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Delta vs SPD - Which Type of Pedal Should You Get?

Carlos Glover
November 23, 2022

Delta and SPD are probably the two biggest names in the cycling shoe and pedal market. SPD cleats are for those looking for anything from recreational riding to commuting, and even spinning classes. Look Delta pedals are mostly used on the Peloton bike and can be often seen in the mountain biking or road biking community. There are both differences and similarities between these pedals. Unfortunately, they are not compatible with each other.

When I first started out biking, I first had to learn that one needed proper cycling shoes to ride. The more I investigated, these two names kept popping up. And while each offered their own special thing, I ultimately made my cycling cleat choice based on what I was looking for, which at the time was recreational training. Therefore, I got SPD cleats. As my riding evolved and turned more into a passion, I got some Delta cleats to ride road and mountain bikes as well as the Peloton bike.

Based on this experience, I´d like to share with you a Delta vs SPD comparison, in the hope it will help you sort out which one you want.

The Two Most Important Pedal Clip Types

Stationary Exercise Bike Pedals

Look (Delta)

Look is a company that specializes in bicycles and everything you´ll need to ride them.

Their most popular product is the Delta clip, which is a type of pedal clip with a 3-bolt system (three holes). Delta clips are sought after because they provide great grip to the bike and offer a comfortable riding experience. Delta clips are so popular that everybody uses the name delta to talk about 3-hole clips, regardless of the brand.

This type of pedal clip goes great with the Peloton bike, it is also ideal for speed riding. So, you might also see it on road bikes.

Finally, look also offers the Keo pedal clip system, which has 3 holed cleats as well. However, in this case the holes are a bit narrower, making the shoe pattern different and incompatible, meaning you can't use the same cycling cleats with these pedals.

Shimano Pedaling Dynamics (SPD Pedals)

Shimano is one of the biggest names in the bike industry. They manufacture their own bikes from scratch and are known for offering other essential bicycle parts such as brakes, rear derailleur or pedals.

The SPD pedal name largely refers to all pedals, which have only two bolts. SPD clips are also unrivaled in their area. These pedal clips are sought after because they provide stable grip and can be removed from the bike with a bit more ease. These are mostly used for spin bikes, commuting, off-road cycling or touring.

Shimano also offers their own brand of cleats called the SPD-SL, which have a three-bolt system. They are essentially the same as delta pedals and are even compatible with the same type of cycling pedals.

What is a Cleat Bolt System?

Having good shoes is essential for a quality bike ride. If you are not serious or just ride once every few months, you can do it with tennis shoes. However, for those looking to give their bike a more intense purpose, getting cleats is very important. Not only do they offer grip, which enhances your connection to the bike, but also they are also quite comfortable and durable.

Before you choose your cleats, you´ll have to choose the amount of cleat bolts on your shoe, and that is where choosing the pedal type comes in. You can choose pedals with 2, 3 or 4 cleat bolts. But first, you might be wondering what they are.

Two Bolts Vs Three Bolts

There are many types of cycling cleats in the market, however, the most predominant types are the two bolt and three bolt systems. These bolts refer to the number of holes in your pedal, or the number of bolts in your shoe sole. There is also a four-bolt system, but it is quite rare to see.

SPD cycling shoes have two bolts; one is in front of another. Two bolt pedal clips always have a linear shape. In the case of delta cleats, they have a distinct triangular shape due to having three bolts.

Look and SPD are known for offering the best pedals and cleats for riding. But what is the difference between 2 and 3 holes in your cycling shoes?

Road Cycling Shoes and Disassembled Cleats

What is the Pedal Clip For?

Each type of pedal clip has its own purpose. Pedals with two holes are not meant for the same as pedals with three holes and vice versa. Here is a look at the uses for every pedal system.

Delta/SPD-SL Clip Uses

  • It is most often seen in road bicycles. Delta cleats provide comfort and extra safety. This comes in handy as road biking can be quite intense and dangerous.
  • Delta cleats are also often seen working along with peloton bikes. However, there isn´t real danger in riding from your home, using a delta pedal will always give you some extra stability on those intense rides.
  • Delta cleats have a rigid sole, which is associated with better power transfer. It's ideal for those looking for speed and the least amount of fatigue.

SPD Clip Uses

  • The SPD system is the most dominant system in biking. Although they can be seen in every type of ride, they are now most often found in an environment where performance is not as important. Therefore, you can find mountain bikes or regular bikes with an SPD cleat pedal.
  • SPD shoes are ideal for indoor cycling. They are often found in indoor cycles and spin bikes. In fact, most spin bikes are adapted to the SPD system. The biggest exception to this is Peloton, which opted for the use of Look Delta cleats.
  • People who use clipless pedals prefer this model as it is a better fit with the design of the pedal. SPD cycling shoes are better for walking, mainly because the cleat part is recessive. In delta cleats, they don´t recede, making them only useful for riding and very uncomfortable to walk in

What About Clipless Pedals?

  • Clipless bike pedals are found in commuting bikes or regular, everyday bikes, which are not used for an extreme purpose. These pedals are the most ordinary type you´ll find. You do not need special cycling shoes or anything of the sort to ride them.
  • They don´t have so much grip. Therefore, it is quite possible to slide off the pedals and use more energy to move the bike.

Compatibility With Peloton Bikes

Both SPD and Look Delta cleats can be used with Peloton. Nevertheless, Peloton shoes are made for Delta clips. If you´re looking for a Peloton/SPD combination, you´ll have to get the clip yourself and change it.

Luckily, an SPD pedal costs around $20. It´ll definitely be a cheaper option than getting new delta cleats to fit your bike. If you already have both cycling shoes, you can try riding the bike with SPD and Look Delta cleats and see which one you find better.

A Look Delta or SPD SL pedal is recommended for classes such as HIIT workouts, Power Zone rides and hill climbs. You can use SPD clips for classes like Boot camp, where you can easily take your shoes off.

Fitness Woman Cycling Bike At Gym

IS SPD the Same as Delta?

We have seen that there is a huge difference between clipless pedals and pedals with clips. Nevertheless, from those pedals with clips, what is the real difference between riding with one or the other?

Both Look Delta and SPD provide a good grip for your cycling shoe. People just tend to use Delta shoes for road biking because it adds an extra layer of safety and you do not have to spend so much energy.

On the other hand, you can also use SPD cleats on a road bike and everything would still be all right. SPD SL cleats have the same design as Delta and are compatible with this type of pedal.

Similarities

  • Both Look Delta and SPD are pedal clips, which have the purpose of providing extra grip and agility while riding.
  • Look Delta and SPD cleats can also be used on clipless pedals.
  • These pedal clips are also compatible with dual pedals, which are specifically made to adapt to both shoe types

Differences

  • SPD pedals just have two holes, so their cleats only have to bolts. Conversely, a Look Delta cleat has three bolts, meaning, delta pedals have three holes.
  • SPD cleats can be recessed, which means you can walk more easily as you will not have anything disturbing your feet. Look Delta cleats, do not yet offer this feature. Overall, it is still not recommended to walk that much in bike shoes.
  • Delta cleats are meant for Peloton bicycles. Of course, you can find them in a few other places such as some road or mountain bicycles, but mostly SPD cleats still rule the market.
  • In a typical spinning class, you can find both SPD and delta cleats. However, the market is controlled by SPD, as you´ll find them with more ease.
  • Power transfer refers to the amount of energy transferred to your bike during your pedal stroke. Look Delta cleats are generally considered better in this category.

Frequently Asked Questions?

Can a Cycling Cleat Wear Out?

Yes, they can. Although the sole won´t typically wear out due to friction with the ground, after a bit of intense riding, your shoe cleats will begin to wear out and loosen as time progresses. How often your cleats last really depend on the rate, you use the pedals. Nevertheless, the average rate is between 6 months to 1 year.

Luckily, most cycling shoes aren't extremely expensive, ranging anywhere from $50 to $100-

Can You Convert SPD Cleats to Delta?

No. Unfortunately it isn't possible to do this. However, SPD also offers the SPD SL cleats, which are basically the same as Look Delta cleat systems.

You can always try getting dual pedals or flat pedals, which go well with both SPD and delta cleats.

Are Delta Cleats Compatible With Shimano Pedals?

Delta Cleats are essentially the same as the SPD SL system. You can use delta shoes with this type of SPD clips. However, when it comes to the original SPD pedals, they are not compatible, as delta has 3 bolts on their shoes and SPD only two.

Can You Use Delta Pedals on Road Bikes?

Yes. They are a very good combination as Delta pedals provide extra grip, safety and help improver power transfer, meaning you´ll be able to save more energy. You can also try riding with SPD cleats and pedals, and you´d have a great time. Nevertheless, delta pedals are considered the best.

Pair of Bike Pedals

And Finally

To settle the Delta vs SPD debate. You now know what each pedal is for and some of the key similarities between them. If you own a spin bike or are looking to do some outside riding, you´ll be great with SPD cleats. Conversely, If you´re looking to get a Peloton bike, or you´re a passionate road bike rider, you should go with Look delta pedals.

The main difference between the two types of pedals is the power transfer feature, which is better in Delta pedals. Furthermore, due to the extra grip, they are safer.

Finally, it is possible to ride any bike with both types of cleats. Go for the design you like the most and be sure to take your priorities and desires into account.

Carlos Glover
About the Author
I took up cycling in high school and haven’t looked back since. My love of cycling eventually evolved into an obsession with bicycles. From road bikes to mountain bikes, I have tried them all – and have the scars to prove it! I love sharing my findings with the rest of the cycling world as unsolicited as they may be.
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