A Cyclist’s Guide on How To Fit Clipless Pedal Cleats

Cleats on shoes do wear out. They are not an item, I’m afraid, that last forever.

How often you need to replace them depends a little bit on how much you ride, but actually mainly on how much time you spend walking around in your cycling shoes. Basically, how much time do you spend in cafes when you’re supposed to be riding? Now, replacing them is a simple process, but it’s absolutely critical that you get the new cleats in exactly the same position as your old cleat, in order to prevent any injuries. So, coming up are ways of making sure that your cleat is in the right place, both a new cleat on an old shoe and getting the right position on a new pair of shoes. Putting a new cleat on an old shoe is by far, the simpler process of the two.

All you’ve got to do, is before loosening any bolts, is draw an outline of the old cleat on the shoe. Now you could use a permanent marker to do that, you could use a Tippex, which will show up more clearly on the sole of the shoe. But with both of those, I find, that it’s slightly harder to actually get in to mark the exact position of the cleat. So, my preferred method is to use electrical tape. So with that, you can get it in exactly the right place.

You can see I’ve got tape at the front and the back to mark how far forward or back the cleat is, and then I’ve got two diagonals there, that tell me exactly what angle the cleat needs to be at. Then it’s a case of loosening the bolts, greasing the new ones up, and popping the new cleat in exactly the right place. Now when it comes to replicating cleat position on a new pair of shoes, there’s clearly gonna be some issues, even if, like I am here, you’re using the same make and model of shoe. Because, in the first instance, you have nothing to mark the cleat on And even these lines here, we would always advise against using them.

Not all manufacturers can be relied upon, and most of them aren’t as usefully placed or detailed as these ones. So, you need a new technique and this is actually our secret one that was inspired by a pro-mechanic at the Tour de France, last year Tape a piece of paper carefully over the edge of a straight edge, like a table, or your work bench. Place your old shoe on the bench, with the cleat tightly positioned against the edge. Now, using a straight edge, like a ruler, translate the key points of the shoe to the paper So the very back of the shoe, which will govern the correct forward-backward position of the cleat, then either side of the back of the shoe, which relates to the twist on the cleat, and then finally, mark either side of the cleat itself, where it hits the bench. Then, drop a straight edge from the inside point of your shoe, and mark it on the paper. That will decide your Q-factor Attach a new cleat onto a new shoe, and then using your marks as a template, line it up with them before tightening to the correct torque, and then rechecking for accuracy.

Okay, what if you are going for the double whammy? New shoes, and new pedals Well, first of all, good luck to you. No, seriously though, golden rule is if you are doing any major changes like that, that you give a bit of bedding-in time, so don’t fit new cleats, new shoes, and then go and ride 100 miles the next day. That’s asking for trouble. But, we still have use for our old shoes

‘Cause if you’re happy with your cleat position, then you want to take note of the little mark on the side of your cleat. Now, these are looks, but most pedal manufacturers have them. And that little mark shows where the pedal axle sits in relation to the cleat. So, what we do is we put the shoe back on, and we find the little bony point on the ball of your foot, both on the inside of your foot and on the outside. And then make a mark on the outside of the shoe that corresponds to that point.

Now, if you don’t want to use a marker, pen, whatever, you can always use a piece of tape, again. Then, you take note of where that sits in relation to that all-important mark on the cleat. And then, regardless of whether you’re using new pedals and new cleats, that position will remain the same. So normally, you’re probably find that it’s about half a centimetre to a centimetre behind the ball of your foot. Although we won’t get into that here, that’s a video in itself.

With those three techniques then, we should have you covered, but there is always the option of buying a specific cleat fitting jig. Now they’re relatively inexpensive, they are accurate so they reduce the margin for error, and they are probably less time consuming.