I do understand that this question been asked million times, and million people have million different opinions and it's all down to personal preferences, yet I am struggling and need to find a solution that would work best for me.

So there's no question - clipless pedals are better. I knew that when I was buying my bike and now I have "Look" pedals, and of course I had to learn to unclip them safely without falling.

I can do that now, but clipping the cleat back into the pedal is my biggest pain. The pedal's back-side is heavier than its front, so it allways dangles upside-down and I have to keep kicking it with my toe, until it rotates back to its normal position. And even after that I usually struggle to get it clipped. And in the city it's a huge problem - sometimes, I have to roll without clipping it till a next red light. And very often that sucker ironically clips right before the light. Also the "Look" cleats are made of plastic and they definitely will deform over time, making it even harder to use.

Yesterday I even thought about installing a regular pedal for one foot, but then decided it's a bad, bad idea and I don't really want that.

Can you guys tell me if I should definitely try using SPD-SLs? Are they much better? Can someone who actually had experienced both systems (and maybe older SPD as well) can tell me that I would benefit from spending another hundred bucks and more? Or there's a way to train myself to clip without even having to look down and this is a newbie's problem and I will forget about it very soon, after maybe fifty thousand stops and after replacing forty pairs of cleats?

Also I noticed that I prefer to unclip my left foot and stand on it, so my left cleat is going to wear off faster. Are left and right cleats are the same? Can I just keep replacing one cleat (although I noticed they always sold in pairs)

And Look cleats are not compatible with SPD-SL, right? What about shoes? Would I need to buy another pair of shoes as well, if I decide to switch?

UPD: Switched to SPD. And I gotta tell you, it feels significantly better.

  • Yes, I don't care that these XT 785s are meant for mountain bikes,
  • I don't care that they almost twice heavier than my KEOs,
  • I don't care that KEOs were almost twice the price i.e. maybe of better quality.
  • I don't care that SPD is older technology than Look and SPD-SL

After all, like Genghis Khan's adviser said once to his son:

It is possible to conquer the world sitting in a saddle but impossible to rule the empire from it

That said - riding a road bike is not always about speed, it's also about comfort. Maybe advocates of asymmetrical pedals would disagree, but I love my new pedals, they are awesome. Also I think now I understand why my previous pedals company called "Look" - you damn can't clip them in without looking straight at your foot

  • I've ridden both and have not really noticed any difference between Shimano and Look. Certainly not clipping and unclipping. Maybe a little difference in terms of float. Correct that they are incompatible. Another option is SPD (different to SPD-SL) but (subjectively!) I think they're a load more hassle than Look or SPD-SL.
    – PeteH
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 19:14
  • 2
    Is what a problem? General clipping and unclipping? It is certainly true that there is a learning curve - the more you do it the easier it becomes. Speaking personally again though, I used to ride a lot in London, and there I rode flat pedals because I never wanted unclipping issues to even be possible - not with traffic right behind me. (I rode clipless on all my other bikes - because of the benefits of clipless peadls I was willing to suffer the learning curve.)
    – PeteH
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 19:23
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    If you are frustrated with clipless then don't use them. Street or down hill pedals with street shoes work great in the city. I don't clip in the city - but I have a separate city bike.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 20:05
  • 1
    I have used both look (10 yrs) and SPD (15 yrs). (Not SPD-SL) First, for SPD I always get double sided pedals, so there is never a problem getting my second foot in. I don't even think about it. My foot just clips in. I never rotate the pedal or worry about it being angled down. Second, you can walk in SPD shoes, something you can't really do with Look. That's why I switched from Look to SPD.
    – Gary E
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 15:59
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    Practice - I've been riding clipless pedals for nearly 30 years and usually Look. I've tried speedplay for a while but went back to Look. You can adjust the pedal to make it easier to clip in and out of. And no, I haven't noticed any difference between the people I ride with in speed to clip in and out of based on what pedal they use but based on how much experience they have riding in general Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 18:03

5 Answers 5


This is part comment, part answer, but too long to fit in a comment, so here we go.

Personally, I use SPD, and when I ride with a group, everyone else has SPD-SL or LOOK. I'm usually clipped in and across the intersection before they're clipped in. Either I'm just really good at clipping in, or SPD are designed to be easier to get clipped in to. Even the very experienced riders tend to have problems with clipping in from time to time.

Personally I don't know what advantage SPD-SL offers over SPD. People say that the larger platform allows for better power transfer, but I don't see how that makes difference. The foot pushes on the hard sole of the shoe, and sole of the shoe pushes on the pedal, which is made of rigid metal. Assuming there is no flex in the pedal or the sole of the shoe, it doesn't matter how large the attachment point is.

Personally, I would recommend you try out a pair of SPDs. Borrow some from a friend or see if the shop has a demo pair and see if that works better for you. Too many shops will push you towards road pedals (either SPD-SL or LOOK) because you're riding on the road, and you will break "Rule 34" if you use mountain pedals on a road bike. I think that SPD pedals are a much better solution unless you're an actual road racer and only plan to unclip at the end of the ride.

  • 2
    Of course, most SPD pedals are double-sided, so you don't have to get the pedal flipped before you start trying to clip in. This easily cuts the overall effort in half. Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 20:11
  • My SPD Pedals are clip on one side, platform on the other. They are weighted such that the clip is usually up. So they clip in quite easily. In the event that they aren't oriented correctly, the platform works well enough that I can pedal and then clip in once I get up to speed. Also don't confuse the rule 34 above with the NSFW Rule 34.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 20:14
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    Other double sided options include Speed Play, Crank Brothers Egg Beaters and Time ATAC
    – Kibbee
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 20:23
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    @PeteH As long as the contact area is rigid and doesn't flex, the size shouldn't matter. I guess the larger platform spreads the pressure out over a larger area on sole of the shoe, but unless the sole is flexing and therefore not distributing the pressure evenly over your foot, making things uncomfortable, then you could have a problem. But if the shoe is sufficiently rigid, this won't happen. You could step on a nail, and as long as it doesn't go through the sole the pressure on your foot would be distributed the same as if you were standing on solid ground.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 20:42
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    (I'm not sure I can detect the difference between those two rules, that is.) Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 20:46

TL;DR : Having a quality pedal means that it will always be in the same position when you need to clip in and will make you life much easier when starting.

Part of the problem might be the "cheapness" of the pedals, let me explain :

I ride Look pedals and have been using Look Keo Carbon pedals, they are middle range (more expensive than the Easy and less than titanium ones). I have the same "backside is more heavy" problem, but I think it's a feature. You see my pedals are ALWAYS at 1 oclock top and 7 o'clock bottom, so all I have to do is get the tip of the cleat in the top "hook" and then clip right in, I'm usually clipped after 1 or 2 pedal rotation.

On the other hand, my friend has the cheapest look Easy pedals, in his case, the spindle is much less smooth and the pedals won't always be at the same position after unclipping. So each time he starts he has to replace the pedal in the right directions like you do.

Clipping in and out takes a lot of practice, and I mean a lot. I'm still struggling sometime even after 4 years of riding, there's always a moment where you start too quickly and can't get in.

As for cleats, yes they're plastic, but they are made to be replaced regularly, they use up instead of using up the pedal material. Don't cheap out when changing cleats, change both of them even if one is less used than the other.

  • I think it's the smoothness of the bearings, rather than the smoothness of the spindle that the bearings are attached to. The bearings on cheaper pedals may take some time to break in. On more expensive pedals, the pedals will spin easily out of the box. Then there's the issue if the manufacturer weighted the pedals such that they easily go into an easy to clip in position, although this should be the case.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 23:12

I use these spd's: http://road.cc/content/review/43776-shimano-pd-m520-spd-pedal

  • They are double sided, so you never get the wrong side to clip in
  • They are cheap
  • They are durable
  • The shoes you buy with them usually allow (easyish) walking when required
  • Can buy both road & mountain biking shoes - with a single pedal type

I know that's more of a "comment" answer, but hope it might help.


I think the key to your problem is the asymmetrical nature of SPD-SL pedals. So I don't think the Look pedals will help you.

Consider rotationally symmetrical pedals such as SpeedPlay, Crank Brothers Egg Beaters, SPDs, and the Time ATAC range. This style of pedal is much easier to clip into because you can just mash your foot at the pedal.

Have a look at more discussion on the pros and cons of many pedal styles.


I've just bought some Look Keo Easy pedals. They have no tension adjust at all, and are locked at the easiest tension.

The only problem I've found is that they don't hang right, so will be giving their bearings a lube and service after less than 100 km. Could be they're just a bit too stiff.

Why road cleats on a MTB? They were cheap and I already had a pair of road shoes. Testing an idea is always good before committing silly amounts of money to something that may be unnecessary, or worse detrimental.

  • Follow up - they're dead easy to pull out of. I had a washout on my MTB and busted up a few things, but my clears came out of the pedals during the fall. However walking is impossible. Next time I'll try the little ones. I intend keeping the worn out cleats to fit into the pedals, should I need to ride the bike with flat shoes on.
    – Criggie
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 4:15

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