Speedplay Zero Stainless Clipless Pedals: A Long-Term Review

I’m about to give some of you some tough love.

(An enticing prospect.)

Here it comes….

If you’re currently not using clipless pedals, and instead use flat ‘platform’ pedals, you need to stop procrastinating and make the leap.

Your legs will thank you. Your sportive performances will thank you.

(For those of you already using clipless pedals, permission to nod sagely like a lycra-clad Gandalf).

But which clipless pedals to buy? There are a myriad of choices.

In this post I’m going to talk about one option, Speedplay, and specifically the pedals I use, the Speedplay Zero Stainless.

I’ve used them for the best part of two years, and now I’m READY TO REVIEW.

Hit it.

*Mont starts dancing*

An Unoriginal Word On Clipless Pedals

I am not the first amateur comedian to note, wryly, that the key feature of a *clipless* pedal is that it clips to your shoe (or perhaps your shoe clips to it).

The ‘clip’ that modern sticky pedals lack is the toe clip cage affair that used to reside at the front of racing cycle pedals, back in the day. Track cyclists still use pedals with clips (I think because they can tighten them super tight).

History time: the modern clipless pedal was developed by Look, based on the technology they used to manufacture ski bindings.

Look likes to claim it ‘invented’ the clipless pedal, but Charles Hanson (eek, un Americain) submitted his clipless design to the US patent office way back in 1895.

Why Do I Use Speedplay Pedals?

Speedplay Zero Stainless Pedals
A selection of Speedplays, all looking very clean…

Well, I had to pick a make of pedal, so…

I chose Speedplay as a result of a bike fit / new bike / new shoes / new pedals / two (!) new handlebars / two new stems (!?!) saga, which I wrote about way back in 2013 (when I still had some of my ill-gotten banking gains to put towards bike purchases).

Read part one of the bike fit spend fest here and part two here.

A Pain In The Knee

In summary, I’ve suffered from chronic pain in my knee for quite a few years.

I have flat feet. I have weak stabilising muscles, particularly around my hips*. I’ve not been able to run any significant distance (without pain) for the best part of a decade.

(*Upside – I’m a great dancer).

Bike rides were starting to cause similar pain. I was riding my trusty aluminium Dawes Giro, bought hastily in a sale, some time in the early 2000s, simply because my girlfriend at the time was in the bike shop buying a commuting hybrid.*

(*Yes, reader, I married her**).

(**The girlfriend, not the bike).

It turns out the (not-so-trusty) Dawes was far too big (long) for me. So much so that even with a new, shorter stem and a smaller-reach set of handlebars, the bike fitter refused to let me go through with the video analysis. To do so would have been to polish the turd*.

(My words, clearly, rather than his.)

Get To The Point Grimpeur…

Ok, ok. As I was about to say…

Informed readers of this blog, at the time, felt that my choice of pedals may have been a further cause of knee pain. I was using Shimano SPDs – a mountain bike pedal and a hangover from my London commuting days.

My objective as I dropped cash on a new bike, the associated accoutrements and the bike fit was to do everything I reasonably could to eradicate the pain in my knee.

Going with Speedplay pedals to replace the SPDs was a key part of this strategy.

Twist And (Don’t) Shout

The bike fitter recommended Speedplay pedals for me primarily because of the amount of ‘float’ they allow at the ankle .

This lateral movement means that the other bits of your leg have more freedom to follow their natural course as you complete each pedal rotation (whilst presumably being sufficiently stable to avoid too much power loss from unnecessary movement).

The pedal doesn’t prescribe a motion which might cause your knee to follow a path that causes some of the internals to rub (for instance).

Speedplay cleat close-upSpeedplay pedals allow up to 15 degrees of this horizontal twisting movement. If you need less movement, the range can be limited with the adjusting screws on the cleat. Setting up the correct amount of float is probably something you would want an experienced bike fitter to do for you.

The Nitty Gritty (Or The Neaty Cleaty)

Speedplay pedals look like lollipops.

(Which is the sort of in-depth reportage that you’ve come to expect from this blog.)

But these are special lollipops.

Speedplays differ from the likes of Shimano and Look in that the locking mechanism forms part of the cleat (attached to the shoe) rather than the pedal.

So, when you attach your foot to the pedal, the cleat wraps around the circular bit of pedal (the head of the lollipop) and clips into place.

Side of Speedplay Zero Stainless Pedal
The cleats clip into the grooves on the side of the pedal

Despite the different location of the springy bits (which apparently don’t involve actual springs), clipping in and out of Speedplays is broadly similar to other clipless pedals.

You need to sort of apply pressure downwards on the outside edge of your foot, then roll your ankle down until it all clicks into place.

(Having just read the instructions again, they suggest you just need to push your foot down firmly onto the pedal, until you get the click – who knew?).

Double-Sided Sticky Pedal

In case it’s not obvious from the photos, the Speedplay Zero is double-sided. You can clip to the top or bottom of the pedal (though which is the top and which is the bottom is not clear to me). Thus you don’t have to worry about flipping the pedal upright with your toes, as you might for a one-sided pedal.

Indeed, the pedals are designed to be self-levelling. Again this comes from the (recently-read) instructions, but now I think about it, they do indeed do this. They settle in a horizontal position, ready to be, er, entered.

Speedplay Zero Stainless Left Pedal
A level pedal

Clipping into the Speedplay does feel marginally harder than clipping into my old SPD pedals (which were also doubled sided), but this hasn’t caused me any particular problem. You can still set off and pedal reasonably well until you manage to get the fixing.

Releasing the pedal is easy (and intuitive) – a twist of your ankle outwards, and you’re free.

Greasy Greasy Gander

It’s worth noting that Speedplays may require a bit more maintenance than other pedal systems.

I say, ‘may’, because I haven’t actually done the suggested maintenance, and I’m approaching my two year anniversary with these pedals.

Supposedly, I should be regreasing the ‘precision bearings’ within the pedal every 2000 miles or 3 months*.

This is done (I’m told) by removing the screw on the outside edge of the pedal (you can see the screw on the photo above), inserting a syringe and squeezing through fresh grease such that the old grease within the pedal is pushed out the other side.

(*And, oh yes, for me, 3 months of riding and 2000 miles bear no resemblance to one another. 3 years and 2000 miles perhaps – but even then…).

In researching this post (i.e. finding the Speedplay care instructions on the company’s website), I discover that I am also meant to be lubricating the super-dooper cleat every 1 to 2 rides. Which clearly hasn’t been happening.

Despite my lack of maintenance (and possibly due to the lack of wear and tear my sporadic and underpowered cycling has placed upon them), my Speedplays (pedals and cleats) seem to be functioning fine.

But something potentially for you to be aware of.

* Monty hurries off to retrieve the grease and wide-needled syringe *

* Discovers them both in bedside drawer *

* Shuffles feet uncomfortably *

Understanding The Holes On The Bottom Of Your Cycling Shoes

Pedal cleats attach to the soles of your shoes using screws, which go into the holes kindly left by the schumacher for exactly this purpose.

Most shoes seem to have 3 holes as this is the standard arrangement for fitting Shimano cleats (amongst others).

Speedplay cleats attach with four screws. But do not fear, the pedals come supplied with an adaptor that sits between the shoe and the cleat.

This ‘between-cleat-and-sole’ location is also where you can put any shims or wedges that might be needed to correct your foot position on the pedal. I say, ‘you’, but of course I mean ‘an experienced bike fitter’.

Speedplay cleat annotatedGenerally, the whole adaptor/cleat fandango appears to work well. It certainly gives someone who knows what they’re doing the flexibility to position the cleat and set up the amount of float in an almost unlimited number of combinations.

The only slight downside is that on two occasions, the lower set of screws within the adaptor (those which go into the three holes) have come loose.

In order to re-tighten them, I needed to undo the top four screws, and remove the cleat and shim, desperately trying to remember the position that my bike fitter had prescribed. Thankfully I seemed to manage it.

It’s probably been the best of a year since this last happened, so I’d put this down as a potential nuisance, rather than a pedal-buying dealbreaker.

Walk Like A Man

** Forgot to talk about this – thanks to Steve in the comments for reminding me **

Like most road cycling cleats, the Speedplays are not particularly easy to walk in. This is also a function of the shoes you attach them to. Unlike ‘hybrid SPD shoes’ (those with a cleat recessed into the sole) and MTB shoes (which tend to have some grips on the sole), road shoes have hard, smooth soles. Even without the protruding metal cleat, they’d be precarious to walk in.

There is a solution for Speedplay users though – the coffee shop cleat covers. These are rectangular rubbery plastic covers that clip over the cleats, giving you grip as you walk around. I’ve got a pair and they work well (provided you remember to take them with you on a ride).

They’re not really a solution if you plan to do a lot of walking at your destination. They’re fine for walking small distances (i.e. around a coffee shop or to your work changing rooms) but not for anything substantial.

From Road Pedal To Everyday Pedal

The Speedplay handy accessory fest does not stop with the cafe covers.

You can also get an attachment for the pedals that temporarily turns them into platform (‘normal’) pedals.

I don’t own these, so can’t vouch for their efficacy, but they do look like a handy solution if you sometimes use your Speedplay-equipped bike for social trips and chores.

Something Interesting If You’re Considering Buying A Power Meter

I have a growing desire to purchase a power meter. It feels like this will solve all my athletic challenges (which of course it will not).

There are a number of places where power meters can be located on a bike (the rear wheel, the chain rings, the cranks, the pedals).

And now a company called Brim Brothers is working on a power meter that attaches to the rider’s shoe. It just so happens that this is only compatible with Speedplay pedals and cleats.

Before we get too excited, the product hasn’t yet been released (as at April 2015), the pre-order cost is $999 and it’s likely to be difficult to get hold of in the UK. But something to be aware of for the future, if you’re a potential Speedplay purchaser.

Conclusion (Or Have The Speedplays Solved My Knee Pain)

Well, I certainly no longer suffer the pain I did. In fact, I rarely get any discomfort at all (other than the right sort of pain…).

But how much this is down to the pedals versus the other changes I made (the new bike, the bike fit) is open to question.

The ‘right pedal’ is not a replacement for a professional bike fit. In the right hands (i.e. those of the fitter), the Speedplay Zeroes offer an awful lot of adjustability, for tailoring to your specific needs.

For me they’ve been (and continue to be) a comfortable pedal. Looking into my carbon ball, I reckon I’ll be fitting them to my future n+1s.

If you’re looking to buy a set of clipless pedals, I think you’d be very happy with a set of Speedplays.

Cost Of Speedplay Versus Shimano, Look and Time Equivalents

Unlike Shimano, Look, Time and others, there is no budget-budget offering in the Speedplay Zero stable. (The lowest-priced Shimano/Look/Time pedals are in the £20-35 range.)

The Zero Chrome-Moly pedals (the cheapest variant) are currently available on Wiggle for around £86 (based on a list price of £110).

The pedals I own, the Speedplay Zero Stainless are the middle-priced option, showing currently at £116 (versus a list price of £150)

Finally, if you’re looking to save a whopping 40g of weight, you could always go for the Zero Titanium, which are going for £224 (list price: £300)

(I have to say, the step up in price for the Titanium model does feel somewhat toppy versus the Stainless…).

If you’re in the US, here are the three options from those good folk at Chain Reaction Cycles:

Speedplay Zero Chrome-Moly pedals

Speedplay Zero Stainless pedals

Speedplay Zero Titanium pedals

I hope this is useful. If you have any questions about the pedals, or my experiences with them, do let me know in the comments below.

8 thoughts on “Speedplay Zero Stainless Clipless Pedals: A Long-Term Review”

  1. Hi Monty
    You didn’t mention how the cleats are to walk on. Since I’ve been trying to ride more places I normally go taking an extra pair of shoes is almost as painful as clopping around in my bike shoes. Are there any systems that allow normal walking?

  2. You can buy titanium spindles for your Sp**dplay pedals at a very reasonable £30 check out eBay , love my speed play pedals but reccomend spray lube on the cleats before every ride just a small squirt should do. I normally replace the cleats every two years but the pedals are bomb proof providing you grease regularly

    All my road bikes have speedplay and even though I have one knee which has a new cruciate ligament (8 years ago) they have been pain free.

  3. I have actually just ordered some more Speedplay cleats. Might be worth noting that replacing these probably costs more than other pedal systems as they have all the working gubbins on them.

    In fact the cleats (the yellow ones like yours) are between £35 and £50 a go. Slightly annoying as I seem to be going through a set in a couple of months…

    I am sure that the ones that I have would last longer but I am approaching the point where there is no “head” left on the screws making it very hard to remove them.

    At the moment I am probably going through them quicker than I usually would due to some stupid road works near me forcing me to walk for much longer than I usually would in the pedals. And I can’t be bothered putting the covers on for a 3 minute walk!

    I have also had some issues getting hold of these yellow cleats. Wiggle have stopped doing them and only do the red ones which are more expensive.

    Any idea what the difference is between the yellow and red cleats?

  4. Great review–I, too, ove Speedplays! The best part (for me) is the double-sided aspect. I don’t ever have to look down. Just stamp and go, either side. Makes getting through dicey stop-and-go intersections a breeze.

  5. I have rather twitchy knees, and a bit of toe out. When I was buying pedals for my road bike, the bike shop would not sell me regular Speedplays. They recommended the Speedplay Frogs, a mountain bike pedal with lots of rotational freedom. I put the cleats on some Specialized mountain bike shoes, which have a recess for the cleats. Walking is very easy, and floors are not scarred up.

    I do grease the pedals occasionally. The bike shop said to do it whenever the pedals spin very freely. A bit of grease does clean out the pedal internals-just keep pumping and rotating pedal until clean grease comes out on the crank side. Lubing cleats is also a good idea. They say to use a “dry” lube. I guess that means something that dries quickly and is not too oily. Does make a difference on ease of clipping in. Cleats have about 4-5000 miles on them, and are looking a bot warn. Maybe time for new ones, but price is a deterrent.

    I noticed that my knees were tracking in a bit on the pedal stroke, and determined, through experimentation with shoe tilt, that I needed to rotate the shoes out a bit. I bought some SPD cleat wedges from Bikefit, and used a single 1/2 degree tilt under each cleat. Made the difference, and now knees track up and down in a straight line, and there is reduced knee bother on long rides-30-50 miles.


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