No longer simple platform pedals and tennis shoes, bicycle shoes and pedals have evolved. Modern SPD cycling clips -- an acronym for Shimano Pedaling Dynamics -- combine with special shoes to fit special pedals. A small metal clip attached to a cycling shoe with a stiff bottom slips into corresponding jaws on the pedal to automatically position your foot for optimum performance and comfort. Most contemporary mountain bikes use the two-hole SPD system. Road cyclists may use SPD’s three-hole design, Look models or other types.
Remove the shoe insoles and press your fingers lightly against the back of the shoe’s already installed clip plate to keep it in place. Line up the two holes in the SPD clip with two of the four holes in the clip plate; it’s customary to select the two nearest the toe but you can adjust this later to preference. Check that the somewhat arrow-shaped point of the clip points to the toe of the shoe.
Attach the SPD clip to the bottom of the SPD cycling shoe with the provided 1/4-inch screws driven by a 4mm hex wrench. Repeat on the second shoe.
Put on both shoes and straddle the bike. Place one foot on the pedal nearest the ground while holding the bike up with the other foot. Position the shoe directly over the small jaws on the SPD pedal. Push down lightly. Twist your foot from side to side if needed while applying pressure until you hear an audible click. Pull up gently with your foot to ensure the clip has engaged the jaws.
Push the bike forward with your other foot. Place the foot on the pedal as the bike is rolling. Position the foot directly over the jaws and push down to engage the clip into the jaws as you did before. If you don't hear the click, twist your shoe over the pedal. Push down until the clip engages the jaws on the pedal. Listen for the click.
Pedal the bike at a slow pace. Twist your foot outward to release the clip from the jaws. If it doesn't release, jerk your foot slightly while twisting it. The clip holds only when your foot is parallel with the bike. When you twist your foot, the jaws release. Repeat on your second foot. Roll or brake gently to a stop.
Get back on the bike. Click both shoes into both pedals as you did before. Pedal the bike normally. If one or both feet point at an angle or are uncomfortable, repeat the twisting motion to release the clips from the pedals on both feet. Stop the bike and get off. Take off the shoe. Unscrew the screws on the offending shoe just enough to loosen the clip. Tap the front of the clip in the direction needed to relieve the problematic angle. Tighten the screws. Put on the shoe. Get on the bike and pedal. Repeat adjusting the clips until you feel comfortable with no unnatural stress on your feet.
Ride normally for a few days or weeks. Adjust the clips if needed.
- The set of holes nearest the toe of SPD shoes are for enhanced speed. The set nearest the heel are for power when climbing. Install the clip according to your needs. The placement should be the same on both feet. It's a good idea to place a small amount of grease on the cleat screws before using them.
- If your clips do not disengage from the pedals, there may be dirt in the jaws or around the clips. Clean them thoroughly with a brush or a stick if you're out on the road. If they still resist disengaging, the jaws may be too tight. Twist a screw on the front or back of the pedal counterclockwise with the 4mm hex wrench to relieve some tension on the jaws. Test the pedal. If the release is still stubborn, twist the screw until the jaws release the shoe readily when you flick your foot sideways.
Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.