Help me replace my clip-in cycling shoes
July 16, 2020 5:19 PM   Subscribe

I got my road bike in 2012 along with shoes and clips. Eight years later, my shoes are falling apart, and one shoe comes unclipped every so often. Time for new shoes! Problem is, I need the right kind of shoes to fit my clips and I don't know what kind of clip system I have. Can you help me ID the clip system and point me in the right direction of somewhere to buy shoes online and what particular shoes to get that aren't super expensive? Photos here.
posted by timnyc to Shopping (13 answers total)
Those are Time ATAC cleats, and you definitely need to replace them because they're worn down to the nubs, but the kind of cleat doesn't limit your selection of shoes: you buy the shoes and cleats separately and bolt your choice of cleats to the shoes you want.
posted by mhoye at 5:32 PM on July 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

As mhoye points out, those are ATAC cleats. Any shoe that advertises "2 bolt" cleat support will take those cleats. These are often called "mountain" or "commuter" or "touring" shoes. Any shoe that advertises "3 bolt" cleat support will not (basically: road race shoes).

There are a ton of moderately-inexpensive shoes from the big name brands. Shimano ME2 / ME3 / MT2 / MT3, Pearl Izumi X-Alps, etc. It all depends on how much tread you want, if you want them comfy for walking, do you want cleats, etc. Your best bet is to head to a local bike shop and try some on.
posted by introp at 5:57 PM on July 16, 2020

Generally, all cycling shoes/pedals/cleats fall into two categories: Mountain Bike (aka two-hole, aka SPD) which is what you have, and Road Bike (aka three-hole in a triangular pattern). Any shoe that has mountain bike/SPD hole patterns will work for you and you can buy any two-hole cleats and attach them.
posted by meowzilla at 5:58 PM on July 16, 2020

Ah, so I have to buy cleats and shoes and install the cleats on my shoes. Fun! I notice the Time ATAC cleats are for sale on Amazon and the size is either Easy 10 or 13/17. Again, I have no idea what I have presently. Recommendations? And what about the shoe? What's a good online retailer? I'm having trouble finding anything in my size (US 11.5).
posted by timnyc at 7:01 PM on July 16, 2020

10, 13, and 17 refer to the release angle when unclipping. Apparently the Easy 10s come stock for pedals numbered 2 and 4, and the 13/17s come with pedals numbered 6 and above.

You could do a lot worse than REI for lower end cycling gear, with the benefit of a great return policy—shoes can be hard to fit.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 10:46 PM on July 16, 2020

Don't worry about installing the cleats on your new shoes. It's dead simple. But do make sure to grease the threads on the cleat bolts when you do. This lets you screw them in more tightly—if they're not tight enough, the shoes can rotate on the cleat while the cleat stays locked into the pedal. Ask me how I know.

You may need to play around with the position of the cleat on the shoe to find the most comfortable setup. You can adjust them fore/aft and rotationally, to a limited extent.
posted by adamrice at 7:07 AM on July 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Don't worry about installing the cleats on your new shoes. It's dead simple.

Worry about it a bit. It's simple, but getting them aligned properly takes some fiddling and if you're on your bike a lot getting that wrong can eventually cause repetitive stress problems. It doesn't sound like you're at the "have a professional bike fitting" level of play, but if you've got cleats I strongly recommend spending some watching bike-fit instructions on Youtube and then fiddling with your setup. The difference between a good bike that's close to right and one that's fitted just right for you is the difference between "this is a nice bike ride" and "I can fly".
posted by mhoye at 8:30 AM on July 17, 2020

Another consideration: I want shoes I can walk in. Preferably shoes I don't have to worry about scratching someone's flooring, too.
posted by timnyc at 8:33 AM on July 17, 2020

If you are comfortable clipping in and out now, I wouldn't hesitate to get the 13/17 cleats. The amount you can deviate from perfectly straight without unclipping is part of the reason I like ATAC. It's a fairly forgiving system, but has a nice release. The picture appears to have a 13/17 mounted in the 13 position. (Just grabbed my shoes to compare.)

You can try to replicate the relative fore/aft placement of the cleat from your old shoe to the new one, just make sure you are trying to figure out placement relative to your foot (I consider the ball of my foot) rather than relative to anything about the shoe.
posted by advicepig at 8:38 AM on July 17, 2020

Most 2-bolt shoes are mountain-bike shoes (or these days, gravel shoes). They'll have sole lugs that stand proud of the cleat, which is what you want. There are only a few road shoes (with slick soles) that can take 2-bolt cleats. You'll want to avoid those, but you'll still have numerous options.
posted by adamrice at 8:45 AM on July 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yes, as adamrice says, you should avoid models that are hybrid varieties with two bolt pattern without any mtb style tread. Those are generally sold for spin classes or other indoor use.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 10:23 AM on July 17, 2020

You might want to search for lists/online discussions of bike shoes suitable for commuting. You should be able to walk in a shoe recommended for that purpose, and they will almost all be compatible with two-bolt cleats. I am currently using a pair of Shimano MT3s for this purpose and I can recommend them. You might prefer velcro strips to laces, however. (NB: I had a pair of Specialized Tahoes before but i wasn't impressed by their durability.)
posted by rouleur at 1:33 PM on July 17, 2020

Update: I ordered Shimano ME3s from REI and the Time ATAC 13/17 cleats from Amazon. Hope they fit and I can get the cleats them on. Thanks for all the good advice!
posted by timnyc at 1:40 PM on July 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

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