Loose Screws Part 1: SPD Cleats Require Hex Screws

SPD Cleats and Screw Types

If you’ve dabbled in a few disciplines of cycling, you’ve inevitably noticed that different cleat types utilize multiple screws: hex, flathead, and Phillips.  Although these are technically interchangeable (threading and length could be equal), there is a reason behind using specific screw heads for certain cleats.

In today’s example, we’ll focus on SPD cleats.  Unlike other cleats (Look 3-screw and Speedplay 4-screw), there are only 2 fasteners and a minimal contact surface.  This means that the screws used in an SPD application must have the highest torque level possible to prevent slippage, bolt loosening, and potential crashes.

During the development of the original Cleat Wedges, I knew that a secure connection was imperative, considering the addition of a wedge would impact the cleat-to-shoe connection.  Initially, I tested numerous screw types, including Philips head screws.

Although Philips head screws are ubiquitous and inexpensive, they were designed for a screwdriver to cam out or slip out of the head when torque reaches a certain amount. We tested Phillips head screws for one day and found it impossible to get an SPD compatible cleat fastened tight enough.

Consequently, BikeFit chose to invest in hex screws like most 2-hole cleat manufacturers (Shimano, Look, Time, Crank Brothers…etc.).  Hex screws provide the torque necessary for a secure connection with 2-hole cleat applications.

Considering that SPDs or 2-hole cleats are used rigorously by mountain bikers, road riders, and commuters throughout the world, you would think that any cleat or wedge manufacturer would likely arrive at the same conclusion through ample testing.

Unfortunately, some manufacturers chose an inexpensive, unreliable alternative, even at the cost of rider safety.  When you purchase cleats or cleat wedges, investigate the type of screws included and choose wisely. 

-Paul Swift, CyclePoint CEO, BikeFit Founder, and the BikeFit Team

Which Type of Cleat Wedges Work with Your Bicycle Cleats?

Most cycling shoes are designed to work with clipless pedals and feature holes drilled in the soles for attaching cleats. The bicycle cleat engages with the pedals to create a secure connection. Cleats are supplied with your pedals, and they should match the type of cycling shoes, whether road-specific or off-road/multi-use-specific.

bicycle cleats

Some cycling shoes are drilled to accept both 3- and 2-hole bicycle cleat designs, but most will accept only one or the other. Shoes made for use with 2-hole systems cannot be modified to use a 3-hole cleat. The 4-hole Speedplay® pedal system can be adapted to fit 3-hole shoe styles.  There are a few shoe brands/specific models drilled with 4-hole Speedplay-specific bolt pattern.

What’s the difference in functionality?

The 2-hole system is commonly known as the SPD system (SPD = Shimano ® Pedaling Dynamics). The 2-hole system can be used for all types of riding, including road cycling, mountain biking, touring and commuting. When paired with some shoes, the recessed cleat design allows easier walking. Most off-road racing, where a mud shedding cleat design offers an advantage, is where a small two-hole cleat is popular.  There is a road-specific version known as “SPD-SL” (3-hole bolt pattern).  Get SPD Cleat Wedges.

SPD Wedges Bicycle Cleats

 

The 3-hole system is also known as the Look-style system (for the pioneering manufacturer/brand, Look Cycles). The 3-hole system is most often used for road cycling because it offers a stable platform for energy transfer while riding. The soles of many performance oriented shoes are often made more for riding than walking with stiff soles and little tread.  The larger cleat design incorporates a three-fastener connection, which is much more secure connection than with two fasteners like the ones found with the 2-hole type. Popular brand names of 3-hole bicycle cleats are; Look ®, Shimano SL, Time ® Road and others.  Get Look Cleat Wedges.

 

Look Wedges Bicycle Cleats

The 4-hole system is associated with the Speedplay® pedal/brand.  Speedplay design has the clasping mechanism on the cleat, rather than on the pedal, like with SPD and Look systems.  In this system, the shoes are made more for riding than walking.  The system with a four-fastener connection, generally offers more adjustability options in the foot/pedal connection, often making it a favorite of bike fitters.  We offer these in both the Walkable™ style (shown below) and regular road cleat style.

Speedplay Wedges Bicycle cleats

cleat wedges

Please feel to e-mail us with any questions regarding how your pedal/cleats fit with your wedges.  Contact us!

In The Shoe Wedges or Cleat Wedges?

In The Shoe Wedges

As long as you are talking about BikeFit branded wedges, this is not one wedge against another. Both of the wedge styles offered from BikeFit work extremely well. Each wedge, however, has its place.  In most cases, it’s preferential to use the Cleat Wedge.

When to Use In-the-Shoe Wedges

1.) Cleats not compatible with Cleat Wedges

In the Shoe

 

The In The Shoe (ITS) Wedge often is a “fill in” product for types of cleats that are not compatible with Cleat Wedges like Crank Brothers. However,  Crank Brothers provide a shoe shield (seen on the left) where you can use Cleat Wedges with their cleats.

 

 2.) Hyper-Mobile Feet

A hypermobile foot would be a good place to use an ITS in combination with a Cleat Wedge. This type of foot needs more support. A more rigid foot tends to be more responsive with less wedging and the Cleat Wedge is a better solution for most rigid feet.  This also may be a great option for those who have room in their shoe and would not be affected by the change in volume inherent with the addition of In The Shoe Wedges.

3.) Diagnostics

In-The-Shoe Wedges are also great for diagnostics. If you are looking to determine the effects of wedging on cycling mechanics, ITS Wedges provide the ability to make quick changes.  This also holds true if you are testing out comfort but do not want to take the time to remove your cleats, add cleat wedges, and realign (time saver).  We should mention that this is usually a temporary change.  Once the comfort or mechanics are confirmed, the first choice to correct your foot’s natural angle/tilt is almost always cleat wedges.

In The Shoe Wedges

4.) Fine Tuning

In-The-Shoe Wedges also offer a fine-tuning option for cyclists “in-between” wedge levels or it is tough to tell if 2 cleat wedges or 3 cleat wedges is the better solution. In other words, if 2 or 3 cleat wedges help correct your mechanics and reduce foot pain, try using 2 cleat wedges and add an ITS as the 3rd wedge. Go out on a ride and spend some with the ITS in the shoe and some time with it in your back pocket. Over a period of time, you will usually discover the preferred amount of cleat wedging.  For many cyclists, you may require more than 3 Cleat Wedges.  Since we do not recommend using more than 3, the ITS wedge provides the extra bit of tilt needed!

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