Shimano® SPD-SL and LOOK® Road Pedal
Cleat Installation and Alignment
by
James Robert Steel
June 2008

A bike shop can install your pedals and cleats or you can do it yourself. Most bike shops probably have installed hundreds of pedals and cleats.

The instructions included with Shimano pedals are not very complete. The instructions I received with my pedals don't even mention the center-of-axle marks on the cleats. We suggest you follow directions if you have them and always use original fasteners and the special cleat washers. If you don't have the original bolts and washers please buy new cleats designed for the pedals.
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Install pedals
If you are installing pedals install them on the crank arms now. The pedal on the right has normal (clockwise) thread and the pedal on the left has left-hand thread. If you can't loosen the left pedal while trying to remove it make sure you are turning it the correct direction; clockwise. I thoroughly clean the crank and pedal threads and use a small amount of waterproof grease on the threads when installing pedals.

Mark shoes for ball-of-foot location
Remove your shoes and socks. Find the ball of each foot just behind your big toe joint. See FIGURE #1. Also have a look at Jim Langley's Cleats web page. Use a felt-tip marker or pen to mark the location on the tops of your feet. Be sure to locate the big toe large metatarsal bone and not the phalange bone forward of the joint. Remove the laces and straps from the bike shoes and fit the shoes onto your bare feet. Stand up  to get settled in the shoes. Mark the outside of each shoe in line with the marks made on your feet. You will line up these shoe marks with the center-of-axle marks on the cleats as seen in FIGURE #3.

Install cleats
Take off your bike shoes and install laces and/or straps. Install the cleats loosely onto the shoes. The cleats MUST be able to move around during adjustment so tighten the bolts so the cleats can still move around. Look at FIGURES #2 through #5 and locate the center-of-axle notch marks on the cleats. Both Shimano and LOOK cleats have center-of-axle notch marks.

Adjust shoes relative to axle
See FIGURE #3. Adjust the cleats forward or backward to have these center-of-axle notch marks line up with marks on the outside of the shoes that line up with ball of your foot. Just get it close as there is no perfect position. Now look at FIGURE #4 . Adjust cleats left to right so the bolts and washers are approx. centered in the cleat slots. Now tighten the front bolt tighter than the two rear bolts so the cleats can swivel but not move forward and backward.

Adjust clearance between shoe and crank
Clip the shoes into the pedals. See FIGURE #6 . Measure the clearance between the shoe and the crank near the pedal. You want enough clearance that the shoe won't touch the crank. About 1/4 to 1/2 inch is good. If you have a wide shoe adjust to the smaller value.

Measure alignment clearance
Now mount your bike in a stationary bike trainer. If you don't have a bike trainer you can do this part on the street but you may need an assistant to help measure. Put on bike socks and the shoes in ready-to-ride fashion. You may leave the shoes mounted in the pedals and lace/strap them up while mounted on the bike. You should now be in normal riding position. Your feet must be able to swivel in the cleats to allow adjustment. If not the cleat bolts are too tight. Pedal 3 or 4 minutes in a relaxed posture to get settled in and then measure and write down the clearance between each crank arm and the side of the shoe heels at their closest point to the crank arm. See FIGURE #6 . I use adjustable divider calipers to measure the clearance. Take several measurements on each side after pedaling a minute and calculate the average or mean value of the measurements. When you are sure you have accurate individual measurements for both left and right shoes un-lace/un-strap shoes and remove your feet and leave the shoes clipped into the pedals.

Adjust alignment
See FIGURE #6 . Adjust each shoe such that the clearance between the crank arm and the side of the shoe heel at its closest point to the crank arm matches the measurement you took for that side while pedaling. If the cleats are designed to allow degrees of side-to-side float in the pedal then adjust in the center of the float. While the shoes are still clipped in the pedals, flip them over and mark with a scribe or a sharpie or white-marker on the bottom of the shoes around the perimeter of the cleats to save cleat position on the shoes.

Final adjustment and alignment check
Unclip the shoes from the pedals. Adjust each cleat such that it lines up with the marks you made on the bottom of the shoe around the perimeter of the cleat. While you are at it ensure the shoe mark still lines up with the center-of-axle notches as seen in FIGURE #3. Tighten the bolts. Clip the shoes into the pedals again. Ensure measurements you took while pedaling match the clearance between the crank arm and the side of the shoe heels at their closest point to the crank arm taking cleat float into account. Readjust if necessary by unclipping the shoes and loosening the two rear bolts and adjusting the cleat and re-tightening the bolts.

Post-installation maintenance
Check alignment and tighten the cleat bolts after each of the next 3 rides and every 500 miles thereafter.

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FIGURE #1




FIGURE #2



FIGURE #3


FIGURE #4



FIGURE #5



FIGURE #6



FIGURE #7