There are several designs for clipless pedals out there, but they all work in a similar way. A cleat which is specifically designed to lock into your pedal system is attached to the underside of your cycling shoe. Since you inevitably walk on your cleat sometimes, they tend to wear out a lot faster than the pedal itself. Many companies purposefully make the cleat out of a softer metal like Brass to prevent excessive wear on the pedal. It’s less expensive to replace a small brass cleat than the pedal itself.
As the cleat wears, the connection to your pedal tends to loosen up. For that nice solid feeling when you’re locked in, it’s important to replace your cleats from time to time. I’ve been feeling some extra play recently when using my Crank Bros Egg Beaters, so I decided today would be new cleat day. Here’s what they look like before, with visible heavy wear:
Mountain shoes use a two hole design, where two screws fasten the cleat to a sliding piece in the bottom of the shoe. This allows you to adjust the position of the cleat from front to back. The larger 3 hole road cleats (SPD-SL for example) are slotted to allow the cleat itself to slide. Simply removed the two screws and discard the worn cleat and screws. Your new cleats will have replacement screws included.
Reposition the new cleat in the same spot and tighten up the new screws. If you’re wondering what that silver plate is, Sidi recommends using a protective plate with Crank Bros pedals, since the spring loaded rails rest directly against the bottom of the shoe.
Ahh… shiny new cleat. Notice the lips that stick up on the top and bottom are significantly taller and more well defined than on the worn out one above. That’s going to create a much more solid connection to the pedal. Before you consider getting new pedals, be sure to check the condition of your cleats. You might be able to get that “like-new” functionality back for just a few dollars.
Before and After: