Cleat Maintenance Tips: Improve the Life of Your Cycling Cleats

A cycling shoe cleat being cleaned with a screwpick
  • Amazing bike–check.
  • Ergonomic handlebar–check.
  • Comfortable and elegantly stylish shoes–check.
  • Wheelset that costs more than my monthly food bill–check.
  • Well-maintained cleats–what?

Leave it to us at BikeFit to focus on the small things but sometimes, those are the ones that have the most significant impact. If you’ve ever managed to unclip at top speed and lived to tell the tale, then you understand the imperative nature of simple cleat maintenance or you’re Robert Forestermann and you literally double strap your clipless cleats to absorb your massive, cleat-disengaging watts. Now that you’ve returned from watching Quadzilla crush it, here are some simple tips to help you care for your cleats.

So Fresh and So Clean Cleats

Although changing your cleats every 6 months would provide you with a fool-proof method of riding with well-functioning cleats, you can easily extend their life through some simple maintenance.

We recommend periodically checking your cleats for debris, especially if you walk often on your rides. Dirt and dust quickly build up from road and trail debris. These impediments can interfere with the ability to click-in and release from your pedals.

The BikeFit Cleat Screw Pick is an ideal solution. Some people have used a knife or a small screwdriver but the specifically designed screw pick will help you dig out miles of caked on dirt and grime without the risk of lacerating your fingers.

A closeup of cycling cleats that are filled with dirt

Fasten your Cleats

Cleat screw fasteners and the screws themselves can potentially loosen over time. There may or may not be a story of a BikeFit employee that did not check his screws often and found himself pulling out of a criterium race due to his epically loose, rattling cleat almost falling off. Be sure to check that they are tight. If you are riding Speedplay pedals, check the base screws as well as the cleat screws.

Secondly, screw heads attract some of the worst immovable debris and get worn down to the point where you may be unable to remove them without some serious hacksaw interventions (see described hacksaw interventions to thy right).

If the cleat wear impacts your ability to clip in, release, or you feel wobbles or an unsteady connection with the pedal, it’s time to replace the cleats. If not, you may only need to replace the screw heads themselves. While we carry a Screw Kit (contains the aforementioned Screw Pick) and a Walkable Screw Kit (Speedplay), you may not need bulk screws. Therefore we suggest visiting your local BikeFit Pro or dealer, with your favorite sharable adult beverage, and they’ll be able to sell you some replacements.


It Takes Two

Cleats materials have a limited lifespan depending on the usage. They will eventually wear out and when you replace them, pick up a spare set as well. Heck, you could go out tomorrow and pick up a second set even if your cleats are impeccable. You’ll need to replace them eventually and again, your local shop loves when you visit with liquid hops-o-plenty and a need for new cleats!

Having a second pair of cleats allows you to inspect the excessive wear and tear from riding all those grand tours. Use these spares as subjects to compare against the used ones. Do they look like the cleats to the right? Too much wear (1mm or more) and it’s probably time to consider replacing cleats.

A pair of dirty and rusted cycling cleats laid flat

For Cleat’s Sake, Cover Up!

Depending on your cleats, some handle the grit and grime better than others. Regardless, if you want to extend cleat life, consider cleat covers. Speedplay recognized that numerous riders were shredding their cleats and now they offer some incredibly functional and aero Walkable Cleats. Kool Kovers provide riders with multiple options of protective cleat covers for Shimano, Look Keo, Look Delta and Speedplay. Yes, it may take you all of 8 seconds to remove them and reinstall after each of your 4 coffee stops, but extending the life of your cleats not only saves you money but also could prevent a potentially painful and skin-removing crash.

A detail image of a Kool Kover cleat cover.

Ride safe and comfortable my friends.



Interested in expanding your knowledge? Bike retailers and shop employees with a QBP account have access to educational resources within the U of Q Training Library. Get started now.

Back to blog