Cleats are an integral part of your clipless pedal system. The cleat connects your shoe firmly to your pedal. All three parts of the system must fit together exactly. Most of the time, you will first choose a pedal system that suits your needs – for a road bike, you usually pick different ones than for an (e)-mountain bike or gravel bike (you can read how to find the optimal pedal system in our detailed blog post). The cleat system is also determined by the pedal system. In this case, you can't really mix and match. You’ll always be on the safe side using the original cleats from your pedals’ manufacturer. However, there are cleat manufacturers who offer cleats for other brands' pedal systems. In any case, please note our item descriptions, where information on the compatible pedal system is always given. Cleats can also wear out eventually when you clip in and out of them repeatedly and also when you run, so they should be replaced from time to time. Read further and discover more.

2-hole and 3-hole, SPD and SPD-SL: Which cleats for what?

Cleats must fit as a link on two parts at once:

    • The clipless pedal shoe
    • The clipless pedal

On the shoe side, there are so-called two-hole and three-hole systems. The first are widely used in mountain bike pedal systems such as Shimano SPD, crankbrothers, time Atac, Hope or HT. On road bikes, three-hole cleats are more or less standard. Particularly well-known and widespread are, for example, Shimano SPD-SL or the three-hole systems from Look or time. Gravel bikers can choose from both sides, while two-hole cleats dominate on touring and everyday bikes. Beware of manufacturers who offer both pedal systems.

On the pedal side, the indication of compatibility in the product descriptions is very important. Most of the time you will choose a cleat from your pedal manufacturer for your pedal system. However, especially with the very common Shimano systems SPD and SPD SL, there are also suitable third-party cleats from manufacturers such as BBB, Exustar or Look.

A special exception are cleats for circular Wahoo Speedplay pedals. Here the spring mechanism sits in the cleats instead of in the pedal and allows you to independently adjust the clip-in and clip-out strength. The cleats are installed in special shoes via four holes, but are also three-hole compatible with an appropriate adapter.

Release angle and float: movement on clipless pedals

On the clipless pedal, the assumption is that the foot remains fixed, right? Well, it’s not that simple. Mountain bikers and other cyclists appreciate having a certain degree of foot movement before it clips out of the pedal. In many systems, this degree of movement (float) is precisely achieved via various cleats. For example, crankbrothers offers its two-hole cleats in different versions with zero or six degrees of float, which provide a release angle of ten or 20 degrees. A third cleat variant from this manufacturer allows for both aforementioned versions, depending on the direction in which the cleat is installed. Shimano offers its three-hole cleats for the SPD-SL system with zero, two or six degrees of float. With its two-hole cleats for SPD pedals, the Japanese manufacturer distinguishes between single-release (releases only when the heel is turned outwards) and multi-release variants (releases when the heel is turned inwards or outwards). So it's worth taking a second look when buying new cleats, because you can fine-tune your pedal system according to your needs.

Special cases: magnetic and hybrid pedals

Magnetic pedals like those from Magped also require cleats. However, they do not form a tight connection with the pedal and can therefore be very flat, which increases comfort while walking and reduces wear. Hybrid pedals differ from conventional clipless pedals in that they only have a clip mechanism on one side, while the other side is designed as a pure platform. Here you choose your cleat as described above so that it fits both your shoe and pedal.


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