As you’re headed for the cafe or pub you can always tell who in your road group uses Speedplay pedals; they’re either lagging behind as they fumble with cleat covers, or they’re lying flat on their back from an epic slip and fall.
As a long time Speedplay user I’ve always put up with the expensive, fast wearing and slippery cleats because I like the adjustability, second-to-none ground clearance and dual-sided pedal entry. While there’s a few options on the market to prolong their life, (like Keep-On Covers), I ultimately decided after my first slip it was worth investing in a set of cleat covers. While I still haven’t worn out or lost the original set of Speedplay cleat covers I purchased in 2009, I had hoped there was a solution on the horizon.
Beyond the traction woes of the Speedplay cleats, the hardware doesn’t last very long. It always amazed me how despite my diligence with the cleat covers how quickly the cleats wore out, specifically the metal bottom plate and four fastening screws. I’ve rounded out and been forced to drill out a fair few cleat screws either because I’d let them wear down to far, or there was mud or a small rock jammed into the screw preventing a solid connection with the screwdriver.
So when the walkable cleats were announced alongside Speedplay's Aero Pedals, I was intrigued to say the least.
The Zero Aero Walkable cleat is made up of 15 pieces
Looking past all the complaints I have about Speedplay cleats, they do offer more consistent adjustability than any other system. By this I mean each axis of adjustment is independent of the other, so if you need to change your fore and aft, you won’t accidentally change Q-factor and foot angle as well, like with Shimano cleats.
That said, Speedplay cleats have a lot of small parts to begin with, and the Walkable cleats have even more. By my count, each complete cleat mounted to the shoe consists of 15 individual parts, compared with Shimano’s seven.
Even still the installation process is pretty much identical barring the extra Aero surround, which goes around the base plate/three-hole adaptor and the Aero Walkable cover.
Speedplay now offers a preset torque wrench for installing cleats
For our install, the local distributor also supplied the new Speedplay Preset Torque Wrench. The recommended torque for the hardware in the cleats is quite low at 2.5nm, a figure few torque wrenches go down to. So to combat overtightened screws Speedplay now offers a preset torque key that comes with a single #2 Philips head bit. As having the right tool for the right problem is half the battle, the #2 Philips head bit provides a confident connection with the cleat hardware and to our surprise clicked out well before I’d usually stop tightening.
While the walkable cover will provide considerably more traction to the metal base place, it may add an extra headache for adjusting cleats. As all the hardware is hidden beneath the Aero Walkable Cover, it’ll need to be removed for finite cleat adjustments.
For my process at least, I can get the fore and aft, and side to side properly adjusted on the trainer but need to go for a real ride to dial in the right float. This means that rather than just pulling to the side of the road and making an adjustment, I’ll have to stop and fight the tight fitting cover off to access the screws.
Performance and durability
On the bike there's not much difference between the Aero Walkable Cleat and the standard version
Clipped into the pedal, these new cleats perform just like the old. The added benefits only await once off the bike.
The Walkable Cleats offer considerably more traction than their metal-bottomed counterparts. We’ll even go as far as to say that they provide for confidence on slippery tile floors.
The rounded profile makes walking in your cycling shoes a bit less awkward
The drastically rounded profile also makes for a much more natural step, and lessens the awkward clip clop penguin steps usually associated with walking in cycling shoes.
Getting dirt inside the cleat (which doubles as the mechanism) is a common complaint with Speedplays. The Walkable cover and Aero Surround seem to seal the system up pretty well, and if you used the Cleat Buddy plug, the Walkable cleats should last quite some time.
While the Cleat Buddies do a great job of keeping grot out of the cleat mechanism when they’re attached, I managed to lose one between my front door and the street.
The rubber covers are replaceable, and available in a rage of colours, which will extend the life of your cleats.
Weighing in at 136g, the Walkable Cleats gain 31g over the standard version, nearly double Shimano's SH11 cleats, which weigh 70g. Sure the lighter pedals make up much of this difference, but it’s added weight nonetheless.
Then there’s the price – switching to Speedplay is not cheap, and with the standard cleats' (£40 / $40 / AU$69) wear the recurring expense of replacements quickly racks up. So the added durability of the more expensive Walkable (£60 / $55 / AU$90) version should prove beneficial in the long run.
Overall, Speedplays are not a cheap pedal system to run, and the Walkable cleats are more expensive than the standard version, but in this tester's opinion they're a worthwhile expense given the added traction, less awkward walking and improved durability.