How to Attach Cleats to Cycling Shoes

Cleats allow you to pull on your pedaling upstroke.

Cleats allow you to pull on your pedaling upstroke.

Cleats allow you to hit a whole ’nother gear figuratively and literally as a cyclist. You can become a serious bike warrior with stiff cycling shoes that attach to clipless pedals -- to either pile up miles far from your Nest on a road or mountain bike, or equally effectively on a spinning bike at your gym. While the staff at most sporting goods stores attach cleats for free as part of a shoe-and-cleat purchase, it pays to know how to do it yourself in case the cleats loosen or fall off.

SPD Cleats

Prepare the SPD cleat by dropping the adapter, a small piece of metal with two holes large enough to accept the bolt shanks, beveled side up, into the recessed area on the cleat. The two-hole SPD cleat is found on mountain bikes, spinning bikes and many road bikes. Dab a bit of grease onto the bolt threads by hand or with a lint-free rag. Drop the two fixing bolts into the holes in the now-aligned adapter and cleat.

Pull apart the hook-and-loop closures on the cycling shoes to obtain easy access to the inside of the shoe and remove the insole. Insert the square cleat nut, flush side up, into the recessed square in the toe-box area of the sole, if it’s not already installed.

Flip the shoe, sole side up, keeping your fingertips within the shoe pressing against the nut so it stays in place. Drop the cleat into place atop the nut, the point of its cloverleaf shape pointing toward the toe of the shoe, and slightly tighten the bolts by turning a 4 mm Allen key clockwise. Gently nudge the cleat to center it left to right, and top to bottom, within the area of the nut. Tighten the bolts fully and replace the insole.

Look Cleats

Grease the bolt threads as you would for an SPD cleat.

Hold the three-hole Look cleat, which coordinates with clipless pedals on certain road bikes, so that its apex points toward the toe of the shoe.

Drop the three provided washers into the recessed hole followed by the bolts.

Position the Look cleat under the ball of the foot aligned with the three threaded holes in the sole of the shoe and tighten the bolts with a 4 mm Allen key or flat-head screwdriver.

Items you will need

  • 4 mm Allen key
  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • Grease
  • Clean rag

Tip

  • You might need to adjust the floating cleat nut on an SPD or Look cleat to your foot based on your first few test rides, so take an Allen key along on your ride.
 

About the Author

An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.

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