August 23, 2022



Buying Advice From An Expert Bike Fitter

Clipless pedals that mechanically attach your feet to the bike will give you improved support, security and power transfer. Combining with cycling-specific shoes, on the bottom of these will be a cleat.

Working a bit like ski bindings, you simply step on to the pedal and it'll automatically lock you into place. With a quick twist of the foot releasing you, there’s a knack to learning how to use them. But once you’ve learned, you’re unlikely to look back.

With single-sided road systems focusing on achieving maximum stiffness and minimum weight, the downside to this is greater difficulty when walking. By comparison, mountain bike or touring systems often have twin sides. Not only does this make them easier to clip into, but the smaller cleats they use make walking significantly easier.

Bearing this in mind, we’ve rounded up examples of our favourite road systems, plus some mountain bike-style alternatives worth considering.

So scroll down for our favourite pedals for all occasions. Or if you want to know more, scroll a bit further for our guide covering everything you always wanted to know about clipping-in*

(*but were afraid to ask)

The six of the best road bike pedals (from entry level to advanced)

1) Shimano RS500 SPD-SL: £59.99

2) Look Keo 2 Max Carbon: £99.99

3) Shimano 105 R7000: £124.99

4) Shimano Ultegra R8000: £159.99

5) Look Keo Blade Carbon: £190.99

6) Wahoo Speedplay Zero: £199.99

Shimano RS500 SPD-SL

We are certain that Shimano used to do a cheaper set of clipless pedals but we cannot find them online. They were metal and clunky but did the job. Oh well, the next best thing is the Shimano SPD-Sl pedal.

It's around half the price of Shimano's 105-branded pedals but certainly not half the quality. In fact, if you're investing in your first road pedals it should be either these or Look's Keos to be honest.Shimano has toned down the spring tension for easier unclipping here while also widening the platform for better stability and power transfer, too. Perfect entry level pedal that will not break the bank.

Look Keo 2 Max Carbon

Despite sitting in the middle of Look’s hierarchy, its Keo 2 Max Carbon pedals might be its most attractive proposition. You get the low weight you’d hope for, given their carbon construction. However, unlike the top of the line Keo Blades, they still come with adjustable tension.

In practice, this means you can choose how tightly they grip your cleats. This trait is great for beginners, who probably want the release tension low, pros, who’ll like to dial it right up, plus everyone in-between.

Arriving with a pair of grey Look Keo Grip cleats, these offer a moderate 4.5° float. Again likey to suit pretty much everyone, it’s doubtful you’ll end up locked in the wrong position, while neither will your feet swing about too much. In fact, our tester referred to them as ‘the baby bear’s porridge of cleats’.

As is the nature of all pedal marketing materials, the latest version of the Keo 2 Max Carbon pedal promises an enlarged usable contact surface to its stainless steel plate. Ensuring a relatively broad platform on which to connect, Look claims its 60mm width offers 25% more surface than before. To be honest, we found it satisfactory before, and can only assume this new version is an improvement.

Shimano 105 R7000

Shimano’s 105 R7000 pedals strike a good balance of weight to price. They are reliable and a solid performer, as you would expect from a Shimano product carrying the 105 name.

At this level, all Shimano SPD-SL share the same body design, so you get many of the benefits of Shimano’s higher-tier Ultegra and Dura-Ace designs.

One of these benefits is the wide-body with stainless steel metal inserts. Together, these deliver a very secure and solid base for pedalling and excellent power transfer.

The pedals use Shimano’s three-bolt cleat. They are available in three versions offering different levels of float, but these pedals are supplied with Shimano’s yellow cleats with 6 degrees of float.

The release tension can be adjusted with an Allen key and pedals hang at a nice angle for easy clipping in.

Shimano Ultegra R8000

The Shimano Ultegra R800 pedals hit all the right notes when it comes to performance. Like their equivalent groupset, the pedals are cheaper than the Dura-Ace pedals while being lighter than 105.

The pedals have a sleek carbon composite body with three non-replaceable stainless steel plates to provide durability, smooth float and power transfer.

Shimano provides its familiar yellow plastic cleats with these pedals, which provide a generous 6 degrees of float.

Clipping into the pedals is easy thanks to the pedals hanging nose up. The force required to unclip is determined by an adjustable spring, so the pedals can be tweaked to suit different skill levels and abilities.

The price of the Ultegra R8000 pedals is high and if performance is what you’re after as opposed to weight savings, it might be worth considering the well-performing, but slightly heavier Shimano 105 R7000 pedals.

Look Keo Blade Carbon Ceramic

Look says: "Designed to win, the new KEO BLADE CARBON CERAMIC improves the experience associated with the use of blade technology in a clipless pedal. This new version is the result of experience gained during years of development in the heart of our manufacturing facility and to continual improvements made thanks to daily input from the greatest of champions.

"Lightweight, aerodynamic, powerful, the new KEO BLADE CARBON CERAMIC has all the assets to allow you to improve and optimize your performance until victory is yours. It is for these reasons that KEO BLADE CARBON CERAMIC is the unanimous choice of many champions who have made it a weapon of choice in the conquest of their greatest achievements."

Look's testing procedure for its axles is reassuringly thorough. Each axle is loaded with the equivalent forces of Andre Greipel's 1700W sprint at 100rpm for 333 hours. Well tested then.

Sticking with the internals, Look has completely redesigned the spindle. The oversized axle 'passes through the internal roller and ceramic bearings located directly under the pedal platform'. Add to that a 25% increase in the distance between the roller and needle bearings and you have what Look claims to be a 2-watt reduction at 100rpm. What I felt when sprinting across gaps mid-race was a solid pedalling platform.

Look even has a number for weather resistance, with a 120% improvement in stopping water getting in. I've certainly had no issues after a fair few biblically wet rides.

Clipping into these is pretty easy, though on occasion they can be a little hard to find. Generally, the pedal hangs in the right place and once you press down there's a nice loud click. But I have found my foot on the wrong side of the pedal, then faffing to find the pedal again. Getting out of them, even with the 16Nm blade that I chose, is straightforward.

The pedals come with two carbon blades, giving you a choice of retention levels: 12Nm (fitted) and 16Nm. I went for the 16Nm blades and they were relatively easy to swap out. You can buy 20Nm blades separately, for £38.99. The retention is good and I never felt my foot close to pulling out. Changing the release tension is much easier on a Shimano pedal (via a small hex bolt on the rear), but this is something that you're likely to set and forget.

In the box you also get a set of grey cleats, which provide 4.5 degrees of float. Black (0 degree) and red (9 degree).

This is one area where I feel that Look has made a significant improvement. I have used cheaper Look Keo Carbon Blade pedals and been disappointed to find that my feet were moving around and rocking, even with the fixed cleats. The 67mm-wide stainless steel plate is now contoured slightly, and this makes the pedals feel so much more stable. The cleats still wear out faster than Shimano's, but at least they're not moving around anymore.

Price-wise they sit between the Ultegra R8000 (£149.99) and Dura-Ace R900 (£224.99) carbon pedals. They also sit in the middle of the two Shimano pedals on weight, and they're all a similar width.

Personally, the Looks wouldn't tempt me away from my Ultegra R8000 pedals, which I know will work silently for many years, with fewer cleat changes – and I also prefer the method of changing the retention level – but they are a very good pair of pedals with buttery smooth bearings and a vastly improved plate.


Buttery smooth bearings and a vastly improved plate make these very good pedals

Wahoo Speedplay Zero Stainless

The Wahoo Speedplay Zero pedals have picked up where the old Speedplay Zeros left off and improved the few elements that could be, with a huge amount of adjustability, a low stack height, and ease of use. They are an expensive outlay, but given their increased cleat durability and walkability, the high price is justifiable.

After selling to Wahoo in 2019, the cycling world has been waiting patiently to see what the new Speedplay pedal line-up would look like. As it turns out: pretty similar to before. This is not a bad thing because, rather than reinventing the wheel, Wahoo has just taken what was good about the original Speedplay Zeros and built on them. In fact, the only noticeable differences are that the cleats are black instead of yellow and the pedals are more of a complete circle rather than having gullies and lines on them. Plus the Wahoo logo, obviously.

The basics of the pedal system have remained the same, with most of the mechanics sitting within the cleat rather than the pedal, just as they did in the original Speedplay system. This means the pedals themselves are little more than notched discs. With Shimano and Look systems, the cleats themselves are essentially just shaped plastic and all of the mechanicals sit in the pedals.

One thing Wahoo has added is some kind of standardisation, so rather than needing spanners, star keys and screwdrivers, you can do everything with a set of hex keys – a welcome simplification.

Setting up the cleats does take a little longer than others, but you should have things set up and comfortable within 10 minutes.

You first have a three-bolt plate with changeable inserts so it sits flat against the bottom of the shoe. You then you have a four-bolt system on top of this for the cleat itself – this allows you to position your cleat with even more precision. You can then change the float using a hex key to adjust how far you want to be able to rotate your foot before unclipping. Then all you have to do is add the walking cover.

Another big improvement is in the bearings – a major bugbear of the previous generation. Gone are the days of the awkward grease ports to grease the non-replaceable needle bearings. Wahoo has updated the bearings, sealed both ends and even removed the grease ports, because greasing of these pedals is a thing of the past.

Clipping in and out is done in broadly the same way as Look and SPD: find the pedal in the right position under the cleat, push down with enough pressure to clip in, then rotate the heel to unclip. The pedal holds the cleats very well once clipped in, and there were no situations where I unclipped unexpectedly.

The Zeros come with standard tension cleats, but you can also pick up easy tension cleats (which also come with the Comp version of the pedal).

One thing that is slightly more challenging than the Keos I have been using more in the past few years is that these take more practice to get the hole in the cleat in the right place, to clip in. For the first few rides it took me two or three attempts to clip in properly, but it gets easier.

I have always used Crank Brothers Eggbeaters over winter, so it's always a little jarring coming back to road pedals where I can only clip in on one side, but the Zeros are double sided. This not only makes it easier to clip in, it also means additional weight hasn't had to be added to make them hang a certain way for easier clipping in.


One element of Speedplay pedals that has made them so sought after is their level of adjustability, something that Wahoo has maintained with these. With a hex key you can adjust the float up to 15 degrees. As somebody who is currently overcoming a knee injury this is very noticeable and very much appreciated.

Adjusting is just a case of loosening or tightening two bolts once you remove the walking cover from the cleats. Similarly, you have more adjustability from left/right and fore/aft movements as you secure a plate to the sole, then the cleat itself onto the plate, so you can micro-adjust more easily as you can essentially adjust positions twice.

From an anecdotal level, I have had pain in one of my knees for over six months that I have been riding through and I found these pedals a huge help in reducing that pain while in the saddle. I can't give specific medical advice, but these have made a big difference to me.

Stack height and easier walking

Another benefit of having the mechanism in the cleats and the way the cleats attach to the sole is that the stack height is noticeably lower than equivalent rivals. Look Keo Blades, for example, have 14.8mm, and Time XPro 10s 13.5mm, while Speedplay is just 11.5mm; millimetres may seem like tiny increments, but when you have less material to contract, you can put more direct power through the pedal. I'm very used to using SPDs and Keos, and the difference seems huge – you can really feel it.

When people think of Speedplays, the large cleat is the thing that stands out; this shouldn't come as a surprise given that the mechanism exists here rather than in the pedal. However, what this also means is that because the pedal sits within the cleat, rather than the cleat within the pedal, the cleats don't need the kind of overhangs and abrupt edges like Keo and SPDs require in order to connect securely to the pedal.

This allows for a much more curved and gradual shape, making walking in these significantly easier. As the pedals also come with a walking cover to reduce slipping, I can safely say that these are, by some margin, the best dedicated road pedal system for walking that's widely available. John took a look at these walkable cleats when there were released in 2016 and it's great to see they have become standard with the new Zeros.

In addition to allowing you to walk more easily, the walkable covers also have a significant additional benefit – they protect the cleats. Where I would normally expect to change my plastic Keos or SPDs every six months or so, these will last considerably longer. That's good because they are not cheap – replacement of the entire cleat is £49.99, with the cleat cover coming in at £25. However, I would expect the covers alone to last a good year or so, and the entire cleats to last for as long as you continue to replace the covers... so they are likely to be an investment that pays off.

The Speedplay Zeros sit in the middle of the current three-model range, coming in at £199.99 (a fourth, Aero, is 'coming soon'). If you wanted to, you could go all-out and spend another £180 on the Nano versions and save 54g, an extra £3 per gram. Or you could save yourself £65 over the Zeros with the Speedplay Comps, which weigh just 10g more. They all come with the walkable cleat, which is a nice touch that helps to justify the prices.

The differences in the line-up come down to material – the Comps body is Grivory (a trademarked thermoplastic, 'the proven material for metal replacement' according to its maker) with a chromoly spindle, the Zeros also have a Grivory body but a stainless steel spindle, while the Nanos have a carbon composite body and titanium spindle. The Nanos also have an 82kg rider limit, while the Zero and Comp have no limit.


At first glance the Speedplay Zeros look expensive, but when you take into account their durability the price becomes easier to swallow.

The Look Keo Blade Carbon Ceramic pedals are £20 cheaper, though 10g heavier and with cleats that wear considerably faster and so will need to be replaced sooner (at a cost of around £20). After six months that initial £20 saving is negligible.

The Time XPro 10 pedals come in £50 cheaper and 7g heavier, with cleats that might be slightly more durable than Look Keos, but still no match in terms of durability for the Speedplays.


Overall, I was very impressed with these pedals. They offer a really impressive level of adjustability, they don't weight much at all, and the stack height means you can genuinely feel the increased power being put through the pedals. There is no getting away from the fact that these are expensive pedals, even if they aren't the most expensive within the range, but when you take into account their weight, adjustability and durability, the price on paper is perhaps not reflective of value in real life.


A genuinely excellent upgrade on already top quality pedals, worth the initial outlay

STACKING UP PROBLEMS (be mindful when making pedal alterations)

In this short case study, bikefitter Matt explains how a simple alteration such as a change in pedals can lead to unexpected problems

Interesting little fitting session today with David, a long-standing customer and even longer-standing cyclist. After years of riding with Dura-Ace pedals he had made the switch to Speedplay Zeros, and started experiencing some minor knee niggles, which is obviously not ideal. Being a thoughtful kind of guy, he realised that the new cleats and pedals might have a different stack height to his existing ones, which if true would effectively be altering his saddle height.

And he was right to think this, because pedal/cleat stack height can vary quite significantly, with a lower stack effectively increasing saddle height because it sits the foot closer to the axis of the pedal spindle ("stack height", being the distance between the axis of the pedal spindle and the sole of the shoe).

Might not make much of a difference, you may think, but the difference in stack between, say, a Look Keo cleat and a Speedplay Zero could be as much as 8.6mm, depending on how the latter is mounted. Definitely significant in bikefitting terms.

To get an idea of how much stack height can vary, here are some examples of stack heights for common road pedals:


Unfortunately, David had over-cooked things a little by dropping his saddle around 10mm, when the stack difference between his Speedplay set-up and his old Dura-Ace pedals was actually only just over 2mm. This too-low saddle height was the cause of his knee issue, so referring back to his original measurements meant it was a simple matter to make the correct adjustment. Running our Retul motion caption system over him confirmed all was as it should be, and he left with confidence in his set-up restored.

Therefore, here is what you should look out for when making pedal alterations or going clipless.

What to look out for

Platform size

The bigger the pedal surface area, or platform, the better the relationship between the cleat and the pedal will be. This helps keep the pedal as comfortable during the fifth hour of a ride as it is during the first, while also providing the most efficient power transfer.

Q factor adjustment

The Q factor is the distance between the centreline of the pedals, laterally. Not all pelvic widths are the same! To produce maximum power, the knee needs to track in a vertical line as this is both most efficient and reduces the risk of knee pain. Look for cleats with good lateral adjustment or, even better, use pedals that are available with different axle lengths.


A cleat and pedal system with a zero-degree or ‘fixed’ float will lock your feet rigidly in place. However, most riders will prefer to have a little wiggle room. Measured in degrees, float is the amount that your heel can move side-to-side before disengaging from the pedal.

Most manufacturers sell different cleats with different amounts of float, while Speedplay cleats can be carefully adjusted to tailor their degree of movement.

Release tension

A special consideration for riders new to using clipless pedals and who need easy engagement and disengagement. More experienced riders, especially those who like to mash the pedals when sprinting, frequently prefer the security offered by a stiffer release tension.

Many high-end pedals now use a carbon spar instead of the traditional steel spring to provide tension. This saves weight but means that the effort needed to clip out cannot be adjusted.

Pedals which possess a good range of spring tension can be adjusted for novice and elite riders alike.

A good range and adjustment of rotation

Riders with biomechanical imbalances and lower-limb issues may need a more precise set-up and require more rotation. Speedplay pedals are the perfect choice for this, allowing 15° of rotation right down to zero. Time pedals also allow a large degree of float.

This not only protects your knees against potential damage but means there’s less chance of you accidentally unclipping.


This is a sometimes forgotten factor in pedal choice. In order to slim down their pedals, manufacturers use smaller and smaller bearings and bushes. While these can be replaced fairly cheaply, doing so can be tricky and time-consuming.

For our money, you can’t beat Shimano for durability.

Stack height

The height from the pedal axle to the sole of the foot. If you choose pedals with a high stack height, you may also need to raise your saddle height in order to compensate.

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