Already a convert or thinking about foraying into clipped-in comfort? Either way, Rob Banino has clicked on the cleats and tested three sets…
Clipless (or, more accurately, clip-in) pedals attach to your cycling shoe, keeping your feet firmly on the pedal and therefore allowing you to use energy more efficiently. It’s a two-part system, so if you choose, say, a set of Speedplay-specific shoes, you’ll be committed to those pedals.
Three-bolt shoes can, however, be used with Speedplay cleats using an adapter – worth noting if you’d like to try both but don’t want to be stuck with one. Or you could just buy more bike shoes! Weight differences between pedals tend to be so small that it’s not worth the extra cash for high-end models; most manufacturers use a very similar mechanism on all their pedals, with the only change being the materials used.
Speedplay reverse the usual pedal/cleat design, with the pedal acting as the cleat while the retention system is attached to your shoe. Having things this way round means the pedals are lighter (103g each) but there’s a 72g collection of clips, covers, baseplates and bolts to fit to each of your shoes, adding up to a 350g total package. But while the Zero Stainless may be heavier, they’re also double-sided, which makes for considerably easier engagement, as they’re always the right way up. They offer plenty of float, so they’re worth considering if you have bad knees, and the rubber ‘cleat’ covers make trotting through transition a relative breeze. Setting them up is a faff, though, as they require more bolts and also specific shims (supplied) to match the base plates to your shoes.
Verdict: The best tri race option thanks to pedals and ‘cleats’ 87% (awarded 'best on test')
The Ultegra (SPD-SL PD-6800) set-up weighs 330g (258g for the pedals, 72g for the cleats and bolts) and comes with yellow-tipped cleats that provide 6° of float. But the connection between the cleats and the pedals is so tight that float feels almost non-existent. Blue and red-tipped cleats are sold separately with 2° and 0° respectively but, based on how anchored the yellow versions feel, they’re unnecessary. All cleats need to be set up carefully, but it’s worth taking extra care with these. There’s also another issue: their width. They’re similar in size to Look’s but Shimano’s add rubber-tipped ‘wings’ on the sides for grip while walking. These may give them a slightly more stable ‘stance’, but it also means they poke out from underneath each instep by a good centimetre, making them prone to catching on the other shoe when walking.
Verdict: A rock-solid connection but tough to disengage 81%
The Blades come with bog-standard Kéo cleats rather than the rubber-tipped ‘Grip’ versions so are a nightmare to walk in. But they’re intended for pedalling not walking, and when the cleats are clipped into the Kéo Blade pedals they work extremely well. Engagement is positive and secure, release is easy and, at 318g, it’s the lightest set-up here (249g for the pedals, 69g for the cleats). There’s 4.5° of float in the grey cleats (supplied) although options with 9° (red) or 0° (black) are sold separately. Earlier incarnations of Look pedals were weighted to make them hang at the right angle to hook the cleats straight in. The Blades don’t have that dangle but the undersides are big and flat enough to push against while you perform the foot gymnastics to flip them over.
For lots more of the best tri kit currently available, check out our triathlon gear guides