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March 15, 2019
Last modified: March 19, 2019

Clipless pedals have become the gold standard for riders looking to get the most out of every rotation. Whether you’re in a road race or on a rocky mountain trial, these locking pedals add an extra level of security and stability in the most intense situations. But to maintain that tight fit – and still be able to clip out at a moment’s notice – it is important to regularly inspect and care for your pedals and the cleats on your riding shoes. Both parts will wear out over time, so you should replace them if you notice any damage or they fail to keep you locked in. Since we’ve already covered How To Remove and Install Bike Pedals, let’s take a quick look at replacing your clipless pedal cleats.

At a Glance:

  1. Use appropriate hex wrenches to remove shoe cleats
  2. Attach new cleats using lightly greased bolt screws
  3. Adjust as desired and tighten to production specifications
If your cleats look like this, it might be time to replace them.
If your cleats look like this, it might be time to replace them.

When to Click Out

When is it time to replace your cleats? The short version is: whenever you don’t feel secure. Damaged and worn-out cleats tend to slip out of your pedals more easily, leading to mishaps in rough terrain and a constant struggle to properly clip in. If you feel like your feet are coming loose from the pedals when you don’t want them to, take a look to see if they have taken any damage. This most often occurs after intense, long-term use, or from walking around on hard surfaces like rocks or pavement. And of course, make sure that your cleats are clean so that you don’t confuse dirt with damage. Your pedals could also be the culprit, so be sure that you inspect these for damage as well. If they are, you should replace them too.

Two Bolts or Three

iSSi makes cleats to fit the two most prominent styles of clipless pedals used in the cycling world, the two-bolt SPD compatible cleat and the three-bolt KEO compatible cleat. Besides the number of bolts used for attachment, the key difference between these two styles is their location on your shoe. Three-bolt cleats attach to the bottom of the sole while two bolts are recessed into the sole itself. These alternative designs lead to the main differences between how each cleat is removed and replaced. Generally speaking, two-bolt cleats may require more steps to change because of the components inside of your shoe, but they are easy to adjust and reposition. Installing a new three-bolt cleat is pretty straightforward, but it can be a bit harder to put back into the same position as the old one. But we’ve got a solution for that, which we’ll get to in a moment.

iSSi 3-Bolt KEO cleats (left) and 2-Bolt SPD compatible cleats (right)
iSSi 3-Bolt KEO cleats (left) and 2-Bolt SPD compatible cleats (right)

Tools and Techniques

Cycling cleat attachment is relatively simple, so you won’t need many tools to get the job done. A simple set of hex wrenches will do the trick (our cleats use either 3 or 4mm wrenches, but other brands may vary). But some bike grease, medium-strength thread-locking adhesive (such as Loctite Blue 242) and a pair of needle nose pliers will be helpful as well. Some two-bolt shoes will have their mounting holes hidden by covers on the sole when no cleat is attached, so you may need to remove this before starting. Additionally, these shoes may also require internal access for washers or other small parts. Simply remove the insole of your shoe to get to these. If you love the placement of your old cleats, be sure to mark their location in the channel for reference later. We recommend using a marker or tape to mark the position of your old cleats or taking a photo that can be used as a reference when you’re installing the new ones.

Our 3-Bolt cleats can be replaced one half at a time, so it’s easy to keep them exactly where you want them.
Our 3-Bolt cleats can be replaced one half at a time, so it’s easy to keep them exactly where you want them.

Three-bolt cleats can be repositioned on your shoe by loosening the bolts and sliding the platform to the desired spot. But because these adjustments are made with the cleat itself (and the holes stay put), finding that perfect place again can be tough. Fortunately, we have a solution that will save you from having to find the ideal mounting position again. The iSSi 3-Bolt cleat has a unique design that allows you to replace them one half at a time. That way, you can leave one section in the right place while swapping the other, ensuring that nothing has moved in the process. Then just tighten the new side and replace the other. You’ll be locked-in tight in no time.

You can mark the position of your old cleats for reference later. We promise no one will notice.
You can mark the position of your old cleats for reference later. We promise no one will notice.

Step by Step

Now that we’ve gone over all of the ins-and-outs of cycling cleats, here are some detailed instructions for how to replace your worn-out cleats:

Replacing a 2-Bolt Cleat

  1. Note the current position of your worn cleats (mark key points, outline with a marker or take a photo)
  2. Use an hex wrench to turn the cleat bolts counter-clockwise and remove
  3. Inspect and clean the area as necessary
  4. Line up the threaded bolt holes of the cleat washer over the double channels inside the sole of the shoe.
  5. Place a cleat on the outside of the shoe with the cleat’s rough side towards the shoe. Apply grease to the outside of the cleat in the channel where the right-to-left bolt washer sits.
  6. Insert the right-to-left bolt washer so that the countersunk holes are facing up. Apply some grease to the outside of the bolt washer.
  7. Insert bolts and position each cleat to desired location and then tighten.

Replacing a 2-Bolt Cleat

  1. Note the current position of your worn cleats (mark key points, outline with a marker or take a photo)
  2. Use an hex wrench to turn the cleat bolts counter-clockwise and remove (If you have an iSSi two-piece cleat, remove the front cleat-mounting bolt, washer, and front portion of cleat only. If not, just remove the whole cleat.)
  3. Inspect and clean the area as necessary
  4. Place the new cleat on the outside of the shoe over the three-bolt holes with the cleat’s curved side facing towards the shoe sole (If you have an iSSi two-piece cleat, slide the new front section into place, attaching to the old rear section.)
  5. Insert the cleat washers into the recesses of the cleat so that rounded sides face away from the shoe. (The square washers have a rounded edge and a sharp edge.) Then apply some thread-locking adhesive to your new bolts and insert them into each hole
  6. Tighten bolts only enough to hold in place loosely (For an iSSi two-piece cleat, do this only with the new front section, and then tighten the bolt fully.)
  7. Adjust the new cleat to fit your desired position (as noted in step 1) and fully tighten to manufacturers’ specifications (If you have an iSSi two-piece cleat, simply repeat these steps with the rear portion of the cleat.)

Now you should be ready to lock and roll! For more helpful tips and “How-Tos,” check back here soon!