Condensed Answer: Shimano cleats are incompatible with Crank Brothers pedals. If you have Crank Brothers pedals and Shimano shoes, you have to unmount the original cleats and mount the cleats that come with the new pedals. Otherwise, you won’t be able to clip in.
The Differences Between Shimano and Crank Brothers Cleats
1. Shape and Dimensions
Shimano’s SPD cleats and Crank Brothers’ cleats have a different shape/design.
Shimano’s cleats are longer and have a pointy and a wide end. Conversely, the ends on Crank Brothers cleats are of similar width. (image below).
SPD cleats are made of steel whereas Cranks Brothers’ cleats are produced from brass.
Brass is a softer material and wears down faster. In this case, it’s purposefully chosen to protect the pedal from damage. As a consequence, the cleat becomes more of a consumable.
Having said that, the cleats’ material has no impact on compatibility. As mentioned before the shape is the problem preventing the use of Shimano cleats on Crank Brothers pedals.
“Cleat float” is the side-to-side movement of the shoe/cleat after clipping in. The purpose of the float option is to allow a more natural joint moving pattern when pedaling.
Shimano SPD pedals offer 0, 2, and 6 degrees of float whereas Cranks Brothers cleats come with 0 and 6-degree variants.
What Does The Term “SPD Compatible” Mean?
One can make the wrong conclusion that a product labeled as “SPD compatible” can operate with SPD cleats. This isn’t always the case.
“SPD compatible” means that the pedal supports shoes on which you can install SPD cleats.
Or in other words, an “SPD compatible pedal” is a model relying on cleats that can be mounted on shoes that can take SPD cleats.
Are Crank Brother’s Cleats Compatible With Shimano Shoes?
CB cleats attach to the shoes via a two-bolt system. Therefore, they can be mounted to any cycling shoe that uses a two-bolt mount including Shimano’s SPD models.
More Frequently Asked Questions
Do Crank Brothers pedals come with cleats?
Yes, Crank Brother pedals come with their own cleats which the rider can mount to a two-bolt cycling shoe.
Can I use Eggbeater pedals with SPD cleats?
Eggbeaters are high-end Crank Brothers pedals that fall under the aforementioned conditions too. The models aren’t compatible with SPD cleats and rely on CB’s proprietary pair of cleats. Combining Eggbeaters with SPD cleats results in poor performance.
Can you adjust the tension on Crank Brothers Pedals?
Crank Brothers pedals do not have an option for increasing the tension on the cleat. However, it’s possible to make clipping-in easier or harder by adding cleat shims.
The cleat shims are installed between the cleat and the sole. Extra cleat shims decrease the friction between the shoes and the pedal and make clipping in and out of the pedals easier.
Fewer or no shims increase the friction between the shoes and the pedal and make clipping in and out of the pedals more difficult.
What do the dots on Crank Brothers’ cleats signify?
The dots on Crank Brothers’ cleats are there to indicate the pedal’s degree of release or how much the rider has to turn their foot around to unclip.
If the cleat with dots is installed on the right foot, then the release happens at 15 degrees.
If the cleat with dots is placed on the left foot, the release increases to 20 degrees.
Note: The dots are present only on older pedals.
Summary: What You Need to Know
1. Crank Brothers pedals come with their proprietary cleats and cannot be used with SPD cleats.
2. If your shoes use a two-bolt cleat mounting system, you can install Crank Brothers cleats on them. All you have to do is remove the existing cleats and replace them with the Crank Brothers cleats that come with the pedals.
3. Crank Brothers pedals do not have adjustable tension. However, you can make the pedal easier or more difficult to clip in by installing or removing a cleat shim.