In Part 2 of this series, we looked at cleat attachment and cleat positioning. In this post, we’ll be looking specifically at cycling cleat wear, and why it is so important to frequently check it.
Cleats have a nasty habit of wearing down! Wear and tear on cleats can result from riding your bike a lot (a good problem), but more often it’s the result of walking on your cleats too much. Cleats are engineered for being worn on pedals, not pavement.
The hidden dangers of riding on worn cleats
It is important to monitor the wear of your cleats because an excessively worn cleat will put you at risk for overuse injury, and may result in an inability to clip in or out of your pedals. A worn cleat can also cause unexpected pedal disengagement, and crashing.
Possible injuries from over-worn cleats
Irregular pedaling mechanics is most often the result of worn cleats. This can cause an undesirable tilt of the foot on the pedal platform, which causes your muscles to have to compensate for the imbalance and leads to an overuse injury. The resulting injuries can range from hamstring tendonitis, to patella-femoral compression, and iliotibial band friction syndrome. (In plain-speak, that’s basically such tight butt muscles that it causes hip pain, knee pain, or a super tight IT band.)
Cleat wear indicators
Some cleats have wear indicators on them, which show you when it is time to replace your cleats. Other cleats do not have this feature, but have accompanying wear suggestions and practical guidelines.
For those cleats that do not feature wears indicators, you can check other factors such as squeaking or worn tensioner screws. An excessive rocking motion of the foot on the pedal is a strong indicator of cleat wear. Check your cleats every few rides for cleat wear. When any of the above factors become apparent, change your cleats.
Cleats are meant to be replaced regularly. It’s an easy thing to neglect, especially if you are worried about properly positioning the new replacement cleats. There’s an easy way to make sure you get it right, however. Just use a Sharpie pen to trace the outline of your cleat (use a contrasting color so you will be able to see it on the bottom of your shoe). Remember to use bicycle grease to help the screws stay tight.
How to extend the life of your cleats
If you have to walk on your cleats a lot, try picking up some cleat covers (often called ‘café covers’) at your local bike shop. The covers will prolong the life of your cleats. Cleat covers are made of dense plastic, usually with a grippy finish on the underside. You can carry them in a jersey pocket, then easily snap the covers over your cleats when you have to walk.
Be aware that cycling cleats wear down over time, and that they can accidentally detach from your shoes if you don’t keep an eye on them. Frequent inspection of your cleats will help in keeping them functioning properly, and in help in keeping you injury-free and on the road. A good rule of thumb is to change your cleats once per year.
Got everything properly set up? Go ride!