Pedal adapter plates aren’t exactly a new concept. Crank Brothers have been supplying them with their Eggebeater pedals for some time. Aftermarket platforms exist for Shimano SPD pedals in various forms. Shimano also take this further by producing the A530 and EH500 pedals, with both a SPD cleat side and a flat cage side. Speedplay make a Platformer adapter. But none of these address the ubiquitous SPD-SL or Look Keo pedals.
Enter Pedal Plates in April 2017 via Kickstarter, with a ‘Made in the Netherlands’ adapter plate catering to these two systems. More recently, Pedal Plates have expanded to include two ‘mountain’ pedal systems in their range: SPD and Crank Brothers.
If you are saying, “I have seen other platforms for SPD-SL cleats before” then you probably have. You may have spotted the brand Thinvik or Eastern Power who also make pedal platforms. But considering the popularity of SPD-SLs, riders are not really swamped by a wealth of options so you still have to sift through all manner of adapters and 3rd party cleats to find what you are looking for.
What are Pedal Plates exactly?
As the name implies, Pedal Plates are heavy duty plastic plates that clip into various pedal systems to transform the cleat into a flat surface that lets you to ride a bike in sneakers or street shoes. I am convinced that everyone who has every owned a bike with a clip-in pedals has, at one time or another, ridden with sneakers. Even if it was just a few meters. If you have tried this, you probably know that tackling Look Keo, older Look delta pedals or SPD-SL pedals in flat shoes is not a good combination and is better described as downright dangerous.
The standard solution to this problem: swap pedals. But this is not practical if you just need to head to the shops once or are very quickly test-riding after completing some bike maintenance. Swapping pedals is more of a permanent solution… not to mention that flat pedals on a road bike is not a great look.
A better solution for a temporary fix – Semi-permanent pedal plates.
Pedal Plates started out with the detachable SPD-SL and Look Keo platforms and since then also make their pedal plates for SPD and Crank Brothers systems. I opted to review the SPD versions rather than SPD-SLs and will explain shortly. In contrast to other mountain-bike platform solutions from other brands (for SPD or Crank Brothers) which tend to be long and narrow, the Pedal Plates are more square so would provide a broader grip like a regular pedal.
Noteworthy is that these pedal plates are promoted as using 100% recycled material… that is nice, although they don’t say exactly which material it is.
Weapon of Choice
So why would I chose to review the SPD version rather than the Shimano SPD-SL or Look Keo pedal plate?
I have my bikes with road pedals, but when I am out and about I just use my SPD-pedal bike more. This is the one I would take to the park, light trails or shops. I have never used the ‘hybrid’ cleat/flat pedals on this bike because I just haven’t felt I needed to buy extra pedals and also prefer the convenience of clipping into the SPDs on both sides.
When Full Beam Australia recommended testing the pedal plates, it was obvious to me that I should opt for the SPD version rather than the road versions as I knew this would give me more opportunities to test. Admittedly, changing pedals on a bike is not hard, but it is still simpler to snap on a plate and off you go. When you are finished, remove the plate and put it in the parts box.
Getting the pedal plates on was a bit of an adventure. I already anticipated the ‘easy to insert’ claim as being a little hyperbolic. To install, you simply clip them into the pedal body, as you would a cleat on a shoe. The website video suggests this as a very easy process.
The fun came when one of the plates proved too tight to install. Loosening the tension all the way off didn’t work, neither did standing on the plate which was set in position on the pedal. Are all of the plates tight, or was it just this limited to this production batch? I can’t say. It was so tight that I had to resort to wedging the pedal mechanism open with a screwdriver.
Any hope of simply snapping them into position and going for a spin faded after several minutes of trying. I would hope to say that the SPD-SL and Look Keo versions would be easier due to the bigger interface… but am speculating.
The SPD model which I reviewed does not have the instructions in the packaging though on the website FAQs there are some instructions for fitting and removal. This online guide shows that to remove the SPD pedal plates you lever the plate off with a screwdriver, so not completely tool-free.
Stop the press!
The Pedal Plates we tested however have been noted as pre-production and a video we have seen of an easy installation by hand in SPD pedals suggests that something was not right with the ones I tested and the following addition was added after publishing.
Pre-Production verses Production version
While the road version SPD-SLs were already in ‘standard production’, the supplier was in-touch with us following this initial review and quick research confirmed that the SPD versions provided for review were ‘pre-production’. Added to this, my SPD pedals are not the newest so in the mailbox I received the production version, this time in the complete retail packaging and some new SPD pedals.
Getting the pedal plates on was now relatively straightforward. Simply pushing the front tab under the front of the pedal and snapping the back in… and far less problematic than the pre-production set. The plates still took a little pushing, this was readily achieved with a firm hand on one set of pedal and well-placed shoe on another set.
The packaging notes suggest that the tension should be reduced before installation and increased again once the plate is installed. The tension screws on my Shimano SPD pedals are unable to be accessed once the plate is installed, so this was not possible. However for my pedal cleat tension there were no issues though this is something to keep an eye on if you prefer your pedals tight.
Taking them off was a twist and release, much as you would do with a cleated shoe. The packaging suggests you use a screwdriver to lever these plates off, but with the replacement pedals, this was not really required. I didn’t even use the provided SPD pedals (so these went back in the post, but it was a nice approach to ensure the problem was identified).
This new information also negates some of the comments below. You do in fact achieve tool-free removal, not having to necessarily lever the pedal spring open to remove the plates. Given this, swapping between bikes or removing when not required is an easier thing to do, which might lead to more uses coming up than first thought.
By the forces governing nature, the plates like to hang upside down once installed. Anyone who has used clipless pedals will know how this works. It obviously, temporarily defeats the double-sided nature of SPD pedals… and the double-sided SPD pedals become hybrids that you have to cleverly flip with your feet to get the flat side.
I am expecting that road cycling version for Look pedals and SPD-SL will still hang as they usually do with the Pedal Plate attached and remain correctly weighted so you can just tip them forward.
From the design perspective, the road cycling plates for Look Keo and SPD-SL appear to match the pedal body size closely. The SPD and Candy/Eggbeater models overhang the smaller pedal body (of compact SPD pedals). This means that while the platforms are not as large as regular flat-pedal, the size feels good enough for general use. I still wouldn’t like to do a day-long adventure or road ride on them, but they can get me 10km to work and back without feeling too small or delicate.
The 3 year guarantee on wear and tear (or as they say, tear and wear) is offered to give customers confidence in the manufacturing quality.
Embrace Bear Grylls
I expect that the road cycling versions are easier to fit and remove from the cleats than the SPD versions I tested.
Because tools are needed for the SPD versions, you have to weigh up the cost of new pedals and using a spanner against the pedal plate which needs a screw driver. However I can still imagine a number of scenarios where it makes sense to use the pedal plates into an SPD system, for example with bikes that are loaned or shared.
If the plates make a difference, saves you swapping pedals and makes it more convenient to just jump on the bike, then they could be a good option.. and may save you money in comparison to purchasing a second set of pedals.
In Australia, Pedal Plates are available from Full Beam Australia for $37.95 and further details on the four pedal plate models can be found on pedal-plate.cc