Design and Engineering
What is the Cleat Key™ tool?
It’s a tool every road cyclist needs, one that enables any cyclist to properly set up their cleats themselves. The cleat position is perhaps the most critical aspect of the human-bike interface.
What makes the Cleat Key unique?
Cleat rotation angle is the single most important aspect of a proper bike cleat fit. The Cleat Key is the only tool we know of that tells you quickly, clearly and accurately what the cleat rotation angle is. It is affordable, it isn't overly complex, and is simple and intuitive to use. It is designed for use by bike shop pros and individual cyclists alike. Because it is transparent, you can see what you are doing when you are setting up the cleat on the shoe. I can be used with the most popular road cleat/pedal systems. When used with our Cleat Key Protocol, it can be used to help you set up your bike cleats, just like a pro bike fitter would. Cleats set right, each and every time.
Is this a prototype?
No. It’s the result of over 10 years of evolving product development. The Cleat Key or prototypes have been used to set the cleats of around 600 cyclists, at all levels, including professionals, and top age group athletes who have competed at UCI and Ironman world championship events. Versions of the tool have been rigorously tried and tested in a shop setting. We've fitted over 80 qualifiers to Ironman, IM 70.3, and UCI road cycling world championship events using the exact protocol described here.
How is the Cleat Key produced?
We have worked with a factory that specialises in high-quality export products, to produce a robust and durable shop-quality tool.
The factory that makes the Cleat Key is frequently audited and certified to ISO 9001:2015 standards, an international acknowledgement that testifies to its strong quality management process and principles. 90% of its products are made for the European market, and are of the highest quality and finish.
Prototypes have been well tested, used and abused, in a bike shop setting and bike fitting studio, for years.
What is the Cleat Key made of?
The Cleat Key is made primarily of PMMA OM92 acrylic, and aircraft-grade 6061 aluminium alloy. PMMA manufacturing releases no pollutant substances to the environment. At the end of its product life and after separation from other materials, PMMA can be used for energy recovery and chemical or mechanical recycling. PMMA scrap is not classed as hazardous waste. The metal parts of the tool are also recyclable.
That said, the tool is built to last, and we don't think you'll ever want to dispose of it.
How is the Cleat Key Packaged?
We expect that the tool will probably spend its life hanging on wall or sitting in a toolbox or on a workbench. There's no need for a heavy fancy wrapper that will probably just get thrown out. It is shipped in a simple white box wrapped in an envelope lined with bubble wrap. The box can be used as the straight edge needed in the Cleat Key Protocol. The packaging is strong enough keep it well protected for any shipment, but as lightweight and simple as possible.
We are based in Hong Kong, which is already a natural transhipment port from Asian factories to the world. Cleat Key will be efficiently delivered straight from Asia to your address.
Is the Cleat Key patented?
We have filed for patents and trademarks.
What cleats will the Cleat Key work with?
Cleat Key is designed to work with Look Keo and Shimano SPD-SL road cleats, and road shoes that have a 3-hole road cleat bolt pattern.
- Look Keo
- Look Delta
- Shimano SPD-SL (road-type)
- PowerTap P1 and P2 (power)
- Favero Assioma (power)
- Garmin (power)
- Exustar and Wfellgo cleats made to be compatible with Look and Shimano road pedals
What about lateral (Left-Right) adjustment?
A bike cleat has 5 degrees of freedom, or ways it can be adjusted. They are (in order of importance):
The top two (Rotation and Fore-Aft) are arguably the most critical and are discussed in our video.
For the third, Left-Right (lateral), we normally recommend centering the cleat on the shoe. This is because, with Look and Shimano systems, the potential for lateral adjustment is minimal. After you’ve set the cleat rotation angle using the Cleat Key device, you’ll typically only be able to move the cleat laterally 1-2mm only, due to the design of the cleat itself, and even less so if the cleat rotation angle is large. For riders who do not have a large cleat rotation angle, it may be possible to adjust the cleat inboard (for riders with wider hips), or outboard (for riders with narrow hips) by a few millimetres. This correction will not make a significant difference to the cleat rotation angle as determined in the Cleat Key Protocol. Another way to adjust the shoe outboard (which may be desired for a rider with a knee-out tendency or wide hips) is to use a pedal with a longer axle (such as the +4mm versions of Shimano Ultegra and Dura Ace pedals, or models like the Favero Assioma power meter pedals).
We purposely omitted X-Y ruler marks on the Cleat Key for Left-Right and Fore-Aft cleat position measurements. We feel that if you want to accurately quantify that on the shoe, you should use a small ruler applied directly to the sole of the shoe. It's more precise, and more reliable.
Q-factor is the term sometimes used to describe the lateral distance between the outboard faces of the left and right crank arms. It is not a factor at all, but a distance. A more important distance is the total stance width, which is the lateral distance between the pedals. Stance width is a function of:
- the bottom bracket width;
- the Q-factor (distance!);
- any washers or spacers between the pedals and crank;
- the spindle length of the pedals; and,
- the lateral cleat adjustment.
Typically, riders with wider hips and/or a knee-out tendency when pedalling will need a wider stance width. You can increase stance width with spacers between crank and pedal, longer pedal spindles, and to a very small extent, lateral cleat adjustment.
Wedges and shims may be needed by some riders to adjust for varus and leg length discrepancies (items 4 and 5).
1. Cleat Rotation
2. Cleat Fore-Aft (Longitudinal)
3. Cleat Left-Right (Lateral)
Do I have to centre the cleats Fore-Aft over the mid-metatarsal line on the shoe?
No. As described in our written instructions, there is evidence of some biomechanical benefit to moving the cleat further back, for those riders who are doing mostly steady-state riding. Triathletes and time-trial specialists may want to set the middle of the cleat further back, towards the 5th metatarsal line, or even all the way back.
There is a trend towards further aft positions in triathlon. There are a few disadvantages to a full-aft position for some riders; namely, more toe-wheel overlap, which may be an issue for small cyclists, and a possible biomechanical disadvantage in hard out-of-the-saddle sprints or climbing. For steady-state athletes, there is a lot of evidence that a more aft position is beneficial.
Riders who favour sprinting and climbing may want to set their cleats further forward, towards the 1st metatarsal line, which results in the traditional "ball over the pedal spindle" position. It really depends on the athlete.
The "divide by three" rule for the rotation angle will still be valid for both a forward or aft position, and the cleat can still be set properly using the instructions in our protocol, on a large or small shoe, fore or aft cleat position.
Why is the Toe-out Angle divided by three?
The human body has an amazing way of straightening itself out when a load is applied. The “divide by 3” factor was determined by observing and measuring hundreds of riders at all levels to determine a correlation between the angle of the foot in a simple jump test, and the neutral position of the foot on a bike when power is applied around the pedal stroke (we measured using both a goniometer and digital motion capture). The method has been tested on hundreds of customers, from beginner to elite.
The reason we didn't pre-correct the angle readings on the tool is because we realize some cyclists might want to know the actual, raw, uncorrected angle their cleat is set at, or they may want to try a different correction factor. That said, the "divide by 3" factor will work for nearly everyone.
Don't forget to divide your foot toe-out angle (foot splay, measured at the top of the tool) by 3 to get the cleat rotation angle (at the bottom of the tool)!
That said, if you don't like how it feels, don't use that angle! We've never seen that happen actually, but if it does, just use the tool to quantify your cleat rotation angle, change it a bit (say 1 degree), go for a ride, and tweak again as necessary.
What if my Toe-Out angle is actually a Toe-In angle?
If you are pigeon-toed, we recommend starting with a zero-degree Cleat Rotation Angle on the tool. Set up the cleat per the protocol with a zero degree angle, go for a ride, and adjust as necessary. You should feel like your feet are floating when pedalling. It should not feel like the cleat setting results in a shoe that pushes your foot at various points in the pedal stroke.
What if my heel touches the rear stay when I pedal?
Riders with a lot of toe-out splay may find that their heel touches the rear chainstay or the crank when they pedal. This happens only to riders who are very duck footed, and have cleat rotation angles of more than five degrees. If it bugs you to have your heel touch the frame, just reduce the cleat rotation angle to a slightly smaller number (say from 6 degrees to 5). In effect you will be biasing your foot movement slightly to restrict it, and essentially reduce the duck-footedness to prevent the heel-frame contact (see also Q-Factor above).
What if I don’t like the position, something is not quite right?
The Cleat Key Protocol is not the only way to use the tool. The benefit of using Cleat Key is you can now easily quantify the rotation angle of the cleat on your shoe. Make a small adjustments (no more than 1 degree), note the angle, and go for a ride. Repeat until you feel it’s right to you. You can now quantify the cleat angle and can easily replicate the setting when you decide to replace your old cleat with new ones, change cleats from Look to Shimano, or vice-versa, or when you install a new set of cleats on a completely new pair of bike shoes.
Can I resell these? Do you offer quantity discounts?
Absolutely. Pro bike fitters, biomechanics specialists, and good bicycle shops are welcome as resellers, and benefit from quantity discounts. Please send us an email at email@example.com for more details.
Use of our products and riding a bicycle may result in injuries and risks commonly associated with sporting activities. By using this product, you acknowledge and voluntarily assume the safety hazards, risks, dangers and potential for injury associated with riding a bicycle and the use of our product including all known and unknown risks. You further acknowledge that Bike Energy Lab Ltd. and its agents or employees shall not be responsible for any injuries or damages resulting from use of this product. Cleat positioning can in some cases be a complicated process, due to leg length discrepancies, limb alignment issues, excessive varus, overpronation/supination, and other issues. Some individuals may benefit from an assessment by a professional bike fitter.
™ Cleat Key, the Cleat Key Design, Bike Energy Lab and Bike Energy Lab Design are trademarks of Bike Energy Lab Ltd.