Best Road Bike Pedals and Cleats

Published on

I tested nine road bike pedals and cleats and found the Shimano Ultegra R8000 SPD SL to be the best product overall. They provide excellent performance and are durable compared to other bike pedals. What’s more, they come at a very affordable price.

Now, if you’re a cycling enthusiast, you must know the importance of having the right bike pedals and cleats. Since this is one of the parts that come into contact with your body, you must ensure you get the right pair: one that offers greater pedaling efficiency and a secure hold.

However, not everyone understands how to choose the best road bike pedals and cleats. The best road bike pedals and cleats provide increased stability and comfort, allowing you to enjoy your cycling. There’s more to look for when buying road bike pedals and cleats. If you’re careful enough, you’ll get the right pair for your cycling activity. First, you need to decide between clipless and flat pedals. Clipless pedals are common and preferred for road biking. Also, you need to get the right pedal that’s compatible with your cycling activity. For instance, road bike pedals may not fit well on mountain bikes. 

I reviewed bike road pedals from different manufacturers, including Shimano, SpeedPlay, Look, and Time to help you find the right one for your ride. 

If you prefer adjustable road bike pedals, the Wahoo Fitness SpeedPlay Zero is a perfect choice. They allow you to fine-tune the settings and fit based on individual needs.

Our round-up review will offer more insight into the best road bike pedals and cleats. Keep reading to find out more.

  1. Shimano Ultegra R8000 SPD SL – Best Overall

Shimano’s SPD-SL pedal technology is aimed at improving your road cycling performance and experience. The Ultegra R 8000 strikes a balance between price and performance and is a popular bike pedal for road riders. The sleek carbon composite body provides a supportive and stable pedaling platform.

Since the shoe and pedal are integrated, they work as a single-ultra efficient component, delivering excellent stability and comfort. The pedals hang nose-up, making it easier to clip into them.

The Shimano Ultegra has almost the same design and ease of use as the top-end Dura-Ace pedals but is not much heavier. They come with three non-replaceable stainless steel plates to provide efficient power transfer and smooth float.

Key Features

  • Carbon composite body
  • Extra-wide platform for efficient power transfer
  • Adjustable entry and release tension settings
  • 248g pair

Pros

  • The wide bearing allows for maximum stability
  • Lightweight and durable
  • Efficient power transfer

Cons

  • It’s quite expensive
  1. Shimano Dura-Ace 9100 SPD SL (Best Performance)

It is another excellent product from Shimano delivering unmatched performance. The Shimano Dura-Ace 9100 comes with a large platform to provide efficient energy transfer. 

These clipless road pedals are popular due to their low weight, reliability, and ease of use. They are well-balanced and easier to clip into. The Dura-Ace 9100 is much more expensive and  20g lighter than the Ultegra R 8000.

Key Features

  • Adjustable tension
  • Comes with three float options
  • Weighs 228g (pair)
  • Clipless pedals

Pros

  • Lightest cleat and pedal combo
  • Allows for perfect balance
  • Spares are widely available

Cons

  • Not a budget-friendly choice
  1. Look Keo 2 Max – Best Price To Weight Ratio

When it comes to a balance between price, adjustability, and weight, Look Keo 2 Max takes the crown. Its design imitates Keo Blade but with few adjustments. The only difference between these two products is the standard spring coil system on Look Keo 2 Max, in place of the carbon leaf spring in Keo Blade.

The standard spring coil system is used for cleat retention and allows more release tension adjustability. It’s easier to clip into thanks to the extra weight at the back of the pedal.

The Keo 2 Max uses cleats of 0, 4.5, and 9 degrees of float. It comes with an improved spindle profile composed of a needle roller bearing and an axle with an inner ball bearing, which allows for optimal handling and distribution of the load. 

Instead of a serrated washer holding the needle roller bearing in place, a conical spacer does the job perfectly. It increases fluidity while reducing friction to provide irreproachable reliability.

Key Features

  • Composite body material
  • Features a standard spring coil system
  • Conical spacer
  • Oversized CrMo spindle material
  • 17.33mm pedal stack height
  • 500mm sq platform

Pros

  • Superior comfort and maximum power transfer
  • Provides excellent pedaling stability
  • Made from extremely durable materials
  • The slim profile create sleek looks

Cons

  • The cleats squeak, especially when they’re dirty
  1. Wahoo Fitness Speedplay Zero – Best Adjustable

The Wahoo Fitness Speedplay Zero is a lollipop-shaped road bike pedal offering a non-centric float and excellent adjustability. Although it’s quite expensive compared to other models, the Wahoo Fitness Speedplay Zero delivers an excellent pedaling on-road experience.

In addition, it features metal swindles which are much more durable compared to the Chromoly spindle model. The non-centric float means that there’s no spring to push your feet back to the center.

At first, you might find it challenging to use the Wahoo Fitness Speedplay Zero, but once you get used to it, the experience is amazing. 

The pedal is best for road cycling and time trials.

Key Features

  • Small platform size
  • Dual-sided entry
  • Compatible with three and four-hole bike shoes
  • Clipless three-hole design
  • Stainless steel material
  • Weighs 222 grams
  • Features standard tension cleats

Pros

  • They are best for road biking
  • Durable due to the stainless steel spindles
  • Low stack height
  • You can easily customize the float settings

Cons

  • They are quite expensive
  1. Look Keo Classic 3 – Best Budget

Look Keo Classic 3 road bike pedals feature a classic design and offer good value for money. They are ideal, especially for beginner riders. The contact surface is dimpled and large enough to provide excellent pedaling stability and comfort. 

They come in multiple colors, including red, white, and black. This allows you to enjoy a customized experience by matching them with the color of your bike or cycling kit. The pedals are well-balanced and easy to clip into. 

Additionally, the Look Keo Classic 3 has an adjustable resistance ranging from 8 to 12, which allows you to select a perfect fit based on your needs and preferences. There is an oversized steel axle with a needle-bearing cartridge and miniature ball bearings to prevent wear and tear.

Key Features

  • Weighs 278 grams (pair)
  • Adjustable tension
  • Medium platform size
  • Weighs 278 grams

Pros 

  • Reliable and easy to use road bike pedal
  • Stainless steel plates allow for stable pedaling
  • Steel plates reduce wear
  • Stylish looks
  • Come at an affordable price

Cons

  • Heavier than carbon options
  1. Shimano 105 SPD Pedals – Best for Optimizing Performance and Price

The Shimano 105 SPD pedals have almost the same features as the Dura-Ace and Ultegra counterparts. The pedals run on cartridge bearings and a steel spindle to deliver a solid performance and excellent reliability.

Its wide body features stainless steel metal inserts that allow a solid and secure base for excellent power transfer and pedaling. The pedals contain a carbon composite body and sealed cartridge bearings. You’ll need a three-bolt cleat offered in three float versions to use with the Shimano 105 SPD pedals.

These pedals are also referred to as Shimano PD-R7000 pedals. What’s more, they are at the cheaper end of all Shimano products.

Key Features

  • Medium platform size
  • Carbon composite body
  • Sealed cartridge bearings
  • Stainless steel body plates
  • Adjustable entry and release tension settings

Pros

  • Provides a durable road biking experience
  • Low maintenance
  • Excellent bearings allow for smooth pedaling

Cons

  • Lacks the center stainless steel pad
  1. Time XPro10 Pedal – Best for Stability

All road cyclists, from enthusiasts to competitive athletes, will find the Time XPro 10 pedals ideal for their road cycling activity. Its body is made from a more durable carbon material which increases its longevity. The pedal comes with a wider surface area measuring 725 sq mm to improve power transfer and stability. 

The redesigned ICLIC system allows for excellent cleat management and increased comfort. Although the durability of the product is good, you can’t replace the bearings that easily. A stack height of 13.5mm is low enough to keep your foot close to the axle.

You can adjust the retention system in three different positions to optimize engagement tension.

The large pedal surface, coupled with the low stack height, yields incomparable pedaling efficiency and comfort.

Key Features

  • Carbon infused body
  • 13.5 mm stack height
  • Redesigned ICLIC system
  • Three-position tension adjustment
  • Adjustable Q factor cleats
  • Steel bearings
  • 2.5 degrees lateral float
  • +/- 5 degrees angular float

Pros

  • Easy clip-in
  • A wide platform allows added power transfer
  • Lightweight pedals
  • Knee-saving float
  • Effective cleat design that stays put

Cons

  • Cleats aren’t much durable
  • Difficult to service the bearings on your own
  1. Look Keo Blade Carbon Pedals – Best Power To Weight Ratio

Here is another reliable, durable, and secure road bike pedal from Look. The Keo Blade Carbon Pedals come with a wide pedal platform supported by a 67mm steel plate to enhance efficiency and comfort. The feature increases power transfer; hence, no energy goes to waste.

Additionally, the Keo Blade pedals employ a blade retention system in place of the traditional coil spring, which makes them lightweight. They are easy to clip into and hold your feet in a secure position.

The ceramic bearings are much harder than the traditional balls and guarantee the pedal’s longevity.

Key Features

  • Blade carbon technology
  • 67mm platform size
  • Pedal weighs 110 grams
  • The platform is made from stainless steel
  • Features Chromoly + spindle
  • The tension features 8Nm blades with additional 12 Nm spare blades available

Pros 

  • Lightweight
  • Secure pedal for road bike cycling
  • Two different blade choices are available
  • Streamlined design
  • Positive engagement

Cons

  • Slight cleat rocking is possible
  1. Time XPro 15 Pedals

The Time Xpro 15 pedals are the utmost expression of pedal technology. The pedals feature an all-new carbon body that creates a solid structure for excellent power transfer. A large 725 mm sq pedal surface ensures stability and optimal power transfer.

On the underside of the pedal is a cover that protects the pedal’s mechanism while promoting an aerodynamic airflow. The slightly redefined ICLIC system allows for maximum comfort and reliability. You can set/adjust the click hardness in three stages to optimize engagement tension. It gives you complete control of your road bike pedals.

The automatic pre-opening ICLIC system allows for easy clip-ins. 

Key specifications

  • Hollow titanium axle
  • Ceramic bearings
  • Light carbon body materials
  • Allows for three different settings of the carbon blade
  • 13.5 mm stack height
  • Intended for road use
  • Compatible with SPD SL system bike shoes
  • Weighs 174.6 grams (pair)
  • Available in black and white colors

Pros

  • Positive clip in
  • Lightweight
  • The large platform provides stability
  • Solid hold-on cleat
  • Inbuilt angular and lateral float

Cons

  • The pedals are quite expensive

Buying Guide for Bike Pedals and Cleats

You now know the best road bike pedals and cleats thanks to our reviews on different products. However, our needs and preferences keep changing with time. Also, manufacturers are always working on research and development to improve their products. What is best now might not be the best in five years. 

Therefore, you should understand some essential factors when shopping for road bike pedals and cleats. 

Use the tips below when searching for the best road bike pedals and cleats.

  1. Clipless Vs. Flat Pedals

Do you like your feet free while cycling or clipped into the pedals? This is one question you need to answer before buying road bike pedals.

Your riding preference will determine whether you need clipless or flat pedals.  It’s essential to get the right type of bike pedals because your choice affects the comfort of your ride. Let’s help you understand these two types of bike pedals.

Platform/flat pedals 

These are standard bike pedals with no interface to clip into them. Platform pedals have a flat surface and are much safer, especially for beginner cyclists. They don’t require any special type of shoe to be used. You can easily take your feet off them because you don’t need to clip into them.

However, you can’t pull up or pedal in circles on flat pedals. Also, the risk of your foot slipping off is high. You also risk shin injuries from pins. The flat pedals are ideal for commuters, beginners, downhill, and MTB riders.

Clipless pedals

Clipless pedals allow you to clip your feet to the pedals. This enables you to position your foot in an optimal position for cycling.

Clipless pedals are designed for commuters, road cyclists, mountain bikers, bicycle tourists, and many more. You’ll hear a clicking sound when you step on a clipless pedal with your cleat shoes. When coming to a stop, swing your feet out to detach from the pedal.

A clipless pedal system has three main parts; the pedals, shoes, and cleats. Clipless pedals allow for improved pedaling efficiency. Also, they give you more control for easier maneuvering. Since they are lightweight, you can ride for long distances without tiring.

However, clipless pedals are quite expensive. This is because you have to buy each part of the clipless pedal system separately: the pedals, shoes, and cleats. 

Hybrid pedals

The hybrid pedals combine the characteristics of flat and clipless pedals. It allows you to decide on the type of shoe to use; choose between normal shoes or specialized cycling shoes. 

However, hybrid pedals are bulky and heavier than clipless MTB and road pedals. They are best for bike packers, commuters, those who love hiking and bike trips, and many more. If you’re a beginner, the hybrid pedals will help you transition from flat pedals to clipless pedals.

  1. Shoe and Cleat Compatibility

This is another important factor to consider when buying bike pedals and cleats, especially clipless bike pedals. Bike shoes can be compatible with either two-bolt or three-bolt cleats. 

The three-bolt clipless pedal system was first introduced by Look, one of the reputable bike pedal brands. Today, other brands have incorporated this pedal system into their products. The three-hole design allows you to spread force on the pedals evenly and to ride more efficiently. It is mostly recommended and preferred for road bikers.

On the other hand, the two-hole cleat system is designed for casual riders and mountain bikers. This is because they are easy to disengage, and they increase the efficiency of your ride.

  1. Brand

It’s also essential to consider the manufacturer when looking for road bike pedals. Every product comes with a unique character depending on the manufacturer or brand. This is because every one of them wants to dominate the industry and to make better products. They are all competing for the same customer.

While you are free to choose a brand that you like, we recommend getting your road bike pedals from the following reputable manufacturers.

  • Shimano
  • Time
  • Look 
  • Speedplay

These manufacturers have been in the industry for a long time and are trusted by riders worldwide. Their products are safe, reliable, and secure and are specially designed for every rider. If you’re a pro, you are free to choose from other upcoming brands.

  1. Float and Release Tension

Float refers to the extent your foot can move before being released from the pedal, and it’s measured in degrees. It allows your foot to fall into a natural and more comfortable position while you’re pedaling.

If you have cleats with zero floats, even the slightest movements will release your foot. However, you should ensure they are properly set for the safety of your knees. Other cleats come in floats ranging from 3 to 9 degrees.

What’s essential to understand is that if you have more float, you’ll need to twist your foot further to release it. 

Some pedals will allow you to adjust the settings of the release tension. If you’re new to cycling, a low-tension setting might be ideal since it allows easier release. You can increase the tension as you advance your riding skills.

  1. Stack Height

Stack height refers to the distance between your foot or the sole of your bike shoes to the middle of the pedal axle. It is an important aspect to consider when choosing the best road bike pedals and cleats. 

Some road bike pedals have a high stack height while others have a low stack height. The high stack height is for the most experienced riders.

We recommend choosing road bike pedals with a low stack height so that your foot is close to the axle. This helps boost your confidence while enjoying your ride on the road.

  1. Materials and Design

When choosing road bike pedals and cleats, you want something that will stand the test of time while still delivering excellent performance. Remember, you exert a lot of force and pressure on the pedals while cycling. 

Therefore, you should go for a product that guarantees maximum performance and durability. For this, you have to consider the type of material used to make the pedal and cleats. The type of materials determines the quality of road bike pedals.

Some materials used to make road bike pedals include;

  • Magnesium alloy
  • Aluminum alloy
  • Polyamide
  • Hard plastic

You want a material that’s strong enough to withstand your weight. You also want a road bike pedal that’s lightweight and durable.

Additionally, the design of your pedals will affect the appearance of your bike. Therefore, if you’re someone who values style and looks, the design of your road bike pedals should be a priority. Go for a product that’s attractive enough to enhance the appearance of your bike. Try matching the color of your pedals to that of your bike or cycling kit.

  1. Cost 

This is perhaps one of the most common factors people consider when shopping for any product. While it is good to consider the price of road bike pedals, it shouldn’t be the main area of focus. 

If you have enough money, you won’t have any problem getting premium-priced road bike pedals and cleats. However, you should ensure that you get the quality you pay for. Also, there’s no reason to buy bike pedals in significant amounts when you can get the same product somewhere else at a slightly lower price.

Therefore, before you buy your road bike pedals and cleat, compare costs from different manufacturers. The pedals come with different price tags depending on various factors like brand, material, durability, and efficiency. Also, if you can, get the product directly from the manufacturer. This is because, if the product passes through multiple middlemen before reaching you, the cost will definitely be high.

However, do not buy a bike pedal just because it’s cheap. You want to obtain value for your money by getting the right product at the right cost. If you plan on shipping the product or buying online, take note of the shipping costs and any additional charges. 

Last Word

You want to buy your road bike pedals and cleats from a recognized brand. Currently, the most reputable bike pedal brands include Look, Shimano, Time, and Speedplay. According to our research, the best road bike pedals and cleats are the Shimano Ultegra R8000 SPD SL. This is our top pick because it’s well-balanced and easier to clip onto. They are also reliable and lightweight hence ideal for road riders.

If you feel there’s a product we’ve left out, kindly add it in the comment section to help other riders like you get the best out of their pedaling experience. In addition, if you’re interested in buying any of the products above, just hit the link on the product, and you’ll be good to go.

Let’s keep pedaling.