Modifying SPD-SL cleats for more float.

Discuss light weight issues concerning road bikes & parts.
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by Rick

As a former Speedplay user, I like the Dura Ace pedals I have been using, but I find the lack of float a little uncomfortable. Even with the "6 Degree Float" cleats it seems like "float" is really almost nonexistent (by comparison at least).

But it occurs to me that the simliar LOOK system has a 9 deg. float cleat, and the amount of float seems to be just dependent upon the width of the pedal's "lip" and the width of the "recess groove" in the cleat.

Has anyone ever tried to increase the float of SPD-SL system by slightly filing down the pedal's lip or widening the cleat recess, with a dremel ?

Or is this just a plain bad idea ?

I searched this forum and all over the internet and found nothing.


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by davidalone

6 degrees of float is plenty; why do you need more?

it'd be possible, I think, but really too much work to do so. not worth the effort IMO. you'd need to calculate and then build something to preecisely measure the amount of material you'd want to dremel off. and you'd have to do it for ALL your cleats. just get speedplays if you wnat that much float and sell the dura ace pedals.

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Tinea Pedis
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by Tinea Pedis

I was required to move from Speedplay to Shimano (for my team) this year. The transition was tough, had to play with my cleat position a lot. All in spite of me appreciating the comparative lack of 'attention' Shimano pedals require (compared to Speedplay).

That said, if a lot of float is important to your riding comfort then I have to wonder why you made the switch?

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by Rick

I didn't really think float was all that important until after making the switch. In fact, I had experimented with 0 float on my speedplay zeroes.

And I have not been having any knee problems. It is more like I just feel the torque on my knees occasionally and WANT to have some more float. The lack of float gives me a "claustrophobic feeling". It is not a huge issue, but it got me thinking of going back to a better float setup.

As far as 6 degrees being enough....well, apparently it isn't. :) Maybe people who haven't ever used speedplays don't realize that pedals like Shimano and Look don't really have "float"...they have "ability to move your foot if you try hard enough". But the "float" on speedplays (and maybe Times) is virtually frictionless.
Last edited by Rick on Fri Oct 18, 2013 3:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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by rijndael

Is it the lack of float, or that the float is now under tension and not totally loose/free like on Speed Plays?

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by Rick

rijndael wrote:Is it the lack of float, or that the float is now under tension and not totally loose/free like on Speed Plays?

Good question: BOTH.
What "float" is there does not feel "floaty" enough, AND I feel torques to the leg as I randomly and occasionally come up against the stops.
±3° is not really very much; and I spent a long time trying to make sure the float range is centered about my "natural" position.

I feel like the lower I go the more pigeon-toed I go, but when I jump out of the saddle my feet want to turn outward and my ankles are twisting in toward the cranks.

On speedplays you just never feel a difference.

Why not just go back to speedplays ? That is under consideration. But switching pedal systems is always a bit of a bother, so I was just exploring the possibilities.
Last edited by Rick on Fri Oct 18, 2013 3:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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by rijndael

Good luck with your modification search, but it sounds like you're better suited on SpeedPlay pedals.

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by eric

Are you sure you have the cleats in the right position? If you're feeling like you need more float in one direction only that's a sign that your cleats need to be moved.

Shimano float will loosen up a little as the cleat wears. You could speed that by lightly sanding the bottom of the cleat.

The difference between the float and no float cleats is in the nose of the cleat- the no float cleats have a wider nose. So that's where the float is, not in the back where it clips in. If you want more float you could sand down the sides of the nose.

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by Rick

I think I am in the correct position, because I don't notice a preference for going up against the inside or outside limit.

I have noticed the float loosening up a little, and I have even tried to enhance that by lubing the surfaces lightly.

I notice that the float cleat is modified at both the nose and the tail. (I have both blue and yellow cleats) And I would be willing to try modification, but I wanted to see if anyone else had actually done it; only because I don't want to weaken the cleat or create some unexpected problem.

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by 113245

I'm sort of in the same position here. Was on Zeros and now riding DAs. I love everything about the speedplays but mine have too much lateral roll in the foot and it was causing me knee pains. I really miss the Speedplays, though, it was really easy to get in and out and frictionless, 'unlimited' float...

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by Cattiy

I wonder if you were succesfull modifying the spd sl cleats?

The rocking and maintance cost of my speedplay pedalsis driving me crazy. Bought DuraAce Pedals, but feel to restricted with just 6 degrees offloat.

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by TheKaiser

I know this is an old thread but, since it has been resurrected, I just wanted to add a few tidbits for any potential cleat modders out there.

I have not modified SPD-SL cleats myself, but have done so with older style look pedals, and I have also seen it done with 2 bolt SPD metal cleats.

The keys are, as mentioned above, to determine is it the amount of float or the "freeness" of it that is the problem?

If it is the freeness, then removing a bit of material from the contact surfaces usually does the trick, but my experience with the looks was that it wasn't the cleat bits themselves but instead was the rubber accoutrements that were supposed to help walking that were dragging on the pedal body. Removing them freed up the float with no reduction in pedal function whatsoever, however it did require a bit more care when walking.

Secondly, Shimano has 2 float cleats, but they differ in more than the simply the quantity of float. The yellow cleat has 6degrees of float, whereas the blue has only 1degree, however the yellow cleat has the float pivot centered around the toe of the cleat, whereas the blue cleat pivots around the center or midline of the cleat. To put it another way, they built a little extra tolerance into the toe and heel of the blue cleat allowing them both to move, rather than making one end a fixed rotation point with the other end sliding side to side in the yellow. If modifying them yourself, you could potentially use either/both of these strategies in differing amounts.

In my book, the best way to understand all of this and determine the proper mods is to remove a pedal from the bike and clip a shoe in to it. Rotate them back and forth a bunch of times while examining them from all angles, and try to determine which points have the most load and drag. Mark them with a marker, pop the cleat off, and remove just a tiny bit of material. Remount the cleat, and test. Repeat.

Clipping the cleat in to the pedal with no shoe attached can be helpful as well as it gives you visibility into the interface from a whole other angle although it can be tough to do with so little leverage. Backing off the spring tension to the minimum can help, but be prepared to get creative on how to clip/unclip it if you go this route. Bolting the pedal to a narrow strip of metal or a board can give you more leverage without obscuring your view of the toe and heel.

Go for cleat rather than pedal mods unless you have no other option or are absolutely sure you know what you are doing, for obvious reasons!

P.S. So how did it all end up sorting out Rick?

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by Rick

Since I started this thread, I will report my experiences:
When I considered the hassle and potential problems in modifying an SPD cleat, I just never really tried.
I guess the bottom line is that I gradually got used to having no float and stopped worrying about it. As mentioned before, my knees don't really need float, it is just something I felt like I wanted.

I am now using two pairs of shoes interchangeably: one with yellow cleats and one with the blue cleats. I actually prefer the blue cleats. The float is so minimal that it feels like none.
In fact, the yellow cleats feel like no-float also still. But although it is not "float" (as in free motion of the foot) you can move your foot to a different angle if you try. So, ironically, because I can move my foot I do try different angles an I am never quite confident it is in the "right" place. With the blue cleats, I can't move so I don't even try and forget about it. :lol:

The smooth, stable, quiet, no-hassle operation of DA pedals has really won me over. Some things are worth paying a little weight penalty for. When I have to replace my cleats I will go with either Blue or Red.

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by WheresWaldo

Since we are reviving this let me add my experience. If you do not have any joint abnormalities, float is likely unnecessary as you are finding out Rick. I first ran the Yellow cleats then switched to the Red cleats, and have a winter pair of shoes with the blue cleats. All my Yellow cleats are gone. I was a Speedplay user but issues with the company made me sell 7 pairs of speedplays I had at the time and switch back to Shimano. When I had my Speedplay Zeros, I kept dailing down the float until there was less than 1° total float. It was remarkably stabile and I did not feel any joint pains. So when I went back to Shimano, I imediately went to the Red cleats. Differnece in the red / blue / yellow is that there is 0° rear float on the Red and fixed front, the blue has 2° rear float and the front moves slightly left and right, the yellow are called self-aligning and have 6° of rear float and several mm of front side to side movement. TheKaisers statement that they only differ in the amount of float is incorrect. just looking at the cleats together will show the obvious difference in the width of the front of the cleat, and all three Shimano cleats measure different.

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by BdaGhisallo

Another thing to be mindful of with the yellow Shimano cleats is that there is a significant of sideways movement allowed by the cleat, independent of the six degrees of rotational float. The blue cleats have a tiny bit of it and the reds have none. The sideways movement I am referring to will alter your Q position, or how far out your shoes are from the centerline of the bike.

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