The clipless diaries, part 8: SPD cleat setup and adjustment

So I wrote about my new pair of Shimano MT5 shoes, and mentioned that I had already set up my cleat positioning. Here’s how I went about doing it.

You’ll need

  • shoes with two-bolt cleat mounting
  • two cleat nuts
  • waterproof sticker (bundled with many of Shimano’s shoes)
  • an SPD cleat set – I used my old SH56 multi-release cleats
  • a 4 mm hex wrench
  • a torque wrench
  • grease or thread locking compound (e.g. Loctite 243 blue)
  • a bike mounted on a turbo trainer will help massively

A look at the MT5’s outsole shows the cleat pocket, and the two parallel slots within it that are cut into the midsole material. On the photo above, they are covered up by the insole, so that has to come out first.

With the insole removed, we see the midsole. Molded in its front toebox area is a recessed pocket for accepting a cleat nut.

Provided in the box along with these shoes is the rectangular cleat nut, with four holes tapped to accept the threads of the two cleat bolts. Also provided is a sheet of two large, rectangular waterproof stickers, but we’ll get to those later. For now, just drop the cleat nut into the recessed pocket on the inside of the midsole.

Take your cleat bolts and smear the threads with a bit of grease or medium-strength thread locker. While holding the cleat nut in place inside the shoe, thread the cleat nut through the SPD cleat and tighten it with your hex wrench so it’s just snug, but loose enough for adjustment.

What I like to do to find my initial cleat position is put on the shoe and feel where the ball of my foot is along the length of the outsole, then mark it with my finger or a piece of tape. That usually serves as a good baseline. Line up the widest part of the cleat along with the position of the ball of your foot, then tighten with your hex wrench.

Test the position by pedaling a few times on the turbo trainer. If the position feels off, dismount, loosen the cleat bolts, then adjust and retighten. Then try again.

Not wearing the MT5s here, but you know what I mean.

In the case of the MT5s, I had to make a few adjustments. I moved the cleats to push out the shoes away from the crank arms to avoid interference, and brought them closer to the balls of my feet. Keep retesting each change until you’re satisfied.

Once you’ve found your final cleat position, break out the torque wrench and tighten the cleat bolts to 5-6 Nm. It’s important to tighten the two bolts alternately by a little bit until you get to correct torque, as tightening only one side too much will throw the cleat position out of whack.

With the cleats torqued down and set, peel off the waterproof sticker from its backing and put it on the recessed midsole cleat pocket, behind the cleat nut. Return the insole, and you should be ready to ride.


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