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An addendum to this post is available here.

I was asked a while back for a post about pedals.  To cut to the chase; rather than write a critique of available pedal systems, it is easier to recommend the best and explain why they’re the best choice

This post is written entirely from the point of view of this bikefitter and my experience with large numbers of clients over many years. If you have read this post and are interested in applying Method 1 or Method 2,  then a substantial number will have trouble  achieving the suggested cleat position. Part of this is because some brands of shoes have cleat mounting holes that are further forward than other brands.

The worst shoes in this regard (in no particular order) are Mavic, Louis Garneau, Northwave, Pearl Izumi, Carnac, DMT, Time (rebadged DMT’s)  and Vittoria. The great majority will not be able to achieve Method 1 or Method 2 cleat position with these shoes . The best choices of shoe from the point of view of achieving Method 1 or Method 2 cleat position are in first place Specialized, then in no particular order, Shimano, Diadora, Gaerne, Sidi, and Lake. However this list of ‘favourites’ doesn’t guarantee an achievable Method 1 or Method 2 cleat position, but the chances are better

Much of this is because most shoes don’t have enough potential for cleat adjustment fore and aft along the sole. Just some are better. relatively speaking, than others. You might think it easy for a shoe manufacturer to have a sliding mount for a 3 hole cleat system or perhaps 2 sets of cleat mounting holes, one behind the other 10mm apart; either of which solution would improve the situation. It could be done but for historical reasons is difficult. When clipless pedals first became popular in 1985 (they were around long before this, but LOOK were the first to gain wide acceptance in ’85), shoes had nail on cleats for clip and strap pedals and the area where the cleat was fitted had a  curve running front to back.. Most shoes had leather soles and the curve was there at the front because of the extra sole thickness required to nail the cleats on without the nails protruding through the sole into the feet. The first year or two of Look pedal production saw the box containing pedal and cleats also contain 6 threaded eyelets to take to the bootmaker to fit to existing leather soled shoes. It was only after Look pedals became popular that synthetic soled shoes were produced in quantity.  All of which means that the original Look cleats were designed to mate with the curved soles of the shoes of the day and all subsequently successful pedals using a 3 bolt cleat have followed suit. It is hard or impossible to maintain the same radius or curve over a longer fore and aft area to fit the cleat without thickening the sole substantially, which creates it’s own problems in terms of increased seat height and increased rocking torque. It is not necessary to have a curved sole any more but to eliminate the curve would require major pedal manufacturers and shoe manufacturer’s cooperating to redesign their products. I don’t see that happening anytime soon; though it would be nice.

Still, it is possible for manufacturers to have a 2nd set of holes 10mm behind the original set without a lot of complication in most cases. If anyone reading this works for a shoe manufacturer; please add this to your ‘To Do’ list.

Which brings me to  my favourite brand of pedal  – Speedplay.

Why Speedplay?

1. Even though a 3 hole adaptor plate is necessary in most cases, they still have as low or lower stack height than their major rivals.

2. Speedplay alone offer 5 different axle lengths. Standard, minus 1/8″, plus 1/8″, plus 1/4″ and plus 1/2″. For our metric friends this approximately equates with minus 3.17mm, plus 3.17mm, plus 6.35mm and plus 12.7mm. No other pedal system (with the exception of Keywin) does this. I find that about 19% of my fitting customers need a longer than standard or shorter than standard axle to allow their knees to track properly. Be aware that I suspect that I see a skewed sample of humanity.

3. Following on from 2. Speedplay separate lateral cleat adjustment from rotational adjustment. Their only rival for axle length options, Keywin, don’t.In fact Keywin have close to zero lateral cleat adjustment.  With a Look, Mavic or Shimano Spd SL 3 bolt cleat, the cleat can be angled to allow the rider to have a cleat angle that allows them a modicum of free movement either side of the angle that the foot naturally sits on the pedal under load. However, angling the cleat uses up all or some of the lateral adjustment potential at the same time. By comparison, Speedplay totally separates these functions with neither limiting the other.

4. As outlined at the start of this post, a significant number of people cannot achieve the cleat position I would have them use with many combinations of shoe and pedal. Of the major 3 bolt ‘Look style’ systems, Look Keo are the worst in this regard, Shimano are better and Mavic and Time are best of all. Speedplay sit somewhere between Keo and Spd SL but also offer an alternative aluminium baseplate; part no. 13330. This allows a Speedplay user to adjust the cleat anywhere from 5mm further forward than the standard baseplate allows to 14mm further back. It is rare to find a foot / shoe combination  (assuming the shoe fits properly) that doesn’t allow me to position a Speedplay cleat where I want it on a client’s shoe.

5. Adjustable rotational movement (on Zero models). I get a bit sick of first time clients telling me before a fit “I don’t like freeplay because my foot slops around”. If the rider is reasonably functional pelvically, and if their position is good and the amount of foot correction ideal and the balance of correction between arch support and wedging perfect, the feet don’t slop around no matter how much rotational movement there is. Limiting rotational movement  (RoMo) to limit lateral knee movement is not generally a good idea. However, the Speedplay Zero can be adjusted to anywhere between zero and 15 degrees of RoMo.

6. Different degrees of ease of entry and exit. As a general rule I won’t use Shimano Spd SL’s (which are a well made pedal) for women under 65kg or men under 60kg because the minimum release tension is too high for many of them and can cause knee niggles and occasionally injuries from repeatedly disengaging foot from pedal for those who are susceptible. I have never known Speedplay Light Action and X Series pedals (which need less effort to enter or exit than the Zero range) to cause this problem for anyone.

7. A better platform for shimming and / or wedging. As I mentioned in the FOOT CORRECTION posts, I started heel wedging because I’m not crazy about combining cleat wedges with 3 bolt cleats and carbon soled shoes because too often there is slippage if multiple wedges are used. Speedplay compatible Bike Fit wedges fit within the layers of the cleat and are more securely held in place than is the case on 3 bolt  systems.

8. As per 7; For shimming Speedplay pedals the shim fits within the cleat layers.

9. The only major road pedal that is double sided. It doesn’t matter which side is up, just engage the rear of the cleat and stamp.

Are there any negatives?

Of course. The cleats are heavy and need lubing occasionally. The fixing bolt torque needs checking from time to time too. They are also a cleat that doesn’t like dirt or sand, so cleat covers are a good idea.  While exiting Speedplays is the same action as with other pedals, entry isn’t. That means the habits of years can be counter productive on first acquaintance. Somewhere between 10 seconds and 2 weeks are necessary to become competent at entering quickly. It is worth the learning curve. Once ingrained, you will notice that the Speedplay users are usually the first to engage when a bunch starts again after traffic lights. Despite these imperfections, they are far and away my first preference for pedals for fitting purposes and my personal first choice for riding. If you can get the cleat position and lateral adjustment you want with other brands, then that’s fine by me and good luck to you. If not, or if you just want the best system out there, Speedplay is the answer.

There is also one matter that is crucial when fitting a Speedplay cleat. Once you have fitted the baseplate to your shoes, whether the standard plastic baseplate or the alternate part no. 13330 extender baseplate, lay a steel straight edge along it and then across it and ensure that the surface of the baseplate is dead flat with no gaps between straight edge and baseplate. If you find a high spot or low spot, then there is the possibility that the cleat once fitted to the baseplate will be slightly distorted and release without warning. This is why Speedplay supply a range of curved adaptors with the baseplates. Most shoes don’t need them but some do, particularly in small sizes with Bontrager being the most common because of the twist in long axis of the sole that many Bontrager shoes have.

After that paean of praise I must declare that I have no financial interest in and have not received any inducements from Speedplay. From a bike fitting point of view, they are simply better than the rest.

Footnote; for contractual reasons Mavic pedals are not available for sale in Australia. I have fitted a couple of pairs recently and am reasonably impressed. For a Look style 3 bolt cleat, they have more rearward adjustment potential than either Look or Shimano; more lateral adjustment potential than Look, and with the 7 degree cleat option, a ‘free’ quality to the rotational movement.


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This Post Has 39 Comments

  1. FYI Steve – the stock version of D2’s shoes have two separate cleat drillings in the same shoe.

    1. G’day Stuart,
      thanks for that. The D2’s I’ve seen both had single mounts
      only. 2 sets must be a recent innovation. Good on them for doing it. I wish
      others would follow suit.

  2. I am a recent convert to Zero’s – such a simple design concept. I am amazed by how many shops hate them. They have this reputation for lack of durability that doesn’t seem to make any sense – I love mine.

  3. The shops I have been in have all said the same thing: 1) the cleats wear out fast and tend to rock side to side causing issues 2) the float causes you to use muscles to steady your foot rather than turn the pedals 3) they feel like you are riding on ice.

    My experience is similar to what you said above, when your feet are somewhat dialed in, they don’t move, only when they are mis-placed do they tend to move around. As for durability, I haven’t had mine long enough but it seems that they should be at least as durable as anything else.

    1. G’day Craig,
      All of those criticisms may be valid, I don’t know. I do know
      that none of them are valid if the feet are placed correctly on the pedals
      with the individually correct degree and balance of arch support and
      wedging. The cleats only wear quickly if riders walk in them a lot (like
      every other cleat) and Speedplay make cleat covers for those that do walk in
      them. I find that using the cleat covers doubles or even trebles the life of
      the cleats.

      It sounds to me that some shops need to explore the matter further.

      1. Hi Steve,

        I’m Rob from the UK please to meet you.

        I’m a speedplay user have been sicne 2007. When I first used them the cleat was bolted to a 2000 Time Equipe shoe then in 2009 I moved over to the Specialized S Works BG shoe.

        I have been suffering with an overuse injury in 2010 and got back on the bike and started to train again properly mid December. when I first got my injury I was complaining of left knee pain, sore IT bands burning sensations in both qauds occasional tingling in one of my fingers on my right hand and tightness in my upper back. Initially with these symptoms I wen tto get a Retul fit just to double check my position but I was given the thumbs up basically being told bery little needed to change. Saddle hads to come up 5 mm and move back a tiny bit. When I started my phsyiotherapy in July she checked me on the bike and notcied my pelvis was unstable and core was weak. She had a look at my cleat position and to be safe she got a 2nd opinion with Cyclefit who they work with closely. Phil @ Cyclefit gave me 2 wedges one to go under each foot whcich increased the varus wedging. In December when I wasa given orthotics for my high arches I notcied both Speedplay pedals had wear on the shaft so the cleat was rocking towards the shaft. The pedals had done 15,000 miles in 3 years and cleats were rep[alced every 6-8 months. what was interesting no one had noticed this wear I had stumbled across it.

        So in December 2010 with new orthotics, wedges and a new pair of speedplay pedals I thought I might not see this wear however last week the left pedal has developed paly the the rocks towards the shaft. I have attached an image shoing the wear and tear on the left pedal as you can see the finish on the chromoly pedal has been worn away.

        I popped into a local bike shop which specializes in BG fit and asked them if they could have a look what could be casuing this wear. They looked at my tracking, the right knee doesnt track up and down staright whereas the left knee does track perfectly straight. Because this inspection was free they had quick look for me so couldnt get more detailed unless I was willing to spend money on a BG fit. They did give me suggestion to add another wedge under the left shoe but the pedal already developed play and teh cleat is only 5 months old so I dont see the point in doing this unless I buy a new speedpplay pedal but I’m reluctant to do this until i knoe what is causing this issue so I have thrown the issue back to the phsyiotherapist but my original phsyio is not around due to maternity leave to consult.

        I had spoken to Speedplay in the US and had mentioned this play in both pedals in December and wrote to my phsyio with the following :-

        Speedplay have confirmed to me that the shoe/cleat should not rock like the way I showed you last week and the week before. This according to them this is a sign of wear in the cleat/body of pedal caused by poor maintenance or uneven contact pressure due to a biomechanical issue from the body. I explained to him afterwards I was suffering with an injury and I needed orthotics. His suggestion from past experience is hopefully the orthotics might help or I might need wedges to help with stopping my foot collapsing and causing wear to pedal.
        > This evening I borrowed a set of Speedplay pedals with 1000 miles and fitted them to my bike and clipped my shoes to them. As confirmed by Speedplay there should be no lateral rocking and yes there was no rocking at all. A perfect solid platform! From guessing my old pedals at the moment rock about 3 degrees.

        Steve I know I’ve written a lot and you dont have all my history on my injury or even seen my cycle but what was wondering if you could give me some pointers?

        Cheers Rob

      2. G’day Rob,
        Interesting story. What I’m not clear about that you can
        clarify for me please, is whether you noticed the excessive lateral rocking
        on the pedal before you had the various fittings and attempts at foot
        correction OR only afterwards?

        Are you currently experiencing any knee pain?

        If not, what might be happening (I say cautiously) is that you have too much
        correction and that at an autonomic level, you are trying to align yourself
        as you need to be and that process is the cause of the excessive wear. I
        take it you are in the U.K. If so, call Scherrit
        Knoesen He is the only person in the U.K. with the necessary knowledge to nail down
        what degree of foot correction you need.

      3. Hello Steve,

        I never noticed it I only stumbled across the rocking when I was doing a search on the web for IT band issues and found a post on weight weenies and they were discussing about lateral rock on the speedplay, knee pain and IT band.

        I get a very slight knee pain once in a while over the last 11 years but nothing that is too painful. Obviosuly when I was swapped over to the Specialized shoes in 2009 which have built in varus wedge 2 weeks later I started to get increased knee pain on the left that was very painful but since physio, core exercises, strecthing, glute work etc is ok now.

        Yes I’m in the UK and Scherrit is only 35 miles away. I’ve had 4 bike fits sicne 2001.

        Bike fit 1 was in 2001 saddle height set @ 709mm based on a formula used donje by bike shop.

        Bike fit 2 was in 2007 saddle height increased to 719mm and seat pushed further back. This fit was done by another bike shop.

        Bike fit 3 was in May 2010 was a retul fit. Saddle height increased to 725mm and set abck pushed 4-5mm further back with potential to go to 730mm but I was carrying the injury I mentioned so was feelin sore and not comfortable on bike.

        Bike fit 4 was in July 2010 done by my physio just to check if retul fit was correct.

        Now this week where the BG fitter had a look at the wearing issue on the pedals he wanted me to go up 5 mm (so 730mm) and move seat forward.

        Thanks for the advice at this moment in time I’m at a crossroad not sure where to turn? My phsyio back in December said my fit was fine. Mmm…

        I like your suggestion of seeing Scherrit but my wallet over the last year has been stung with the retul fit and phsyio appointments so I need to sit down and think about who I part my cash with.

        I declined to go with the The BG fitter as he would have done a fit to find out more on me but as I didnt feel that confident with him becuase he said I had had many fits, had avery well made orthotics and that I would need to experiment by myself to see what was happening msyelf as listening to more people would just confuse me…

        I might have a chat with Scherrit.

        Cheers Rob

      4. G’day Rob,
        Just a small correction. Specialized say that their shoes have
        built in compensation but I have never seen any sign of it and I have looked
        very hard. I doubt that a large company would blatantly lie so any
        compensation they have included has zero effect. I use a definitive test to
        determine ideal cant of foot. The testing protocol eliminates any educated (
        or sometimes not so educated) guesswork when it comes to determining cant of
        the foot. Numerous times I have had fit customers with 2 pairs of shoes of
        which one was Specialized. In all cases to date, the amount of wedging
        needed was the same on Specialized shoes as it was on other brands that
        don’t claim any built in correction.

        To critique the fits you have had to date:
        No.1. wasn’t what I would call a fit. It involved someone measuring your
        body proportions and inputting that info into a computer program which
        spits out a predetermined result without regard for how you function or what
        pedaling technique you use. Process work, not bike fitting.

        No.2. Retul fit: You don’t go into detail but if the fitter limited their
        informational assessment to what the cameras told them (which is a tiny
        fraction of what the human eye can see if it knows what to look for) it was
        the same type of approach as No.1 but with bells and whistles. I don’t know
        this to be the case and you are in a better position to judge, but too many
        would be fitters purchase a Retul and only ever use it to apply the same out
        dated and I hope discredited fitting principles that have been around
        forever. Your guy may or may not have done this.

        No.3. With respect to physiotherapists clinical abilities, I have only ever
        met one physiotherapist cum bike fitter who had broken away from the same
        approach as the less competent Retul fitters. In essence most apply the same
        basic KOPS / ball of foot over pedal axle / seat height = a factor of leg
        length or included knee angle etc because they don’t have access to other
        information or don’t know any better They have far better grasp of
        functional anatomy than the average fitter but are physiotherapists first
        and bike fitters a long way second, in most cases. I suspect this to be the
        case with your person because again, no one noticed the lateral rocking in
        our pedal which is something I would expect any competent fitter to look
        for early in the process with anyone with knee pain.

        I understand your financial constraints and do what you can do in whatever
        time frame you wish. Scherrit did some training with me earlier in the
        year. The reason I tell you this is because I have no interest in training
        anyone who is not prepared to offer their services with an unqualified money
        back if customer not happy guarantee. That wasn’t a problem for Scherrit
        because he was making that offer long before I met him.

      5. Hi again Steve,

        Was experimenting yesterday with another set of speedplay cleats which were bolted to my Time Shoes. These cleats must have been seriously worn as there was play in both pedals. The cleats felt considerably worse than whats bolted to my current specialized shoes.

        The cleats were set with no float when I last used them in 2009 but there felt like they had float. This made me think what the paly would feel like if I fitted a brand new set of cleats. I bought a new pair of cleats and fitted them to my shoes and was pleased to see there was no play in the left pedal when the cleat was engaged. If you havent already guessed already the left shoe if the one I click in/out the most when have to stop for lights and junctions. From memory I would say the cleats had about 5-6 months of use.

        With the play eliminated now although for how long I will still take the opportunity to Scherrit as I have some concerns I would like looking at regarding bike fit, foot correction and my recent injury.

        Cheers Rob

      6. G’day Rob,
        I can only assume that there is something awry with the cant
        of your feet on the pedals and it is this that is causing the premature wear
        that leads to the lateral rocking. I use Speedplays and my cleats are nearly
        3 years old (I use cleat covers) and are fine. It is also a good idea to
        train yourself to alternate which foot you take out of the pedal when
        stopping traffic lights etc. Not only does it even out cleat wear but it
        plays a small part in improving the symmetry of our neurology.

        If / when you see Scherrit, I will be very interested to hear from you what
        he found.

  4. IME: my Speedplay Zero cleats (as positioned by Steve in mid 2008) lasted for over 20,000km. In fact only one of them (the clip in-out foot) wore out. I lube them with ProLink Progold every 400-500km, takes 30 seconds. The key thing is not to overtighten the cleat bolts too. I do use cleat covers when walking but I don’t do much of that. I think Speedplay Zero cleats last much longer than Shimano SPD-SL cleats, in my case every 6000-7000km was best for SPD-SL that I got. The only thing against Speedplay Zero cleats is very high expense (AUS$100?) compared to SPD-SL cleats ($30?). Plus the additional expense of metal baseplates (part 13330) which are probably mandatory item for most riders. I dont know if the pedal itself needs to be lubed – as Speedplay says on their web site.
    Overall, I am very happy with Speedplay Zero, despite some negatives.

  5. Hi Steve
    RE Rob H,s comment about wear on the pedal axle of his Speedplay pedals.Ihave fitted a new pair of zeros in the last month.I need all of the available heel in adjustment and practically none of the heelout adjustment.After two rides one of 40km and another of 80 km, I noticed similar rubbing.I had the ‘heel in’ screw showing about one and a half threads out from the limit, on further inspection the gold top plate of the cleat was actually rubbing on on the axle,I screwed the limit screw in one turn which stopped the rubbing,although I could probably use the extra little bit of movement

    1. G’day John,
      It sounds like you are tight in the hips or have low arch
      feet or both. Be that as it may. Firstly, I’d suggest you get hold of some
      decent arch support insoles as outlined in the post FOOT CORRECTION Part 1 –
      Arch Support. Once you’ve got that under control, then experiment with
      wedges as outlined in the post FOOT CORRECTION Part 1 – Wedging. If you
      apply that information well, there is a high likelihood that your problem
      will be resolved. If it doesn’t resolve, contact me again and I’ll tell you
      how to modify your Speedplay cleat.

      1. Thanks Steve
        Probably both,Ive been riding for a very long time i,m in my seventies.I
        haven,t paid the attention I should have to general non cycling fitness
        and this situation has developed slowly in the recent year or so.I currently use the Specialized BG shoe and the green [highest arch] insole and have been considering fittingne or more wedges.By the way I only have difficulty with my left foot.I will now source some eSoles and proceed from there.
        I have only recently discovered your blog and really enjoy all of the content. Thank you for your advice.

    2. John,
      If you have the chromo Speedplays and it is just the paint worn off, that is considered normal according the the factory. I have the exact same issue and in my case it is the yellow plastic bits rubbing on the shaft causing the issue. If not, then I look forward to your and Steve’s followups to see if there is more I can address on my own shoe/pedal connection.

    1. G’day Yuri,
      It’s an interesting read for a couple of reasons. The initial
      experience of “The freeplay was too much for me to handle. My feet were all
      over the place…….etc” indicates that there was a problem with
      position, foot correction or both. If the position is sound and foot
      correction optimal, the feet won’t wander around if the rider is even
      halfway functional. Which is probably why knee problems developed over time.
      Anyway, I digress. To answer your questions. You can buy the grease gun if
      you wish. I’m a happy Speedplay user and pull the pedals apart every 6
      months or so and grease the inner roller bearing and after some years, all
      is still fine. You will need a pedal spanner and a torx key to do this so it
      probably makes more sense to use the grease gun or take them to a shop that
      has one. Speedplays do need more maintenance than other pedals but many of
      my clients, particularly the tough fit problems, would be riding around with
      suboptimal position without the various options that Speedplay offer.

  6. thanks for reply Steve. If I buy and use the Speedplay grease-gun do I need to take the pedals off the bicycle or can I shoot the grease in while the pedal are attached to it? Thanks again!

    1. G’day Yuri,
      No need to remove the pedals. Squeeze the grease in until you
      see clean grease coming out of the inside edge (nearest the crank arm) of
      the pedal. Then wipe off what has been expelled. You may need to wipe grease
      off once or twice after the first couple of rides as occasionally more makes
      its way out.

      1. Good evening from the UK.

        you don’t need to buy the grease gun at all IMO.

        I got a plastic syringe (supplied to dose the family dog’s medicine but now spare) squeeze some grease from the tube into it’s body, replace the plunger, then while leaving the pedals on the bike press the syringe onto the pedal with one hand and use the other to push the plunger in.

        love your website Steve BTW

      2. G’day Henry,
        Thanks for that. Nice and easy. Our workshop practice has always been to pull the pedal down so we can check the state of the axle which is the bearing contact surface for the roller bearing. With home maintenance, you way sounds quicker and easy.

  7. Hi Steve,

    I have a question about the speedplay pedals. I have been using track special stainless steel axle zeros for a couple of years now, but I want to get shorter axles (more on that later). I know that the Titanium axle pedals have shorter axles (although I don’t know by how much) however £300 for new Ti pedals is a bit much for me right now especially if there is a cheaper alternative.

    First Question:
    when you talk above of -3.17mm +3.17mm etc. is this relative to the shorter Ti axles or the longer SS/chomoly axles ?

    Second Question:
    Where can you get them? The only shorter speedplay axles I have found are on and they are not made by speedplay (although they look quite nice and are apparently available in +4mm -2mm and -6mm relative to stainless axles).

    The reason that I want shorter axles is because I get pain in my knees after hard sessions when i use normal 145mm Q-factor cranks, but with my special narrow cranks dura-ace 7410 on 102mm campy record BB (q-factor ~136mm) the pain is much less. I can isolate this to the cranks as I have two identical frames (racing/training) where the set-up is identical apart from the cranks (and the weight of the groupset)

    However I realise that the problem with my knees may not be due to the q-factor alone and I am following the advice on your blog very carefully (I just spent a very long time checking that my cleats were correct fore-aft – and they turned out to be in exactly the position suggested by method 2 already by luck), I plan to take some videos of myself pedalling on the trainer at the weekend

    This leads me to my question I currently use 2 wedges in the middle of my cleat (I am unsure of the brand but they are purple and speedplay specific) on both sides (big side inside), however I am unsure whether this is the correct number. so …

    third question:
    How does one determine the correct number of wedges? From your article “Footloose” it appears to be to do with knee tracking and as my knees feel (sometimes) like they are being bent out of plane this is probably a significant problem for me. is there something you can look at on video footage that tells you to add a wedge or to remove one?

    I apologise if I am pre-empting the next entry in your power-to-the pedals series by asking this.

    many thanks


    1. G’day Henry,
      The Ti axles are 3.17mm (1/8″) shorter than the standard
      axle length. When talking about longer or shorter axles, I’m comparing them
      to the standard axle length.

      You should be able to source them through any shop that sells Speedplay. If
      that fails contact Speedplay for info on where to buy. Their contact details

      Re how many wedges to use. The only definitive method (as far as I know) is
      the method that I have developed and am part way through the process of
      patenting in a number of countries. I tell you this so you will understand
      my reticence in speaking publicly in detail about it. Ensuring that knee
      tracking is good visually through direction observation, video or motion
      capture, or using a reference like laser line projectors only works to a
      point. I’ve found that many people autonomically compensate for less than
      optimal foot correction and it’s potential for causing issues with knee
      tracking by moving the load elsewhere. That means that knees will track well
      but the price of doing so comes at the price of compromised on seat
      symmetry, which in turn may cause issues with low back, hips, upper back and
      so on and so on. That is what prompted me to find a better method. Without a
      one on one session, trial and error is the best method open to you.

  8. Hello Steve,

    I am a female, very experienced cyclist but have chronic left IT Band issues. I do have a shim on the left side as i have a small leg length discrepency. My cleat on the left ( using time pedals) never seems correct. I am considering speedplay with the unlimited float, but how would I know what axle length to get. My issue on that side, always feels like Q-angle. My knee seems to track relatively straight with a slight toe out. I am a small girl, 5’3 115 pounds. I also have the Bontrager shoes and am looking at specialized. I feel like I am grasping at straws, but certainly unlimited float makes sense to me for someone who can never seem to get cleat placement correct. What do you think?
    Wendy from Canada

    1. G’day Wendy,
      By far the most common reason for left side ITB problems
      on a bike is the rider dropping or rolling the right hip forward on each
      right side pedal down stroke. The left ITB will only fire up if the plane of
      movement of the left hip is being challenged. Usually that challenge is the
      product of a right side problem. Having a shorter left leg only adds to the
      picture. Before spending money on pedals, the first thing I would suggest
      is to have an observer stand behind and above you while you pedal with just
      a crop top or exercise bra on to see what your pelvis is doing. Have a look
      at the post Right Side Bias for examples of what your observer should be
      looking for.

      The second most common reason for left side ITB issues on a bike is a seat
      height that is too high. I would suggest lowering your seat 5mm (the
      smallest increment that will make a marked difference in feel) and see
      whether the feel of your left foot on pedal improves.

      The next most common reason is a lack of arch support in either or both
      shoes. Any challenge to your position from any source (see post Bike
      Fitting Philosophy – Basic Premise for more about Challenges) will cause you
      to compensate in an asymmetrical way. This is not a conscious process and
      the great majority of riders compensate for a challenge by doing whatever is
      necessary to keep their right leg functioning well but sacrifice their left
      leg at some level. Typically the compensation takes the form of a pelvic
      shift that allows the right hip and knee to function pain free but this can
      only happen at an efficiency cost to left leg function.

      There are other reasons that the left ITB can present a problem but work
      through the items above first. A pair of Speedplay pedals with unfettered
      freeplay may reduce discomfort but won’t solve the problem. The root
      cause(s) of the problem are what need to be addressed.

      You mention that you think Q angle is the problem. For other readers, Q
      angle is the angle between upper and lower legs as viewed from the front.
      I’m assuming that the Q angle of the left leg differs from that of the right

      If yes, is the difference still present when you dismount from the bike and

      If yes, the absence of decent arch support is likely to play a part in your
      If no, then it is even more likely that you have a right side issue
      manifesting as a problematic left side ITB.

      Let me know what happens when you try the suggestions above.

      1. Thank you Steve, I appreciate the feedback. I do know, as I have tried to address it before is I have some disc locking on the right lumbar spine and this seems to have caused a rotation of my right hip. People can see it when I stand or ride as it looks like my right hip sits higher, and forward. That leg as a result feels longer. I went to the best sports physio I could find and they felt this rotation was so entrenched they didn”t think it could be corrected. I certainly get by very well for the most part but boy being able to do it without pain would be so nice.

        As for the q-angle, I think because of the rotation, my right foot toes out rather significantly. If i just do a pedal motion in the mirror, the alignment on that side looks way off, but as you say, I am mostly painfree on that side. The alignment on the left is better with that motion,but my knee seems to angle in a bit more toward the top tube. Although it looks better this is the one I struggle with. The issue is less foot strike in the alignment and more hip to knee to ankle. I feel like if I could really strengthen the vastus medialus on that leg it might improve.

        I hear what you are saying about arch support however, I do think I will be replacing my shoes anyway and I am hoping the Specialized is a good fit for me. I will certainly pay some attention to the arches and see if I can make some headway through that.

        I really appreciate your help.


      2. G’day Wendy,
        Contact me privately and tell me where you live. I’ll try
        and point you at someone who can resolve the ‘disc locking’ issue. There are
        some really good people out there but not that easy to find. Re arch
        support; Specialized make a range of arch support heights but even the
        highest option only really suits low / moderate arch heights. If you arches
        are higher than that, get hold of some eSoles Supportive. The post Foot
        Correction Part 1 – Arch Support explains more in detail.

  9. Its trivia time. Have a look at Tour De France 2011 riders and count how many ride Speedplay Zero pedals. Impressive list. Everyone on the podium in 2011 is on Speedplay Zero plus add Contador, Basso, Wiggins, all of Saxo, Liquigas and BMW team (i.e. O’Grady, Vogt, Cancellara, etc).

  10. Hi Steve
    Thanks for being so willing to share your knowledge and experience.
    With regards to road pedals i currently ride northwave shoes and like the fit of them but am unable to get enough rearward movement of the cleat with shimano spd sl pedals are mavic road bike pedals likely to have 7mm
    more rearward adj our am i just better off with speedplay zeros
    Thanks Gerard

    1. G’day Gerard,
      I’d have to say Speedplay with the extender plates would
      be the sure bet. Mavic pedals are uncommon in Australia as the local Mavic distributor is also the Look distributor and so they don’t bring in Mavic pedals. I’ve only seen 3 pairs and from memory, they had good rearward adjustment potential but I can’t guarantee it would be 7mm more than Shimano.

  11. Hi Steve,

    Really appreciate your knowledge and experience on this site.

    I’m slowly letting various bits of info seep into my brain as I attempt to improve my bike position and technique etc.Whilst also trying to get to the root of intermittant pain in my left knee.

    I have read your advice on the Speedplay pedal and am considering purchasing some.

    I was wondering what you think about spindle length ?.Specifically how I would go about choosing the ‘right’ or appropriate length ?.

    Many thanks.


    1. G’day Steve,
      Do your knees track vertically?
      If not do they descend inside or outside the vertical line?

      If you are reasonably functional, the standard axle length should be fine. What I would be doing if there is any doubt about axle length is to find a bike fitter who has the 5 axle length kit and have them determine what length axle you need.

  12. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for your helpful reply.

    I need to check the tracking on descending.I know that on the upstroke both my knees track inside the vertical.

    Many thanks.


    1. G’day Yuri,
      I hate to disappoint you but I’m the laziest Speedplay user
      around. I use the cleat covers religiously and lube the cleats with whatever light WET lube is lying around despite the Speedplay instructions to only use DRY lube. I’ve never had a problem in many years of using them.

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