Bearings also don’t hold up as long.
Maintenance – You need to do some maintenance on all of these road bike pedals to get the full useful life out of them.
- Speedplay cleats require dry lubing in the spring mechanisms every few hundred miles or kilometers, or about as often as you wet lube your chain. They (both your cleats and chain) can get gunked up in dirt or sand so while it’s simple to keep them cleaned and lubed, you have to commit to doing it.
- At the other end of the scale, you can pretty much ignore maintaining Shimano Ultegra pedals and cleats and still sleep (and ride) well.
- Look Keo cleats need to be regularly cleaned off to avoid creaking while pedaling (and that doesn’t always work).
Shimano, Look, Speedplay, and Time each make different levels of road bike pedals to serve the range of road cyclists from recreational riders to racers. The pedals run from as little as $40, £35, €35, less than what you pay for a tire to 10-15x that amount, a sum that you would pay for an alloy upgrade wheelset. Yeah, really!
Getting cleats with more or less float than the standard ones that come with the pedal system or longer axles can cost extra.
As with other categories of bike gear, the highest-priced pedals are generally lighter, have higher strength-to-weight materials, and have design specs that they claim will provide higher performance levels. While weight-weenies and prestige buyers may see some value in these attributes, they make little if any noticeable performance difference to road cycling enthusiasts.
Much is made of the four design features I describe below in the marketing of some pedal systems. For most road cycling enthusiasts, they don’t affect your performance much, certainly not to the level of the five performance characteristics described earlier, if at all.
I’ve listed them roughly in order of their relative potential impact on performance.
Stack height – Stack height is the distance between your foot and the pedal. The theory goes that the lower your stack height, the more efficient your power transfer as there is less getting between the source of your power and where it is being applied.
Shoes have a stack height – the sum of the thickness of your shoe’s insole and outsole. Pedal cleats attached to your outsole and add to your overall stack height.
- The stiffness of your shoe’s outsoles and stability of the interface between your cleats and pedals will matter a great deal more to power transfer than a few millimeters difference in stack height.
- All things being equal – a stiff sole, a stable interface, a limited amount of float, good pedaling mechanics, etc. – there’s little difference between the road bike pedals I’ve recommended or the more expensive versions of each. The Look pedals do have considerably more stack height than the others but it’s hard to quantify what effect that has.
- Perhaps the most important thing to do with the knowledge of your stack height is to raise or lower your seat to compensate for any change in stack height from a new set of pedals (or shoes).
Weight – As with all things cycling, weight is promoted well beyond its importance. And, as with other cycling gear, the credibility of claimed pedal system weight is suspect. Further, some companies give you both their claimed pedal and cleat weights whereas others just give you the pedal weight.
- Most road cycling enthusiasts are not going to notice the 20 grams or so difference per pedal, the most you’ll find in the road bike pedal systems for cycling enthusiasts I’ve reviewed in this post.
- Speedplay may appear to have lighter pedals, but the clip-in spring mechanism is found in the cleats, making the cleats heavier than those from Shimano and Look. Look at the sum of the weights of the pedals and cleats rather than just the pedal weights.
Walkability – No road bike cleats make walking easy and none of these are easier to walk in than others. You’ll be safe in any of these when you are walking around a cafe as long as you do so deliberately.
- Cyclocross, gravel, commuting, or recreational cyclists who do a good deal more walking or running than roadies are really the only road cyclists that should buy a pedal system based on how well you can walk in their cleats. In those cases, mountain bike pedals (and shoes) are the best solution.
Platform Area – The idea behind this design feature is that your power is transferred more effectively by a wider or larger platform between your feet and the pedals.
Your platform is defined by some pedal companies as the area where the pedal and cleat meet. Others feel the key measure should be the area where the shoe and cleat meet. Some emphasize the width of the platform or while others promote the area of the platform.
- None of this matters for road cycling enthusiasts who wear the best road bike shoes that fit well without your feet or heel moving and have stiff carbon outsoles. If you don’t have shoes with those characteristics, a bigger platform area (however defined or measured) won’t help you a whole lot compared to those who do.
WHERE TO FIND THE BEST ROAD BIKE PEDALS
If you want to buy other pedals in the Shimano, Look or Speedplay lines beyond those I’ve recommended, here are the links to the listings at online stores that have a good selection of each, the most competitive prices, and top customer satisfaction ratings.
Shimano Dura-Ace, Ultegra, and 105: Competitive Cyclist, Power Meter City 10% off w/code ITKPMC10, The Pro’s Closet, Planet Cyclery, Merlin, Tredz 10% off w/code ITKTDZ10, Sigma Sports, Know’s Shop
Look Keo Blade, Keo 2 Max, and Keo Classic: Competitive Cyclist, Power Meter City 10% off w/code ITKPMC10, The Pro’s Closet, Merlin, Tredz 10% off w/code ITKTDZ10, Know’s Shop
Speedplay Nano, Aero, Zero, and Comp: Competitive Cyclist, Planet Cyclery, Tredz 10% of w/code ITKTDZ10, Sigma Sports, Wiggle, Chain Reaction Cycles
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Interesting review. I had problems clipping out of Shimano 105 pedals so tried Speedplay and got fed up with the maintenance regime (injecting marine grease, messy and a faff) and the cost of their replacement cleats. Also I had a number of instances where my foot unclipped unintentionally which was scary. So four years ago I tried Time Espresso 12 pedals, very light, easy to clip in and positive to clip out, zero maintenance and cleats cheap to replace. Now have two pairs, one on my winter bike and one on my Sunday best steed. I am a 73kg rider so perhaps suit the lighter riders?
No comment re. Keywin pedals?
Light, affordable, solid platform, extremely long lasting cleats.
Sort of a niche pedal bc no main distributorship though.
I agree. The key win pedals are an excellent option and should be considered here. A small company in New Zealand that were the originator of the lipless pedal through the genius of John Winkie.
Another great review!! Thanks Steve,
I assume that the Ultegra PD-R8000, is the latest version of the Ultegera PD-6800 pedal. You recommended the 6800’s to me several months ago and they have been great.
Any meaningful differences between the older and newer version that would make me want to upgrade before my current pedals wear out?
It has been a brutal winter here in the Midwest and I was unable to get outside to ride from December 10 until January 26th. Getting back outdoors was awesome!! Makes me envious of my fellow enthusiasts that ride in more temperate climes… 🙂
My indoor trainer is great (for staying in shape), but man it is no substitute for the great outdoors.
Wishing you a wonderful cycling season!!!
Wheldon, Not enough to switch. The PD-R8000 does have the option of a longer axle so if someone were buying new pedals, I’d go with the PD-R8000 to give you the option. Steve
Nice roundup Steve! I’m riding on Ultegra PD-6800 pedals and they have been maintenance free for 2+ years and work well. Only one minor issue encountered – a creaking sound that took a few weeks to diagnose (thought it was bottom bracket at first). Thankfully someone asked if I had used blue loctite when installing new cleats on my Specialized Audax shoes. I had used grease and torqued to spec. A quick Google revealed others fixed the issue with blue loctite. Sure enough, that solved the issue. Oddly I didn’t have to do that when replacing the SPD cleats on my Specialized mountain biking shoes.
Hi 2nfinite, how do you put the blue Loctite? on the nut n bolt of the cleat? I’m also having a creaking experience when I’m uphill. its really annoying. btw, I didn’t put anything grease or the Loctite, thanks
Great article – thanks! What do you see as the downsides for using SPD pedals on a road bike? Cafe’s become safer… but what are the negatives from your perspective?
Angus, the SPD MTB pedals are a good deal heavier and taller than SPD-SLs to the point where you will notice a difference in your performance. Steve
38 grams difference between my a600’s and the Ultegra SPD-SL. It’s not a big enough difference for me and I can normally in my shoes and use the same pedals on all my bikes.
Andrew, weight is way down my list of what’s important in choosing pedals. That said, the a600 are perfectly good pedals. Steve
Can’t agree any more!
Just a small side note, for release part, Look tends to release easier for the same lowest setting.
Even Carbon Blade 2 with 12Nm blade is still easier to release than 6800 lowest setting (And can fit 8Nm blade from Max Carbon). And Classic is much easier to release than 5800 IMHO.
But Blade 2 can’t even roll smoothly nor hang vertical, and when you’re on the wrong side, the sharp edge can easily leave a scar on your leg, which turned me completely to Shimano.
The only complain of Shimano pedals would be the release force, but since I’m now used to it, no complain now.
I use Look Keo Blade Ti since 3 years / 15.000km and made no other maintanance than cleaning them from time to tome – they still work great and I really don´t know how you found out that their bearings won´t hold up as long as the other pedals. No proof by photos. No measurments. Just opinions.
“… I really don´t know how you found out that their bearings won´t hold up as long as the other pedals. No proof by photos. No measurments. Just opinions…. ”
Yep. Fully agree.
Notwithstanding the time & effort Steve the author may have put in his ‘review’, (just like with many other cycling gear ‘reviews by others,) the scientific methodology is either not described clearly, or is lacking/flawed.
Nonetheless, despite that, most afficianados aren’t really interested in “boring methodology” reports and/or are simply looking for a quick “bottom-line” opinion, and Steve has therefore provided his opinion on the specific pedals he’s chosen to include, in his blog, for his own reasons.
adielbe (and andi), giuseppe,
As this was short form review, I didn’t include this passage that goes in my longer reviews. It explains my approach and influences and reads
“WHY TRUST AND SUPPORT THIS SITE
In The Know Cycling is for road cycling enthusiasts like you and me who want to know what gear we should get next and where we can get it at the best prices from great stores. I and my fellow In The Know Cycling testers do hours of analysis on an entire category of cycling gear and incorporate insights from other independent reviewers and riders I trust for each review.
To eliminate potential conflicts or perceived bias, I buy or demo and return all the gear we test and don’t run any ads on the site. I also don’t go on company-paid product introduction trips, rewrite and post announcements of new gear as “first looks”, accept articles paid for or submitted by companies, stores, PR firms or guest authors, or charge for any content on the site.
My only influence is what I think would be best for you, my fellow roadie. This is my passion, not a business.”
As to these pedals, I’ve ridden the Look Keo 2Max, a Shimano Ultegra and Speedplay Chromemoly each for 6 months or longer, long enough to reach conclusions about them. I’ve also talked with other enthusiasts who have experience with these pedals and with shops that sell and service all of them for their input on service. People have preferences and favorites but the service issues for both bearings and plate wear were quite consistent.
This is an ad-free blog site written for and by enthusiasts, not an ad-supported publication written for commercial purposes. So yeah, it describes my experience (or “opinion” if you want to call it that) and the experience of others I trust. I don’t have the time or resources to do lab testing, do repeated service testing, take lots of photos etc. If the way I do things (and things I don’t do) is a turn-off for you, I get it and am fine with that.
One of the few publications that does lab-based, independent testing on bike gear on the scale you may prefer is Tour magazine. Their most recent pedal test (http://www.tour-magazin.de/komponenten/pedale/systemvergleich-pedale/a28475.html – subscription based), while a few years old rated the Look Blade Carbon Ti, 2Max and Classic 3 each worse than the lowest priced Shimano (PD-R540) and a couple of Speedplay pedals that pre-dated the current Crome-moly one. They also rated the Look durability (plates and bearings) lower than the others.
Fair enough – thanks for the blog, disclosure, methodology description and your experience/opinion.
Obviously, you didn’ test old-style Looks but I had a couple >25 yrs old that were bombproof – having gone >40,000 kms each (without any maintenance whatsoever) on my bikes and are continued to be used by the grateful recipients in the Caribean.
(Yes I know, it’s only an “n” of 1)
Q/ Did you or your testors ever try the KeyWin pedals?
Talking about the old style looks, I still have my original shimano pedals from 1989 on my cannondale r800 that I still use in winter and on a trainer. These pedals were made by look but are branded shimano. The pedals must have close to 50,000 miles on them by now. Still work like a charm.
I understand your reason for not testing any TIME pedals, but I was disappointed none the less.
I have ridden on TIME pedals since their very first foray into the US, and currently have them on all my bikes. In 30 years of cycling, I’ve never had a knee problem; it could be coincidental, but I credit the TIME pedals. My road machine is equipped with Xpresso 12s.
Yes, I have sent them back once for service, and once TIME replaced them. It seems the issue is that there is a bushing within the pedal body at the end of the spindle that wears fairly quickly. I never had them fail, and TIME was circumspect in honouring their product. They are great pedals, and I am very pleased with the company’s responses to me.
The current bushings have been in for almost 2 years with no issues and no pedal play. I will, however, replace them with bearings (there is a YouTube video on how to do this) when they do fail, and I look forward to purchasing their new product when it hits the US market. I find it interesting that both LOOK and Shimano seem to gravitating towards this bushing configuration, and both are touting new, wider platforms, similar to that of TIME.
I wish the pedals were more popular and easier to find in the US, but it seems it is not to be.
Great review and very relevant for me at this moment. I just placed a deposit on the new Hi-Mod Cannondale Synapse. I have been riding my older road bike using Lake shoes with SPD clips and pedals. I tried the Ultegra SPD-SL pedals you reviewed. Couldn’t use them due to pain in my thighs. I was much more comfortable with the float or setup in the SPD cleats/pedals. Now I’m thinking of switching over to the Speedplay option. I like the double sided clips and I see that they have a fair amount of float, so I won’t get locked in like I did with the SPD-SLs. If I switch over to Speedily, I have to buy new Lake shoes to accommodate the new pedals. Is it fair to say that I would see a significant difference in power, etc by using Speedplay pedals versus the MTB SPDs that I’m using now? Also, Is there really no difference in the Chrom-alloy vs. the Stainless steel (just more money)? Same mechanisms?
Jay, A few things. Not sure you sure the pain in your thighs are due to the float. If you bought the standard SPD-SL pedals, they come with a 6 degree float cleat which should be enough (and probably not much different than the amount of float you have on the SPD). Not enough float usually affects your knee-foot alignment and would affect your knees but not your thighs. It may be that you need to lower your seat a few millimeters as the SPD-SL have a lower stack height than the SPD cleats and would increase how much you leg needs to stretch to reach the pedal at the bottom of the stroke. I’m not a bike fitter but that might explain what is causing your thigh pain.
That said, if you want to go with Speedplay, you don’t need to buy a Lake shoe or one of the others that have 4-hole outsoles. Speedplay provides an adapter for 3-hole shoes and I’ll guess that most Speedplay owners use the adapter. That’s the way I use them. All the specs in the chart I provided – weight, stack height, platform area – are for a 3-hole set-up. Using road bike pedals including Speedplay will enable you to deliver more power but I wouldn’t say you’ll see more power merely by switching pedals. There’s far more involved in the power output differences of MTBer vs. roadies – pedal stroke, shoe sole stiffness, terrain, measurement interval, etc. – than your equipment alone. And yes to your last questions about money and mechanisms. That’s why I recommend (and use) the Chrome-molly. Steve
Thanks for the reply. Just to clarify a bit. My Lake shoes have a carbon fiber bottom even though they are MTBs. The road shoe is identical without the extra pieces on the sole to make it an mtb shoe. I’m really torn between just putting on spd pedals on the new bike, thereby saving the expense of having to buy new shoes to accommodate an entirely new pedal system. Do you believe there would be a better riding experience with a road bike pedal and shoe setup vs what I’m using now (mtb with spd)?
Jay, Personally I do but I can’t judge how the experience would be or differ for you. You seem pretty comfortable with your Lakes and SPDs and you just spent a boatload of money on a new bike and I hear that you don’t want to spend more. Why don’t you continue riding them and see how it goes? If/when you switch, you could also look at getting shoes with stiffer uppers than the Lakes to add to the power efficiency. Steve
Hi Steve, following up on this, do you have any evidence of better performance in terms of power output of SPD-SL vs the SPD (with the same carbon sole of the shoe)? I have looked extensively and I cannot find any reliable source of information. It really seem more like anecdotal knowledge, rather than based on data.
I can understand on a sprint at 1000+W, but on a steady climb at 300W I am not convinced there is a difference in power transfer… but I am ready to be proven wrong!
Paolo, Thanks for your message and for supporting the site with your contribution. I don’t have nor have I seen any data or evidence. While there is little difference in stack height and platform area between road pedal, I do think there is likely enough difference between road and mtb pedals in those two design factors to make a power transfer difference. It’s probably more theoretical than anecdotal but I expect someone inside Shimano has done the analysis and testing to prove out the theory, else they wouldn’t make two very different style pedals. Steve
No. I don’t mind spending the cash for new shoes. That would be like buying a Ferrari and trying to save a few pennies by putting in regular gas instead of premium. If the consensus is that road shoes and pedals are the right thing to have on this bike than that’s the way I’ll go. I have the lake shoes due to its leather uppers which are better for my feet and more comfortable.
Good review but, as a keen Speedplay convert I would add one more category for comparison – Shoe compatibility. Most of the other pedal systems use the 3 hole pattern on the sole of the shoe for affixing cleats. Speedplay use a 4 hole system for attaching cleats. If you choose Speedplay pedals you therefore have 2 choices for shoes, you either use the system of conversion plates that come with the cleats to convert your 3 hole shoes into 4 hole shoes in order to attach your Speedplay cleats. The conversion process can be different for different brands of shoes; Northwave for example have an internal conversion kit you can buy to switch their sole from 3 to 4 hole pattern and avoid having to use speedplay’s conversion plates. OR you buy Speedplay specific shoes that already come with a 4 hole pattern sole. Having tried both for different sets of shoes I found the conversion plates worked ok but obviously ended up with a higher stack (if that matters) and if you go the speedplay specific shoe option you severely limit the range of shoes potentially available. I currently use Speedplay specific Sidi Wire shoes and love them but buyers on a tight budget might struggle to find suitable Speedplay specific sole shoes.
Another point to mention with the speedplays is the complexity of the cleats. I mention this as, although they work very well, there are considerably more moving parts in speedplay cleats than there are in the Keo style cleats. This was brought home to me in great detail one afternoon way out in the country miles from anywhere, about 60 kms into a 120 km ride when i stopped at a crossroads to regroup with other riders and accidentally unclipped put my foot (and speedplay cleat) down into a muddy puddle. Despite a frantic cleaning session using an arm warmer as a rag and despite getting most of the visible mud and gunk out of the thing at the roadside it definitely had issues clipping in and out subsequently. The maintenance issues you raised in your article kicked in when i got home and had to disassemble the thing to clean it properly and get it working right again. A Keo/Shimano cleat is a pretty rudimentary thing by comparison and i dont think would have anywhere near the issues if immersed in slimy roadside goo.
Dont get me wrong, great pedals. I love the float, helps massively with my Army veteran knees and like most people I have one foot that prefers to naturally splay further outwards than the other. With my fitter I managed to set each pedal up to individually fit each awkward foot. Maybe not something you need if you just do a weekly 30 km shop ride or 15 km commute but certainly a lot more comfortable at the 150 km mark in a long sportive/Gran Fondo etc.
2nd, Frankly, I think you are making much more of this than need be. Speedplay works with 3-hole shoes with an adaptor plate that comes with the pedal system that is simple to install on most any good road shoe. The stack height, weight, and platform area changes that come with the installation of the plate are all insignificant to the performance of roadies. I show those for a 3 hole set up in my spec comparison chart and footnote the differences if you use a 4 hole shoe. Adjust your seat height, yes, but you need to do this for any pedal system switch.
Sidi Wire shoes (in either 3 or 4 hole versions) are ones I recommend in my Best Road Bike Shoes post. If you are committed to Speedplay, you can buy 4-hole version of these or other shoes but there is little benefit in doing so as you can easily use Speedplay with 3-hole shoes without affecting your performance. (See above.) Considering only 4-hole shoes, however, limits your shoe options as only a few are made with 4-hole options.
If you have Speedplays, you do need to take greater care not to put your foot down in mud, sand, dirt, water or combinations of same without the cleat covers. The clip-in and out mechanism is in the cleat rather than the pedal. Clearly not a system for those of us doing cyclocross or mountain bike or gravel riding or road cyclists who regularly ride in inclement weather. But for road cycling enthusiasts (not recreational cyclists) who mostly ride on the road when it’s not raining, which is probably most who read my posts, and welcome the fit options for biomechanically idiosyncratic bodies, which is probably many of us, Speedplays offer a great solution. Steve
I use the Speedplay since 2011. sometimes I step on gravel or sand or dirt on the roadside and do not experience any problems. but the Speedplay pedals themselves are afraid of water. after each wet ride it is desirable to serve them (change the grease with a special tool). for this reason, the speedplay pedals are not suitable for indoor training. due to profuse sweating during 2-3 hours of training. my very first pair of Speedplay Zero died after one or two months indoor using.
I use Speedplays on both my indoor trainer and outdoor rides. I imagine you must be sweating a phenomenal amount to cause a failure in the Speedplay cleat/pedal as it would have to land on your shoes and cranks arms and run down under your shoe, using 3x Lasco type fans I avoid sweat flying/dripping off me.
I use speedplays due to a history of knee issues. I did a LOT of research before buying as I did not want extra stack height. The solution presented itself eventually. Northwave higher spec shoes come with a sole which supports both 3 hold AND 4 hole shoes with a separately purchased ‘orthwave speedplay’ adaptor. the adaptor also has the benefit of adding about 12mm of forward/back adjustment and NO extra stack height (same 8mm as a dedicated 4-hole shoe). Highly reccomended.
Unfortunately, the adaptor (at time of purchase in 2016) did not support the newly-released speedplay walkable cleats, only the old V2 metal ones. I made it work, but only after some surgery to the adaptor and modification of some longer V2 screw heads to fit the smaller walkable cleat holes.
I hope northwave has subsequently recognised that their adaptor does not work with walkable cleats and fixed it. I don’t know anyone using speedplay who buys the dangerous old metal V2 cleats any more.
steve any difference , besides price, between the top of the line dura ace pedal and the ultegra 8000?
Steve, Dura-Ace have some added bearings which adds a bit more durability and a year to the warranty. Slightly less stack height. 25g less weight overall. Ultegra is already pretty durable and I don’t think you’ll wear them out in two years unless you are riding 10K miles/yr and perhaps not even then or notice the weight difference unless you are serious racer. $80 more for the Dura-Ace. Steve
Steve, this is exactley what i was looking for… can i ask a potentially stupid question… ive just changed from Look Keo 2s to the new Shimano DA pedals… (which seem noticably better even after a few rides). I noticed the difference in stack height in your article, 9mm for DA and 17mm for my old Keo2s.. all other things being equal, does this mean my seat should go up or down by the difference.. – gut feel is my seat is now ‘lower’ so needs to go up??
Martin, Not a stupid question at all. Move the seat up. Steve
I’m stupid. Feet are now are lower/closer to the ground so seat should move lower.
Hi Steve, I’m riding on Look but thinking about Speedplay for its dual sided clipping. I read someone saying online that it takes more effort to clip in than Look, which makes it hard to clip in on a slope after you stop when climbing, especially for someone who weighs less than 65kg. If this is true, this would concern me since I weigh 66kg.
Would be great if you could offe some comments on this. Thanks!
Mark, I find that any pedal system takes a little bit of acclimation to clip in. I don’t find one easier or harder than the other once you have become used to it. Your weight or the incline shouldn’t be any different on one pedal system versus another. They are all adjustable. Steve
The PDR Ultegra 8000’s you show above for $90 in 2018 are now on Competitive Cyclists website for $200!! Did you mean $90 per pedal?
Lol. Looks like I need to update the chart! Thanks.
Great article Steve! I was about to replace my Look pedals with the same thing, but you swayed me to by the Shimano R8000s. One thing I’ve never been able to determine is when to replace my pedals. Miles? Bearing play? I have a little play, no grinding, spins fine, but my LBS felt they were on the back nine and due to be replaced. I’m rolling with their recommendation and after 10,000+ miles probably good preventative maintenance!
Wayne, Bearing play would be the best indicator assuming all else is in good condition. Steve
Good morning. New to the site and so far love the great information. In regard to various pedals, do you know of any studies looking at which pedals allow for more foot over the pedal axle? I have really long toes and have had an incredibly difficult time even getting the ball of my foot even with the pedal axle, much less getting in front of the axle as is recommended now.
Mitchell, Welcome and thanks for your kind feedback. As best I understand it, getting the ball of your foot centered over your axle is an adjustment you make in where you put the cleat on your shoe. Some shoes have more front/back range than others but most of the better ones have plenty of range to put your cleat exactly where you want it to get your foot in the right place over the pedal axle. If your shoes don’t have enough range built in, getting ones that do would be the solution. Steve
Thanks for the detailed review, super helpful. I am interested in the Speedplay Zeros, but I’m 54kg, so assume this isn’t a good option for me given the following: “Speedplay uses a non-adjustable spring in a release mechanism that suits riders from about 145lbs/66kg to 220lbs/100kg for the model I’ve recommended.”
I understand this remains unchanged with the new Speedplay Zeros released a few days ago. Is that correct?
Michelle, From reading about the new pedals, the cleat mechanism hasn’t changed and there’s still no adjustable spring. That said, the light end of the rider weight range I wrote about was my anecdotal guidance from my own and other’s experience rather than anything Speeedplay has recommended.
There are some ways to make it easier to unclip despite the fixed spring tension. If you set it with more float, you can get more swing or wind-up to get out. I’ve also heard of some fitters easing up on the tension of the 4 screws between the cleat and shoe plate as a way to make it easier to get out. Of course, if you’ve got strong legs, no matter your weight, you’ll likely get in and out ok. Also, keeping the springs clean and lubricated is important no matter your weight and they do ease up after a few months.
If you know a shoe or bike fitter with experience with Speedplay, you might want to ask them to look at your specific situation and make an individual recommendation. Steve
The recently announced changes to the Speedplay line now include an option for an “easy release” cleat.
DaveMac, Good catch! That said, I’m always skeptical of supplier claims (and media hype) around new product introductions and will wait to test out the new Speedplay cleats before recommending them. Trying to get a few sets to test but like a lot of products now, there’s not a lot of these out there. Frustrating when they make an announcement and then have nothing to sell. Will update this post once I have more to say. Steve
after riding Looks since the inception of clip-in pedals… many years on Look Deltas and then onto Keo Blades on all the bikes in the stable…
I was disappointed that I found the Keo Blades defective over any extended period of riding.
It seemed i developed w weird wiggle in my left foot stroke…Went to the local fit guru to find out WTF was going on….
He looked at the pedal and said, “get rid of these.. they are shot. The plates and pedals warp and the bearings degrade” This was after less than 2 years (maybe 8k miles).. “Get a pair of Shimano and you’ll be fine”
I did and I am…end of story.
Hey Steve, Assuming you continued to put some miles on the Wahoo/Speedplay Zeros, do you have any “mid-long term” updates on durability and performance vs the original Speedplay Zeros?
One of the recommended vendor’s websites shows some mixed reviews. Thanks.
Continue to perform well. Have had no issues.
Hi Steve: I recently acquired a bike that comes with a Campagnolo Record groupset, including pedals. Do you know anything about Campy pedals? So far, I bought cleats (still in the package) for about $28, and then discovered that they don’t come with the hardware to install them. And that these pedals (although they weigh 266 grams/pair), also require a steel hooking clip—I think as part of the shoe/cleat setup, for another $48, not including shipping. I thought the pedals themselves might have been discontinued, but see them on Amazon for $400 plus. I’ve always used Shimano (except on a pair of Powertap pedals) and am strongly leaning toward selling the Campy pedals, returning the cleats, and forgoing the expensive hardware and hook setup. Or am I missing something? Thanks.
Jonathan, As best as I can tell, Campag has been out of the pedal game for a while. But there are a lot of loyal fans who keep the flames burning for Campag gear that has been surpassed by new Campag gear and gear from others. Especially in the case of pedals, I’d go with a system that you are comfortable with (even if it says Shimano somewhere on the hardware). Best, Steve
Power transfert might be different between 0° all other cleats, but there are no differences between a 4,5°, a 6° and a 9° cleat.
As for the stack height, I would love to see a study showing the loss in efficiency…
Samuel, I like the criticism to be constructive and clean on this site. I’ve deleted the first line of your comments to be in keeping with that spirit.
As to your comment about there being power transfer differences between 0 and 4.5 degrees of float but none beyond 4.5 and 9 degrees, the two statements would seem to be at odds with each other. You either have power transfer inefficiency as your foot floats in and out or you don’t. The power transfer inefficiency may not be linear but it is not bounded at 4.5 degrees either.
Regarding stack height, I point out in the text that “The theory goes that the lower your stack height, the more efficient your power transfer as there is less getting between the source of your power and where it is being applied.” I too would like to see a study.
I also wrote that stack height matters relatively little to power transfer and more to getting your seat height right, which will affect your power. I’ve reposted that section of the content here:
1. The stiffness of your shoe’s outsoles and stability of the interface between your cleats and pedals will matter a great deal more to power transfer than a few millimeters difference in stack height.
2. All things being equal – a stiff sole, a stable interface, a limited amount of float, good pedaling mechanics, etc. – there’s little difference between the pedals I’ve recommended or the more expensive versions of each. The Look pedals do have considerably more stack height than the others but it’s hard to quantify what effect that has.
3. Perhaps the most important thing to do with the knowledge of your stack height is to raise or lower your seat to compensate for any change in stack height from a new set of pedals (or shoes).
All of this is based on my discussions with bike fitters who see the relationship between fit and power when they set up pedals and other components that improve fit. Steve
I think you have the wrong measurements for stack on the Shimano pedals. 9mm is barely any more than the original Time Equipes that had no cleat between the shoe and pedal. Even Shimano quote 14.6mm on their website.
Sean, Fixed. Thanks. Steve