SPD vs SPD-SL (vs Wahoo Speedplay?)

I’ve been using SPD-SL’s for a very long time, since coming from flat pedals. Although they’re great for pedaling, sometimes I can’t clip back in to save my life (similar to Matt Stephens) Especially when entering a city with stop lights. I’ll even get dropped by a group because of clipping in. So I’ve been thinking of switching to SPD’s (MTB style) pedals/cleats. Does anyone have any experience with them? Are the power transfer efficiency different? I’m only experienced with SPD-SL’s. Also how are Speedplays? Are they similar to SPD’s? The double sided clip system sounds beneficial to me. I just got into an accident on Monday so I won’t be on the bike for a while. Thank you.

I use SPDs on the MTB and they still require a bit of technique though a tad easier. What I’ve found is that the more calmly and leisurely I try to clip in the easier it is. If I’m trying to clip in fast it almost always fails

Also if your group riders don’t have the decency to even wait for everyone to clip in after a junction before they hammer, you need new riding friends


Wow you’re so right about being calm! usually I’m a little anxious because of the traffic around me. My clip in speed is a little faster when no traffic is around.

Where I live (in Seattle), SPD is an uncontroversial choice for any bike. Yes, there are reasons why it might not work for you (hot spots, need the marginal gains from road shoes and cleats, etc), but I would venture that SPD is the pedal system that most cyclists should start with before deciding that their needs require a different system.


Speedplay claims that their pedals are the easiest to clip in. The trick is to hit them at the bottom of the pedal stroke.

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Marketing claims are fun, aren’t they? :stuck_out_tongue:

I have used and helped others use just about every pedal on the market. As simple as SP wants to claim, there is still some adjustment to using their pedals. I find them to be a bit more subject to poor left-right angular alignment when clipping in as compared to other pedals.

If you don’t get down and and “flat”, there can be issues, especially with new cleats and pedals. So, they still take some time to “get right” even though you can theoretically just stomp and go via the dual sided design. It’s no worse, really… than any other design, but it isn’t some holy grail like they claim either.


I started out with SPD pedals and cleats on my road bike when I first started cycling 5 years ago. I switched to SPD-SL last summer and definitely find it harder to clip in now with the SLs. I really miss the ease of clipping in on the SPDs. However, I do feel much more stable and secure on the SLs, especially when I’m out of the saddle and sprinting. On the SPDs, there were a couple of instances where the cleat disengaged from the pedal while I was sprinting, even though I’d tightened the tension on the pedal, and I’m not a very powerful sprinter (we’re talking 600w on a good day). I’m getting better at clipping in with the SLs, but I don’t think I’ll ever be as fast as I was with the SPDs, but it’s worth the trade off for power transfer and overall stability, IMO.


Have you ever seen turtles getting it on? That’s pretty much what it’s like clipping into Speedplay for the first time coming from SPD-SL/SPD/Look. You put your foot somewhere near the pedal, you mess about hoping something will happen, you push a little, and somehow it clips in and away you go.



Hopefully their next tagline.


Fortunately, they don’t make the same noises, though. :rofl:
(If you have ever seen two turtles trying to get jiggy with it, you will know what I mean.)

Mountain bike pedals are definitely easier to get into and get out of. I have yet to see a study that tells me that power transfer is markedly different. If you have stiff shoes, and there are some really stiff mountain bike shoes, I don’t think that’ll be an issue.

Another option to try would be Crankbrother’s Eggbeaters. Those are the lightest mountain bike pedals where you can clip in four ways. I ran them on my road bike for two years until I won Ultegra pedals in a raffle.


I use ‘two bolt’ MTB cleats/pedals on my road, time trial, gravel, and ultra bikes.

If I’m just riding anything from Z2 to VO2max I’ve never been able to measure an efficiency difference between any pedal, ever. When I switched from toe clips to cleats other riders assured me there would be an immediate improvement. :smiley: There’s not!

I know Jason generated some pedal data way back in the day. He was definitely able to measure differences but #1: it rarely amounts to even a watt & #2: it has more to do with how efficient the interface between the pedal spindle and the pedal body is (the bearings) and not the size of the pedal platform or cleat.

So if you want to get a dual-sided pedal…do so with a clear conscience. If you look at the data before/after objectively you’ll never see a difference. There will be a weight penalty, of course.


If you want to keep your existing road shoes, and if they only have a 3-bolt cleat pattern, I think your best option is to go with Speedplays.

SPDs typically require MTB, commuter, or spin shoes.

I like my SPD-SLs but SPDs and Speedplays are definitely easier to get into. My highest power numbers were recorded on the MTB with SPDs.

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Have experience riding on Speedplays for couple of years before switching back to SPD-SLs.

For getting in/out of, Speedplays are much easier once you get the hang of it. The double-sided entry is what does it, no need to flip the pedal the right way up, just kinda mash your leg in the approximately correct area (this is the getting used to part) and it should clip in.

Switched back to SPD-SLs most because Speedplays’s interface with most 3 bolt shoes is cumbersome, and Shimano parts are just a lot easier to pick up from LBSs in my area.

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Went from spd-sl to speedplay and never looked back.

Easier to walk in, easier to clip into, more aero.

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I think the original X-1 series pretty much was the Holy Grail….literally just step down and go. Back in the day when they first came out (‘92) I would blow everyone off a start line at every race.

Didn’t matter how you came down on them, you got clipped in.

The Zero pedals are definitely not as easy,…I just got my first pair of Zeros a few weeks ago and there is a significant difference in terms of engagement. You have to definitely push down harder to engage the cleat and sometimes give it a twist.

That said, they are getting easier as they wear in a bit. But yes, Zeros are definitely not the Holy Grail.


My first CF bike came with Wellgo RC-713 and I never noticed any difference in power delivery or hot spots. I switched to SPD-SL after shoes upgrade and couldn’t find any decent two bolt pattern replacement. I’m now using Look compatible, Favero Assioma Duo. Before the modern era, I was on a pair of 1990 Time Magnesium pedals (brought new in 1990). SPD is by far the easiest to get in and out and Time the most difficult. I just got a pair of Time X-Track for my gravel and it seem much more difficult to get in than the Wellgo or my old Bontrager XT clone. (It could be my shoes but don’t have my old MTB handy to compare and too lazy to swap the pedals to check my old Wellgo.)

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Out of curiosity, have you checked your cleat torque is exactly to spec? I’ve found that Zeros are super sensitive to having the cleats overly tight onto the shoe. Proper torque is a lot lighter than you might think, and then it relies on the threadlocker to stay seated. When I properly torqued, engagement really smoothed out.


I haven’t…but I will, thanks.

As I said, it is definitely improving with use, but the X-1’s were just so damn easy.


Important caveat….even though Zeros are not the Holy Grail, I’ll take them any day over Shimano pedals.

Not even a close decision.


Another Speedplay fan here. I wouldn’t say they’re faultless as you really need to make sure the cleats are screwed into your soles at just the right point to allow the right amount of spring tension, plus a bit of dry lube helps. Once set up, I really like the ability to clip in on both sides of the pedal. Plus I have shocking knees and duck feet so the float adjustability and spindle lengths work well for me.