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Trying out SPD-MTB Cleats on my hybrid bike.

Think I've realized I must have SH51 cleats because they only disengage in one direction. But it seems odd to me that they disengage in opposite directions (right foot twist away from bike, left foot twist towards bike). Is this right?

OP's photo of cleat position, from an answer that can now be deleted


Many thanks for your replies. Good to know this isn't normal (I am used to cleats. I've used SPD-SL for years). My left foot isn't impeded by frame or anything else.

Just to clarify to disengage I currently have to move right heel away from bike- left heel towards bike.

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  • Is it possible that something on your bike is not symmetrical which is leading you astray? I know for a fact I am not, and my saddles have to be turned slightly to the left else it feels wrong. Check the underside of your shoes too.
    – Criggie
    Mar 22, 2023 at 2:39
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    Thanks for your replies. Good to know this isn't normal (I am used to cleats- have used SPD-SL for years ). Left foot isn't impeded by frame or anything else. I've taken picture of cleats- will try to attach. Mar 22, 2023 at 8:03
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    I've attached the image to the question (that's why the answer is flagged for deletion administratively). Looking at the photo makes me wonder what model your pedals are.
    – Chris H
    Mar 22, 2023 at 10:05

3 Answers 3

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SH51s disengage with twisting outwards or inwards - if nothing gets in the way and you have the range of movement. However they're primarily designed for an outward twist of the heel.

It's quite common when twisting inwards to hit the crank or chainstay; hitting a chainring guard is also quiet possible if one is fitted. So that could explain why you have to twist your right foot out.

If your left foot must twist inwards, and assuming there's no reason why your personal range of movement isn't limited, I'd look at the cleat position:

  • is it the same (mirror image) on both shoes
  • could some aspect of the sole be hitting part of the pedal? I've had to file down the cage on my M424s to suit my shoes (which are selected for being good to walk in for commuting but also light hiking on bike tours).

I'd also consider where your foot is in the stroke when you unclip. I normally unclip with my foot at the bottom (between the 5 o'clock and 7 o'clock positions, by twisting out), occasionally at the top, but at the top I twist my heel in. I can't unclip with my right foot back (9 o'clock) because I'd twist inwards and my lock is attached there in the way. Neither could I unclip by twisting inwards with either foot forwards because I'd kick the crank.

Looking at your photo, the cleat angle and fore/aft position are almost exactly the same between the shoes: cleat angle comparison

The blue lines are drawn from the centre of the outer cleat bolt, through the centre of the inner bolt. On the right shoes (left in the pic) the line intersects a small groove in the tread; on the left shoes (right in the pic) it's slightly further forwards. The gap between the unused bolt hole and the back of the cleat recess is 5 pixels different in 90 pixels, so nothing basically. Side to side, the left shoe has its cleat 12 pixels closer to the crank. That's about 1mm, which might be just enough to make a difference.

I have had some success working out where shoes and pedals clash by rubbing chalk on one and looking at where it rubs off on the other. Some moisture may help.

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    I like the quantitative analysis--very effective!
    – MaplePanda
    Mar 22, 2023 at 20:26
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No, that's not the normal behavior. Are you sure the left foot won't release when twisted away from the bike? It will be helpful if you add a pic of the underside of your shoes just to make sure your cleat setup is normal. Also, are you sure the shoe isn't getting caught on the frame somewhere before the cleat can release? I can see that being a possibility.

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With SM-SH51 cleats, the disengagement direction is:

enter image description here

With SM-SH56, it would be:

enter image description here

Could it be that that your pedal spring tension is too loose that it enables you to disengage the opposite way?

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    As said by ChrisH, all SPD pedals disengange with both inwards and outwards twisting, it's just that the heel-inwards movement is, if not impossible due to the cranks or chainstays in the way, then at least so awkward that nobody would seriously use them this way. Mar 22, 2023 at 20:38

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