We take a quick look at some of the more popular pedal-cleat systems on the market, which include; Look Keo, Shimano SPD and SL, Speedplay and Time Xpresso

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Pedal systems: Look Keo

Look Keo 2 Max Blade pedals

Read more: Look Keo 2 Max pedals review

French manufacturer Look was 
at the vanguard of clipless pedal development back in the Eighties, and is still ever present in the modern market.

Using a simple three-bolt cleat design, the Keo pedal system has been around a few years now and is loved and used by cyclists at all levels, from leisure to elite racing.

The large cleat doesn’t exactly encourage walking, but rubberised details help with this a fair bit. It provides a great base for pushing on, but tends to wear fairly fast.

Good for – General road riding and racing

Buy now: Look Keo 2 Max from Wiggle for £45.48

>>> Cleats explained: How to set them up correctly

Pedal Systems: Shimano SPD double-sided


The SPD has been around for 20 years or more and has changed little in that time; it’s a great system that works well.

Popular with mountain bikers, the twin sided pedal makes for super-easy access, while the recessed cleat means walking is no problem. The cleats are also made of metal and can last many months, even years.

Commuters love these simple 
pedals for their ease of access, but sportive riders may find the small platform becomes apparent and uncomfortable over long distances.

Good for – Mountain biking, cyclo cross, touring, commuting

Buy now: Shimano M520 SPD pedals from Evans Cycles for £19.99

Pedal systems: Shimano SPD one-sided


The perfect solution if you’re a little tentative about switching to clipless, or if you like the idea of easy-walking, recessed cleats but want a bit more support for long-distance riding.

The provision of a standard ‘cage’ pedal on one side means you can ride in trainers, or simply unclipped, if the fancy takes you, while you can also clip in to the SPD cleat and enjoy the greater lateral support offered by the cage.

The only downside is that this type of pedal can be a little weighty, though lighter variations are available.

Good for – Leisure riding, off-road, commuting

Buy now: Shimano M324 SPD pedals from Evans Cycles for £49.99

Pedal systems: Speedplay

Read more: Speedplay Zero Cromoly review

The Speedplay ‘lollipop’ is a unique and established player which, as well as looking good, is one of the lightest, offering a range of adjustment.

The set-up is the reverse of most others, with the pedal ‘clipping into’ the cleat rather than vice versa. Cleat position is adjustable in three separate planes, and all can be fine-tuned independent of each other — if you have ergonomic issues with the usual systems, this could be the one for you.

The simplicity and double-sided nature also mean they’re easy to get into.

Good for – Road racing (especially criteriums)

Buy now: Speedplay pedals from Wiggle for £94.02

Pedal systems: Shimano SPD SL

Shimano’s popular take on the three-bolt configuration is the SPD SL, which looks fairly similar to the Look Keo but with a noticeably broader cleat/pedal platform. Shimano says this enables maximum efficiency for power transfer.

Just like the Looks, the cleats come in three different colours, each denoting a different level of float. Again, like the Looks, it’s a system that is well used within the professional peloton, and they aren’t the easiest to walk around in, especially on shiny floors.

Good for – Road riding, racing, general riding, commuting

Buy now: Shimano Ultegra 6800 pedal from Evans Cycles for £84.99

Pedal systems: Time Xpresso

Read more: Time Xpresso 6 pedals review

Buy now: Time Xpresso 6 pedals from Merlin Cycles for £74.95

With a range of models to suit every budget and, like the Speedplays, loads of fine-tuning options, the Xpresso is a popular three-bolt system.

The cleat is one of the biggest on the market, so offers a very supportive platform to push on. They’re also quite cheap to replace, which is always a bonus.

The Xpresso system boasts lateral (side to side) adjustment, and very small distance between the sole and the pedal axle, purportedly increasing efficiency.

Good for – Racing, road riding

  • Lindsay Flowers

    Egg beater baby Got’em all beat. Light simple fast for MTB/Road racers. intuitive for newbies. Good value and long wear life for comuters (keep your cleats greased). With my DZR shoes I’ve worked 8hr shifts 5days a week as a bike courier no problem. Cleats sit so low I forget they are there when im cavemaning around indoors.

  • mr645

    I get about 5000 mile out of a set of SPD cleats. Pedal last much longer

  • David A. Nagy

    I have two bikes, one with Shimano SPD double-sided pedals and one with SPD-SL pedals. I can echo the concerns about long rides on the SPD double-sided system because my feet ache after a couple of hours but not with the wider SPD-SL. I have solved the walking issues with the SPD-SLs with rubber covers that I slip into a jersey pocket when I take off and can slip over the cleats if I have to walk in the shoes. It saves a little wear on the cleats and provides a ‘grippier’ surface for the cleat when walking on tile and other slicker floors.

  • I switched from Shimano SPD-SL to Look Keo and not ‘looked’ back – excuse the pun. Personally I just found that the yellow bits on the SPD-SL wore off much quicker than the whole of the Looks. When you’re living in London and there is a lot of unclipping to do this became an important factor – as well as the fact the Velodrome used Look so I didn’t have to keep switching my cleats. I would love to try the Speedplay though at some point – the Pavé editions in particular.

  • dustoyevsky

    My ten or twelve years’ worth of experience with the Shimano SPD-SL’s is, they walk very well, including “shiny floors”. Someone had an accident? If the floor is slippery enough, sure. They’re not hiking boots. Better than the 1rst-gen Looks and Campy Profit by huge margins, for “store stop” walking specifically. See the “pontoons”, Shimano took a feature from an older cleat and made it a simple, one-piece affair, integral with the cleat. And not mentioned: the pedal springs (UItegra, IME) don’t “go away”, like Campy and maybe others. The cleats last very well and wear from walking and pedaling doesn’t seem to affect the reliability of engagement anywhere near the level the bad old 1rst-gen Looks were famous for.
    Maybe you should hire me to evaluate pedals?

  • André Felipe

    The Shimano-branded shoes on the Look Keo section turns the reading of this (excellent) article into a maze of texts, captions and pictures.

  • Time pedals for me, the sideways movement I think helps cut down on any knee problems.

  • Chris

    Depends on how much walking you do!

  • dodders

    “Shimano SPD cleats last months, maybe years”? Are you kidding me? I’m still using my original SPD cleats and pedals after 15 years. Metal parts don’t degrade like the plastic look cleats.