Choosing the ideal pedal and cleat system can be tedious. A rider should consider many things while choosing cleats such as platform size, cleat durability, compatibility with other bicycles, bearing quality — to name a few.
But when it comes to pedal set-up the topmost consideration should be the float. This is the area where your own physiology should play an important role in selecting cleats. Most professional riders advocate using fixed-position cleats, which means 0°C float, meaning that there is no play when the shoes are firmly engaged with the pedals. The hypothesis behind this is that fixed-position ones provide power-efficient pedal strokes. However, that long-held opinion about fixed-position cleats is now being disputed by professional cyclists.
Weighing up the alternatives
Floating cleats provide a slight degree of sideways movements of the rider’s foot when clipped into the pedals. This allows the feet to be centred automatically during pedalling.
Riders primarily decide to choose floating cleats is because these allow positioning of the cleat on the base of the shoe I if fairly better than fixed cleats. As a result, cyclists can set their cleat positions relatively easily.
Different manufacturers offer floating cleats with varying degrees of float alongside their regular fixed-position cleats. Shimano, for example, offers a centre-floating yellow cleat with 6 degrees of movement at both heel and toe. On the other hand, Speedplay’s offering is tidbit simplified. Their floating cleats are adjustable with grub screws to tailor the float angle movement from fixed to up to 15 degrees.
But, the question remains — do you need float? For the majority of riders having a relatively small amount of float can be advantageous, but it is the injury prevention of using floating cleats that is making waves in the cyclists’ community.
Injury prevention outweighs the loss of power transfer efficiency
By using fixed cleats, your hips and feet are locked in position. The kinetic chain is disrupted. The knee joint absorbs all the pressure to stabilize the pedal strokes and this unwarranted pressure can cause knee pain and injuries.
Be aware, though, the complications of the knees can also be caused by excessive float. Different riders have different levels of knee, foot, and hip stability, so it is critical you know the amount of float that works for you. Select only the pedal or cleat design that matches accordingly to the dynamics of your feet.
Every rider is unique and the amount of float in your pedals should reflect it. Figuring the ideal amount of float is just one aspect of choosing the perfect cleats. It should not by a large margin be the deciding factor when it comes to deciding pedals.
As always, if you’re experiencing any discomfort, pain or any other problems, don’t hesitate to consult an expert. This will eradicate all the guesswork and the painful experimentation involved in the process.
What is cleat float?
Float is defined as the degree of freedom to twist the foot when you are clipped into your cycling-specific shoes. Pivoting our foot on the pedal through the cleat.
Float depends on what type of pedal and cleats you have.
Road cleats most common float is 4-9 degrees
SPD (yellow-6, blue-2, red-0) , Look (grey-6, red-9, black no float),
Speedplay- engagement mechanism is on the cleat that engages with the grooves on the side of the pedal- 30deg of float. unrestricted float, free motion. Might really benefit those who… Heel can move easily- helps relieve some problems (good for those restricted up the chain) e.g. knee, back, hip problems. Because when we pedal, we have a lot of rotation in the transverse plane- including the tibia (tibial torsion- inward twisting of the shinbones) and the hips. Also a curve movement
Majority of cyclists, competitive
Author: Esther Koh
Cycling is her drug and therapy.
She is a certified Nutritionist (BSc Nutrition, University of Leeds) and loves both road cycling and mountain biking. She hopes that more females in Singapore will discover the joy and simple pleasure of riding a bike.