Monday maintenance: Pedal to the metal: Part 1 - Bike Magic

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Monday maintenance: Pedal to the metal: Part 1

First of all, thanks to Tom for the idea of covering pedals in our regular Monday maintenance feature. Rather than go straight in with how to strip them down we thought we’d best fill you in on how to set them up first.

Different types
Not all cleats are created equal.

There are many different types of clipless pedal available, many of which use slightly different clip mechanisms and cleat patterns. Some of these are compatible with each other while others aren’t. Although in theory you’ll only ever use the cleats that go with the pedals, having more than one pair of shoes, more than one bike or borrowing a mate’s means you might get caught out.

Before you try stamping in and then trying desperately to escape here’s a brief guide to compatibility. Don’t go blaming us if fireman have to cut you from your bike or if you’re running a combination we say doesn’t work though, as it’s mostly from memory;

Time, Shimano M858, Speedplay, Bebop, Eggbeater (and for retro fans Look and Tioga) only work with their own kind.

Wellgo and VPP (this includes Scott, FPD, CODA, Ritchey and some other “own brands”) sort of work OK amongst each other but you’re definitely best sticking to the genuine cleat. Shimano will clip in eventually but you’ll have a really hard time getting out of them – especially Shimano + Wellgo combo’s.

All Shimano SPD (except M858 and SPD-R road pedals, but including (M959) are intercompatible. Single direction release (SM-SH52) or multi-release (SM-SH55) cleats are available to further tune release. Bontrager, WTB and the very latest 2003 Ritchey pedals also work OK with Shimano cleats.

Load of cobblers
It’s a sole, man!

Happily all of the above cleats fit the same twin slot shoe plate design, but check that the tread pattern allows a clean twist and release. In particular be wary of big toothy treads on combined clipless and platform pedals (we speak from bloodied experience!)

Some clipless compatible shoes are very shy about their slots though and hide them under a thin section of tread rubber. If you have to take their cherry, go very gently with a sharp knife but be careful not to slip as it can get bloody.

Some shoes have a sliding cleat plate built into the sole, while others need the insole removing and the cleat adding afterwards. Whichever you’ve got just make sure you grease the threads very thoroughly as nowhere comes in for more corrosive grief than your cleats.

Most cleats work on either side of the shoe, but some (Time and Eggbeaters) give a different release angle depending on which side you put them, so check you’ve got it right before you bolt them loosely in place. Now it’s the very important job of aligning them correctly.

Angle of dangle
Do your trotters turn in or turn out?

Although different pedal systems give different amounts of sideways rotation (float) before they release the angle you set the cleats at will always govern the position of your shoe relative to the bike.

It is vital that you mimic the natural angle of your foot as closely as possible on the bike, otherwise you are putting a twisting stress through your knees that can cause serious joint problems. The best way to measure this is to sit on a high stool and let you feet dangle naturally. If they turn in or turn out noticeably, then set your shoes so they do the same, taking the centre line of the shoe as a line running from toe centre to heel centre.

Eye on the ball
Get ‘on the ball’ for pedalling perfection.

Centering the cleat under the ball of the foot is also essential to give the most efficient push and use of shin and calf muscles.

If you grab your hoof, you’ll feel the ‘ball’ where toes meet foot as the widest part, but it’s a diagonal rather than straight line. You can site the cleat visually by noting the centre point of this line on the shoe upper and then bolting the cleat directly underneath or if the shoe sole is soft you can do it by feel. Simply remove the insole and stand on a small raised block so all your weight is supported by the cleat. Keep moving it until it feels central to the ball of your foot.

Most cleats allow some sideways movement too, so take the opportunity to move the shoe as close to the crankarm as possible, as the width of pedalling stance (‘Q’ factor) should be as narrow as possible to ease stress on your knees.

Once you’ve got these measurements ‘right’ then bolt the cleat firmly into the shoe (a few turns at a time on each bolt rather than fully tightening one then the other) and try clipping the shoe in. Hopefully everything should feel natural and unstressed and the centre line of the pedal axle should sit directly under the ball of your foot.

Please release me!
Loosen ‘em up or lock ‘em down.

If you’re getting used to clipless pedals for the first time, or just don’t like the feeling of being locked in too tight then you’ll need to adjust the release pressure of the pedal spring. This is done with the little screw at the back of the pedal. Turning it anti clockwise reduces pressure, turning it clockwise increases pressure and a little visible tab in a slot in the pedal body (looking from above towards the back of the pedal) tells you where you are in the scale of tightness.

Be careful not to wind it too far though or you’ll unscrew the spring tab altogether and it’s a right pain to re-engage. Don’t go looking for an adjuster on Time pedals either as there isn’t one. Just switch cleats from left to right to change release angles.

You’re now ready to ride off into the sunset – hopefully without falling over with your feet locked in too many times.

Next Week: now you’ve got your pedals working we’ll tell you how to keep them that way. With pictures and everything!


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