SPD pedals surface area

Long time roadie, novice gravel rider here. I have been trying to get to the bottom of SPD pedal choice in regards to the surface area of the pedals so any advice will be greatly appreciated.

:arrow_right: Is there any detrimental effect on power transfer, hotspots or shoes wear and tear because of the smaller surface area on SPD pedals??

I have a choice between Look X-Track Race (515 mm2) pedals and Shimano M540 (unknown surface size but smaller than Look). I’m riding S-Works Recon shoes and to my inexperienced eye the contact area on the SPD pedals is tiny compared to the road pedals so I’m wondering if that is going to cause any problems if used on an indoor trainer.

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I run SPD on all my bikes. 500 hours of riding last year, no issues with hot spots or anything like that. I’ve used SPD-SL years ago, and I don’t feel much of a difference. I do use carbon-soled shoes, which I think is what really makes a difference. On my main road bike, I use A520 pedals, which are one-sided SPD pedals at an Ultegra level. All the other bikes use M540s.

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Like you, Im going more the gravel way and have chosen to try “One Bike” so I went with a “gravel shoe” which falls somewhere between a light weight road shoe and an XC show. I appreciate the walk ability and havent had any problems over the past 2 months with the smaller contact area.

Long time roadie before this!

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Depending on what sort of gravel you have in mind, it’s actually not absurd to use a lot of road pedals. If you’re not going to be walking much, then SPD-SL cleats are pretty walkable. I would generally not try this on Speedplay, even though the Zero series of cleats are harder to foul than the Xs. If you’re going to be on the bike almost all the time and you like your road shoes and pedals, then it’s maybe worth considering.

That said, I haven’t had hot spots on my SPD cleats. When your SPDs wear, they do start to develop up-down play (Z-axis play), which is annoying. I am not certain if SPD and SPD-SL cleats wear at the same rate in the same conditions. One possibly minor caution is that because the SPD-SL pedal bodies are composite, I’d expect them to wear faster in gritty conditions than SPDs, which are all metal. You can’t really replace the composite parts once they’re worn down. The question is, am I correct about that? Maybe it’s a non-issue.

Thanks guys on good suggestions. Given all that has been said, I’m going to boldly proceed with Look X-Track Race pedals.

Gravel rides in my area consist mostly of dirt/mud roads, so occasionally I will be walking through mud - SPD is a must.

Regarding indoor rides I only hope that I will see no difference in SPD vs road pedals performance. :crossed_fingers:

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I think it’s not actually the pedals or cleats that wear with SPDs, its the shoe sole. When the sole outside the cleat wears, there is play between the cleat and the pedal. I’ve nit found a solution to that, but once there is a lot of play, changing neither the cleats nor the pedals will help.

I ride SPD with S-Works recon shoes. You can definitely tell there is less surface connection than with an SPD-SL setup. On very long rides I do get some heat and fatigue in the cleat area with SPD pedals. Also, I feel like a lot more chatter from the road comes through. I especially notice it on my trainer. Having said that, it’s worth it for me because I do a lot of walking and riding in wet areas. Stepping into wet grass, having the cleat fill with mud, and then trying to clip in on SL’s is a real PITA. With SPD, you just clip in, no problems.

Side note, if you decide to do the ASSIOMA SPD hack, I DID have to cut the tread on my Recons.

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Interesting that you make note of the chatter. Im 2 months in on a GRX drivetrain, coming from Ultegra 6800 and Ive been feeling that chatter through my feet. I thought there might be something wrong with the bike or that it might be the 1x chainring, but maybe its just that the Ultegra SPD-SL pedals and cleats were soaking up some of that.

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I also use A520 and A600 pedals on my gravel bike. Has more stability on my shoes because the pedal body contacts the shoe tread. One sided is not a factor with gravel riding because I rarely unclip. To me off road pedals are a must with gravel because you never know what conditions you might encounter.

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With good (lets call that $100+) shoes, you’ve got a stiff forefoot/midsole. The surface area is less important. With SPD mountain pedals, you’ve got some fudge in the exact distance between the sole, cleat, the pedal, and the side lugs - this means your feet can rock a bit (which can be good if you’re hitting rocks and working the bike). The side lugs (“pontoons”) in particular wear and the cleat has a small, central clamping area contributing to this looseness. More pedal area means you’ve got more surface to work the pedal without being clipped in and to control that rocking motion.

Anyway, in my experience, a bit of surface area is better than a minimalist pedal if you’re not on challenging terrain. If you’re on challenging terrain, you probably want the min or max surface. Also, I’d only look at that surface area number as good for comparing pedals from the same company, not cross-company.

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I brought up a similar topic here

As i have recently got northwave razor mtb shoes and sticking to the trusted spd’s. i’ve not bought any new pedals yet, but noticed the stiffness of the mtb shoe carbon sole makes a big difference over the £30 dhb mtb shoes i had previously

I weighed my gravel shoes today against my road shoe, cleats on both. Only about 50 grams difference for the pair. Probably 100 grams different when factoring in the pedals.