What Are Cleats on a Bike?

April 08, 2022 5 min read

Bike riding has become very popular over the years. In fact, it has even become a part of our daily lives. However, nowadays, there are hundreds of different types of bikes and many of them have a host of special features.

One feature that is common among bikes for experienced cyclists is cleats. Quite simply, cleats are the part of the bike that attach your feet to the pedals to help prevent them from slipping off.

Of course, there are plenty of people who cycle without cleats on their bike, and they don't seem to have any issues.

So, are cleats really necessary? How do they actually help? Do you need cleats on your bike?

These are the kinds of questions we'll be answering in this article so stick around to find out more!

How Do Cleats Work On A Bike?

Cleats work by attaching your shoes or boots to the pedals. This allows you to secure your feet to the pedals to stop them from slipping off.

In order to make sure that your feet stay firmly attached to the pedals, cleats come with a number of different designs. Some are designed to fit into the shoe while others can be used with barefoot cycling.

The most common design is called toe clips. These are small metal pieces that clip onto the end of your shoe. They usually have two prongs that hook under the sole of your foot.

There are also clipless pedals that are similar but instead of using metal cleats, they use plastic ones.

The advantage of these pedals is that they allow you to change your position on the bike without having to remove your shoes.

However, if you're not comfortable wearing shoes that aren't tied up properly, then clipless pedals may not be suitable for you.

Why Should You Use Cleats On Your Bike?

Clipping your feet to the pedals of your bicycle helps you stop yourself from falling off. It's a simple way of keeping your balance and prevents you from losing control of the bike.

If you're cycling in wet weather, cleats are fantastic for helping you battle against the elements.

Cyclists who don't use cleats in wet weather often have problems with their feet slipping off the pedals, which drastically reduces their efficiency and speed.

However, the main benefit of using cleats while cycling is that it makes your whole journey much more efficient.

Studies have found that cyclists who use cleats on their bikes are able to pedal in smoother, continuous motions than those who do not use cleats.

This means cyclists who use cleats end up using less energy to travel the same speeds and distances as those who don't use them.

Why Should You NOT Use Cleats On Your Bike?

Not every cyclist uses cleats on their bike because there are also some downsides to using this equipment.

One such downside is that it can lead to some joint pain over prolonged periods of time, particularly for the knees. If the cleats aren't adjusted correctly (which is very easy to do without realizing), it can eventually cause a lot of knee pain for the cyclist.

One of the other main drawbacks to using cleats is that they are quite difficult to get used to, especially for the casual cyclist.

For example, if you're only used to cycling with your friends and family for a bit of fresh air and scenery, you probably won't mind if your feet slip off the pedals every now and then.

However, if your feet are clipping into place with cleats, it can be a little alarming when you can't move them off of the pedals whenever you want to.

If you are a serious cyclist who spends their rides thinking only about cycling at maximum efficiency, and you don't get easily distracted, you likely won't experience this issue.

Are Cleats Necessary For Cycling?

Cleats are an essential part of many cyclist's toolkit. However, they should never be used by themselves.

They need to be paired with proper footwear and training before being used on a regular basis.

Some people believe that they can cycle just fine without using cleats. This isn't always true; however, What it does mean is that they can ride safely without worrying about their feet getting stuck in the pedals.

If you're interested in learning how to cycle without cleats, check out our article on How To Ride Without Cleats.

How Do I Install Cleats On My Bike?

The first thing you'll need to do is buy a pair of cleats. There are many types available online and in stores. You also need to make sure you have the appropriate cycling shoes that are compatible with most types of cleats.

The most common type of cleat is called "clip-in" cleats. These are the ones that attach directly to the bottom of your shoes. They will also most commonly have three bolts that can be used to attach to the holes in the bottom of your cycling shoes.

There are two types of clip-in cleats: one has a plastic baseplate that attaches to the sole of your shoe, and the other has a metal baseplate that clips onto the sole of your shoe.

You will need to decide which type of cleat you would like to use based on what kind of cycling shoes you wear.

You may also want to consider purchasing a second set of cleats so that you can swap between them depending on where you are riding.

Once you've decided on the type of cleats you'd like to use, you'll need to find a way to install them on your cycling shoes:

1. Attach the bolts

The first thing you'll need to do is loosely attach the bolts on your cleats to the bottom of your cycling shoes. This step is easy enough and will only require you to attach them enough that you can get a feel for what position you want them in.

2. Find your natural foot rotation

Next, put the shoes on your feet and step up and down in place a few times. Have a look at what position your feet are in when you stand in a natural position.

Then, rotate the cleat so that it allows your foot to sit in this position when it's clipped into the pedal.

3. Line it up with your foot

You want to line your cleat up with the ball of your foot, which is the widest part of the foot.

Find where this is in relation to your shoe and use a pencil or piece of tape to mark where this is on the outside of the shoe.

Then, you want to adjust the cleat forwards or backwards until the center of the cleat is roughly 1 centimeter behind your mark.

4. Secure the cleats

The only thing left to do now is to tighten the screws of your cleats as much as possible.

You definitely don't want the screws slipping loose while you're riding so make sure you go as tight as you can.

After all, if you've lined everything up properly, it's unlikely that you'll need to unscrew them very often.

Now, your cycling shoes and securely attached cleats will clip easily into your bike pedals, and you'll be cycling with maximum efficiency!


Like we said before, cleats aren't always great for every cyclist, and it's not something you'll really need to think about if you're cycling casually.

However, if you're a serious cyclist, a pair of cleats could be just what you need to take your workout to the next level!