A version of this article was originally
published in Triathlete Magazine
Dear Tech Support,
How often should the cleats for my pedals be changed? Rick, NH
Cleats are a bit like car brakes in that you may not know just how worn out they are until it fails. Luckily, many cleat designs allow for easy visual inspection and I would recommend looking at them at least monthly. I’ve outlined quick check items on some of the most popular pedal systems.
On a Speedplay, where the cleats are metal, you want to look for spring wear and the outer metal protective layer wearing thin. On the X Series pedals, spring wear will appear as flat sections on an otherwise round spring while wear on the squared off Light Action and Zero pedal springs can be harder to see and usually take longer to form. The metal protective layer on all three designs will usually start to show wear at the edges of the cleat; if you see that the metal is thin, or even missing, you will want to replace the cleat. Make sure that cleat screws are not missing and are snug and, if you can move the cleat fore and aft on the shoe, be sure to remove the cleat and firmly tighten the base plate as well. Loctite is a good idea on any screws on a Speedplay.
On a Look based design (Shimano SPD-SL, Mavic and others) with a plastic cleat you want to make sure the bolts are tight and inspect the cleat to make sure it is not wearing thin or cracked.Some plastic cleats have wear indicators that use either tiny inset holes in the cleat or a colored wear indicator (when the hole or colored section disappears, the cleat should be replaced).If your cleat does not have one of these, get a new pair of cleats and compare the thickness of the plastic where it engages on the new cleats to your old cleat.If the old cleat is under 50% as thick, replace.
Designs like the Time RSX/Impact, Crank Bros or Shimano’s SPD pedals can be hard to visually see cleat wear as the cleat engagement point are hardened steel.Frequently the pedal itself may exhibit wear before the steel cleat shows wear. As you should with any pedal, pay attention to changes in stability or the pedal disengaging prematurely or engaging weakly on these designs as this can indicated that the cleats, bearings or retention hardware could use service.
Ride hard and smart.