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In this question I asked about clipless pedals. The term float came up. I think that float refers to how far you need to turn your shoe in order to release it from the pedal. Q1: Is this correct?

I think that when I buy clipless pedals I will need three things:

  • Shoes
  • Pedal
  • Clip that screws onto shoe that will fit in pedal

Q2: Is this correct?

Assuming I am right about that I think that the shoe that I buy will be independent of how much float there is. Q3: Is this correct? Can I buy any shoe and change the level of float by changing the clips?

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Something to be careful with... I've observed that pedals with more float tend to result in more issues with the shoe adapters coming unscrewed quicker over time. Always wise to re-torque those screws, but especially so on setups with a lot of float. –  Brian Knoblauch Sep 10 '10 at 19:37
    
I've never had a cleat come loose. Your feet put a lot of torque on those cleats, so you need to make sure you really torque down those bolts (which should be steel, not dainty aluminum). Riding in wet weather helps to seize them up nicely too! –  darkcanuck Sep 11 '10 at 2:49
    
@darkcanuck - I have had a foot come loose when hitting a big bump, but the cleat was fairly worn and I had the float at the maximum. –  Anthony K Sep 14 '10 at 14:32
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2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Q1: No, "float" is the amount your feet can rotate (around a vertical axis) while clipped in.

A system/cleat with little or no float keeps your foot in a very rigid position. You can't freely twist your toe/heel while pedaling. If you have a textbook pedal stroke, low float will keep your feet in the right place so you can focus on other things. With more float, your foot has more freedom to rotate. This can be helpful if your technique is less perfect and your body needs the extra freedom. I have an old knee injury and need plenty of float -- with less my knee really hurts. So you want to get enough float to allow you to pedal comfortably, but not so much that you develop a sloppy pedal stroke.

It doesn't really affect how far you need to turn your foot to unclip. Well, you do have to turn further in a system with more float, but that's not the point of having more float.

Q2: Pedals normally come with a set of cleats and bolts to attach them. And most shoes are designed to fit a wide range of cleats and offer a fair amount of cleat adjustment. But if in doubt, check before you buy. You probably want your LBS to help you get the cleats positioned correctly anyway (I've done it myself but it involves a lot of trial and error).

Q3: My experience is limited to Crank Brothers and SPDs -- both of these offer different clips for differing amounts of float. Don't assume that all systems do this, so check them out first.

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Sounds right. Look has rigid 0 degree and 10 degree cleats. I use the 10s. –  Jay Sep 11 '10 at 6:49
    
@Jay: good to know, I could never figure it if Look pedals offered any float. –  darkcanuck Sep 11 '10 at 7:47
    
I'm confused on Q1. If float is "the amount your feet can rotate while clipped in", then doesn't that imply that it's also the amount your foot must rotate to clip out? –  mehaase Sep 4 '12 at 2:22
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Float adjustment dependson pedals. My Time Alium pedals adjust float by flipping the cleat around. A pair of SPD pedals generally has a tension screw.

Float is the degrees of rotation needed to release your foot from the pedal.

Most shoes will fit any cleat style. Many years ago I bought a pair of SIDI shoes for my MTB that required me to cut out a bit of the tread on the shoe. Not really all that big a deal most of the time but it might be an issue.

Now if you are talking road shoes then there are different cleat bolt patterns so you have to buy the version of the shoe with the proper bolt pattern. If it's a MTB shoe then bolt patterns are all the same as far as I know.

Long term I always put a bit of loc-tite on my cleats once I've got them adjusted perfectly. I also trace their position with a permanent marker. The marker doesn't stay totally but it's typically a rough idea so you know if you're cleats have moved. Checking your cleats once a month is a good idea to make sure they're still tight. I have had a pair drop a screw and I needed a screw driver to remove them from the pedal. The cleat wiggling loose also killed a shoe since I didn't notice for a few rides.

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@darkcanuck has the description of float correct. It is the amount that your foot can rotate without unclipping or starting to unclip from the pedal. The amount your have to turn your foot to disengage is secondary. –  Chris Lieb Sep 11 '10 at 2:55
    
@ChrisLieb I don't see what you mean by "secondary". It's like the OP is asking if 2+2=4, and you're saying that 4=2+2. Aren't they two different ways of saying the same thing? –  mehaase Sep 4 '12 at 2:24
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