Faster Feet: Speedplay Aero Cleats

Faster Feet: Speedplay Aero Cleats

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.

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  1. Jay

    I have yet to try the aero cleats, but I truly like the Speedplay system. I had been using SPD pedals and cleats. I read an piece on another website written in reverence to Speedplay and exhorting readers to consider trying them. Needless to say, I tried them and I am a convert. I use the light action pedals so the aero cleats are not an option with that system. Maybe down the road…

  2. Rod

    I love Speedplays – on all my bikes, even the rough-ride bike gets the Szyzr pedals. And yes, the aero model walks better.

    That said, there is not a single day I walk with the cleat buddies that I don’t have to go back to pick one up; they pop out very easily. Maybe make them tighter even if that makes them harder to install. I know at least another local rider has the same issue.

  3. Les.B.

    I was using this nifty gadget for some months before I got sidelined. Even without the little insert thing the cleat is much more walkable than the standard model. Well worth getting even if one does not need the aero advantage.

  4. Davo

    Aero Schmero. The real miracle is that you don’t have to worry about carrying (and putting on) cleat covers or slipping like a cow on ice trying to walk on a hard surface. I consider them a safety upgrade. I love them.

    1. Spider

      agreed. could not believe how badly the normal cleat behaves…the the screw heads start to get worn down….just thought it was really poor engineering as I’d come from Time, Shimano and Look systems that didn’t have any of these issues.

      You could almost review Speedplay pedals as such: mountain bike pedal (float, dual sided) with pedal attached to foot and cleat attached to the crank. almost unwalkable.

  5. TomInAlbany

    Is fore/aft and left/right positioning the only ‘work’ in installing the cleat? If there’s total float, then I’d think there’s no ‘cleat angle’ part of the setup?

    1. Rod

      There is total float but it’s different than a normal spring; you can limit where the cleat detaches from the pedal both inside and outside. So it doesn’t try to “center” you like other systems but you can adjust the release angle of your shoes..

      I normally have had to reduce the play to the inside on the heel because it would rub with the crankarm before it released. It’s a simple adjustment with a couple of small screws. This is covered in the pictures above, but you can see the “in” lettering and the arrow for the corresponding screw.

    2. Author

      Yep, what Rod said. The inside limit screw can be important in keeping your heel from rubbing the crank arm or chain stay. Some folks will use a pedal spacer to reduce the need for limiting the float range.

  6. Jeff Dieffenbach

    Does Speedplay make a pedal/cleat system compatible with MTB shoes? I now run mountain SPD on all my bikes: road, CX, MTB, FTB. I don’t race road, and I don’t do much long road riding anymore, so I gave up my Looks. I no longer walk like a duck and I can do CX mounts/dismounts on all my bikes. Does Speedplay fit my use case?

    1. VeloKitty

      KeepOnKovers are available for the X series and are amazing. I absolutely love them. I did lose one side, so I had to order another set. Also, to fit on my shoes, I needed to trim them with a razor blade, but it was easy.

  7. DJ

    Another cleat cover product, Keep-on-covers, has better walk-ability and is much cheaper ( Chinese versions $8 on ebay ) that works on the zeros, X-series or light action models. I can recommend their products after using them, my only complaint is they can pop off unexpectedly and get lost. Maybe this aero cleat doesn’t have this problem.

    1. Author

      The aero cleats work much better than the Keep-on covers. Much. They don’t come off with every third step. In fact, they don’t come off except when you remove them for cleat installation/removal.

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