We round up the best clipless (i.e. clip-in) road bike pedals on the market in 2019, looking at the best value road pedals, the best all-rounders and pedals for riders with specific requirements.
Deciding which road pedals to buy can be a headache as there's so much choice, but our buyer's guide will tell you everything you need to know and offers options for all budgets.
Of the three points of contact between you and your bike (the saddle, bar and pedals) your pedals have the most work to do. As well as keeping your feet in place as they spin at up to, and sometimes, over 100rpm, they also have to provide a solid platform to push against, so you can propel yourself and your machine forwards.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying choosing the best road bike pedal for your riding is crucial.
- How to use clipless pedals
- Road bike handlebars guide: how to choose the right ones
- How to choose a bike saddle
What is a clipless pedal?
Clipless pedals evolved out of the old pedal and toe-clip setup that pretty much every road bike had until the late 80s/early 90s. Although you do 'clip in' to clipless pedals, they get their name from the absence of that traditional toe-clip.
While toe-clips rely on a clip and strap to hold your foot on the pedal, clipless pedals use a cleat that's fastened to the sole of your shoe and engages with the pedal mechanically, similar to a ski binding.
To clip into your pedals, step on the pedal's face and push your foot forwards or downwards to engage the cleat. To release your foot, simply rotate it outwards.
Although most clipless pedals use similar technology, there are plenty of variations in design, construction and price. Below you'll find our pick of the top road pedals currently available, as well as a brief guide outlining what to look for when choosing clipless.
You may also like to see our guide on how to use clipless pedals.
Which road bike pedals — the best clipless pedals for road bikes
This is a selection of our favourite road pedals from those we've reviewed, but there are many more available — read about them in our pedal reviews section.
Shimano M520 SPD
Best road bike pedals for commuting, gravel, cyclocross and other dirty riding
- £35 / €42 / $48 / AU$61
- 2-bolt SPD cleat and double-sided entry
- Great performance in mucky conditions
- Cheap, durable and fully serviceable
If you already have a pair of MTB shoes, like the idea of double-sided entry (ideal for riding in traffic), see yourself riding in particularly unpleasant conditions and prefer the walkability of regular SPD pedals, these are a great shout.
The pedals can be left alone for years at a time with nary a complaint and will perform far better than any 'road-specific' pedal should the going get grimy.
They're fully serviceable but many treat them as disposable as they're incredibly long-lived even if you never bother, and cheap to replace when you finally kill them.
If the slightly higher weight offends you, you can always plump for the lighter and prettier M540, XT or XTR pedals. For most riders, the extra 40g over Shimano's cheapest road pedals will probably never be noticed.
Shimano M520 SPD alternatives
- Shimano M540 SPD — Read the review / Buy now from Chain Reaction Cycles
- Shimano XT M8000 XC Race — Read the review / Buy now from Chain Reaction Cycles
- Shimano XTR M9100 XC Race — Buy now from Chain Reaction Cycles
Shimano 105 SPD-SL
The best all-rounder road bike pedals
- £110 / $150 / AU$189
- 3-bolt SPD-SL cleat
- Tough, easy to use
- Adjustable spring tension
- User serviceable
As ever, 105 offers a sweet-spot in spec vs price, with design cues borrowed from Shimano’s more expensive Ultegra and Dura-Ace groupsets.
They aren’t the lightest but they’re easy to get on with, well built and user-serviceable. Like many Shimano components, they're routinely available at heavy discounts.
The PD-5800s we reviewed have now been replaced by the PD-R7000 and we have no doubt the new pedal will perform every bit as well as the previous generation.
Shimano 105 SPD-SL alternatives
- Look Keo 2 Max — Read the review / Buy now from Wiggle
- Shimano R8000 Carbon SPD-SL — Buy now from Chain Reaction Cycles
Look Keo Classic 3
Best road bike pedals for people on a budget
- 3-bolt Look cleat
- Composite body
- Adjustable spring tension
These are Look’s entry-level Keos, and in their third incarnation they’ve continued toimprove. The lightweight composite body shape is more in tune with their more expensive siblings, and has a serrated centre to help with shoe traction for ease of entry.
They spin without issue on oversize chromoly axles on a combination of loose balls and needle cartridge bearings. Spring tension is adjustable and they come with Look’s 4.5-degree float cleats.
These offer impressive performance with no hotspots, are easy to use and relatively light.
Look Keo Classic 3 alternatives
Speedplay Zero Stainless pedals
The best pedals for those that want the most adjustment
- £199 / €236.99 / $213 / AU$348.79
- 3-bolt (with supplied adapter) Speedplay cleat
- Fully adjustable, non-centreing float
- Said to be the most aero pedals out there
Speedplay's pedals reverse the normal arrangement, so the clip mechanism is bolted to your shoes and the pedals act as the cleat.
Bike fitters love Speedplays as they have far more adjustment than any other pedal, allowing anything between 10–15 degrees of float, as well as plenty of fore/aft and lateral adjustment.
If you have aero concerns, these Speedplay pedals are reputedly the most slippery through the air, especially if you pair the Zero Aero model and its golf-ball-like dimples with the company's Walkable Cleat covers .
The pedals run on needle bearings, which might need some maintenance in the long run. When used on three-hole shoes, the pedals have a stack height of 11.5mm.
Speedplay Zero Stainless alternatives
- Speedplay Zero Chromoly — Buy now from Merlin Cycles
- Speedplay Zero Pavé — Read the review / Buy now from Merlin Cycles
Time Xpresso 15
Best road bike pedals for weight weenies and racers
- £348.99 / €402.99 / $600 / AU$550
- 3-bolt Time Xpresso / IClic cleats
- Stupendously light (and expensive)
- Very smooth action throughout range of float
Since their launch, Time’s Xpressos have always been lighter and more expensive than the competition — shedding grams costs money.
Central to the Xpresso design is its carbon flexion blade, which, unlike pedals that use a steel spring, keeps the clip mechanism open until cleat entry snaps it shut.
You can easily adjust between its three tension settings by using a screwdriver to turn a triangular eccentric cam against the blade. This alters the resistance of the built-in +/- 5 degrees of float that's always been a major selling point for Time pedals to riders with knee concerns.
The Xpresso 15 shares the Xpresso 12 Titan Carbon’s hollow titanium axle, carbon body and interchangeable alloy plate to protect the body from cleat abrasion.
The price difference is down to the 15’s use of CeramicSpeed bearings, which are very low friction and save around 11g per pedal, bringing the Xpresso 15 pedals in at an amazing 142g per pair — although two cleats plus six bolts add another 87g.
If you aren't made of money, you could always go for the significantly cheaper and equally well-performing Xpresso 10 pedals. The Xpresso 15 is still available but has been replaced by the Xpro 15 which promises a number of improvements, and also gains a little weight.
Time Xpresso 15 alternatives
- HT Racing PK-01 — Read the review / Buy now from Tredz
- Speedplay Zero Nanogram — Read the review / Buy now from Cyclestore
- Time Xpro 15 — Buy now from Tredz
- Time Xpresso 10 — Read the review / Buy now from Tredz
What to look for when buying clipless pedals
Road cleats vary in design depending on the pedal, but the majority fasten to the soles of your shoes with three bolts.
Speedplay is the notable exception, with its four-bolt pattern (but then the American company effectively reverses the entire system by mounting the clip mechanism onto your shoes, leaving the pedals to act as the cleats). To use these, you'll need four-bolt shoes or the adapter (included with every set of Speedplay pedals).
Float is measured in degrees and refers to the amount your foot can move before it's released from the pedal.
It's there to allow your feet to fall into the most natural, comfortable position while pedalling and to reduce the stress on your knees if your cleats aren't perfectly positioned.
Some cleats are 'zero-float', or fixed, which means they release your foot with only the slightest of movements. They need to be very carefully set up for the sake of your knees. Most cleats, however, offer something in the range of 3–9 degrees of float.
The thing to bear in mind is the more float you have, the further you have to twist your foot in order to release it.
If you're unsure about how much float you need, don't worry. Your pedal choice won't lock you into one particular setting and you can experiment by running different cleats and adjusting the settings on your pedals.
Most pedals allow you to adjust the pedals' release tension — the amount of force required to disengage your foot from the mechanism. If you're a beginner, start off with a low tension for easier release.
This will also make it easier to clip into the pedal. As you become more confident riding with clipless pedals you can increase the tension for a more secure connection between you and your bike.
This is measured from the middle of the pedal axle to the sole of the shoe. The lower the stack height the better because it places your foot closer to the axle for the best possible efficiency. You may need to adjust your saddle height if you change pedals because every model has a slightly different stack height.