Speedplay pedals wear out and develop "The Speedplay Rock"
I used to love Speedplay pedals. I rode the X/2 pedals for over five years and more then 50,000 km. I loved the entry and the exit. I loved the cornering. The stack height is the lowest of any pedal. It took one ride to get used to the float, and thereafter I absolutely loved the full float that these pedals provided, particularly when climbing, and I love to climb. I had not really had any big issues with these pedals, except the occasional false postive click entry (I wasn't really fully clicked in, but thought I was), and the fact that you need an adapter plate for 3-hole shoes. Other minor issues are that the metal springs in the cleats can eventually break after a lot of use, and the replacement cleat isn't overly cheap.
I loved Speedplay pedals so much, and yet back in 2006 I switching to Shimano SPD-SL pedals. The reason is that the pedals and cleats continually wear out, as described in the remainder of this rticle. I'll add that after five years of using SPD-SL pedals I am even happier with these new pedals and see no reason to change to anything else.
What wears out with Speedplay pedals is the outside half of the hard plastic that Speedplay uses for their pedals. Or maybe it's the cleats that get worn, or the pedals and cleats together get worn. It doesn't really matter which is getting worn, because the result is that your feet end up rocking sideways by an angle of 2.5 to 3.0 degrees. The animated GIF below shows this rocking action.
The pedal wear problem is not uncommon. I've had three X/2 pedals exhibit this same problem. A friend on my team has this problem. There was a report on Velonews of someone else with this same issue (the web link to this report is now broken). My local bike shop also reports this as common.
Speedplay, on the other hand, is in denial. Back in 2004 they were in total denial. They then started recommending that you oil your pedals. Now they are recommending that you use shims. Shims are not practical, particularly if you are using custom orthotics to get your feet into the right position.
As for Speedplay's advice to lubricate the pedals and cleats, the Speedplay website X1 & X2 Series pedal and cleat - installation, operation and maintenance guide mentions lubricating the springs (see page 4, Routine X Series Cleat Maintenance), but says nothing about lubricating the cleat to pedal contact points. Their Lubricating Tips for all Speedplay pedals only covers bearing lubrication.
If you dig a little further you will find that the X Series F.A.Q. says to "Lubricate ... the area of the cleat that contacts the pedal. The pedals should be lubricated on the beveled edges of the bowtie." That's good. but they should probably tell new users why they should do this, and what will happen if they do not. I would have assumed this was done to provide a smoother float rotation. But as I don't mind the float having a bit of friction, I wouldn't have done this if this were the only reason to do so. I also don't like oil on my carpets and patio tiles, so I'd elect not to do this if I didn't know why I was doing it. It would also be nice if they could clarify these instructions with a diagram. Regardless, I followed this lubrication guidance with a new pair of pedals and cleats and, if it provided any help at all, it was not for long.
New cleats do not solve the problem. You need new cleats and new pedals. That's a pretty costly fix. Speedplay does offer a replacement build kit to rebuild worn pedals. This kit costs around $US45. There was no mention of this build kit on the Speedplay website when I looked for it in 2005. I did manage to get hold of one of these kits from my local bike shop and used it along with new cleats. Unfortunately the result was not as good as when using a new pedal, and the problem was back within a half year.
So my pedals continued to rock, and they were rocking pretty badly by the end. The rocking was uncomfortable when I rode and I worried about my knees. It was also getting tiresome to not only shell out maintenance money to Speedplay, but also to have to deal with the maintenance issues at all. If I were sponsored and someone else paid for and maintained my pedals and I wasn't planning on riding Paris-Roubaix on a rainy day (the cleats do not engage well when dirty) then sure, I'd be willing to ride Speedplays.
I did like my Speedplay road pedals when I was riding them and while they were still new (their Frog mountain bike pedals, on the other hand, suck). The problems with the pedals, and poor web and customer support, were enough to end my relationship.
My strong recommendations for best pedals out there are:
This article originally written in 2004, updated 2005, 2006 and 2011.