For nearly a year I’ve been riding the Speedplay Aero Cleats. Put another way, I’ve been loving the Speedplay Aero Cleats for nearly a year. I became a fan of Speedplay 20 years ago, with the original X pedal, and made the switch to Zeros a four or five years later.
While I continue to marvel at the improvements other pedal systems make, none have earned my ongoing loyalty (and preference) the way Speedplay has. While there are many reasons to recommend Speedplay, double-sided engagement and unrestricted float are the only two reasons I need. Every time I go to another pedal system, those micro-position issues remind me why I’ll be a Speedplay user until I hang up my cleats.
Little known fact: Speedplay is the most aerodynamic pedal system on the market. It beats Look, Shimano, Time—everyone else, in that regard. And that’s just the Zero pedal. Last year they introduced the aero pedal system, making the most aerodynamic pedal and cleat even more aerodynamic. What’s great is that you needn’t buy the aero pedal to get the new cleat. I spoke with an engineer I know at a bike company, a guy paid to run CFD software on designs. At this point in his career he has a sixth sense about aerodynamics and he said that most of the gains in the Speedplay aero pedal are actually in the cleat.
The new aero cleat has dimples like a golf ball. Those dimples create a boundary layer to smooth the airflow over the cleat and pedal. Yeah, think golf ball or Zipp wheel. It’s the same effect.
The aerodynamic gain in the new cleat isn’t even its best feature. It’s true that the Speedplay cleat isn’t super-walkable. Or, it hasn’t been.
Look, I get it; it’s hard to get excited about cleats. And a new cleat isn’t going to make anyone change pedal systems. That said, after so many years of hearing the sound of that metal cleat on concrete, the combination of a more walkable cleat that is quieter (and softer on floors) with greater aerodynamics has my nerdy little heart going pitter-patter.
In addition to making the cleat more walkable, Speedplay has added what they call Cleat Buddies; two caps that fill the pedal recess and lock in with a quarter-turn. If you’ve ever made the mistake of stepping in some sand or mud, the Cleat Buddies sell themselves.
At $55, the aero cleat is a bit more expensive than the standard Zero cleat, but so far as I can tell it lasts longer, so it’s an improvement in every possible sense.
Final thought: Maybe this cleat is good enough that people who don’t use Speedplay ought to switch.