TriRig's Pedal Shootout

 Jul 29, 2012 article & images by Nick Salazar

Shimano's industry standard pedals are dependable and durable.

Over the last two or three decades, pedal styles have evolved dramatically, and in some sense coalesced. In the mid 1980's, LOOK introduced a bolt pattern and retention mechanism that have basically become the standard. The cleat is attached to your shoe via three bolts in a triangular pattern. That cleat is retained in the pedal with a clamp that grips the rear edge of the cleat, after the front edge is hooked under the rigid pedal body. It's a rather simple mechanical device, and has served as the basis for countless pedals ever since.

We chose to use Shimano's top-of-the-line Dura-Ace Carbon pedal to represent this pedal philosophy. Shimano's pedals are rock-solid dependable, and incredibly prevalent. They are found on more bikes domestically than perhaps any other pedal. They call the platform "SPD-SL," which stands for "Shimano Pedaling Dynamics - Super Light." They produce the current design in Dura-Ace, Ultegra, and 105 levels, and still produce the previous-generation design in a budget pedal that retails for about $30.

The reason this design has stood the test of time is its utter reliability, simplicity, and utility. The pedals will work for thousands upon thousands of miles without a hiccup. They can survive crashes and keep on working. They have a wide range of adjustment, can switch from fixed to float just by swapping cleats, and the spring tension can usually be adjusted with the turn of a screw.

There are always variations on the theme, which is what differentiates one product offering from another. In LOOK's most recent version, the Keo Blade, a carbon leaf spring replaces the typical stainless steel spiral. But they all work in roughly the same way.

The ski binding type design was introduced by LOOK in the 1980's, and is now used by countless pedal manufacturers.

Again, I picked Shimano to represent this style because of its widespread popularity, and the fact that my first 10,000 miles on a road bike were ridden on Ultegra pedals that never skipped a beat. This latest version sheds a few grams off the originals, but even the Dura-Ace version here is the heaviest pedal in this article. They aren't super light, but that's not why you buy them. You buy them because they just work, without a hitch. The ride is very good. The pedals feel rock solid, and there's no bearing play. These are built to last. Another big plus is that because they're so popular, it's really easy to get replacement parts. Rotation is handled by 63 loose spherical bearings, which have done their job very well throughout the brand's history, with little report of failure (in fact, I've never heard of a single one).

It's likely that the only part that will ever need replacement are the cleats, which experience wear as you walk around in your bike shoes. The good news is that pretty much every bike shop in America sells Shimano cleats. Yellow is the standard version that floats (meaning your foot can rotate while clipped in), and the red cleats are fixed-mode, meaning no float. While float is by far the more popular option, I've become a fixed-cleat guy in the last couple years. When I go back to float, it feels really weird. And actually, fixed cleats helped me eliminate a nagging IT band problem. So while the industry wants you to think that float is the greatest thing since sliced bread, don't knock fixed until you've tried it. We'll talk more about float vs. fixed after talking about Aerolite, at the end of this article.

The downsides? As already mentioned, these are on the heavier side. The 105 version will tip the scales at over 400 grams including the cleats. That's almost a whole pound! And this is the only pedal in this review that doesn't have adjustable width. Again, I think pedal stance is better controlled at the crank, but the option is just not available here even if you need it. Other than that, there's not a lot to fault here. PROS Fixed or float option Easily available replacement parts Sleek look One design, many price points CONS Heavy No Q-Factor Adjustment

Pros
  • Rock solid reliability
  • One design, many price points
  • Easily available replacement parts
  • Fixed or float, sleek design
 
Cons
  • Heavier than other options
  • No Q-Factor adjustment

A stalwart option that won't let you down
Rating: 4.0


Tags » aerolite,  keywin,  pedals,  shimano,  speedplay
  • Dura Ace pedals are the gold standard: rock solid function, bombproof dependability, and beautiful looks. Unfortunately, they're a bit pricey, and not very light compared to other offerings.
  • Dura ace pedal tension is set by a single hex bolt.
  • The ski-binding clamshell is a design that has been around for decades, and works well.
  • No more exposed spring; Dura-Ace keeps things tidy and protected from road grime.
  • A replaceable wear plate extends the life of these already very durable pedals.
  • I ride fixed, so for Shimano's pedals that means using the red cleats. Float is achieved by using the yellow cleats, which have a smaller 'nose' up front.
  • Dura Ace Carbon pedals have a rather large platform, although in our opinion platform size is a bit of a red herring, especially as carbon soles become so much stiffer.
  • The distinctive profile of the Dura-Ace pedals is impossible to miss. Their stack height looks super low, but is actually in the middle of the road.
  • The new Keywin Carbon pedals. I'm a big fan of Keywin's bold willingness to stick to their guns and use a unique pedal mechanism. It works well, and keeps the weight low.
  • Most of the Keywin pedal consists of injection-molded plastic parts, and the new version also has carbon in the mix for lighter weight and a stiffer body.
  • Instead of using the ski binding style to retain the pedals, Keywin uses a novel locking system that is effective, durable, simple, and very light.
  • Keywin's pedal allows for float tension to be controlled or removed via adjustments at the pedal itself. Here, I'm removing the 6-degree float insert, which will be replaced by my preferred fixed insert.
  • With the insert out, you can see the interior of the pedal. Installing the fixed-pedal insert was a snap - literally.
  • The thin cleats look easy to walk on, but might be a little slick on smooth surfaces, until they get roughed up with use and develop a little more grip.
  • Maintenance of the Keywin Carbon pedals is easy, most of it is accessible through the screws and nuts on the underside of the pedal body.
  • There are tons of pedals on the market, but most of them share one of a few different mechanical concepts.
  • TriRig decided to take a look at four distinct pedals, each with a different mechanism, and uncover how their strengths and weaknesses play out for triathletes.
  • Aerolite is the undisputed king of simplicity and light weight, but unfortunately is very inconvenient to use.
  • With only three parts, and about 40 grams per pedal, there's nothing that even comes close to beating the Aerolite, for those who can tolerate its eccentricities and inconvenient mounting.
  • Aerolite's primary disadvantage is that you have to drill your shoes in order to use them. TriRig will soon be manufacturing a pedal that uses this type of retention mechanism, but eliminates the drawbacks.

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