When Should Cleats Be Replaced?

When riding earlier this week, I had a heckuva time trying to engage my cleats. Usually, I can click in without looking, but on this particular ride I missed the pedal every time. That’s especially bothersome when trying to cross a busy intersection, even when the cross traffic is stopped by a red light. When I got home, I took a look at my cleats:

Yipes! The right one, especially, the one I use to click in almost exclusively, seems to be beyond worn. No wonder I couldn’t get the cleat to engage the pedal. It’s a far cry from what they looked like when they were new:

Then, I joined our regular Sunday morning club ride today. About halfway through the ride, I realized I was having no trouble getting the cleat to click into the pedal. I was — still am — baffled. Why did it give me such trouble four days ago, but not today?

And just when should cleats be replaced?

I know from experience that they should be. The cleat I had in my previous shoes wore this badly, and once it came right out of the pedal at a bad time — when I was applying power to climb a hill. In fact, that happened more than once, and the second time I crashed because I lost control of the bike.

So I’m going to get a new set of cleats ASAP. As I said, they’re obviously way past replacement time. But just when are cleats worn badly enough to merit replacement? Are there things to look for that serve as replacement clues?


  1. says

    Just how did you get a hold of my cleats???

    Kidding aside, I just changed mine, and I never EVER will wait that long again – what a difference.

  2. says

    I use Shimano Mountain SPDs so there are no plastic bits to wear off or foul the mechanism. I use them until they start to get troublesome in disengaging. That has been taking about 10000 miles of commuting use with lots of stops. Oddly, it always seems as though the right cleat gives trouble first, the one that clips in at the beginning of the ride and stays in until I reach my destination (I always unclip on left to prevent falling over into traffic if hit my a sudden windburst–it’s never happened on clipless but did once on toe clips).

    Having a bit of steel on the ball of the foot doesn’t cause walking problems for me–my cycling shoes are Lake Storm MTB shoes in the winter and Keen Commuter sandals above 50F (with socks until about 65F).

  3. oldguy says

    Yours look just like mine before I replaced them during Christmas. I wasn’t sure when I should replace so I took them in to Bicycle Sports Shop. The guy took one look, said “yikes” and handed me a new pair.

    One lesson learned on replacing: I had the cleats fitted by the shop originally and they got the position perfect. So before, I replaced them I outlined the cleat with a marker pen. Made positioning the new ones real easy.

  4. says

    I use “oldguy’s” marker outline technique as well. (Cleat adjustment for me is the same as saddle adjustment – it can take me weeks to get it dialed in correctly.) You should replace your cleats at whatever point you notice it easily and/or unexpectedly disengaging. I use “old skool” Onza H.O. pedals/cleats and since they haven’t been manufactured in the last 15 years I try to milk every mile possible out of mine before scouring Ebay for replacements.

  5. Matt says

    I’ve always used mountain/SPD pedals and cleats – they’re cheaper and tend to last a really long time (at least the Shimano ones). Your roadie friends might scoff… but they work!

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