Using cleat style or 'clipless' pedals is a great way to increase power and rpms in your pedaling. There are several designs of cleated pedals available for mountain bikes, and the SPD style is one, of if not the most popular style. There are three components that you have to purchase to use clipless style pedals, the shoes, the cleats and the pedals. Shoes that incorporate SPD style cleats often come without the cleats installed. After a friend mentioned to me that the shoes usually don't come with instructions, I decided to write up this simple beginners walkthrough for installing SPD style cleats into shoes.
First get your tools and materials together to install the cleats. You will need of course, the shoes, the cleats and hardware, and a bike tool or hex wrench set.
Step 1. Remove the bottom plate of your shoe using the hex wrench.
Step 2. Install the base plate (A) through the bottom of the shoe. Remove the sole, and put the plate into the slots as shown. You shoe may come with a base plate already. In this case, it is best to use the one provided with the shoe rather than the one provided with the cleat set, as they tend to be larger and will distribute the stress of the cleat over a larger area, increasing the life of your shoe.
Step 3. Lay the thin metal protective plate (B) over the slots in the shoe. This is optional but recommended, especially for plastic shoes where you want to keep the cleats from chewing up the plastic bottoms. If your cleat set does not have one of these it is not a big issue, you can go without.
Step 4. Position the cleat body (C) on the metal plate.
Step 5. Insert the inner portion of the cleat (which should have two threaded holes) into the slot of the main cleat body (D) positioning the threaded holes to align with those of the base plate.
Step 6. Using the provided bolts (E) (they should come with both the shoe and the cleat) attach the cleat to the base plate. Using The hex wrench tighten the cleat to where it is snug but you can still position it by hand then tighten fully. Remember there will be a lot of lateral and twisting stress on the cleat so make sure it is tight otherwise when you go to twist your foot out the cleat will turn, your foot will stay in and you will not be a happy biker.
Remember to check your shoes and cleats after you ride, to make sure they are staying in the correct position. If the cleat becomes mis-aligned it can lead to overuse or stress related injuries as it will make your leg go through the pedal cycle at an improper angle. You may want to put a bit of temporary loctite on the bolts to keep them from losing. Where you position your cleats on the shoes is a personal preference, and should be tuned to your body position, ect. After a few rides you should have a better idea what position feels the most comfortable for you.