Delta vs SPD: Which is the Best for Power Transfer?


Delta vs SPD is our most comprehensive guide that lists the differences between these two pedal systems.

Indoor cycling has taken the world by storm, especially during the quarantine times when the gyms were shut down and people relied on only indoor exercise equipment to achieve their fitness goals. More and more people now exercise in the confines of their homes.

If you are new to the world of indoor cycling and are in the process of deciding which branded spin bike to buy, knowing about the pedal systems these bikes come with would be a huge plus.

When it comes to clipless pedals, there are two systems commonly used on spin bikes: Shimano SPD and LOOK Delta.

Both of these systems have their own pros and cons. While Peloton bikes come equipped with LOOK Delta pedals by default, it is possible to change the pedals if you want to improve your performance or need a system that will be compatible with your cycling shoes.

So, let’s find out which of these pedal systems is better in terms of power transfer and which one you need depending on your current fitness and comfort level. 

Also Read: Peloton Bike Pedals: Best Answers to Your Questions

What Are SPD Clipless Pedals?

SPD stands for Shimano Pedal Dynamics and there is a wide range of SPD pedals available on the market designed for different purposes. Shimano PD-M8000, for example, has been designed for maximum power transfer. They are composed of low platform height that offers more stability.

Some of these pedals come with a flat side and an SPD side. These designs are meant to be compatible with both CT and MT shoes. These are known as hybrid pedals and they are becoming quite popular nowadays. 

The shoes compatible with SCD pedals use recessed cleats, which makes them suitable for multi-purpose use. SPD pedals, in general, are more economical than Delta pedals and hence preferred by gyms and studios offering spinning classes.

The pedals use a two-hole assembly and are easier to clip in and clip out. If you use SPD cleats, you can easily walk around in your cycling shoes because the cleats do not stick out. However, the same feature makes the shoes and cleats wear out quickly so you need to replace them every six months or so.    

What Are Delta Clipless Pedals?

Delta pedals are manufactured by a French company called LOOK. This company also offers other variations of bike pedals like LOOK Keo but these two are quite different from each other.

These pedals use a three-bolt assembly and require shoes that come with this type of arrangement with compatible cleats. Home Peloton bike, which has become quite popular in recent years, comes equipped with Delta pedals.

Delta clipless pedals are recommended for competitive cycling because it has been seen that they offer more power transfer than all other systems. We will shortly see why and how this happens.

The shoes and cleats for Delta pedals are longer-lasting and more durable because they are not designed for regular use. This means you cannot walk around in those shoes because of the cleats sticking out at the bottom. Because of the same reason, some people find these shoes difficult to clip in and clip out.

While these differences may seem trivial and nothing to get worried about, the major difference between the two pedal systems is the total power output they offer. And this is what we are going to find out in this article.   

Also Read: Best Peloton Bike Cleats Type for Fearless Stroking!

Is Peloton SPD or LOOK Delta?

Peloton at-home bikes come equipped with LOOK Delta pedals, whereas gym or commercial bikes by Peloton are installed with an SPD-SL system of pedals.

It’s possible to use regular shoes or sneakers with the bikes but you will need toe cages to keep the feet in place. On the other hand, if you buy Peloton shoes you will need Delta compatible cleats to go with them.

Delta cleats come with three holes, while SPD cleats have only two holes and they are recessed in design. That is the only difference between the two systems when it comes to design. 

Also Read: 10 Best Peloton Shoes on Amazon: Top Picks and Tips!

Is It Possible to Change Your Bike’s Pedal System?

Yes, it’s absolutely possible to change your bike’s pedals if for any reason you find them incompatible, faulty, or susceptible to change. Many people switch to SPD because they have compatible shoes to wear with them or they are used to this type of pedal system.

Peloton recommends replacing the pedals once every 12 months to ensure the smooth running of the bike. You should also tighten the screws every now and then to make the pedal tension remain optimal and to make sure there are no possibilities of damage or injuries.

What is Power Transfer and Why Is It Important?

And now it’s time to discuss the most important aspect of using a particular pedal system and it’s known as power transfer or power output. A bike pedal serves as the mechanical link between the human leg and the bicycle. This is where power transmission occurs that creates the forward motion of the bike.

Power is defined as a function of force multiplied by velocity (revolutions per minute) at which the rider pedals. An increase in either of these factors will increase the power transfer.

Power output is measured in watts. A typical cyclist is able to crank out up to 200 watts, while seasoned and trained cyclists and triathletes can increase their power output to 400 watts. 

It’s easier to measure the power transfer when you’re using an indoor bike because in this case, you are almost always experiencing submaximal cycling.

Submaximal cycling means there are no hills or climbs and you’re maintaining an average constant pedal stroke.

Clipless pedals offer a 10% higher average output than toe clips and flat pedals but it is short-lived. After the initial 30 seconds, the increased power results in increased muscular fatigue.

That is why clipless pedals are more suitable for trained cyclists only who are able to recover from muscular fatigue quickly.  

SPD vs Delta cleats: Which is Better for Power Transfer?

Although SPD pedals are cheaper, easy to clip in and out, and available in a wide range of models to choose from, Delta pedals are the best when it comes to power transfer or output. This is because Delta compatible shoes tend to have more rigid outsoles and they don’t bend around the pedal.

The stiffness of the sole is useful to transfer all the power from your legs to the pedals when you push down.

SPD compatible shoes, on the other hand, do not come with rigid outsoles. They are meant to be used for walking as well and therefore their soles are made more comfortable. They can offer performance improvement over regular shoes or sneakers but when compared with Delta shoes, their power output is much less. 

When you exert power downwards, much of the energy is lost in the shoe’s cushioning. This significantly reduces the overall power output. Although Peloton shoes (or any other shoes compatible with Peloton bikes) may feel uncomfortable and rigid at first, keep in mind that they have been designed to take your spinning experience to the next level.

As a rule of thumb, remember that stiff-soled shoes are best suited for spinning classes and they are recommended for all-out sprints.

Regardless of the design of the pedals, the factor that affects the power transfer the most is the design and construction of the shoe.   

And while Peloton shoes come with rigid outsoles, they are also designed to be breathable to tackle ventilation and quick-drying. This helps to ensure that your feet don’t get soggy after a workout.

Some shoes are designed to be compatible with both SPD and Delta pedal systems. They are equipped with three holes so you can either attach two-hole or three-hole cleats to them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do SPD cleats work with Peloton?

Although SPD cleats will not work by default with your Peloton bike, it’s possible to use an adaptor to convert the Peloton LOOK Delta pedals to pedals compatible with SPD cleats.

You can buy a suitable adaptor, which is quite easy to install. Remove the original Peloton pedal cover located on the back of the pedal and screw the adaptor on. The upper part of your pedal will now be compatible with LOOK Delta and the lower part of the pedal will be compatible with SPD.

An example of the adaptor can be found here. SPD cleats are included with the package so you can start riding the bike as soon as you’re done with the assembly.

Is SPD the same as Delta?

No, SPD uses two-hole assembly and Delta uses three-hole assembly. You are going to buy compatible shoes and cleats for the two systems otherwise the shoes won’t clip in properly.

Is it possible to ride Peloton without cleats?

At-home Peloton bikes are equipped with LOOK Delta pedals so to perform your best, you will need to wear Delta compatible shoes. However, it’s possible to ride the bike with regular shoes or sneakers and use toe cages with them.

Alternatively, you can install a new system of pedals, either flat or clipless, to use with the bike and to wear your regular shoes to ride the bike. If you do this, you will not be able to wear cycling shoes to ride your Peloton anymore.

What is power output on a spin bike?

The Peloton bike screen shows some numbers that measure your performance while spinning. These include resistance, cadence, and output. In addition to these, the screen also shows your speed, distance, total output, and calories burned.

Your output indicates how hard you’re working at a given time. It’s a measure of your cadence combined with the resistance. It’s basically a measure of power indicated in watts. Total output, on the other hand, is the total work you have done on your ride. This is measured in kilojoules.       

One joule is one watt per second. So, if you have an average output of 100 watts, you will achieve 100 joules in one second and 1000 joules or 1 KJ in ten seconds. If you want to improve your performance, you will have to increase your power to 200 watts so the same amount of work can be achieved in just five seconds instead of ten.

What are clipless pedals good for?

Clipless pedals are recommended both for road and mountain biking as well as for recreational and indoor spinning. These pedals are designed to improve efficiency by transferring more power from your legs to the pedal. As a result, you can achieve more speed in a faster time.

Clipless pedals offer the highest average power outputs when compared to toe straps and flat pedals. And between Delta and SPD pedals, Delta is more efficient when it comes to power transfer.

Over to you…

Most of us are only familiar with flat bike pedals only but toe clip and clipless pedals, which were introduced much later, are more efficient when it comes to power output and increased muscle activation.

In the category of clipless pedals, there are two options available: SPD and Delta. In this post, we looked at the features of these two types of pedal systems to see which one of these is better in terms of energy efficiency.

Not only are these pedals different when it comes to the design but also when it comes to power transfer. It has been found that cleats compatible with LOOK Delta pedals found on Peloton bikes offer the best power transfer because they are easier to pedal.

However, there might be a few downsides to Delta clipless pedals that make people choose other systems. This guide must have answered all your queries regarding these two popular pedal systems on indoor spin bikes. 

Choose a system that best suits your requirements and if you’re having problems with your current pedal system, it is also possible to change it.

Happy pedaling! 

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