My Latest Purchase

The other day, I went over to the LBS to drop some coin on an accessory I’ve been putting off getting for far too long. I finally got some replacement cleats for my cycling shoes.

I have a bad habit with cleats — I keep them on much longer than I should. The pair I just got rid of had been worn down to nubs. They’re Shimano SPD-SLs, and the yellow band around the clip had completely worn away. On both cleats.

Oddly, it didn’t seem to affect their usefulness. Either that, or I’d just gotten used to them. In fact, they were still on my shoes last month when I did the epic century ride.

But it being the beginning of the month, we had a little extra in the bank account, so I figured it was a good time to get the much-needed replacements.

It’s been so long since I’ve had new cleats on my shoes, I’d forgotten the difference. All of a sudden, clicking into the pedals became much easier. I could do it by feel again — nudging the pedal forward with my toe, and dropping the cleat right on top of it with a satisfying click! With the old worn ones, I was often moving my foot around, trying to find just the right interface between cleat nub and pedal.

And maybe it’s just the placebo effect, but I think I’ve got a little more power to the pedals now. On a ride the other evening, I easily cranked along in the big ring in a higher gear than normal. (Maybe it’s just that I’d had two days off the bike, so was fully recovered from the weekend rides.)

To make sure these new cleats are around for awhile, and function as well a year from now as they do today, I also sprang for a pair of cleat covers. Sticker shock — these things are now up to $17 a pair! The tab for cleats and covers came to over $51. That’s a good argument for keeping the covers in place whenever my feet are not in the pedals.

Not a big deal, but it’s a bit like washing your car. Suddenly, it seems to run better. Suddenly, I seem to pedal better.

Tighten Your Cleats!

On a recent ride, I turned into the parking lot of one of those stand-alone Walgreen’s drug stores that seem to have cropped up on every other corner, when something didn’t feel right.  My right foot was looser than it usually is.

I stopped at the edge of the lot, used the opportunity to drink from my water bottle, and then I sat on the curb to take a look at my shoes.

The cleat on the right shoe had come loose.  Not catastrophically – I could move it a little with my hand – but the constant pressure in the pedal had loosened it up.  A few quick turns of the screws with my 4 mm Allen wrench, and it was solidly back in place.

I hadn’t been experiencing the same feeling on the left shoe, but decided to take a look anyway.  Sure enough, I could tighten those screws about a half-turn each as well.

I do periodic checks of the bike between rides, making sure the tires are in good shape, that everything moves smoothly.  I guess I’ll have to add a non-bike equipment check, too, and look at those cleats every couple of months.  It could save some headaches down the road.

Cover Those Cleats!

A couple of years ago, I posted about the sorry state of my cleats.  Shortly after that, I noticed a member of my club pull up to the Starbucks where we all meet at the end of our rides.  The first thing he did was pull a pair of cleat covers from his jersey pocket, and fasten them on before walking on the sidewalk up to the shop’s patio.

It wasn’t long after that that my own cleats were due for replacement.  In the LBS, cleat covers hung on the pegs right next to the cleats.  I picked up a pair, figuring they were worth a try.

I’ve had them for about a year now, and I’m pleased with the results.  Here are some pictures to compare before and after.

These are the cleats as they looked in a brand new state.  Of course, the shoes were brand new, too.  In normal wear and tear, it doesn’t take long to completely ruin them.

Here’s what they look like after six months use – without cleat covers.  My pedals are Shimano SPD-SLs, so the cleats are made for those.  The back edge of the cleat is worn in such an irregular manner that it was hard to click into the pedals.

These are the cleats I’m currently running.  They’ve been on my shoes for about a year, but I’ve been using cleat covers with them for about that long, too.  As you can see, they’re in better shape after a year than the ones without covers were after six months.

If you get some, be sure they’re the ones made to fit your particular cleats.  The design of the covers is quite different from cleat to cleat.  This picture shows my cleat covers (right), and my wife Pat’s.

Pat hasn’t been as diligent about putting on her covers, and the other day she complained that she couldn’t get her covers to stay on the cleats.  They kept falling off.  The problem was that the back edge of her cleats had become worn from walking on them without covers.  The cleats are still in reasonably good shape, so she’ll probably keep using them for a while longer, but they’ll still have to be replaced soon.

Cleats aren’t cheap.  Looks are $20, SPD-SLs are $30, and Speedplays are about $40 (Prices from Performance web site).  So if I have to spend between $9-13 to get an extra six months wear out of the cleats, it’s a purchase I’m happy to make.