Speedplay Pedals Reviewed
Speedplay pedals are a high quality product that have gained a loyal following since they came onto the market, but are they the right choice for you? Currently the Speedplay Zero pedal is the company’s most popular offering for road cyclists. Having ridden and raced on Speedplay pedals for some years, and fitted countless Speedplay pedals for clients, here are some things to consider when comparing Speedplay to other pedal systems.
The most compelling reason to purchase Speedplay pedals is that they are, without doubt, the most adjustable pedal system on the market. Within the cleat there is a good range of fore-aft, medial-lateral and rotational (float) adjustment. What is unique and very helpful when fitting cleats is that adjustments in 3 planes can be made independent of one another via 3 sets of screws (see below). The fore-aft range can be further increased if required using a base plate extender kit. Shims to correct leg length discrepancies, and wedges for some types of forefoot alignment issues, are also available (as they are for other brands of pedals). Speedplay is one of the only manufacturers to offer 5 axle lengths to ensure a wide range of medial-lateral foot placement is possible, which is invaluable for those with narrow or wider hips than “average”. A wider or narrower foot placement can be essential to achieve excellent knee alignment and resolve knee pain.
Speedplay cleats (see image above) consist of 2 parts. The black base plate (blue arrow) allows fore-aft adjustment of the cleat on the shoe via 3 screws (it is possible to mount the cleat directly to your shoe without the base plate providing you have a 4 hole mount on your shoe). The yellow cleat (red arrow) attaches to the base plate via 4 screws and permits medial-lateral adjustment. It also houses the spring (green arrow) whose tension keeps you clipped into the pedal, along with 2 additional screws which permit adjustment of rotation (pink arrow - screws located under the walkable yellow cover).
Speedplay offers more benefits including a lower stack height than other brands (especially if the cleat is mounted directly to a 4 hole shoe mount), which is biomechanically more efficient. Stack height refers to the thickness of the cleat/pedal. The pedals are dual-sided meaning that you can clip into either side, which makes it faster to clip in every time you start. The pedals are very secure, which reduces the chance of pulling your foot in a hard effort such as a standing start or an explosive sprint. This is probably the most secure pedal I’ve ridden, although other brands, if the spring tension is tightened appropriately for the rider, are also good.
Some of the downsides to owning a set of Speedplay pedals include:
A. Speedplay pedals can be more expensive (depending on whether you choose chrome-moly, stainless or titanium axles);
B. The cleats are more expensive to buy, but do last far longer than most brands if the newer “walkable cleats” are used. These cleats have a yellow removable cover that protects the metal cleat from the rapid wear and tear of walking in your cycle shoes. Older models accept a “coffee shop cap” which you carry in your jersey pocket and fit once you stop riding. Overall the yearly cost for cleats is not dissimilar to other brands which may require 3 new sets of cleats in a year for an amateur racer.
C. In my experience the lifespan of Speedplay is considerably shorter than their main competitors Shimano and Look. Typically the plastic surfaces of the pedals wear out first resulting in lateral rocking of the shoe on the pedal, an undesirable motion. Once this happens you may be better off replacing the entire pedal than the pedal body only.
2. Maintenance: Speedplay pedals require the additional purchase of a needle point grease gun and require re-greasing once a quarter. This is typically a messy job and takes a bit of time, but prolongs pedal and life and is well worth the effort. The cleats require a dry lube (PTFE) about once per week which is quick and easy to do. Other pedals rarely need any servicing at all.
3. Fitting: usually takes longer as there are 3 times the number of adjustment screws for the standard 3 hole mount (this time cost is the price you pay for the additional adjustment available). The screws for adjusting rotation (float) are particularly small and difficult to adjust, often against some resistance resulting in the Phillips head being stripped.
4. Screw loosening: when fitting I recommend using a thread-lock as the fore-aft and medial-lateral screws are prone to loosening.
In the image above the yellow walkable cover (pink arrow) has been removed to show the adjustment / mounting screws.
5. Harder to clip into: Speedplay pedals require more force to clip into which takes some getting used to. The spring is located within the cleat and is not adjustable (other brands locate the spring within the pedal body). This makes them especially difficult for younger or smaller riders. Speedplay have recognised this issue and offer a range of “Ultra Light Action” pedals. They don’t recommend this for racing however as the risk of pulling your foot on an explosive effort is higher.
6. Speedplay pedals are not lighter: Speedplay love to advertise that their pedals are lighter than other brands…. Which isn’t really true if you include the weight of the cleats. The combined pedal and cleat weight is pretty similar to the higher spec offerings of the other brands so no real significant advantage exists here.
Overall would I recommend Speedplay? Absolutely! But I don’t think they’re for everyone. I’d choose Speedplay if you have a particular issue needing the additional adjustment, for the low stack height and the security of not pulling a foot. If you never have issues with accidentally pulling a foot when riding, and you don’t require extra adjustments, then the lower cost and hassle-free lifespan of some of the other brands might be a better choice for you.