How to Position SPD Cleats

Written by matthew ferguson
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In the world of cycling, the toe clip eventually gave way to the "clipless" pedal. Rather than joining the foot to the pedal through the use of straps and toe clips, clipless pedals utilised an adjustable binding. A cleat affixed to the underside of a cycling shoe joined the foot to the binding. SPD -- System Pedaling Dynamics -- is Shimano's version of this system. Positioning the SPD cleat properly is crucial to comfort and the optimum transfer of power from the foot to the pedal.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 4mm hex key

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  1. 1

    Turn one or the other of your SPD cycling shoes over to expose the cleat holes on the bottom. There are two sets of these holes.

  2. 2

    Orient the cleat so that the narrow, pointed end faces the front of the shoe.

  3. 3

    Place the hollow centre of the cleat over one set of cleat holes on the shoe. Choose the set that places the cleat directly at the centre of the ball of your foot. If you are unsure of the approximate position of the ball of your foot in the shoe, place your foot in the shoe and identify the spot.

  4. 4

    Hold the cleat in place. Place the rectangular-shaped adaptor in the recess atop the cleat.

  5. 5

    Thread one of the two bolts included with each cleat into a hole at the centre of the cleat. Use a 4mm hex key to tighten the bolt. Install the second bolt, then tighten it as well.

  6. 6

    Install the second cleat on the bottom of the other SPD shoe. Use the position on the first shoe as a guide for positioning the cleat.

  7. 7

    Take your bicycle for a ride. While riding, check that neither cleat causes the foot to rub against the bicycle crank while pedalling. If the foot rubs the crank, use the 4mm hex to key to reposition the cleat closer toward the inside of the shoe. The SPD shoe allows for an adjustment range of 5mm right to left. Moving the cleat toward the inside of the shoe will place the side of the foot further from the side of the crank.

  8. 8

    Check the fore-aft position of each cleat while pedalling the bicycle. This often comes down to a matter of "feel," but generally the cleat should place the ball of the foot directly over the pedal axle. The SPD shoe provides a fore-aft adjustment range of 20mm. If the initial fore-aft position of the cleat is not to your liking, use the 4mm hex key to reposition the cleat, and test the new position.

Tips and warnings

  • While experimenting with the positioning of your SPD cleats choose an area free of cars and other such obstacles to ride your bicycle. Part of your attention will be focused on your cleats, and cars can present a dangerous distraction.

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