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I have a strange problem with my clipless pedal float becoming restricted. I recently installed Shimano M520 SPD pedals on my bike, with SM-SH51 cleats on SixSixOne Expert MTB shoes. A few weeks after initial set-up, the right side started not floating correctly. The float range felt reduced, and even within that range the float felt like it had more friction/restriction and didn't glide like the other side. A very experienced (40+ years) bike fitter looked at it and was completely perplexed. We switched out the pedal -- no difference. Switched out the cleat and the problem seemed to be fixed. The only noticeable cleat wear was in the center of the trailing tab thing, on the surface facing down when pedaling (strangely, from what I can see, that part doesn't contact the pedal when clipped in).

It's now been 1 1/2 weeks since the cleat was installed, and the problem has returned (got gradually worse just the last few days), but there isn't the same wear pattern on the cleat. The float feels really tight, high friction, reduced range.

Things I've done to try to fix it: I cleaned around the cleat, made sure the cleat bolts were tight, checked for contact between shoe and pedal (normal; consistent with good side), and examined for any cleat wear (none perceptible). I tried clipping the right shoe into the left side by hand, but it's hard to tell any difference when not actually on the bike. Update: I tried using some silicone lube - helped for my morning commute (~10 mi), but evening commute was back to bad.

Has anyone experienced abnormal cleat float resistance/friction/reduction? Could the shoe be contributing to this? Any ideas what I could check or change?

  • You should try a change of shoes! – Carel Jan 31 '18 at 16:23
  • @Carel Changing shoes was my next thought, although I'm hesitant due to cost. Any particular reason you think that could help? – Bird Jan 31 '18 at 16:28
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    Don't know about your shoes, but many have a sheet metal insert under the insole into which the cleat screws. This insert may have gotten bent. Also, there may be some dirt or corrosion in there that is somehow affecting the cleat fit. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 31 '18 at 20:10
  • Well maybe find another person with SPD shoes to test the float. I'm with @DanielRHicks on this, that the problem lies with the fit of the cleat to the sole. – Carel Jan 31 '18 at 20:47
  • @DanielRHicks Do you know if there's anyway to check if that insert is deformed? Perhaps replacing the cleat temporarily solved the problem by "resetting" that insert/cleat to sole fit, rather than something to do with the cleat itself? – Bird Feb 1 '18 at 15:25
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(This is more a collection of thoughts to help youtowards an answer, than an actual answer)

If wear at that point causes the shoe to sit a touch lower in the pedal, and the rubber sole to press against the metal, you'll get extra friction. My shoes are wth me, and show a similar wear spot; perhaps on your new cleats it's just not yet obvious. And that spot might actually contact something. I could believe so from about 4:46 into this video (M324s, but the mechanism should be very similar) and also from my own shoes (used with M424s)

Because I ride on M424s comnbined with walkable shoes, I had to file bits off the pedal to stop them binding against the shoes. To find where they were binding I dampened the sole and dusted the pedal with coloured chalk, then clipped the pedal (off the bike) to the shoe held between my knees. I could then see where the chalk stuck to the shoe. You might try something similar, though it might be easier to see where the chalk (alternatively talc) rubs off the shoe. You may not be able to make the problem go away with the file as your pedals don't have much material, but a light trim of the sole in the right region might help.

Which foot do you unclip more? The one that shows the trouble?

You can also try throwing some light grease over all the metal parts.

  • Maybe a dry lube rather than grease? Spray--on silicon would pick up less dirt than straight grease. – Criggie Jan 31 '18 at 21:48
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    There are special shaped washers/shims that come between the SPD-cleat and the shoe to allow for more room between pedal and shoe. I remember seeing those on the website of a cycling parts dealer. Something like this: bikefit.com/p-3-8-pack-spd-cleat-wedges.aspx – Carel Feb 1 '18 at 9:21
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    @Carel interesting, though those are wedged. It might be possible to cheat by using one the right way up and another flipped for a flat spacer. I don't know about the OP's shoes, but on my Specialized Cadet (discontinued) adding more than about 1mm of spacing would mean the cleats hit flat ground before the shoe sole. In my case I had to take two whole knobs off each pedal cage, probably 3mm in height, or they snagged on the cleat recess more details in an old Q&A, both mine. – Chris H Feb 1 '18 at 9:38
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    One could make one's own spacers with a bit of 1-2mm sheet metal, a 4mm drill, shears or a nibbler and a file (+some skill). – Carel Feb 1 '18 at 9:50
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    I was thinking greater wear on the side that clips more often. But maybe the frequent unclipping clears dirt or something like that. But I'm still leaning towards friction where the cleat and pedal mate. – Chris H Feb 1 '18 at 16:11

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