The clipless diaries, part 11: Shimano SPD cleat replacement

While COVID19 lockdown is in place and spells of outdoor riding not feasible, it’s quite a good time to go over your riding gear and do some maintenance.

Today I’ll be replacing my old, worn Shimano SPD cleats with fresh ones. After setting up their position, however, how do you install the new cleats in the same exact place the old ones used to be? For that, I use some painter’s tape (or masking tape) and a felt-tip marking pen.

To begin with, I stick three pieces of painter’s tape around the SPD cleat pocket. Then, with the felt-tip marking pen, I make three marks on the old cleat: one up front, and one on each side. I extend these marks so that they are laid down on the pieces of painter’s tape.

The basic idea here is to have a nice position reference on the sole of the shoe. With the marks on the affixed pieces of painter’s tape, you have now effectively saved the old cleat’s position.

Before removing the old cleat, however, get your new cleat and place it directly over the old one. Then, using the marks on the painter’s tape, extend them back on to the new cleat.

Now, you can finally remove the old cleat and its bolts. Position the new cleat, matching its position with the marks you’ve made around the painter’s tape on the sole, then torque its bolts down to 5-6 Nm. Don’t forget to grease the bolt threads first.

Repeat on the other shoe; you can even reuse the painter’s tape on its sole.

That’s pretty much it! This is a simple ten-minute job that, given that SPD cleats are made of hard-wearing steel and usually recessed, doesn’t have to be done all that frequently. I tend to run SPD cleats for at least a year before replacing, and they usually last even longer than that. However, their pedal retention does eventually worsen with prolonged use and general wear and tear.


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