If you are just being introduced to the word “Cleats” allow us to explain that A bicycle cleat is a tiny, triangular wedge made of metal or plastic that is affixed to the bottom of a cyclist’s shoe. Cycling enthusiasts can clip their feet in and out of their pedals using a spring mechanism. The regular bike pedals are swapped out for smaller clip-less pedals to go with the cleats.
When you purchase a pair of Shimano clipless pedals, a set of cleats for your shoes will also be included in the package. The cleats on off-road and urban SPD pedals are constructed of metal and fastened to your shoes with two bolts, however, the SPD-SL plastic cleats are only fastened with three bolts.
The two-bolt cleats on Shimano’s off-road pedals for mountain biking, gravel riding, and cyclocross have the designation SM-SH51. However, if you look at the specifications on Shimano’s website, the SM-SH56 is listed as an optional cleat.
Shimano also has a line of pedals called “Explorer” that have the company’s “Light Action” release technology. The SM-SH56 cleats are included with the majority of them, with the SM-SH51 cleats being an option.
Comparing SH51 With SH56
The aesthetic differences between the SH51 and SH56 cleats are minimal. Both of them are made of metal and have two recessed bolt holes that, if you’re cycling with cleats, you can use the accompanying bolts to secure to the bottoms of your shoes.
You must ensure that your cycling shoes can accommodate the two-bolt SPD cleats, which are favored for mountain bike shoes and urban riding, rather than the three-bolt cleats found on road cycling shoes, in order for the cleats to fit.
To ensure that you attach the cleats to your shoes the proper way, each one has an arrow at the front. They can be used on both the left and right shoes.
The SH51 cleats are black, while the SH56 cleats are silver, and the rear-facing tab of the SH56 has an M imprinted on it, which is the only indication of the type of cleat you have.
The number of directions in which you can release the cleat from the pedal is what separates SH51 cleats from SH56 cleats. Because the SH51 cleats only release in one direction, you can only release the pedal by either pulling your heel inward or outward in a flat plane with respect to the pedal.
In contrast, the SH56 cleats allow for multi-directional release, allowing you to roll your shoe on the pedal or pull it up in addition to pulling your heel out or in.
To make this possible, the cleat’s form is slightly different from the SH51.
Which One Is Better?
When choosing cleats, there is no right or wrong solution. The type of riding you do and how comfortable you are with clipless pedals will determine whichever cleats are best for you.
Shimano’s Easy Release pedals’ benefit is indicated by the fact that SH56 cleats are provided with them. Some riders may be more prone to unintentional unclipping due to the way they cycle, therefore SH51 cleats are a better option.
The price of these cleats starts from $12 and they go up to $19 on different websites. If you are looking for the lower price one, you can find them here.
You are considerably less likely to become stuck in your pedals and fall over when you come to a halt if you have various release choices. If you’re new to riding clipless pedals, you might feel more at ease because it feels more like flat pedaling, and you might discover that the simpler release is better for city riding. It’s easy to reduce the tension on the pedal release by counterclockwise rotating the hex nut on the release mechanism at the back of the pedal.
Although a beginner who is concerned about unclipping might find the SH56 cleats handy, it’s probable that sticking with the SH51 cleats and easing up on the release tension on the pedal will be just as helpful as the multi-directional release.
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