Road bike maintenance - pedals
Allow about an hour and a half, though this varies from pedal to pedal. Hilary Stone talks you through the various processes involved.

Road bike maintenance - pedals

Time: About 1.5 hr
Difficulty: Road Shimano SPDs are fairly straightforward; SPD-Rs trickier. Look pedals vary and most Time pedals are best left to a shop.

Materials needed:

  • Set of Shimano 3/32in ball bearings
  • Good waterproof grease
  • Tools
  • Vice preferably with soft jaws
  • SPD - Cartridge Removal tool: 7mm or 8mm spanner depending the model
  • SPD-R - 18mm thin wall spanner, spoke
  • Look - Bearing removal tool
  • Time - Circlip pliers
Most pedals require a slim 15mm spanner of about 250-300mm length in order to apply the appropriate leverage. However a few Time models use a 8mm Allen key and a few Lyotard pedals use a 17mm spanner. All modern pedals (except BMX) use 9/16" threads. The right-hand pedal (chainwheel side) unscrews anti-clockwise; the left unscrews clockwise.

Fitting pedals

Check that you are fitting the correct pedal to the crank. Most are marked with either R (right) and L (left) or sometimes D (droite, right) and G (gauche, left). Smear some antiseize copper grease over the threads before refitting to the cranks. Screw the first few threads in by hand in the same direction that the crank turns when pedalling. For the right-hand (chainwheel side) pedal turn the pedal spindle clockwise and the left hand pedal spindle anti-clockwise.
Clipless pedals   

Cleat checks

The most important maintenance with most clipless pedal systems is not actually the pedal but the cleat on your shoes. These are very prone to wear with the inevitable walking that you do. You can buy 'cleat covers' to wear over your cleats and protect them from excessive wear.

For plastic 'Look' cleats check both the forward and trailing edges. The trailing edge of a Look cleat has a series of very tiny wear indicator holes; once these disappear it is time to replace the cleats. Replaced your cleats if the front edge of the cleat becomes thinner than about 1mm.

With other cleats it is more difficult to spot wear which will cause premature release. The first sign of trouble here is when it becomes difficult to either click your shoe in or out of the pedal. Replace the cleats as soon entry or exit becomes difficult or if you are exiting your previously secure pedal system at inopportune moments.

Be sure to use only SPD cleats (or those recommended by Shimano as SPD compatible). Premature release, entry or exit problems are often due to using other makes of broadly similar cleat.

On racing shoes, where the cleats are proud of the shoe sole, expect to replace your cleats at cleats once a season. If you use touring, or MTB, shoes, which have the cleat, recessed into the sole, your cleats will last much longer.

Use anti-seize grease on the mounting bolt threads when fitting new cleats - it'll be much easier to remove adjust them or remove them later!

Servicing the bearings

Many clipless pedals now use cartridge bearings and some inner races are plain 'oilite' bearings (e.g.Time ATAC pedals). Standard Time road pedals need a pair of circlip pliers to be dismantled.
All Shimano SPD and SPD-R pedals use very small 3/32-inch ball bearings. Because of their unusual size I'd recommend that you buy a spare set before dismantling your pedals. Very small, smooth, shiny ball bearings have a tendency to migrate! Shimano supply a few spares in their standard service pack if you should lose one. All Shimano road SPD-R and SPD pedals (except Dura-Ace SPD-R) use a cartridge system that is removed as a complete unit for servicing out of the pedal body.

Servicing the cartridge system SPD and SPD-R pedals

Removing the bearing cartridge  
  1. Fit the bearing cartridge removal tool into a vice.
  2. Fit the splined end of the pedal cartridge into the tool making sure that the splines are fully engaged.
  3. With a large adjustable spanner on the pedal body free the axle cartridge by turning the body anti-clockwise for the left pedal or clockwise for the right pedal.
  4. Once loose, unscrew the body until it is completely free from the cartridge.
Disassemble the cartridge
  • Hold the cone with a thin 10mm spanner whilst undoing the locknut with a 7 or 8mm spanner depending on the model.
  • Use your fingers to undo and remove the cone. Remove the rest of the parts and lay them out in order on the bench.
  • Check the bearing surfaces of the axle, barrel and cone for pitting. Discard the old ball bearings.
  • If bearing surfaces are pitted order a new axle assembly from your Shimano dealer. 
  1. Hold the axle in the vice by its flats and slide the seal, the plastic body, and dished washer onto the axle.
  2. Grease the surface of the dished washer and place the correct number of bearings (11 or12, depending on the model).
  3. Slide the outer black plastic seal into place, followed by the central barrel and wiggle it around so the ball bearings seat properly between the barrel and the hub axle bearing surface.
  4. Grease the top bearing surface of the barrel and fit the bearings. Screw on the cone and the locknut.
  5. Adjust the cone so that the centre bearing barrel turns smoothly without any play.
  6. Tighten the locknut and check the centre barrel still turns freely. You may need to repeat the adjustment a couple of times to get it exactly correct.
  7. Fill the bottom part of the pedal body with grease and screw the plastic barrel back into the pedal body. Be careful not to over tighten it, or it will break!
Servicing the cleat system
  1. With cleaner and a toothbrush scrub the whole area clean.
  2. Once the pedal has dried squirt some thick heavy lubricant all around the springs and moving parts.
  3. Allow the pedal to dry for an hour or so before wiping off the excess lubricant.
Dura-Ace SPD-R Pedals

Removing and checking the axle and cone
  1. Hold the pedal body in a vice with soft jaws.
  2. With a thin 18mm spanner unscrew (clockwise on the left pedal) the cone with the two flats (not the locknut with multiple flats).
  3. Remove the axle assembly.
  4. With the hook of a spoke, lift out the needle bearing from the depths of the pedal body together with the 3/32" ball bearings at the bottom.
  5. Prise out the 3/32" ball bearings from between the cone and the axle.
  6. Discard both sets of bearings.
Checking and reassembling the axle unit 
  1. Remove the cone from the axle.
  2. Wipe clean the bearing surfaces and check the cone and axle for pitting.
  3. Slide the cone onto the axle and fill the end of the cone between it and the axle with grease and then pack with 17 3/32" bearings.
  4. Clean out the body with a rag and repack with a little grease before fitting the nine 3/32" ball bearings in a circle at the bottom of the pedal body.
  5. Slide the needle roller bearing onto the axle's nose.
  6. Hold the axle tight against the cone and screw back into the pedal body.
Final assembly and adjustment
  1. Gently tighten the cone down with the 18mm spanner.
  2. If there is play still present or the axle is stiff loosen the cone off a turn.
  3. Hold the cone with the 18mm spanner and with your fingers screw the locknut half a turn towards the cone's flats to tighten the bearings or towards the outboard end of the pedal to loosen the bearings. Retighten the cone and check the bearings for correct adjustment.
  4. Repeat until the axle turns perfectly smoothly without play after the cone and locknut is fully tightened against the pedal body.
Look clipless pedals
  1. The most common type of Look pedals uses a cartridge system similar to Shimano's SPD cartridge system.
  2. However, instead of using loose ball bearings Look employ a cartridge bearing at the crank end and a needle roller bearing at the outboard end on their more expensive pedals.
  3. On the cheaper pedals the outboard bearing is sometimes a plain 'oilite' bush.
  4. The other (older) type of Look pedal has the bearings accessed in the normal manner through a dust cap.
  5. Generally there are no serviceable parts to the cleat system but cleats should be kept clean replaced as soon as they show signs of wear.
  6. These instructions show you how to service the more modern cartridge system pedals and they also apply to the Campagnolo Look pattern pedals.
Removing the cartridge
  1. Insert the bearing cartridge removal tool to a vice.
  2. Fit the splined end of the pedal cartridge into the tool making sure that the splines are fully engaged (the splines are different to the Shimano SPD ones so make certain you obtain the correct tool).
  3. The Look cartridge is not normally such a tight fit in the pedal body and the pedal body can be unscrewed by hand from the cartridge.
  4. Turn the body anti-clockwise for the left pedal and clockwise for the right pedal.
  5. Unscrew the body until it is completely free from the cartridge.
Servicing the bearings
  1. Complete spare axle assemblies and the crank end cartridge bearing are available as spares.
  2. Turn the cartridge bearing by hand on the axle. If it feels at all gritty, use a pair of circlip pliers to remove the circlip before removing the bearing.
  3. Carefully tap the new bearing into place on the axle. Do not tap its outer race.
  4. With a small screwdriver tap the part of the bearing nearest the axle with a light hammer until it is properly in place on the axle. It must sit squarely on the axle.
  5. Refit the circlip.
  6. Clean all the old grease from inside the pedal body and pack some fresh waterproof grease into the pedal body.
  7. If the axle shows signs of a ridge or pitting where the needle bearing bears on it, the axle must be replaced but this is unlikely except after many thousands of kilometres. The needle roller bearing cannot be removed.
  8. Screw the cartridge back into the pedal body and tighten it by hand.


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