Bike shoes and cleats are important equipment for cyclists to reach their maximum performance. Setting them up can be daunting, considering the precision that is seemingly required. Hence, certain know-how can come in handy.
Let’s take a look at how to install cleats on bike shoes. While we won’t be using specialized instruments to get everything in place, you might be surprised at how simple the process can be even when taking care of it on your own.
Table of Contents
What You’ll Need
- Bike shoes
- Biking cleats (any type)
- Allen wrench or screwdriver
- Painter’s tape
- Marking pen
- High stool or chair
- Grease or lubricant for cleats
Guide to Installing Cleats on Bike Shoes
The installation process is similar, whether you’re installing cleats on road bike shoes or MTB shoes.
While MTB cleats are different from road types (they are secured with two bolts rather than three bolts), SPD cleats position or that of any variation is determined similarly, so there’s no problem with using a single procedure for all of them.
Different types may use different tools to put cleats on cycling shoes. SPD cleat installation requires a 4mm Allen key (the same as SPD-SL) while Speedplay needs a Phillips screwdriver and Look cleats suit a 3mm wrench.
The process is also the same for indoor cycling shoes, so you can attach cleats to Peloton shoes the same way.
Step 1: Mark the right cycling shoe cleat position
First, we need to find the right spot for cleat placement on bike shoes. Cut two strips of tape with similar lengths that must be long enough to cover around a third of the shoe length. Stick the tape to the sides of each shoe.
Have your marker at the ready and feel the sides of your feet; you’re looking for the metatarsal, which is the widest section of each foot. These serve as our reference points for attaching the cleats to the correct position.
Mark the cycling cleat position by drawing a line on the tape on the inner and outer sides of each shoe.
Step 2: Install and adjust cleats on bike shoes
Before attaching cleats to cycling shoes, it helps to apply grease to them before securing them to the sole; this will make it easier to adjust the cleats.
Take a ruler or any item to help you mark a straight line running between the marks on each shoe. Note the mid-point on this straight line.
Take your cleats and adjust the cleat position forward or back until it’s slightly behind the midpoint we took note of earlier. Bolt it in place, but do not tighten it fully, just enough to keep the cleat in place.
From here, we’ll proceed to the next adjustment we need to make, the rotation.
Step 3: Determine cleat rotation
Seat yourself on a high chair or surface; it needs to be high enough to let your feet hang naturally without touching the floor. You will need to observe how each foot is oriented and the degree to which they angle.
The rotation of each cleat will depend on the orientation of the foot on the same side. If your foot rotates outward, then we’ll compensate by rotating the cleat inward at the same degree.
Make the adjustments based on each foot as it won’t be strange for one foot to be different from the other.
Tighten the bolt fully to lock the cleat in place, but you may need a bit of trial and error to get the right adjustment. Try cycling a short distance to see how it feels; there should be no pain or discomfort if you were able to set up cleats properly.
Tips to Replicate Cleat Fit on Your Cycling Shoes
There are a few different ways to apply the same cleat adjustment on another shoe. The easiest method involves commercial products such as Crankbrothers template stickers that help mark the cleat spot from your older shoe.
You can also apply tape to the side of both pairs and mark the position of the metatarsals, similar to how we did it above. However, it is very difficult to replicate the exact placement of cleats, especially between two different kinds of shoes, and it may be a good idea to just start from scratch instead.
Frequently Asked Questions
Purpose of cleats on bike shoes? Why use them?
These are attachments at the sole of biking shoes that attach to clip-in pedals on bicycles. Many veterans opt for clip-in pedals to improve their performance.
Using cleats allows the feet to be in constant contact with the pedal. Directly linking the cyclist’s foot to the pedals makes it easier to consistently apply force. Even movements that should not be possible become doable; a good example of this is pulling the pedal up with your feet.
Cleats are important for cyclists to be able to output their maximum power as flat pedaling over 80 rpm becomes inefficient due to slippage.
Can I attach cleats to regular shoes?
Yes, you can attach them to regular shoes. However, bike shoes are specially designed to accommodate cleats, and the lack of thick and stiff soles will result in the standard footwear material tearing.
Durability aside, it will also be very uncomfortable to wear regular shoes with attached cleats.
Are there different types of cleats for cycling shoes?
Yes, and we’ll cover only four popular types. The first is the clip in SPD cleats that are standard for mountain bike and all-terrain use. These use a two-bolt system, making them good cycling cleats for beginners.
The second is SPD-SL cleats, which are made by Shimano but focus on road use and use three bolts instead.
Next is the Look cleats, which are the road bike standard and have a wider point of contact, giving them better power transfer.
Speedplay is another road-riding cleat but is distinct due to its high level of float, although this design is harder to use with its limited shoe compatibility.
How do you determine shoe compatibility?
Shoe compatibility is determined by the number of bolts. Whether you’re working on Shimano shoes or Nike bike shoes, the system is the same.
Two bolts are used on mountain bike shoes, and Shimano SPD cleats are the universal choice that is easy to walk in. The three-bolt is used for road bike shoes, including Look and SPD-SL, which were mentioned before.
Speedplay is also for road use but has a 4-bolt system instead, making it more difficult to match; however, the manufacturer also has models that are also compatible with the three-bolt system.
Now you know how to install cleats on bike shoes. It will likely take some trial and error, but getting hands-on experience will be very helpful. You’ll be able to take care of it in no time, whether you install SPD cleats or those for road use.
Do you use cleats on bike shoes yourself? What type do you use and what made you want to use them? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.
Always ride safely.
“I ride my bike to work for years, but is that enough? Our carelessness towards our surroundings has taken a toll on the environment. And now, everyone is responsible for changes; even the most minor contribution is counted. With this hope and spirit, I started with my partner to establish Biketoworkday to help more individuals commute to their work sites on their bikes.”