SPD Vs. SPD SL Vs. Look Vs. Speedplay (Pedal Differences)

As cyclists, we understand how important it is to invest in the right type of exercise bike and to ensure your cycling shoes stay on the pedals at all times. But with all the different styles of pedal cleats, it can become a bit confusing. I’m sure you might be wondering, what’s the difference between SPD vs SPD SL and Look vs Speedplay pedals? 

In this guide, we will break down the different types of pedal cleats by explaining the unique features and how each one can benefit different types of cycling. So whether you ride an indoor exercise bike or an outdoor road model, we can help you choose the best pedal for you.  

One of the most effective ways to change your cycling game is to invest in a great pair of pedal cleats. They are essentially a cleat that attaches to the bottom of your cycling shoes. You can then clip the cleat into the pedals on your bike.  

One of the greatest benefits of cycling cleats is they help you transfer power from your legs to the pedals. This can help you pull the power on the upstroke and push power on the downstroke. This can make an immense difference in your cycling times.  

Another advantage of clipless pedal cleats is they attach your feet firmly to the bike. With your feet attached to the pedals and your legs attached to your torso, you will be able to become one with your bike. This creates greater efficiency and a better home workout.  

Pedal cleats also give the cyclist more freedom to adjust minute details during their ride. Most cleats have adjustments for tension and float, which allows you to customize your pedals exactly how you like them.  

What Are Pedal Cleats

Are All Pedals & Cycling Shoes Compatible With All Cleats?  

A common misconception is that you can use any type of cycling shoes with all cleat types. This is not true! Most cycling shoes are compatible with only one type of cycling cleat. Most shoes are compatible with either one or two-bolt pedal cleat systems.  

More specialist shoes are compatible with only one type of cleat, such as SPD SL or Look. You might be able to find an adapter that will allow you to use your shoes with more than one cleat type, but we highly recommend making sure your cycling shoes fit directly with your pedal cleats.  


SPD Bike Cleats (Overview + Pros & Cons) 

These types of cleats are, by far, the most popular model on the market today. SPD bike pedal cleats are as close to universal as you can get without them being actually one size fits all. SPD stands for Shimano Pedaling Dynamics, named after the first pedal cleats made by Shimano in this design. They work using a two-bolt cleat design.  

SPD pedals are best for trail, mountain, and road biking, but they can be used in almost any cycling scenario. One of the greatest benefits of SPD pedals is they are compatible with many different types of cycling shoes.  

Another benefit is they are relatively easy to use once you get used to them. The clip action is simple and easy to adjust while on the road. We also find SPD cleats to be used on most indoor cycles and spin classes, which is a huge advantage for people who work out at home or in the gym 

Pros

  • Compatible with many cycling shoe types 
  • Often found on rental bikes and indoor cycles  
  • Easy to use  
  • The two-bolt system is simple  

Cons

  • Not suitable for serious road cyclists 
  • Less tension than other cleats  
  • Smaller pedal platform  

BEST FOR: SPD pedals are best for mountain biking in mud, trail riding, and indoor spinning bikes 


SPD SL Bike Cleats (Overview + Pros & Cons) 

This type of pedal cleat is similar to the SPD cleat but designed to be much lighter; hence the SL stands for SuperLight. SPD SL pedal cleats are designed with a three-bolt attachment system, which keeps the cleat secure while riding.  

These types of pedal cleats are made of plastic, which makes them much lighter. They are most suitable for road cycling and indoor spinning. SPD SL pedals use a single-sided entry method, which could be a bother for some cyclists. However, once you get used to it, clipping in is simple.  

The biggest benefit of this type of cleat is the weight. They are super light and comfortable for long rides or intense indoor cycling. They are also much more adjustable than SPD pedals due to the three points of attachment.  

One disadvantage is you can’t walk in them. The larger pedal platform makes walking more difficult. Also, if you are mountain biking and dismount, the mud may get stuck in the cleats making them more challenging to clip on. 

Pros

  • Very lightweight  
  • Highly adjustable  
  • Wider pedal platform  
  • More comfortable for long rides 

Cons

  • Difficult to walk in 
  • Single-sided entry  
  • Not recessed within the shoe 

BEST FOR: SPD SL pedal cleats are best for road cycling and indoor spinning for long periods.  


Look Bike Cleats (Overview + Pros & Cons) 

These types of pedals were designed for high-end road cyclists. You won’t find them anywhere on mountain bikes or indoor spinning cycles. Look pedals were designed using a three-bolt system to attach the cleat to the cycling shoes. 

The main difference between Look vs. SPD pedals is that they have a lot of free play even when completely clipped in. They allow the cyclists a lot of side-to-side movement in the foot. This mimics a more natural pedaling motion, which road cyclists use when riding long distances. In addition, look cleats are easy on the knees, which makes them popular with hardcore cyclists.  

One advantage of Look pedals is they offer high-end materials and less weight. One possible disadvantage is you can’t walk in them, and they are often rather big. Since they are specifically designed for road cycling, we don’t recommend them for at-home cycling or mountain biking.  

Another thing to note is that Look and SPD SL pedals are quite similar but not directly compatible. They may be compatible with some cycling shoes, but you should check with the manufacturer before purchasing.  

Pros

  • Ideal for high-end road cyclists 
  • Less weight  
  • Offers side-to-side float movements  
  • Easy on the knees

Cons

  • Not compatible with indoor bikes  
  • Not easy to walk in
  • More expensive  

BEST FOR: Look pedal cleats are best for long-distance road cycling and serious cyclists.  


Speedplay Bike Cleats (Overview + Pros & Cons) 

This type of bike pedal looks vastly different than the other types we reviewed. Speedplay pedals were designed in the 1980s, but they did not make a lot of noise in the market. In 2019, Wahoo purchased Speedplay, and the brand started making a comeback. Although, they are still not as popular as other cleat models. 

Speedplay pedals are exceptionally small and lightweight, which is ideal for road cycling. They offer double-sided entry and a lot of room for adjustment. Speedplay pedals use a four-bolt system, which is not compatible with any other type of cleat.  

One of the best advantages of the Speedplay pedal is the low weight and movement you get when you are on the road. We wouldn’t recommend them for mountain biking or indoor cycling since they are not compatible with many different models. However, if you are a serious road cyclist who wants a unique and high-end pedal, then this model might work for you.  

Pros

  • Very low weight  
  • Allows for a lot of movement  
  • High-end materials  
  • Double-sided entry 

Cons

  • Not compatible with many types of shoes
  • A lot more expensive  
  • Not as easy to maintain 

BEST FOR: Speedplay pedals are best for avid road cyclists who want a unique and lightweight pedal design.  


SPD Vs SPD SL Vs Look Vs Speedplay Pedal Cleats: Which Is Best For Spinning? 

Now that you know a bit about the differences between the pedal cleat types, let’s focus on which ones are best for indoor cycling. Many of you have indoor exercise bikes at home, or you often go to the gym for spinning. You need a pedal cleat that will work with your indoor exercise bike effectively.  

The most popular option for indoor cycling is the SPD cleats. They are relatively universal in their design. They are also cheap and easy to use compared to Speedplay pedals. You may also find some at-home exercise bikes that are compatible with Look pedals, but we recommend sticking to SPD if possible.  

You may also find SPD SL cleats on some indoor spinning bikes. They are not quite as popular as SPD, but you are more likely to find them than Speedplay pedals. If you are looking solely for cleats compatible with your at-home exercise bike, we recommend SPD or SPD SL pedals. 

SPD Vs SPD SL

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Are SPD and SPD SL interchangeable? 

They are not interchangeable since SPD pedals use a two-bolt system and SPD SL uses a three-bolt system. However, you can sometimes find a pedal adapter that will allow you to use both types.  

Can I use SPD shoes on flat pedals? 

Since SPD shoes often have the cleat plate recessed within the shoe, you can use them with flat pedals. SPD cycling shoes offer unique versatility when it comes to walking and riding flat-pedal bikes. 

Are SPD pedals dangerous? 

Cycling without the proper gear can be dangerous regardless of the pedal cleats you use. Many riders are concerned that their feet will not come out of the cleats in the event of a crash. This may be true, but most pedal cleats were designed to come loose with the appropriate force.  


Conclusion

At Garage Gym Pro, our goal is to provide home gym users with all the adequate information they need to exercise safely and efficiently. In this guide, we covered all the differences and similarities between SPD, SPD SL, Look & Speedplay pedals.