How To Install Bike Cleats

Three-bolt cleats (aka Look-style cleats) are primarily used with road bike shoes.

When mounting cleats, the first thing to be aware of is that there are two types: three-bolt and two-bolt. Three-bolt cleats (aka Look-style cleats) are primarily used with road bike shoes, while two-bolt cleats (aka SPD-style cleats) are usually for mountain bike shoes.

Before you begin the mounting process, make sure your pedals and cleats will work with the shoes they’re intended for. Road cleats need shoes that have three threaded holes on the sole. Mountain cleats need a shoe with two parallel slots and a floating cleat nut. Here’s a step-by-step guide for each, starting with two-bolt cleats:



  1. Start by determining the front and back, and top and bottom of the cleat. The front, which is the side that will point toward the toe of the shoe, will be more pointed, while the back will be more rounded. The top will be smooth while the bottom will have serrations that are designed to securely grip the shoe’s sole once the cleat is tightened.

  2. Also note that the oval-shaped washer that comes with your cleats has a recess on one side that is meant to face outward, so the bolts can screw in snuggly. Look closely at the washer and you’ll see a beveled side and a flat side. The beveled side should face outward, so that the conical head of the bolts will fit flush to the top of the washer.

  3. Now that you’re oriented, the first step in mounting any type of cleat is to grease the bolts. Once that’s done, install the cleats by attaching them to sole of the shoe using the bolts and the washer. Initially leave the cleats loose so you can adjust cleat placement. Now move the cleat so that it will be over the center of your pedal axle. Tighten the bolts to 20-25 inch pounds.

  4. Finally, head out for a test ride to see if the cleat placement is comfortable. You may find that you prefer the cleat to be further back or forward on your foot, which you can adjust by loosening the cleat bolts, sliding the floating cleat nut backwards or forwards, and then re-tightening the bolts.



  1. The process for mounting a three-bolt cleat is very similar. First get oriented. The front side is more pointed, while the back will be wider. Now put the washers in place and screw in the greased bolts. Start by positioning the cleat under the ball of your foot, then adjust as necessary. One trick is to look at the side of the cleat where you’ll likely find a small raised ridge that indicates the center of the cleat. Once in position, tighten to 40-50 inch pounds.

  2. Again, remember that this is only a starting point, and preferred cleat placement position will vary from rider to rider. During your first few rides bring the necessary tools needed to make fine adjustments. Most modern cleats have what’s called float, meaning that your heel can move slightly before the cleat starts to disengage from the pedal. If you’re positioned correctly, your foot will rest in the middle of that float.

If you have any questions about mounting cleats, call the Performance Bicycle Spin Doctor product support line at 1-800-553-TECH. Happy riding.

Shoes and Pedals