Product Tested: SM-SH12 Blue Cleat for SPD-SL Pedals
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Source: Bike shops, websites
Made In: Japan
Features: ± 1° float.
Less float than the Yellow SM-SH11 cleat, more float than the Red SM-SH10.
How obtained: Sample from company
Summary: Well thought out cleat that will satisfy most racers.
Years ago, when I purchased my first Dura-Ace group, I also picked up their top of the line shoes. Somewhere between opening the shoe box and the pedal box, a set of yellow cleats popped out. After bolting these onto the new shoes and doing several rides, I was able to fine-tune the adjustment so that my knees were comfortable. Then, one day, while out on a ride with a good friend (who is a seasoned racer), I noticed that he had red cleats. Never seeing Red Shimano cleats before, I asked him what the differences were between these two cleats. He stated without hesitation, “Yellow cleats are for those that don’t know how to adjust them.” Getting home, I logged onto my computer and did a little research to find out that the red cleats have zero float or play and the yellow’s have 6 degrees of total float angle. This was OK by me since I want to cycle for many years without damaging my knees, and, to this day, I have stayed with the yellow ones.
Fast forward to 6/2013 when a pair of Blue cleats came in the mail. Wow, I have never seen these. I called a local bike shop and they said that these had just come out but no one has bought them yet. They also said that the Blue cleats are kind of in-between the Red and Yellow cleats. Great timing for these new cleats to arrive since my current yellow cleats are hanging together by a thread.
As mentioned above, Shimano now makes 3 different cleats (figures 1, 2, 3 below) with varying degrees of float, or movement of the cleat within the pedal body. Up until now, there were two choices, the red cleats which provide basically no movement whatsoever, and the yellow cleat, which moves ± 3° from center for a total of 6° of float and ± 1.6mm of lateral movement. These were the only choices available from Shimano, until now.
To find out the specifics, I called Shimano’s Shoe/Pedal/Cleat manager. Here is a summary of our conversation.
RED cleats are for the Performance/Seasoned rider. A rider that has a good amount of time in the saddle so that their shoe/cleat fit is optimized. Fitting – The RED cleats are built with the intention of the cyclist who goes through a shoe/cleat fitting and the bicycle shop that can support this fitting. This cleat offers the least amount of play which optimizes pedaling efficiency. The shoe is completely locked into the pedal and no wasted energies are used to re-center/re-position the foot after each pedal stroke. All effort goes into the pedal.
YELLOW cleats are for most riders, but more importantly, yellow cleats were created for the average bicycle shop that would do an ‘eyeball’ fitting to get a cyclist on the bike quickly, i.e., for a bicycle shop that does not have the equipment or training to do a fitting. Due to the high degree of float and lateral movement, these cleats are (a) the least efficient cleat, (b) designed to compensate for misalignment. That basically is the tradeoff with this cleat.
2013, enter SM-SH12, the BLUE cleat. Pro racers and other high performance cyclists started asking Shimano to
build them a cleat that offered just ‘a little bit’ of movement. Shimano went back to the drawing board and created a performance cleat with a ± 1° of floating angle (float). Also, in order to keep the shoe from moving laterally, Shimano changed the pivot location from the center of the cleat (i.e., YELLOW cleat) to the top of the cleat. This small change eliminated all lateral play. The outcome is a very secure and very efficient cleat that offers a minimum amount of movement in order to be easier on the knees.
HOW DOES THIS CLEAT PERFORM?
Bottom line, these are fantastic! When cycling, I can actually feel more power being applied to the pedals since my shoe isn’t moving around in the pedal. This cleat offers a very positive and secure feel, and you will definitely be able to feel this difference on your very first pedal stroke.
Moving from the RED cleat to the BLUE cleat is a non-issue, but, when moving from the YELLOW cleat to the BLUE cleat, take it easy on your first couple of rides. Be sensitive to feeling any pain in your knees.
The shape of the shoe bottom has standardized over the past few years so that all major brands follow the same arcs and curves. This means that any of the major brand shoes will be able to accommodate the SM-SH12 cleats. So the bottom line is that the SM-SH12 is the best of both worlds, taking all of the positive aspects from the other two cleats and combining them into the perfect system that enhances efficiency, performance and comfort.
I highly recommend these cleats!
I have always enjoyed bicycling and, through a series of coincidences, became a Bicycle Industry Consultant and Product Tester. I test prototype products for companies and have published only off the shelf production products on biketestreviews.com.