TriRig's Pedal Shootout
Jul 29, 2012
article & images by Nick Salazar
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.
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
A stalwart option that won't let you down