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.

Advertisements

The clipless diaries, part 7: Shimano MT5 mountain touring shoes

I’ve had my Shimano RT33 road touring shoes for a while now, and they’ve held up very well in all sorts of riding – from the turbo trainer, to the commute, to long rides, and even a 200-kilometer audax. They’ve seen better days, though, and walking around in them has worn down the outsole, leading to increasingly frequent cases of the cleats clicking and cracking on hard floors and tiles.

My wife and I saw the revamped Shimano road touring line when we visited Y’s Road in Shinjuku, but were put off by the price. The lace-up RT4 and Velcro-strapped RT5 shoes, as spiffy as they are, each cost more than double my RT33s, so there went my plan of trading like for like.

Shimano RT4 (SH-RT400) road touring shoe

Shimano RT5 (SH-RT500) road touring shoe

While the RT4 and RT5 don’t seem to have made it to our shores, the locally available MT5 (SH-MT500) caught my eye. I picked these up for PhP4550 at Bike Town Cyclery along Chino Roces Ave. Extension in Makati.

A surprise lurked within the box. Shimano throws in a pair of ankle-high white socks for free…and they’re really nice socks. The only complaint I have with them is the shouty Shimano embroidery on the front of the ankle cuff.

The shoes come either in this deep orange-tinted red, or in an all-black colorway with tiny blue accents. Normally I avoid the color, but that red really does it for me; it comes close to the orange Giro used on its nice but pricey Terraduro.

Too many mountain bike shoes look like they escaped from a skate park. It’s not a look I’m a fan of, which is why I gravitated towards the lithe road shoe looks of the RT33s in the first place. The MT5s look more like a normal sneaker, with just enough “chunk” – much like the Terraduro I mentioned.

The MT5’s upper smacks of intelligent design all around. Closure is by a single Velcro strap at the top, with elastic “speed laces” tightened by a drawstring closure at the middle. Putting them on and off my feet is a quick and easy affair, while retaining the fine fit adjustment available with lace-up sneakers.

The slider for tightening the laces has a hook at the end, which is intended to catch on the bottom run of laces. This secures them against getting tangled in your chain and chainrings. Neat.

That “X” on the Velcro strap and the ankle loop at the back are gray for a reason: they’re reflective. Really neat.

While the MT5 is part of a revamped Shimano shoe lineup, its knobbly lugged rubber outsole is actually carried over from older models, such as the MT34 and MT44.

Shimano SH-MT34 mountain touring shoe. The MT5 carries over its lugged outsole.

Walking around in it reveals why. Compared to the RT33 and its stiff outsoles, which you rocked back to front to walk, these MT5s are very comfortable to walk in. They move with your foot, with flexible feel and mechanical grip almost as good as a decent hiking or running shoe. Coupled with a roomy toe box, I feel I can really live in these kicks. (They’re still clumsy to drive a car with, at best.)

Shimano does rate them lower for stiffness. They come up to a 4 on their 12-point scale compared to the RT33’s rating of 5, so that may become an issue on an audax-distance ride.

RT33 vs MT5, front view

RT33 vs MT5, side view

At size 44, the MT5s are larger and bulkier overall than my same-size RT33s. Cleats fitted, I had to push them outward slightly to avoid them bashing into the crank arms while pedaling. They also have double the RT33’s stack height from the thicker outsole.

MT5s on my feet, along with the bundled ankle-high socks.

The MT5s look like a pretty normal shoe.

Despite the slightly lower stiffness, the MT5s behaved well while I was doing high-intensity intervals on the turbo trainer – quite similar to the RT33s when clipped in. The tight heel cup, in particular, is palpable; I can feel it positively surrounding my heels as I walk around or pedal.

So far, color me impressed.

The clipless diaries, part 6: Shimano Deore PD-M530 SPD pedals

As I found myself using the turbo trainer more often, clipless pedals made more sense as they allow me to keep my feet planted while I spin high cadences during interval training. I quickly realized just how much I disliked the effort of swapping pedals between bikes, how many tools it required, and how much time it took…the added faff has the potential to discourage me from logging in my training.

I needed another set of SPD pedals. I got a good deal on a barely used pair of Shimano’s PD-M530s. Nominally part of the Deore groupset, this is perhaps the company’s most basic SPD pedal with an external cage.

Like the Saint PD-MX80 flat pedals, the M530s thread into cranks either with a 6 mm hex wrench, or a 15 mm pedal wrench. At 455 g they’re around the same weight, too; weight weenies need not apply. They’re plenty strong, though, as is typical with Shimano pedals.

I like the workmanlike, minimalist aesthetic. No groupset branding to shout, just the Shimano logotype on the outside vertical face. In silver, those would be even stealthier and hide scratches better. Seems there’s lots of room for any mud to fall off the pedal body, too – not that I’ll be testing this, as most of my riding is on asphalt.

The PD-M530 pedals look pretty good paired with the FC-R565 crank. Non-series? No problem.

Had I bought these brand-new, they would have come with the black SH51 single-release SPD cleats. Not a bad bundle for PhP1600 SRP. There are vastly more expensive versions of this basic design, but your added cash isn’t necessarily getting you a better-working pedal – you’re really just paying for exotic materials and weight savings.

Perhaps not the best option for beginners, though…

Compared to my existing Deore XT T780 pedals, the M530s have a much tighter hold built into their SPD mechanism. I think it’s down to a spring with stronger tension. Set to minimum, the cleat retention is as strong as the T780s set to half or even 70% of maximum. It took me a bit of getting used to, but it does eliminate any chance of unwanted release. In contrast, the SPD bindings of the T780s have relaxed over time; sometimes my cleats pop out of them when my pedaling motion isn’t as straight as it should be on the turbo trainer.

The stronger release tension does mean more foresight needed for unclipping in urban riding scenarios, though. In that respect, they’re a little less newbie-friendly, even paired with SH56 multi-release cleats. The T780 or something like Shimano’s Click’R line would be better for nervous newbies to learn on, the latter due to their SPD bindings having 60% less spring tension.

Clockwise from top left: Deore PD-M530 double-sided SPD; Deore XT PD-T780 SPD+platform; Saint PD-MX80 platform

With the M530s, I now have quite a spectrum of pedals – all of them below PhP3500. The Saint MX80s are my reliable platform pedals, further customizable with traction pins; these are going into storage, going back on when my wife feels like riding with me. The Deore XT T780s are my commuter pedals, sporting a platform side, an SPD binding side, and reflectors in the pedal cage. The Deore M530s, with SPD bindings on both sides, are for maximum foot retention for take-no-prisoners riding.